Dallas Cowboys @ New York Jets Sunday Night Football Pick: The Jets continue to impress me. Two years ago I thought they went to far, and last year they ended up a win away from the Super Bowl after beating the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts in back to back playoff games. Pittsburgh finally ousted them, but this team continues to get better as a young offense grows up. That being said, the additions of Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason add some nice pieces for a possession style offense that wants to hold onto the ball. Both those old guys have good hands, run good routes, block well, and know how to get open – they’ve been doing it forever. Moving Shonn Greene into the starting running back role was a good move – he’s the right guy for that job and should punish defenses if nothing else. He’s a beast.
Still, I don’t think they’re as amazing as everyone else does. They are overachieving in my book, and eventually that has to even out. I see the Cowboys as one of the potential best teams in the NFC, and they should give the Jets a big run. Rarely do the Cowboys come into a game and a season with less hype than their opponent, but because of Rex Ryan’s enormousness, in mouth and body, the Jets are expected to win this game. Experts have them as a big favorite, and the public likes them too – the old double dipper!
But I’m on Dallas’s side. I think they’ll be improved defensively with the addition of a good defensive coordinator, and I think they’ll be more disciplined with a better head coach situation. Tony Romo is really good, and his stable of weapons might be good enough to give the super secondary some trouble.
Detroit Lions @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers Week 1 NFL Pick: I don’t know if I’m conducting the hype-train rolling through Detroit, but I can certainly understand why they have the attention of some people in the know. Defensively they’ve gotten better, if only because they are older and now have some solid talent at corner. They had a pretty good draft but that only looks good on paper because both their 1st and 2nd round picks won’t be playing come Sunday. Injuries are a real beach. Offensively they should be better as well with another year for what is basically an entire returning unit. Calvin Johnson is one of the best WRs in the game and Jahvid Best, while not a consistent runner, is bound to make some huge plays each week. Yes, there’s a lot to like.
But to make them an even bet on the road against an equally as young and impressive Tampa Bay team coming off a 10-win season? That seems a little ridiculous, now doesn’t it? Josh Freeman has proven to be all the Bucs could have dreamed of when they drafted him three years ago. Coming into his 2nd full season at the helm in Tampa, Freeman looks the part and has a confident glow about him – a natural leader. That could take these Bucs a long way.
I like both these young teams and anything can happen on Sunday, but every ounce of value rests with Tampa here. At home, even, and somehow the public is 60/40 in favor of the road team. The “experts” are 80% in favor of the Lions – it’s basically me and Herman Moore than believe in Detroit. That’s how I like it!
Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns Free NFL Prediction: The Cleveland Browns as a touchdown favorite, goodness gracious, I never thought I’d see the day. It’s scary that on the first showing of something so absolutely nuts that I’d be sitting here telling you that I’m taking them without any hesitation, but that is the case. I guess I just don’t believe in anything the Cincinnati Bengals are.
I know they were better than last season’s record, last year – but this year, well, this year they are probably worst than last season’s record. Marvin Lewis will almost surely be fired next season, regardless of the situation he’s in. Carson Palmer would rather sit around and watch football than get paid 11 million a year to play it in Cincinnati – that’s really saying something. They lost most of their best players during an interesting off-season that had just about every sports website publishing one article about how terrible the ownership is in Cinci. Now the Bengals throw out a rookie QB, a rookie playmaker on at WR, and Cedric Benson. They also have what looks like the lowest salary in the game. It just never looks good for the Bengals’ fans.
The Bengals can still run it a bit, and that’s why this spread will make me think twice – but I have to take the Browns at home against the Bungles – a touchdown shouldn’t be too lofty, especially with the way Colt McCoy was throwing the ball during the preseason.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens Week 1 NFL Free Pick: This one really comes down to the Steelers always having an answer for the Ravens – at least when Big Ben Roethlisberger is playing quarterback. He just always finds a way to beat Baltimore – making them pay for their blitzes or their second class secondary, I’m not sure – but he wins. WOW! Now that I look at it, I realize that the Ravens have never beaten Big Ben – all 3 wins in their last 10 meetings have been with Benny out of the line-up for one reason (rape allegations) or another (no helmet, motorcycle crash). Very interesting!
Both of these teams could be great this season, and both could take a step backwards – it all depends on how age catches up with some of the wily vets that make up an important part of these two squads. The Ravens might be able to make Pittsburgh pay for a so-so secondary with the addition of Lee Evans – a good team-up guy with Boldin’s skills. The Steelers have a pretty balanced attack, but can they block the big bad Ravens defensive front?
