Week 4 NFL Predictions


Alshon Jeffery has formed a formidable partnership with fellow Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall

Last night’s lopsided match-up between the New York Giants and Washington Redskins heralded the start of week four of the NFL season, and with the year nearing the quarter mark here’s what American Football Focusthinks will transpire across the league over the weekend, with our prediction record currently standing at 30-18.
Carolina @ Baltimore
Carolina were handled easily by Pittsburgh last weekend in a beat-down that was largely brought about by the Steelers rushing attack. Fortunately for the Panthers the Ravens aren’t nearly as prolific on the ground thanks to the suspension of Ray Rice, while Baltimore have also looked suspect on defense at times in the season’s early going. It’s  a big game between two perennial play-off teams, but with Cam Newton and the Panthers defense not quite right I’m going for a home win.  
Panthers 20, Ravens 26
Green Bay @ Chicago
After two losses in the opening three weeks Green Bay are in danger of falling out of play-off contention early doors, with their defense leaky and their offense failing to produce the amount of points they’re accustomed to putting on the board. The Bears meanwhile have looked good in getting to 2-1, with two comeback victories in the past two games. The Packers secondary really doesn’t look good and with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery nearing full fitness it could be a long day for Aaron Rodgers and his team in the windy city.
Packers 17, Bears 28

Buffalo @ Houston
Both of these teams came crashing back to earth last week after 2-0 starts to the season, but the Bills are better equipped to bounce back with E.J Manuel at quarterback and a rushing attack that features both C.J Spiller and Fred Jackson. Houston should put up a good fight but without Jadaveon Clowney and a competent QB they could struggle to keep pace with the up-tempo Buffalo attack.  
Bills 24, Texans 14
Tennessee @ Indianapolis
Again, both of these teams have identical records at 1-2 but the Colts are clearly the superior team after their blow out of Jacksonville in week three. Andrew Luck and the offense continue to make plays even if the defense struggles, while Jake Locker and the Titans have regressed significantly since their opening weekend win over Kansas City.
Titans 19, Colts 31
Detroit @ New York Jets
Rex Ryan’s job seems like it’s in jeopardy every week, and following a comprehensive defeat on Monday night Rex is on the hot seat once again with a decision over who is starting quarterback will be looming large. Geno Smith may or may not turn it around this season but he’ll struggle in the face of a lethal Lions pass rush, while the Jets lack of talent at corner could hurt them against Megatron and Matthew Stafford. Lions 27, Jets 17
Miami @ Oakland
80,000 Londoners will turn out at Wembley Stadium to watch two poor teams face off in the first of three International Series games in 2014, although as poor as Miami have been in the past two weeks they’re still a superior side to the train wreck Raiders. It probably won’t be much of a spectacle to watch, but Miami are the better side here. Dolphins 28, Raiders 14
Tampa Bay @ Pittsburgh
The woeful Buccaneers travel to the Steel City to take on a resurgent Pittsburgh team who overwhelmed Carolina last weekend. Josh McCown is out injured so Mike Glennon steps in to take his place, but it’s likely to be in a losing effort as the Steelers move to 3-1 at the quarter mark of the season behind the arm of Ben Roethlisberger. Buccaneers 16, Steelers 28
Jacksonville @ San Diego
This is a potential trap game for San Diego, who have looked good thus far this season, although not good enough to make this match-up a foregone conclusion. Jacksonville have Blake Bortles making his first ever NFL start under centre and the rookie looked good in the second half last week versus Indianapolis, and while the Jags are unlikely to win they could keep the score a lot closer than most people will have anticipated. Jaguars 17, Chargers 23
Atlanta @ Minnesota
The Teddy Bridgewater era begins in Minnesota after Matt Cassel was pronounced done for the season, but life will be tough for Bridgewater without the services of Adrian Peterson at running back. Atlanta have put up a boat load of points so far this season and with all of their key players healthy and ready to fire they should win big on the road and move to 3-1.
Falcons 34, Vikings 17
Philadelphia @ San Francisco
The Eagles are slightly fortunate to be 3-0 having fallen into deep holes in each of their first three games this season, and this road trip could be a step too far on their path to a likely NFC East title. Colin Kaepernick needs a big game to quell doubts about his ability as a passer and the porous Philly secondary could be just what the doctor ordered, while the 49ers defense is as well-equipped as most to handle the Eagles fast-paced offense.
Eagles 24, 49ers 34
New Orleans @ Dallas
Two of the NFL’s worst defences square off in Big D on Sunday night in what promises to be a high scoring affair, especially after Tony Romo rediscovered his best form against St. Louis in week three. Both teams need a win to avoid slipping to 1-3, but at home and with the better skill position players Dallas are my pick to make it back to .500.
Saints 27, Cowboys 30
New England @ Kansas City
Andy Reid has struggled throughout his career against Bill Belichick and New England, and that trend should continue on Monday night even with the Chiefs welcoming Jamaal Charles back into the fold. Alex Smith has been poor for Kansas City at QB this season and the Patriots defense is good enough to make life difficult for the former number one overall pick again this week, while Tom Brady could step it up as he seeks to take advantage of a banged up Chiefs defense. Patriots 24, Chiefs 13
What do you think will happen in week four of the NFL season? Have your say in the comments or tweet @fredjstanley

