Andy Hayes kicks off his weekly column for TheDC with Week 1 picks. Without further ado …
• MN @ NO (-4.5). I am pumped for the start of this NFL season. And what a great game to start the season. One reason I’m so excited the season is finally here is that we don’t have to listen to ridiculous speculation anymore about Brett Favre returning. He’s back with an injured ankle, the Viking defense is older, Sidney Rice is out for a while, Percy Harvin can’t shake the debilitating migraines (something you’d think more NFL players would suffer from), Adrian Peterson fumbles in 50% of his games and Brad Childress remains … Brad Childress. Looks like a nice opening night for the Saints. NO 38, MN 20.
• Mia @ Buff (+2.5). I don’t think the Miami Dolphins have a Marketing/Promotions department. I can’t remember a quieter professional sports team. Just a few days ago, one of the legends of NFL football (Bill Parcells) abruptly resigned his post as exec VP of football with zero fanfare – only a few brief, after-thought type articles. Earlier in the year, the Dolphins quietly acquired a not-so-quiet young whipper-snapper (only time I ever have, or will, use that expression — promise) named Brandon Marshall. He was a huge free agent signing, but again, the expected buzz around such a signing was just not there. Like all things Dolphins, the excitement was short-lived and then snuffed out. Communism anyone? Now, they head into the season with what could be a very good team and folks aren’t even sure Miami is even in the NFL anymore. Meanwhile, the Buff spent the offseason apparently focused on bolstering the one position that needed no attention: RB. Rookie RB CJ Spiller might end up being very good – but the Buff already had 2 good RBs and the rest of the team needed serious attention but was neglected. Not smart. Mia 24, Buff 17.
• Cleve @ TB (2.5). Still wondering how Raheem Morris got the head coaching job for TB. He was 33 at the time of the hire and had zero head coaching experience at ANY level. Makes me believe it IS possible that one day, I’ll simply be named the GM of the Packers. If I had to guess, I’d say this is how Morris ended up with the job. The Glazer family was busy tending to some matter in Manchester, England in January of 2009 (they also own a significant stake in the Manchester United soccer team) when someone from Tampa called them and said that Jon Gruden was fired so they needed a new coach. They took action immediately – at the pub they were drinking in – by printing off the roster of TB coaches and taping it to the dartboard. Malcolm (daddy Glazer, 82 years old) hit Raheem’s name with the first dart and proclaimed “COACH!”. Then Glazer urged his cronies to join him in a game of beer-pong. Despite their n0-experience coach, Tampa might not be bad this year. Josh Freeman was a good draft pick last year and could be good, their RB group looks decent, Kellen Winslow could be excellent and WR Mike Williams could surprise. Still, there is just something about the Cleve’s Jake Delhomme, a guy who loves the underdog role, landing in sucky Cleveland that makes me think that the team may get its fans excited by showing some cleave this year, as it were. Cleve 24, TB 17.
• Det @ Chic (-6.5). Like many NFL fans, I get an annual urge to pick Detroit to surprise. Every year the temptation is huge and it’s usually not based on much. This year, I think there is a bit more to base the temptation on because of some good additions and the potential of Matthew Stafford. I think Jahvid Best will be very good (though injury-prone) and the additions of Nate Burleson and Tony Scheffler will help spread out the offense. But the temptation to get too excited this year is tempered by the fact that I saw the Packers handle Detroit last year at Lambeau and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a less inspired effort by a team. I was sitting right behind the Detroit bench and there was zero spark and absolutely zero coaching going on. It was amazing really, as Jim Schwartz stood alone most of the game seemingly not even talking into his headset thing. At the risk of being crass, actually there is no risk here – this will be crass – judging by their facial expressions, it seemed like a number of coaches and players may have been dealing with diahrrea. As for the Bears, the only real question is, has Jay Cutler let Mike Martz into his frat? Whenever I hear the word “frat” or “Fraternity house”, I don’t think of Animal House like most my age do – I think of Jay Cutler, ultimate frat boy. This may be a better game than most think – Bears 33, Detroit 24.
