You may not know Broncos starting QB Trevor Siemian but the Panthers defense will get real comfortable with him on opening night.
By: Elias McMillan
First, here’s a look at how I’ve done picking regular season games in recent years:
2009 Regular Season Record: 169-87
2010 Regular Season Record: 157-99
2011 Regular Season Record: 162-94
2012 Regular Season Record: 163-92-1
2013 Regular Season Record: 158-97-1
2014 Regular Season Record: 158-97-1
2015 Regular Season Record: 163-93
Now, here’s my forecast for Week 1 of the 2016 Season.
Big Five Games of the Week
Carolina @ Denver – This Super Bowl rematch won’t have the same sizzle as the game in February did obviously. First, the stakes aren’t nearly as high and second, Denver is a different team since then. The most glaring difference will be that Denver did not return its starting QB or backup QB for 2016. Instead, Trevor Siemian will take his first snaps ever in the NFL game on opening night against the Carolina Panthers. Many are not expecting much from Siemian but I think that speaks more about how good Carolina’s defense is and less about how good of a QB Siemian is. Lets face it, no one knows how good or bad Siemian is as a QB. But I do know that the Panthers defense will work to get him to look bad on Thursday night. Denver could try to hide Siemian by slowing down the game by running the ball. But Carolina defends the run pretty well too. For Carolina, Cam Newton maybe taking the humble approach but he is definitely thinking of proving him self against this Denver defense that completely humiliated him in last season’s Super Bowl. I think Denver’s defense will still be a tough nut for Newton to crack in this game but Denver will be missing a few key pieces from that championship game that left in free agency. Both defenses will be good in this game but Carolina will be able to use their offensive weapons effectively because of the advantage at the QB position. I don’t think Newton will have a big game but he will do enough to make a big difference for the Panthers. Prediction: Panthers 21 – Broncos 13
Cincinnati @ New York Jets – Cincinnati had a very good team in the regular season in 2015. I think they can be the same in 2016 but they might have to deal through some things before they see consistent success. The Bengals will be missing a few key defenders because of suspension and injuries. But I realize that you could say the same about the Jets defense in this game. The Jets and Bengals offer big play offenses and defenses that are usually tough. I think that I like the home team’s chances in this game because the Jets are a bit tougher upfront defensively. I think it will be a long day for Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard. I also think Andy Dalton will be under a lot of pressure in this game. I don’t trust Cincy’s secondary very much and if Ryan Fitzpatrick stays on his feet, he’ll take advantage down the field by throwing to big targets, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. It will be close but I like the Jets in a slight upset. Prediction: Jets 26 – Bengals 23
New York Giants @ Dallas – Tony Romo or no Tony Romo, the Giants matchup very well with the Cowboys in this opening game. Once again, these teams meet to open up the season in what is almost always an ultra competitive game. The Giants enter this game looking to show off its shiny new defense that they spent a lot of money on in the offseason. The addition of DE Olivier Vernon will make this Giants defensive line a force in 2016 and they’ll face a great test on Sunday in the Cowboys offensive line. This game will basically be about those two units. The Giants also brought in new members in the secondary but I still think they’ll have problems containing the Cowboys receivers led by WR Dez Bryant. The Cowboys will be starting a rookie at QB and RB on Sunday. Dak Prescott will be in for the injured Tony Romo and Ezekiel Elliott will be starting a much hype rookie campaign. I think Dallas will be successful running the ball against a Giants defense that struggled at stopping the run last season but I don’t know how well Prescott will do as a passer in this first game. But this game will really be about the shortcomings of the Dallas defense. Eli Manning plays his best football when the defense cannot pressure him. With no heat on Eli, I fully expect him to out play Dak Prescott. Not to mention, the Giants also have a great receiving core led by WR Odell Beckham Jr. These games always manage to be gut wrenchingly close up until the end but I’m giving the advantage to the road team. Prediction: Giants 32 – Dallas 27
