Archive for September, 2007

Week Four Picks

September 27th, 2007 Comments off

Here’s the best advice I’ll ever give you: Don’t bet so much as a nickel on professional football this weekend. Just don’t. From a gambling perspective, this week has disaster written all over it. Take a look. The road teams are favored in nine out of 14 games. And, mark my words, five of those road favorites are gonna lose outright. Now, tell me which five. You can’t, can you. In fact, looking down the list, you’d be hard pressed to name even two with any real degree of confidence. And if you look at the stats and the trends, you’re gonna come away feeling like six or seven of those road favorites might actually win and cover. But tell me which ones. Or, let’s make it easier: name three. Get my point? Good. So take the week off. Just sit back and enjoy the craziness. Me, I’m gonna go ahead and make some picks, but I’m not expecting to do very well, either straight up or against the spreads. So I’m keeping these between you and me, which is to say I’m not involving anyone who makes being wrong harder by attaching vig to the deal. This way, if I’m 0-14 come Monday morning, I’ll at least know it could have been worse; I could have lost money as well as my pride.

Houston (-3) at Atlanta
The Texans may need to start Ron Dayne in place of injured Ahman Green here. That means … um, it means … uh … I think it means the guy running over Atlanta’s defensive front will have a nicer looking beard. So, you know, maybe that’ll make the Falcons feel better or something. You can feel good about giving double the spread.

NY Jets (-4) at Buffalo
Much as I’d love to see the Jets lose this game, I can’t see it happening. I mean, the Jets are still awful and all, but considering the increasingly dire state of the Bills’ health, I’d sooner pick Syracuse than Buffalo to top New York. The Jets come out ahead by a field goal.

Baltimore (-4.5) at Cleveland
So now it looks like Kellen Winslow may be sidelined for a bit. Because, yeah, that’s what Cleveland needed. One more reason to focus on the Indians. I’m taking Baltimore and giving the points.

St. Louis (+12) at Dallas
So here’s the situation: You’re 0-3. Your most important offensive weapon is out. Your quarterback is playing with broken ribs. Your offensive line hasn’t managed to stop (or even slow down) anyone all season (which goes a long way to explaining those first two points). And you’re headed into a road game against what may be the best team in the NFC (for the moment, anyhow). What do you do? Two things: 1) Brace and hope it doesn’t hurt too bad when the Cowboys stick that fork in you; and 2) Start preparing for the draft. Dallas by two touchdowns.

Chicago (-3) at Detroit
Will Brian Griese be able to succeed under center for the Bears? Long term, I have no idea. (I have a guess, though, and it ain’t yes.) But for this weekend, I should expect so. Let’s face it, Uncle Rico (by which I mean the “real” Uncle Rico, not the guy Pro Football Talk calls Uncle Rico) could throw the ball successfully against Detroit’s secondary. The big question is whether Chicago’s seriously banged-up defense can stop Detroit from scoring enough points to make Griese’s relative success at QB irrelevant. And you know what? In the end, I have absolutely no idea what to expect. I’m gonna take the Bears, just because I believe they’re still the better team (and, OK, because I still think Matt Millen is a bum, which has to count for something), but I’m not looking for them to win it by a point more than the three they’re giving. And I won’t be at all surprised if this game goes the other way.

Oakland (+4) at Miami
This would have been a great game 30 years ago. Right now, it’s likely a painful matchup between two teams in the beginning stages of rebuilding. And that makes it kind of hard to figure where this game will go. Sure, both of these teams are supposed to have strong defenses, but neither unit has exactly lived up to expectations so far this season. Offensively, both have been incredibly uneven. The Raiders have been successful moving the ball on the ground, dismal through the air. The Fins have been the inverse. So which conventional wisdom do you like? The one that says take the team that can run the ball, or the one that says take the home team? Joey Porter says go with the home team. Indeed, he guarantees his new squad isn’t falling to 0-4. But I don’t know. I think Joey just isn’t used to losing (the experience of last season notwithstanding). I also think Pep has something to prove. I know he’s gonna find a way to keep his team competitive and I think that might just balance the Raiders’ offense out long enough for them to sneak in a road victory. So that’s how I’m picking it.

Green Bay (-2) at Minnesota
You know, this game is supposed to be harder to pick than it is. Because with the way Green Bay’s been playing and the way Minnesota’s been playing this season, there’s no reason to even consider picking against the Packers here. Except that the Packers supposedly struggle at the Metrodome. Thing is, though, they don’t so much anymore. Yeah, in the Favre era, the Packers are 5-10 in Minnesota. That’s ultimately not all that shocking. I mean, the teams are division rivals. And the Metrodome is the Vikings home stadium (and home field advantage means a lot in the NFL). But since 2000, the Packers are 4-3 in Minnesota. And that tells me there’s not a whole lot behind the idea that Favre’s Packers can’t beat the Vikings in the Metrodome. And since Green Bay, as noted, has the better team by far, I’m going with the Pack to win it by four.

