warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

NFL Week 1 Preview: Colts, Cowboys Will Roll In Season Openers

Michael Green |
September 10, 2010 | 5:48 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Every week, Neon Tommy NFL analyst Mike Green predicts winners and breaks down the weekend's five biggest games.

Here are his picks for Week 1.

The Big Five:

Indianapolis Colts (0-0) at Houston Texans (0-0)

If the Colts were an ice cream flavor, it would be vanilla – consistently good to the point of boredom. Predicting that Indy will make the playoffs is about as out on a limb as guessing that Vince will have a one night stand in the next season of Entourage

Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne will do their usual thing against a Houston secondary that lost start cornerback Dunta Robinson in the offseason. With Brian Cushing serving a suspension for taking magical muscle vitamins, Dallas Clark will find room to roam over the middle of the field.

The Texans will counter with their own high-powered offense led by Matt Schaub and his velcro-handed sidekick Andre Johnson. Indianapolis has struggled to cover big receivers in the past, which bodes well for Johnson. Houston also figures to use bruising running back Arian Foster frequently against a defense that ranked toward the back of the pack against the run last season.

How Houston offensive tackles Eric Winston and Duane Brown handle Colts defensive ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game. The Texans’ offensive line has not exactly been the model for pass protection in recent years and the Colts defensive line will be pinning its ears back come Sunday.

The Verdict: The Texans have the ability to hang with any team on offense, but Manning & Co. will drive up the score on Houston’s defense like they are competing in the Indianapolis 500. The flavor of the week will once again be vanilla in this one.

Predicted Winner: Indianapolis Colts

Atlanta Falcons (0-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0)

The dirty birds of Atlanta have mended their wings and are looking to regain their playoff form in 2010. Pittsburgh will also hope to recapture their postseason swagger with a healthy Troy Polamalu.

The Steelers will play the first four games of the season without Ben Roethlisberger who is suspended for allegedly not playing nice with girls. As a result, third year quarterback Dennis Dixon will get an opportunity to start under center.

With an inexperienced quarterback taking snaps, coach Mike Tomlin will likely pull back on his pass-first philosophy and lean heavily on running back Rashard Mendenhall. The Falcons defended the run well last year and now have 2009 first round pick Peria Jerry healthy and set to play his first full season. Mendenhall will need to pick his lanes carefully as Atlanta will likely stack the box against him all game long.

Matt Ryan drew an awfully difficult assignment in his quest to break through a minor 2009 sophomore slump. The Steelers' defense always ratchets up the intensity at home and will be extra amped for opening day.

Matty Ice melted in the preseason, with just a 67.4 quarterback rating. Making matters worse is the likely absence of No. 2 receiver Michael Jenkins due to a shoulder injury.

Atlanta will not find much success running the ball with Michael Turner against Pittsburgh’s steel-solid front line. As a result, Polamalu and the secondary versus Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez will be a key matchup to watch.

The Verdict: Pittsburgh is always a difficult draw when the terrible towels are out in full force, but Atlanta is a team on the rise. Dennis Dixon’s inexperience will force the Steelers to become somewhat one-dimensional on offense. Atlanta’s offense should do just enough to come out on top in a defensive slugfest.

Predicted Winner: Atlanta Falcons

Green Bay Packers (0-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (0-0)

Philadelphia quarterback Kevin Kolb finds himself in a situation similar to the one his Green Bay counterpart, Aaron Rodgers, faced when he became a starter in 2008.  The former Houston Cougar is replacing a franchise icon in Donovan McNabb and will be under heavy scrutiny the whole season.

Kolb certainly earned a reception similar to McNabb when he was drafted, but the jury is still out on how he will compare on the field. The new Eagles starter still has more career interceptions (7) than touchdowns (4) at this point his career.

A.J. Hawk and friends will pursue the young quarterback with the same tenacity George Clooney uses to go after ridiculously attractive women who are half his age. The 3-4 defense should also be effective against LeSean McCoy and the running game.

With difficult matchups up front and against the linebacker corps, Philly will need to use wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin to test a depleted Green Bay secondary that is without Al Harris and Atari Bigby to start the season.

When Green Bay has the ball, Rodgers will have his eyes locked downfield against a shaky Philadelphia pass defense. Outside of Asante Samuel, the Eagles do not have answers for receiving targets Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and Jermichael Finley.

The Verdict: Rodgers and the Packers should be able to throw downfield at will in this game. The Eagles' offense is still unproven with Kolb at the helm and it will take some time before they can match a well-oiled offensive machine like the Packers.

Predicted Winner: Green Bay Packers

Dallas Cowboys (0-0) at Washington Redskins (0-0)

Donovan McNabb may have changed zip codes, but he still gets to take part in the same divisional rivalries. A revamped Redskins team will take on the defending division champion Dallas Cowboys Sunday night in an NFC East throwdown.

Coming off his best professional season, Tony Romo will go up against a Redskins pass defense that was solid last season. A talented Redskins secondary should keep Miles Austin under wraps, meaning that this will be a Jason Witten type of night for Dallas.

The Cowboys will also be inclined to run the ball against a Redskins defensive front that will be without Albert Hayneworth, who is still in coach Mike Shanahan’s dog house for his offseason shenanigans. As a result, running backs Felix Jones and Marion Barber could easily Texas two-step for over 100 yards apiece in this one.

For his part, McNabb figures to go after a Dallas secondary that inspires about as much confidence as Horseshack in a boxing ring. The Cowboys ranked 20th in pass coverage last season and have not done much to improve the situation.

Wide receiver Santana Moss should be busy and tight end Chris Cooley should also be a factor in his first game after breaking his ankle last season. With a backfield that resembles a convalescent home, there is little reason to expect big rushing numbers for Washington against a stout Cowboys run defense.

