By Josh Kramer
The NFL is back in full force. After watching the Packers/Saints shootout last night, I know everyone is excited for the first NFL Sunday of this very anxiously awaited season. Despite the longest lockout in the history of the League, the NFL’s popularity appears to be at an all-time high.
Last season, I had a pick’em challenge with one of my good buddies CV3. This year, we have added two new players to the 2nd annual “TheSportsKraze Pick’em Challenge.”
The participants this season are as follows:
TheSportsKraze (TSK) (defending champion)-Josh Kramer-Founder/Editor-In-Chief of “TheSportsKraze” and former ESPN intern.
CV3-Chad Vordenberge-An elite high school wide receiver and a very successful business owner.
CB-Craig Baker-A former collegiate baseball player and current special education teacher.
DC-David Clark-A dedicated sports fan who was coached by TheSportsKraze on his fraternity flag football team. After playing for TheSportsKraze, he has developed a slow but steady motivation to show his coach who the real pick’em champion is.
Rules of the Game: This is how the game works. We will pick every game each week (outside of the occasional Thursday night games). Whomever gets the most games right cumulative at the end of the regular season wins. No spreads. Just straight up pick’ems for the most parity filled professional sports league in America.
Week 1 Slate:
Atlanta Falcons (TSK, CV3, DC) at Chicago Bears (CB)
-The Word: Matt Ryan and a determined Falcons team begins the journey towards redeeming themselves after a disappointing early exit from last year’s postseason.
Cincinnati Bengals (TSK, CB) at Cleveland Browns (CV3, DC)
-The Word: Cincinnati currently leads the 41-year-old “Battle of Ohio” 39 to 36. How will the post Palmer/Ochocinco era begin for the Who Deys?
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (TSK, CB, CV3, DC)
-The Word: KC went from four wins to a ten win playoff campaign last year. Are the Bills next in line to accomplish the unthinkable turnaround?
Philadelphia Eagles (TSK, CB, CV3, DC) at St. Louis Rams
-The Word: The “Dream Team” begins their Super Bowl campaign against a very young and hungry Sam Bradford led Rams squad.
Detroit Lions (CB, CV3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (TSK, DC)
-The Word: Ndamukong Suh and the new look Lions defense try to spoil the opener for this year’s “Sexy” pick in the NFC.
Tennessee Titans (TSK, CB, CV3, DC) at Jacksonville Jaguars
-The Word: Matt Hasselbeck takes over as QB in the Music City as the Titans try to regain their playoff form of 2008 against MJD and the Jags.
Pittsburgh Steelers (CV3) at Baltimore Ravens (TSK, CB, DC)
-The Word: Whether Ryan Clark of the Pittsburgh Steelers considers this a rivalry or not, it will be a slugfest in Baltimore.
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (TSK, CB, CV3, DC)
-The Word: Jim Harbaugh started at quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts back on December 21, 1997. This was the last time Indianapolis went into a game without Peyton Manning under center.
New York Giants (TSK, CB, CV3) at Washington Redskins (DC)
The Word: Can Rex Grossman put his money where his mouth is? The journey starts against NFC East rival New York, a team who has swept them each of the past three seasons.
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers (TSK, CB, CV3, DC)
The Word: Jim Harbaugh now joins the fun in the wide open NFC West.
Minnesota Vikings at San Diego Chargers (TSK, CB, CV3, DC)
-The Word: Philip Rivers begins his MVP campaign against the Brett “Favreless” Vikings.
Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals (TSK, CB, CV3, DC)
The Word: Cam Newton is quite familiar with big games in Arizona. The former Auburn standout hopes for a similar outcome to his last trip to the desert.
Dallas Cowboys (DC) at New York Jets (TSK, CB, CV3)
The Word: The Ryan brothers square off. Who will give the media a more entertaining quote in the pre and/or post game activities?
New England Patriots (TSK, CB, CV3, DC) at Miami Dolphins
The Word: Chad Ochocinco is very excited to head home with some of his new friends in his Patriot debut.
Oakland Raiders (TSK, CV3, DC) at Denver Broncos (CB)
The Word: Hopefully Tim Tebow enjoys the view from the bench as two AFC West rivals go to battle at Mile High.
Game of the Week: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
-Let the AFC North slugfest begin. These are two teams that really do not like each other and are consistently fighting not only for the divisional title, but also for the AFC invitation to the Super Bowl. This year should be no different as these two perennial powerhouses square off in Ray Lewis’ backyard. All I can say is, you better expect to see lots of “pain.” Not only do these teams have a strong disliking for each other, but they also are two of the League’s most physical teams.
Stat of the Week:
-The Steelers and Ravens have met 18 time since 2003. Pittsburgh holds an edge of 10 wins to 8. During these 18 meetings, the Steelers have scored 333 points while the Ravens have scored 327. A six point difference over an eight year period of playing at least twice a year.
CV3: Excited for opening week. Anxious to see if the hype is valid for some teams and ready to see which team will come from the bottom of the league to the top!
CB: This is an exciting and important week for rookie QB’s, Cam Newton and Andy Dalton. They will be under center for their first regular season starts on Sunday. As these rookies have been looking forward to this day since they were playing pee-wee football, I expect both QB’s to come out and have solid games.
DC: Wow, what a great start to the season last night! The two previous Super Bowl champions battling it out on Week 1 of the NFL season. Football is finally back and the hearts of fans across the nation were treated with a dandy last night. Looking ahead to this weekend’s slate of games, fans should get even more elated. Two playoff teams from a year ago collide on Soldier Field. The Eagles’ “Dream Team” gets a chance to prove themselves against a surging Rams squad. The Texans get an early crack at their older brothers in the division, and my Super Bowl pick (Baltimore) gets an early opportunity to show the Steelers that they are the kings of the AFC North. Get your popcorn ready, sports fans. Every sign points towards a nail-biting first week of action.
TSK: Week one is an extremely filled slate with big matchup after big matchup. For the first time since 1998, Peyton Manning will not be under center for the Indianapolis Colts, a team that has made the playoffs nine consecutive years.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.