Tampa Bay (+3) at Carolina
I don’t care who you are, where you are, or what team you’re facing, you just don’t win football games with David Carr under center. Tampa Bay squeaks out a victory and takes an early lead in the race to end the season with the distinction of being the least bad team in the NFC South.

Seattle (-2) at San Francisco
I don’t think either of these teams is going much of anywhere this season. But that’s not important here. What’s important here is that the Seahawks are playing better than the 49ers on both sides of the ball. Moreover, the Niners aren’t running the ball well and aren’t stopping the run at all. So I’m taking the Seahawks, giving the points, and having done with it.

Pittsburgh (-6) at Arizona
Set the whole question of whether Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm are primed for revenge aside. Set aside the question of whether the Steelers are as good as their record, too (though of course they are; everyone always is; that’s the whole point of records). Here are the real questions you need to answer in order to call this game: Does the fact that the Cardinals coaches obviously know the Steelers better than the Steelers coaches can possibly know the Cardinals count for something? Does the fact that Edgerrin James has tended to play well against Pittsburgh make a difference? Do you believe the Cardinals wide receivers match up well against the Steelers DBs? Well enough that it doesn’t matter whom the Cards start at QB? And does the fact that the Steelers have to do a good bit of traveling for this game mean anything at all? My answers: Yes, maybe, yes, probably, and perhaps just a little. And with that in mind, I’m taking the upset. Cards win it by a point on the last play of the game.

Denver (+9.5) at Indianapolis
If Jay Cutler’s gimpy and Javon Walker’s slowed down, what are Denver’s chances of keeping this game close? Non-existent. That’s what. Colts by 17.

Kansas City (+11.5) at San Diego
Even Norv Turner shouldn’t be able to engineer a loss this weekend. Chargers by 10.

Philadelphia (-3) at NY Giants
Both of these teams played better last weekend than they had in weeks one and two. But I’m still not sold on the Giants. I expect to see the Eagles D blitz all day long, put the fear of god in Eli, and start looking like a team that can challenge Dallas for the division crown. Philly by nine.

New England (-7) at Cincinnati
I thought it might be fun to take a look at what happened the last time these two teams met (oddly enough, it took place in Cincinnati in week four of the 2006 season), so I did. Here’s what I found out about that game: The Patriots were 2-1 going in. The Bengals were 3-0. The Pats had been averaging 17 points a game on offense. Their defense had been giving up the same. The Bengals, meanwhile had been scoring 28 points a game and allowing only 16. The New England offense a week earlier had fallen apart when visiting Denver, having seen no reason to respect the Pats passing game, committed to stopping the run and held the Pats to 50 rushing yards and seven points. The Pats went at the Bengals determined to restore balance to the O, and stuck to their game plan even though they fell flat on their first two drives (which ended in a punt and an interception) and fell behind 6-0 in the first quarter. Then the offense kicked into high gear. The Pats moved the ball with ease on the ground — Laurence Maroney rushed for 125 yards and two TDs, Corey Dillon for 67 and one — and succeeded to the extent they needed to in the air — Tom Brady was an unimpressive 15 for 26, but had 188 passing yards and two TDs. The New England defense, meanwhile, dug in and held Cincinnati to 271 yards of total offense. The Pats won 38 to 13. What does any of that have to do with this game? Well, the Patriots of 2007 are clearly better on both sides of the ball than last year’s team. And while the current Bengals have been about the same team offensively as they were last year (though that may be changing for this game with loss of a key contributor), they’ve also been significantly weaker on D. More to the point, the Bengals are going to have an all but impossible time stopping the Pats’ wide receivers unless they drop extra bodies into the secondary (and maybe not even then). And the trouble is, if you put all your efforts into slowing down New England’s passing attack, all you’re gonna do is open the door for a 250-yard day on the ground. So it’s pick your poison time for the Bengals on Monday night. And the only difference between whether the Pats come out on top 45-13 or 28-3 will be whether Cincinnati surrenders the air or the ground.

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Week Three Picks

September 21st, 2007 Comments off

The spreads may be a lot closer this week than they were last, but I’ve found the picking to be substantially easier. That probably means I’m in for a number of rather unpleasant surprises. (Not that I’ll actually be surprised.)

Arizona (+7.5) at Baltimore
Steve McNair is healthy and ready to start again. So that’s something about this game that’s very nearly interesting. Ravens by six.

