Week 1 NFL Picks: It’s Finally Here!!

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I know you all have gotten really used to my weekly NFL picks column over the last few years, but I’m trying something slightly different in 2016. Of course I’m still going to make my best prediction on the point spread for every game. Don’t worry about that going away. But while I was racking up an incredible profit from football gambling last year, I realized my loyal readers were missing out on plenty of great advice. I wasn’t giving you my favorite teaser bets of the week. I wasn’t consistently telling you which point spread picks ranked higher for me than others each week. So that’s the change you’ll see this year.

On top of the normal picks and the ridiculously witty comments for each game, I’m also delivering my favorite bets (if any) and whether I’d consider a certain team for my Survivor Pool pick or my SuperContest picks (the SuperContest involves picking just five games against the spread each week).

As you can probably guess after seeing six articles posted by me in the last three days, I’m over-the-top excited for the start of football season.

Let’s kick things off with the week 1 picks:

Carolina (-3) at Denver | over/under 40.5

The Pick: Carolina

The Score: Carolina 24, Denver 17

The Bets: Carolina -3

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: Yes to SuperContest with Carolina (-3)

I don’t see this going very well for Denver. At least in the beginning of the season, their offense should struggle to crack 20 points a game. Carolina scored less than 20 points on the road just once in 2015 (it happened to be their one loss, week 16 in Atlanta). And there was a road game in Seattle where the Panthers offense methodically marched down the field on three of their four scoring drives and patiently dismantled the Seahawk defense. So they can do it to an awesome defense.

I know we all want money down on the very first game, but for me this is either a stayaway, or 1 unit on the Panthers by 3.

Green Bay (-6) @ Jacksonville | over/under 48

The Pick: Jacksonville

The Score: Green Bay 24, Jacksonville 21

The Bets: None

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

Can’t Jacksonville at least keep this to a 3-point loss at home? They should be better all around, Green Bay may need to work off a little rust, and I’m reluctant to pick against a decent home team before we have any facts about this season.

But there’s really nothing you could do to get me to actually bet this game. Such a wildcard.

San Diego at Kansas City (-7) | over/under 44.5

The Pick: San Diego

The Score: Kansas City 23, San Diego 17

The Bets: Kansas City (-1) in a 2-team teaser / Kansas City (+3) in a 3-team teaser

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: Kansas City #2 Survivor Pool Pick

I don’t love a divisional matchup in week 1 with a team favored by a touchdown, even if it is this particular matchup of a real contender against a (best case scenario) mediocre team. Did you know that the Chiefs’ defense has ranked in the top 5 in total sacks in each of Andy Reid’s three seasons as head coach? And the year before, when they went 4-12, they were dead last in sacks? I bring this up because Justin Houston is definitely not healthy, and Tamba Hali might not be healthy. I want to see what this defense looks like with a much weaker pass rush.

While the under feels like an OK play here, I’m only comfortable using KC in a teaser to get them to a -1 or better.

Oakland at New Orleans (-1) | over/under 51

The Pick: New Orleans

The Score: New Orleans 31, Oakland 26

The Bets: None

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

This game was always a stayaway in terms of the point spread, but I was ready to throw the over in a 3-team teaser. I’ve soured on that in the last two days. I have enough good options to avoid feeling terrible the moment I place a certain bet.

Cincinnati (-3) at NY Jets | over/under 41.5

The Pick: NY Jets

The Score: NY Jets 24, Cincinnati 23

The Bets: None

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

You can think the Jets are going to struggle to get to eight wins this year and still pick them to win this game. Those two ideas aren’t mutually exclusive. Yes, the Jets’ ridiculous schedule will take its toll and there’s just no way Ryan Fitzpatrick is allowed to make the playoffs, apparently, but they will have some good games with an offense featuring Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Matt Forte. They also had a top 5 defense last year.

And I’m on record as being concerned about the Bengals missing Mohamed Sanu & Marvin Jones (on new teams), Tyler Eifert (injured) and Hue Jackson (coaching the Browns)…all of whom were significant contributors to Cincy’s offense the past couple years.

