Jason’s NFL Picks-Week One

By Jason Bryden
Elm Staff Writer

New Orleans at Green Bay

The past two Super Bowl Champions will meet on Thursday night at Lambeau Field as the reigning champion Packers host the Super Bowl XLIV winners, the Saints.

New Orleans, led by quarterback Drew Brees, made the playoffs last year, but lost at Seattle 41-36 in the wild card round. The Saints running attack will be different in 2011 as they lost Reggie Bush to Miami, but signed Darren Sproles from San Diego. On defense, they will look to return to their opportunistic ways that helped them win it all in 2009. Green Bay clinched the final playoff spot in the last week of the season and parlayed it into a Super Bowl. Led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers will try to become the first team to repeat since the 2003-04 New England Patriots. Green Bay won it all last year in spite of having to place 15 players on injured reserve, including running back Ryan Grant and tight end Jermichael Finley.

The Packers lead the all-time series 14-7, but the Saints have won the last two games that were in 2006 and 2008.

Atlanta at Chicago

Last season, Atlanta and Chicago had the top two seeds in the NFC Playoffs and a bye, but in the end, both teams had one thing in common, its seasons came to an end against Green Bay.

Atlanta, who lost to the Packers in the divisional round, return quarterback Matt Ryan and drafted wide receiver Julio Jones from Alabama to bolster its passing attack. The Falcons last year went 13-3, posting a winning record for the third straight year and got the top seed for the first time ever. Chicago, who fell in the NFC Championship Game, will need the offensive line to play well in order to keep quarterback Jay Cutler on his feet. Cutler was sacked 52 times last year and was knocked out of two games, including the NFC Championship Game.

The two sides have each won 12 times in the all-time series, but the Bears have won the past five in Chicago, including a 16-3 win in 2005.

Philadelphia at St. Louis

With all the offseason moves the Eagles have made, visiting Philadelphia is hoping this is the year they win its first Super Bowl ever and first NFL Title in 51 years, while host St. Louis is hoping to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

The Eagles, who have won six NFC East crowns since 2001, added Nnamdi Asomugha at cornerback as the top free agent this offseason and the move catapulted Philadelphia to a favorite to win it all. Philadelphia is led on offense by quarterback Michael Vick, who did not throw an interception last year until Week 12. The Rams almost went from 1-15 in 2009 to NFC West Champions in 2010, but lost on the final Sunday to Seattle to lose out on the division title due to a tiebreaker with the Seahawks. St. Louis went 7-9 a year ago and seeks its first winning season since 2003, when they went 12-4. The Rams offense is sparked by second-year quarterback Sam Bradford.

In 35 all-time regular season meetings, the series is tied 17-17-1, while the Rams have won two of the three postseason contests, including the 2001 NFC Championship Game, 29-24.

Pittsburgh at Baltimore

The NFL’s most fierce rivalry renews again in Week 1 on Sunday in Baltimore. Last season, the Steelers ended the Ravens season in the AFC Divisional Playoff Round, 31-24 in Pittsburgh as Pittsburgh came back from a 21-7 deficit to send Baltimore home. It was the second time in three years the Steelers sent the Ravens home in the playoffs.

The Steelers, the reigning AFC Champions, return just about all of their key players as they hope to return to the Super Bowl and win their seventh Super Bowl. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is 5-0 all-time against Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco. The Ravens changed their running game behind Ray Rice as they added Ricky Williams from Miami and signed fullback Vonta Leach from Houston. The Steelers lead the all-time series 21-12 and have prevailed in all three playoff games.

Dallas at New York Jets

Two teams who had very different seasons in 2010 will kickoff the 2011 season against each other on Sunday night at MetLife Stadium.

The Cowboys, who were hoping to become the first host to reach a Super Bowl had a disastrous 2010 season as they started 1-7 and finished 6-10. Quarterback Tony Romo had his season end in Week 7 and there was a coaching change. The Cowboys are hoping to return to their 2009 form where they won 11 games, the NFC East, and got the divisional round. The Jets reached the AFC Championship Game for the second straight season in 2010, but it was a repeat of 2009 where they lost one game short of the Super Bowl. Quarterback Mark Sanchez had won four road playoff games in his first two seasons as New York’s signal caller. The Cowboys have won seven of the nine all-time meetings.

Prior to the game and at halftime there will be special presentations as Sunday is 10 years to the day of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania before reaching its intended target in Washington, DC.

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