San Diego (-4.5) at Green Bay
I’m gonna go way the hell out on a limb here and predict an upset. “What the hell?” you ask. Do I really think the Chargers are that bad just because they got their helmets handed to them by the best team in the league? Nope. It ain’t that. Do I really think the Packers are that good just because they won a weird-ass game over Philadelphia in week one and then stomped the hapless Giants in week two? Nope. Ain’t that neither. In fact, I feel reasonably certain that the Chargers are a better team than the Packers. But I’m also reasonably certain that San Diego hasn’t had time to fix the problems that led them to be slaughtered on Sunday night. And while the Packers are hardly the Patriots, they do have the advantage of having watched how the Pats got it done, and, perhaps more important, of catching the Chargers at the end of a second consecutive long road trip. Plus, look, Brett Favre isn’t Tom Brady (hell, there were times last season when I wasn’t even sure he was Brett Favre anymore), but he’s still got a hell of an arm, and if he starts hurling passes into the secondary I saw on the field in Foxborough, he’s gonna make some big connections. In fact, I’m not entirely sure that the San Diego secondary right now is much better than the New York secondary that Brett torched for 286 yards and three touchdowns in the Meadowlands a week ago. Moreover, the Chargers’ most important offensive weapon has yet to come to life this season (which can happen when you take the pre-season off), and I’m not sure that the Packers are the team an offensive player is likely to come to life against. Green Bay has won its last six games (stretching back to week 14 of last season). And the Packers defense has allowed only 11.3 points per game during that stretch. That’s not so shabby. They’ve been fairly solid against the run this season, too (though they haven’t faced a running back like LT — perhaps because there isn’t another one in the league). Even having stated all that, however, I recognize that there are good reasons the Chargers are favored here (like the San Diego pass rush, which, when it’s not up against New England’s O-line, is tough as nails). So I’m aware that it’s a low percentage pick. But I’m sticking with it. Green Bay walks away with its third win and San Diego dips into a bit of a hole.

Indianapolis (-6) at Houston
Look, the Texans are a fun, exciting young team. Clearly they’re gonna win a bunch of games and maybe even flirt with playoff contention this season. And I’d love to believe they have a chance at beating a Colts team that didn’t play at all well in Nashville last weekend. But with Andre Johnson out of the lineup it just ain’t happening. Colts by seven.

Minnesota (+2.5) at Kansas City
I’m fairly certain that one of these teams is gonna win this game. And I’m willing to bet (though not real money) it’ll be the one with the actual defense. Just a hunch. I’m taking the Vikings to pull off the upset (as it were).

Buffalo (+16.5) at New England
It’s true. Buffalo often does play the Patriots tough in Foxborough. But, man, you’ve gotta actually field a team before you can play anybody tough. (And his stunning self-confidence notwithstanding, one increasingly capable quarterback alone does not constitute a professional football team). Plus, the Pats are pissed off and on a mission. New England may start a bit slower this week than they did in weeks one and two, as the offense adjusts to playing a 4-3 defense, but by the time they’re finished, the Pats will have put at least three touchdowns between themselves and the Bills.

Miami (+3) at NY Jets
You know, I’d love to believe the Jets could drop this game and fall to 0-3. And given the fact that New York’s offense likely will be facing some long fields and a semi-stout Miami defense, I don’t expect the Jets to run away with this game. That said, unless that Dolphins D finds a way to score, I’m not sure the Jets O will need to produce much. The Jets win this one 10-6.

Detroit (+6.5) at Philadelphia
Three things I know concerning this game: The Eagles aren’t nearly as bad as their 0-2 record. The Lions aren’t nearly as good as their 2-0 record. And, concussion or no concussion, it’s gonna take an actual miracle for Jon Kitna’s team to come out of Philly with a win. Not being much of a believer in football-related miracles myself, I’m taking the Eagles straight up, though I do think the Lions will be able to keep the margin to more like three even without divine intervention.

San Francisco (+8.5) at Pittsburgh
You could, I suppose, look at this game as a matchup of undefeated teams. And it is that. But thinking about it that way doesn’t do you much good. Better, it seems to me, to view it as a game between a team that’s edged a couple of NFC teams and a team that’s beat the living bejesus out of a couple of AFC teams (albeit weak ones). And the good thing about looking at it the second way is that not only is it more realistic, but it leaves you with very few questions about how this game is likely to turn out. I’m taking the Steelers and giving the points.

St. Louis (+3.5) at Tampa Bay
If this game were being played in week five or six, I’d just go to the stats and trust they’d tell the story. But two weeks of stats are worthless in sizing up a matchup of such enigmatic teams. I have no idea what to make of either of these teams. I think I know the Bucs are vulnerable to the run, which could prove advantageous to the Rams if they can manage to remember that they have Steven Jackson in the backfield. But I haven’t seen St. Louis make the most of Jackson yet this season, so I’m not exactly sure I can expect to see much of him in this game. I also think I know that as capably as they’ve played to date, the St. Louis defense looks to me like a unit that could have trouble stopping a well-executed West Coast attack. Only, I haven’t seen consistent evidence that the Bucs are able to mount one of those (one game, however well played, being something entirely different than a season). So I can’t say I see a clear advantage either way there. In the end, I’m going with the Bucs to win, but only because they’re at home. And I think the Rams should be able to keep the margin to a field goal. But, you know, like I said, it’s nothing more than guesswork.

