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Bucs vs. Lions

Bears (4-3) at Bills (0-7)

1 p.m.; at Toronto

Line, O/U: Bears by 3, 41

For some reason, the NFL keeps exporting some of its worst commodities. Last week, the league sent the 49ers and Broncos to London. Now, two of the lowest-performing offenses will take their show north of the border to Toronto. The Bears, however, are pretty stout on defense. DE Julius Peppers, left, has only two sacks, but between his presence and the return of LB Brian Urlacher from a season-ending injury last year, the Bears defense is keeping the team

Holder's pick: Bears 27, Bills 20

Detroit's best offensive player

Calvin Johnson ran wild against the Bucs in 2010. He caught 10 passes for 152 yards. And his catches on the final drive of regulation and the only possession of overtime positioned Detroit for the win. This time, the Bucs get cornerback Aqib Talib to match up with Johnson after an injury kept him last season.

Detroit's best defensive player

Last season, tackle Ndamukong Suh was named defensive rookie of the year and started the Pro Bowl. Yet against the Bucs, he had just two tackles.

What the Lions do best

Rush the passer. The same franchise that for two straight seasons had one of the league's worst defenses, including a historically bad unit during their 0-16 2008, notched 44 sacks in 2010. Three came against Josh Freeman.

You can beat the Lions if …

You make them rely on their running game. With rookie Mikel Leshoure out, the Lions have lost a key addition to their ground game. That puts more on quarterback Matt Stafford's shoulders, giving the Bucs' pass rush a shot.

The Bucs must avoid …

Another slow start. Notorious for falling behind in 2010, the Bucs put themselves in difficult positions too often. Against a team capable of rushing the passer as well as Detroit, having to play from behind (and throwing lots of passes as a result) exposes Josh Freeman to too much heat.

Holder's prediction: Bucs 27, Lions 21

Steelers at Ravens

1 p.m., Ch. 10

Line: Ravens by 2, 361/2

What better way to start the season than bitter rivals who have provided some of the NFL's most memorable recent games? The Ravens must have been seething while watching the Steelers play in the Super Bowl last season because had their playoff game ended differently (a late winning touchdown), it well could have been Baltimore in the big game. Maybe the best thing about this rivalry is it could be heated for years to come. The coaches, Mike Tomlin of the Steelers and John Harbaugh, above, of the Ravens, are still young. So, too, are the respective quarterbacks. There are few games this big in Week 1.

Holder's pick: Ravens 23, Steelers 21

Falcons at Bears

1 p.m.

Line: Falcons by 21/2, 401/2

The Falcons were thinking Super Bowl last season and, at one point, playing like a team destined to get there. But they ran into a problem late in the season. There were moments in big games in which they failed to get big plays from their big guns. So general manager Thomas Dimitroff went out and got some more playmakers he hopes will step up at the right time. Atlanta paid a king's ransom to trade up for receiver Julio Jones in the draft then signed ex-Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards, above. Those guys coupled with the considerable talent already on the roster make the Falcons a team to watch.

Holder's pick: Falcons 26, Bears 17

Bengals at Browns

1 p.m.

Line: Browns by 61/2, 351/2

Both teams have undergone dramatic changes. The Browns have a new coach, Pat Shurmur, and all the nuances that come along with a change at the top. The Bengals retained Marvin Lewis but have a new quarterback, rookie Andy Dalton, and offensive coordinator, Jay Gruden. The Browns seem better prepared to hit the ground running. Their second-year quarterback, Colt McCoy, above, has already gone through the growing pains Dalton is about to encounter. And look for the Browns to improve on defense, especially after drafting starting linemen Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard.

Holder's pick: Browns 24, Bengals 16

Colts at Texans

1 p.m.