Minor concern that we walk away from this game staring at an A.J. Green stat line of 9 catches, 165 yards, 2 touchdowns…and realizing Darrelle Revis is getting a little old.

Cleveland at Philadelphia (-4) | over/under 41

The Pick: Cleveland

The Score: Cleveland 17, Philadelphia 16

The Bets: Under (51) in a 3-team teaser

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: Hell No

For those keeping score at home, it looks like Vegas is saying the public thinks Sam Bradford was only worth two more points than Carson Wentz.

I really liked Cleveland when it was Philly -6, but I could easily see one of those thrilling 9-6 wins for either team so I’ll stick with the Browns. It feels like futile work to really sit and think about how this game will play out. While both defenses are shitty enough to let up a lot of points, neither offense can come close to taking advantage. That’s why I’m throwing the point total into a teaser that gets the under to 51.

Minnesota (-2) at Tennessee | over/under 41

The Pick: Tennessee

The Score: Tennessee 19, Minnesota 17

The Bets: Under (41) or even better, Under (51) as part of a 3-team teaser

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

Does it feel like the Titans are constantly screwing up your Survivor Pool on the first week of the season? That’s because in 2013 they upset the Steelers in Pittsburgh and then in 2014 went into Kansas City and routed the Chiefs. Add in last year’s big win for Marcus Mariota facing off against Jameis Winston in week 1, and the Titans are very randomly 3-0 in their last three week 1 games. Do yourself a favor and leave Minnesota out of any straight up picks this weekend.

Jump in on this under because I promise you we aren’t going to be using the word “explosive” to describe either team’s offense any time soon.

Chicago at Houston (-6) | over/under 44

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Houston 23, Chicago 20

The Bets: Houston (PICK) in a 2-team teaser with KC

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: Houston #3 Survivor Pool Pick

I don’t doubt that Houston wins this game, so go ahead and use them in your Survivor Pool if you are trying to overthink things just a tiny bit. With the line increasing 2 points last week, probably because it’s being said that J.J. Watt will play, I’m grabbing the Bears. My assumption is that Watt won’t be nearly 100%, but Vegas knew it could count on an influx of Houston bets once that news broke regardless of the line.

There’s something especially difficult to figuring out the flow of this game. I initially liked the over after hearing how banged up Chicago’s defense is, but something feels off. Staying away on the point total.

Buffalo at Baltimore (-3) | over/under 44.5

The Pick: Baltimore

The Score: Baltimore 24, Buffalo 20

The Bets: None

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

I feel like Baltimore will win by either 3 or 4 and the total amount of points will be 44-46. So clearly I can’t touch this game.

Tampa Bay at Atlanta (-3) | over/under 47.5

The Pick: Tampa Bay

The Score: Tampa Bay 21, Atlanta 20

The Bets: Tampa Bay +3, Under (48)

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: Yes to SuperContest with Tampa +3

I like this game a lot. First of all, I think Tampa Bay is simply a better team and they can win outright.

Second, I think Vegas knows the public still considers Atlanta to be a “high-scoring offense,” and the offensive pieces for the Bucs are probably making people think they’ll play in a lot of shootouts. The truth is, neither team is very explosive on offense. I love the under, and I’m happy to slot Tampa +3 into one of my favorite 5 picks this week.

Miami at Seattle (-10.5) | over/under 44

The Pick: Seattle

The Score: Seattle 28, Miami 16

The Bets: Seattle (-10.5), Seattle (-0.5) in a 3-team teaser

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: Seattle #1 Survivor Pool Pick & Yes to SuperContest with Seattle (-10.5)

This is the most obvious component of a 3-team teaser ever. Seattle just has to win for that to work out so go ahead and count it. I know every year there’s one major shock on opening weekend that fucks up everyone’s Survivor pick, Pick’Em leagues and teasers, but this isn’t it.

The total of 44 points seems right, so I wouldn’t mess around with that. But there’s no way Maimi, one of the five worst teams in football, comes in and seriously competes.