Thursday Night Football: New York Giants @ Washington Redksins

Alfred Morris will hope to lead the Washington Redskins to victory over the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football

Week four of the NFL season kicks off with an NFC East battle between two struggling teams, the Washington Redskins and the visiting New York Giants. Coming off a defeat against the Eagles in Philadelphia the Redskins will be desperate to return to .500 with a win, with the play of back-up QB Kirk Cousins last week offering encouragement to the Washington faithful. New York meanwhile won comfortably at home against Houston on Sunday and will be hopeful of extending their winning streak to two games, as they themselves also sit at 1-2.

When New York has the ball…
Giants signal caller Eli Manning rebounded from a poor start to the season in week three, tossing two touchdowns without turning the ball over after four picks in the first two weeks. If Manning can maintain that level of play against a Washington secondary missing the injured DeAngelo Hall, who’s done for the year with a torn achilles, New York might be able to put up points on a porous Redskins defense. The ‘skins do possess a fearsome pass rush led by Ryan Kerrigan and were stout against the run last week in Philly, however, so Manning and co will have their work cut our for them after they picked apart a weak Texans defense. Edge: Redskins

When Washington has the ball…
Even with Robert Griffin III out of action, the Washington offense functioned efficiently against Philadelphia last week with Kirk Cousins at the controls. Alfred Morris has yet to hit his stride in 2014 which will concern coach Jay Gruden, although if Morris can come good he’ll have an explosive offense on his hands with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon excellent options on the outside. New York’s D did a good job on Houston last week but looked leaky in the prior two games, so if Cousins is anywhere near as good as he was on Sunday he’ll fancy his chances of being successful.
Edge: Redksins

Special Teams
Giants kick-off returner Quinton Demps had a costly fumble last week, while kicker Josh Brown has been perfect in the season’s early weeks. Washington kicker Kai Forbath missed an easy field goal against Philadelphia last week which essentially cost his team the game.

Injury Report
Washington are without Hall (achilles) tight end Jordan Reed and RG III, while New York middle linebacker Jon Beason is expected to play although wide receiver Odell Beckham is not.

Prediction
Giants 20, Redskins 26 

Week Three NFL Predictions

E.J Manuel and the Bills could move to 3-0 with a win over San Diego

Week three is nearly upon us following the beat-down Atlanta handed Tampa Bay on Thursday Night, and with a 21-11 record predicting the games thus far here at American Football Focus we’re feeling pretty good about our crystal ball skills. Will our lucky streak last? Who knows, but here’s what we think will happen as the young NFL season continues.

