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Five Fearless Predictions: Week One

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By Eric Edholm

Every week I am going to put myself out there by predicting something a little off the map for the coming weekend’s games. When we finish our video studio in the office, I’ll be doing some of these on camera.

But for this week at least, let’s do it the old-fashioned way: with words.

Week One is finally here following last night’s Saints-Vikings game, and I am ready to get bold on you.

So here we go …

Raiders hold Chris Johnson under a buck:
Whoa, daddy. Nothing like starting out strong, eh? Yeah, you read this right. CJ2K, the man who averaged 125.4 yards a game last season, going up against a Raiders run defense that allowed 155.5 yards on the ground per contest will be held to 99 yards or fewer rushing.

I see positive change in Oakland, including a front seven that has a healthy Richard Seymour, a potential standout “Mike” linebacker in Rolando McClain and a more active Trevor Scott playing both linebacker and defensive end. Throw in Lamarr Houston, John Henderson and Jay Alford, too, and the Raiders have tightened up their ship. The issue comes when the safeties become involved, because Michel Huff has been known to olé on a few tackles, but the Raiders won’t overdo with the eight-man fronts. Playing it straight will keep Johnson (relatively) contained.

Johnson has hinted he is aiming not only for 2,500 on the ground this season but also the franchise’s Week One record — 216 by Eddie George in the team’s first-regular season game in Tennessee (they were the Oilers still for one season). I think he’ll get less than half that. And that, folks, is bold.

Trent Williams holds DeMarcus Ware without a sack:
People might know my aversion to sacks, at least as how they are regarded. Basically, it’s an agent-driven stat that should carry no more value than tackles for losses, which people barely recognize. But when it’s Ware we’re talking about, sacks always are brought up.

I laughed when people said Ware got off to a slow start last season because he went the first four games without a sack. Anyone who watched the games knew that he was inches and split seconds away from sacks in each of the four games and that he was playing very well against the run, too. Pressure, my friends, is just as important sometimes as actual takedowns.

That said, it’s a brutal welcome-to-the-NFL test for Williams, who nonetheless has stood up well so far. “It’s a great challenge for Trent,” Mike Shanahan said. “Anytime you go against a Pro Bowl player, it’s a great challenge and he’s up to that challenge. He knows he’s got a lot of responsibility. I’m sure he’s looking forward to it and probably a little nervous as well, but that’s typical.”

I agree with Coach Mike: Williams will play well Sunday night. But ultimately I have to made a call on this — and it will come in the form of zero sacks allowed. This is more brazen than just saying “Williams will do a nice job against Ware.” How do we prove that? Put the coaches’ tape up on YouTube? Um, yeah, the NFL doesn’t like that too much. Hence the — ahem — sack-less prediction.

Darrelle Revis has at least one interception: Pretty brave, eh? I will remind you that Revis, for all his outstanding play last season, had but six interceptions — a fine total indeed, but he was only tied for fifth in the NFL. And with 14 picks in 48 career games, he’s only batting .292 (or one pick every 3.4 games). So in that respect, I think I am going on a tiny limb — or would that be a big limb? Makes more sense that way, if you think about it.

I believe the Ravens will — and have to — test Revis. Yes, he’s 25 and in phenomenal shape. But he’s had a week of practice and his precise timing might not be where it was in last year’s playoffs. The Ravens have every intention of throwing the ball towards their shiny new receiver, Anquan Boldin, and will not shy away from getting him involved no matter who is covering him. I just happen to think that Revis will get his pick and jack up the already-geeked Jets crowd in the process.

The Rams will lose to the Cardinals … by less than one score:
That’s eight points or fewer, as I invoke the two-point conversion cushion here. This might not be a stunner, and Vegas only has installed the Cardinals as a 3- or 4-point favorite at most books. But still, think about where each of these teams were last season.

There’s a difference between betting the Rams plus-4 and thinking they are going to make it a very close game. And I am going to say I think they’ll be in a position to tie or win in the final five minutes as an extra-added bonus. Sam Bradford might not light it up in his first start, but the reviews will be almost overwhelmingly positive after this game.

The Jaguars will hold the Broncos without a sack: Again, I think it’s more about pressure, but I have to make some kind of tangible call here. I believe the Jags’ oft-maligned offensive line will stand up and open holes in the run game and close out pass-rush lanes against the stunted Broncos, who don’t have their best pass rusher (Elvis Dumervil). It’s not the most exciting prediction I make this week, but I feel good about it nonetheless.

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