NY Giants (-1) at Dallas | over/under 46

The Pick: NY Giants

The Score: NY Giants 24, Dallas 20

The Bets: NY Giants (-1)

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: Yes to SuperContest with NY Giants (-1)

The Giants win comfortably by 4 or 6 points. If you want to get the Giants in a 3-team tease that takes them to +9, I’m OK with that because there’s no way they don’t at least keep this a one-score game. And honestly, they should win.

Detroit at Indianapolis (-3.5) | over/under 51

The Pick: Detroit

The Score: Detroit 30, Indianapolis 27 (OT)

The Bets: Detroit (+3.5), Over (41) in a 3-team teaser

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: Yes to SuperContest with Detroit +3.5

I’m still convinced that Indy is well below average, and they aren’t going to fare so well against real NFL teams. I also hear their defense is decimated from injuries this week. I always liked Detroit getting more than a field goal when looking at this game over the summer.

My bold prediction is that this game goes to overtime either at 24/24 or 27/27.

I don’t love the regular over, but I do like the teased over. And my podcast co-host and gambling partner is so in love with the over in this game that I basically don’t have a choice. I’ll be betting it in a teaser at least.

New England at Arizona (-6) | over/under 47

The Pick: Arizona

The Score: Arizona 28, New England 20

The Bets: None

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

If I wasn’t a Patriots fan, this game would be a complete stayaway. No idea about Garoppolo, no idea if the Pats defense is going to be the top 5 unit they looked like in August.

Being a fan makes it even more of a stayaway for me.

The reason I’m picking the Cardinals when forced to pick is because I can easily envision a scenario where New England’s down 7 or 8 with two minutes left in the 4th, and Garoppolo stumbles through an attempt to lead a patented Tom Brady comeback against a blitzing-on-every-down defense. And he gives the game away with an interception or fumble. No crazy expectations should be coming out of the Boston media or fanbase this week.

Pittsburgh (-3) at Washington | over/under 50

The Pick: Washington

The Score: Washington 26, Pittsburgh 24

The Bets: Washington (+3)

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

Listen, I’m particularly high on the Redskins this year. It feels like no one else sees this as an 11-win team like I do. So obviously I like them at home getting three points against a Steelers team starting the season short two huge offensive pieces from last year (Bryant & Bell).

Los Angeles (-3) at San Francisco | over/under 43.5

The Pick: Los Angeles

The Score: Los Angeles 17, San Francisco 14

The Bets: Under (43.5)

SuperContest or Survivor Pool Pick: No

Ummm….43.5 for the over/under? I think this game barely cracks 30, and I might be assuming too generous of an offensive output from both teams. I think I have to call the under my favorite bet of the entire week.

If all you East Coasters wake up on Tuesday morning, look at your phones and scream, “Dammit! I can’t believe I went to sleep before the end of that epic game!” then I’ve gotten something horribly wrong about these teams and I’ll retire from all things football.

 
Those are the 16 games. Check out the twitter handle @TeasyMoneyNFL for my finalized bets over the weekend. Enjoy week 1.

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Too Many X-Factors in week 1 of the NFL Season: Be Careful Out there

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If you’re ever going to profit off the NFL, there are two traits you must have: Discipline and Patience.

We’ve been waiting since February 7th for the moment where week 1 is upon us and we can fire off a variety of ridiculous bets. I get it. I’ve been walking around with a week 1 boner for about a month now.

But when we have no recent results or stats to go on for these week 1 picks, we default back to the way teams played last season. That can be useful, of course, because a lot of players, coaches, schemes and talent remain similar to the recent past. But there are also huge changes, or maybe more appropriately said, there are huge unknowns for many of these teams going into the start of the new season.