San Diego @ Buffalo
Nobody expected Buffalo to be 2-0 heading into week three, and no one expected San Diego to beat Seattle last week either, making this a battle between two of the NFL’s surprise packages so far this season. The Bills have looked dynamic on offense in the early going, but San Diego’s all around package makes them the favourites here as they should have enough about them to burst Buffalo’s bubble in a close match-up. Chargers 24, Bills 20

Tennessee @ Cincinnati
The Titans let themselves down against Dallas after a good win against Kansas City in week one, and they’ll face an even tougher challenge in the Bengals tonight as Cincy seeks to prove that they’re the class of not just the AFC North but the AFC as a whole. A.J Green is probable to play and with the Bengals defense as good as ever it promises to be a long afternoon for Tennessee as Cincinnati rolls to 3-0. Titans 16, Bengals 27

Baltimore @ Cleveland
All of a sudden this game has developed into a genuine close contest between the two divisional rivals, with both the Ravens and Browns 1-1. Cleveland overcame New Orleans in a thriller a week ago and appear to have momentum on their side, while Baltimore are struggling to deal with the Ray Rice fiasco. With the Ravens focus elsewhere the Browns take a tight one, led by their stellar defense which has the ability to shut down Joe Flacco and the Baltimore passing game.
Ravens 14, Browns 17

Green Bay @ Detroit
The Packers were a late rally against the Jets from being 0-2 in the early going, with their defense looking worryingly porous even after the off-season addition of Julius Peppers. On offense Jordy Nelson has matured into one of the league’s top receivers, however as good as he is nobody is comparable to Calvin Johnson and the Lions wideout could cause some serious damage at Ford Field later on today. There will be points and lots of them here; I’m backing Detroit to come out on top thanks to their slightly better defensive unit. Packers 30, Lions 34

Indianapolis @ Jacksonville
After a promising week one performance the Jaguars regressed in week two against Washington, with quarterback Chad Henne being sacked an incredible 10 times. Fortunately for them the Colts pass rush is far less fearsome than the Redskins; however that won’t prevent them losing to a Colts teams that is 0-2 and has failed to perform as expected thus far this year. Colts 24, Jaguars 16

Oakland @ New England
This could well be the biggest miss match of the week, with Oakland lucky to be 0-2 while New England returned to winning ways with a resounding victory over Minnesota in week two. At home Tom Brady could enjoy a career day, while Oakland QB Derek Carr will have a had a few sleepless nights this week as he prepares to face Bill Belichick’s well versed defense.
Raiders 10, Patriots 31

Minnesota @ New Orleans
New Orleans face an early season must-win after losing to Cleveland and Atlanta in the opening two weeks of the campaign; fortunately for them they come up against a poor Vikings outfit devoid of the services of Adrian Peterson. Matt Cassel has been terrible in the early going and even though the Saints defense hasn’t been much better Drew Brees and the offense should put up more than enough points to win this one. Vikings 14, Saints 28

Houston @ New York Giants
The Texans are 2-0. The Giants are 0-2. Yet New York are still probably the favourites here at home, with the Texans missing first overall draft pick Jadaveon Clowney and the quality of their defeated opposition not necessarily high end. Eli Manning has already thrown four interceptions this year after tossing 28 in 2013, so it could be an ugly game but it’s one where I think both teams gravitate towards .500. Texans 17, Giants 20

Washington @ Philadelphia
Kirk Cousins is in at QB for Washington with Robert Griffin III crocked (again), while Redskins tight end Jordan Reed is also missing through injury. With Philadelphia 2-0 early on it would then appear that the Eagles should win comfortably at the Linc; however the contest smacks of a trap game and it could be a lot closer than many think. I do think Philly has enough to overcome Washington in the end, though. Redskins 21, Philadelphia 25

Dallas @ St. Louis
Tony Romo rebounded from a tough week one performance versus San Francisco to perform well against the Titans in week two, while St. Louis overcame the terrible Buccaneers to enter this game at 1-1. However there’s a large gulf in quality between the two teams, even if the Rams offense could enjoy a decent day against the Cowboys poor defense. Romo should be able to team up with Dez Bryant regularly and lead Dallas to 2-1 and keep them in the running early on.
Cowboys 24, Rams 14

San Francisco @ Arizona
This NFC West battle could be the game of the week, with two excellent defenses doing battle and the explosiveness of Colin Kaepernick on show. Kaepernick was erratic last week, however, and turned the ball over three times as the 49ers blew a first half lead against Chicago at Levi’s Stadium. San Fran are lucky here that Cardinals QB Carson Palmer is questionable with a shoulder injury, which should nullify the Arizona passing game to the extent that San Francisco’s defense can key on the run. 49ers 17, Cardinals 13

