Football can be viewed as a game of situations and match-ups, so my statistical model that predicts game outcomes analyzes situations and match-ups. Additionally, on a very macro level, the model analyzes how well coaches utilize their tools. For example, it does not matter how well a team passes on first down and how poorly their opponent defends the pass on first down, if the coach does not call many first down passing plays (I'm looking at you Norv).
The model was put into action during the playoffs last year and picked 9 of 11 games accurately, including the Jets upset win over the Chargers and the Saints upset win over the Colts (the model was also 67% accurate against the spread...not that I'm interested in that sort of thing).
The additional complication for the model at this point in the season though is that teams have changed from last year, so we do not have a clear set of estimates for exactly how well a team will be able to pass on 3rd and long. The starting point is obviously last seasons data, but I then go through a projection process that incorporates how much turnover each teams has had on each side of the ball, while also assuming that to some degree, each team's performance will move closer to the mean.
So without further ado, below are my picks for week one with the exception of the Giants/Panthers and Jets/Ravens. For those picks you'll have to check the Wall Street Journal. Home teams are listed first, each team's projected score is in parentheses and the confidence level reflects the odds the team projected to win will actually win the game:
Tampa Bay (23) vs. Cleveland (21) Confidence 50.0%
When the 24th and 32nd projected offenses get together on the same field, the only real losers are the fans. The Bucs should be able to squeak this one out at home, but there is certainly no guarantee.
New England (24) vs. Cincinnati (21) Confidence 51.0%
The Pats face a tough home opener against a retooled Bengals team that could pull off the upset based on their excellent pass defense. If the Pats can throw effectively though their average running game won't be an issue and they should have just enough to pull it off.
Washington (18) vs. Dallas (21) Confidence 51.7%
The Cowboys will storm into DC and likely steal one from their hated rival on the road. The Cowboys high powered offense will be too much for the 'skins defense and a hobbled McNabb (or worse, a healthy Grossman) won't be able to take advantage of the spotty Cowboys pass defense.
Seattle (10) vs. San Francisco (14) Confidence 53.4%
My hometown 49ers will run up the coast to take the season opener from division rival Seattle. They will bring a projected 5th ranked defense along with a much improved Alex Smith against a Seattle team that just received a vote of no confidence from the very experienced Alex Gibbs.
Jacksonville (14) vs. Denver (21) Confidence 53.6%
If Tebow doesn't play will anyone watch? Ok, they'll watch in case he does play I guess. Otherwise you have two mediocre teams playing outside the division…Someone has to win and odds are it is the Broncos by 7 due to the Jags inept first down pass defense.
New Orleans (28) vs. Minnesota (18) Confidence 61.9%
Full comments are available below but what it comes down to is Brees is a better QB than Favre ever was and taking away Bush's Heisman takes nothing away from a dominant offense and growing defense.
Buffalo (22) vs. Miami (21) Confidence 64.2%
With the Tuna now out in Miami, maybe they will be allowed to throw the ball a little bit, but then with their combination of RBs and QBs, maybe they are the exception to the rule that teams should pass more. Only Oakland and Miami are projected to actually gain more yards per play when they run than when they pass.
Philadelphia (21) vs. Green Bay (18) Confidence 66.0%
Rogers begins his quest to lead my fantasy league in points again by disappointing many against a top 10 defense in Philadelphia. The anemic rushing attack and inexperienced passing attack of the Eagles will still prove too much for the visiting Packers and their 15th ranked pass defense.
Kansas City (14) vs. San Diego (21) Confidence 67.8%
To quote a wise friend "How can Norv Turner hold the same position that Sid Gillman and Don Coryell did?" Norv's conservative ways aside, this Chargers team looks to have NO trouble on the road with the truly abysmal Chiefs and their 30th ranked offense and 22nd ranked defense.
Chicago (24) vs. Detroit (21) 68.3%
Stafford's sophomore season begins on the road against a top 10 defense. Not a real recipe for success when you will be relying on Nate Burleson to be easing some pressure off of Calvin Johnson. The Bears may not be able to run the ball against anyone, but with Martz calling the plays and one of the worst pass defenses in the league coming to town, they may not even try.
Houston (28) vs. Indianapolis (17) Confidence 73.0%
The Colts have not lost to the Texans since 2006, but this is the year of Schaub. Houston will have the best passing first down offense this year and Kubiak will not be shy about utilizing it. Expect the Texans to pass early and often against a good but not dominant Colts defense. While Schaub is still on the upside of his Career, Manning will begin (if just slightly) to show his age and any decline in Peyton's performance will prove devastating for the Colts.
St. Louis (15) vs. Arizona (18) Confidence 75.8%
I feel pretty confident picking the Cardinals to win on the road, but I'm not very interested in it.
Tennessee (25) vs. Oakland (21) Confidence 80.3%
The Titans maybe adding Albert Haynesworth to a defense that is projected to be the 3rd best 3rd down defense this season. Couple that with the fact that they are playing the Raiders at home, and this is a pretty straightforward pick.
Pittsburgh (26) vs. Atlanta (14) Confidence 89.6%
Complete analysis of the Steelers and Dennis Dixon is below, but the Steelers could spot the Falcons and their "struggling" defense a touchdown and still win going away.