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Week One Picks

September 4th, 2008

And here begins another season of me getting it wrong. Exciting, isn’t it? For the record, keep in mind that no one, including the oddsmakers, has any real idea what’s gonna happen this week. My advice: have fun, but keep your money in your pocket until some trends start to emerge.

Washington (+4) at NY Giants
I’m not sure this game is likely to provide anything like real answers to the lingering questions about the Giants’ linebackers or the Redskins’ passing offense. Sure, you can keep a close eye on what happens when Clinton Portis breaks through the line. But getting outmaneuvered by Portis is hardly evidence that you’re deficient as a linebacker. And if I had to guess (which I suppose do, since that’s the point of this whole thing), I’d say you can expect Jason Campbell to play at least relatively well as long as Portis can be effective enough to keep the Giants’ D honest. Washington loses just the same, though I will take the Redskins with the points.

Detroit (-3) at Atlanta
Ugh. Do I actually have to say something about this game? OK, then, here goes: It should be interesting to see how Matt Ryan fares in his first NFL start. You know, on the highlight shows. Lions by five.

Cincinnati (-1) at Baltimore
You know when you’re in for a very long season? When you’re opening against a division rival that’s been forced to start a rookie quarterback whom it never planned to start (and who isn’t ready), because there just isn’t anybody else and you’re still only giving a point. The Bengals have problems. And by this time next year, they’ll have a new coach. I’m taking Cincinnati and giving the point, but I have to say I don’t feel great about it.

Seattle (pick ’em) at Buffalo
You’ve gotta think the Bills are gonna open strong at home. And, you know, the Seahawks are hardly strangers to slow starts. So, yeah, sure, I’ll take the Bills. Why the hell not?

NY Jets (-3) at Miami
Man, I bet Chad Pennington would love to be a part of handing it to the team that dumped him and the guy (what’s his name again?) who took his job. That is, I bet he’d like that. I don’t bet it’s going to happen for him. Jets by seven. (But for the record, Chad, I’m rooting for ya.

Kansas City (+15.5) at New England
Interesting concept: Take a team that’s starting a rebuilding process and put it up against a wrecking crew. This should do wonders for the young Chiefs’ confidence. New England by three touchdowns. (And Tom Brady doesn’t take a snap in the fourth quarter.)

Tampa Bay (+3) at New Orleans
The big question here is, can the Bucs defense slow down the Saints offense? Because we know the Tampa Bay O should be able to score against what passes for a D in New Orleans. I’m gonna go with yes, Tampa’s D takes just enough away from Drew Brees and the gang to make the difference. That’s right. I’m taking Tampa in the upset.

St. Louis (+7) at Philadelphia
You know, if the Eagles were playing a team with an actual defense, the condition of their receiving corps would be a concern. Maybe it will be next week — unless some guys get healthy quick. But the Rams don’t have a D, so there’s not a whole lot for the Eagles to worry about. I look at this game as one that will pretty much set the tone for the Rams’ season. They’ll score behind Steven Jackson (assuming Jackson, who held out through the preseason, sees significant time on the field). But they won’t score enough to overcome Brian Westbrook and Donovan McNabb, who should be able to complete passes to pretty much whomever Philadelphia can find to line up at X and Z (and, assuming they can find enough healthy bodies, Y) this week. Eagles by 10.

Houston (+6) at Pittsburgh
I think Houston can win some games this season. And I think Pittsburgh is gonna find a way to lose a few. But neither of those things is happening this week. I just don’t believe Houston’s offense is strong enough to overcome a defense that makes it one dimensional. And I’m anticipating the Steelers run D leaving the Texans offense with just one option. That adds up to a Pittsburgh victory, though I expect Houston to hold the difference to something more like four points.

Jacksonville (-3) at Tennessee
Yeah, ummm, three? Really? Maybe I’m missing something here, but I don’t see Tennessee scoring more than three points here. And I’ve gotta figure Jacksonville’s good for at least 17. So I’m gonna take the Jags and give the points.

Dallas (-5) at Cleveland
Don’t hold your breath waiting to see some stellar defense in this game. The offenses for these two teams are, in many ways, mirror images. In each case there are really three players a defense has to account for: the quarterback, the split end and the tight end. Talented running backs for both teams aside, if you can neutralize two out of three of those players, you’re probably gonna come out ahead. And what I’m looking at is a pair of defenses that aren’t going to be able to get that job done. It’s not that neither D can play. It’s just that the offensive weapons on both sides overmatch the opposing Ds. That tells me we’re gonna see a lot of points on the board. And, honestly, I think either team could come out on top. With that in mind, I’m taking the Cowboys straight up, the Browns with the points, and the over. Definitely the over.

Carolina (+9.5) at San Diego
This is what I was talking about in my season preview (see below) about Carolina’s defense. Unless Tyler Brayton has become a completely different player (and has been holding back like crazy in the preseason so as not to show his hand), the Chargers offensive line should be able to double up on Julius Peppers all day. That means no pass rush for Carolina. And it’s all but impossible for anyone to stop the San Diego ground attack. So what do you think happens here? I’m guessing the Chargers win by 14.

Arizona (-2.5) at San Francisco
I’ve been trying to come up with a reason to believe the 49ers might be able to keep this competitive. All week. I’ve got nothing. Cardinals by a touchdown.

Chicago (+9.5) at Indianapolis
Yes, I really do believe the absence of Jeff Saturday (was he stoned when he sat for that picture?) is gonna pose a problem for the Colts in the early part of this season. Just not in this game. Indy by 16.

Minnesota (+3) at Green Bay
I’m really looking forward to this game. Two good teams that match up well against each other. Division rivals, no less, between which no love has ever been lost. And lots of questions at quarterback on both sides, hints of the answers to which should be abundant on the field. In the end, I like Green Bay straight up, because the Pack are at home and because the team (and particularly Aaron Rodgers) simply needs the win more. But I’m still scared of picking against the Vikings defense, so I’m not looking for anything decisive — and I won’t be shocked if Minnesota comes out on top. I’ll hedge by going with Minnesota with the points.

Denver (-3) at Oakland
And yet again we get bitter division rivals squaring off in a battle for the … ah, who the hell am I kidding? The only reason to stay up for this game is to see Darren McFadden in action. And don’t get me wrong; I expect that to be a good bit of fun. And, still, I expect the Broncos to come out on top by about a touchdown.

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