Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Week 1 NFL Picks: Oh, This Again

So for the past month, I've pretty much had the NFL Network on in background for an untold number of hours, to the point where I suspect I can recite the heavy rotation ads. It's not a good experience. This much fake football tends to dull the senses and make the entire operation seem pointless, especially when you are watching the same 5 to 10 vanilla offensive plays run over and over again. I'm not sure that anyone has ever lost an NFL game from having pre-season film show plays that pretty much existed in last year's games, but NFL coaches are tiresome beasts, and they hate fake football nearly as much as I do.

Yet, it's still on.

Seen with six months of space between and the utter lack of hope for my Eagles to be relevant, the whole game seems kind of pointless.

Yet, it's still on.

Tomorrow night, it all starts again, and I've got two fantasy leagues and a decade of picks and all this Mo Men Tum to do it all. I'm going to put on an NFL jersey for work because that happens on Opening Day now, and in a month, jump on a plane to go to a live game, and maybe my fantasy teams might finally cash. Hell, the Eagles might even be watchable. It's the NFL; watchable isn't a very high bar.

Sure, the game is compromised ethically, with massive brain injuries happening to players later in life, municipalities hijacked by repugnant oligarchs, the dumbest and most corrupt media this side of politics, and so on, and so on.

Still, it's, um, on. Baseball's unrelentingly boring now, basketball is months away, I gave up hockey decades ago, and the Olympics make the NFL's malfeasance look like stealing nickels from the till. It's better than college, I don't live in the parts of the world that mark out for high school, and the rest of the nation is just beyond the pale for it.

So... now that we're all ready to jog slowly through a paper wall... on to the picks!

* * * * * 

CAROLINA (-3) at Denver

The Bummer Year starts early for Denver, who won't be as good on defense this year, and will suffer from a lack of pre-snap adjustments and tempo mastery that was Peyton Manning's last NFL-level skill. Neither of these teams are going back to the Big Dance this year, but Carolina lost less, and will actually run some NFL caliber WRs out there now.

Panthers 24, Broncos 16

GREEN BAY (-5.5) at Jacksonville

Maybe my most confident line of the week, with QB Aaron Rodgers getting back to his prior status as Unfairly Good now that he's got weapons and a running back that doesn't list badly to port. Jacksonville's Blake Bortles has some fans of his QB work in fantasy, but in the real world, he's a turnover machine.

Green Bay 41, Jaguars 20

Buffalo at BALTIMORE (-3)

Two teams with more hope than reality, and defenses that aren't to their usual pedigree. I'll take the home town Ravens to win on Referee Shenanigans against what might be the only team in the league that the refs hate worse than the Carrion.

Ravens 26, Bills 18

Chicago at HOUSTON (-6)

Are the Texans sneaky good, or just good enough to win the second-worst division in football? Probably the latter, but the Bear defense might fool us into thinking the former, especially at home against an offense that is trying to fit in too many new pieces at once.

Texans 26, Bears 17

Cleveland at PHILADELPHIA (-4)

Probably two of the worst six teams in the league on display here, and it's not overstating the point that this is damn near a must game for Philly. New HC Doug Pederson has put his hind quarters in the fire fast by going with #2 pick Carson Wentz as his starter despite very limited pre-season work and a highly paid veteran back-up, after he and GM Howie Roseman airmailed Sam Bradford out of town in the Great Nero Kelly Purge. Against a Browns offense that looks like it wants to get QB Bob Griffin killed faster than usual, they'll operate from short fields and score enough to convince idiots that All Is Well.

Eagles 27, Giants 17

TAMPA (+3) at Atlanta

The Falcons are just not a team I trust, especially with QB Matt Ryan becoming gun-shy in the red zone. This Bucs team is frisky, and look ready to contend in the NFC South. Oh, and the Falcon defense is still porous until proven otherwise.

Bucs 31, Falcons 20

Minnesota at TENNESSEE (+2)

As pure of a pick'em game as you can have in Week One, with the home team coming from a bad division, with a second year QB with uncertain weapons and a shaky HC... but the road club is using QB2, has shaky WR issues of their own, and has an older and potentially more mediocre defense. At least the RBs should be good. Give me the Titans, because when Sam Bradford is your QB Savior, you aren't going far.