It feels like this year more than other years we really need to take a wait-and-see approach to some of these unknowns

By my count, there are only four games in week 1 where there isn’t a huge blinking warning sign telling me to slow the fuck down and let the situation play out over a couple weeks before drawing a conclusion on a player or team. Here they are:

  • San Diego at Kansas City – Jamaal Charles’ slow-healing knee is a minor factor when considering this game. The Chiefs did just fine without him last year. Other than that, no crazy QB or coaching changes. No suspensions to deal with. Pretty much business as usual for these two AFC West teams.
  • Oakland at New Orleans – I can’t think of any monumental changes to these two teams compared to how they ended last year. Thinking Oakland is going to be a playoff team isn’t really an X factor.
  • Tampa Bay at Atlanta – Ditto for these NFC South rivals. Sure, Dirk Koetter is technically a brand new coach in Tampa, but he was the team’s offensive coordinator in 2015 so there’s actually good continuity there.
  • Miami at Seattle – The Dolphins also have a new head coach in Adam Gase, but I’m not expecting him to have a dramatic effect on such a lousy team, and certainly he won’t be a difference-maker in how badly the Dolphins will get slaughtered up in Seattle.

So those are the only four games where I feel I can judge who will win, by how many points, what will the over/under outcome be, etc, based on last year’s results and minor offseason roster changes.

The rest of these games? See for yourself:

  • Carolina @ Denver – Starting at quarterback for your defending Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos…2015 7th round pick Trevor Siemian?? X fucking factor!
  • Green Bay @ Jacksonville – Jordy Nelson returns to the Packers with zero preseason reps under his belt. Does he immediately cure the mediocre Green Bay offense? And what about this Jacksonville defense that has all sorts of shiny new toys? Overhyped or ready to make a huge first impression by shutting down Aaron Rodgers?
  • Cincinnati at NY Jets – Andy Dalton’s playing meaningful football for the first time since December 13th, but he has to do it without key pass catchers in Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Tyler Eifert. Oh, and offensive coordinator extraordinaire Hue Jackson is gone.
  • Cleveland at Philadelphia – All the X factors!! The new tandem of Robert Griffin and Hue Jackson try to lead the Browns to relevance while Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz look to do the same for Philly. It’s new head coach & QB vs new head coach & QB! And we don’t even know if either of these teams is trying to win, considering some of their offseason moves.
  • Minnesota @ Tennessee – Teddy Bridgewater is out for the year, you might have heard. And either Shaun Hill or Sam Bradford is going to try to replace him.
  • Chicago @ Houston – Super Bowl Champ Brock Osweiler tries to give the Texans the first bit of stability they’ve had at QB since 2012. Also, J.J. Watt and the Texans’ medical staff are saying he’s healthy after back surgery in the summer, but most medical experts are stunned and expect him to be far less than 100%. On the Chicago side, Kevin White should be lining up opposite Alshon Jeffrey for the first time ever.
  • Buffalo at Baltimore – Joe Flacco returns after tearing his ACL in late November (we’ve seen players struggle in their first year back off a major knee injury in the past). More importantly, the Bills’ defense is a complete unknown. The pedigree of Rex Ryan is still there, but they’re missing a handful of guys due to suspension (Marcell Dareus), injury (Reggie Ragland & Shaq Lawson) or being released (Manny Lawson). They also have the shitty Ryan brother in Rob trying to make a defense good for the first time in his career.
  • NY Giants at Dallas – Rookies Dak Prescott & Ezekiel Elliott take center stage for the Cowboys. And Ben McAdoo gets his first gig as a head coach, taking over for Tom Coughlin in New York.
  • Detroit at Indianapolis – Matt Stafford’s first year in the NFL without Calvin Johnson picking up all the slack in the passing game. A full season of Jim Bob Cooter! And for Indy, Andrew Luck’s return to health combined with being the team under the most pressure to succeed early.
  • New England at Arizona – Future Hall of Famer Jimmy Garoppolo makes his first career start.
  • Pittsburgh at Washington – The Steelers start the year without Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant.
  • Los Angeles at San Francisco – For the Rams it’s a new location and the ridiculous promise from Jeff Fisher that “I’m not fucking going 7-9.” For San Francisco, it’s Blaine Gabbert as their best option at QB and Chip Kelly trying to save his joke of an NFL coaching career. And sure, you can throw Colin Kaepernick as a “distraction” into the mix if you want.