These questions will surely be answered on Sunday, but the money has to be on Ben to stay undefeated against the Steelers’ biggest rival. It’s always a close game, ending within a score in 8 of the last 9 contests, twice going to overtime.
Philadelphia Eagles @ St. Louis Rams NFL Free Prediction: The Rams are going to be a little better this year – but still, playing at their best against an Eagles team playing at their best can’t possibly make this line right. I know this is a tricky one because obviously everyone and their third cousin of the red head variety is going to take the Eagles to win and cover this one – and certainly the Rams aren’t the gimmie that survivor-pool players everywhere are expecting them to be, but upside and potential acknowledged, the Eagles should cover this spread.
I know it’s been said that Spagnola’s defense is good at pressuring quarterbacks and that Mike Vick seems to struggle with pressure from all angles – but he’ll turn some of those blitzes into touchdowns, and I’m not so sure that the Rams can throw haymakers with the Eagles.
If the Rams would resort to just running the ball down the Eagles throats, a throat that is admittedly absent of stud linebackers and run-stuffing defensive linemen, I think they would have a good chance at the upset. But I just don’t see that in McDaniels’ cards – he’s gonna throw it, and I’m pretty sure there’s not a better trio of corners anywhere in football.
These are the kinds of games I like, a spread that looks wildly out of place – and this one definitely is of that variety. However, even with that in the open for all to see, I have to take Philly here.
New York Giants @ Washington Redskins Free Football Pick: The New York Giants look destined for a losing season as the injuries just keep piling up – first it’s Osi Umenyiora, then 3/4s of the secondary goes down, then Justin Tuck starts channeling Peyton Manning’s neck injury concerns, and now he might not play. When you add that to losing Steve Smith, probably the team’s most reliable receiver, and Kevin Boss, a good dual receiving/blocking tight end, and an aging offensive line, and, well, Eli’s big brother is hurt, making him sad – this team looks in trouble.
But it’s early, and the Giants play well early, especially Eli, and the Redskins aren’t really the beacon of talent and health either. I still think Hakeem Nicks is one of the best receivers in football, and Mario Manningham is nice, too. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs form a nice rushing duo, and I’m thinking that will be enough to oust the Redskins by a field goal or greater.
I’ll take the Giants early, and win some money on them struggling late.
NFL Free Pick Minnesota Vikings @ San Diego Chargers: Maybe I’m seeing something in Minnesota that nobody else is recognizing. I see a team that greatly underperformed last season, not just because of Brett, but everywhere on the field. Defensively they were slow. They couldn’t guard receivers, rush the passer, or stop the run. They were bad. On offense, they couldn’t pass block well enough to give Brett a chance. It was bad. But I like the direction the Vikings are going in, and I really think Donovan McNabb has a bunch of wins left in him. This team is a lot better than Washington and they run a more comfortable offensive scheme for McNabb – he’s always been great in play-action situations, and he’ll have a lot of them as defenses gang up to stop one of the most impressive offensive players in football, Adrian Peterson.
The Chargers are historically slow starters, despite having a very talented team. Defensively, they aren’t all that good, and against a grind it out running team like Minnesota, that makes 9 points way too many to even consider.
Defensively, I expect Minnesota to put more pressure on opposing QBs this season, and that should have a positive effect all, especially in the secondary. I would be none surprised if San Diego goes down at home despite being the biggest favorite in Week 1.
Carolina Panthers @ Arizona Cardinals NFL Pick & Preview: I like the Carolina Panthers more than everybody else does. I don’t think anybody realizes how bad it was last season. I mean, they didn’t have anybody at quarterback – nobody. None of the guys that were there even had a chance of beating out Cam Newton, a kid who, quite honestly, isn’t ready to start at this level. But he’s better than they are, and you know he’s going to make a couple great plays every game. If he can keep defenses just somewhat honest with a laser beam here and there, a couple deep ones to Steve Smith and some over the middle stuff to two pretty good tight ends, the running game is going to be good enough to win them at least 6-7 games. People forget that this team was beat up all over the board last year, especially on the offensive line. But they have everyone back, and healthy, this is one heck of an O-line in Carolina.
Arizona has a lot of hype because they got Kevin Kolb, and I’ll agree, he’s three times better than the guys Arizona had last season when they were at their very best. He gives them a chance, definitely. And this is a well coached team, so they could walk away with the NFC West. That being said, they still have holes on defense, injuries in the secondary, and I’m yet to be convinced that their offensive line is good enough to dominate the line of scrimmage. Getting 7 points here is too much hype-train for me.