Tuesday, September 4, 2012

NFL Week One Picks: Get Out Of My House

Welcome to another year of painstaking NFL picks, which is to say, EVERY DAMN GAME GETS A BLURB. We've been doing this for six years now, slowly but surely getting better at the picking if not the writing, and will keep at it until we get every pick right. All for the low, low price of absolutely nothing. You are in the presence of an American Hero, really. (So, um, go heroically click on a half dozen ads.)

We are also just hours -- OK, a reasonable number of hours, but still, hours -- away from the start of the NFL season. And this year, that doesn't bother me at all, because of what it represents.

You see, I used to complain about how the NFL made picks columns impossible with their staggered schedules, coin-flip passfests, turnover or nothing mentality and need to take over more and more of your time. But then I came to realize that (a) it was making me sound like an old -- ok, older -- grump, and (b) most of you would be completely OK with 24/7/365 games and hundreds of teams, since that pretty much describes following the college and high school games.

But if you want the real secret to things, it's this: football means fall. Fall means my school-age children GET OUT OF MY HOUSE. (I've been working from home for a couple of years now, and unlike last year, haven't been traveling so much.) They really, really need to GET OUT OF MY HOUSE. For many uninterrupted hours every day, where I can just do my work without worrying about who said what to who, can I have this or that, and the television screen can be blissfully OFF. (The dirty little secret of working from home is that you are rarely 100% consumed by work, but also never 100% away from it.)

Anyway. The kids.

Love 'em dearly.

Would jump on grenades for them.

But for the sake of all that is holy...



So... on to the picks!

Dallas at NEW YORK GIANTS (-4)

Just in case the G-Men were somehow going to come into their coronation game flat, Jerruh Jones had to amp up the noise. It'd be nice if the division's second-worst owner had done something to fix the team's lack of healthy pass catchers, or if the revamped Cowboys secondary didn't, well, need to be revamped in the first place. This one's going to be startlingly easy, aided by the fact that, well, Dallas isn't all that good -- and Jay Ratliff's out and Jason Witten is doubtful. Oh, and there's also this: 7 straight losses for the Cowboys under the NBC night cameras. Not only do they not win the big games, they don't win the medium games to get to the big games.

Giants 31, Cowboys 20

Colts at BEARS (-10)

Let's get this straight: rookie NFL QB makes his first start on the road against a veteran defense that's known for befuddling even veteran signal callers. Oh, and he's at the helm of a team that more or less fell apart and quit last year, and the opponent should have been a playoff team, if they were only healthy. I guess what I'm saying here is that Andrew Luck could play really well and still lose by three scores. Especially when you factor in the final nail in the coffin for the road team, which is their historically inept special teams... and Devin Hester looms. Take the Bears and rest easy.

Bears 34, Colts 16

PHILADELPHIA at Cleveland (+8.5)

Last year, the Birds also opened on the road against a routinely inept opponent (St. Louis). They fell behind early, got lucky when several skill players got hurt, and slowly but surely pulled away as the game went on. Expect something similar here, as QB Brandon Weeden really isn't ready to start at the NFL level, RB Trent Richardson missed training camp, and TE Benjamin Watson isn't the kind of passing threat that usually tortures my laundry.

Finally, there are two other factors at play here. Owner Jeff Lurie's quasi-threat to Coach For Life Andy Reid will put a put of a spark in the club, along with QB Michael Vick's desire to put an awful preseason behind him. Last and not least, it's really hard to feel good about the Browns' chances when their first-stringers got rolled by the Eagles' subs two weeks ago. Rough year in Cleveland. Which is to say, any year in Cleveland.

Eagles 27, Browns 13

BUFFALO at New York Jets (-1.5)

Can't tell you how much I don't like this Jets team this year, but the Post pic above does a fine job to start. And sure, maybe they are just playing possum, and the defense is going to be fine, and they've saved up all of the Wildcat magic to spring on the Bills... or, well, maybe we shouldn't believe in outdated magic bunnies from 2008 and the power of a back-up college option QB to save a franchise that's basically three sheets to the wind. Buffalo's got a decent secondary and upgraded their line this year; they are going to contend for a wild card. The Jets? Not so much.

Bills 24, Jets 16

Washington at NEW ORLEANS (-9.5)

Are you, like me, ready to delight in Washington Fan's fresh level of disappointment in the 2012 season, as hyped rookie QB Robert Griffin III becomes something less than Cam Newton, who also, it should be noted, lost a whole lot of games last year? I know I am, as a substandard WR corps and revolving door RB game (note -- they finished 30th on the ground last year out of 32 teams -- Mike Shanahan ain't' no genius no more, folks) makes him do too much and take way too much punishment. The disillusionment starts early in the bayou, where Saints Fan and team are going to spend a week raising middle fingers to Roger Goodell in an old-school dome field advantage curb stomping. Savor it, folks. Savor it. (Oh, and the fact that this line has been shrinking makes me keep the big number anyway for the disastrous gloat moment that ensures an upset.)

Saints 45, Redskins 20

New England at TENNESSEE (+6.5)

Something I caught from preseason: the Patriots are having real issues protecting the QB. They also have a reshuffling of the RB corps, and a move to devalue WR Wes Welker, who gets the quick throw checkdowns, rather than the RBs. Add it all up, and you've got an offense that's going to sputter, just a little, for a few weeks before they get the protection up to speed. On the road against a frisky Titans team that gets after the QB fairly well, and have quietly transitioned to a wide-open offense, I like a home team cover. And maybe even a shocker of an upset. (OK, not really.)

