Week 1 NFL Picks

Week one of my college picks went predictably bad. Let’s see if I can do any better in the NFL.

Nothing else to really say, so let’s have at it.

My picks are in red. Scores are listed for fun, mainly just so that we can have more stuff to laugh in a week at how bad these predictions are. All lines are from 5dimes.

Wednesday September 5

Dallas at New York Giants (-4)

I’ve already been on the record saying that I think the Giants miss the playoffs this year. Maybe that’s just me being a bitter Patriots fan, but between their brutal schedule and their relative inconsistency last regular season, I just don’t see them winning being a lock for double digit wins. Maybe I am crazy (I probably am), but I think they finish third in the NFC East. The offense should remain potent, but I think the weak offensive line play catches up to them. Eli was uncanny in his ability to avoid sacks last season (having the highest escape rate in the league), and the opponents got pressure on Eli Manning more than any other quarterback in the league. Nothing will change with the latter, and I think something changes about the former and not to their benefit. I like David Wilson and they’ll survive losing Mario Manningham, but unless that offensive line is a huge flaw, and a team like Dallas can exploit that.

I’m not certain they will lose this game, I just think it will be very close. It’s probably fitting to blast Dallas’ offensive line too, since they have a young and unproven LT, and they are weak at both guard spots and at center. As much as the Cowboys can expose the Giants’ offensive line problems, the Giants can do the same. I think there will be a lot of rust and sloppy offense in this game. It’s a tossup, so I took the points.

Dallas 23 Giants 26

Sunday September 9

Atlanta (-2.5) at Kansas City

I’m all in on the Chiefs this season. They will in the AFC West, at least that’s what I’m saying now. If they don’t no one will remember this so what’s there to lose? Nothing! And if I’m right, I’m sure I’ll remind you plenty of times. The team lost Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry and Tony Moeaki early in the season and never really got it completely together. Matt Cassel will have a lot of weapons to work with between RBs Jamaal Charles, Peyton Hillis (great compliments), Dwayne Bowe, Jon Baldwin (he will break out) and Steve Breaston. Defensively there is a lot of potential for greatness. The best unit on all of the team is their linebackers which has a perfect mix of pass rushers, run stoppers and coverage guys. They lost Brandon Carr, but Stanford Routt has been identically as successful in recent years, and Brandon Flowers will continue to be Brandon Flowers. 16 games of Eric Berry will make a huge difference as well. Up front is where the questions lie. Dorsey, Poe and Jackson are all first-round picks, but Dorsey and Jackson were wildly ineffective last season. I’m high on Poe, but he’s still very raw. It won’t be as huge of a problem because they do play in a 3-4 with a great unit behind them, but this could be what makes the defense boom-or-bust.

A healthy Eric Berry could help get KC back to the playoffs

Atlanta is getting a lot of hype this offseason, especially with the uncertainty surrounding their rivals in New Orleans, but I think they’ll be mildly disappointing (which all depends on your expectations, and it seems like most have them set high). Matt Ryan’s pass-catchers are drool-worthy, but the offensive line is not good (huge deficiencies at LT), and I just don’t like Michael Turner. Defensively it’s a solid team, but they were uncannily healthy last season and relied heavily on turnovers, and odds are their luck runs out in those regards. Mike Nolan is a solid addition as defensive coordinator, but I think Kansas City will be able to move the ball pretty readily.

This is one of the week’s best games, and probably won’t get much hype. Ultimately I’m picking Kansas City because I want my hype of them to be vindicated and I think home field advantage here is noteworthy.

Atlanta 23 Kansas City 27

Philadelphia (-9) at Cleveland

Philly is one of the week’s biggest favorites, even playing on the road, and t’s for obvious reasons too. Frankly, Cleveland stinks, really badly. What’s worse is that in this match up they will be without Joe Haden, one of the league’s absolute best corners. The defense wasn’t as bad as it was seemingly perceived last year, but without Haden they’ll struggle against this offense. Cleveland relied on some stout goal-line defense (the league’s best at goal-to-go defense), but that will regress towards the mean.

As long as Vick’s flak jacket holds up, they’ll win this handily, even on the road.

Philadelphia 31 Cleveland 17

Washington at New Orleans (-10)

I think the impact all the turmoil this offseason in New Orleans will have on this team will be very marginal. They brought in a lot of players, like David Hawthorne, Brodrick Bunkley and especially Curtis Lofton that will more than hold the fort until some of their suspended players return. It’s a weak defensive line, but back 7 will be very stout. In news that everyone knows: the offense is really explosive. Regardless of who is coaching, Drew Brees tossing the ball to Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Lance Moore and Jimmy Graham with Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles lining up behind him, well, yikes. Also, keep your eyes peeled for Nick Toon. He might not see much time, but he potentially could be a great compliment to the speedsters and downfield threats already on the roster at WR.

I think Washington will hang around, but the Saints pull away late. The Skins will get enough pressure on Brees early on, but ultimately their very shaky secondary will get burned a few too many times. Bob Griffin the Third’s debut makes this worth watching regardless of how competitive it remains.