Kansas City @ Miami
The Chiefs have been truly terrible to this point of the year and with star running back Jamaal Charles unlikely to play they could fall to 0-3 against the Dolphins, who have been inconsistent so far this year. Yet with the Chiefs so badly decimated by injuries it figures that the Dolphins won’t even have to be at their best to register a second victory of the young season this evening.
Chiefs 20, Dolphins 27

Denver @ Seattle
Peyton Manning leads the Broncos into Seattle as they attempt to seek some measure of revenge for their Superbowl hammering last February, and after the Seahawks were beaten in San Diego last week they may have an opportunity to do so. Their defense is much improved in itself which will make a world of difference, but whether their offense can step up to the mark is up for debate. Saying that, I think Seattle were found out a touch last week and am plumping for a Denver road win.
Broncos 23, Seahawks 22

Pittsburgh @ Carolina
Cam Newton returned for the Panthers last week to lead them to their second victory of the season, and although Le’Veon Bell has been running the ball well this season he’ll get no joy out of the Panthers run defense led by Luke Kuechley. Newton will have to star again with Carolina short of running options, but against an average Steelers defense he has every chance of carrying his side to another victory. Steelers 18, Panthers 24

Chicago @ New York Jets
The Jets were a blundered time out away from being 2-0 against Green Bay last week, while Chicago came back to equal their record at 1-1 after a rousing comeback over San Francisco. The Bears struggle to contain the run, however, and with Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory in the backfield the Jets offense could move the ball with ease on the ground at MetLife Stadium. It could be a great game, but with the better defense and Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall both banged up I’m siding with Rex Ryan’s crew. Bears 14, Jets 23

What do you think will happen in week three of the NFL season? Have your say in the comments or tweet @fredjstanley

 

 

Thursday Night Football: Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons Preview

Matt Ryan enjoyed a career-best performance in week one for Atlanta

The NFL season enters its third week with an NFC South battle between Tampa Bay and Atlanta, who’ll square off in the Georgia Dome coming off a short week. While the Falcons are 1-1 following victory over the Saints on the opening weekend of the season, Tampa Bay find themselves 0-2 and defeat here would almost certainly signal an end of their play-off hopes. To find out which match-ups will be key in tonight’s pivotal battle just keep reading.

When Tampa Bay has the ball…
Big things were expected of Josh McCown this season after Tampa Bay signed him to start at QB following an impressive year as Jay Cutler’s deputy in Chicago. However McCown has so far disappointed, throwing two touchdowns to three interceptions and failing to connect with his wide receivers with any regularity. Running back Doug Martin is questionable heading into TNF, and if he is unable to go the rushing load will fall on the shoulders of Bobby Rainey, who has averaged 6 yards per carry thus far in 2014 and looks more than capable at the tailback position. The Falcons defense doesn’t look in great shape itself, with holes in the secondary and a pass rush that has failed to record a sack through two games. Neither unit has been good this season; fortunately something has to give in this contest. Edge: Tampa Bay

When Atlanta has the ball… 
Matt Ryan enjoyed a career performance in week one against New Orleans, but he came back to earth last week against the stout Cincinnati D. Julio Jones and Roddy White give Ryan two excellent options outside, although it remains to be seen if Tony Gonzalez can be adequately replaced at tight end and if Steven Jackson can rediscover his mojo running the football. The Buccaneers defense has struggled more than expected so far through two games, although they should improve over the remainder of the season with the likes key performers of Dashon Goldson and Lavonte David on board. The Falcons may prove too tough an assignment for now, however, as one of the premier offensive units in football. Edge: Atlanta

Special Teams
Tampa Bay has struggled in the early going on special teams, with punter Michael Koenen having a punt blocked and kicker Patrick Murray missing his only try from under 30 yards. Atlanta on the other hand can rely on former Buccaneer Matt Bryant when it comes to putting points on the board, and former Bear Devin Hester was brought in during the off-season to add explosiveness to the return game.
Edge: Atlanta

Injury Report
Falcons receiver Roddy White is questionable with a hamstring issue, while Tampa Bay could be without defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (broken hand), running back Doug Martin (knee) and defensive end Michael Johnson (ankle), all of whom are also questionable.