• Indy @ Hou (+2.5). I read here that the last 16 times Indy has played Houston, Indy has won 15 of those games. Hard to believe – unless you saw that Sage Rosenfels disaster game a few years ago when Houston had the game in the bag in the 4th quarter only to have Rosenfels commit 3 horrific turnovers enabling Indy to come back and win it. Honestly one of the worst quarters of football I’ve ever seen by one player. (Here is one of them.) I think this curse may be ending this Sunday though. One thing to look watch for Sunday is Peyton Manning whining about the umpire not placing the ball fast enough when he’s in the hurry-up offense. The rule change (moving the umpire from the defensive side of the field to the offensive side of the field) has caused Indy to whine quite a bit – and their whining is not unfounded. But I would submit, in a weird psychological way, that Manning LIKES this problem because it gives him something to whine about – because he loves whining. Sort of like the guy who gives himself the yips on short putts so that it seems he’s intentionally 3-putting just so that he can say after the round “would have cracked 80 without those eight 3-putts.” Hou 33, Indy 24.
• Den @ Jax (-2.5). Three interesting facts about this game: 1) Tim Tebow, Denver’s 3rd string QB (maybe 2nd string now) has the #1 selling jersey in the NFL; 2) Jack Del Rio is entering his 8th season as the Jax coach having made the playoffs only twice – strange job security; 3) Maurice Jones-Drew writes a column on fantasy football – and it’s a good one. Check it out here. This game should be dull – MJD all day. Jax 28, Den 17.
• Cincy @ NE (-4.5). Chad Ochocinco, T.O. and Randy Moss all on the same field. With all the chatter, I’ve got nothing left to say. NE 34, Cincy 21.
• Car @ NYG (-6.5). Eli manning has always seemed to me like the kid you played football with when you were younger who would scream “get off, get off!” frantically when he was on the bottom of the pile. He was probably a decent little kid football player, but he would have been the kind to go home right after the game and brag to his dad about his stats – choosing to ditch his friends and their trip to the local drug store for gobbstoppers and Now-N-Laters. I have been wrong in the past about Eli – telling anyone who’d listen about how he has the quintessential “loser” face. He has won and won big – and he played well when the NY Giants won big. That was a few years ago though and I still feel like how the Giants played last year is closer to who they really are. Ahmad Bradshaw may very well run away with his chance to start – he’s a better RB than Brandon Jacobs. On the other side, why is Carolina ALWAYS the sexy pick for some experts to do some damage and get into the playoffs? John Fox has been head coach for 8 years and Carolina has made the playoffs 3 times – why so much sexy pick love? NYG 24, Car 21.
• Atl @ Pitt (+2.5). The Pennsylvania Turnpike sucks. What does this have to do with the Steelers? Well, the PA Turnpike goes around the city and some Steelers have probably driven on it. What a crappy freeway – always under construction, treacherous. But is there a stranger place in the whole world than Breezewood, PA – where the Turnpike ends? The vortex of the universe? When we went through there recently, we told my 3-year-old to close his eyes, just so he wouldn’t ever have the image of such a place in his head. WTF? Pitt 17, Atl 13.
• Oak @ Tenn (-2.5). I have heard several people now picking Oakland to surprise this year. They have a coach who beats his staff, an owner whose face is melting and they are consistently plagued by the presence of underachieving high draft picks: JaMarcus Russell (though he’s finally gone), Darren McFadden, Michael Huff and Darius Heyward-Bey. To add to it, their by-default #1 WR Louis Murphy has recently claimed that he plans to make the Pro Bowl this year. Hum…Not on board the Raider bandwagon this year. On the other side, in Tenn, Vince Young will carry his 12-6 record as a starter into the season. (I’m envisioning him carrying a sign like one of those huge golf checks that says “12-6 record”.) Shocking isn’t it. Say what you will about his poor decision-making, off-the-field issues, trouble throwing the ball, tendency to get injured, questionable mental toughness – Vince Young is a winner. Tenn 31, Oak 19.