Washington 13 New Orleans 27

New England (-7) at Tennessee

The Titans could finish with 6 wins and still finish second in the AFC South. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the only out-of-division win they snatch this year is against Minnesota in week 5. The AFC South is probably that bad. I like Jake Locker, but I’m not so sure you can expect a ton this year. Luckily for him he is being protected by one of the best offensive lines in the game and supported by Chris Johnson behind him. I’m not sure why Goodell came down so lightly on Kenny Britt, but not having him this week will hurt. New England’s defense should be improved, but it still can be exploited. It just won’t be exploited by this pass attack.

As a Patriots fan I’m worried mightily about the offensive line as it stands. I’m hoping Brian Waters returns, Sebastian Vollmer can stay healthy, and that Nate Solder doesn’t suck…but those are all big ifs, and there are more ifs than just those ones. Luckily for New England, Tennessee’s defensive line has no explosion, and really struggles to get to the quarterback. So long as Brady has time, this should be an easy win.

New England 29 Tennessee 17

Miami at Houston (-13.5)
Over/Under 42.5

The line here is fair, but it’s still just a bit big for me to comfortably play in week one. I figured the over/under would be low, but it’s actually not one of the lowest of the week. Houston will score, I’m just not sure Miami will much. Miami’s defense is their strongsuit, so factor that with their potentially awful offense, and all signs point towards a low-scoring game.

That’s all the effort I have in terms of breaking this one down…this is the least exciting game of the week, unless you really are into Ryan Tannehill. Even if that’s the case, I’m not sure he survives the Texan’s defense. I mean, he’ll live, he just won’t be any good.

Miami 9 Houston 24

Buffalo at New York Jets (-1.5)

No team has received more preseason attention for absolutely no good reason at all than the 2012 Jets have. Half of ESPN’s brigade of NFL “analysts” posted up at the various luxurious hotels of top vacation destination Cortland, New York, to give us up-to-the-minute updates on the Jets every move.

Did you know that Tim Tebow plays for the Jets now? Yeah, I hadn’t heard either.

Hell, as I’m talking right now they’re talking about Rex Ryan on Sportscenter and brought in Bill Polian to break down his most recent comments. Thank you ESPN for all the hard work! It had to be done! Either way, the return to actually playing football should dim the spotlight on them a good amount especially as the team figures to not be very good. The Jets pass offense figures to be well below average. Sanchez will pass for under 3,000 yards in a league where starting quarterbacks will be averaging close to 4,000 yards. The offense barely got over 300 yards a game last year, and with a well-below average of pass-catchers, there’s no reason to expect significant gains…unless of course Tebow somehow reinvents the wheel.

As for Buffalo, they boosted their defense by bringing Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, who should help out Buffalo’s 25th ranked pass defense (per football outsiders). Stephon Gilmore should step in right away and help out in that regard as well. There was no real turnover offensively, but a healthy Fred Jackson and more consistent play from Ryan Fitzpatrick should help the ofense grow a bit more.

I just switched to ESPN2, Skip and Stephen A are talking about Rex Ryan.

Buffalo 23 New York 17

Update: It’s now 11:06 on Tuesday, and I’ve lost interest in both ESPN channels, so moved to Fox Sports, and Dan Patrick is now talking about the Jets. You can’t escape it!

Jacksonville at Minnesota (-3.5)
Over/Under 38.5

Oh wow. Maybe Houston vs. Miami isn’t the week’s worst. Here’s my analysis: these teams suck, their quarterbacks aren’t ready, and each team’s best offensive players might be complete non-factors. This is a scary game. It’s also the lowest over/under of the week, and for good reason. Still, I could see this being one of those always fun 15-11 games, and it absolutely does not matter one bit who wins…nor do I care. There might be 3-5 wins between these teams combined all season…

Jacksonville 10 Minnesota 13

Indianapolis at Chicago (-10.5)

Andrew Luck will have a great rookie season, but it might not happen in week 1.

I like what’s brewing in Chicago. I like pairing Cutler and Marshall up again. I like the addition ofMichael Bush as the drafting of Alshon Jeffery. I like that there was no turnover on that defensive unit which was one of the league’s absolute best last season (#1 in weighted defense according to football outsiders). I’m excited about what Mike Tice will do with this offense too. I think they can, and probably win this one by double digits. Initially the double digit spread worried me, as they always do early on, but even though I think Andrew Luck will be a great quarterback, and relatively soon too, it’s just that the rest of the team still isn’t very good. There was a lot of turnover on offense which needed to happen after last season, but that turnover is via 3 rookies and 3 new offensive linemen. Both of those could lead to a little rust.

With a healthy Cutler this team might be as good as any in the NFC. The problem will be keeping him healthy. They did little to improve the unit. Whoever starts at left tackle will be a liability all season long. Tice and Cutler will assuredly try to shift much of the offense to the right behind Gabe Carimi instead, but if they continue to give up close to 50 sacks a season, things could start spiraling downwards in a hurry.

Ultimately it’s experience and proven talent against the opposite of that and in Week 1, that matters all the more.

