In an effort to get some more sports content up, I'll be doing a weekly football picks column with my buddy Bob during the football season. And, similar to the Sports Gal, his wife will be picking games as well. For our take on the Thursday night game, click here. The rest of this week's games, with Kristin's take at the end:
BALTIMORE (-13) over Kansas City
Steve: Kansas City +13
While I'm not in love with Kansas City as a team, I simply thing this line is too high for Baltimore. The Chiefs have some talent on the offensive side of the ball - Matt Cassel, Dwayne Bowe, Larry Johnson - and the Ravens are still underwhelming to me, even if Ray Rice is seemingly everyone's fantasy sleeper. Even if Cassel can't play, I think Tyler Thigpen is a better QB than people realize.
Bob: Kansas City +13
I agree that this line is way too high. However, I'm tempted because I don't think that KC has the running game to keep the Ravens honest. In the end, I think the Chiefs will surprise some teams because Cassel may be a better QB than some people realize and I think the Chiefs did a lot to work on their defense in the offseason. Also, firing Herm Edwards was the greatest decision this franchise has made since... actually, I can't think of a better decision than firing Herm Edwards. That guy was an AWFUL football coach. Now, KC is actually playing to win the game.
CINCINNATI (-4) over Denver
Steve: Cincy -4
Denver just looks god-awful this year. Kyle Orton could barely win, even though he was supported by a world-beating defense in Chicago, so I have no idea what gave Josh McDaniel the idea that he was the answer at QB.
I do have a bit of a soft spot for Cincy, since they are my favorite team, because of my experience growing up with Tecmo Super Bowl. (And thanks to this guy for putting the screen shot to the left on his blog; see, the Bengals can win in at least one medium!) I don't think they're going to be mind-numbingly bad this year, more mediocre, and I wish they would just fire Marvin Lewis already. Their re-signing of Chris Henry is just embarrassing, even for the Bengals. That being said, I still think that Carson Palmer is a franchise / Pro Bowl QB, and that Chad Johnson (I'm not calling him the other name) has something to prove.
Bob: Denver +4
I don't understand why people are so down on the Broncos this year. I think Jay Cutler was a way overrated player who had two great wide receivers to throw to. I imagine he is going to come down to earth this year when his No. 1 wide receiver is... Devin Hester. Orton, on the other hand, never seemed to be as bad as people thought. Remember, he had the receivers that Cutler just inherited but managed to have servicable numbers. I don't think Orton is going to set the world on fire, but I think the Broncos will be better than people think. Also, Orton has the cooler beard. I'm not sure Cutler even has facial hair.
The flipside is that the Bengals seemed to get much worse this year. They lost T.J. Houshmanasdfsdal;jfsda;jl;dafjha and got a whole bunch of bad karma when they resigned Chris Henry. It will be much easier to guard Ochocinco now that there isn't a prolific No. 2 wide receiver to guard as well. Combined with the bad juju between Ochocinco and Carson Palmer during the offseason, I see bad things in the Bengals future.
HOUSTON (-4.5) over Jets
Steve: Houston -4.5
Every year, it seems like some people pick the Houston non-Oilers to breakout, and while I wouldn't go that far, I do think they'll be on the cusp of playoff contention this year. Everyone, myself included, laughed when they chose Mario Williams over Reggie Bush, but time has proven that their talent evaluation was correct, and Steve Slaton is a nice player as well.
Meanwhile, I think the Jets are going to struggle with Sanchez at QB. I'm seemingly the only Kellen Clemens fan left in the world; I don't think he ever really got a fair shot to win the job, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him do some good work once he gets out of New York. I feel like the Jets weren't a playoff team last year, and didn't really do anything to improve themselves for this year, and they aren't a particularly young team either.
Bob: Houston -4.5
I get sucked onto the Texans bandwagon each year. They're a likable team that is in the Colts division, so I always hope they can do well. Usually, they prove me wrong. However, I think facing Sanchez in his first pro game will be great for a defense with a good pass rush, and I can see Slaton and Shaub ruining the Jets defense.
