Ah, hope springs eternal in Steeler Nation …

… and among all NFL fans on Week One! Unfortunately, it’s already too late for national-championship aspirations for the Fighting Irish in college football after getting smoked by Michigan yesterday, 41-30.  Pittsburgh has more reason to hope, though. They start off at home against the Titans, Troy Polamalu is healthy, and their division rival Baltimore Ravens are off to a dismal start, losing to Denver 49-27 and allowing Peyton Manning to tie an NFL record for TD passes in a game. Look for the Steelers to take advantage against the Titans with a 27-17 win (1 pm ET, CBS).

Let’s take a look around the league today:

  • Vikings at Lions (1 pm ET, Fox) – The line has Detroit by 4, but I think the Vikings might be poised for a better season.  Adrian Peterson’s back and ready to aim for a second straight 2,000-yard season, and they picked up Greg Jennings in the off-season to give Christian Ponder a better target for the passing game. I’m going with an upset here and pick the Vikes to edge the Lions on the road, 24-21.
  • Falcons at Saints (1 pm ET, Fox) – Sean Payton’s back in New Orleans, and now the Saints have Steven Jackson to add a better running threat to their offense.  The Falcons dominated their division last year, but that’s going to change in 2013. Saints over Falcons in a shootout, 37-31.
  • Bengals at Bears (1 pm ET, CBS) – The Bengals made it into the playoffs last year, but they’re missing Pro Bowl O-line stalwart Andrew Whitworth, who would normally line up across from Bears DE Julius Peppers. The line has Chicago up by three at home, but it won’t be that close.  Chicago 21-10 over the Bengals.
  • Packers at 49ers (4:25 pm ET, Fox) – The Pack is back … for revenge, after their playoff loss in San Francisco last year.  They’re also looking to neutralize the read-option that beat them by promising to level 49er QB Colin Kaepernick every time, even if he pitches the ball — a plan that the NFL confirmed is within the rules. Look for that game-within-the-game today, as well as whether the Packers really have upgraded their rushing game with the addition of Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin in the draft.  This will go down to defenses, I think, and Green Bay has an advantage, especially if they get in the heads of Kaepernick and head coach Jim Harbaugh. Packers 23-17 over the 49ers.
  • Giants at Cowboys (8:30 ET, NBC) – Opening day features one of the best rivalries in the NFL, this time in Dallas, where the line has the Cowboys up by three. However, Dallas is trying a new defensive scheme, and may have a conditioning problem.  The Giants got bigger on the defensive line to bolster their rush defense, and added new talent to the O-line to improve their own rushing game and give Eli Manning more time.  If it comes down to Manning vs Tony Romo, I’ll pick Romo … for three quarters, and then Manning to win.  Giants 33-27 over Dallas.
  • Eagles at Team Which Must Not Be Named In Polite Society (MNF, 6:55 pm ET, ESPN) – I’m picking the Redskins to win, because (1) RGIII is back, if perhaps still tentative, (2) Washington has something to prove and a seasoned head coach to back it up, and (3) it’s Philadelphia. They prepped this week by having a fistfight between Cary Williams and Riley Cooper, which may have been over Cooper’s use of a racial epithet a few months ago, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Skins over Shirks, 27-20.