Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Week 1 NFL Picks

There are not many things tougher in the gambling world than picking opening week NFL games. The poster child for this supposition was the 2003 New England Patriots who cut team leader Lawyer Malloy just days before the season started and then watched him dance all over them as a member of the Buffalo Bills in a 31-0 week 1 blowout. I mean losing the opener is one thing but getting blistered 31-0 nothing was clearly an indication that they were in for a long season. So of course they won 14 of their next 15 games and beat the Panthers in the Super Bowl. It just goes to show you how misleading week 1 results can be.*

Here is the one thing we do know about today's NFL - quarterbacks matter more than ever. Before you say "duh," consider how much they really matter. Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees combined to go 41-7 in the regular season last year by simply outscoring people (their teams were the top three in total net points despite the fact that their defenses were mediocre at best). Also consider that 6 of the other 7 top rated quarterbacks went to the playoffs including Alex Smith.** The only guys from outside of the top 10 to make it were Joe Flacco (great defense and Ray Rice), Andy Dalton (fluke) and Tim Tebow (God). With that in mind, the analysis for every pick below and every pick this year for that matter is going to start with a quarterback comparison.

N.Y. Giants by 3.5 over the Cowboys: The pick - Cowboys

This match-up in the regular season is more of a coin flip than you think as Romo had more touchdowns and fewer picks than Eli last year and the Giants only won one more game. (But if this was a playoff game, fuggetabouit). At least half of these NFC East night games seem to be decided by a field goal or less. Combine that with the Super Bowl hangover and the early season malaise that often plagues the Giants and I'm taking the points.

Buck-up Jay . . . you're still
going to win the game.
Bears by 9.5 over the Colts: The pick - Colts

I get it. Rookie quarterback playing on the road against a physical team but there are two factors that I think will keep the Colts within range: (1) Andrew Luck is not going to give the game away and (2) Chuck Pagano is a great defensive coach and he's going to come up with a way to turn Jay Cutler over at least twice.

Eagles by 8 over the Browns: The pick - Eagles

Now take that analysis of the Bears-Colts game and flip it upside down as Brandon Weeden is going to gift wrap a couple of scores for the Eagles. It seems almost inconceivable that the Browns have been searching for a starting quarterback since they were reborn in 1999 and the three guys they had battling for the job this year were Weeden, Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace. I must have missed the press conference where Pat Shurmur named Weeden the starter but I imagine it went something like this, "Browns fans, I know it's been a tough road and we appreciate your patience but I am here to tell you it is the dawning of a new day as we have found our starting quarterback. He's a 28 year old rookie who failed at baseball and then racked-up a ton of stats in the same pass happy conference where we found our last crappy quarterback. Brandon Weeden ladies and gentlemen!" (Blank stares).

Jets by 3 over the Bills: The pick - Bills

I actually agree with Rex Ryan when he says he doesn't see himself getting fired as a possibility. I mean his endless stream of bullshit is probably the only thing staving-off a fan revolt. The rest of the AFC just hopes the same can be said of GM Mike Tannenbaum who keeps pulling stunts usually reserved for the Redskins like signing a washed-up LaDanian Tomlinson and of course creating the impending Tim Tebow fiasco (is it too soon to give it a name like the "Tebasco"?). Don't sleep on the Bills this year. They were rolling last season until Fred Jackson broke his leg and Fitzy cracked some ribs.

Saints by 9.5 over the Redskins: The pick - Saints

"It's still $500 for a fishhook but
you've got to draw blood."
The last time the Saints played a home game after a hurricane hit New Orleans, they blew the favored Falcons off the field 23-3. Now they have the post-hurricane recovery, the bounty scandal and the motivation to win one for the gipper while Sean Payton serves his suspension. I also wouldn't put it past Gregg Williams to make a tribute cheap shot worth someone's while so if I were RG, III, I'd audible to a lot of running plays and save my coming out party for next week.

Patriots by 6.5 over the Titans: The pick - Patriots

This line seems about 10 points too low for a match-up between Jake Locker and Tom Brady. I do think Chris Johnson is going to bounce back strong this season but Belichik will plug that hole and the Titans are probably going to have to score at least 25 points to cover this number. Don't see that happening.

Vikings by 4.5 over the Jaguars: The Pick - Vikings

If not for the Cards-Seahawks game, this one could get the ugly stick of the week award. At best we'll have MJD and A.P. in very limited roles supporting a quarterback "duel" of Christian Ponder against Blaine Gabbert. On second thought, forget the straight bet on this game and take the under of 38.5 because they may not make it halfway there.