Jacksonville (+3) at Denver
Hey, Jack, nice going with the whole dumping Byron Leftwich in favor of David Garrard thing. That really fixed your team’s offensive problems. I mean, eleven and a half points a game should be more than enough to get your team to, say, 5-11. Well done. Enjoy unemployment. Denver finally wins one before the final play of the game. Probably by about a touchdown.

Cleveland (+3) at Oakland
Somewhere in Ohio there’s a Pop Warner team that plays better defense than defensive mastermind Romeo Crennel’s Cleveland Browns. No overtime means no overtime shenanigans. Oakland by a touchdown.

Cincinnati (+3.5) at Seattle
Somewhere in Ohio there’s a Pop Warner team that plays better defense than defensive mastermind Marvin Lewis’ Cincinnati Bengals. And probably another one that plays better D than the Seattle Seahawks. At the very least, we’re looking at a matchup of a middle-of-the-pack NFC team and a middle-of-the-pack AFC team. That plays out the same way virtually every time. Cincy comes out of this week’s shootout on top by six.

Carolina (-4) at Atlanta
Four points? Four? That’s it? Look, I know the Panthers are off to a pretty uneven start this season, and I know division games are almost always a challenge, particularly when you’re playing on the road, but let’s be realistic here. The Falcons have managed to put 10 points on the board so far this season. Ten. Over two games. In case you’re horribly mathematically challenged, that’s five points per game, which isn’t merely worst in the league, it’s almost inconceivably awful. The Panthers, meanwhile, have averaged 24. So, shit, you tell me how to pick this game. I’m playing the averages and looking for Carolina to win by 19. No matter what, I promise you, they’ll come out ahead by at least six.

NY Giants (+3.5) at Washington
The Redskins have certainly played solid defense so far this season. And there’s no surprise there. The only question remaining if you’re Joe Gibbs and Al Saunders is, how do you kick your offense into gear? The answer, for this week anyhow, is that you host the New York Giants. They’ll make any offense look great. Redskins by 10.

Dallas (+3) at Chicago
This is another game that I’m not sure what to make of. The Bears may be struggling on offense (three guesses as to why, and the first two don’t count — ahem) but their defense is as rock-solid as ever. And the fact of the matter is that as good as the Cowboys offense has looked, it’s not like they’ve put up their 41 points a game against the cream of the NFL crop. That said, there’s no taking away the fact that Dallas has exploded out of the gage while Chicago has just sort of lumbered into the season. And if the Bears don’t come into this game ready to play hard and well in every facet of the game, they’re gonna find themselves sitting at 1-2 as they head toward three straight division games (the first two of them played on the road). I think the Bears know what they’re up against and I think they’ll come ready to play. And I think that will be enough to edge them past the Cowboys by a point or possibly two.

Tennessee (+4.5) at New Orleans
Listen, coach, I’ve got an idea that I think might help your team get off the schneid. You know, before it gets to be too late. It’s maybe a bit outside the box and all, but I’m thinking it just might work. Ready? Here it is: Hand the ball to the guy who carried your team deep into the 2006 playoffs. Not on every down. I mean, I know you’ve got your exciting second-year back, much admired second-year wideout and highly paid quarterback to showcase and all. And, sure, you don’t want to be one dimensional. But maybe, you know, a bit more than 10 times a game. Again, it’s just a thought. But I think if you do it, you can probably win this one by six or seven points.

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Week Two Picks

September 14th, 2007 Comments off

Giant spreads. Road teams giving points all over the place. Yeah, that’s not a recipe for a prognostication disaster. The following, then, is offered for entertainment purposes only. And most of the entertainment will come by way of looking at how wrong I was after the fact.

Houston (+6.5) at Carolina
This is a tougher game to pick than the line lets on. Why? Well, even though the team Houston beat up on last week was quite possibly the worst in the league, I believe the Titans are a pretty good squad. And, yeah, the Panthers are, too, as their own week one results make abundantly clear. That said, Carolina didn’t really get going at St. Louis until after the Rams had lost Orlando Pace for the game (and, as it turns out, the season), and that’s no small matter. I think the Texans O line promises to pose much more of a challenge to the Panthers’ defensive front than the Rams line did, enough of a challenge potentially to make this one of the week’s more exciting games. I do think the Panthers will come out on top, but probably not by more than a field goal.