So tell me how you’re going to bet on all these games when we don’t have a friggen clue how any of these changes will play out. I’m all ears.

It’s a long season. There’s plenty of time for you to waste money on stupid bets. Don’t let it happen in week 1. (But check out my picks for week 1 coming out later today where I will, in fact, make some bet recommendations.)

NFL Week 1 Picks: Home Underdogs For Everyone!

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Congratulations to everyone who loves football and actually made it through the “offseason” with your sanity. This was not an easy seven months to keep the faith. But you made it, and your reward is 21 weeks of football (followed immediately by Valentine’s Day so you have a built-in holiday to make up the next 21 weeks of neglect to your significant other).

As I’ve done the last three years, I’ll be giving you my picks from a gambling standpoint towards the end of every week. Take my advice or leave it (almost definitely leave it).

And hey, if you need to waste a whole lot of time today before the Patriots-Steelers game, feel free to read all of our preseason predictions and picks by going HERE.

Let’s dive into week 1:

Pittsburgh at New England (-7)

The Pick: Pittsburgh

The Score: New England 24, Pittsburgh 20

With Tom Brady under center, the Patriots are 7-1 against the Steelers since 2001. And in the Mike Tomlin era (2007-Present), Brady’s Patriots are 3-0 against Pittsburgh and have outscored them by 24, 13 and 21 points. This has not been a team that gives New England problems over the years. Interestingly enough, both teams are missing their starting running backs (Bell & Blount), starting centers (Pouncey & Stork) and one of their top receivers (Bryant & LaFell). I’m not expecting a very crisp offensive performance from either side. While the Steelers’ defense will almost definitely suck in 2015, the jury is very much out on the Patriots. Will their defense fall all the way back to the 2011/2012 days? I’d like to think the Pats will go “scorched earth” from the start, but I can’t help think this is going to be a sloppy, lower-scoring-than-you’d-expect type of game.

Miami (-4) at Washington

The Pick: Miami

The Score: Miami 23, Washington 16

Hey, look! It’s a matchup of the two coaches I thought had the best chance to get fired during the season (as written in one of my NFL predictions blogs earlier this week: which you can read HERE). In reality I don’t think Joe Philbin will get fired in-season because the Dolphins’ schedule is just so damn easy to start the year. I certainly think Jay Gruden will get fired, or quit, or end up in jail when Dan Snyder’s body turns up in the Potomac. There’s disrespect, and then there’s being a 4-point underdog at home to the mediocre Dolphins. The Redskins are not going to get any benefit of the doubt this year. The trash is piled high in the dumpster; several bottles of lighter fluid have been poured onto that pile; we’re just waiting for that first spark to turn Washington into a full scale dumpster fire. Will it be a Jay Gruden press conference sound byte? Will it be a RG3 tweet? Will it be an embarrassing off-field scandal? Can’t wait to find out! All I know is Kirk Cousins probably isn’t ready for Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake and the rest of the Miami pass rush.

Indianapolis (-2.5) at Buffalo

The Pick: Buffalo

The Score: Buffalo 24, Indianapolis 20

My instinct is to jump on Indy because that’s a small amount of points for a presumed Super Bowl contender to be favored over a team that’ll probably be just OK, even though it’s a road game for the Colts. But I don’t know for sure whether the Colts practiced during training camp & preseason or if they simply met from 8am-5pm everyday to brainstorm new excuses & accusations for when the Patriots demolish them in five weeks. That’s a key piece of information I need before making this pick. I’m actually going to call this as a surprise upset in week 1. Rex Ryan held Andrew Luck to nine points three years ago in the only meeting between them so far (Rex was with the Jets). I could see his new defense doing something similar on Sunday.

Cleveland at NY Jets (-3)

The Pick: NY Jets

The Score: NY Jets 20, Cleveland 6

This one’s so easy. If Geno Smith was starting for the Jets, it wouldn’t be as easy of a decision. But Ryan Fitzpatrick is a known commodity. He will beat the very worst teams, and he almost always starts the season off by going 2-1 or 3-1 before the implosion begins. Keep in mind that since the Jets have a solid run defense, Josh McCown is going to have to make plays against Revis, Cromartie and the rest of that rebuilt secondary. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Johnny Manziel is in the game by the time the 2nd half starts.

