Finally, football has arrived!  After four weeks of flag-infested preseason games and backups abound, it's time to see the real stars of football in actual action (not that I don't like to see the average stringer every now-and-then).  The beginning of the regular season also signals the start of many fantasy football and pick 'em leagues.  Speaking of pick 'ems, don't forget to sign up for our pick 'em league for a chance to win some awesome prizes!  But first, let's take a look at some of the biggest matchups this week and who I think will come out victorious.

 

Green Bay Packers @ Seattle Seahawks: Thursday, 7:30 PM

Mike McGinnis, Getty Images Sport

Wow, what a way to kickoff the 2014 NFL season.  Obviously, every Packers fan remembers the "Fail Mary" game in 2012 when the replacement refs clearly made the wrong call on the last play of the game, which costed Green Bay the victory (let's not kid ourselves, people, it was an interception).  Since then, Seattle deservedly won last season's Super Bowl and Green Bay barely made the playoffs due to Aaron Rodgers missing about half of the season with a collarbone injury.

This matchup will most likely be highlighted by Green Bay's offense vs. Seattle's bone-crushing defense.  Both have improved since the Fail Mary game, and as long as the officials know what they're doing, this should be the game of the week.  In the end, though, I think the Green Bay Packers will be the victors because of their now-balanced attack on offense.  When both Aaron Rodgers and Eddie Lacy were on the field together last season, they caused defenses to ease off a little, which gave the Pack more opportunities to attack down the field.  Still, this should be a back-and-forth game that you don't want to miss.

 

New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons: Sunday, 12:00 PM

Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images Sport

New Orleans and Atlanta had two very different outcomes at the end of the 2013 season; the Saints were able to reach the division round of the playoffs while Atlanta finished 4-12 and 3rd in the NFC South.  However, the Falcons should be improved now that Wide Receiver Julio Jones is healthy and ready to get back on the field.  However, I'm picking the New Orleans Saints due to the way their offense has been playing this preseason.  We all know how good Drew Brees can be, but rookie receiver Brandin Cooks could be "the real deal" and running back Mark Ingram hasn't looked this good since his days with the Alabama Crimson Tide.  If New Orleans keeps it up in the regular season, I could definitely view them as serious Super Bowl contenders.

 

Indianapolis Colts @ Denver Broncos: Sunday, 7:30 PM

Andy Lyons, Getty Images Sport

Ah, it's "Manning v. Luck: Part II".  The biggest difference between this matchup and last season's is that Peyton will have the advantage of playing in Denver while the Colts will have to deal with the high altitudes.  Although I see Indy as a team that could truly beat everyone out in the playoffs, the Broncos should have a hot start with their slew of Pro Bowlers, so I'm picking Denver.

 

New York Giants @ Detroit Lions: Monday, 6:10 PM

These two teams have been very wishy-washy in these past few seasons, and that may have something to do with their inconsistent quarterbacks, Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford.  Still, either one of these teams could make a playoff push, which would make things interesting in their respected divisions.  I'll pick Detroit because their currently-healthy offense just matches up better going against New York's defense, and as you might expect, offenses this season could be more important than it ever has been before.

 

San Diego Chargers @ Arizona Cardinals: Monday, 9:20 PM

Christian Petersen, Getty Images Sport

Although this matchup hasn't received too much attention, I like it because both Arizona and San Diego are in two of the best divisions, yet they seem to stay right in the middle of things.  I'll pick the Arizona Cardinals to win because I expect Running Back Andre Ellington to have a breakout season and turn them into a true run-first offense.  Either way, I'm definitely staying up late to watch this one.

 

Here are the rest of my picks (predicted winners are in bold and underlined):

 

Buffalo Bills @ Chicago Bears: Sunday, 12:00 PM

Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers: Sunday, 12:00 PM

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Philadelphia Eagles: Sunday, 12:00 PM

New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins: Sunday, 12:00 PM

Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens: Sunday, 12:00 PM

Washington Redskins @ Houston Texans: Sunday, 12:00 PM

Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs: Sunday, 12:00 PM

Minnesota Vikings @ St. Louis Rams: Sunday, 12:00 PM

Oakland Raiders @ New York Jets: Sunday, 12:00 PM

Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sunday, 3:25 PM

San Francisco 49ers @ Dallas Cowboys: Sunday, 3:25 PM