1. The Giants and Redskins will combine for 40 points.
This is a huge bust. I firmly believe in Washington’s defense this year. Albert Haynesworth is more than a Daniel Snyder big-name free agent in the Deion Sanders or Bruce Smith category. He’s a great, difference-making defensive tackle who changes the game. The Giants’ passing attack is a major work-in-progress. While I firmly believe in Eli Manning, Brandon Jacobs and the Giants’ incredible offensive line, questions at wide receiver and playing against the Washington defense will hold the Giants’ offense back on Sunday.
The Giants’ defense should suffocate Washington’s right side of the offensive line. I like Jason Campbell, but the Giants’ pass rush will be too much. And I think Clinton Portis will be held in check by the Giants’ incredible rotation up front.
2. The Packers’ new defense is ready for the Bears’ new offense.
Call it a boom. Those close to the Packers can see a noticeable change in the way cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson are playing in the preseason. And Dom Capers is going to dial up the pressure against the very beatable Chicago offensive line. As much as I love Jay Cutler, I think he’s good for a pick or two against Green Bay’s incredible cornerback combination. I don’t think the Bears’ average receiving corps is ready for primetime quite yet.
3. Willie Parker will be the difference-maker for Pittsburgh against the Titans.
Parker is playing for respect, a new contract and job security with former first-rounder Rashard Mendenhall breathing down his neck. Coach Mike Tomlin tells us that Parker is his starting running back. It sounds good on the radio, but Parker is going to have to prove it again on the field to be relied upon.
Nobody knows this more than Parker. I think he gets the Titans’ defense at the right time in Week 1. It’s Tennessee’s first contest without Haynesworth and with new defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil replacing new Lions coach Jim Schwartz.
The Titans’ defense is physical and fundamentally sound, but in a tight game, I think Parker scampers for 100 yards and a touchdown. He’ll be the straw that stirs the drink Thursday night, and it’s a big-time boom.
4. Tampa can beat Dallas.
BUST, in all capital letters. I know the Bucs are at home and Dallas has to travel to the East Coast. But DeMarcus Ware and Co. will suffocate Byron Leftwich and the Tampa offense.
The last time we saw the Dallas defense, the Eagles were treating it like a Pop Warner program. I think the Cowboys’ defense will be up for the challenge after listening to the intense criticism all offseason. Newcomers Keith Brooking and Igor Olshansky won’t let Dallas’ defense get pushed over. Cadillac Williams is a wonderful comeback story. But I just don’t see him getting started against Dallas’ defense. Plus, the Bucs just fired their offensive coordinator and are a total mess.
And while Tony Romo is always the focus, look for Jason Garrett to dial up Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice early and often against this revamped and relatively porous Bucs defense.
5. Adrian Peterson will put up the best numbers of any running back in Week 1.
A surprising bust. Sure, Peterson will get at least 150 yards against the Cleveland run defense.
But don’t you love the matchup for LaDainian Tomlinson on Monday night against the Raiders? Oakland’s run defense was picked apart in the preseason, with the fundamentals and effort sorely lacking. Tomlinson and the Chargers’ offensive line come into this game with something to prove. There’s no way LT will overlook the hapless Raiders since they are a division rival. I can see Tomlinson gashing Oakland for 150 yards on the ground and being a big factor for Phil Rivers as a receiver out of the backfield in a blowout.
6. The Eagles’ defense will shut down Carolina.
It’s a boom. And you can book Jake Delhomme for a couple of picks. I know Eagles fans are pacing nervously, hoping that Philly’s defense looks like its familiar, dominant self come Sunday after some shaky moments in August.
Replacing the legendary Jim Johnson is a difficult task, but Sean McDermott is up for it. I like the way Sheldon Brown, Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs match up with Delhomme and the Carolina receivers, including Steve Smith. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are a great 1-2 punch, but that Philly defensive line can keep them bottled up.
7. Matthew Stafford will have a better debut than Mark Sanchez.
Since I am not picking either QB to win in Week 1, I’ll call it a boom. Sanchez is in a tough spot. He’s starting his NFL career on the road. And he not only has to play against DeMeco Ryans, Mario Williams and the Texans defense, but Sanchez has to also outscore Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub, Steve Slaton and the Texans’ high-powered offense.
Detroit will get down really early to the Saints, so Stafford will chuck it a lot and pad his stats.
8. The Chiefs will score 10 points against Baltimore.
That’s a bust. Credit Matt Cassel for working his way back to the practice field after spraining his knee. And running back Larry Johnson confirmed for us on Sirius NFL Radio that Cassel’s presence in practice and his “mind” running the team energized the Chiefs. It shows Cassel’s leadership, commitment and toughness. But Baltimore smells fresh meat. Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and my guy Haloti Ngata will abuse the work-in-progress Kansas City offensive line. And think about how the Kansas City offense will sputter if Cassel can’t play, which is looking like a real possibility. That’s scary.
9. Michael Turner is the focal point for the Miami defense.
It’s a bust. In talking to Roddy White this week, he was foaming at the mouth over the potential to score touchdowns and move the chains in the passing attack. If the Fish have an area of weakness, it’s without question the defensive backfield. The athletic White, Michael Jenkins and Tony Gonzalez should all come up big for Matt Ryan in a very entertaining ball game. Rookie Sean Smith and Will Allen will come up small.
For a New York sports edition of “Boom or Bust” you can watch Schein and Chris Carlin on Loud Mouths, weeknights at 6 p.m. ET on SNY (DIRECT-TV 639).
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