Speaking of the 2006 NFL draft, isn't it funny how that draft class turned out to be a surprisingly weak one, at least in the first round? The first round of that draft had seven Pro Bowlers, which is the same as the 2007 and 2008 first round draft classes despite the fact that they have had less time to accumulate Pro Bowls. In addition, one of those Pro Bowlers was named Vince Young; I don't see him making a quick return. Wasn't the impression at the time that 2006 was a strong draft class? Yet, many teams had huge misses in the First Round (although the book isn't closed on them, Leinart and Maroney haven't exactly set the world on fire).
NEW ORLEANS (-13) over Detroit
Steve: Detroit +13
This game makes me nervous. I think Detroit getting a real coach and a real QB, even if he is a rookie, substantially improves them this year, along with the continued improvement (presumably) of Calvin Johnson. I think they've improved enough that they can hang a bit with the Saints, who are entirely offense. This game has potential to be similar to those 1980s NBA games that would have 136-117 finals.
Bob: New Orleans -13
I think the Saints defense is better than it played last year and Detroit made a bad decision by throwing Stafford into the flames so soon. I think Stafford would have been better served by letting Culpepper (who vastly outplayed him in the preseason) take the reins at the beginning. The Lions likely aren't going to the playoffs this year, so giving their franchise quarterback some time to develop and perhaps be the hero as Culpepper inevitably fades could only help. Also, Stafford's preseason play was a big red flag. He doesn't seem ready to be an NFL quarterback. I agree this game will be high scoring. But I think that Stafford will turn the ball over enough that the Saints put up a lot of points.
[Left] Dear San Francisco, remember when you were relevant? Joe Montana does. He has four reminders of it.
ARIZONA (-6.5) over San Francisco
Steve: Arizona -6.5
While I think everyone else will overrate Arizona, based on their somewhat-miraculous run to the Super Bowl last year, this isn't the week I'm betting against them. San Francisco is just a mess. I can't wait for two years from now, when the Patriots sign Frank Gore after another miserable season, and he scores 20 touchdowns for them.
I also don't know why the line is only a touchdown for this game. San Francisco, I think there is a chance they win like two games this year.
Bob: Arizona -6.5
I think Arizona has the chance to be pretty bad this year, but San Fran will be worse. Kurt Warner seems to have the same disease that Jake Delhomme and Chad Pennington caught – that is, they can't put together two good seasons. Unfortunately for the Cards, Matt Leinart is not going to be the answer. I can't imagine a way to get worse karma than to dump your college girlfriend, the mother of your kid, and then dating Paris Hilton. This guy not only has a hex, he probably has eight different forms of HPV.
[Left] Rick Pitino called me this weekend Seattle fans, and he told me that Steve Largent isn't walking through that door.
SEATTLE (-8.5) over St. Louis
Steve: St. Louis +8.5
This line stuns me. What's going on? Did Matt Hasselbeck suddenly find a fresh body to harvest new organs from? Did they use a time machine to import Ricky Watters, Chris Warren and Shaun Alexander? Did Deion Branch find the fountain from Tuck Everlasting and use it to regain the form that made the Seahawks trade for him in the first place?
It's not that I love the Rams, but Bulger and Stephen Jackson are a decent one-two punch to me, and I can't see the Seahawks running away with this game by 9 points. I don't think the Seahawks have the firepower or health to severely outclass the Rams, who finally have a real coach.
Bob: Seahawks -8.5
Stephen Jackson is good, Marc Bulger is not. This is definitely a guy who benefited from having good receivers earlier in his career and a coach who cranked offenses up to 120 decibels. I don't trust St. Louis to do a whole lot this season, even though they hired a better coach. They were one of the worst teams in the league last year, and I don't see how they got much better.
The Seahawks, on the other hand, were pretty racked with injuries last year. Even though they aren't getting younger, I think this team might be decent. Also, don't forget about T.J. Houshmanasdfsdal;jfsda;jl;dafjha. I also think they have good depth at running back. Finally, the Seahawks have a great homefield advantage, which puts them over the top for me. I also think the line is high, but I think this game could be a laugher.
NEW ENGLAND (-11) over Buffalo
Steve: New England -11
See, the Patriots are a team that I can see completely overrunning teams. They have a bunch of weapons, plus something to prove this year with Brady being healthy, plus I think they'll be super focused on the game as an escape from all of the Richard Seymour talk this week.