Prediction
Buccaneers 17, Falcons 30

Week Two NFL Predictions

Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill will hope to lead Miami to a 2-0 record with a win over Buffalo

The second Sunday of the young NFL season is upon as, and with it come the standard American Football Focus predictions for each of the 15 games on show. With an 11-6 record thus far this year we’re hoping to continue our winning ways when it comes to forecasting the outcome; whether or not we’ll be able to is another matter.

Miami @ Buffalo
It’s been a while since these two teams have met while both are undefeated, and although it’s only one game both sides looked impressive in their upset week one victories. E.J Manuel and Ryan Tannehill both have plenty of questions still to answer about their ability to become franchise quarterbacks; however Tannehill has a better supporting cast around him and as a result the Dolphins and their new “Lazor Show” offense should prevail in upstate New York. Dolphins 24, Bills 17

Detroit @ Carolina
Cam Newton is back for the Panthers in week two after he sat out their week one win with a rib injury. Kelvin Benjamin looks like he should be a productive option at receiver for Newton this season, while Calvin Johnson was as terrific as ever for the Lions against New York last week. The Panthers defense is one of the league’s best against the run but if they have a weakness it’s at corner, so expect a relatively high scoring game – albeit one that Newton makes the difference in for Carolina. Lions 27, Panthers 30

Atlanta @ Cincinnati
Two more unbeaten teams go head to head in Cincy, with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones doing battle with Andy Dalton and A.J Green in what promises to be a shootout in the jungle. The Bengals defense has the edge on the Falcons unit, although Atlanta have improved on that side of the ball since their disastrous 2013 campaign. I think Ryan is the better QB of the two on show here, but because the Bengals have the defensive edge and look better at running back I’m plumping for a home win.
Falcons 23, Bengals 27

New Orleans @ Cleveland
Even though the Saints were unable to top Atlanta in the Georgia Dome last week Drew Brees and company looked lively on offense, and although they’ll come up against a good defense in Cleveland on Sunday they should have enough of the ball to put up a lofty number on the Browns D. There might be the first Johnny Manziel sighting of the year in his first regular season home game, adding further intrigue to a must-win game for two 0-1 teams. Saints 31, Browns 20

New England @ Minnesota
Following Adrian Peterson’s arrest over alleged child abuse charges this game has a much different feel, with the Patriots now able to key in on Matt Cassel and the Vikings passing game. Before AP was scratched it was a potential banana skin for the 0-1 Patriots – not anymore.
Patriots 28, Vikings 10

Arizona @ New York Giants
After a 27 interception campaign in 2013 Eli Manning began this year in much the same fashion with two picks last week against Detroit. With the likes of Patrick Peterson patrolling the Cardinals secondary Manning could be in for another rough week, and the Arizona offense is also looking good with Andre Ellington at running back and Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald both excellent options for Carson Palmer at wide receiver. Things could get ugly for the G-men in the Meadowlands.
Cardinals 31, Giants 20

Dallas @ Tennessee
Tony Romo had an, ahem, Tony Romo-esque game last week against San Francisco when he tossed three picks in the first half alone. He should bounce back against the Titans, however, although Tennessee looked good last week on their way to victory behind the arm of Jake Locker. Locker could continue his hot start to the season but in a deep south shootout I’m taking Romo, Dez Bryant and the Cowboys. Cowboys 30, Titans 24

Jacksonville @ Washington
The Jaguars nearly produced a shock in week one against Philly but let a 17-0 lead slip, ultimately losing 34-17. Washington meanwhile were poor from start to finish in Houston, with Robert Griffin III looking as bad as he did for much of last season. I don’t think the Jaguars will start as hot again this week, and I also don’t think RG III will play as badly especially not on home turf. The Jags will keep it close, but Washington will make it back to .500 with Jay Gruden’s first win as an NFL head coach. Jaguars 14, Redskins 24

Seattle @ San Diego
San Diego struggled against Arizona in week one, and things won’t get any easier for them in week two as they face the class of the NFL, Seattle. The Seahawks aren’t the same machine on the road as they are at home but they still look incredibly tough to beat, although the never-say-die competitive spirit of Chargers QB Phillip Rivers should ensure the home side aren’t embarrassed. It’s very difficult to see how the Seahawks are going to get beat, but expect Rivers to give it a valiant shot.
Seahawks 21, Chargers 17