• Pack @ Phil (+2.5). I’m a Packer fan. The Packers will win 58 – 4. Seriously. Pack 27, Phil 24.
• AZ @ StL (+3.5). Sam Bradford will get the call as the starting QB for the Rams. He was impressive by all accounts in the preseason. But his WR group is so thoroughly unimpressive it’s actually spectacular. You know things are bad when the team struggled emotionally with the season-ending injury to WR Donnie Avery. Still, I do expect Bradford to play like a quality veteran despite getting sacked constantly and Steven Jackson might end up being monstrous this year. For AZ, even with a very underrated coach in Ken Whisenhunt, they will struggle without Kurt Warner. StL 24, AZ 23.
• SF @ Sea (+2.5). This morning, Mike Greenberg of Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN Radio shared his Super Bowl pick: Balt over SF. Really. Only expert I know of who has taken SF to get to the Super Bowl. I think SF could be good, but I find this is a stretch for the normally sure-headed and conservative Mike Greenberg. (Can someone be sure-headed? if not, I’m officially declaring this a new expression.) Seattle will be led this year by head coach Pete Carroll – the super positive and rather slippery Pete Carroll (he slipped right out of USC at the perfect time). Counter to pretty much all preseason-NFL-predictor-types, I think Seattle may actually be decent this year. Now, for a lame comment: I think Pete Carroll’s sunny disposition might help clear the permanent clouds over Seattle. Sorry about that. Seattle 24, SF 20.
• Dal @ Wash (+3.5). I read something fascinating the other day. Jerry Jones just flat out said in an interview that he thinks Wade Phillips makes a mistake (every game) by having RB Marion Barber be the starter. Jones thinks Barber should finish games. He said it last December here, and he has said it recently again. I’m not sure he’s totally wrong about this, but it’s just not cool for an owner to do this in the media. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised though, that a guy like Jerry Jones is openly questioning his own coach in the media. He’d be one of the last people I think I’d want to work for. Just can’t imagine having a fun conversation with the guy unless we had tons of beers. Tons of beers. As far as Wash goes, I am going to be one of the first NFL writer guys to not say anything about _____ and the problems he’s causing for Mike Shanahan. I am so tired of reading about _______ . Can’t imagine being a Skins fan and having to deal with ______ speculation non-stop. (Actually, I just can’t imagine being a Skins fan period). Wash 27, Dal 17.
• Balt @ NYJ (-2.5). John Harbaugh is one of those guys who seems so intense that whenever he walks by porcelain, it probably just breaks. Rex Ryan is also intense, but he has more of a fat obnoxious intensity about him. Ryan is definitely creating a sentiment around the NFL among fans (and other teams) that the Jets might be a pretty fun team to hate. If I’m a Jets’ player, I’m not too keen on that – nor would I be too keen on someone so fat telling me I have to run wind sprints because I ran the wrong route. (Do athletes even do “wind sprints” anymore. I feel like I may have dated myself there…) Balt 23, NYJ 13.
• SD @ KC (+4.5). Dexter McCluster. Remember that name – should be relatively easy. This guy will be a menace this year. He is insanely quick. In fact, I wish someone had developed as reliable a quickness measurement as they have speed measurements (40 yard dash etc). I know they do cone drills at the combine etc, but I never hear people talking about someone’s “cone number”. I think there needs to be an overall quickness number. In fact, I’m just going to go ahead and create this right now. Dexter McCluster registers a 2.8 on my new quickness scale. For sake of comparison, Darren Spoles registers a 3.0, Chris Johnson a 3.1 and back-up QB for the Bears, Todd Collins, registers a 94. With this kind of quickness, it’s hard to imagine McCluster and the Chiefs not being good this year. KC 31, SD 27.
Andy Hayes is a workplace consultant and a weekly sports columnist for TheDC. He lives in Brookfield, WI and has been a Green Bay Packer fan since age one second. Andy is the editor of Packergeeks.com, a Packer blog. He is married and the father of an active 3 year old boy (whom Andy is grooming to be an NFL place-kicker, or punter).