Welcome back, football fans. This is now the seventh year in which I have committed myself to picking the winner of every single NFL regular season game.
As a reminder, I pick the winners straight-up, although I do offer my best guess as to what the margin of victory will be. My goal, as always, is to beat ESPN's NFL experts: Eric Allen, Mike Golic, Merril Hoge, Ron Jaworski, Chris Mortensen, Adam Schefter, Mark Schlereth, Seth Wickersham, Tom Jackson, Mike Ditka, Cris Carter, and Keyshawn Johnson, as well as the "Accuscore" and "Pick 'em" predictions.
Writing these columns is much more fun when my readers get involved, so please offer your own predictions in the comments section below.
Now it's time for my picks for the NFL's first week of the 2012 season.
*Wednesday, September 5, 2012*
Dallas at New York Giants 8:30 p.m. [Line: Giants by 3.5]
Dallas last season: 8-8, no playoffs. New York Giants last season: 9-7, won NFC East, won Super Bowl.
The Cowboys upgraded their offensive line with Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings at guard. At cornerback, they brought in Brandon Carr and drafted Morris Claiborne. QB Tony Romo should have a big year. ESPN's NFL experts pick them to finish 3rd in the NFC East this season.
The Giants released Brandon Jacobs in the offseason, so Ahmad Bradshaw is now their top RB. They have three of the best defensive ends in the league (Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Osi Umenyiora). Don't be surprised if Eli Manning struggles a bit this year. ESPN's NFL experts pick them to finish 1st in the NFC East this season.
-RJ's Pick: Cowboys by 4
*Sunday, September 9, 2012*
Indianapolis at Chicago 1:00 p.m. [Line: Bears by 9.5]
The Colts finished 2-14 last season, no playoffs. The Bears were 8-8 last season, no playoffs.
Indianapolis drafted QB Andrew Luck with the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Expectations are for Luck to quickly become an elite NFL quarterback, but the roster around him is currently not very impressive on either side of the ball. New head coach Chuck Pagano is known for his innovative defenses. ESPN's NFL experts pick them to finish 4th in the AFC South this season.
Chicago added Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery (rookie) at wide receiver. Linebacker Brian Urlacher's health is a big concern. ESPN's NFL experts pick them to finish 2nd in the NFC North this season.
-RJ's Pick: Bears by 3
Philadelphia at Cleveland 1:00 p.m. [Line: Eagles by 7.5]