The wait is over. Football season is upon us.
With it comes one of the most difficult tasks in all of sports: predicting Week 1 of the NFL season.
When it comes to Week 1, you might as well throw last season out the window. There’s an overwhelming heap of evidence to support that theory, none larger than the fact that the previous year’s Super Bowl loser has only made the playoffs the following season once this decade.
That being said, trying to forecast what will happen in the opening week based on distant memories from last season and unreliable looks in the preseason could easily make an expert among experts look like an NFL neophyte.
But that’s never stopped anyone before.
(Home team is in caps.)
Tennessee (+6) over PITTSBURGH
There aren’t many reasons to believe Pittsburgh will lose this game, but there is good cause to believe Tennessee will keep it close. The six-point line seems more a sign of respect than anything for the defending Super Bowl champs. Lest we not forget, Pittsburgh carried an 11-3 record and a five-game winning streak over contenders like the Chargers, Patriots, Cowboys and Ravens into Nashville last year, only to get pummeled 31-14 by the Titans. (Even if you don’t remember, the family of this poor, innocent towel likely hasn’t forgotten.)
Of course, that was last year, and that was in Tennessee. While we don’t know exactly what to expect out of either team, we do know one thing: Defenses don’t die. And Pittsburgh and Tennessee have got themselves some defenses.
The two teams ranked first and second in points allowed last year (Pittsburgh at 13.9 and Tennessee at 14.6). Combine that with the fact that the Steelers haven’t been able to keep Ben Roethlisberger upright the past three seasons (he ranked second in the league in sacks the past two years and fourth in 2006) and the fact that the Titans ranked fifth in the league last year with 44 sacks, and Tennessee just might have the defense to pull off the Week 1 upset.
(As a side note to fantasy owners, prepare yourselves for another disappointing season from Santonio Holmes. The reigning Super Bowl MVP has been one of the most overhyped receivers for the past few years, and the new piece of hardware on his mantel won’t turn him into a reliable receiver overnight.)
Now, to pick the Titans, you’ll also have to look past this bit of history: Reigning Super Bowl champs have gone 9-0 in their first game as champs since 2000, outscoring Week 1 opponents 247-134 (roughly 27-15, on average).
But at some point, some team needs to buck the trend, and this Titans team is certainly a capable contender.
Note: This column is a preview of a weekly NFL picks column that will appear on NESN.com each Friday. Check back Friday for the full picks for the NFL’s opening weekend.
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