September 5, 2013

The first pick of the new NFL season

by Dan Bilicki In: Football, Picks

It’s finally here: Game time.

It has been seven whole months since the Baltimore Ravens walked out of the Superdome in New Orleans as NFL champions, holding on for dear life against the also-excellent San Francisco 49ers.

Think about how long that is. No other sport takes as long of a break as the NFL does. And, actually, I couldn’t be happier. The rest of North America’s major sports could learn from this. There is such thing as overexposure. The NHL ended in late June and training camps are opening next week.

But I digress.

While it’s certainly odd that the Super Bowl champions are opening on the road, it’s a reality. But seeing the Ravens as 7.5-point underdogs, now that’s a shock.

This is a largely rebuilt Ravens defence and the passing game is minus two key pieces in Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta, but that doesn’t scare me away. The defence actually needed that overhaul, as it was getting older and slower by the year. Baltimore is also welcoming back Ladarius Webb, one of the top corners in the league, who was hurt for the playoff run.

On the home side, you have an amazing offence led by Peyton Manning that became even better in the off-season with the signing of Wes Welker. It’s the defence that really concerns me.

The Broncos will be without its two best pass rushers from last season, Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller. Miller has been suspended for the first six games of the season while Dumervil will be lining up for the Ravens, hoping to put a licking on Manning.

Considering this is a rematch of a playoff contest that went to double overtime, I can’t see either team winning by more than a touchdown.

Pick: Baltimore +7.5 over DENVER

Last season: 132-116-8

Playoffs: 8-3

2011 season: 131-120-2

2010 season: 138-110-5

And finally, a roundup of our picks for the season.

NFC division winners: Atlanta, Green Bay, San Francisco, Washington.

AFC division winners: Cincinnati, Denver, Houston, New England.

NFC wild cards: New Orleans, Seattle.

AFC wild cards: Baltimore, Tennessee.

Worst team: Oakland Raiders.

AFC championship: Houston over New England

NFC championship: San Francisco over Atlanta.

Super Bowl: San Francisco 31, Houston 17.

Disappointments: Indianapolis Colts, Detroit’s defence, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears.

Surprises: Tennessee Titans, New England’s passing game, Arizona’s defence.

MVP: Tom Brady, New England.

Offensive player of the year: Drew Brees, New Orleans.

Defensive player of the year: Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers.

Offensive rookie: Eddie Lacy, Green Bay.

Defensive rookie: Jarvis Jones, Pittsburgh.

Passing leader: Drew Brees, New Orleans.

Rushing leader: Doug Martin, Tampa Bay.

Receiving leader: Calvin Johnson, Detroit

Sacks leader: DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys.

Overall fantasy leader: Drew Brees, New Orleans.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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