Monday, September 1, 2014

Week 1 Picks

My history of NFL picks: 

2009 - 67.3% - straight up 
2010 - 51.7% - against the spread (ATS)  
2011 - 54.3% ATS 
2012 - 50.4% ATS, 61.5% straight up   
2013 - 53.1% ATS, 66.0% straight up;  also 52.0% over/unders

Packers @ Seahawks
Thursday Night
Predicted Line:  SEA by 4
Actual Line:   SEA by 6 

In nearly every fantasy league, the Seahawks D/ST were the first to be drafted.  Likewise, Aaron Rodgers was a consensus top three fantasy quarterback.  But weirdly enough, I would not start either option in this matchup. (In fact, I picked up Ryan Fitzpatrick to start over Rodgers this opening week.  That's how much I don't want to play a QB against Seattle's secondary in Qwest Field.)  The combination of Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman should be able to eliminate any passing attack in the NFL, including Denver's, as we saw last February.  There's only one way to score on the Seattle defense, and that is to run the ball early and often.  

Thus, Green Bay figures to have a chance, due to the surprising emergence of Eddie Lacy.  (Who, interestingly, is the only running back from Alabama's dominant 2010 team to have any success in the NFL, while his highly-touted former teammates (Richardson and Ingram) have sucked).  With Lacy, the Packers can neutralize the historically good Seattle secondary by establishing a ground game early and forcing the safeties to play closer to the line of scrimmage. This opens up the play-action, where Rodgers is deadly.   

Green Bay's D, with newly acquired Julius Peppers alongside Clay Matthews, should be able to put pressure on Russell Wilson and keep Marshawn Lynch in check. I don't see Seattle scoring more than 20-24 points with their lackluster receivers.  (Unless Percy Harvin breaks a huge play or two).   I'm going to take the Packers in a bit of a shocker to kick off the season.  27-23.  
(Over 46) 

Saints @ Falcons
Predicted Line:  NO by 2.5 
Actual Line:  NO by 3 

I'll be picking against Atlanta for the majority of the season, at least until the public realizes how bad the Falcons defense is.  Most people think they'll bounce back into playoff form. I highly doubt it.  Sure, Julio Jones is back, and the offense won't be stagnant anymore.  But they ranked 32nd in rushing yards a season ago, and Steven Jackson didn't get any younger.  Devonta Freeman (impressive instincts and vision) will be solid someday, but it'll take too long for old-school Mike Smith to pull the plug on S-Jack's dwindling career.  

But the biggest issue at hand here is Drew Brees carving up a very poor Atlanta secondary.  Only Oakland allowed a higher QB rating last season, and only the Rams gave up a higher YPA.  And even the homer website The Falcoholic understands Atlanta doesn't have a pass rush.  They won't be able to pressure Brees, nor can they cover his receivers.  Long day for Atlanta's D, lots of mop-up duty for the Saints RBs.  New Orleans 35-20.  
(Over 51.5) 

Vikings @ Rams
Predicted Line: STL by 3 
Actual Line: STL by 4 

In the week one battle between Matt Cassel and Shaun Hill, there truly is no winner.  

Rams have the better coach, the better D by far, and homefield advantage. 

Vikings have Adrian Peterson ... and that's about it.   Sounds like a pretty even matchup.  I'll say Rams 20-17.  Go Shaun Hill! 
(Under 43.5) 

Browns @ Steelers
Predicted Line:  PIT by 7

Actual Line: PIT by 7 

There's nothing sexy about Brian Hoyer, but it was a smart decision to start him over Johnny Football, for many reasons.  The best reason is that his experience and instincts gives Cleveland a better chance to win some early games than Johnny learning on the fly and flipping everybody off.  Cleveland actually has the two best players in this game (Joe Thomas, Joe Haden) and with a healthy Ben Tate, they could things interesting.  

