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

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

NFL Week One: Five Games To Watch

Jeremy Bergman, Aaron Fischman, Michael Katz, Danny Lee, Ryan Nunez, Will Robinson, James Santelli |
September 8, 2011 | 10:17 a.m. PDT

Staff Writers

Matthews leads the Packers dominant defense. (Wikimedia Commons)
Matthews leads the Packers dominant defense. (Wikimedia Commons)
It's finally NFL Football time, and what better way to start the season than with picking victors for the weekend's most anticipated matchups?

Each week, Neon Tommy writers will submit their picks for five marquee games. This week, we begin with a showdown between the two most recent Super Bowl champs.

New Orleans Saints (+4.5) at Green Bay Packers

Jeremy Bergman: Packers

“The Pack have maintained the same personnel from their championship season, but the Saints have tinkered with their roster. However, don't expect these changes to manifest into anything productive just yet, especially against Dom Capers' feisty defense at Lambeau; expect Aaron Rodgers to air it out and Clay Matthews to stuff the run on Opening Night.”

Aaron Fischman: Saints

“I have a great deal of respect for the defending champion Green Bay Packers. With that said, Drew Brees will have a big game, and the Saints will win a tight, high-scoring affair.

Michael Katz: Packers

“In this battle of the past two Super Bowl Champions, there should be plenty of offensive fireworks. It will really depend which defense steps up; seeing as how the Packers have the superior defensive unit, my money is on them.”

Danny Lee: Packers 24, Saints 20

“This matchup will showcase an intriguing quarterback duel between Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. But defense could be the deciding factor, with Green Bay having the edge--the Saints were last seen getting gashed for 41 points by a sub-.500 Seahawks team in a playoff defeat. Look for the defending champs to squeak out a season-opening win.”

Ryan Nunez: Packers

“No hardcore NFL fans should bet this game, choosing instead to just sit back and enjoy the start of the 2011 season. If you're too much of a degenerate for that, go with the over and if you're a real degenerate, Packers and the over is the way to go.”

Will Robinson: Packers 27, Saints 21 

“Aaron Rodgers and company should start the year off right with a big win, with a few touchdowns expected from the reigning Super Bowl MVP.” 

James Santelli: Packers 31, Saints 28

“The home team has won the Thursday night opener each of the last eight seasons. The Packers will make it nine in a row at Lambeau, despite a tough test from New Orleans.”

Atlanta Falcons (+3) at Chicago Bears

Jay Cutler. (Wikimedia Commons)
Jay Cutler. (Wikimedia Commons)
Bergman: Falcons

“Falcons QB Matt Ryan has finally developed into a top tier QB in the league and will be aided this year by the deep threats of Roddy White and rookie Julio Jones. The wideouts will certainly have the Bears' aging defense gasping for air and, after the loss of veteran center Olin Kreutz, Bears QB Jay Cutler will running for cover behind a Swiss cheese O-line.”

Fischman: Falcons

“Many people forget that the Falcons went 13-3 in 2010. They’ll carry that momentum into 2011 behind a strong performance by Matt Ryan. Although Matty Ice is historically a lot less dominant on the road, he will shine on Sunday.”

Katz: Bears

“After a disappointing early exit from the playoffs last season, the Falcons look to start their season on the right foot. However, the confines of Soldier Field give the Bears a serious advantage. The fact that the Falcons play in a dome is seriously going to hurt their odds, despite having a better overall team.”

Lee: Falcons 19, Bears 13

“The issue for the Bears is whether they can put up enough points with a shaky offensive line and suspect receivers. Between pounding the ball with Michael Turner and having a Matt Ryan-orchestrated receiving unit, Atlanta should have just enough attacking variety to keep the Bears’ aggressive defense honest in this affair.”

Nunez: Falcons

“The day I pick Jay Cutler against any team worth a damn, is the day everyone should stop listening to my NFL advice.”

Robinson: Falcons 23, Bears 14

“Atlanta bolstered the roster by adding wideout Julio Jones and defensive end Ray Edwards, while Chicago did not make any remarkable transactions. The Falcons will cruise to a 1-0 record with a 23-14 win thanks to the defense devouring Jay Cutler.”

Santelli: Falcons 21, Bears 10

“Atlanta went 6-2 on the road last year, and a bad Bears offense will have trouble putting up points against the Falcons.”

Pittsburgh Steelers (+1.5) at Baltimore Ravens

Hines Ward. (Wikimedia Commons)
Hines Ward. (Wikimedia Commons)
Bergman: Ravens (by less than 9 points)

“These fierce, hard-hitting AFC North rivals have met eight times in the last three seasons - all games being decided by nine points or less - and there is certainly no love lost. With the Steelers coming off a disappointing Super Bowl loss, I see the Ravens using their under-appreciated receiving corps of Anquan Boldin and Lee Evans to open up the Steelers' secondary a la Aaron Rodgers in the Super Bowl.”

Fischman: Ravens

Whenever these bitter AFC North foes get together, it gets wild. In their last six head-to-head regular season meetings, the games have averaged a 3.17-point margin. Expect another see-saw battle with the home team getting the W.”

Katz: Steelers

“This game has all the makings of another classic in this rivalry. Both teams boast great defenses and solid running games. However, until Joe Flacco can prove he can get the Ravens over the hump, it’s hard for me to choose against the Steelers.”