New England @ Arizona – Arizona will be fired up on Sunday to play against a team that has dominated the league for a while now. New England comes into this season shorthanded on both sides of the football. Everyone knows about the Tom Brady suspension but on defense, their top pass rusher, Rob Ninkovich is suspend and their other best pass rusher, Chandler Jones, is now a Cardinal. New England’s defense has been known for years as an overachieving group but I expect this Arizona offense to really take it to them in this contest. We will see plenty of RB David Johnson, which will allow a balanced passing attack led by QB Carson Palmer. We shouldn’t write off QB Jimmy Garoppolo as he will have a couple of recent weapons to go to as well. It is going to interesting to see how this Arizona defense decides to attack TE Rob Gronkowski and try to limit his impact on this game. But New England will be too shorthanded to give Arizona the proper challenge in this game. Prediction: Cardinals 31 – Patriots 20
Pittsburgh @ Washington – There is a lot of Super Bowl hype surrounding the Steelers entering this season. But first, they’ll have to beat a pretty good Washington team that is coming off a playoff berth. QB Kirk Cousins will be looking to prove that last season was no fluke against Pittsburgh’s defense. Cousins is going to have to be the driving force for Washington in this game. I feel that Washington’s offensive line will give Cousins the opportunities to go down field and make an impact in this game against a banged up and aging Steelers pass rush. Washington doesn’t have a great ground game and Pittsburgh usually plays the run well defensively. So, it will be all about Cousins for the Washington offense. Thinking of offense, the Steelers have a pretty good one. QB Ben Roethlisberger is primed to have a big season with the many weapons at his disposal. WR Antonio Brown is a player that was made for Monday Night Football. He will be the big play guy in this contest though Washington CB Josh Norman will give him quite the challenge. Washington’s defense is a lot better than advertised and they’ll be tested by the Steelers upfront and by their running game led by DeAngelo Williams. Washington has plenty of big play guys like DeSean Jackson and TE Jordan Reed but I think the Steelers playmakers will make more of an impact. This game will be closer than what the experts will think but I’m still taking the road team. Prediction: Steelers 33 – Washington 28
The Rest of Week 1
Falcons over Buccaneers – Atlanta is a tough out during their home opener. Though I like Tampa’s defense a little more than Atlanta’s. Can Matt Ryan make more big plays than Jameis Winston? Well, one of them has Julio Jones to throw to. The other does not.
Vikings over Titans – This one is another toss up. Minnesota’s QB situation has thrown their entire season into doubt already but I trust Mike Zimmer to have his team ready. Tennessee is improved but Minnesota’s defense is tough and will slow down Mariota and the new Titans running attack.
Chiefs over Chargers – Kansas City’s home field advantage is like none other. Even without Jamaal Charles, the San Diego defense wont slow down the Chiefs’ attack.
Saints over Raiders – I struggled picking this one too. I really like the Raiders this season but the Saints are a tough out in the Super Dome. If Oakland wins, I’ll kick myself.
Browns over Eagles – Cleveland hasn’t won a season opener since 2004. That streak ends on Sunday. I don’t know if Carson Wentz will be booed at the Linc but I do know that RG3 will outplay him.
Packers over Jaguars – Everyone is hyping the Jaguars. That hype machine would get even louder if they beat a team like the Packers at home on Sunday. Sounds too good to be true. I’m betting on Aaron Rodgers.
Ravens over Bills – Buffalo is dealing with too many things off the field. Baltimore will be looking to show their fans that this year will be different than last.
Texans over Bears – Chicago doesn’t have the defense to slow down this new Houston offense. Houston won’t even need J.J. Watt in this one.
Seahawks over Dolphins – Nightmare matchup for Miami. That inconsistent offense against that powerful defense on the road? Bad news for Ryan Tannehill. The L.O.B.’s will eat. The 12th man will be loud.
Lions over Colts – I think Indy’s slump from last season will continue into this one. Detroit’s defense is underrated and they’ll get after Andrew Luck. The Colts don’t have the defense to slow down Matt Stafford.
Rams over 49ers – This game is an absolute stinker. The team in LA has Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald. The end.
Week 1 Fantasy Football Picks
QB: Eli Manning (Giants) – With no pressure from the Dallas defense, the “not retired” Manning brother will put up big numbers in Jerry’s World.
RB: Lamar Miller (Texans) – Houston will be looking to show off its newest acquisition against a really bad Chicago run defense.
WR: Julio Jones (Falcons) – Jones will be the best player on the field in this game. So, why not?
TE: Jordan Reed (Washington) – Pittsburgh doesn’t have a great secondary so expect Cousins to find Reed plenty of times on Monday night.
DEF: Seattle – It’s simple really. Miami’s offense will be greatly outmatched on the road in Seattle. Expect multiple defensive touchdowns from the L.O.B.