Week 1 NFL picks

There’s plenty of fantastic games to kick off the NFL season, starting first and foremost on Thursday night with the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks vs. the Green Bay Packers.

Let’s not waste time and get right to the picks.


Packers at Seahawks (-6) — The last time these two teams met each other, we were all subjected to the worst mistake of the replacement ref era. Fortunately for the Packers, Golden Tate is no longer around to catch miraculous — and, yes, unbelievable — catches in the end zone. Unfortunately for the Packers, who surrendered eight sacks in that very same game, the Seahawks still sport the best defense in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers be damned.
My pick: Seahawks


Saints (-3) at Falcons — Sean Payton owns the Atlanta Falcons. He’s 12-2 against his NFC South division foe. And let’s all agree just agree that Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham are a better combo than Matt Ryan and Julio Jones/Roddy White.
My pick: Saints

Bengals at Ravens (-1.5) — I like the idea of Geno Atkins and Vontaze Burfict stuffing the Ravens’ running game. This one will be won in the trenches by Cincy.
My pick: Bengals

Bills at Bears (-7) — Can you really trust a team that names Brandon Spikes a captain? I don’t think so. Notwithstanding, the Bears have a fantastic trio of offensive weapons (Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Matt Forte) for Jay Cutler and have upgraded immensely on the defensive line with Jared Allen.
My pick: Bears
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I’ll take the Seahawks over the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII


Lo and behold, the Seattle Seahawks are right where I thought they would be at the beginning of the season.

Let the chest beating begin.

Back in September, the Boston.com staff tried to forecast the New England Patriots record while offering their proposed Super Bowl matchup. Yours truly correctly called a 12-4 season for the Patriots and proffered a Seahawks-Bengals title matchup.

Obviously I must’ve been moved by Cincinnati’s appearance on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.”

But the Seahawks have lived up to everything I have expected, minus the turbulence Russell Wilson has provided. The defense has been monstrous, holding opposing offenses to a league-low 4,378 yards in the regular season, a league-low 2,752 yards passing, and a league-low 14.4 points per game. Stars like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner, Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant, and Michael Bennett have made this a formidable group that doesn’t back down from the competition. Just look at how they handled the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship.

But they face one of the top offenses in NFL history with the Denver Broncos. It all starts with Peyton Manning and a quartet of fantastic wide receivers. Manning threw for an NFL record 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns. Demaryius Thomas (14 TDs), Eric Decker (11 TDs), Julius Thomas (12 TDs), and Wes Welker (10 TDs) are his four horsemen. The Broncos running game is nothing to smirk at either, with Knowshon Moreno (1,038 yards, 10 TDs) and Montee Ball (559 yards, 4 TDs).

In my view, this is an opportune game for the Seahawks to match up their star defenders with the Broncos’ playmakers. Sherman on Demaryius Thomas for starts, forcing Decker and Welker to have extraordinary games. I presume both the NFL’s top defense and top offenses to be rather average Sunday.

Instead, the Broncos defense, led by the likes of Terrance Knighton, Danny Trevathan, and Shaun Phillips will have to prove they can stop the fourth-ranked rushing attack in the NFL. Marshawn Lynch, who has broken more tackles than any other running back in the league (75), is bound for at least one game-changing run.

I also expect Wilson to make a few plays with his feet, a possible weakness for the Broncos. So I think you get the drift where I’m headed. And yes, there’s still quite a bit of chest beating to be done.

Seahawks (+3) vs. Broncos (-3)
My pick: Seahawks

Postseason: 3-3
Regular season: 123-133

Zuri Berry can be reached at zberry@boston.com. Follow him on Twitter @zuriberry and on Google+.

AFC, NFC championship picks

There’s a sharp contrast between the AFC and NFC Championship games, with the former featuring the league’s hallmark quarterbacks and the latter featuring the game’s up-and-coming stars.