It doesn't help the Bills that 1) they fired their offensive coordinator right before the season started 2) their best running back is suspended for this game 3) their QB is still Trent Edwards and 4) Mr. Edwards now has to deal with TO. Maybe TO will be a bit more humble, seeing that only the Bills were interested in his services this offseason, but trying to guess the actions of TO is like trying to count all the grains of sand on a beach.
Bob: Buffalo +11
I like the Patriots chances of having a record-setting offense this year, but I don't see how their defense can hold up. Their defense hasn't been up to snuff during the last few years, and I think they only got worse in the off-season. Particularly, I see the secondary being something where people say "they couldn't possibly be worse than last year," but somehow proving people wrong. If they move to a 4-3 I think their pass rush has a chance at being better, but that secondary still worries me. I think we might see a lot of 41-38 games this season.
I don't think Buffalo is going to do anything great this year, particularly while Lynch is suspended. If it wasn't the Pats, I would say this one is a laugher. However, that might jinx the game (and this is coming from a guy who has eaten the same food during Patriots games for the past six years) so I won't say that. Buffalo covers, or perhaps wins outright.
[Left] I remember a kinder, gentler time in Atlanta football history, when a certain quarterback was just getting in trouble in civil matters.
Miami (-4) over ATLANTA
Bob: Atlanta +4
I'm not a believer in Miami at all. They had a gift schedule last year, had a fairly weak division, and weren't able to do much against quality teams. In addition, I see defenses figuring out the Wildcat and Chad Pennington having a down year (he can't seem to put two good seasons together). I wouldn't be surprised if there was a quarterback controversy later this year.
That isn't to say I'm wild about Atlanta either. Atlanta's defense didn't set the world on fire and didn't do much to improve. I also think Matt Ryan will have a hard time following up last year. In the end, I think Miami did more to improve their defense, which will help them pull through. I'll take the points.
Steve: Miami -4
I'm not a huge believer in Miami or Atlanta either, but I think the Falcons have the greater chance of collapsing this year. Matt Ryan got picked in the third round of the fantasy draft for the league I'm in, which seems insanely high to me. While I think there is a chance that he gets better, I think it's negated by the huge amount of carries Michael Turner had last year. I am a big believer in the curse of 370 – and the curse of 363, so I'm worried about Adrian Peterson too – so it wouldn't surprise me to see Atlanta struggle to post between a 5-11 and 7-9 record this year.
That being said, the Dolphins don't impress me that much either. Chad Pennington can't stay healthy, and I think Ronnie Brown has just as much injury concern as Turner. (Brown is on my fantasy team though, so I'm wishing for the best.) I think they manage to stay healthy through the first game though, and that means a Dolphins win by a touchdown or more.
Philadelphia (-2.5) over CAROLINA
Bob: Philly -2.5
This game is a crap shoot. On one hand, you have the wildly inconsistent Jake Delhomme. On the other, you have the somewhat less inconsistent (but not to say consistent) Donovan McNabb. Despite the fact that there hardly seems to be a home field advantage in the NFL anymore (thanks for all the luxury boxes, though, NFL owners), it looks like McNabb is much worse on the road (8 TDs and 8 picks on the road last year versus 15 and 3 at home) while we all know that Delhomme is better at home. So my gut instinct is to take Carolina.
Then again, Philly's defense was much better last year than Carolina's. That, in addition to the turmoil Carolina faced in the off-season (being simply trounced in the playoffs and Julius Peppers' holdout), makes me feel as though this is the beginning of a bad season for Carolina. So I'm going to take the Eagles here.
Steve: Philly -2.5
The contract extension that the Panthers signed with Delhomme is just absolutely insane. I have no idea what they were thinking. Yes, he's been the best quarterback in franchise history, but that history is about a decade long, and he's been a great player only a few years in that span. He's also injury-prone, and throws a lot of interceptions. I'm not sure if there has been an odder, “Why the hell did they do that?” personnel move that has been made in the past couple years.
For that reason alone, I think Philly wins this game easily. The Eagles are still the Eagles, and while they seemingly have a couple brain farts each year under Andy Reid, I think there is a great chance that the Panthers just completely quit on the Delhomme. I think that process starts this week.
[Left] He's coming for you, Childress... You creepy looking sonofabitch...