Lee: Ravens 17, Steelers 14

“It’s normal to expect a Ravens-Steelers encounter to have a bar fight atmosphere, and this one will be no different, with an early lead in the AFC North standings at stake. If Ray Rice can find success running the ball against Pittsburgh's defense, that should open things up for Baltimore’s revamped receiving corp.”

Nunez: Steelers

“Any Steelers-Ravens game, the Steelers are the pick until Joe Flacco proves he can beat Pitt more than once every blue moon.”

Robinson: Steelers 17, Ravens 13

“Is there a better way to start the season than with the hardest hitting rivalry in the league? Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has yet to defeat a Ben Roethlisberger-led Steelers team, and the trend will not be bucked in the opening week. This has “Game of the Week” written all over it. ”

James Santelli: Ravens 21, Steelers 20

“Baltimore and Pittsburgh always play close, hard-hitting games. The Ravens look prepared to top the Steelers after adding some new weapons on offense.”

Indianapolis Colts (+8.5) at Houston Texans

Arian Foster. (Wikimedia Commons)
Arian Foster. (Wikimedia Commons)
Bergman: Texans

“With Peyton Manning doubtful for this opener and still ailing from an offseason neck surgery, Houston and new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips have a big opportunity to pounce on the vulnerable Colts offense, now led by grizzly journeyman Kerry Collins. Houston's offense will bury the Colts and set the tone for the rest of the season.”

Fischman: Texans

“Old reliable Peyton Manning has started 227 consecutive times. Sadly, that streak will end Sunday, as he will not suit up due to a lingering neck and back injury. In addition to the Kerry Collins effect (Indy’s backup QB), the Texans are not nearly as bad as their 6-10 record last season would suggest.”

Katz: Colts

“It will certainly be an uncomfortable sight for Colts fans to see quarterback Peyton Manning out of the lineup. However, the Colts historically dominate the Texans, and although the Texans have a clear advantage without Manning playing, I am going to go with the upset.”

Lee: Texans 31, Colts 21

“Peyton Manning’s looming absence will mean the Colts’ much-maligned running game will face added pressure to produce.  The Texans might have to go without the services of running back Arian Foster due to a hamstring injury. But, without the only starting field general they’ve known for the past 13 seasons, this could mark the beginning of a brutal early-season stretch for the Colts.”

Nunez: Texans

“Kerry Collins hasn't been relevant for 3 years. Not even Reggie Wayne, Joseph Addai and Dallas Clark can change that.”

Robinson: Texans 28, Colts 16

“Peyton Manning’s neck is a major concern for the Colts, who may have to roll out Curtis Painter or Kerry Collins against the Texans’ defense should Manning not be physically cleared. Houston made some needed additions in the off-season, adding former Bengal cornerback Jonathan Joseph to strengthen a terrible secondary. While running back Arian Foster is out, Andre Johnson will be just fine putting the team on his back en route to a 28-16 victory against their AFC South opponent.”

Santelli: Texans 27, Colts 14 

“Houston upset Indianapolis at Reliant Stadium last year in Week 1. And that was a Colts team with Peyton Manning.”

Dallas Cowboys (+4.5) at New York Jets

Rex Ryan. (Creative Commons)
Rex Ryan. (Creative Commons)
Bergman: Jets

“On a night of heavy hearts in the Big Apple, the spotlight will be on two heavyweights - I mean, of course, large-and-in-charge brothers Rex and Rob Ryan. While Rex has revamped his receiving corps - with veterans Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason - to balance the offense, Rob has signed on with Jason Garrett in Dallas to mold a Cowboy defense that is full of raw talent. This one's going to be close, but I have the Jets pulling this one out - for the city.” 

Fischman: Jets

“Jets coach Rex Ryan faces off against his twin brother, Rob Ryan, the defensive coordinator for the Cowboys. Unfortunately for Rob, his defensive unit is not very good. On the other hand, Sexy Rexy’s defense, well…I don’t think I even have to say it.”

Katz: Jets

“The Jets are a team on the cusp of greatness. Quarterback Mark Sanchez enters his third year with the team, and coach Rex Ryan always has his defense ready. This is not the defense that Tony Romo wants to see in his first game back from a broken collarbone.”

Lee: Jets 28, Cowboys 21

 “The run-first Jets could have a chance to fully utilize lanky red-zone specialist Plaxico Burress against a depleted Cowboys secondary. This game could provide more fireworks than expected, but probably not as much as the post-game press conference to follow, featuring the flamboyant Ryan brothers.”

Nunez: Jets

“This is the toughest pick of the group, but when the spotlight is shining, the Jets step up and the Cowboys tend to shut up.”

Robinson: Jets 20, Cowboys 13

“Dallas was one of the most disappointing teams of 2010, and they look to have a rebound season. The Jets, on the other hand, had a very nice season, making the AFC Championship game once again. Though the offensive line has some question marks, as their defensive line does, New York still has a very strong team. They will beat the Cowboys in the Jerrydome 20-13 in a hotly contested match.”

Santelli: Jets 17, Cowboys 14 

"Gang Green may have the best defense in the NFL this season, and they can start to own that title by shutting down Dallas on Sunday Night."


Best way to find more great content from Neon Tommy?

Or join our email list below to enjoy the weekly Neon Tommy News Highlights.



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.