The new season begins tonight. Everyone is 0-0. Including MDS and yours truly.
For each team, it’s a 16-game sprint. For the PFT annual in-house picks competition, it’s a 256-game marathon.
We start with 16 games for Week One and, more importantly, three disagreements.
Hopefully, MDS enjoys being tied with me while he can.
Steelers at Patriots
MDS’s take: The defending champions will be energized by the return of Tom Brady, and ready for a statement game like last year’s “On to Cincinnati” blowout of the Bengals. The Steelers will struggle just to keep this one close.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 31, Steelers 20.
Florio’s take: The Steelers have too many key players missing on offense and not enough key players on defense to disrupt the Patriots’ pent-up frustration party.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 36, Steelers 25.
Packers at Bears
MDS’s take: John Fox will make the Bears a more physical and more disciplined team than they were under Marc Trestman, but it will take him another year to make them a good team. Right now Chicago just doesn’t have the talent on the roster to keep pace with Green Bay.
MDS’s pick: Packers 28, Bears 17.
Florio’s take: My gut is telling me the Bears can win. My head is telling me, “You’d be crazy to pick the Bears.” In Week One, I’ll stick with my head.
Florio’s pick: Packers 28, Bears 20.
Chiefs at Texans
MDS’s take: If Brian Hoyer proves himself to be a good quarterback, the Texans can be a playoff team. I’m a little higher on Hoyer than most, and I’ll pick the Texans to start the season 1-0.
MDS’s pick: Texans 20, Chiefs 17.
Florio’s take: Last year, the Chiefs were flat in Week One and spent all year recovering from it. The coaching staff likely spent the full offseason ensuring that the Chiefs won’t be flat to start 2015.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 24, Texans 22.
Browns at Jets
MDS’s take: It was smart of the NFL’s schedulers to put these two teams against each other in Week One. They’re both going to have bad seasons, but you might as well give one fan base a reason for excitement after a 1-0 start. I’ll take the Jets to win a close and ugly game.
MDS’s pick: Jets 12, Browns 9.
Florio’s take: I always say that teams shouldn’t get too excited about a Week One win because there’s a chance that the victory came against the worst team in the league. In unrelated news, the Jets are just a little bit better right now than the Browns, especially after the abrupt suspension of the team’s offensive line coach.
Florio’s pick: Jets 23, Browns 15.
Colts at Bills
MDS’s take: There’s a lot to like about the Bills this year. Rex Ryan will have the defense playing great, and the running game should be strong. But in a game matching Andrew Luck and Tyrod Taylor, I have to take Luck’s team.
MDS’s pick: Colts 21, Bills 17.
Florio’s take: Is it really an upset for a team that was 9-7 and improved in the offseason to beat a team that dominated a weak division, caught a limping Denver team at the right time, got blown out in the AFC title game, and then did nothing to address its most glaring weakness?
Florio’s pick: Bills 23, Colts 20.
Dolphins at Washington
MDS’s take: New Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is going to make Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins wish Jay Gruden had given the job to Robert Griffin III.
MDS’s pick: Dolphins 20, Washington 7.
Florio’s take: After starting the season with visits from the Dolphins and the Rams, it may not be Kirk Cousins’ team by Week Three.
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 30, Washington 19.
Panthers at Jaguars
MDS’s take: Cam Newton is going to have to do it himself a lot this year, as the Panthers’ receiving corps is weak. I’m not sure that bodes well for Carolina’s season, but in Jacksonville, Newton doing it himself is enough to eke out a close win against a bad team.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 21, Jaguars 20.
Florio’s take: While the outcome won’t mean that the winner is a contender or that the loser isn’t, the perpetually-downtrodden Jags start the season off right for fans that have been far more loyal than recent performances would warrant.
Florio’s pick: Jaguars 24, Panthers 17.
Seahawks at Rams
MDS’s take: I think the Rams will be better this year, and they could make a huge statement if they can beat Seattle in the opener. They could, but they won’t. The Seahawks will manage to hold off a tough challenge and beat the Rams.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 16, Rams 13.