Line: Texans by 81/2, 431/2

Few can attest to Colts quarterback Peyton Manning's longevity more than the Texans. They annually flirt with the notion of overtaking the Colts in the AFC South only to fall short — largely because of Manning. So today, the Texans face an unprecedented situation with Manning out with a neck injury (ending a streak of 227 starts). But forgive them for not feeling sympathy. The Colts are the very reason Houston coach Gary Kubiak always seems to be on shaky ground. Likewise, Manning is the reason Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, above, who has few peers, rarely gets the credit he deserves.

Holder's pick: Texans 29, Colts 20

Titans at Jaguars

1 p.m.

Line: Jaguars by 2, 37

Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio either knows something we don't or that hot seat he's sitting on is affecting his decision-making. Del Rio and general manager Gene Smith bid farewell to incumbent starting quarterback David Garrard last week, putting Jacksonville's fate in the hands of … Luke McCown? The likelihood here is rookie Blaine Gabbert eventually takes over for McCown, above, but this was a curious move, to say the least. The Titans, meanwhile, have a new coach and new quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck, but have no change at running back, where Chris Johnson has a new contract to live up to.

Holder's pick: Titans 24, Jaguars 21

Bills at Chiefs

1 p.m.

Line: Chiefs by 6, 40

Coach Todd Haley's Kansas City crew came on strong last season, going 10-6 and winning the AFC West. But the defense of that championship could get off to a rocky start with quarterback Matt Cassel, above, already banged up with a rib injury. Haley played his starters extensively during the final preseason game because … well … no one seems sure. Cassel sustained the injury late in the game but said last week he expects to play. Even without him, the Chiefs have a potent running game in Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones and formidable offensive line that could prove the difference against the Bills.

Holder's pick: Chiefs 21, Bills 20

Eagles at Rams

1 p.m.

Line: Eagles by 4, 44

Philadelphia's "dream team" — its words, not ours — faces the surprise team of 2010. Despite the Eagles' infusion of talent, don't be surprised if they aren't a well-oiled machine out of the gate. There are pains associated with meshing new players, even spectacular ones such as cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, above. Still, the playmakers on offense are largely the same, so it shouldn't take long for Michael Vick to resume throwing touchdowns to DeSean Jackson and company while LeSean McCoy — ho hum — averages 5 or so yards per carry. But be careful: Don't sell the Rams defense short.

Holder's pick: Eagles 24, Rams 20

Panthers at Cardinals

4:15 p.m.

Line: Cardinals by 7, 37

There probably aren't two other teams in the NFL that underwent as substantial upgrades at quarterback as these two. Consider Arizona's evolution from, say, Max Hall to Kevin Kolb (despite his limited experience as a starter). And in Carolina, Jimmy Clausen gives way to No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton, whose upside alone is enough to keep the rest of the league from ignoring what was a two-win team last season. In this game, at least, the conventional wisdom says Kolb, above, and his mates will make the quicker transition. Carolina not only is changing its quarterback, but coach and offensive scheme.

Holder's pick: Cardinals 29, Panthers 20 Vikings at Chargers

4:15 p.m.

Line: Chargers by 81/2, 411/2

Has a team ever been as relieved as the Vikings were at the end of last season? It was the year that couldn't end fast enough after the Brett Favre saga, failed Randy Moss experiment that essentially got coach Brad Childress fired and — of all things — the collapse of the Metrodome's roof that forced them to play a home game outdoors. With that drama-filled campaign now over, all Minnesota has to worry about is quarterback Philip Rivers and the Chargers. This is a San Diego team notorious for slow starts, but coach Norv Turner, above, knows that has to stop. His job might depend on it. Holder's pick: Chargers 30, Vikings 20

Seahawks at 49ers

4:15 p.m.

Line: 49ers by 51/2, 371/2

You might think an offense featuring one of the youngest lines and a quarterback as unproven as Tarvaris Jackson, above, would be a recipe for disaster. But the Seahawks actually think they have the ingredients to be competitive a year after winning the NFC West (at 7-9). Seattle's 27th-ranked defense was hardly special last season, but it gained confidence from big late-season wins, including over the defending champion Saints in the playoffs. The 49ers have a lot of work to do, though key defensive additions such as Aldon Smith will have an impact. Too bad he can't play quarterback.

