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NFL Picks Week 1: Saints Vs. Packers Kicks Off Season; What's Going To Happen In The AFC West

The 2011 NFL season kicks off on Thursday night with the Packers and the Saints playing at Lambeau Field. It should be the start of another exciting season.

The 2011 NFL season is finally here. Not even a nearly five-month long lockout could prevent this day from happening. It's the Thursday kickoff game and we have a chance to watch the last two Super Bowl champions battle it out on historic Lambeau Field: the Green Bay Packers (2010) and the New Orleans Saints (2009). That is a preview for Sunday's action, but for Denver Broncos fans, we'll need to wait one extra day to finally have our football fill since they play the hated Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football

New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers (-4.5): At one point during the 2010 season this could have been a potential playoff matchup in the divisional or conference championship round, but the Seahawks went ahead and pulled off the upset over the Saints in the wild card round. Now the Saints get to try their hand at beating the defending Super Bowl champions, but it's not going to happen. Packers

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (-2): There's nothing like a rivalry game to kick off the season and Ravens-Steelers is one of the best there is. The Steelers lost their regular season home game to the Ravens in 2010, but won on the road and then at home in the playoffs. The two regular season games were both decided by three points. This is going to be another close one. Steelers

Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears (+3): The Falcons went 13-3 last season but were one-and-done in the playoffs, losing to the Packers. The Bears fell a game short of the Super Bowl and still have Jay Cutler as their quarterback (yes, read that in the tone of a Broncos fan). Falcons

Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns (-7): This game has to be the weakest one on the schedule. The Bengals are starting rookie Andy Dalton at quarterback and the Browns still have plenty of room for improvement. But if Colt McCoy really has progressed, this shouldn't be too hard of a game. Browns

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (-9): Peyton Manning is out for the first time ever and his replacement is Kerry Collins, who had been retired for just a few weeks before being talked out of it. Meanwhile, the Texans seem poised to finally break through the playoff barrier with last year's leading rusher Arian Foster (if he's healthy). Texans

Tennessee Titans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (-3): The Jaguars are in a bit of disarray at the moment. They just released David Garrard, their starter, and are going with Luke McCown, who didn't play in the third preseason game. But rookie Blaine Gabbert still remains as the No. 2 quarterback. The Titans are also in a similar position with having rookie Jake Locker, but they'll start Matt Hasselbeck. Titans

Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas City Chiefs (-7): Matt Cassel appears ready to go for the Chiefs despite a rib injury. Have the Bills made enough improvements to do better than their 4-12 record from last season? Chiefs

Philadelphia Eagles vs. St. Louis Rams (+5.5): It might tempting to go with the Eagles in this game because of all the talent they have amassed or rewarded with new contracts over the offseason. Michael Vick will certainly provide plenty of excitement this game, but don't sleep on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. Rams

Detroit Lions vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1): The Lions and Bucs are both young teams, though only the Bucs are coming off a winning season (10-6). If quarterback Matthew Stafford can stay healthy and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh repeats his rookie season, the Lions should be in good shape. Lions

Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals (-7): Both teams have new, largely untested quarterbacks under center. Actually, the Panthers have a completely untested quarterback in the regular season with No. 1 pick Cam Newton at the helm. The Cards turn to Kevin Kolb, whom they traded for from the Eagles. Cardinals

Minnesota Vikings at San Diego Chargers (-9): Philip Rivers, Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates are going to provide fits for opposing defenders. But let's see how Donovan McNabb does in his new environment. This point spread is a bit too high at the start of the season. Vikings

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers (-6): The Seahawks moved from Matt Hasselbeck as their quarterback to Tarvaris Jackson from Minnesota. They also added Sidney Rice, also from Minnesota. But do those two make them better than the 7-9 they were last year? The 49ers weren't any better, but they have home field advantage. 49ers

New York Giants at Washington Redskins (+3): So John Beck looks to be the starting quarterback until head coach Mike Shanahan decides to go with Rex Grossman days before the season starts. We'll probably see Beck at some point in this game. Giants

Dallas Cowboys at New York Jets (-4): It's Sunday night. On 9/11. Between a New York team and "America's team." Only way to make the night more appropriate would have been to made this a three-team game and put the Patriots in it. Jets

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins (+7): Chad Henne vs. Tom Brady. That's an easy one. Bill Belichick vs. any coach. Another easy one. Patriots

Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (-3): Let's see. The Broncos went 0-2 against the Raiders in 2010, losing 59-14 and 39-29. Time for some payback. Broncos