St. Louis @ Tampa Bay
Both the Rams and Buccaneers disappointed last week, with neither boasting a convincing option at quarterback and without the quality at other positions to make up the shortfall. I do think that Tampa are better placed to win with defense and the running game, however, and in Florida I fully expect them to do enough to win their first game of the season against a Rams team who look set for yet another campaign of basement dwelling in the NFC West. Rams 13, Buccaneers 24

Kansas City @ Denver
When these two teams first met in 2013, Kansas City was atop the AFC West and hadn’t yet lost a game. This time round they’re coming off a humbling defeat to the Titans, with Andy Reid’s handling of star running back Jamaal Charles coming into sharp focus after he gave Charles the ball a paltry 11 times in the opener. He won’t have much chance to run the ball in Denver this week either, not after Peyton Manning takes the lead early and doesn’t let up on his way to a convincing divisional beat-down. Chiefs 20, Broncos 35

New York Jets @ Green Bay
After failing to overcome a stout Seattle defense in week one, Green Bay will face a far more forgiving secondary in the shape of the Jets, who enjoyed a solid if often unconvincing win over Oakland last Sunday. At home the Packers should be able to put too many points on the board for Geno Smith to threaten sending them to 0-2, although the New York running game is varied and was successful last week with Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory leading the way. Jets 17, Packers 27

Houston @ Oakland
This far from inspiring match-up pits to teams against each other who were picking in the top ten of last April’s draft, and there’s a fair chance of that happening again next year. The Texans should progress to 2-0 in the early going, however, even with top overall pick Jadaveon Clowney missing for up to six weeks through injury. Houston’s defense is a tough nut to crack and it figures that they should be able to hold the Raiders to few enough points that Ryan Fitzpatrick can guide the visitors to a second consecutive win. Texans 17, Raiders 10

Chicago @ San Francisco
The 49ers host Chicago in the first ever game at Levi’s Field, which has already earned the moniker ‘Field of Jeans’. It should be a happy opener for San Fran, particularly with the Bears wide receiver duo of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall both doubtful on the injury report. The Niners looked good in Dallas last week and with the defense playing well despite missing NaVarro Bowman San Francisco should have enough about them to move to 2-0 and keep pace with Seattle in the division.
Bears 16, 49ers 21

Philadelphia @ Indianapolis
The Colts head into Philadelphia for a mouth watering Monday Night Football match-up needing to win to avoid dropping to 0-2, which typically tends to be an almost impossible situation to seal a play-off berth from. Philly were unconvincing against Jacksonville in week one but with Colts linebacker Robert Mathis out with a torn Achilles Nick Foles should have a cleaner pocket to work from this week. Andrew Luck is also set to enjoy a prolific day against a weak Eagles secondary, so expect lots of points at Lucas Oil Stadium. The difference in a game that could go either way might be Philly’s strength at running back, with LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles a constant threat out of the backfield. Eagles 33, Colts 30

Who do you think will win out in week two? Leave a comment or tweet @fredjstanley 

Thursday Night Football: Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens Preview

Ben Roethlisberger will hope to lead Pittsburgh to a second consecutive win in Baltimore tonight

 Week one of the NFL season didn’t disappoint, with great performances from some household names – and some unfamiliar ones too. Week two kicks off with two AFC North foes going toe-to-toe in Baltimore, with the Ravens looking to bounce back from an opening weekend defeat while Pittsburgh are hoping to move to 2-0 in the early going. Keep reading for a full preview of what promises to be a no holds barred midweek match-up.