Titans 23, Vikings 20

CINCINNATI (-2.5) at NY Jets

Probably the best of the 1pm games, with two clubs that should be in the wild-card hunt all year getting each other early in a game that might flip a tie-breaker later. I like Cincy because their ceiling is higher, because QB Andy Dalton is aces in the regular season, and because their defense can be dominant when they aren't losing their minds. Also, I just don't trust this Jet offense to do enough to sustain drives, what with RB Matt Forte looking suspect and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick being QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Bengals 27, Jets 24

OAKLAND (+1.5) at New Orleans

Everyone's dark horse AFC contender starts things off fast in the now pliant Big Easy, with the offense showing real promise, especially early in the year, when everyone's healthy. I think Oakland fades on depth issues later, because Bad Organizations are Like That, but that's not the problem now. As for the Saints, they still need a defense, and QB Drew Brees can't just carry them to home dominance any more. Going to be a long year.

Raiders 31, Saints 27

San Diego at KANSAS CITY (-6.5)

This Chiefs team is loaded, deep and ready to do real damage, which is all kinds of bad news to a Charger club that's going to spend yet another year distracted by venue uneasiness. Look for all facets of the Chiefs to score in this one, and the conference's best home field advantage to seem downright fearsome.

Chiefs 34, Chargers 17

Miami at SEATTLE (-10.5)

Speaking of loaded, the Seahawks are going to be the best team in football for the fourth straight year, with QB Russell Wilson and a suddenly potent WR corps taking them up another level. Against a Miami club that seems genuinely excited to have retread RB Arian Foster to tote the rock, this spread should be covered by the half. The only reason it's this close is early season unease.

Seahawks 34, Dolphins 13

Detroit at INDIANAPOLIS (-3.5)

If the Lions still had their nasty DL of a few years back, this game could have been interesting, because the Colts OL is not good, and QB Andrew Luck can turn it over under pressure. But since that unit has regressed to the mean, look for the first of many games that Luck backers will cite for his inevitable Comeback Player of the Year award in the AFC in January.

Colts 34, Lions 24

NY Giants at Dallas (+1)

Another pure pick'em game. The Giants have been oddly dominant in Dallas -- to be fair, plenty of teams are now that Jerry Jones turned his venue into a festival of ego with tens of thousands of seats going to carpetbaggers -- but their offensive line looks like turnstiles, their defense is too new to be good yet, and the Dallas ground game might just control this one with ball control and safe throws for rookie QB Dak Prescott. (Who looks depressingly competent, too.) Watch for last-minute weirdness, because this series delivers that, but a Dallas win.

Cowboys 26, Giants 24

New England at ARIZONA (-6)

Fun fact about the Patriots: you can get them early in the season, especially when HC Bill Belichick is on the road, feeling out his roster, and trolling his Look At Me Look At Me Look At Me fan base with a September loss that will light up the suicide hotlines. Especially against a Cardinals defense that can push finesse teams around, with QB2 Jimmy Garoppolo, who is a few weeks away from letting us forget how to spell his name.

Cardinals 30, Patriots 23

PITTSBURGH (-3) at Washington

The first of many weeks this year where DC Fan remembers that, like a presidential election, the illusion of competent footballery only exists in town once every four years, because the NFC lEast is the most Special of divisions. Pittsburgh's defense is miles ahead of last year's mess, and the offense is among the league's best. Oh, and they'll have more fans than the home team by the middle of the third quarter, because their fans travel and DC's fans are quick to turn a profit. Right decision, again.

Steelers 40, Racial Slurs 20

LA RAMS at San Francisco (+2.5)

It should tell you all that you need to know about how good Chip Kelly's landing pad is by the fact that the NFL has given them the Punish America time slot of the second half of the first MNF games, which means the soul-killing horror of Chris Berman and Trent Dilfer in the booth, too. If you've ever wanted to question your faith in a benevolent Supreme Being, this broadcast team is for you. As for the game itself, the Ram defense is ornery enough to turn Kelly's pretty little nothings into speed bad drives, and no one is fooled by Tempo Tempo Tempo any more. Oh, and just go to bed, rather than watch this train wreck.

Rams 20, Niners 16

Career: 759-750-49

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