Holder's pick: Seahawks 23, 49ers 20

Giants at Redskins

4:15 p.m., Ch. 13

Line: Giants by 3, 38

Since winning the Super Bowl after the 2007 season, the Giants are 0-1 in the playoffs, and they're hardly a favorite to contend in 2011. The reason they've had such misfortune, in large part, is because they've lost winnable games such as this one. Last year's 19-point loss to the Titans and 13-point loss to the Cowboys — both six-win teams — aren't characteristic of playoff teams. Winning the NFC East is going to be a tall order for Tom Coughlin, above, and his team with the Eagles loaded and the Cowboys preparing to rally. But first, the Giants have to handle business against inferior teams.

Holder's pick: Giants 28, Redskins 18

Cowboys at Jets

8:20 p.m., Ch. 8

Line: Jets by 5, 401/2

Coach Jason Garrett found a way to wake up the enigmatic Cowboys, perhaps the most talented 6-10 team you'll ever see. Under Garrett, who took over for the fired Wade Phillips midseason, Dallas was 5-3. With quarterback Tony Romo healthy and offensive and defensive playmakers, a refocused Cowboys team will be a dangerous one. The Jets are a contending team themselves, but there's still too much all or nothing on offense. Whether this is a product of the ups and downs of quarterback Mark Sanchez, above, or something else, it makes the Jets a team capable of mystifying defeats. Look for the upset.

Holder's pick: Cowboys 20, Jets 17

Patriots at Dolphins

7 p.m., ESPN

Line: Patriots by 7, 451/2

Because the Patriots fell short of the Super Bowl and (gasp!) the AFC title game last season, it feels rather easy to forget they were 14-2 despite adapting their offense to vastly different personnel and a defensive front that was rather uninspiring. The latter issue has been addressed with the likes of Albert Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis. Today, new Dolphins running back Reggie Bush, above, will get an introduction, and it likely won't involve a handshake. The Dolphins have great individual talents such as receiver Brandon Marshall and linebacker Cameron Wake, but they also have Chad Henne under center.

Holder's pick: Patriots 29, Dolphins 17

Raiders at Broncos

10:15 p.m., ESPN

Line: Broncos by 3, 40

This preview of this AFC West matchup will be Tebow-free. Let's, instead, talk about the man poised to be the difference in Denver: coach John Fox, above. The former Carolina coach is one of the best in the business. His expertise is defense, and Denver's last-place unit can't be any worse. Rookie linebacker Von Miller and free agent nose tackle Broderick Bunkley are key acquisitions who will help Fox restore respectability to his defense. The Raiders were 8-8 last season, their best season since 2002, and, of course, fired their coach. Also gone: cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, tight end Zach Miller and guard Robert Gallery.

Holder's pick: Broncos 24, Raiders 23












Stat pack (2010 totals)

1 p.m., Raymond James Stadium, Tampa | Radio: 620-AM, 103.5-FM | Line, over-under: Bucs by 2; xx



total offense

Rushing defense

passing defense

total defense




(2010 totals)

Rushing yards:

Bucs: 125.1 (8th)

Lions: 100.8 (23rd)

Passing yards:

Bucs: 210.1 (17th)

Lions: 238.1 (12th)

Total offense:

Bucs: 335.1 (19th)

Lions: 338.9 (17th)

Rushing yards allowed:

Bucs: 131.7 (28th)

Lions: 124.9 (24th)

Passing yards allowed:

Bucs: 201.0 (7th)

Lions: 218.6 (16th)

Total defense:

Bucs: 332.7 (17th)

Lions: 343.6 (21st)



Bucs vs. Lions 09/10/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 9, 2011 6:03pm]
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