So tonight is the start of football season, and it has me pretty excited.
The beginning of the NFL season is second only to the opening of the NHL season as one of my favourite times of the year.
Once again, I plan on making my weekly predictions. Last year, I didn’t do so hot. It was my worst year of picking football games against the spread since I started keeping track of my statistics back in 2003, by a long shot. I usually flirt around the 50% mark, which I am pleased with. But last year, I sunk to 43.8%. That’s just brutal.
I know there are things you can do to keep up the numbers. One of the columnists on ESPN, Gregg Easterbrook, talks about lots of theories on his postings. One of which is that if you choose the team that has the better record, you win 60% of the games (go with the home team if they are tied). But to me, that doesn’t sound like fun.
So this year, I have two goals. One is to get my yearly stats back up to 50%. The other is to correctly predict at least 13 games in one week. I’ve made it to 12 several time, but never 13 or more.
With that said, on to the picks.
Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints, Saints favoured by 4 1/2
This is a great game to start the season with. One of the league’s best defences against the league’s best offence. I don’t think this will be a shoot ’em out game, since the Vikings are battling injuries. I think they’ll play a slow, physical, plodding game, where there will be a lot of hand-offs to Adrian Peterson. I don’t think that will be enough, especially since the Saints are at home, and there will be a big celebration for their Superbowl win last February. That being said, I don’t think the Saints will blow them out. The Vikings will be smart enough to throw when needed, and Brett Favre will keep it close. I expect the Saints to win, but the Vikings to cover. My pick: Vikings
Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans, Titans favoured by 6 1/2
From a great game to a blowout. I know the Raiders had a great pre-season, but so did Detroit a couple of years ago when they went 4-0 in the preseason, but 0-16 in the regular season. I think the Raiders will be a better team this year, but I don’t think it will start right away. My pick: Titans.
Carolina Panthers at New York Giants, Giants favoured by 6 1/2
I’ve been a fan of the Panthers for a few years now, ever since they made it to the Superbowl a couple of years ago. The Giants are a little overrated, but they will be launching the new stadium in New York. I expect them to win this game pretty easily, but the rest of the season will be a little tought. My pick: Giants.
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans, Colts favoured by 2 1/2
I really wanted the Colts to be favoured by a lot, because the Texans always play them tough and have tight games against them, and it would have been great to choose the Texans to cover the spread. But when it’s a tight game, you can’t bet against Peyton Manning. My pick: Colts
Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars, Jaguars favoured by 2 1/2
People don’t give Kyle Orton enough credit. He’s 29-19 as a starter, and has never had a losing season. The Broncos have a good passing game, a good running game, and a good defensive game. They’re not great at any position, but are good enough to win games. The Jaguars are a horrible team, quite frankly, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I know they’re the homes team, but I have no idea how they’re favoured. My pick: Broncos
Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers, Falcons favoured by 2 1/2
It will be a tough first half of the season for the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger can’t play because he’s suspended (which is foolish: The NFL shouldn’t be able to suspend players for things that happened off the field, but that’s a different argument). Their offensive line has some holes. They don’t have a #1 quality wide receiver (no offence to Hines Ward). The Falcons are young and hungry. My pick: Falcons
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills, Dolphins favoured by 2 1/2
I know I’m not the biggest football fan, but I follow it pretty intensely. But I don’t have a clue who the quarterback is for either one of these two teams. That’s not a good sign. All I know is Miami has a tendency to let anyone on the field throw (even the guys moving the chains), and Buffalo switches quarterbacks more times than I change my socks. But with Buffalo being at home, I’m going with them. My pick: Bills.
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears, Bears favoured by 6 1/2
The Lions are my team. They’re the ones I’ve always rooted for. And they’re on the path to being a good football team. They have youth, some good skilled players in the important positions, and solid front-office leadership. But all that is good for the future, not the present. They’re be competitive this season, but they still won’t win a lot of games. The Bears aren’t a great team either, but they’re better than the Lions. My pick: Bears
Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots, Patriots favoured by 4 1/2
The Bengals will be an exciting team this year. They’ll be able to run up the score in some games, and have a good chance to win their division this season. But it won’t start strong. The Patriots will be too strong for the Bengals. My pick: Patriots.
Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bucs favoured by 2 1/2
So Cleveland has trouble with quarterbacks last season, and they jettison all their QBs and bring in two new guys: Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace. How is that an upgrade? Things look better for the Buccaneers, but not much. They don’t have any superstars, but they should still be in a better position than Cleveland this season. My pick: Buccaneers
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks, 49ers favoured by 2 1/2
I like this matchup for the Seahawks. They’re generally a good team at home, and I expect Matt Hasselbeck to have a bounce-back season this year. The 49ers, I haven’t been sold on them as much as a lot of other people. Sure, they have some good players. But I figure in this case, the best choice is the team with the home field advantage and the better quarterback. My pick: Seahawks
Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles, Packers favoured by 2 1/2
If I were a betting man, my pick would be for Green Bay to win the Superbowl this year. They’re probably the best all-around team in the league. A great quarterback, a solid runningback, good receivers, strong defence, etc. Philly is a team in transition, saying good-bye to their long-time quarterback and runningback in the off-season. My pick: Packers
Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams, Cardinals favoured by 3 1/2
I have no way idea why the Cardinals are favoured so high. Against any other team, I could see them being massive underdogs. They lost a top quality wide receiver, they cut the heir apparent to the quarterback position, and I’m not sold on their runningback game. But they are playing the Rams, who are probably worse than the Lions. My pick: Cardinals.
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins, Cowboys favoured by 3 1/2
Hey, it’s the beginning of the season, when the Cowboys actually win games. Although this will probably be a tight game, I expect the Cowboys offence to come through and win a close game thanks to a fourth-quarter touchdown. My pick: Cowboys
Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets, Jets favoured by 2 1/2
Anyone else think it’s time for the Jets to come crashing down to earth? Sure, they had a great season last year, but they caught a lot of teams by surprise. It wouldn’t happen this season. And the Ravens are a tough matchup for them. Quality players at every position, but the defence is key, especially against Mark Sanchez. My pick: Ravens
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Chargers favoured by 4 1/2
I realize it’s a double-header for Monday night football, but seriously? This is the game you give us? Ugh. The Chiefs such, the Chargers have too many weapons, and this game will be over by the second quarter. My pick: Chargers