But Pittsburgh has a lot better depth and overall talent, not to mention superior coaching, quarterbacking, and homefield advantage. With Haden locking down Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton could make a big name for himself early.  27-17 Steelers. (Over 41)  

Jaguars @ Eagles
Predicted Line:  PHI by 8.5

Actual Line:  PHI by 10 

That feels like too many points to give too early in the season.   Eagles settle for too many field goals and win 26-20.
(Under 53) 

Raiders @ Jets
Predicted Line:  NYJ by 5
Actual Line: NYJ by 5.5

I loved the Raiders decision to go with rookie QB Derek Carr over Matt Schaub.  (Interesting that Carr is the only rookie QB starting in week one, in a group that includes Bortles, Bridgewater, and Manziel.)  Not sure how much Oakland's decision had to do with Carr looking NFL-ready, or Schaub looking embarrassingly terrible.  Either way, I loved it.    The Jets suck too much on both sides of the ball to be favored by six points, even against Oakland.  I'll say Jets win 21-17. 
(Under 40) 

Bengals @ Ravens
Predicted Line:  BAL by 2

Actual Line: BAL by 1.5

A couple of woefully overpaid and underperforming quarterbacks, and two very solid defenses.  I'm gonna take the under (43).   And although I can't see many teams stopping the duo of Gio Bernard and AJ Green, I'm gonna go with Baltimore to win.  Favored by less than 2 points at home, the Ravens essentially open the season as disrespected home underdogs to their division rival.  That should play up enough motivation.   Baltimore 22-17.  
(Under 43) 

Bills @ Bears 
Predicted Line:  CHI by 6.5
Actual Line: CHI by 7 

Let's see if Jim Schwartz brought his trademark undisciplined stupidity to the Bills defense...  Yes, I'm thinking he did.  Anytime your center is screaming "I'll fucking kill you!" at your defensive end, you know it's gonna be a great season.  Also, EJ Manuel not being voted as a team captain is very indicative of trouble with the offense.  He's got a Josh-Freeman-esque-something-is-wrong-with-him vibe.  

As for the Bears, the defense is going to be terrible, but the offense is going to so good that it won't matter.  Forte, Marshall and Jeffery combine for 5 TDs, and the Bears roll 38-13. 
(Over 48.5)  

Redskins @ Texans 
Predicted Line:  WAS by 1.5
Actual Line: HOU by 3 

Two teams eager for a rebuilding.  Washington is finally done with Mike Shanahan's shenanigans of changing starting running backs every 45 minutes, and Houston is officially done with the Kubiak/Schaub Era, and ready to begin a new era under the terrifying Watt/Clowney twosome.    Our starting QBs here aren't all that exciting - Robert "Twitter" Griffin vs. Ryan "He Went To Harvard" Fitzpatrick."  But there is talent aplenty on both these teams, and a new excitement and hope, and solid running backs who will shoulder a big load all season.   

I'm anticipating a close contest that comes down to the wire.  Ultimately, RG3 will either be a hero or a goat.  I'm leaning toward goat.   Texans 26-24.
(Over 45) 

Titans @ Chiefs 
Predicted Line:  KC by 5.5
Actual Line: KC by 4 

The Titans have all kinds of potential to be the league's worst team this season.  I have them pegged at 5-11 because of a decent defense and easy schedule, but if Jake Locker flops in his make-or-break fourth season they could wind up 2-14 or worse.  It all hinges on Locker, the former #8 overall pick who is playing for a new contract. Unfortunately, he has no top-notch weapons surrounding him.  Justin Hunter is a quasi-intriguing 2nd year sleeper, Kendall Wright is a good possession guy, and Nate Washington is always good for a 60 yard TD once every two months ... but the running game is going to be awful with a couple of tortoises in Shonn Greene and Bishop Sankey. 

I think Locker would thrive in an Alex Smith or Russell Wilson situation, with a great running game and a coach who knows how to groom QBs. Locker has the athleticism to make a few plays a game.  But he can't carry a team as untalented as Tennessee to more than a handful of wins.   Jamaal Charles will have a big day here as Dwayne Bowe serves his one-game suspension.  Knile Davis will vulture a TD.   KC 27-20.  
(Over 43.5) 

Patriots @ Dolphins
Predicted Line:  NE by 3
Actual Line:  NE by 5.5 

With 83% of the betting on New England as 6 point road favorites, I am inclined to go the other way.  This line seems too high considering Tom Brady stopped being Tom Brady about four years ago, and his stats have steadily declined across the board.   But with Revis shutting down Mike Wallace and the Dolphins subpar O-line unable to contain the Pats front 7, I don't see Miami scoring much more than 13 or 17 points.  New England should be able to muster 24 points just by running the ball and Brady dumping it off to Vereen and Edelman.   I'll say Pats 26-17. 
(Under 47) 

