Yes, it’s that glorious time of year. Summer is over and the leaves are browning. Well, maybe not yet for those suffering in the near triple degree weather in Houston, New Orleans, and Tampa. Either way, its time to set our fantasy lineups, grab our favorite bag of chips and sit back to watch the great game of football. The distractions of Brett Favre, Darrelle Revis, and Terrell Owens are over and the real games are about to begin.
This year, I’m sticking with picking against the spread and plan on finishing the season better then 131-111. The Lock of the Week will also stay, and I’m excited to announce its unofficial official sponsorship of Bojangles! I’m aiming to end the year with a record good enough to make the NFL playoffs and my Bojangles’ Its Bo Time! Lock of the Weeks to have a better record then the San Diego Chargers. Without further ado, my Week 1 NFL picks. Home teams in CAPS.
SAINTS (-6.5) over Vikings
This game has Saints written all over it. The Super Bowl Champs opening the season at home. Minnesota’s top receiver out. Percy Harvin has migraines. The Saints will be hyped up to prove to the world that they are over their Super Bowl hangover, and they will ride their crowd to a fairly easy victory.
Dolphins (-3.5) over BILLS
The Bills aren’t just bad; they’re dreadful. We’re passed the stage where we can keep saying, “Oh, well if only Trent Edwards had more time to throw!” or “You’d all see how good Trent Edwards is if he had some real weapons!” He doesn’t have any protections, Lee Evans is his only semi-capable receiver, and he is not a good NFL quarterback. The Dolphins have the three best skill position players on the field, and should cruise for their first division win of the year. This is your first ever …. Bojangles Lock of the Week!
BEARS (-6.5) over Lions
This is an inciting game to take the points and go with the Lions; Ndamukong Suh is making his debut and Jeff Schwartz is becoming one of the premier young coaches in the league. However, the Bears won’t be losing their home opener to a team who has won a grand total of 2 games over the last two years. Expect bounce-back years from Matt Forte and Jay Cutler along with a 50% effort from Julius Peppers.
TITANS (-6.5) over Raiders
An 0-6 start crippled the Titans’ season, Tennessee came back after their bye to win 8 of their last 10 games. Vince Young and rookie Kenny Britt helped to balance a rush-first offense, including leading Tennessee to five wins in November with a 96.9 QB rating. The Raiders, on the other hand, are just dysfunctional. They will be better with a gigantic upgrade at quarterback with Jason Campbell (who can actually complete a pass for over 8 yards and doesn’t down cough syrup in Sprite by the bottle). But, then again, Tom the Cable Guy coaches the Raiders. Give me the Titans by over a touchdown.
PATRIOTS (-5.5) over Bengals
Think about this: the last time Randy Moss was in a contract year, he racked up 1493 yards and an NFL record 23 touch down receptions. Ponder this: Tom Brady’s knee injury takes around a year to recover from and an extra year to get back to full speed. Mull this over: the Patriots haven’t lost an opening day game since 2003 and a home opener since 2001. Consider this: Cincinnati has lost their last opening day games. Yeah, I’ll take the Pats and the Hoodie.
Panthers (+7.5) over GIANTS
I don’t get what all the buzz around the Giants is. If not for the luckiest catch in NFL history and a few uncalled holding penalties, Eli Manning would be known as one of the bigger busts of the past decade, a largely inconsistent leader who largely depended on 6’5″ Plaxico Burress. Their defense went from tops in the league two years ago to middle of the pack. Brandon Jacobs started to run standing up. As for the Panthers, they have the best running tandem not just in the league, but in NFL history. Carolina closed Meadowlands Stadium with a 41-9 thrashing of the Giants. I’m putting my money on Carolina christening New Meadowlands Stadium with a big win.
Falcons (-2.5) over STEELERS
Atlanta and Pittsburgh are two of my favorite sleepers this year, but it all comes down to the quarterbacks this year. I really like Dennis Dixon, but his realistic ceiling is rookie season-Vince Young. Matt Ryan has the potential to be a top-5 NFL QB, and I think he’ll take a big step up this year. Coach Mike Tomlin said Big Ben won’t have his job handed to him in Week 6, but after this wake-up call, it shouldn’t be too hard of a decision.