Texans by 10.5 over the Dolphins: The pick - Texans

"Well don't you see it?!?
. . . then pick it up!"
I didn't watch all of Hard Knocks but I did see the part where they talked about how meticulous Joe Philbin is and then showed him walking around picking-up little bits of trash by the practice field. I looked at the FGW and said "this guy won't be coaching next year." I'm pretty sure Mike Tomlin and the Harbaugh brothers don't spend much time picking-up trash.

Lions by 8.5 over the Rams: The pick - Lions

The Rams appear to be building for 2013 and beyond as they took the haul from the Redskins and parlayed it into more draft picks down the road. Then again, when you're paying $50M guaranteed to the 29th highest rated quarterback in the league, really all you can do is wait. This game could be a very pleasurable experience for Megatron owners along the lines of 10-175-2.

Falcons by 2.5 over the Chiefs: The pick -  Falcons

I don't care how much the Falcons devote themselves to the pass or how many weapons they give Matt Ryan because he is still going to be the very poor man's Tom Brady. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, Matt Cassel is the poor man's Matt Ryan.

Packers by 5.5 over the 49ers: The pick - Packers

Everyone needs to calm down a bit about the 49ers and remember that a few months ago Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman donned their hoodies and flew to North Carolina to watch Peyton Manning throw under the lights. These are the things you do when Alex Smith is your quarterback. Thanks to their weak division, I've got them going 10-6 this year and this game will be one of the 6.

This is so much easier than
googling golfer's wives and
girlfriends every week.
Panthers by 2.5 over the Bucs: The pick - Bucs

Cam Newton is a beast and, despite my efforts to find a downward trend in his performance last year once the league figured-out he could actually throw, I came up empty. He just threw less but more efficiently which is a sign of maturity. With that being said, you have to beware of the rookie college coach in his first NFL game at home. He's going to pull a bunch of Ra-Ra crap and find a way to keep this game in the teens which means at least a cover.

Seahawks by 2.5 over the Cardinals: The pick - Seahawks

The Seahawks signed Matt Flynn to compete for the starting job with journeyman Tavaris Jackson and then handed it to 4th round draft pick Russell Wilson and they STILL might have a better quarterback situation than the Cardinals who keep sending fruit baskets to Kurt Warner that say "Thinking of You." I'm basing this pick on the fact that the Seahawks defense was dropping the hammer on people at the end of last season and Marshawn Lynch was running with the same reckless abandon he had in his college days - Ghost Rider.

Broncos by 1 over the Steelers: The pick - Steelers

Count me among those who think Peyton Manning is going to win some playoff games for Denver but I just can't see how he's going to come in after a year off, with new receivers and beat the Steelers. Mike Tomlin has had that Demayrius Thomas touchdown running on a loop all through training camp and it's payback time.

Ravens by 6 over the Bengals: The pick - Ravens

For all of their faults, the Ravens do two things very well under Jim Harbaugh, win the first game of the season (4-0) and play well at home (27-5). They need to come out with their collective hair on fire Monday night and exercise the demons from the final minute of last season and they know it. I'll be stunned if Bernard Pollard doesn't earn a fine in this game. (I originally had a picture of "The Pass Play that Shall not be Named" here but it's still too soon).

Yes, you make a good case
for one of the other best
uniforms in sports.
Chargers by 1 over the Raiders: The pick - Chargers

The only reason not to take the Chargers is if you think they're going to take the first six games of the season off (and why wouldn't you?) However, the one thing that is currently being concealed by arguably the best uniform in sports is that the Raiders defense is terrible. Phillip Rivers is not going to throw 20 interceptions this year but Carson Palmer may do it by Thanksgiving. This is a 12-4 team v. a 7-9 team.

Endnotes

* Of course after I wrote this opening paragraph, I actually took the time to go back and look at the week 1 results from 2011 and discovered that the only really surprising outcome was that the Redskins beat the Giants 28-14. Unless you count the Ravens absolute manhandling of the Steelers, everything else that happened was a pretty good indicator of how the season was going to play out. The problem is that I had already done all of that research on the 2003 Patriots and I didn't want it to go to waste. I'm just going to act like nothing happened and, by the time we get to the picks, no one will remember the point I was trying to make anyway.

** The only one who didn't was Tony Romo who was the 4th highest rated passer in the league. He's currently sitting in the cluttered office of a Boston area community college teacher being told it's not his fault.

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