Cincinnati (-6.5) at Cleveland
Which offense looks like more of a powerhouse to you, this one or this one? OK, now try this: Which quarterback to you consider more solid, this one or this one? And which defense do you believe is better, this or this? So if the Steelers put up 34 points against the Browns while the Bengals put up 27 against the Ravens, what do you figure the Bengals offense is going to do to the Browns D? And if the Bengals D beat up on Steve McNair, taking the ball away from him four times, what chance do you suppose Derek Anderson has of succeeding? My thoughts exactly. Bengals in a rout.

Atlanta (+10) at Jacksonville
Virtually every week on the NFL schedule includes at least one game that has ugly written all over it. This is one of three of them this week. Jags 14-6.

Green Bay (pick ’em) at NY Giants
I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t terribly impressed with the way Eli Manning was playing before the shoulder injury. And however serious that injury may or may not be, it can only make Eli worse. And worse than bad ain’t good. (Indeed, the only thing worse for the Giants than having to start an injured Eli Manning would be having to start a healthy Jared Lorenzen.) Add the loss of key players on both sides of the ball. And factor in the unavoidable conclusion that any team that can beat the Eagles ought to be able to beat the Giants, and you really can’t do anything but anticipate win by the visitors here.

Buffalo (+9.5) at Pittsburgh
So Kevin Everett is alive and very well might walk again. That’s great news. It’s also about the only good news the banged-up Bills are likely to get this week, or for some time to come. Emotion may help Buffalo keep this close, but it won’t be enough to lift them to a win. Steelers by a touchdown.

San Francisco (+3) at St. Louis
If you were to look only at the first half of last week’s Carolina-St. Louis and Arizona-San Francisco games, you’d think picking this game was a breeze. But you can’t do that. You certainly can’t ignore the way the Rams offense essentially ceased functioning after Orlando Pace left the game. And you have to at least consider the fact that Alex Smith started to look like an NFL quarterback toward the end of his team’s struggle with the Cardinals. So when all is said and done, this game starts to look a lot like a coin flip to me. But the Rams are at home. And the Niners are coming off a tough Monday nighter. So I’m taking St. Louis to win this one and expecting a push vs. the spread.

New Orleans (-3) at Tampa Bay
This is where we learn the real truth about the Saints. Because, look, it’s one thing to get your asses kicked by the Colts in Indy on the
first night of the season. But, second straight road game or not, you can’t lose to the Bucs. Not this season. Saints by six.

Indianapolis (-7) at Tennessee
Don’t expect the Colts to have as easy a time of it in this game as they had with the Saints in the season opener. The Titans appear to be about playing smashmouth football on offense this season, and that’s just the kind of thing that I believe can wear the Colts small, fast defense down. I’m gonna be very interested to see what happens when Jeff Fisher and Norm Chow send Chris Brown and big ol’ LenDale White barreling between the tackles on down after down. Something tells me that may lead to Vince Young having a very productive second half. On the other side of the ball, I’m gonna be very interested to see how Indy’s rookie left tackle Tony Ugoh fares against Kyle Vanden Bosch. I’m gonna go ahead and guess it won’t be as well as he did against Will Smith a week ago. So what does it all mean? It means I expect the Titans to stay in this game and play the Colts tough. And I won’t be at all surprised if Tennessee manages to pull off the upset. But I’m not picking it that way. In the end, I think Indy comes out ahead, but maybe only by three.

Seattle (-3) at Arizona
Pretty much everything I thought I knew about the Cardinals was confirmed on Monday night. They’re getting better, finally starting to make good use of all that talent they have on offense. But they’re not quite there yet. And they won’t quite be able to beat the Seahawks, though I’m guessing it comes down to the last play. I’m taking Seattle and expecting them to best the spread by a point.

Minnesota (+3) at Detroit
I don’t know what to make of this game, because I still don’t know what the hell to make of either of these teams. Both of them looked good last week, but both were playing weak opponents. I guess I’m expecting the home team’s possibly blossoming offense to prevail against the visitors’ potentially stout D. That’s not a hell of an endorsement of either squad, I know. But it’s what I’ve got. Lions win, Vikings just cover.

Dallas (-3.5) at Miami
Don’t expect the Cowboys to put up as many points against the Dolphins’ tough D as they did a week ago against the unit the Giants are trying to pass off as an NFL defense. But you can probably expect the Dallas D to accomplish something fairly similar to what we saw Washington pull off against the Miami offense, which is to say, hold the Fins to very few points even if they’re able to move the ball some. All in all, I’m thinking Cowboys 24, Dolphins 10.