Kansas City at Houston (-1)

The Pick: Kansas City

The Score: Kansas City 27, Houston 17

Andy Reid gets a lot of crap from the public because of his well-documented clock management problems and because the Eagles came up just short so many times during his run there. But he’s actually a pretty good coach (when the pressure’s not on). The offensive-minded Reid was in Philly for 14 years. His teams ranked in the top 10 in offensive DVOA (FootballOutsiders’ efficiency stat) seven times and they ranked 11th-15th in the league 4 times. When Reid took over in Kansas City, the team was coming off the 2012 season where they ranked 31st in offensive efficiency. In 2013, he brought them up to 15th in the league, and last year they ranked 12th. With an in-his-prime Jamaal Charles, newly acquired #1 receiver Jeremy Maclin and a guy who could turn out to be the next Gronk in Travis Kelce at tight end, Reid has the pieces to set up shop as a top 10 offense for the next few years. Now if that Alex Smith fella could just learn to throw the ball…

Carolina (-3) at Jacksonville

The Pick: Jacksonville

The Score: Jacksonville 21, Carolina 17

I think Jacksonville shows signs of life this season. But even if you don’t think that, how can you be comfortable taking the Panthers as a road favorite in week 1? This team could be less talented than the Jaguars when it’s all said and done. It seems crazy to back a road favorite in the season’s opening week when we really know nothing about these teams, unless that road team is a perennial Super Bowl contender.

Seattle (-4) at St. Louis

The Pick: St. Louis

The Score: St. Louis 19, Seattle 13

This might be a game to avoid the point spread and bet the Under on the point total of 41. The games between these two teams are always so ugly. The Seahawks have lost two of three in St. Louis in the Russell Wilson era. And they still might be scrambling a bit to replace Kam Chancellor. And it’s week 1 and we just don’t know what these teams will become. So again, it’s time to take the home underdog (turning out to be a theme this week).

Green Bay (-7) at Chicago

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Green Bay 28, Chicago 23

There are a couple teams I need to be careful with because I’ve been so down on them this summer that I’m probably overselling how terrible they’re going to be. Chicago is one of those teams (It’s possible that San Francisco and New Orleans are also in that category for me). We know what we’re getting with the Packers: 12-4 record, beating all the teams they should, Mike McCarthy subtly fucking major things up, and losing once again to Seattle. But the Bears are a mystery. It’s week 1, it’s a division game, it’s a new coach in Chicago. I like the Bears to keep it closer than you might think.

Detroit at San Diego (-3)

The Pick: San Diego

The Score: San Diego 27, Detroit 17

This is exactly what the line should be between two teams that are expected to compete for playoff spots. I just happen to think the Lions are going to suck and the Chargers will be one of the five or six best teams in the AFC. By the way, isn’t there a chance Chargers head coach Mike McCoy is sneaky on the hot seat? They’ve put up back-to-back 9-7 records in his two years in San Diego. What if they go 9-7 again, or 8-8, and miss the playoffs? Is 9-7 every season good enough considering Philip Rivers probably only has a handful of effective years left? Keep an eye on that one.

New Orleans at Arizona (-2.5)

The Pick: Arizona

The Score: Arizona 33, New Orleans 20

The Cardinals are going to lose plenty of games this year, but I don’t think this is one of them. They’ll lose when the other team’s defense can shut them down and get pressure on Carson Palmer. The Saints don’t seem to be that kind of opponent. Speaking of Palmer, I’m still shocked at how healthy he looks. If he stays on the field for 16 games, he’s going to make a lot of pessimistic Arizona predictions look bad.

Also, I don’t necessarily expect New Orleans’ transition from pass-first offense to run-first offense to go smoothly right off the bat.