Patriots 27, Titans 24

JACKSONVILLE at Minnesota (-3.5)

A mild upset, in that a terrible team on the road isn't usually expected to beat a terrible team at home, but I think this Jags team has made some strides. QB Blaine Gabbert looked all the way up to competent this preseason, WR Justin Blackmon is pretty beastly, and RB Rashad Jennings is going to be as amped up as humanly possible to show the team that he deserves an equal or better timeshare with returning holdout stud RB Maurice Jones-Drew. Against a Vikings team with mediocre targets and their own RB (Adrian Peterson) that isn't quite ready yet, I think they can do the deed. And that no one's going to remember the outcome outside of a month from now.

Jaguars 20, Vikings 17

Miami at HOUSTON (-13)

First things first: the Dolphins aren't going to win a game before Halloween. and not many after that. Even if QB Ryan Tannehill is actually ready for NFL action, he's not ready to win a road game against a borderline Super Bowl contender, let alone one that's going to control the clock with a ground game that's going to limit his chances in a big way. This is going to be a fine game to own RB Arian Foster. Which is to say, like just about every game.

Texans 30, Dolphins 9

St. Louis at DETROIT (-8.5)

There's no reason to like the Rams here, none at all. The defense can't hang with the Lions' fast-break attack, the offense doesn't travel well, and there's every possibility that this gets ugly with speed. Getting St. Louis at home to start the year is the de facto equivalent of a homecoming game. The Lions' year is going to go south at some point, but it's not happening in Week One.

Lions 34, Rams 13

ATLANTA at Kansas City (+2.5)

Interesting challenge right away for the presumptive NFC South champions, who at least get good weather for their road trip. The Chiefs are physical on both sides of the ball and could present a real challenge here, especially if they can control the ball with RBs Jamal Charles and Peyton Hillis, but at some point, QB Matt Cassel will have to force something, and the Falcons' upgraded secondary will take advantage. It's a close one, and the Falcons won't get much from their running game, but a cover nonetheless.

Falcons 24, Chiefs 20

San Francisco at GREEN BAY (+5)

Probably the best game of the week, in that it's the only one with two very likely playoff teams, and a definitely plausible NFC Championship Game. The Niners come in with better weapons at wideout, more depth at RB, and the confidence born from going deep last year. They also still have the best-regarded defense in the conference. And none of that is going to matter too much, because QB Aaron Rodgers is just that big of a monster with a half-dozen exceptional targets, and the Packer defense is going to be actually tolerable this year, especially when it comes to getting after the passer. But, still, fun game.

Packers 30, Niners 20

CAROLINA at Tampa Bay (+1.5)

Another fun game, with the Panthers coming in a little beat up and the Bucs looking to rebound from last year's catastrophe. It's a true toss-up, as the line shows, but until Greg Schiano can show me that he's ready to compete at the NFL level, I'm going with the unstoppable weapon that is QB Cam Newton. But if WR Steve Smith pulls up lame in pre-game, I'm going to hate this pick.

Panthers 24, Bucs 20

SEATTLE at Arizona (+2.5)

Here's how far in the tank I am for rookie Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. I have three QBs on my fantasy roster right now (it's a keeper league, and I'm hoping to catch lightning in a long-term trade value bottle). They are Philip Rivers (on the road in Oakland, without a healthy RB Ryan Mathews, against a bad secondary and a team he's roasted before), Matt Schaub (at home against a Dolphins team that might be the worst in the AFC), and Wilson. And I keep thinking really, really hard about starting Wilson. He's going to have short-field chances thanks to the terrible Cardinals QB situation, RB Marshawn Lynch is looking iffy to poach him in the red zone, and the odds that he just takes the NFL by storm just seem more and more certain to me by the day. But even if he doesn't, the Seahawks win this game with their defense. Or, more appropriately, the Cardinals offense.

Seahawks 20, Cardinals 10

Pittsburgh at DENVER (pk)

The second best game of the week is the non-revenge revenge game for Pittsburgh, who come back to the scene of last year's playoff Tebowing to find a wildly different landscape. QB Peyton Manning makes his debut for the home team, who find themselves in the wacky circumstance of expecting to win on the merits, rather than the luck or the destiny. And with LB Von Miller leading the way, and the Steelers not having enough of a running game to keep things honest, I like their chances. At least as long as Manning remains upright. (Not a given.)

Broncos 24, Steelers 21

Cincinnati at BALTIMORE (-6.5)

A big number for a team that has had trouble with this Bengals team over the years, but I'm not liking what I've seen so far out of Porkopolis. QB Andy Dalton has a strong air of sophomore slump all over him, and I don't like the defense as much as many people. Baltimore's got a chance to be pretty solid this year, even with DE Terrell Suggs, but it's going to be more of a regular season story.

Ravens 28, Bengals 17

SAN DIEGO at Oakland (pk)

Is this the year that MNF's second game is finally watchable? No, no, no, because it never is, and because Raiders QB Carson Palmer has looked godawful this summer, and they won't be able to just hand the ball off to RB Darren McFadden 40 times without having America rise up and enforce a sane workload for a talented but injury-prone back. The Chargers have offensive line issues, but the Raider secondary is a bigger problem, and this game is always like an '80s Super Bowl -- it goes away quick.

Chargers 34, Raiders 20

Last year: 137-119-9

Super Bowls: 3-3 (won last year)

Career: 542-524-26


The Truth said...

I know you had a good year with picks last year but did you just pick the Jags to win a road game?

DMtShooter said...

The perils of watching preseason football, most likely. But I stand by the pick.

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