It’s hard not to notice when considering the juxtaposition that will arise in the Super Bowl, whoever the contestants are. It’s also hard to ignore that given the talent of each team, and the rivalries between each opponent, Sunday’s conference championships are much harder to pick than usual. One could, with a simple coin flip, make an argument for either and have some pretty good numbers to back them up.

But when you look at the line, there’s a clear divide between the AFC Championship and the NFC Championship. And that helps guide my conference championship picks.

49ers (-3) at the Seahawks (+3) — The Seattle Seahawks have won four of their last five games against the San Francisco 49ers at home, including this season’s matchup. In those five games, they’ve outscored the 49ers 139-58. Seattle is 16-1 at home in the past two seasons. San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick not only has troubles at Seattle’s noisy CenturyLink Field, but every time he’s faced Seattle’s sterling No. 1 defense. He’s 2-2 against the Seahawks, completing 50.54 percent of his passes while throwing two touchdowns and five interceptions. Every time he sees these guys, he just doesn’t do well. The 49ers need him to play at his best, which I just don’t think is possible given the opponent and the location.
My pick: Seahawks

Patriots (+4) at the Broncos (-4) — After the Patriots stormed back to beat the Broncos 34-31 in overtime in Week 12, helped in part by conservative play-calling in 22-degree weather and Rob Gronkowski (7 receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown), they’re facing a different climate and mindset in Denver going into Sunday’s game. Peyton Manning, who is 4-10 against Tom Brady, aggressively attacked the San Diego Chargers last week, throwing the ball down the stretch despite having the lead. That’s a huge change from what the Patriots previously saw and could affect the dynamics of the game should the Broncos procure another lead. But Denver has been notorious for allowing opponents an opportunity to steal the game away, much like they did for the Chargers, who had the Broncos stuck at 3rd and 17. The Patriots can certainly steal a win against the AFC’s No. 1 seed if Brady and the passing game gets going against a diminished Broncos secondary. The injury to Denver cornerback Chris Harris certainly opens things up. I expect it to go down to the final possession. Maybe even a field goal.
My pick: Patriots

Divisional round playoff picks

Colin Kaepernick will have to do much better in his second bout against the Carolina Panthers. (AP photo)
Colin Kaepernick will have to do much better in his second bout against the Carolina Panthers. (AP photo)
Without the chilling cold to consider in cities like Seattle and Carolina this weekend, as well more frosty climates like New England and Denver, the weather will be much less of a factor in this weekend’s NFL divisional playoff games than it was last week in the wild card round.

The San Francisco 49ers marched into the tundra of Green Bay, with Colin Kaepernick sleeveless and gloveless, and took down the Packers. New Orleans, on the road and outside of a dome, whipped the Philadelphia Eagles. And San Diego, far from their hometown climate, beat the favored Cincinnati Bengals.

The results led us to believe that each team, particular those that advanced, are impervious to the conditions.

What hasn’t changed is the predominantly strong favor home teams have this weekend and how that has affected the point spreads. It makes for a tough week in which those teams that we expect to win, we do not necessarily expect to cover.

Here are this week’s picks with that in mind:

Saints (+8) at Seahawks (-8) — The Seahawks simply dominated the Saints the last time they played, a 34-7 win on “Monday Night Football” in Week 13. The Seahawks are 15-1 at home the past two seasons and have won their past five playoff games at home. That doesn’t bode well for a Saints team that won its first postseason road game under Sean Payton last week. The oppressive noise of CenturyLink field will be more than advantageous for Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, and the league’s No. 1 ranked defense.
My pick: Seahawks
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Wild card picks

For the NFL’s wild card weekend, home field advantage and blistering cold will make a huge mark as the playoffs begin.

In Green Bay, record cold could be on tap for the visiting San Francisco 49ers. In Indianapolis, the Chiefs will have to find a way to shake Andrew Luck’s confidence at Lucas Oil Stadium. And in Philadelphia, the New Orleans Saints will have to deal with the cold as well against an Eagles team that has dominated down the stretch.

