This is a battle of 2nd year quarterbacks that will not have their #1 Running back on the field at all or on the field 100 percent healthy. In Jacksonville Maurice Jones-Drew held out meaninglessly for 38 days and didn’t get anything he demanded. Jones didn’t get a new contract or a get traded, but he does find himself #3 on the depth chart in week 1 (Thanks Phil Emery for avoiding this situation with Matt Forte). Blaine Gabbert has new targets to throw to in Laurent Robinson and rookie Justin Blackmon. In the preseason Blackmon after ending his holdout has looked very smooth and ready to be a star wide receiver if Gabbert can make the jump from really bad rookie quarterback to finding his way in year 2.
Christian Ponder leads the Vikings with probably Toby Gerhart in the backfield instead of Adrian Peterson even though he is a game time decision. Ponder made some strides in his rookie season mostly due to getting the ball into the hands of Percy Harvin. Harvin along with a healthy Peterson has the potential to take the ball to the house on any play. The Vikings defense was really suspect in the secondary, but they shouldn’t get burned too often going against Gabbert
Key Injuries- Peterson game time decision
The Pick- Jacksonville 24 Vikings 21
The Rams will enter Detroit and really have only two ways to win this football game. The first way is to create turnovers by their defense. The Lions will not have much of any running game so it will be airing it out all day. The second way to win this game is for Stephen Jackson to have a big day on the ground and win the time of possession battle. Sam Bradford really had a sophomore slump last season and it will be interesting to see if he snaps out of it or does he continue to just throw 3 yard dump off passes. The Rams will give up some big plays so they must score when they have the ball.
The Lions will not have Javid Best or the suspended Mikel Leshoure, but none of this will matter in week 1. Matthew Stafford should have a field day throwing the ball against the Rams secondary, and Calvin Johnson should pick up where he left off last season with over 100 yards receiving and a touchdown. The Lions should be able to get the first string off the field by the end of the third quarter by making quick work of their matchups on both sides of the ball in Week 1
Key Injuries- Javid Best-Concussion
The Pick- Detroit Lions 42 St Louis Rams 14
MATCHUP OF THE WEEK!!
The 49ers were only 2 fumbles away from beating the NY Giants and advancing to the Super Bowl. Their defense was superb last season while Alex Smith had a rebirth under first year coach Jim Harbaugh. Smith basically didn’t turn the ball over and tried to keep the offense getting first downs and set up a lot of field goals. This season the offense was given some weapons in free agent Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs while signing Randy Moss. The never really let Smith open it up while they pound it on the ground routinely with Frank Gore. They somehow won a shoot out against the Saints in the playoffs but that is not their game. The 49ers will try to win the time of possession game, field position game, and the real game by playing defense and being smart but not spectacular with the football.
The Packers are going to strive to do two things. Make your offense turn the ball over and score relentlessly on offense. This is a battle of the top two defenses that created turnovers, but the Packers defense gives up a lot of yards and the secondary is average at best. Rodgers is very good but in the playoff loss of the Giants, the formula was exposed that putting pressure up the middle can make him not as effective. In Green Bay the offense should get enough big plays to get the job done in a tight game, they will not have as many Lambeau leaps as the home crowd became accustomed to last season. One thing to watch for as a precursor to the Bears vs Packers game next week is how they use Cedric Benson on offense.
Key Injuries- Brandon Jacobs
The Pick- Green Bay 23 San Francisco-20