NY Jets (+7.5) at Baltimore
You know what? I don’t care who plays quarterback for which team, because the Jets don’t have what it takes to stop Willis McGahee and the Ravens have everything they need to stop whatever New York throws at them. Baltimore puts a pounding on the Jets that will have Eric Mangini desperately scanning the Ravens sideline in hopes of spotting a video camera, microwave emitter, voodoo doll … anything on which he can try to hang responsibility for his and his team’s ineptitude. Ravens by 17.

Kansas City (+12) at Chicago
It may be a bit early in the season to be asking a question like this, but does anyone else have the feeling the Chiefs may be headed for 0-16? The Bears win this one by twice the enormous spread.

Oakland (+9.5) at Denver
There’s not a lot to say here. If you can’t beat Detroit at home, you can’t even hope to compete with Denver on the road. And that’s just a fact. Broncos by 10.

San Diego (+4) at New England
You might have forgotten this, what with all the hubbub and everything, but the Patriots will, in fact, be playing a game this Sunday night. A football game. Against a tough opponent. And since it’s a prime time game, there are gonna be lots of cameras on the sidelines. Lots. Some of them will sometimes be pointing at the coaching staffs for both teams. But most of them will mostly be pointing at the field. That’s where they’ll record New England, with no illicit technological assistance (real or imagined), dismantling San Diego. Pats by two touchdowns.

Washington (+7) at Philadelphia
It’s ultimately just a guess, but I’m thinking we saw the real Redskins but not the real Eagles a week ago. I’m looking for a correction in the latter here, which should mean Philly wins by three.

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Week One Picks

September 6th, 2007 Comments off

You want an accurate prediction? How’s this? Over the course of the next five days, 16 NFL teams will win and anther 16 will lose. And now that I’ve put that in writing, you can bet your ass there’s gonna be a tie somewhere. (Look at that. Four sentences in to week one and I’m already covering my ass.)

OK here’s the real thing. I don’t like all the big spreads this week. And I don’t like the fact that there are four road teams favored, one of them by a full touchdown. You know what it all means? It means nobody knows what’s gonna happen. And it means that that come Monday morning, there’s going to be a boatload of people shaking their heads and asking themselves why they didn’t stop an think, because they should have known better. And you know what? I’m gonna be one of them. Because I’m mostly picking the favorites. Stupid? Without a doubt. But at least I admit it, and you have to admire that, at least sort of sideways. Right?

Here we go. Sixteen predictions sure to steer you in precisely the wrong direction.

New Orleans (+6) at Indianapolis
Man, do I ever want the Saints to win this game. And, you know, they could. The Saints are certainly a better balanced team, and probably a better team overall, than the Colts. And I expect New Orleans to fare better over the course of the season. But I just can’t pick a six-point road dog to win in week one. I’ll take the Colts straight up, and hope I’m wrong, and the Saints to keep it close.

Denver (-3.5) at Buffalo
I don’t have one bit of faith in Buffalo’s defense. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, but it won’t be this weekend. Road favorite or not, I’m taking the Broncos, and I’d give twice the spread.

Pittsburgh (-4.5) at Cleveland
I have a rule against picking upsets straight up in week one. And usually you do want to pick the better team in any given football game. But then I keep thinking about how well Jamal Lewis has typically played against Pittsburgh (albeit while playing for a different, better team). And about how Ben Roethlisberger is so good at throwing the ball to opposing DBs. And about how I really think Kamerion Wimbley’s gonna live up to his potential this season. And that makes me want to pick the Browns. Who are at home. In a season-opener. Against a divisional rival. So I’m taking Cleveland to pull off the upset, and planning to cross everything I’ve got and hold my breath when the highlights roll around.

Philadelphia (-3) at Green Bay
Donovan McNabb’s healthy (for now, at least), which means that Lambeau or no Lambeau, I can’t pick against the Eagles. Philly wins this one by six.

Kansas City (+3) at Houston
I can’t tell you how psyched I am to start Ahman Green in fantasy this weekend. Almost as psyched as I am that I’m not a Kansas City Chiefs fan right now. A long, long season for the Chiefs starts with a big loss here. As strange as it is to type this, I’m looking for Houston to win this one by about three touchdowns.

Tennessee (+7) at Jacksonville
I think the Titans will finish this season ahead of the Jaguars, but that’s because I think the Titans will round into form in about week four or five and become a better team than the Jags. Right now, in this game, I’ve gotta think Jacksonville finds a way to come out ahead. But not by anything like seven points.

Atlanta (+3) at Minnesota
Quick, find a standout wide receiver on this depth chart. Exactly. So however talented Tarvaris Jackson may be (and that’s a matter that’s yet to be decided), unless you really, really believe in Visanthe Shiancoe, you’ve kinda gotta figure Atlanta’s defense has one man to stop here. That can’t be too hard, right? And that’d be great news for the Falcons, if they only had an offense. I’m not entirely sure there will be three points scored in this nightmare. But I have to guess that if there are, they’ll be put up by the home team. So I’m taking Minnesota straight up, and looking for a push with the points.

