NFL Week 1 Picks: Eagles will surprise Redskins, rest of NFL
The biggest upset in Week 1? The Eagles and Chip Kelly's uptempo offense will outlast RG3 and the Redskins.
Let us try to explain.
At Oregon, Chip Kelly's uptempo offenses were wildly successful point-scoring machines. We don't expect that type of productivity in the NFL, but over the last month, quarterback Michael Vick has looked as confident, comfortable and decisive in the pocket as we have seen him in several years. That's huge. Because when Vick is on, he's tough to stop. He was Robert Griffin III when RG3 was still in high school, and if Kelly can recapture some of that, then the Eagles could be one of the biggest surprises in 2013.
Vick is so excited, in fact, that he's professing his deep and lasting affection for his job, feelings that had been missing in recent years.
“I'm having fun playing football and I fell in love with the game again and I am thankful for that," Vick said in mid-August. "You've got to play this game with intense passion and purpose and I thank Coach Kelly for what he has done for me and that's just giving me that confidence that I felt like I was losing at some point in my career."
But there's still that defense. One of the league's worst units a year ago, the preseason didn't offer much hope that things would change with the new regime. Gone are Juan Castillo (who you may remember as a successful offensive assistant until Andy Reid got the bright idea to have him head up the defense -- with predictably disastrous results) and Todd Bowles, and Billy Davis is now the defensive coordinator.
If history is any indication of future success, things could get worse in Philly before they get better. From NJ.com back in February, when Davis was hired:
"Davis has had mixed results, at best, during his time as an NFL defensive coordinator," Eliot Shorr-Parks wrote at the time. "He was fired by both the 49ers and Cardinals, although the argument could be made that there was a lack of talent on the rosters while was coaching. Davis never had his unit finish higher than 14th in the league in points allowed during his time as defensive coordinator. In his last season with the Cardinals as defensive coordinator, Arizona finished 20th in scoring defense. One disturbing trend is that in both of his stints as defensive coordinator, his defenses allowed more points per game the second year than they did the first."
Good news: If Kelly's offense works as planned, it will keep the Eagles' defense off the field.
Bad news: If Kelly's offense doesn't -- and three-and-outs become an unintended staple -- the defense will be exposed and Philly could find itself on the wrong end of some lopsided finishes.
Still, we like the Eagles to upset the Redskins (-3.5) on Monday night because Vick is healthy, the Redskins' D has no idea what it's in for, and we don't have a clue what RG3 will look like after spending the last seven months rehabbing a knee injury.
Other Week 1 picks (home team in all caps)
Green Bay over SAN FRANCISCO: We're already on record as having the 49ers miss the playoffs. Not so much because this team is suddenly awful, but because we expect the Seahawks and Rams to improve. We also think the Packers will be better balanced on offense, with Eddie Lacy now lining up behind Aaron Rodgers.
CHICAGO over Cincinnati: The Bears' offensive line enters 2013 like it left 2012: With plenty of questions. But Matt Forte is fully healthy and Jay Cutler is entering his contract year with a lot to prove. Cliched? Yeah, sure. But we're still not convinced Andy Dalton can get the Bengals deep into the playoffs. Then again, maybe he doesn't have to with what could be the AFC's best defense, not to mention the list of playmakers on offense headed by A.J. Green. On Sunday, however, we like Chicago.
PITTSBURGH over Tennessee: This game will serve as a barometer for the rest of the season. If the Steelers play well, they should beat the Titans soundly. If the young offensive line struggles to protect Ben Roethlisberger, it could be a harbinger of disappointment to come. And the schedule only gets tougher. If Pittsburgh slips against Tennessee, they'll head to Cincy for a Week 2 Monday Night Football matchup and 11 days from now they could be staring an 0-2 start in the face.
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