Serious question: If the NFL opened the season by playing all 16 games one-at-a-time and one right after another, would you watch 48 straight hours of football?
This was the only thought I had as Seattle put its finishing touches on last night’s game: “I want to watch more football right this minute. And I don’t care if it causes me to be divorced before I’m even married.”
If FOX had been showing Saints at Falcons immediately following the conclusion of Packers-Seahawks, you would have flipped over to that station, refilled your drink, emptied your bladder and saddled up for the next three hours.
And with last night’s Seattle cover, I’m already half way to my week 1 win from last year. No way I’m ever repeating that 2-13-1 record from the 2013 opening weekend.
Since you and I have absolutely nothing to do for the next 48 hours, let’s spend some time together making money. Here are my picks against the spread for the other 15 NFL games.
New Orleans (-3) @ Atlanta
- The Pick: New Orleans
- The Score: New Orleans 34, Atlanta 24
Let the Mike Smith send-off open in style, with an embarrassing loss at home to their most hated rival. We get to find out early if the Saints are in the mix for a top playoff seed as four of their first six games are on the road. They struggled last year away from New Orleans, going 3-5 in those games.
Minnesota @ St. Louis (-3.5)
- The Pick: Minnesota
- The Score: Minnesota 24, St. Louis 21
Two deadly gambling forces facing each other in week 1: Don’t bet on Matt Cassel in a road game, and don’t ever back St. Louis as a significant favorite, not even at home. I guess this game could go either way, but Minnesota might be legitimately frisky this year, which is a lot better than how I think the Rams are going to do.
Cleveland @ Pittsburgh (-7)
- The Pick: Pittsburgh
- The Score: Pittsburgh 27, Cleveland 16
This is a game Josh Gordon could have easily swung for Cleveland. The Steelers’ secondary is pretty old and hasn’t been good for a few years. But it just doesn’t seem like the Browns have any real threats on offense. I’m liking Pittsburgh to bounce back this year. They’ve gotta handle this division home game if they want to be taken seriously. I’m also not as ready as other people to bless this Cleveland defense as a real asset for the team. Their numbers were pretty atrocious last year.
Jacksonville @ Philadelphia (-10.5)
- The Pick: Jacksonville
- The Score: Philadelphia 30, Jacksonville 23
It’s just too soon to be backing a blowout win for any matchup that isn’t Seattle at home against Oakland. This should, however, definitely be a top selection for your Suicide Pool in week 1.
Oakland @ NY Jets (-5.5)
- The Pick: Oakland
- The Score: NY Jets, 26, Oakland 23
The legend of Derek Carr continues to grow for one more week? Kinda. They make it close but can’t get the W, much like they performed at Indy to open last season.
Cincinnati @ Baltimore (-1)
- The Pick: Baltimore
- The Score: Baltimore 23, Cincinnati 20
I was shocked to see how bad the Bengals were on the road last year. On top of losing five games, two of their three road wins came by three points or less (over Buffalo and Detroit, not exactly juggernauts). I don’t trust them at all, and I fully expect the Ravens to continue being a solid home team no matter the state of their roster. This line has come down a point or so, which probably means a lot of people are betting Cincy. Big mistake. This game will be a perfect example of the wretched state of the AFC North. The Ravens aren’t good, but the division’s “best team” can’t win a road game.
Buffalo @ Chicago (-7)
- The Pick: Chicago
- The Score: Chicago 33, Buffalo 16
There’s a case to be made for Buffalo to cover. Basically, if the Bears’ run defense is as bad as it was last year, the Bills—the most run-heavy team in the NFL—could make all you Suicide Pool pickers sweat this out. But as long as EJ Manuel’s in charge of the offense I’m picking against them on the road against a (possible) playoff team like the Bears.
Washington @ Houston (-3)
- The Pick: Houston
- The Score: 24-18
I need to see something out of Robert Griffin and the passing offense before I back them on the road. Houston’s solid rush defense plus their elite pass rushers could make it a miserable time in Texas for the Redskins. Counterpoint: Ryan Fitzpatrick. Counter to the counterpoint: RGIII might not be much better than Ole’ Fitzy at this point. (Side Note: I’m ready to change my entire outlook on the Texans’ season if Clowney & Watt combine for 15-20 sacks in this game.)
Tennessee @ Kansas City (-3)
- The Pick: Tennessee
- The Score:Kansas City, 23, Tennessee 21
The question isn’t “Does Kansas City regress this year” but rather “Does the Kansas City regression start in a home game against Tennessee”. A two point margin of victory for the Chiefs will rightfully make their fans nervous.
New England (-5) @ Miami
- The Pick: New England
- The Score: New England 34, Miami 23
When I play a little game each year called “How can I justify predicting a 16-0 New England record,” this game gave me immediate pause for the 2014 Patriots. They typically lose a bad game early in the season these days. Miami might be solid. They also seem to have the Patriots’ number more than most teams. I’ve also convinced myself the offensive line might need a few weeks to really gel after the Logan Mankins trade (don’t forget they have a new O-line coach for the first time in 150 years). But this Pats team could be scary good if the defense lives up to the hype. And keep in mind that for these first two or three games, they also have a healthy Gronk. Here’s the very specific prediction: The Patriots are up 11 with time winding down, the exact scenario where the old Patriots would have let up the backdoor cover and only won by three. But this new defense doesn’t allow for that. This new defense isn’t letting any unwanted guests through the back door.
Carolina @ Tampa Bay (-2)
- The Pick: Tampa Bay
- The Score: Tampa Bay 26, Carolina 20
I guess if I’m predicting you to make the playoffs, I should probably pick you to beat the worst team in your division at home. With the size of Tampa Bay’s defensive linemen, I think Cam Newton’s ribs will probably refuse to play in week 2.
San Francisco (-4.5) @ Dallas
- The Pick: Dallas
- The Score: San Francisco 33, Dallas 30
This is an easy pick if you believe exactly what the media’s telling you: Both teams will struggle mightily on defense due to injuries, suspensions and free agency losses, but each can put up points offensively. I’m blindly following the media on this one.
Indianapolis @ Denver (-8)
- The Pick: Denver
- The Score: Denver 37, Indianapolis 23
For some reason in my head there’s this narrative of Andrew Luck always keeping his team in games even when they ultimately lose. They usually have a chance at the end. But it turns out that’s not true. In eight of the Colts’ 10 losses since Luck debuted as a rookie, they lost by at least 10 points (including five by 20 points or more). When they lose, they really lose. And the Broncos owe them one for week 7 last year.
NY Giants @ Detroit (-6)
- The Pick: Giants
- The Score: Detroit 28, Giants 24
Far too big of a line for such a wildcard team like the Lions. And I don’t mean wildcard in the traditional playoff qualifier sense, but rather in the “friend who places bets on football while sleepwalking on Ambien” sense. Just a complete unknown and one of the few teams that might actually make Eli & company look good this year.
San Diego @ Arizona (-3)
- The Pick: San Diego
- The Score: San Diego 31, Arizona 24
Ok, Ok, Vegas. Funny “start of football season” joke, but I’m ready to see the real line on this game. What? The Chargers are really getting points? OK then, I’ll tell the fiancee to upgrade our wedding package from well liquor to second-from-the-bottom-shelf liquor because this game’s paying for the entire wedding!
There you have it. A guaranteed improvement on my week 1 picks from last year. Three wins or your money back!