The time has come to frame Week 1 guesses with carefully worded explanations mitigating the potential for personal embarrassment.
Prediction time, in other words.
When we left off last season, I was predicting a 23-20 Arizona Cardinals victory over Seattle (20-17 actual score) and a 23-6 San Francisco 49ers victory over St. Louis (34-27 actual score). That wasn't too bad, but my win-loss record for NFC West games was a modest 34-18 over the full season. That included a 22-16 run following a 12-2 start.
Here we go again.
St. Louis Rams at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m. ET. The feel here is that Rams coach Jeff Fisher will have a good plan for his former understudy, Lions coach Jim Schwartz. Fisher will come up with a few tricks. But the Lions' pass-rushers will overwhelm the Rams' offensive line at a noisy Ford Field. It's tough to see this one going any other way. Sando's best guess: Lions 24, Rams 10.
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers, 4:25 p.m. ET. These teams appeared on course for a matchup in the NFC Championship Game last season, but only the 49ers made it that far. There's been much talk, some of it from me, about San Francisco regressing as a matter of course from its 13-3 record last season. What about the Packers? They went 15-1. 49ers fans looking for hope at Lambeau Field should check out Bob McGinn's recent piece exploring potential cracks in the Packers' foundation. Sando's best guess: Packers 27, 49ers 20.
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals, 4:25 p.m. ET. This is a tough one. Arizona should win at home against a team starting rookies at quarterback, right guard and middle linebacker. I'd pick the Cardinals if their offensive line didn't appear so vulnerable at the tackle spots. Both defenses have to like their chances. If it comes down to a field goal, I'll take Arizona. But I suspect the Seahawks' defense owns a greater edge in its matchup than the Cardinals' defense does in its matchup. Sando's best guess: Seahawks 17, Cardinals 13.
Before running off to Vegas, be sure to check out our NFC West group at the Pigskin Picks contest. I lost no ground when failing to hit the deadline for picking an outcome to the Wednesday night game. The New York Giants would have been my choice.
Note: We've also got the "You called it" competition going.