When Pittsburgh has the ball…
The Steelers win last week was predicated on their ability to run the ball on Cleveland, with Le’Veon Bell racking up 109 yards on the ground and a score, while quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 365 yards in a promising season debut. Big Ben had three receivers who racked up over 80 yards in the air, indicating that Pittsburgh have a balanced attack that isn’t reliant on one individual. That approach could pay off again this week against a Baltimore D that has plenty of holes and struggled against Cincinnati, notably when they failed to prevent an Andy Dalton heave connecting with A.J Green for a late touchdown last week. Expect the Steelers to have success through the air again, while moving the ball on the ground could be more of a challenge against Haloti Ngata and co on the Ravens line. Edge: Steelers

When Baltimore has the ball…
With Ray Rice suspended for the season the rushing load falls on the shoulders of Justin Forsett and Bernard Pierce, which won’t fill Ravens fans with a great deal of optimism. Joe Flacco was forced to toss the ball an incredible 62 times last week and it figures he’ll continue to lead an aerial assault as the season progresses. Steve Smith enjoyed a productive debut for Baltimore and combined with Dennis Pitta and Torrey Smith Flacco will have to be pleased with the weapons he has at his disposal. The Steelers defense played well for 30 minutes last week against the Browns before imploding in the second half, and although they walked away with the win coach Mike Tomlin will want to see a much more complete effort from the Troy Polamalu led unit. Edge: Ravens

Special Teams
Shaun Suisham had a solid day for the Steelers in week one, nailing all three of his field goals, while punt returner Antonio Brown made a highlight reel play with his boot to the face of Browns punter Spencer Lanning. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker was just one for two kicking last week but the Baltimore return game was on song with Jacoby Jones breaking one kick-off return for a 48 yard gain. Edge: Steelers

Injury Report
The Steelers have a number of players listed as probable, but kick returner Dri Archer has been ruled out. Baltimore corner Lardarius Webb is questionable with the back ailment that has sidelined him since training camp; however Webb aside the Ravens are at full strength (minus the suspended Rice, of course)

Prediction
Steelers 24, Ravens 23

Who do you think will win tonight’s game? Get your prediction in by leaving a comment or tweeting @fredjstanley

Week 1 NFL Predictions

Phillip Rivers and the Chargers take on Arizona in Monday Night Football

Having started the season 1-0 after the rampant Seahawks overwhelmed Green Bay in Seattle, here are American Football Focus’s predictions for the other 15 games on the week one NFL schedule. To find out what we think will happen over the course of today and tomorrow just keep reading..

New Orleans @ Atlanta
Week one immediately throws up a heated division battle with this tussle in Atlanta between two NFC South foes, with both offenses expected to be able to put up a lot of points. New Orleans defense was much improved in 2013, however, while Atlanta could struggle to contain the Saints high powered attack which now boasts first-round receiver Brandin Cooks. It should be a close game in the Georgia Dome, but expect the visitors to come out on top with Drew Brees lighting up the scoreboard. Saints 34, Falcons 28

Cincinnati @ Baltimore
Another intra-division contest pits the reigning AFC North champion Bengals against the Ravens, who will be without Ray Rice due to his ban for domestic abuse charges. It’s hard enough to score points on the Cincy D as it is, so Baltimore could struggle to put enough points on the board to overcome the Bengals, even at home. Andy Dalton is yet to win a game in Baltimore in his young career; that could change in week one. Bengals 27, Ravens 17

Buffalo @ Chicago
The Bills have had a torrid pre-season thus far, with QB E.J Manuel struggling to complete more than 50 percent of his passes while head coach Doug Marrone has fallen out with a number of his players. Chicago meanwhile boast one of the top wide receiver combinations in the league and with Jay Cutler at the controls the Bears offense could have a field day versus a Bills secondary minus the departed Jairus Byrd. Bills 16, Bears 31

Washington @ Houston
Jay Gruden leads his Redskins into Reliant Stadium for the first game of both his and Texans coach Bill O’Brien’s head coaching careers. Robert Griffin III could be in for a rough ride with both J.J Watt and Jadaveon Clowney breathing down his neck; however Ryan Fitzpatrick faces a similarly tough assignment and in a close game Washington should just about prevail. Redskins 23, Texans 17

Tennessee @ Kansas City
Andy Reid’s Chiefs are the heavy favourites at Arrowhead Stadium, even if they are expected to regress from their play-off campaign a year ago. Alex Smith should continue to command an efficient offense with running back Jamaal Charles as its star, while the defense shouldn’t have too many problems against a tame Titans attack. Titans 13, Chiefs 28

New England @ Miami
Tom Brady and the Patriots head to Florida to take on the one division opponent that has occasionally given them trouble over the past decade or so. However with Rob Gronkowski healthy and the New England defense looking improved on last year Bill Belichick’s crew should start the season with a win. Patriots 24, Dolphins 18