Minnesota (-4) over CLEVELAND
Bob: Minnesota -4
Sometimes, there is a clear villain in games like these (at least in my head). Typically, I would root against Mangina (note: not a misspelling) for unleashing the whole Spygate thing two years ago. The double whammy of going to the hated Jets and then immediately stabbing Belichick in the back cemented his place in my heart. On the other hand, Brett Favre has made NFL off-seasons completely unenjoyable by playing the whole “will I / won't I retire?” game. So I don't know who to root against in this game.
Even when you consider the suffering of the fan bases, it's hard to choose between the two. Cleveland has been consistently awful (and had their franchise stolen from them), but Minnesota has not been setting the world on fire either. In the end, it amounts to Favre and AP versus... Brady Quinn and Jamal Lewis? On the other hand, Brad Childress versus Eric Mangina... Ugh. I'd like to take the points, but I'll take Adrian Peterson running all over Cleveland's not amazing run defense. I do like Cleveland's chances of having a rebound year, though.
Steve: Minnesota -4
I totally concur with you on all of the wishy-washy drama between both of these teams, coaches and individual players with the rest of the league. Both have been pretty miserable for the past fill-in-the-blank years, but Minnesota has at least had some promise and some exciting teams (remember when Daunte Culpepper didn't suck?), whereas Cleveland has just had year after year of muddy, grinding, unexciting teams. While it was shitty of Art Modell to move the team to Baltimore, who the heck wants to stay in Cleveland?
For the aforementioned non-football reasons, I'm going with Minnesota. While the Brett Favre factor means that every game, he has a chance of throwing five interceptions and ruining their chances, I don't think it'll happen this week, on his first game back, and with Adrian Peterson ready, willing and able to run roughshod over the rest of the league. However, it does worry me that Childress is the coach, and he needs to realize that Peterson should not be a case study for whether a Jim Brown-like workload would work in today's NFL.
INDIANAPOLIS (-7) over Jacksonville
Bob: Indy -7
Some day, Indianapolis will be bad. I would take more solace in this if I thought that time would be soon. I am sick of Peyton Manning commercials, even if they are kind of funny. I am sick of hearing about how Peyton Manning is great, while he has essentially had two No. 1 receivers almost his entire career. It will be interesting to see how he performs without Harrison. It is also interesting that Bob Sanders has again managed to injure himself. Perhaps this is the year the Colts come down to earth (but I wouldn't bet on it).
Jacksonville always plays Indianapolis hard, but this is a team that hasn't gotten much better. They had a middling defense last year and did nothing to improve it, while they got worse on offense by losing Fred Taylor. MJD managed to hurt himself last week. Gerrard actually has players to throw to this year, though. I say Indianapolis wins this by not much more than a TD, but starts falling down to earth as the season goes along.
Steve: Jags +7
While I am worried about MJD health, enough so that my buddy convinced me to draft Brady over him in our fantasy draft, I think that the Jaguars will be amped and looking for blood in this game. Remember that cinematic classic Little Giants? In the final game, a plucky squad without much talent managed to stage a miraculous comeback against the big, bad local team. I don't think this has anything to do with the Jags vs. the Colts, but I did want to work them into this picks column somehow. My gut just says that the Jags keep this close and interesting, as the Colts don't manage to put a finishing blow on the Jags when they get a chance.
[Left] Dear Tampa Bay, please break Tony Romo's legs, so he can understand the pain Jessica felt when he BROKE HER HEART.
Dallas (-6) over TAMPA BAY
Bob: Dallas -6
I'm starting to get concerned because I'm choosing a lot of favorites. However, I don't see how Tampa Bay does anything this year. I wrote that before I saw that Byron Leftwich is their starting quarterback. Leftwich??? I guess this team could surprise me, but I would have a hard time turning the keys of my team over to anybody name Byron, and particularly Byron Leftwich.
Dallas may sneak up on people this year. Romo broke up with his bad luck charm (hopefully his career won't go the same way as Nick Lachey's, though), they seem to have gotten better on defense, and they've gotten rid of a consistent locker room cancer. Ewing Theory, anyone?