BUCS (-2.5) over Browns
Who cares? Period.
Broncos (+2.5) over JAGUARS
Which rookie is going the farthest under the radar? You think I’m talking about Tim Tebow since its the Broncos and Jags (and I’m certainly not going to lecture you about Tyson Alualu’s value), but no, its Demaryius Thomas. The first receiver off the board in this April’s draft, Thomas has size (6’3″, 224) and speed (4.39 40-yard dash time) and great hands. Offensive genius Josh McDaniels picked him over highly hyped Dez Bryant for a reason. Demaryius will become a big-time threat soon and a fantasy stud in the next 2 years.
Colts (-3.5) over TEXANS
How many times have we seen this before? Every year for the last four or so seasons, we think THIS is the Texans year. They have promising you talent and as good of a passing attack as anyone. They feed off the bottom feeders, but when they face the big dogs, they crumble. In fact, they’ve lost their last six matchups against Indy, and 15 of their 16 matchups in franchise history. You can take the points; I’ll take the Colts.
SEAHAWKS (+2.5) over Niners
This is a tough game to pick because the Niners are clearly better, but Seattle has all of the intangible advantages. Qwest Field, already the loudest stadium in the NFL, will be extra rowdy for Pete Carroll’s first game, plus they’ll be hyped to start the season against a division rival. In a much weaker NFC West, I think Coach Carroll can and will finally find success, starting in Week 1.
EAGLES (+1.5) over Packers
This is another really hard game to pick, and could end up being the best game of the week. The Packers certainly have one of the top offenses in the league led by Aaron Rodgers, but their defense is looking more and more suspect. They lost their top pass rusher Aaron Kampman to the Jags and their secondary is depleted with Al Harris and Atari Bigby on the PUP list. Andy Reid and the Eagles are out to prove that they made the right decision by trading Donovan McNabb within the division and giving the keys to Kevin Kolb, so losing their season opener at home is not on the agenda. Jeremy Maclin should be in for a big game in a tight victory.
Cardinals (-3.5) over RAMS
Yes, the Cardinals lost Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle, and Karlos Dansby, but have you seen these Rams? They’ve won 6 games in the last 3 seasons and drafted just as bad. They’ve punted their last 4 first rounders including two number two picks (Jason Smith, Chris Long, Adam Carriker, and Tye Hill). Also, may have just passed up the best pass rushing lineman since Reggie White. At least Matt Millen hit a homer on Calvin Johnson and a solid double on Roy Williams.
Cowboys (-3.5) over REDSKINS
Usually, I lean towards the home team in a prime time matchup, but I can’t do that here. Dallas is more talented, has better chemistry, and has less Albert Haynesworth-sized locker room problems. Romo is better then McNabb at this point, and he has about twice as many weapons. Between Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Roy Williams, and Jason Witten along with the combination of Felix Jones, Marion Barber, and Tashard Choice, Romo will have plenty of weapons to choose between to pick apart the average-at-best ‘Skins secondary.
Ravens (+3.5) over JETS
Again, it’s tough to pick against the home team in prime time, but I’m taking Baltimore here. Darrelle Revis probably isn’t in great shape and we don’t know how he’ll fit into the new locker room after sitting out all off-season. The Ravens have the same bloodthirsty defense they’ve always had, just with a very competent offense this time. They go three deep at receiver (Boldin, Mason, and now Houshmandzadeh) with a great runningback tandem in Ray Rice and Willis McGahee. The Jets can definitely talk the talk, but can they walk the walk? Ray Lewis doesn’t think so, and when Ray Lewis speaks, I listen.
CHIEFS (+5.5) over Chargers
Last season, the Chargers went to Oakland for what was supposed to be an easy Monday night win to open the season, but they barely escaped with a 24-20 win. This year, San Diego will be going to Kansas City, but they have a very different team. All-Pros Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill are holding out and Antonio Cromartie is a Jet. Kansas City looks like a team on the verge of success with a great run game, solid young quarterback and plenty of young talent on the other side of the ball. So do I think San Diego can march into Arrowhead Stadium and quiet a raucous crowd on national television by beating them by six points? No.