A Puzzling Week of Picks to Kick Off the New NFL Season

A Puzzling Week of Picks to Kick Off the New NFL Season With Thursday night’s season opener in the rearview mirror, it’s time to gear up for the day more exciting than the Super Bowl: the first Sunday of the NFL season.

Indeed, there’s nothing better than parking in front of the TV for 10 hours, eating everything in sight and taking in the best the NFL has to offer.


But if you need a little advice on who to pick in an always unpredictable Week 1, here are some suggestions (home team in caps):


Miami (+4) over ATLANTA


There are many folks who believe Miami may have overachieved a bit last season, but Atlanta, with a 7-1 home record, could be placed in the same category. While the Falcons have gotten instantly better on offense with the addition of one of the best tight ends in the history of the game, their defense – at this point – raises a lot of question marks heading into the season.


Likewise, nobody knows what to expect out of the Dolphins’ offense, including opposing defenses. The addition of Pat White adds yet another wrinkle to a team with more wrinkles than Al Davis’ face.


The bottom line: Miami may just take Atlanta by surprise and steal this one.


CINCINNATI (-4.5) over Denver


Yes, the Bengals only won four games last season, and yes, if you believe in the curse of Hard Knocks, they’re doomed (teams appearing on the HBO series have gone 28-36, with only the 2001 Ravens making the playoffs).


That said, Carson Palmer won’t be messing around, and Chad Ochocinco, with the help of his Twitter following, may be more motivated than ever. The Broncos and new head coach Josh McDaniels, however, spent the entire offseason perfecting the art of screwing up a fairly successful franchise.


Denver might turn it around at some point this season, but it’s going to take a while.


Minnesota (-4) over CLEVELAND


The Browns’ quarterback competition and ensuing controversy throughout the offseason was one of the most futile events in recent NFL history. All it did was put a dark curtain in front of the rest of the team’s gaping holes.


The Vikings? Yeah, they have Brett Favre, but he’ll be a nonfactor in this one, as the league’s top rusher, Adrian Peterson, goes up against a defense that gave up 152 yards on the ground per game last season (28th in the NFL).


This one shouldn’t be close.


INDIANAPOLIS (-7) over Jacksonville


Ahh, the Jacksonville Jaguars. They’re 11-5 one year, 5-11 the next. They have a quarterback who can’t spell interception one year and can’t find his own receivers the next.


How about we just trust the team that’s won at least 12 games in each of the last six seasons to continue business as usual, with or without his holiness Tony Dungy on the sideline?


NEW ORLEANS (-13) over Detroit


One of the biggest spreads of opening weekend almost makes you want to take Matthew Stafford’s rocket arm and the Lions.


Almost.


Until we see if the Lions can resemble an NFL team this year, every bet is going to go against them.


Dallas (-6) over TAMPA BAY


The Buccaneers have almost unanimously been tagged as one of the few teams in the NFC that won’t be able to compete for a Super Bowl. With Byron Leftwich under center, it’s hard to disagree.


CAROLINA (+1) over Philadelphia


The last time we saw the Panthers, Jake Delhomme was serving up interceptions like sloppy joes in the lunch line. After the dust settled, Carolina rewarded Delhomme for his five picks with a massive contract extension.


While you have to wonder what the Panthers were thinking, you also have to like a one-point underdog at home. The addition of Michael Vick to the Eagles may have slowed the team’s progression, and they might come out a bit disjointed in Week 1.


Kansas City (+13) over BALTIMORE


Now here’s a tricky one. You don’t know if Matt Cassel is starting, and even if he is, you don’t know anything about the new era of the Kansas City Chiefs.


You do, however, know that the Ravens are good. So good, in fact, that in their 11 wins last season, they won by an average score of 30-12.


Still, K.C. could be improved, but this might be a game to stay away from.


New York Jets (+4.5) over HOUSTON


Somehow, the Houston Texans were chosen as this year’s team of destiny, bound for certain greatness. Sure, Andre Johnson might be the best athlete in the game, and Steve Slaton may be a top-10 back, but there’s no guarantee Matt Schaub will have a good season as some people seem to think he will.


On the other side, the Jets are good. Mark Sanchez won’t be spectacular, but as long as he doesn’t turn the ball over, Bart Scott and the defense will be enough to give the Texans fits.


Washington (+6.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS


The Giants will almost certainly win this game, but the always competitive NFC East can’t produce a blowout stinker in Week 1. Brandon Jacobs may be slowed down a little by Albert Haynesworth and Co., while Eli Manning will need a few weeks to work out the kinks with his new receiving corps. A close game is in order.


ARIZONA (-6.5) over San Francisco


A team with one of the most exciting offenses going against the 49ers? I’d take my chances with the elder statesman Kurt Warner.


SEATTLE (-8.5) over St. Louis


Here’s another tough one, as the two teams that stunk up the NFC West last season (combined 6-26 record) square off. Seattle, of course, was without Matt Hasselbeck, who missed nine games and was playing hurt through the rest. His return should be enough for the Seahawks to cover at home.


GREEN BAY (-3.5) over Chicago


Talk about your heavyweight Week 1 matchup, as the two favorites in the NFC North (sorry, Detroit) take the field at Lambeau. Jay Cutler obviously adds stability (though that term is used lightly) to the quarterback position for the Bears, something they haven’t had since … well, ever.


Still, he’s never entered Wisconsin as a divisional rival, and the Packers will be chomping at the bit to get started on a season from which many expect big things.


San Diego (-9.5) over OAKLAND


Tom Cable has been punching his assistants in the face, Al Davis is still running the show, and JaMarcus Russell, a multimillionaire whose questionable psyche forced the team to cut its most reliable backup, is still the quarterback.


Kickoff for this game is 10:15 p.m. on the East Coast. You’ll be comfortable enough to roll over and fall asleep by halftime.


NEW ENGLAND (-11) over Buffalo


At first glance, you almost want to take the Bills. Monday night, T.O.’s first game, etc.


Then, reality sets in. Though 11 points seems like a lot, consider the following:

  • The Patriots have won 11 straight against the Bills, outscoring them by a ridiculous margin of 321-96. That’s an average score of 29-9.


  • The Bills, who ranked 25th in yards from scrimmage last season, fired their offensive coordinator Turk Schonert. That might have been the right move, but doing so on Sept. 4 probably won’t help them much for Week 1. Or maybe even Week 10, for that matter.


  • Terrell Owens adds a new dynamic to a team that was terrible last season. Combined with Lee Evans and Roscoe Parrish, the receiving corps is downright frightening. Except for one thing: Trent Edwards isn’t Jim Kelly.


  • It should also be noted that the last time the Patriots opened against a premiere receiver on national TV, they got toasted by Randy Moss for five catches for 130 yards and a touchdown. They still managed to beat the Raiders by 10 points.


  • Marshawn Lynch decided to keep a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun in his car over the summer and was suspended for three games. A backfield of Fred Jackson and Xavier Omon won’t cause any problems for the Patriots’ defense, even without Richard Seymour.


  • Lastly, and most importantly, the Patriots are back and intact, at home on a Monday night to open the season that is celebrating their 50th anniversary. Anything short of 42 points will be a disappointment, and, frankly, a surprise.
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