Thursday, September 7, 2017

2017 Week 1 NFL Picks: Don't Get Hurt Out There

Sing It, Al
The early weeks of the NFL season might be the hardest ones to pick against the spread. There's real uncertainty over the fluctu- ations of free agency and draft classes, a ton of talented players have way too much rust from cautious pre-season work, and no one has tape on new offenses or formations. Add in shaky special teams and the usual randomness of turnovers and big penalties, and you get weeks where getting past .500 is an accomplishment.

Where you can make money is on teams that give you a strong feeling of confidence. These are the weeks where you should value your top 5 picks much more than your bottom ones, because until the public gets wind on the breakout team, you can make hay. But don't ride your initial reads past October, because a slow start frequently feeds on itself.

We're also going to throw you a fresh recommendation to check out the latest NFL predictions at Sports Betting Dime - Nice folks, good reads.

And with that... on to the picks!

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KANSAS CITY (+9) at New England

Andy Reid is a uniquely frustrating NFL coach, partly because he just can't get it together with the same performance when he doesn't have extra time to prepare. Make of that what you will. It won't be enough to win the annual homecoming lack of drama game against the Patriots, but the defense hanging in and a late suck-out cover, with a clock-killing drive that has become the hallmark of Reid teams over the years? Sure, that can happen. 

Patriots 31, Chiefs 24


New York Jets at BUFFALO (-8)

The scary thing for New York is that this might be one of the more winnable games on their schedule. Buffalo will cover despite a rusty QB (Tyrod Taylor coming off a concussion protocol), because RB LeSean McCoy is going to have the last good year of his career, mostly by destroying bad teams like the Jets. (The fact that they traded away their best DL for a WR and picks means that even the run defense is gonna stink.)

Bills 24, Jets 13


ATLANTA (-7) at Chicago

The Falcons on the road after the Super Bowl loss has grind it out and look ugly and worrisome written all over it, but this Bears team isn't good enough defensively to prevent a 30-burger even at half speed. It'll be close for a lot longer than it would have been in 2017, but the Falcons stretch it out and get the cover late.

Falcons 31, Bears 23


Jacksonville at HOUSTON (-5.5)

Emotional day for the Texans in Trying To Get Back To Normal Houston, and it helps that they get the NFL's answer to a bye week to start. Look for the Houston defense to dominate, and for fresh calls to end the Blake Bortles Era when he can't even muster up points in garbage time.

Texans 24, Houston 16


PHILADELPHIA (-1) at Washington

If the Eagles are going to do anything in 2017, it's going to require a hot start, because the schedule at the close of the year is absolutely brutal. DC is suddenly bereft of WRs, and Philly isn't, which is a very nice turn of events from last year. Look for QB Carson Wentz to get out to a hot start, and for the defense to salt it away late, despite HC Doug Pederson's best efforts to derp.

Eagles 24, Racial Slurs 20


Arizona at DETROIT (+1.5)

The Lions are secretly good this year -- the RBs are healthy again, which helps loads -- and Arizona's offensive line is going to get aging QB Carson Palmer out of the league. This one will get surprisingly out of hand as a lot of folks soon remember how Arizona at 10am West Coast Time isn't a great thing.

Lions 31, Cardinals 20


OAKLAND (-2) at Tennessee

Maybe the most interesting game of the 1pm docket, with the defending AFC West champions on the road against an emerging Titans squad. Neither team is much to write home about on defense, and both teams have serious holes -- Oakland's STs are especially worrisome, with lots of uncertainty about K Sebastian Janikowski -- but I like the road team to continue last year's magic in close games.

Raiders 34, Titans 30


TAMPA (-2.5) at Miami - Postponed

This game isn't going to happen due to Hurricane Irma, so the surprise NFC South team of 2017 will have to wait to punch around the Dolphins, who don't have the CB strength to put up with Tampa's new weapons. It's also criminally irresponsible to not move this game to a neutral site and preserve the bye week for later, if only because you've set up your world to have no margin for error in the event of, you know, More Bad Stuff Happening To Florida. (Bad stuff happening to Florida? What are the odds?) Oh, and there's also the fact that no bye week for either of these teams significantly diminishes the possibility that either will have a good year. So enjoy your week, Florida.

(Would have been: Bucs 27, Dolphins 24)


Baltimore at CINCINNATI (-3)

The AFC North starts off with stereo division matchups this year, and the pecking order in the division will get established early and often. Neither team has enough of an offensive line to challenge real squads, but the Bengal skill players are good enough to camouflage in certain conditions, and this will be one of those. I'm also thinking that QB Joe Flacco has three turnovers of rust on him, after an off-season of injury rehab.

Bengals 27, Ravens 17


PITTSBURGH (-8.5) at Cleveland

The Steelers are going to cover this number, because they are healthy with their stars on offense and the Browns don't have enough real DBs to stay in the frame, but it's not going to be a runaway. Cleveland will move the ball and score some points, and Steeler Fan will wrinkle up their faces at yet another year of The Defense Isn't Good Enough. But the cover will happen late, because the Steeler offense is not above padding their stats.

Steelers 34, Browns 24


Indianapolis at LA RAMS (-3.5)

Indy has to try to win a road game against a good defense with QB2 Scott Tolzien, and while he's not a terrible backup, he's still that for reasons. Look for LA to make a couple of plays in the passing game, for RB Todd Gurley to look like he's going to have a bounce-back year, and for LA Football Fan to exist, at least for a little while.

Rams 23, Colts 17


SEATTLE (+3) at Green Bay

Best game of the week, and one that will have standing late in the year. I like Seattle to get the early lead and nearly lose it late, with QB Russell Wilson looking fit and fine, and the Seahawk defense coming up with the killshot turnover to get out of town with the deuce. Besides, unless the Pack gets off to a slow start, Aaron Rodgers can't save their fans from freakout. This really should be the SNF game, but the NFL has traditions, or some such.

Seahawks 31, Packers 30


CAROLINA (-5.5) at San Francisco

The final score will say that QB Cam Newton is back, that RB Christian McCaffrey is the rookie of the year, and that the Niners are still terrible. All of these things will be overstating the case for people who don't watch the actual game in the trenches, but the final score can mislead.

Panthers 27, Niners 17


New York Giants at DALLAS (-4)

The line has moved a half point with the news that RB Ezekiel Elliott will play as his suspension appeal continues, but honestly, his inclusion just means that some of the final numbers will move around, but not too much. New York has an odd history of doing well in this spot, but odd histories have to end sometime, and the Giant defense just isn't that great.

Cowboys 31, Giants 24


New Orleans at MINNESOTA (-3.5)

Time for the annual Vikings and Sam Bradford are good mirage, which will have a lot more to do with a Saints team that isn't good at all, and is even worse on the road. Remember, MNF is usually terrible, and Week 1 MNF is especially so.

Vikings 27, Saints 16


Los Angeles Chargers at DENVER (-3.5)

Here comes the Angry Game for the Broncos, who will have a full week to hear about how they can't be any good with their off-season cost-cutting moves and QB situation that's so bad, they brought back Brock Osweiler. Remember, MNF is usually terrible, and the late game is especially so. 

Broncos 24, Chargers 14

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Career: 881-889-54

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