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Week One Picks

September 8th, 2004

Here’s a nifty little feature I’m transferring over from The Moon Hoax: a weekly helping of completely useless advice on picking and betting NFL games.

Why is it useless? Because this kind of thing is always useless. I don’t know what’s gonna happen on the field on Sunday (or tonight, or Monday night — or whenever they get around to throwing a Miami/Tennessee game). Obviously, nobody does. But I extra don’t. I’m not a handicapper. I’m not a full-time football analyst. (Not that those guys get it right either.) I’m not an anything but a guy who watches too much football and thinks he’s got it all figured out.

So why read this? Eh, I don’t know. Maybe it’s entertaining. Maybe you’re really bored. Maybe there’s a detail here that you missed elsewhere that helps you make a better pick on your own. Maybe I have as good a chance at figuring this stuff out as anyone else. Or maybe if you do the exact opposite of what I advise, you’ll get rich. You’ve gotta figure out what to do with this yourself. I just make the picks.

Here are my two big pieces of advice for week one:

If you’re picking straight up, like in an office pool or something, stick with the favorites. ‘Cause let’s face it, you haven’t followed every move every team has made in the off season. You don’t know who’s carrying the ball for the Titans or the Cowboys. (No one’s sure who’s carrying the ball for the Dolphins or the Vikings — not even the Dolphins and the Vikings — except now the Dolphins kind of know.) You don’t even know who Lee Suggs is. So who the hell are you kidding? Just take the word of the people who know these things. Games where the home team is favored by three or less? Flip a coin. It’s chances are better than yours (or mine).

And, if you’re betting, umm, don’t. You’ve waited since February for pro football to return; you can wait another damned week to start pissing away your hard-earned cash. You didn’t watch much pre-season football (I know, because nobody watches much pre-season football) and even if you do, all you really know is which teams’ third stringers stack up best against which other teams’ third stringers. You wanna stake real money on that? Well, my friend, you may just have yourself a bit of a gambling problem. And that’s cool and all, but, shit, my friend, go to the casino. The slots will treat you better. Trust me.

Oh, wait, one more thing: bet the over. Defense never kicks in until about week four, and with the league’s promise to crack down on illegal contact by DBs, we are gonna see some serious scoring until those guys adjust.

Here’s how I see ’em shaking out:

Indianapolis (+3.5) at New England
Three reasons the Pats are gonna carry this game: 1) Spread aside, too many people believe the Colts are gonna win. Straight up win. That’s what people thought about Pittsburgh, when they opened their 2002 season against the defending champion Pats in a night game at Gillette Stadium. They were wrong then, and they’re wrong now. Because people are always wrong. About everything. 2) The Colts are destined to be one of those bounce-back teams. They’re gonna drop at least two of their first three games — this one and their home opener against Green Bay for sure, and maybe even the game at Tennessee in between — and all the experts are gonna be talking about how their season is over. Then they’ll come roaring back and win 11 of their last 13, only to drop their first playoff game. That’s just how it’s gonna go for them. 3) The Colts have what looks like one of the league’s best offenses (again). The Pats have what may be the league’s best defense (assuming they really have replaced Big Ted Washington). So that’s sorta even. But the Pats O is way, way better than the Colts D, a fact that will become painfully obvious around midway through the third quarter as Brady spreads the ball around liberally and Corey Dillon chugs toward 100 yards on the night. Just watch. Take the Pats straight up, and if you have to bet, go ahead and give the points. The Pats are gonna win by a touchdown.

Baltimore (-3) at Cleveland
You might learn who Lee Suggs is in this game (assuming he gets over his neck stinger and plays), but with Baltimore’s amazing run D on hand to shut him down, you won’t learn what he’s capable of. Give it time. Meanwhile, look for William “Mean” Green to get stopped after a yard or two a lot and the Ravens and their lineup of alleged criminals to pull off an away win that will launch them toward a 10-6 finish and a playoff berth.

Arizona (-11) at St. Louis
You know how Arizona pretty much always sucks? Well, this season, they suck even more than you could possibly imagine. 0-16 looms. Pick the Rams, of course. Never give 11 points in an NFL game — except maybe this one.

Cincinnati (+4.5) at NY Jets
Cincinnati might just be a decent team this year with Carson Palmer under center and Rudi Johnson getting his real moment in the sun. And the Jets’ D is gonna suck yet again. But there will be no stopping Chad, Santana and Curtis this week. Look for the Jets to win and cover.