Oakland @ New York Jets
Rookie Derek Carr starts at quarterback for Oakland in the Meadowlands, where he’ll be tasked with the tough assignment of coping with Rex Ryan’s varied blitz packages. The Raiders did little to improve over the off-season while the Jets have shown gains on offense with Geno Smith looking sharp in the exhibition season and Eric Decker giving him a legitimate threat at wide receiver. Former Titans back Chris Johnson could also enjoy a renaissance as Ryan’s boys start the season with a comfortable victory. Raiders 10, Jets 26

Jacksonville @ Philadelphia
The defending NFC East champion Eagles should have little trouble coming through week one unscathed against the Jaguars at Lincoln Financial Field, although Jacksonville has a chance to be much improved in 2014. Nick Foles could carry on where he left off last season even though DeSean Jackson is gone, thanks to the return from injury of Jeremy Maclin and the addition of Darren Sproles. Jaguars 17, Eagles 31

Cleveland @ Pittsburgh
Browns coach Mike Pettine resisted the urge to start Johnny Manziel in week one in Pittsburgh, which could be a blessing in disguise for the rookie with the Steelers defense sure to pack a punch after a poor season in 2013. Minus Josh Gordon Cleveland will struggle to move the football on Pittsburgh, although the Browns defense should at least keep the score respectable.
Browns 14, Steelers 23

Minnesota @ St. Louis
The Rams hopes for the season were dashed with the season-ending injury quarterback Sam Bradford suffered, while the Vikings will lean on Adrian Peterson as heavily as ever on offense. It might not be a pretty game, but there will be plenty of defense on show and it’s unlikely either side will pack enough of a punch to pull away from the other. AP makes the difference. Vikings 17, Rams 16

San Francisco @ Dallas
San Fran head to Big D without Aldon Smith (suspension) and NaVarro Bowman (knee injury), which could make life tough for the rest of the defense with Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant a tough trio to contain. It could be up to Colin Kaepernick to keep pace with the Cowboys offense throughout the day, a challenge he’ll relish against a porous Dallas defense that hasn’t been notably upgraded since the end of last season. Narrow road win. 49ers 31, Cowboys 28

Carolina @ Tampa Bay
Cam Newton leads the Panthers into Tampa in another NFC South contest, against Lovie Smith’s Buccaneers. The Bucs defense should be improved with cover-two guru Smith in charge, and Josh McCown will improve the overall offensive output of the team. Unfortunately for the Bucs they’ll be coming up against the Luke Kuechly led Carolina defense, which is probably the second best in the whole of football after the Seahawks. It should be a fascinating game, but expect the Panthers to come through as they get their division title defense off to a winning start. 
Panthers 20, Buccaneers 16

Indianapolis @ Denver
Peyton Manning returns to Indianapolis in an attempt to avenge the loss he suffered at the hands of Andrew Luck and the Colts last season. The Broncos may be without Wes Welker this time around but their defense should be improved with the additions of Aqib Talib, Demarcus Ware and T.J Ward in free-agency. The Broncos will be keen to get their Superbowl humiliation out of their minds as quickly as possible; expect them to do so with a home win in week one. Colts 24, Broncos 35

New York Giants @ Detroit
Eli Manning and the Giants have “enjoyed” a torrid pre-season, with Manning and his receivers failing to show any improvement on the miserable season they suffered through in 2013. Detroit had their own problems last year but with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson hooking up it’s difficult to see the Giants defense holding the Lions to a respectable output. Big home win.
Giants 16, Lions 31

San Diego @ Arizona
Phillip Rivers goes head-to-head with Carson Palmer in the desert in a battle of two gunslingers, though Palmer has the advantage of being able to target Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald in the passing game. Ryan Matthews and Andre Ellington will provide the ground options for both sides but if either side has the defense to keep the opposition quiet it’s Arizona, who’s secondary is led by the all-pro corner Patrick Peterson. Rivers might keep it close, but he’ll be hard pressed to get the road win in this tough match-up. Chargers 17, Cardinals 20

What do you think will happen in week one? Have your say in the comments or tweet @fredjstanley