Steve: Dallas -6
Byron Leftwich deserves enshrinement in the Reggie Cleveland All-Stars Hall of Fame, since he's a black dude, and also in the Matt Jones Misapplied Stereotype Hall of Fame, because a few analysts laughingly referred to him as a “scrambler” when he was being drafted out of Marshall. (This is named after former Jags receiver and college QB Matt Jones, who was called a possession receiver in the NFL because he was a white dude, which essentially means that nobody noticed that the guy ran fast as eff.)
I'm also picking more favorites than not, and I can't blame you for picking Dallas in this game. Even overlooking Tampa Bay's issues at QB, what the heck is going on with their coaching staff? They hire a first-year coach to replace Gruden, and while I think he was overrated, Morris' performance this season would have normally been banner news in a non-McDaniels year. Meanwhile, the Cowboys' off-season has been quiet for the first time in ages, with the only drama concerning punters and the scoreboard, and not the on-field product. I don't think this will last the entire season, but Week One seems safe for now.
NY GIANTS (-6.5) over Washington
Bob: Washington +6.5
This game has me torn. I just expect the Redskins to be bad. Not only does the team make awful decisions, but they have an evil, evil owner. On the other hand, Haynesworth has a way of making a team inexplicably better. This team's defense could be stifling. I can already see the Redskins flags popping up on cars all over town (when they started off well last season, you could go five minutes without seeing a car with them on the road).
Helmet catch. Helmet catch. Helmet catch. Helmet catch. Ugh. If you can't tell, I severely dislike the Giants. Somehow, though, this team has managed to remain good. Hopefully karma will catch up with them for winning a Super Bowl on the luckiest play ever. Also, it's about time Eli Manning play to his level—which is far below the level he has been playing at. Maybe the lucrative extension he signed during the offseason will convince him to play awfully for a few weeks.
Steve: Giants -6.5
First, I agree with Bill Simmons and (seemingly) you about the David Tyree catch. Since he got released by the Giants in the preseason, there is a good chance the helmet catch will be the LAST catch of his career. That fact guarantees that he'll be in the news every five years, as newspapers and sports media sites will feel the need to run retrospective after retrospective on the New York Giants' upset, just like they way overdo every other storyline that has a remote New York connection. ESPN ran an entire mini-series on The Bronx is Burning, but I doubt they'll be extending the same courtesy to anything coming out of Baltimore, even if Brian Billick morphs into Godzilla and starts playing offensive line for the team he used to coach.
However, as much as I dislike the Giants, they are at least run, or rather left alone, by a semi-competent owner. Dan Snyder is like Jerry Jones or Al Davis with absolutely no track record of success. TMQ calls him Voldemort, so named after the Harry Potter villain, and I see no reason to dispel that nickname. I think Campbell is better than people give him credit for, and that Eli Manning is much worse, but there is also a big talent disparity in the talent surrounding each of them. Clinton Portis is the only guy I like on Washington from a stats perspective, and even his numbers are the result of the Redskins force-feeding him carries a lot. Chris Cooley is a cool mofo though, with a very nifty name.
GREEN DAY (-3.5) over Chicago
Bob: Chicago +3.5
Battle of the blahs. Although people seem to be somewhat excited about these two teams this year, they just manage to play such... boring games. Don't get me wrong - this will probably end up being a good, hard-fought game with several lead changes. But what player is going to be the star of this game? Aaron Rodgers? Jay “Diabetes” Cutler? Matt Forte? There is no player in this game who excites me much. I see this as ending up as a close game - read one field goal - so I'm comfortable taking the points.
Steve: Green Bay -3.5
As a former fantasy owner of Aaron Rodgers, I think he takes a big step forward this year and becomes a Pro Bowl quarterback. Last year was essentially his rookie season, yet people are more psyched about Matt Ryan this year. What gives??? If the defense improves even a little, than the Packers are a playoff team, and really only have the Bears to worry about in their division. (I'm assuming Childress or Favre will eventually do something stupid to ruin Minnesota's chances.)
The Bears, meh. I don't think Cutler is the franchise QB that everyone else does – he comes off as an insufferable jerk in interviews, and in the Stephan Pastis book where he tries to make the Broncos as a placekicker. However, Cutler is clearly better than Kyle Orton, Rex Grossman and the other scrubs Chicago has run out at QB in recent years, so it wouldn't surprise me to see him annointed in the same lofty airs as Brady and Big Ben after he leads his team to a good record. But, I'm going with my heart this week, and picking the Packers.
