A New Season, A New System

The NFL is back with or without their normal referees, so it’s time to bring back my weekly picks. This time, though, I’m doing my picks with a twist.

Last season didn’t end up too well, and I’ve got a new system for picking games. Instead of just picking games by the spread, I’ll be picking games and putting apples on each game (betting money is illegal, remember?).

I’m also happy to announce four new unofficially official sponsors of my weekly picks. They fit into my four categories of games: the Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week, KFC Double Down Games, Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games, and Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games.

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games will be worth 10 apples. Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games will be worth (yup, you guessed it) half that value–5 apples. KFC Double Down Games will be worth 20 apples, and the Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week will be worth a whopping 50 apples. At the end of the season, hopefully I won’t be in apple debt.

I’ll be keeping track of my record each week, but more importantly the apple total. Without further ado, here are my Week 1 picks:

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games:

TEXANS (-12) over Dolphins
Matt Barkley really screwed the Dolphins over by not declaring for the NFL draft. Then again, the Dolphins really screwed themselves over by reaching for Ryan Tannehill. Without Brandon Marshall or a real quarterback, I don’t see any way for the Dolphins to win this game. The only question is if the Texans will keep their foot on the gas the whole game.

Andrew Luck and Coby Fleener were best friends and roommates at Stanford, now Fleener will likely be Andrew Luck’s favorite target. Fantasy sleeper alert!

BEARS (-10) over Colts
I love the Bears this year, especially with the reunion of the aforementioned Brandon Marshall with Jay Cutler and coach Jeremy Bates. However, I’m hesitant to take the Bears to win by more than ten because 1) I’ve seen too many games where Chicago’s offense just does not show up and 2) Andrew Luck is really good–good enough to keep this game close with a garbage time comeback.

LIONS (-7.5) over Rams
This is the third straight game I’m taking the big favorite, but I’m not completely sold they will cover. The Lions don’t have much of a running game with Jahvid Best on the PUP list and Mikel Leshoure suspended, but their passing attack is so lethal. And on the other hand, the Rams’ offense is rather innocuous.

Eagles (-9) over BROWNS
How can you not pick the Dream Team, right? Well, more like how can you pick the Browns.

Bengals (+7) over RAVENS
I absolutely love the Ravens, but I can’t say for sure they’ll win by more than a touchdown. Without Terrell Suggs, Baltimore’s defense will still sizzle, but their offense still isn’t fantastic. Plus, Cincinnati’s offense is only getting better with the upgrade from Cedric “Three Yards Per Carry” Benson to BenJarvus Green-Ellis and another year’s progression for A.J. Green and Andy Dalton.

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games:

Steelers (+1.5) over BRONCOS
The Broncos beat the Steelers in the playoffs last year with Tim Tebow, but this is a new season. I’d like to see Peyton Manning take a few hits in a real game before taking Denver to win a game against a strong team with a strong defense.

Bills (+3) over JETS
Both teams are very average, so I’m taking the points. Plus with Mario Williams in the fold, the Jets’ already shaky quarterbacks should be even less inspiring than normal. For a divisional game with two potential wild card teams, this is going to be a terribly boring game.

SAINTS (-7.5) over Redskins
No Sean Payton, no problem. Well sort of. I’m expecting a huge game from Drew Brees and Jonathan Vilma as a form of an F-You to the league. New Orleans will want to prove that they can still win without their head coach, and now that their players aren’t suspended… look out.

VIKINGS (-3.5) over Jaguars
I’m going to need more than 3.5 points to pick Blaine Gabbert and Rashad Jennings.

GIANTS (-3.5) over Cowboys
(Thoughts from Wednesday night) I really want to pick the Cowboys–partially because I just do not like the Giants–but New York’s passing attack and pass rush should be too much for Dallas on the road.

KFC Double Down Games:

Panthers (-2.5) over BUCCANEERS
The Panthers have a far superior quarterback, a better running game, better defensive playmakers, and most importantly more swagger. In other news, the Bucs are in serious trouble because they’re the only team in the NFC without an elite quarterback. Josh Freeman may eventually become elite, but that’s not happening in Week 1.

Falcons (-3) over CHIEFS
I’m in no way a fan of the Chiefs this year if for no other reason than Matt Cassel is their quarterback. Matt Ryan is actually a great quarterback–at least in the regular season–and he has too many offensive weapons (Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez, not to mention Michael Turner and the great Jacquizz Rodgers) to blow this early season game.

49ers (+5) over PACKERS
Both division-winners had big problems, but the Niners did a better job of addressing their problem. Alex Smith now has Randy Moss, A.J. Jenkins, Mario Manningham, and LaMichael James added to his arsenal, and the Niners defense is as strong as ever. I’m not saying San Fran will run away with this game, but I certainly don’t see them losing by more than 5.

CARDINALS (+2.5) over Seahawks
Normally my rule for NFC West games is to just take the points if the 49ers aren’t involved, but I have more reason to take the Cardinals. I don’t trust 5’11” 23-year old Russell Wilson, and I’m not convinced he’ll be any better of a pro than short college stars Troy Smith and Dennis Dixon.

Chargers (+1) over RAIDERS
Since when did Carson Palmer deserve to be favored over a team ran by Philip Rivers? Rivers clearly is no Big Ben or Eli, but he deserves a whole lot more respect here.

Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week:

Patriots (-5.5) over TITANS
The Pats addressed their offense with Brandon Lloyd (they haven’t had a true downfield threat since Randy Moss) and added to their defense with Dont’a Hightower and Chandler Jones. And all they lost was… BenJarvus Green-Ellis? Why aren’t they Super Bowl favorites? They should be favored over a team run by Jake Locker by at least eight points.

Overall record: 0-0

Last week: 0-0

Apple Total: 0

Net Apples Last Week: 0

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