Here are this week’s NFL picks against the spread.


Chiefs (+1) at Colts (-1) — Looking back at the Colts’ 23-7 win over the Chiefs in Week 16, there was little that went right for Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium. Alex Smith was abnormally dull, getting intercepted once and sacked five times. He also had six passes broken up. It was a game worth forgetting. Take note that Andrew Luck is 2-0 against the Chiefs (1-0 against the Andy Reid coached Chiefs) and has won 13 of 16 games at home in his first two seasons. Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali (11.0 sacks) is questionable for Saturday’s game while first-round draft pick and starting tackle Eric Fisher has been ruled out.
My pick: Colts
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Week 17 NFL picks

With an eye on playoff implications, here are the Week 17 NFL picks. As always, picks are against the spread.

Panthers (-7) at Falcons (+7) — The Panthers (11-4) can clinch the NFC South and a first-round bye with a win over the Falcons (4-11). The last time these two teams played, the Panthers forced four turnovers, Cam Newton threw one touchdown and ran for another in a 34-10 win for Carolina. Despite playing at the Georgia Dome where the Panthers are 0-5 against Matt Ryan’s Falcons, this one looks like it’s going to be solidly in Carolina’s favor.
My pick: Panthers

Ravens (+7) at Bengals (-7) — The Bengals (10-5) are 7-0 at home this season so far and have the opportunity to clinch a first-round bye with a win and a Patriots loss to the Buffalo Bills. The Ravens (8-7) have won four of their last five games, losing last week to the Patriots 41-7. They lost to the Bengals 20-17 in overtime Nov. 10 and are quite banged up heading into the last week of the season. Arthur Jones (concussion), Elvis Dumervil (ankle), Ray Rice (thigh), and Torrey Smith (thigh) are all questionable for the game. But John Harbaugh’s Ravens are 7-4 against this division opponent. Expect it to be close, but the game goes to the Bengals.
My pick: Ravens

Jaguars (+11) at Colts (-11) — The Colts (10-5) hope to get a first-round bye in the playoffs, but they need quite a bit of help. First, they need to beat the Jaguars (4-11) and then the Colts need the Patriots to lose and the Bengals to lose or tie. Still, that’s more than enough motivation against a hapless Jacksonville team that’s lost its past two games after winning three straight.
My pick: Colts
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Week 16 NFL picks

Dolphins (-3) at Bills (+3) — After what the Dolphins were able to accomplish against the Patriots last week, a 24-20 win, and given their current three-game winning streak, it would seem plausible that Miami could split its season series with Buffalo, which has lost two of its last three.
My pick: Dolphins

Saints (+3) at Panthers (-3) — Didn’t you get the message loud and clear two weeks ago? The Saints have the Panthers figured out. In Week 14, New Orleans became the first team to score 30 or more points on Carolina this season. Mistakes will surely be corrected, but a win for the Panthers won’t come easy.
My pick: Saints

Vikings (+8) at Bengals (-8) — Do you believe in Matt Asiata, Matt Cassell, and the Minnesota Vikings sans Adrian Peterson? They certainly put on a fantastic show last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, a 48-30 win. But this week they face a more stout defense (7th overall against the pass, 5th overall against the run) and what I’ll term a more stable offense. There’s no reason that the Vikings should win this game, especially because this week they won’t surprise anybody, but they should at least be competitive.
My pick: Vikings
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Week 15 NFL picks

Here are this week’s NFL picks. As always, they are against the spread. And there is a special emphasis this week on teams with playoff motivations. There’s a lot at stake, especially in the competitive NFC. But don’t overlook the AFC West, which begins with a bang Thursday night.