New England (-7) at NY Jets
Man, imagine being at home in week one of a new season, facing a division opponent that is having to go without a superstar defensive end (on account of injury) and a key, veteran safety (on account of cheating), both of whom are also team leaders, and yet the oddsmakers still peg you as an underdog by a touchdown. That’s gotta hurt. But probably not as much as getting beat by two touchdowns will.

Carolina (pick ’em) at St. Louis
The smart thing to do, when picking a fairly even matchup in the first week of the season, is to go with the home team. Another smart thing to do in a lot of situations is take the team with Steven Jackson at running back. That’s how you know I’m stupid. Because I’m taking the Panthers. And other than referencing this guy, I can’t begin to articulate why.

Miami (+3) at Washington
Look, Hudson Houck is one of the best (and maybe the best) offensive line coaches in the NFL, but it’d take Rumple-fucking-stiltskin to make something useful out of the half-talents Miami has protecting its aging, concussion-prone quarterback this season. And if I remember right, Washington has itself a hell of a defense. I’m taking the Redskins and giving the points. Oh, and hey, Trent. Duck.

Tampa Bay (+5.5) at Seattle
The big Buccaneers news this week revolves around the fact that on their they’re carrying four quarterbacks, only one of whom has had any success as a starter in the NFL. And the thing about Garcia, though I’m rather a fan of his, is that he’s done quite well when playing for good teams and fairly poorly when playing for mediocre or bad teams. Tampa Bay aspires to mediocrity, so I don’t have high hopes for Jeff. The Seahawks, on the other hand, are approaching mediocrity from the other side (that is, they used to be good) and while I think they’re going all of nowhere this season, they should be able to top the Bucs with relative ease. I’m taking Seattle and giving the points.

Chicago (+6.5) at San Diego
Two letters: LT. Chargers by 10.

Detroit (+1.5) at Oakland
The Lions start their march toward a 10-plus-win season with a visit to the team that was worst in the NFL last season (worse, by one game than the Lions) and that still hasn’t signed the first overall pick in the 2007 draft (because, you know, $30 million just doesn’t go as far as it used to). And yet they’re still getting a point and a half. That’s not much, but it’s not looking like the oddsmakers are quite buying into your prediction, Jon. Then again, neither is anyone else. The Raiders D shuts the Lions down, while Oakland’s offense does just enough to win, but not cover. Final score: Oakland 10, Detroit 9.

NY Giants (+6) at Dallas
If Eli Manning couldn’t get the job done with a future Hall of Fame running back around to take some of the pressure off of him, how on earth is he going to do it without Tiki? And don’t even get me started on New York’s defensive secondary. Cowboys by seven.

Baltimore (+2.5) at Cincinnati
You know what’s crazy? This week one game could very well turn out to be the deciding factor in the AFC North championship. If the Ravens can somehow pull off an upset here, they’ll have an edge over what’s probably the only team in the division that poses a real threat to them this season. But then the Ravens aren’t going to pull off the upset, so I’m just talking. (Baltimore will still win the division, mind you. Just not in week one.) Bengals by a field goal.

Arizona (+3.5) at San Francisco
Next season this is gonna be a hell of a matchup. Right now, San Francisco has the edge. Probably to the tune of four points. (I will be staying up to watch, though, because I think this is gonna be a fun game, if not necessarily a great one.)

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2007 Season Predictions

September 5th, 2007 Comments off

Once again I find myself on starting my season predictions post by noting that there isn’t one good reason why I should be making them, nor one good reason why you should pay any attention to them. Why would you want to read what I think might possibly (but not probably) transpire over the course of five months of regular-season and post-season play in a professional sport in which it’s hard enough to predict what might happen over the next five days?

Let’s fact it: people who know a ton more than I do about pro football can’t get this stuff right. My chances of doing anything but stumbling into the odd lucky prediction are zero. If I had my head screwed on straight, I’d find something more productive to do with my time. You, too.

And yet here I still am. And here you still are. Go figure.

So let’s get on with this.

Regular Season Records
As with last year, I’m not gonna try to predict a final record for every team, because that’s too foolish an endeavor even for me. I will, however, tag a range of wins that I think each team is capable of (because, somehow, the avoidance of specificity actually makes me feel less like I’m wasting my time — and yours). So here’s that, division by division.

AFC East

New England, 13-15
Even with a depleted defense to open the season, it’s hard to imagine this team losing very many games. But no one goes 16-0.

NY Jets, 6-8
Can’t see the Jets not taking a step back from last season. There’s no one to surprise.

Buffalo, 5-7
Denver, at Pittsburgh, at New England, NY Jets and Dallas before the bye, Baltimore immediately after it. That’s a bitch of a way to open a season, especially when you’ve got no defense. And where go you from 1-5?