Detroit (+3) at Chicago
The Lions are being pegged as a sleeper team. And maybe they are. The Bears are being pegged as the team with Thomas Jones carrying the ball. Expect Jones to come alive and the Lions to remain asleep (for this week). Take the Bears and give the points.

Jacksonville (+3) at Buffalo
Two more teams with alleged sleeper potential. Watch this game and you’ll get a whole new sense of what the term sleeper means (actually, it’s a very old sense — primal, really). Just go with the home team straight up. Don’t give the points; don’t take the points.

Oakland (+4) at Pittsburgh
I’m picking the Raiders here, but that’s because I’m a Raiders fan and I believe they’ve got their shit together. I promise you the Steelers will not get any production from the run in this game. Not with Oakland’s defensive front there to stop them. Hines Ward, on the other hand, may well give the Raiders secondary a workout. And the Raiders’ offense? Well, we’ll see. Looks good to me, but, as mentioned, I’m a fan. If I were you, I’d pick the Steelers straight up and stay the hell away from the line.

San Diego (+5) at Houston
Watch this game strictly to see LaDainian Tomlinson run the ball, which can be a beautiful thing. Take the Texans, because they’re at home and because Drew Brees is not their starting quarterback. But don’t even think about giving those five points. Why? Because it’s the Texans giving five, that’s why.

Seattle (-2) at New Orleans
Seattle’s gonna tear up the league this season, right? That’s the word from the experts. I’ve heard that song before, though, and while I’m willing to listen, I’m a ways away from singing along. We’ve all heard that song sung about the Saints in the past, too, though. And it just never comes true. I’ve gotta go with the home team in the upset here, and I recommend that you do the same. Straight ahead, or getting two, the pick is the same.

Tampa Bay (+1.5) at Washington
Joe Gibbs was a great coach. Jon Gruden is a great coach. There’s really nothing else happening here that bears mentioning. Except that Tampa’s gonna take it by three. Take the points and make the pick.

Tennessee (-3) at Miami
Eventually, they’re gonna figure out how and where and when to play this game. And when they do, the Titans are gonna win it by six. Because, yeah, Miami has a decent D. But Ds don’t score too much. And Ds can’t spend 60 minutes on the field and still be effective. And Lamar Gordon ain’t gonna win a game all by himself four days (or three, or five) after getting traded.

Atlanta (-3.5) at San Francisco
Michael Vick to Peerless Price. Over and over and over again. Do the Niners actually have an offense? Even with Vick gimpy, Atlanta wins it by seven or more.

Dallas (+4.5) at Minnesota
Randy Moss is still a jackass, but he’s a talented jackass. Talent wins games. Moss has a big night. Moe Williams accounts for two touchdowns. Vinny Testaverde throws his usual three picks. And the Vikes walk away with a two-touchdown margin of victory.

NY Giants (+9) at Philadelphia
Poor Kurt. Poor, poor Kurt. Poor Giants. Poor, poor Giants. Maybe the offense will learn something if they can take their attention off their icepacks long enough to watch McNabb and Owens in action. Won’t matter. If you wanna run effective plays, you’ve gotta keep your opponents’ D out of your backfield, and the Giants can’t pull that off. Much as it pains me to say so, you’ve gotta be willing to give the points on this one.

Kansas City (+3) at Denver
Look for some great defensive play in this game, but don’t look too hard, you’ll strain your eyes. Or I could put it this way for those new to the game: Those guys streaking down the field into the end zones on pretty much every other play — those guys are called wide receivers. Yes, Denver’s D is better than it was last year, but it’s still not gonna stop the Chiefs’ O. And while Denver is lacking at wideout, it’d be hard not to find a way to get around the Chief’s secondary (the coaching may be better, but the players still have to do the work). Pick one of these teams to win, because one of them almost certainly will. Which and by how many points, I have no idea.

Green Bay (+3) at Carolina
Carolina’s not going back to the Super Bowl. They’re not going back, because they’re not gonna be able to maintain any control at the line on O. And while they’re D may be able to keep them in games, it won’t win many on its own. Green Bay, on the other hand, may be going places, if it can figure out how to shore up its secondary. This night, however, belongs to the defending conference champs, if only by the matter of a field goal.

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