Chargers (+10.5) at Broncos (-10.5) — Don’t be fooled by the amazing numbers of Philip Rivers (3,882 yards passing, 26 touchdowns, 9 interceptions) or the injury to the Broncos’ Wes Welker (73 receptions for 778 yards, 10 touchdowns). Denver is in a different class of offense, averaging 39.6 points per game. A win is more than likely here for the home team. Oh, and the game time temperature of 39 degrees is a plus for Peyton Manning.
My pick: Broncos

Washington (+6) at Falcons (-6) — With a new quarterback, despite Kirk Cousin’s promising capabilities, Washington still has a number of issues that extend well beyond the playing field.
My pick: Falcons

Bears (+1) at Browns (-1) — The Browns looked remarkably better with Jason Campbell at quarterback against the Patriots. For the Bears (7-6), who have decided to let Jay Cutler start despite Josh McCown’s fantastic Monday night outing, the fight for the NFC North in its full throes. They’re currently tied for the division lead with the Detroit Lions (7-6).
My pick: Bears
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Week 14 NFL picks

Here are this week’s NFL picks. As always, picks are against the spread.

Texans (-3) at Jaguars (+3) — Chad Henne and the Jaguars offense are playing a lot better than they were in Week 1. And, if I’m not mistaken, even 2-10 teams like the Houston Texans look down upon opponents they presumably think are their inferior.
My pick: Jaguars

Chiefs (-3) at Washington (+3) — In a strange turn of events, Alex Smith is a better quarterback than Robert Griffin III. But given the lack of pass rush without Justin Houston, who missed practice again on Thursday, the Chiefs’ once fearsome defense are practically defanged. That’s not saying RGIII (83.3 quarterback rating) can do anything about it.
My pick: Chiefs

Colts (+6) at Bengals (-6) — After holding the San Diego Chargers to only 10 points, running up 164 yards on the ground, I see the Colts (28th overall in rushing yards allowed per game) having a tough time keeping up.
My pick: Bengals
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Week 13 NFL picks

The scores from Week 12 paint a disastrous picture for picking games, with yours truly going 4-10 after several upsets in the NFL.

It never helps when a previous one-loss team loses to a six-loss team. Or when the allegedly talented Houston Texans (2-9) can’t seem to steal a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9). Or, perhaps, when the Arizona Cardinals (7-4) blow away what is supposed to be one of the top teams in the AFC, the Indianapolis Colts (7-4).

And then there was the Patriots-Broncos game. I was on the wrong end of that.

So we go into Week 13 with a more concerned perspective of each team that has caused all of this confusion, including the Cardinals and Jaguars.

Here’s my Week 13 NFL picks:

Packers (+6.5) at Lions (-6.5) — If the Lions can’t win this game, just write them off completely. Green Bay is still without Aaron Rodgers and there’s really nothing else to say. It’s a matter of execution on Detroit’s part.
My pick: Lions

Raiders (+9) at Cowboys (-9) — The Raiders are expected to get Darren McFadden (hamstring) back, but will continue to be without Tyvon Branch (ankle) and Jason Hunter (foot). The Cowboys are coming off a strong division win over the New York Giants. Here’s the thing, these two teams are at odds. The Raiders can’t pass (ranked 29th overall in the league) and the Cowboys can’t defend the pass (31st overall in the league). But the Cowboys can certainly throw the ball and the Raiders have a helluva time stopping it (25th overall passing defense).
My pick: Cowboys

Steelers (+3) at Ravens (-3) — After Baltimore’s convincing 19-3 win over the New York Jets, one would be more inclined to favor this home team. The Ravens have a defense that can handle a moderately improved Steelers passing (262.2 yards per game) attack and most assuredly Pittsburgh’s luke warm running game (77.3 yards per game). But then you look at Ben Roethlisberger’s history against the Ravens (11-4 in the regular season), which isn’t necessarily in complete agreement with what we’ve seen so far this season between these two teams, and you go and look back at the Steelers’ previous 19-16 win over the Ravens, and all of a sudden your mind is made up. It’s like fate between these two teams and the Steelers somehow always come out on the right side of it.
My pick: Steelers
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