Last year, this space provided you with weekly picks for the slate of NFL games. This year, I?ll be honest: That idea bores me. OK, I?ll be really honest: My wife said no (she mentioned something about the kids’ college fund, the Vegas line and the couch ? I don?t know, I wasn?t really paying attention).
Anyway, I figured there has to be a better way to get you prepped for a weekend of NFL football viewing, and since I can?t afford to get you that HDTV you?ve wanted, my knowledge will have to suffice. Cheap, I know.
But when Donald Brown emerges as a fantasy sleeper, you can thank me later.
So, enough with the blah blah blah ? let?s get to Week 1.
Four Downs: Patriots vs. Bills (Monday, 8:30 p.m.)
1. The “Welcome Back, Tom Brady” party begins at Gillette Stadium ? try not to be fashionably late, since the odds are good that the Patriots quarterback/deity will look for Randy Moss early. There?s not much about the Pats’ offense that worries me this year. Not even Laurence Maroney. As long as they stay healthy, there is no more balanced attack in the league, though talk of topping their 2007 production (36.8 points per game) is perhaps setting the bar just a tad tall.
2. I see where Terrell Owens is running his mouth again. On a similar note, the sun rose this morning.
3. The T.O. factor will undoubtedly be a test for a Patriots defense that?s thinning like a thirty-something?s hairline. Richard Seymour is (presumably) now a Raider. Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison are now TV analysts. And the conventional wisdom says the Patriots will win a whole bunch of 35-21 games this year. But remember, there are plenty of doubts about the Trent Edwards-to-T.O. duo in Buffalo, so it?s fair to wonder if Monday won?t feel a little more like a pop quiz than a full-on exam for the Patriots’ defense.
4. Watch Ty Warren. With Seymour gone, it?s time for Ty to up the ante.
Forward Progress (aka Who?s Hot):
Ben Roethlisberger: Steelers starter is undisputedly elite among NFL quarterbacks after opening night performance in win over Titans. Big Ben completed 33-of-43 passes for 363 yards with a touchdown, two interceptions and one game-winning drive in overtime.
Matt Ryan: The Falcons’ quarterback (and Boston College grad) looks to avoid a sophomore slump. Throwing to new tight end/future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez can?t hurt.
Frank Gore: The 49ers’ running back is primed for a productive season, and not just because he?s on my NESN fantasy team (I promise, I won?t be that guy).
Down and Out (aka Who?s Not):
Oakland Raiders: With Al Davis in charge and the thoroughly disappointing JaMarcus Russell at quarterback, the Silver and Black (ooh) can?t shake the stigma of NFL punchline. No wonder Seymour won?t report.
Michael Crabtree: The rookie wide receiver is threatening to sit out the 2009 season and re-enter the NFL draft next year in order to make top-five money. Actually, Al Davis cost Crabtree millions by picking Darrius Heyward-Bey (and make no mistake, Davis made the pick) over the more NFL-ready Crabtree.
Eric Mangini: Was the Man-Genius really fooling anyone other than himself with the whole ?mum?s the word on my starting quarterback? charade? Duh, it?s Brady Quinn. How do we know? T.O. tweeted it.
I?m torn between two rookies lining up in the same game. Keep your eyes on the Vikings’ Percy Harvin, who could be electric. Same goes for Browns running back James Davis, who opened eyes in the preseason and will probably take carries (and touchdowns) from the aging Jamal Lewis.
Us media types are always suckers for a good news conference rant from a head coach (hmm, suddenly, I?m thirsty for a cold Coors Light). This clip is worth a look.
Hard to top this move by the San Diego Chargers on rookie Larry English, who was stuck with a $14,508.57 dinner tab by his teammates. Of course, it?s a drop in the bucket for the rookie, who banked $9.9 million in guaranteed money with his first NFL contract. Now, if only they?d stick the poor kid on the practice squad with that kind of tab — that would be good comedy.
AFC East: Patriots
AFC North: Steelers
AFC West: Chargers
AFC South: Titans
Wild Cards: Ravens, Colts
NFC East: Giants
NFC North: Bears
NFC West: Cardinals
NFC South: Saints
Wild Cards: Eagles, Packers
Super Bowl: Patriots over Giants (David Tyree and his stickum gloves won?t be there to screw it up this time.)