San Diego (-9.5) over OAKLAND
Bob: San Diego -9.5
How will this game even be close? Even if Seymour does report before this game starts, I don't think he's going to be a game-changer. San Diego isn't a terribly likable team, but I just don't see how the Raiders can possibly be good in the next few years. On the other hand, I can see San Diego going into a frenzy and beating the pants off a few teams, a la the Patriots in 2007. I hope somebody knocks the grin off Philip Rivers' face by the end of the season, though.
Steve: San Diego -9.5
This line could be 20.5, and I'd still pick the Chargers at that point. The Raiders... are just a miserable team. Even if Rivers and LDT get hurt, I think whoever is Rivers back-up and Sproles would still handily beat the Raiders. Tom Cable punched out an assistant coach, and the bad news is that with the Seymour trade, that wasn't even the bad news of the off-season!
Similar to the Sports Gal, Bob's wife Kristin will also be picking games against the spread with us. I have no idea how much she knows about football, but I have great confidence that she'll beat either one or both of us this season. These picks were submitted before the start of Thursday night's game, but Kristin's regular spot will be Saturday morning, as a sort of Girl Power Tag Team with Amanda Meyer's entries later in the day. (This makes the picture above of the WWE's Bella Twins totally justified, of course.)
Tennessee over PITTSBURGH +6
Mainly because I hate the Steelers. I think they're cocky and rude, and frankly, Tennessee is an unassuming team that did rather well last year while nobody was paying attention (at least I wasn't paying attention), so maybe they'll do well again this year.
Miami over ATLANTA +4
I'm pretty much going to pick Miami unless they're playing the Pats. Maybe it's a Dan Marino thing, or maybe I'm just not over the dogfighting thing.
BALTIMORE over Kansas City -13
I think it's always safe to pick a team where you would never want to run out of gas in their city.
CAROLINA over Philadelphia +2.5
Philly is a city of choking assholes.
Denver over CINCINNATI +4
My mom went to school in Denver, so my family kind of always roots for them.
CLEVELAND over Minnesota +4
As much as I dislike the Jets (Mangini), I need to pick them over the Vikings because I'm more mad at Brett Favre. I believe there is honestly something wrong with you if you're over 40 with a wife that hot and you choose to leave her and return to football. Repeatedly. Even after everyone knows you're too old and you kind of suck now. And, frankly, didn't he even break a rib? Isn't that a sign from God? A too-old sign?
HOUSTON over Jets -4.5
I don't think that Houston can win, but I just can't pick the Jets.
Jacksonville over INDIANAPOLIS +7
Ditto for Indianapolis. Maybe somehow the spread will help me out on that one.
NEW ORLEANS over Detroit -13
I almost want to pick the Lions, because no one else ever will all season, but as long as they're still rebuilding New Orleans, you have to root for the Saints.
TAMPA BAY over Dallas +6
I'm not allowed to ever pick Dallas since I was raised a Redskins fan. However they'll probably win because I think Romo is still broken up with Jessica Simpson.
ARIZONA over San Francisco -6.5
I guess I have to pick Arizona. The last cool thing the 49ers ever did was that Super Bowl where they scored 49 points, except I think I was in elementary school then.
Washington over NY GIANTS +6.5
Go 'Skins! There is a chance they might win this game in order to more fully break my father's heart later in the season after getting his hopes up.
SEATTLE over St. Louis -8.5
I think I'm going to have to say Seattle. The Rams are just so boring.
GREEN BAY over Chicago -3.5
I hope that Green Bay completely trashes the Bears because I hope they're as pissed off at Brett Favre as I am. It would be like going to the Yankees. And really, the Midwest has nothing much better going on, so it's almost worse.
NEW ENGLAND over Buffalo -11
Obviously go Pats. But if they don't beat the spread, because they like ridiculously close games that don't seem close after the fact but really were while you were watching them, it's because they traded away my husband. You don't let go of a man who looks that good in a suit, or who can completely squish whoever he wants.
OAKLAND over San Diego +9.5
As much as Oakland is old and mean, and I really shouldn't pick them, I'm not over the LT comments when he was a total prick after we beat them in the playoffs a few years ago. I think they're a team of poor sports.