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NFL Picks Week 1: Predicting Highest-Scoring Season Openers

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 11:   Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons talks with  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints at The Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 11, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Saints defeated the Falcons 31-27.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIISeptember 7, 2013

The NFL regular season began with a bang, as the Denver Broncos defeated the Baltimore Ravens, 49-27. Peyton Manning tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes and the era of offense continued in the 2013 season opener.

The question is, which remaining games could rival the Broncos and Ravens' clash as the highest-scoring outings of Week 1?

It'll be difficult to match 76 combined points, let alone the 42 tied to Manning's arm or the seven extra points kicked by Matt Prater. For that matter, not many quarterbacks will match Joe Flacco at 362 yards and two touchdowns.

Hopefully, no one drops the football before they cross the goal line, either.

What can be done, however, is a study of the balance between offensive firepower and defensive prowess in each of the upcoming games. Upon doing so, it will become clear which teams will put up offensive clinics of their own.

Fantasy football owners beware.

 

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints

Date: Sunday, Sept. 8 at 1:00 p.m. ET

TV: FOX

Betting Line: Saints (-3) via BOVADA

Prediction: 34-30

Combined Score: 64

The Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints have two of the most potent passing attacks in the NFL. The Saints also have one of the most dreadful pass defenses, while the Falcons were far from elite in 2012, and must now replace Brent Grimes with rookie Desmond Trufant.

There won't be a lot of defense in this one.

Matt Ryan made drastic strides in 2012, throwing for career-best marks of 4,719 yards and 32 touchdowns. In 2013, Atlanta returns the world-class receiving corps of Julio Jones, Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez to support him.

Throw in every-down running back Steven Jackson, and the Falcons have created the potential for legendary numbers.

The Saints are led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, who set an NFL record with 5,476 passing yards in 2011 and followed it up with 5,177 yards in 2012. Even without his head coach, Brees managed to convert 43 touchdowns through the air.

There are more questions than normal on New Orleans' offense, but as long as Brees is under center, the Saints will score. Having Marques Colston and Darren Sproles doesn't hurt, either.

The Falcons have the superior defense, and that should be enough to earn them a slight on-paper edge. Furthermore, Sean Payton's year-long suspension should leave enough rust for the Falcons to earn a 34-30 win.

One way or another, expect some lofty point totals.

 

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions

Date: Sunday, Sept. 8 at 1:00 p.m. ET

TV: FOX

Betting Line: Lions (-5.5) via BOVADA

Prediction: Lions 35, Vikings 24

Combined Score: 59

Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions led the NFL with 727 pass attempts in 2012, which was 57 more than the next leading player, Brees. Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings led the NFL in rushing yards with 2,097, with Alfred Morris of the Washington Redskins ranking second at 1,613.

Fortunately for the fans of big plays, neither team has the defensive prowess to counter the opposition.

Anyone who believes the Lions' elite, but undisciplined interior defensive linemen will slow Peterson down has another thing coming to them. Peterson ran through every defense he faced in 2012, doing so without a passing game to prevent teams from crowding the box.

He proceeded to break off 27 rushes for 20 yards or more—C.J. Spiller of the Buffalo Bills was second in the NFL with 12.

It won't be any prettier for the Vikings' defense, as they were 24th against the pass in 2012 and will be without defensive lineman Kevin Williams due to injury, per ESPN. To make matters worse, Chris Cook, Josh Robinson and rookie Xavier Rhodes are what stand between Calvin Johnson and the end zone.

Johnson caught 122 passes for an NFL record 1,964 yards in 2012, and will now look to add some touchdowns to his name.

The Vikings will be a high-quality team in 2013, but they won't win in Week 1. The Lions are fresh off of a 4-12 season and are desperate for a victory to start the season off strong.

Look for recently-signed running back Reggie Bush to expose Williams' absence and offer much-needed run support for Detroit's explosive vertical game, thus earning a 35-24 victory.

 

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys

Date: Sunday, Sept. 8 at 8:30 p.m. ET

TV: FOX

Betting Line: Cowboys (-3) via BOVADA

Prediction: Cowboys 38, Giants 31

Combined Score: 69

 The Dallas Cowboys have one of the most statistically productive quarterbacks of this generation in Tony Romo. The New York Giants have a quarterback who has topped 4,000 yards passing in three separate seasons in Eli Manning.

Both are the definition of boom-or-bust—with some questioning the boom in Dallas—and each are primed to post a multi-touchdown evening in Week 1.

Say what you will about Romo's ability to win games, but he was third in the NFL with 4,903 yards and sixth with 28 touchdowns through the air in 2012. That marked the fourth time in his past five full seasons that he's eclipsed 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns passing.

With Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and DeMarco Murray all healthy, there aren't many teams that can stop this Cowboys offense.

For the Giants, Manning has no shortage of question marks with Andre Brown breaking his leg, Hakeem Nicks' health always uncertain and David Wilson unproven at running back. What we do know is that, when he's on his game, there aren't many players who can throw as well as Eli.

With Victor Cruz and Brandon Myers lining up, expect Manning's statistics to continue looking elite.

The key here is that the Giants enter the 2013 season with one of the worst on-paper defenses in the league. Safety Stevie Brown is out with a torn ACL, per Adam Schefter of ESPN, and Jason Pierre-Paul went from phenom—16.5 sacks in 2011—to average—6.5 sacks in 2012—in the course of one season.

The Giants were 28th in pass defense in 2012, and after a slow offseason, there's no reason to believe they'll fair any better in 2013.

This doesn't take the Cowboys off of the hook, as they've possessed the talent to contend for the better part of a decade. Even still, Dallas is on the outside looking in of the postseason with every passing year.

In 2013, they'll start the season off right with a 38-31 win over the Giants and their dysfunctional defense.

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