Thursday, September 9, 2010 – NFL Opener Pick (Vikings @ Saints) PLUS Super Bowl 45 Pick!

September 10, 2010 on 12:46 am | In NFL | 1 Comment

The 2010-11 NFL season begins tonight on the big stage on NBC with the Minnesota Vikings traveling to New Orleans to take on the Super Bowl Champion Saints in a re-match of last year’s thrilling NFC Championship game.  There are plenty of storylines to follow this year, and several burning questions. 

Can Sean Payton, Drew Brees and the Saints repeat?  It hasn’t been done since New England won back-to-back and three in four years in the early 2000’s.  Will those same Pats with Coach Bill Belichick and QB Tomy Brady have one final run in them?  Do Peyton Manning and the Colts bounce back from last year’s crushing loss in the Super Bowl?  Are the Steelers doomed without Ben Roethlisberger the first four games of the season?  Is this finally the year a team plays at home in the Super Bowl and the Dallas Cowboys return to the Big Game?  Is it finally San Diego’s time to reach the Super Bowl?  Are the Redskins ready to be a contender with new Coach Mike Shanahan at quarterback, or will Albert Haynesworth be a distraction?  How will Arizona do without Kurt Warner at quarterback?   Green Bay fell to the Cards in an overtime shootout in the playoffs, but is Aaron Rodgers and the Pack due for a grand season?  And who can forget former Packers great Brett Favre, back for a second year in Minnesota and 20th overall.  Can Favre deliver the Vikings to the Promise Land?

As for my Super Bowl pick – - I’m taking Baltimore over Green Bay.  The Packers have a potent offense, as shown in last season’s playoff loss to Arizona, Rodgers is ready to play at an MVP level at quarterback with plenty of weapons around him, and the defense should only improve in year two under defensive coordinator Dom Capers.  Baltimore’s acquisitions at receiver of Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzaeh strengthens a past area of concern to give QB Joe Flacco some quality targets to go with a strong ground game keyed by Ray Rice and Willis McGahee.  The defense, behind the leadership of future Hall-of-Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, always is tough, and they will be top notch as long as they weather the storm until star ball-hawking safety Ed Reed returns from injury.

Check back for my full division-by-division picks for the season as well as my Week 1 picks.  Here’s a quick preview on tonight’s game with a prediction…

2010 NFL KICKOFF OPENER:

Minnesota Vikings @ New Orleans Saints – - Brett Favre decided not to retire and to return for another season in hopes of taking the Vikings to the Super Bowl after last year’s overtime loss to the Saints in which the NFL’s Iron Man threw a costly late-game interception.  Look for Favre to still be rusty without the services of deep threat and go-to receiver Sidney Rice, out due to injury, and the uncertainty of how effective second-year speedster Percy Harvin will be.  A heavy dose of Adrian Peterson on the ground should be the recipe Coach Brad Childress’ team goes with, but not having the dependable backup in Chester Taylor to spell him will hurt, plus he’s one less option in the short passing/screen game.  As for the Saints, they are going to miss Pro Bowl safety Darren Sharper, who begins the season on the physically unable to perform list.  He was their best playmaker on defense last season in terms of creating takeaways and turning them into points.  However, the offense with Drew Brees is dangerous enough to put up 30+ on a regular basis with a cast of receivers who can step up at any time, led by Marques Colston.  Additionally, corner Tracy Porter stepped up in the postseason with some clutch plays, so he’s someone they can count on as well as LB Jonathan Vilm in the absence of Sharper to maybe force Favre into a mistake that changes the game.

Pick:  New Orleans 27, Minnesota 17

Lock – New Orleans -4.5.  Why?  It’s going to take some time for Minnesota to gel and get their timing down, plus Favre is another year older.  Generally the defending Super Bowl Champs at home in the opener on national TV play at a high level and get the win.  The Saints’ House will be rocking and they are hard to beat in their place anyways, but they’ll want to quickly dispel the notion that their recent title run was a ‘fluke’ and a big effort ought to await us.

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