Indianapolis 16 Chicago 31

St. Louis at Detroit (-9)

ESPN The Magazine has the Rams going winless. I don’t see that. Sure, they’ll be really bad, but I think they’ve improved a good bit. In come Steve Smith, 3 new offensive linemen, Kendall Langford, Mario Haggan, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Cortland Finnegan, plenty of rookies on both sides including Janoris Jenkins, and most importantly, Jeff Fisher. Collectively they will all help improve the team. It still has a plethora of flaws and question marks, especially on both lines, but it isn’t 0-16 bad.

Now, with that said, Detroit is going to roll on them, especially since it’s at home. I have a feeling that Stafford and Johnson are going to do as much stat-padding as possible this year. This would be a great time to start.

St. Louis 20 Detroit 31

San Francisco at Green Bay (-5)

The additions of Moss and Manningham could boost the 49er offense

I didn’t believe in San Francisco all season long last year, and I’ve learned mylesson. I’m making up for lost time and giving them the nod here. Maybe it’s too little too late, we will see. This figures to be a great one. I feel like a kid/Lamar Odom in a candy shop right now thinking about this game.

San Francisco 24 Green Bay 27

Carolina (-1) at Tampa Bay

Roses are red, violets are blue, everyone loves Cam Newton, except for you-know-who. I’ll admit that this is just bias, and when Carolina wins I’ll slap myself about picking TB, but I’ve never liked Cam Newton much, and I’ve always liked Tampa a good amount. This is my gut…or really just wishful thinking. You probably should fade my pick and take Carolina.

Carolina 27 Tampa Bay 28

Seattle (-3) at Arizona

Seattle’s defense was quietly really effective last season, and there’s no reason to think that has changed at all. Russell Wilson probably won’t do a whole lot in his first game, but I’m still excited to see what he can do. Meanwhile, Arizona has an ugly quarterback battle that has dragged out way longer than anyone could have hoped, and a few more questions on defense. Arizona’s offensive line is bad, and although they addressed it to an extent in the draft, it’s hard to expect any of those picks to actually help out this season. Bobby Massie might help out at right tackle, but only time will tell.

Figures to be a close and sloppy game, especially on offense. The under (41) probably looks like a safe bet too.

Seattle 21 Arizona 17

Pittsburgh at Denver (pick)

Last season it seemed everyone either really wanted the Steelers defense to be old, or just wanted to be the first to proclaim it even if it was premature. It was premature, but even with a lot of the old guard leaving and youth replacing them, there are still some areas where they could look old. James Harrison is already a bit banged up, Polamalu couldn’t get his paws on the ball last year as much as he usually does, Ryan Clark won’t play because of his sickle cell trait, Sean Spence is out for the season, Jason Worilds missed most of camp, Casey Hampton is 35 and hurt, and Foote, Keisel, Clark, Polamalu, Taylor, and Hampton are all north of 30. Even LaMarr Woodley has been dealing with injuries already. There are questions galore on that defense. There’s no reason to think that it shouldn’t be top 10 again, but I can’t see how it’s as dominant as we’ve grown to know it as.

Offensively they have seen some turmoil as well. David DeCastro is out for the season. Mike Wallace held out for all of camp. Rashard Mendenhall figures to miss at least a month. Isaac Redman hasn’t played well at all this offseason (however, Jonathan Dwyer has looked impressive). Mike Adams wasn’t able to earn the starting LT spot, which means Max Starks will man that spot for now.

In true Steeler-hating fashion, I’ve listed all the negatives without touching on the positives, but those are obvious. This is still one of the league’s best coached teams, they have a great quarterback with WRs he’s familiar with, and even despite the age and injuries, this defense is great. It will be interesting to see what Haley does. I’ve always been a fan of pulling the reigns in a bit more on Ben, but with an iffy run-blocking line and iffy running backs, they should probably just unleash him again…especially with all that speed outside.

I actually rarely bet against the Steelers. I don’t like them, but I fear them. I said all last year that the only team in the AFC that scared me as a Pats fan was Pittsburgh. Ultimately that wasn’t quite true, but I usually bet with that in mind. I’m not picking Denver here because I hate Pittsburgh, I’m picking them because they’re at home, they’re a bit more healthy, and I think Manning is going to try to put on a show.

Pittsburgh 23 Denver 27

Monday September 10

Cincinatti at Baltimore (-7)

Seven points is just a little bit much for me. I think Baltimore wins, and I think they’re the better team, but I’m not drinking the Ravens kool aid as much as most, and I just really like how Cincinatti’s offense is shaping up and how well they can get after the passer. They’ll get to Flacco a lot, and that’s going to keep this close.

Cincinnati 19 Baltimore 24 

San Diego at Oakland (pick)

Some day San Diego will exceed expectations. I swear, it has to happen. Maybe this year? Sure, why not? Either way, they’re better than Oakland, especially with all of the change that has taken place there. San Diego made few big splashes, but they shored up some weaknesses. I think Rivers will do enough to expose a vastly changed secondary and a weak linebacking corps.

San Diego 33 Oakland 17

Thanks for reading. Tune in next week!

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