Panthers @ Bucs
Predicted Line:  CAR by 1.5
Actual Line: TB by 2.5 

This is slated to be the lowest scoring game of the week, with the over/under set at 39 points.  With Carolina's astounding lack of offensive weapons and Cam Newton's myriad of injuries, combined with the Panthers fierce front 7 on defense, I am thinking I'll take the under.   Vincent Jackson should have a good game against Carolina's nonexistent DBs, while Doug Martin gets routinely stuffed at the line.  The Panthers' D will dare Lovie Smith to abandon the run and make Josh McCown beat them.  I think McCown will do just enough to win Lovie's debut.  Bucs 16-13.     Cue the Cam-Newton-is-a-whiner stories.   
(Under 39)

49ers @ Cowboys
Predicted Line:  SF by 2.5

Actual Line:  SF by 5 

Everybody in America seems in agreement that Dallas's defense could be historically bad this year, with the losses of Sean Lee and DeMarcus Ware.   Possibly true.  But there are a vast number of really bad defenses in the NFC this year (Falcons, Redskins, Giants, Bears, Vikings, Eagles, even the Lions), that I don't understand the microscopic focus on how bad Dallas will be.   What the Cowboys do have is an impressive cast of offensive weapons - Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, Jason Witten, and breakout candidate Terrance Williams  - to surround a competent and sometimes elite quarterback.  In other words, the Cowboys will give up a ton of points, but they'll also score a ton of points.  Are they really so different from Chicago and Philly?  

The Niners are in a bad spot right now, as Kaepernick looked terrible in the preseason, Aldon Smith is suspended for being an idiot, and Navarro Bowman is out for the foreseeable future.  This is too many points to give with a homedog, especially one with great backdoor cover potential.  Niners 26-24. 
(Under 51) 

Colts @ Broncos
Sunday Night

Predicted Line:  DEN by 6.5
Actual Line: DEN by 7.5 

Let's keep this analysis very simple: 

Denver's offense:  A++
Indy's offense:  A-
Denver's defense:  A-
Indy's defense:  D 

I love Andrew Luck as much as anybody, but there's no way he can match Peyton in this game.  Denver's defense can throw Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, TJ Ward and Aqib Talib at Luck, who lacks a running game.   Peyton can rack up 5 TDs while mixing in a healthy dose of Monte Ball.  This will be the first of many blowouts for the Broncos. Denver 48-30.  
(Over 55) 

Giants @ Lions
Monday Night
Predicted Line: DET by 5
Actual Line: DET by 6 

I have the Giants going 3-13 and picking #1 overall next season, so clearly I don't think much of them.  But does Detroit really have the mental fortitude to be 6 point favorites against anybody in any situation?   Can we honestly trust the Lions secondary to not give up 250 yards to Victor Cruz?  Can we trust Matt Stafford to not go 2 for 12 on 3rd downs and throw a couple idiotic picks into coverage?   Can we trust Jim Caldwell to bring anything innovative or inspiring to this offense?   The answers at this point are 'no' to all those questions. 

On paper, Detroit should kick the crap out of the Giants, running all over them with Bell and Bush, sacking Eli a half-dozen times, completely shutting down the Giants sad little running game, and racking up 500 yards of offense, led by 200+ for Calvin.  Throw in a pick-six or two, and Kellen Moore should be able to play most of the 4th quarter while the Lions enjoy a 4-touchdown lead.   

But honestly, I see this game playing out more like this:  Lions go up 7-0 early, make lots of dumb mistakes and end up tied 10-10 at halftime when it should be 28-0, and then the defense shuts down Eli in the second half while Calvin takes over the game, and we end up with an underwhelming but somehow simultaneously convincing 27-10 win that never really feels as dominant as a 17 point win should feel.    
(Under 47) 

Chargers @ Cardinals
Monday Night

Predicted Line: ARZ by 3
Actual Line: ARZ by 3 

70% of bettors have San Diego pulling the road upset, but this game is much more complicated than Phillip Rivers > Carson Palmer. 

The Cardinals may have lost Darnell Docket and Daryl Washington this offseason, but they added Antonio Cromartie, who along with Patrick Peterson can shut down Keenan Allen and whoever else Rivers wants to throw to.  Ryan Matthews has to have a great game for San Diego to really have a chance. 

San Diego's D is better than most people think, but it doesn't have adequate answers for Fitzgerald, Ellington, and Michael Floyd.  Arizona is simply better on paper than the Bolts, and as long as Carson Palmer doesn't completely screw it up, they should be able to get the win at home.  I'll say 24-20. 
(Under 45) 

Go Lions!! 

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