Baltimore at Denver (-5)

The Pick: Baltimore

The Score: Baltimore 28, Denver 25

Since I’m a Patriots fan who enjoys the feeling of self-inflicted pain, I happened to have the NFL Network on last night. On one of the few non-Patriots segments, an analyst was breaking down Peyton Manning and the difference between his arm strength when he was healthy last year and his arm strength now. The bottomline was: He has no arm strength right now. I couldn’t believe the throws Manning was missing in preseason. And I also couldn’t believe how this wasn’t more of a major story in August. Until further notice, I am not giving Manning the benefit of the doubt. He’s going to have to show me he’s still a good QB before I bet on him. And the Ravens seem like they’d be a particularly tough defense to face if you happen not to be able to throw the ball accurately more than five yards in the air.

Cincinnati (-3.5) at Oakland

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Cincinnati 31, Oakland 17

I went back & forth on this pick 100 times. That’s usually a good indication that I have zero confidence in it. On the one hand, the Bengals probably aren’t getting the point spread respect that a team of their caliber facing Oakland deserves because all we can think about is Andy Dalton’s suckiness. But there’s a lot more to them than that, otherwise they wouldn’t make the playoffs every year. On the other hand, wouldn’t it be so much more fun to root for Oakland? To see Amari Cooper lighting up the Bengals defense while Khalil Mack buys a mansion inside Dalton’s head? Instead I think Dalton will have a big day as the Raiders struggle to keep up.

Tennessee at Tampa Bay (-3)

The Pick: Tampa Bay

The Score: Tampa Bay 24, Tennessee 17

It’s amazing how much intrigue just two new players can add to a matchup. Jameis Winston for the Bucs. Marcus Mariota for the Titans. These teams were unwatchable last year (and most of the past decade actually), but they immediately take a huge jump in watchability because of the mystery and potential at quarterback. And that’s why the NFL’s system is so perfect, and it’s also why they own us. Last year’s two worst teams are suddenly must-see TV.

Even if it’s by the smallest amount, I think the Titans are worse than the Bucs. And it’s a home game for Tampa. Yeah, let’s just take the home team in this matchup until we really know a little bit about these QBs.

NY Giants at Dallas (-6)

The Pick: Dallas

The Score: Dallas 29, NY Giants 18

This is one of only 42 times the Cowboys are featured on national TV this year so make sure you don’t miss it!

I might be in the minority on this, but I think the Cowboys’ floor this year is the same as the Giants’ ceiling. And Dallas seems like a team that’s a lot more settled at the moment, meaning they don’t have a ton of roster question marks or guys they’re waiting for to come back. The Giants look like a team in disarray to start the season, with questions about Jason Pierre-Paul, Victor Cruz, and most of the defensive backfield. For the time being, I think the Cowboys are a full touchdown better than the Giants.

Philadelphia (-3) at Atlanta

The Pick: Atlanta

The Score: Atlanta 33, Philadelphia 27

This one feels backwards to me. The Falcons should be favored by three. I understand why they’re not: They were awful last year, they have an unknown new head coach, and the general public is all lathered up over the Eagles. If my preseason prediction of the Falcons being a playoff team and the Eagles missing the playoffs is going to be true, I guess Atlanta has to start by winning this game. Most importantly, Vegas has the point total for this game at 55, easily the highest of the week. If nothing more, this should be a fun matchup for us fans.

Minnesota (-3) at San Franisco

The Pick: San Francisco

The Score: San Francisco 17, Minnesota 8

Not so fast, Minnesota. The 49ers might stink in 2015, but the Vikings went 2-6 on the road last year and one of those wins was an overtime squeaker against Tampa Bay. Maybe the Vikings will go 7-1 at home this year and do enough on the road to make the playoffs, but they are certainly not going to turn into road warriors over night. Congrats to San Francisco for getting what will be their only win in the first two months of the season.

The weekly tally looks like this:

  • 7 Favorites, 9 Underdogs
  • 6 Home Underdogs, 3 Road Underdogs
  • 11 Home Teams, 5 Road Teams

Enjoy week 1.

NFL Week 1 Picks: It’s Go Time

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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!