Florio’s take: The Seahawks return to the field for the first time since the enduring one of the greatest disappointments in NFL history. And they apparently won’t have Kam Chancellor. And their offensive line is struggling. And the Rams have a great defense. And Nick Foles seems confident and loose. And it’s still too early in the year to be picking a team like Seattle to lose to a perpetual also-ran, even though the Rams could easily win this one.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 22, Rams 13.
Saints at Cardinals
MDS’s take: The Cardinals were as good as anyone last year before Carson Palmer got hurt. I’m not sure if Palmer can stay healthy for 16 games this year, but he’s healthy for now, and he’ll lead Arizona to a win over New Orleans.
MDS’s pick: Cardinals 28, Saints 24.
Florio’s take: The Saints have made plenty of changes as part of a calculated effort to improve. And they improvements could be immediate. And it likely won’t matter when the first game out of the gates is played against the Cardinals on the road.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 27, Saints 21.
Lions at Chargers
MDS’s take: The Lions’ defense is going to take a big step backward this season, and Philip Rivers & Co. will take advantage on Sunday. The Chargers will win a high-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Chargers 35, Lions 31.
Florio’s take: The post-Suh blues arrive for the Lions, who will have a hard time defending against the San Diego offense, and whose own offense will have a hard time doing what it needs to do.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 26, Lions 18.
Titans at Buccaneers
MDS’s take: It’s not Marcus Mariota vs. Jameis Winston, it’s Mariota vs. the Buccaneers’ defense and Winston vs. the Titans’ defense. I like Lovie Smith to have his defense ready to shut Mariota down thoroughly, and as a result I like the Bucs to win the opener.
MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 14, Titans 6.
Florio’s take: The Bucs and the Titans both earned their potential franchise quarterbacks by being awful in 2014. The Bucs have the tools to be a little less awful to start the new season.
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 23, Titans 16.
Bengals at Raiders
MDS’s take: The Raiders are trending in the right direction with good young players like Khalil Mack, Derek Carr and Amari Cooper, but they’re not ready to compete in the AFC just yet. Oakland will keep it close for most of the game but wilt down the stretch against the Bengals.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 24, Raiders 21.
Florio’s take: The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since destroying Bo Jackson’s hip in a postseason game against the Raiders after the 1990 season. This could be the best way to begin the process of finally exorcising that demon.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 24, Raiders 17.
Ravens at Broncos
MDS’s take: We’ll get our first look at Peyton Manning in Gary Kubiak’s offense, and although I’m expecting some growing pains, I have a feeling Manning will look a lot better early this season than he did late last season.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 31, Ravens 21.
Florio’s take: The Broncos have no issues with starting strong. The challenge is how they finish. While it won’t be nearly as bad as the blowout to start the season from two years ago, Peyton Manning staves off Father Time and the Denver defense under Wade Phillips shows it’s a force to be reckoned with.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 31, Ravens 20.
Giants at Cowboys
MDS’s take: The Cowboys’ running game won’t be quite what it was last year without DeMarco Murray, but the combination of Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and a great offensive line gives them one of the best passing attacks in the NFL. They’ll put plenty of points on the board against the Giants.
MDS’s pick: Cowboys 35, Giants 24.
Florio’s take: The Cowboys have much more talent and much more skill and much more everything than the Giants, who seem to think every year that they’re on the verge of turning things around but they never quite can.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 34, Giants 20.
Eagles at Falcons
MDS’s take: For as long as Sam Bradford is healthy, he’ll be a good fit in Chip Kelly’s offense. For now, at least, Bradford is healthy.
MDS’s pick: Eagles 31, Falcons 21.
Florio’s take: With all the talk about whether the Eagles can get it done offensively, most have forgotten that they have a surprisingly good defense. Good enough to outscore a work-in-progress revamping of the Falcons.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 27, Falcons 20.
Vikings at 49ers
MDS’s take: The Vikings will be one of the NFL’s most improved teams, while no team has lost more this offseason than the 49ers. The late Monday night game could get ugly.
MDS’s pick: Vikings 34, 49ers 10.
Florio’s take: Adrian Peterson won’t be a decoy, but look for the offensive coordinator Norv Turner to take full advantage of the home team’s obsession with stopping Peterson.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 30, 49ers 21.