The Verdict: An improved Redskins team playing at home will make things interesting against Dallas. In the end, however, the Cowboys' running game and defensive line will simply be too much for Washington to handle.

Predicted Winner: Dallas Cowboys

Baltimore Ravens (0-0) at New York Jets (0-0)

The Jets may consider themselves the Miami Heat of the NFL, but it remains to be seen if all the talk surrounding Gang Green is good for anything more than a reality TV show.

The first test will come on Monday night when Ray Lewis and the Ravens look to silence New York with some smash-mouth football. Both teams ranked in the top 5 in total defense last season and there is no reason to expect any deviation from the norm this time around.

Led by Lewis, the Ravens are a nightmare against the run. The unit will try to slow down a Jets rushing attack that led the league with over 172 yards per game. When these two forces collide, the result will be more epic than Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus.

The Ravens will need to rely heavily on pressuring Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez with safety Ed Reed on the physically unable to perform list to start the season. Simply put, the Ravens cannot replace Reed in their secondary and will struggle if Sanchez is given time to throw.

With little room to run against Baltimore, the Jets may rely more on the receiving ability of running back LaDainian Tomlinson. LT2 looked fresh during the preseason and was signed by the Jets for games like this, where a pass-catching threat out of the backfield will be valuable.

Baltimore’s revamped passing attack led by former Arizona Cardinal receiver Anquan Boldin will be challenged against a Jets defense that ranked first against the air attack last season. With Darrelle Revis back in action after a lengthy holdout, Baltimore will likely shy away from going deep. Running back Ray Rice, however, could prove to be a valuable target on underneath routs.

Verdict: This game could easily be a preview of the AFC Championship several months from now. Baltimore will be highly motivated to steal the spotlight from a much-hyped Jets squad. Still, the opening of a brand new stadium combined with an overwhelming Jets defense will be too much for the Ravens to handle in the end.

Predicted Winner: New York Jets

The S.H.I.T. (Super Horrible Infinitely Terrible) Game of the Week:

Cleveland Browns (0-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0)

The NFL schedule makers really scraped the rim of the toilet bowl for this one. The Browns and Bucs combined for a sterling 8-24 record last season and appear poised for similar success this year.


The only interesting dynamic in this matchup is that one team plays in a state shaped like a penis, while the other resides in one that is cold as balls. Honestly, you are better off watching former Browns legend Jim Brown reprise his role in Mars Attacks than exposing your eyes to this crapfest. 

Predicted Loser: Cleveland Browns


Roll Call:

Oakland Raiders (0-0) at Tennessee Titans (0-0)

Since JaMarcus Russell’s departure, the Raiders have reportedly decided to go with lemon lime Gatorade in place of last year’s special codeine flavor. Meanwhile, Tennessee running back Chris Johnson could easily get halfway to his goal of 2,500 rushing yards for the season in this game alone.

Predicted Winner: Tennessee Titans

Carolina Panthers (0-0) at New York Giants (0-0)

Carolina starting quarterback Matt Moore could still probably walk into the middle of a Panthers fan fest and not get recognized by anybody. The Giants appear recovered from the injury plague that took out nearly half their team last season and should be much improved on defense.

Predicted Winner: New York Giants

Denver Broncos (0-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0)

Prepubescent coach Josh McDaniels led the Broncos to a great starts last year but the team wilted at the halfway mark. With Brandon Marshall gone, it still remains to be seen who the team will turn to on offense against the Jaguars. Then again, it remains to be seen if that even matters against a putrid Jacksonville defense.

Predicted Winner: Denver Broncos

Miami Dolphins (0-0) at Buffalo Bills (0-0)

The Bills briefly contemplated playing the 2010 season without a quarterback. Unfortunately for Buffalo fans, the coaching staff eventually decided that having Trent Edwards throw lame ducks up for grabs would be better than having C.J. Spiller in the Wild Cat all game. Prepare to see the real game version of ESPN’s “Run Ricky, Run” when the Dolphins take the field on Sunday.

Predicted Winner: Miami Dolphins

Detroit Lions (0-0) at Chicago Bears (0-0)

Detroit and Chicago took turns being the laughing stock of the NFC North last season. Ultimately, Detroit took home the honor, but that also resulted in the drafting of defensive mammoth Ndamukong Suh at tackle. Both teams are vastly improved over last year but the Lions still need to prove that they can win a division game.

Predicted Winner: Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals (0-0) at New England Patriots (0-0)

Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco may call themselves Batman and Robin but at this point in their careers they more strongly resemble Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in Grumpy Old Men. With all the attention being given to the New York Jets, New England is bound to play with a chip on its should this season.

Predicted Winner: New England Patriots

San Francisco 49ers (0-0) at Seattle Seahawks (0-0)

Putting decrepit quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in front of Patrick Willis is like waving a piece of raw meat in front of a famished lion. Pete Carroll is in for a rude reminder that coaching in the NFL is nothing like college.

Predicted Winner: San Francisco 49ers

Arizona Cardinals (0-0) at St. Louis Rams (0-0)

Even Derek Anderson should be able to hang a few hundred yards on the Rams' inept secondary. Steven Jackson could break through against a weak Arizona rush defense but not before the Cardinals offense puts St. Louis in a multi-touchdown hole.

Predicted Winner: Arizona Cardinals

San Diego Chargers (0-0) at Kansas City Chiefs (0-0)

Kansas City is slowly building a respectable unit on both sides of the ball. With Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman unlikely to play due to injury and wide receiver Vincent Jackson put on timeout by the league, San Diego will be depleted Monday night. Still, Kansas City coach Todd Haley should find a way to coach his team out of a victory.

Predicted Winner: San Diego Chargers

To reach staff writer Michael Green, click here.

Sign up for Neon Tommy's weekly e-mail newsletter.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.