Miami, 3-5
The Dolphins get a nice trip to London out of this season. So they’ve got that going for them, which is nice.

AFC North

Baltimore, 10-13
This team was good last year when Steve McNair didn’t really know the offense.

Cincinnati, 9-11
In the end, you still have to be able to play defense to win consistently.

Pittsburgh, 6-8
Sure, Mike Tomlinson’s a good coach. That doesn’t make Ben Roethlisberger a good quarterback. Nor this anything other than a transition year.

Cleveland, 6-8
Sooner or later, Romeo, they’re gonna expect you to find a way to win games.

AFC South

Indianapolis, 9-11
The problem with creating a blueprint for beating your own defense in order to win a championship is that afterward everyone knows how to beat your defense.

Tennessee, 8-10
Continuing to move in the right direction.

Houston, 7-9
Watch Ahman Green have one more (and probably one last) great season as the system imported from Denver starts to kick in for real.

Jacksonville, 4-6
Say goodnight, Jack.

AFC West

San Diego, 10-12
Even Norv Turner should be able to succeed in the regular season with the talent on this team.

Denver, 10-12
Once Jay Cutler gets rolling, this team’s gonna be hell on wheels.

Oakland, 5-7
Get your roll on, Pep. The defense should keep the Raiders in games again this season. And the offense should be improved enough not to lose so many of them.

Kansas City, 3-6
Two things that can really help you win football games: A true starting quarterback and a defensive line. Maybe the Chiefs will be able to find some of what they need at the top of the 2008 draft.

NFC East

Philadelphia, 10-12
So long as Donovan McNabb can stay healthy (and I’m guessing he can), no one in the division can touch the Eagles.

Dallas, 8-10
I’m just not sure about Tony Romo.

Washington, 7-9
Yeah, they look better than this on paper, but they always look better than this on paper and they never pay it off on the field.

NY Giants
I’d predict Tom Coughlin gets fired at the end of the season, but I’m not sure he’ll last that long. Neither am I certain that Eli Manning will ever be a legitimate NFL quarterback. That Phillip Rivers sure looks talented, though, doesn’t he?

NFC North
Chicago, 9-11
Post-Super Bowl collapse? In this mediocre division? I can’t imagine. Don’t see the Bears chewing up opponents again this season, either, though.

Green Bay, 7-9
Sorry, Brett, but you can play until you’re 50 and you’re still not getting back to the Super Bowl.

Detroit, 6-8
It’s not Jon Kitna’s predicted 10, but it’s something. Sort of.

Minnesota, 4-6
There’s some nice young talent here, but the key word is young. Should be getting pretty good by the time they complete the move to L.A., though.

NFC South

New Orleans, 12-14
The Saints get four free victories this season thanks to the horrendous state of the Bucs and Falcons.

Carolina, 10-12
Good. But not good enough to take the division away from New Orleans.

Atlanta, 4-6
I’m rooting for Joey Harrington. So, you know, that ought to help.

Tampa Bay, 3-5
Wasn’t Jon Gruden supposed to be some kind of genius? What happened? And where’s his next stop?

NFC West
San Francisco, 8-10
This is where it all comes together. Look for the Niners actually win a playoff game – after the 2008 season.

St. Louis, 7-9
Steven Jackson alone will get you seven wins. I figure the rest of the Rams are good for one or two.

Seattle, 6-8
I do expect Deion Branch to catch a lot of balls this season. Way to show those Pats, Deion.

Arizona, 4-8
Lots and lots and lots of talent. And at last a competent coach. I just think it’s gonna take another year to kick in.


Since I’m here predicting the impossible to predict anyhow, might as well take a stab at the post season.


1. New England
2. Baltimore
3. San Diego
4. Indianapolis
5. Cincinnati
6. Denver

1. New Orleans
2. Philadelphia
3. Chicago
4. San Francisco
5. Carolina
6. Dallas

Wild Card Round

Cincinnati defeats Indianapolis
San Diego defeats Denver

Chicago defeats Dallas
Carolina defeats San Francisco

Divisional Playoffs

San Diego defeats Baltimore
New England defeats Cincinnati

Philadelphia defeats Chicago
New Orleans defeats Carolina

Conference Championships

New England defeats San Diego
Philadelphia defeats New Orleans

Super Bowl XLII

New England defeats Philadelphia, 41-10.

Pro Bowl

Nobody knows what happens, because nobody watches.

So there it is. Your season at a glance. Except that at least one of the teams I think is gonna be great is actually gonna suck. And one of the teams I think is gonna suck is gonna be great. And also pretty much everything else I’ve predicted is gonna turn out to be either slightly off the mark or just plain old wrong.

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