Thursday, September 10, 2009

NFL picks, Week 1

Normally, this post will go up on Friday. Unless there are Thursday games. Which there are this week. (Well, there is. One, that is.)

Week 1, and who knows anything? Here's what I do know - there's a team that I think will win four games that's going to win 11 or 12 and go deep in the playoffs. There's a team that I look at as being a Super Bowl contender that will finish below .500. The problem, of course, is that I don't know today who those teams are.

Not knowing, we can only go on what we've seen, primarily last year, but also player movement, draft picks, pre-season, etc. And what it looks like, at least superficially, is that the NFL has given us a slew of games featuring better teams hosting worse teams. The first thousand people to pick at ESPN weren't close to split on any of them. History suggests that the obvious pick is wrong as often as it's right, but sometimes, you've got to take it anyway.

Tennessee at Pittsburgh (-5) - Defending Super Bowl champions, getting their rings, hosting a team that isn't as good, with an aging QB playing ahead of a clueless younger one, having lost one of its key defensive stars to free agency - well, you get the picture. I'd love to take the Titans here, because any week that the Steelers lose is a good one, but I can't convince myself that it's very likely.

Miami at Atlanta (-4) - The Dolphins were a fluke last year. (Well, weren't the Falcons? OK, maybe a little bit.) They'll be lucky to get to 9 wins this year. This won't be one of them.

N.Y. Jets at Houston (-4) - This is possibly the toughest pick on the board. I don't believe in the Jets. But I also don't believe in the Texans. Given that the home team has got more of a track record with a head coach not coaching his first game, and a QB not making his NFL debut, I've got to go with Houston.

Jacksonville at Indianapolis (-8) - I'll listen to any reasons that anyone has for why this will be a close game, or a Jaguar win. I won't believe them, but I'll listen.

Denver at Cincinnati (-4) - I was going to pick Denver here, showing solidarity and support for Josh McDaniel. Plus the Bengals stink. And I don't know why Marvin Lewis still has a job. But I just can't buy the Broncos, with their offseason chaos, opening with a win on the road.

Kansas City at Baltimore (-11) - Scott Pioli's going to turn the Chiefs around. Matt Cassell's going to be an effective NFL QB. The Chiefs are young, and they're going to get better faster than anyone expects. But. They are going to get thrashed in week 1, whether Cassell's ready to go or not.

Philadelphia (+0) at Carolina - How long after the Philadelphia fans start calling for Michael Vick over Donovan McNabb will the accusations of racism start flying? At least they've got a couple of weeks before that particular drama starts in earnest.

Dallas at Tampa Bay (+5.5) - Obviously a Dallas team coached by Wade Phillips and quarterbacked by Tony Romo will melt down and fall apart. But not until November, or possibly even December. They'll look dominant for the first month, and Tampa Bay's the first victim.

Detroit at New Orleans (-14) - On November 4, 2007, the Detroit Lions beat 44-7, raising their record to 6-2. Since then, they are 1-23. They've lost 17 consecutive games. That streak will end sometime in 2009, but it's going to get longer first. It's tough to see how they stay within 21 of the Saints in New Orleans.

Minnesota (-4) at Cleveland - I think that the Vikings are going to be a big disappointment to a lot of people. But four isn't many points and Cleveland isn't much of a team.

St. Louis at Seattle (-9) - There are a lot of teams that I don't think highly of (such as Seattle) giving a lot of points this week. And I'm picking most of them to cover, as the opposition (such as St. Louis) don't appear to pose much of a threat.

San Francisco at Arizona (-6.5) - Arizona won't run away with the NFC West this year. The division won't be great, but it will be better and more competitive than it was last year. I could actually see San Francisco in this game, but I'm not convinced that they're going to have any offensive capabilities at all. I suspect that they'll play tough, be physical and disciplined, but I'm not convinced that they'll be able to score.

Washington at N.Y. Giants (-6.5) - If this is the year that Jason Campbell turns into a real NFL quarterback, the 'Skins could be a pretty good team. But I've got to go with the Giants here, at least until I've seen evidence that there's a shakeup in that division.

Chicago (+3.5) at Green Bay - I think both Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears are overrated. But apparently not as much as I think the Green Bay Packers are.

Buffalo at New England (-12) - If Terrell Owens plays, the Bills could score 21-24 points against a Patriots defense that hasn't got itself all put together and cohesive yet. But Bills scores just result in them giving the ball back to New England, and the Patriots are going to score whatever they need to in order to win by two touchdowns. Or more.

San Diego (-10) at Oakland - Look, sometimes there just isn't any commentary necessary. Does anyone anywhere think that Oakland is within two touchdowns at any point in the second half? It just doesn't whether San Diego is as good as advertised or not - Oakland's a mess. The only chance for the Raiders would be if the game were decided by a bare-knuckles fight between Tom Cable and Norv Turner at midfield after the coin toss. Given that that's not going to happen, neither is an Oakland cover.

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