I’ll just get this out of the way from the start: this will be the easiest year to predict games this decade. Sound prisoner-of-the-moment? Say what you want, but it’s true.
Instead of having all summer to run OTAs, integrate rookies into practice with ease, and build rapport naturally, teams only had 7 weeks to prepare for Week 1. That means free agents had just a few weeks to learn their new system, rookies were force-fed playbooks, and the Redskins didn’t have time to realize that both John Beck and Rex Grossman suck.
What this all means is that teams who made slight tweaks to their team will gain a steep advantage to those who had a total overhaul. Teams like the Saints, who ran dozens of team practices, will hardly feel a Lockout Hangover and will be ready to roll from Week 1. On the other hand, teams like the Bengals will be stuck in neutral while rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green try to get on the same page.
For this season, my advice would to be to lean towards teams with stability at quarterback and head coach. So, in other words, not the Jags.
In all, I’m pretty excited for this season of football. And as an offering of good will, I promise not to use the word “lockout” in any future football columns more than once. But for now, it’s time to look ahead. I guarantee I’ll trump last season’s not-too-impressive record by one–if not two–wins. I know it’s a tall order, but I plan on following through.
In other news, Bojangles and I could not come to terms on a one-year extension for rights to my Lock o’ the Week, but I am happy to announce that Lance Crackers has stepped up and struck a deal with me as my unofficial official sponsor. Watch out every week for the Lance in my Pants Lock o’ the Week, and without further ado, my Week 1 picks. Home teams in CAPS.
Saints (+4.5) over PACKERS
New Orleans is the one team who–more than any other team–ran practices all through summer. The core of the team is the same with tan upgrade of Reggie Bush to Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles. They are the ultimate stability team, and there really aren’t any gaping holes to the team. I’m going to go out on a limb and say they steal this one from the defending Super Bowl champs straight up, but of course I’ll take the points, too.
Falcons (-2.5) over BEARS
I just keep looking at this Bears team, and I don’t see a lot to love. About the time you identify Roy Williams and Marion Barber as players who can turn around your offense, I’m selling your stock (which I incidentally already have done on SportsGunner).
CHIEFS (-6.5) over Bills
I don’t especially love the Chiefs this year because they are average at QB and well below average at head coach, regardless of how talented they are at the skill positions. But I really don’t like the Fitzpatrick-Gailey combination. I’m going to need a bit more than 6.5 to take the Bills going into Arrowhead Stadium.
BROWNS (-4.5) over Bengals
Do people realize that Andy Dalton is not good? He put up average numbers at TCU. That’s against Wyoming, Colorado State, and UNLV. Just like the previous game, I really don’t like the Browns this year, but the Bengals might not even win 3 games.
BUCCANEERS (-2.5) over Lions
Everyone likes the Lions. Literally. And all this love for a team with a quarterback who can’t stay healthy, a banged-up running back who’s been concussed many times over, and an injured Nick Fairly. I think this is a situation where so many people love this team they’ve flip flopped from very underrated to very overrated. Or the opposite of Josh Freeman. Where did the love for this guy go? He’s really good. Like really, really good.
Titans (+3.5) over JAGUARS
Matt Hasselbeck learning an entirely good system in a handful of weeks scares me, but nothing Luke McCown could ever scare me.
TEXANS (-2.5) over Colts
This is an absolute must-win for the Texans. If they can’t beat Indy with Kerry Collins at the helm, they might as well pack their bags and head to the UFL because they’re never going to win here.
Eagles (-5.5) over RAMS
Even though Eagles are a un-stability team, it’s hard not to like them. It’s also hard not to like the Rams between an emerging star (Bradford) and a horrid division (NFC West), there’s a lot to like. Except that their schedule starts out Philly, at the Giants, Baltimore, Washington, Bye, at Green Bay, at Dallas, and New Orleans. They could conceivably start 1-6. Ouch.
Steelers (+2.5) over RAVENS
What’s a good rule of thumb for these games? Take the points. But if you need a stronger reason, the Steelers are a tight-nit organization. Not much has changed, they’ve got the better quarterback, and the better coach. Furthermore, James Harrison is ready to rip some throats, to the chagrin of Commissioner Goodell.
Vikings (+8.5) over CHARGERS
We’ve learned two things over Norv Turner’s reign in San Diego: he’s an awful planner, and the Chargers always start out slow. And while I don’t love the Vikings, anyone would be better than Chilly. I’ll take the points and Adrian Peterson.
Giants (-3.5) over REDSKINS
This line really should be closer to 13.5 than 3.5.
CARDINALS (-5.5) over Panthers
I really want to take the Panthers. I really do. Admittedly, I do have a rooted interest in Carolina. And I do love me some Cam Newton. But the Panthers just can’t tackle. And Jon Beason might not be playing.
Seahawks (+5.5) over NINERS
These are two teams you should never give up points for. Also, this is the only team the Seahawks will play this year that they will hold an advantage in regards to quarterbacks.
Cowboys (+4.5) over JETS
This game is tough. Really just tough. But in the end, I trust Tony Romo much more than I trust Mark Sanchez, and Jason Garrett has really toughened up this Cowboys team. I have a knack that the ‘Boys will pull this one out, or at least keep it close. Or maybe its just that I secretly hate the Jets deep down.
Patriots (-5.5) over DOLPHINS
I’m confused as to who wrote this line. Everyone knows TFB and The Hoodie never let up during prime time. You can come to my house and take down my TV with a baseball bat if the Pats blow this one. Yeah, this is the first-ever Lance in my Pants Lock o’ the Week.
BRONCOS (-0.5) over Raiders
Couldn’t we get a better matchup for the first slate of MNF games? Oh, I’ve got it! First half is Orton vs. Campbell, but the second half is Tebow vs. Pryor. What? Pryor’s suspended? Well how else could we make this game interesting, No Fun League?