Are you ready for some football? … Wait they fired that guy didn’t they?
It’s still Monday Night Football time even without Hank Williams Jr. and as has become the tradition the last few years ESPN has a double-header to kick off the season with two nice matchups on the two coasts. The AFC North gets things started in Baltimore and the AFC West has the nightcap as the Raiders host the Chargers. Here’s my picks agains the spread for Pigskin Pick’Em and a look at the most important fantasy football questions and injuries.
Cincinnati Bengals (+6.5) at Baltimore Ravens
Big Question: Does the Ravens defense still have it? If the Ravens defense can again be one of the best in the NFL, Baltimore will be among the teams to beat in the AFC. Joe Flacco can handle managing the game and relying on Ray Rice and the defense can get them deep into the playoffs. It should have got them to the Super Bowl last year if it wasn’t for a bad kick. Some people think the Ravens defense is on the decline and could be on its last legs. If that’s truly the case, Joe Flacco has yet to show us he can carry a team and put up big points to overcome even a mediocre Baltimore defensive performance. The Ravens get a good test on opening night from A.J. Green and Andy Dalton who came close to beating Baltimore but went 0-2 losing by a touchdown each time.
Big Injuries: Jermaine Gresham, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and Andy Dalton all avoided major injuries and are expected to be active and ready to go for Monday’s kickoff. The Ravens, meanwhile, have no major Fantasy-relavant injuries.
Big pick: I’m going with the upset here in the early game and taking Cincinnati to keep it close at least. I think Green and Dalton will be solid and the addition of Green-Ellis will provide a nice steady presence in their backfield. These two teams know each other so well, I think it’s a Field Goal game either way so I’ll take the Bengals and the points.
San Diego Chargers (-1.5) at Oakland Raiders
Big Question: If Philip Rivers is going to turn it around, who will he throw the ball to? The Chargers lost Vincent Jackson and will start Robert Meachem and Malcom Floyd with Eddie Royal getting time as well. Antonio Gates is sure to be the primary target, but who else will emerge as a fantasy option?
Big Injuries: The Raiders receivers are already all over the injury report. Denarius Moore is questionable and expected to play although he may be limited. Jacoby Ford is out. The Chargers will be without their starting running back Ryan Mathews who was been ruled out for week 1. Ronnie Brown will get the start in his absence.
Big pick: The Chargers have questions to be sure, but I think they’ll pull this one out over their division rivals by a touchdown.