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NFL Handicapping Picks – Week 1

NFL Handicapping Picks – Week 1

NY GIANTS (-4) VS. Washington Redskins: The Giants kick off the 2008 NFL season and the defense of their Super Bowl title on Thursday night against a Redskins team that begins the Jim Zorn era. Zorn has installed a pass-happy scheme for Washington and QB Jason Campbell has the accuracy and strong arm to make it work. Of course this is also the third different offense he has had to learn in the last three years so expect some struggles early on as he tries to adapt. DE Jason Taylor comes over from Miami to shore up the line but he currently is listed as questionable with a knee sprain. For the Giants, the loss of DE Osi Umenyiora to season-ending ACL surgery and retirement of Michael Strahan will certainly take some bite out of the pass rush but Justin Tuck is on the verge of becoming a star and Mathias Kiwanuka has great pass rush ability so things won’t fall apart in that aspect. The offense has the chance to be very good with a great corp. of RB’s and solid depth at the WR position led by Plaxico Burress who looks to put his ankle issues behind him in his quest for a new pact. As far as the game goes, the Giants do qualify in a solid 28-15 ATS angle against a division foe at home but the -4 is a tad high for our liking. Both teams will be jazzed up a nationally televised kickoff so expect the best from both squads. Washington also has some angles that favor them here so it’s best to stay clear of this game altogether. If the line drops to -3 then jump on the Giants with confidence but at -4 it’s in that danger zone of a field goal game. One major commandment of football betting is to be extra careful with Week 1 games due to the lack of knowledge of the teams and that certainly is the case with this game. THE PICK: PASS

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (-7.5) VS. St. Louis Rams:*******BEST BET*****

BUFFALO BILLS (-1) VS. Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks come into the season as one of the most overrated teams in the NFL. The pass-happy ‘Hawks have major issues in the receiving department as Deion Branch wont be available until possibly midseason and the leading pass catcher looks to be the very mediocre Nate Burleson who flopped in that role with Minnesota. The infusion at the RB position with Julius Jones and TJ Duckett will surely help and the defense looks great led by LB Lofa Tatupu and CB Marcus Trufant. This team however struggled on the road at times in 2007 and now they must open 2008 across the country against a Bills team that always gives a good effort. Buffalo is nothing to write home about but they have an emerging offense led by super talented RB Marshawn Lynch and very smart QB Trent Edwards. All-Pro OT Jason Peters is still holding out as we write this which could hurt but the rest of the unit is solid enough to get the job done. The defense also looks to be good as DE Matt Schobel leads a good pass rushing unit with some emerging players in the secondary. They certainly stand a good chance of beating the Seahawks here as a major betting no-no is going with West Coast teams in Week 1 on the road in the East. That’s the setup here and the value clearly rests on the Bills who won’t be getting much love as many bettors will take the points with the seemingly better team. Value is where you make your money and the home team has it and then some. THE PICK: Buffalo Bills (-1)


NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-16) VS. Kansas City Chiefs:******STRONG OPINION***

Detroit Lions (-3) VS. ATLANTA FALCONS: This is truly the worst game on the slate for Week 1 and is one that looks to be unwatchable. The Falcons will start the Matt Ryan era right off the bat against a Lions team whose defense can’t stop a retirement home team. Ryan will surely lean on the running of new RB Michael Turner and the pass catching of emerging star Roddy White. The offense line is a joke however and it wouldn’t be surprising to me so se Ryan challenge David Carr’s record for most sacks taken. For Detroit, they continue to wallow in mediocrity but they continue to add pieces to the offense in rookie RB Kevin Smith who looked good in preseason and second-year wideout Calvin Johnson who will be a star very soon. The Lions being the Lions however, they then go out and sign a washed up Rudi Johnson late of the Bengals and continue to give the ball to mistake-prone QB Jon Kitna. So expect nothing but struggles for both teams all year. This game is one to stay away from for sure and I would rather watch women’s tennis than sit through this. THE PICK: PASS

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-3.5) VS. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Saints went into the off-season hell-bent on improving a defense that let them down way too often last year. The offense could be the best in the NFL however led by the steady hand of QB Drew Brees and an explosive receiving trio of RB Reggie Bush, WR Marques Colston, and TE Jeremy Shockey. If the defense can be even average, then New Orleans could be sitting on a huge season. For the Buc’s, Jon Gruden has successfully changed the look of his team on the fly as new young additions to the defense have reestablished the tradition of a hard hitting stop unit. MLB Barrett Rudd and DE Gaines Adams are on the cusp of stardom and they form the perfect blend with still effective vets LB Derrick Brooks and CB Ronde Barber. The offense is once again led by QB Jeff Garcia after failing to acquire Brett Favre and the Earnest Graham looks to build off a breakout year in the running attack. This is a classic match up of great defense versus great offense and should be fun to watch. The Saints struggled against Tampa last season and it wouldn’t be a shock to see Gruden’s bunch steal one on the road. Either way this looks to be tight contest between two bitter division rivals. The extra half point makes Tampa Bay an attractive pick. THE PICK: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3.5)

Cincinnati Bengals (-1.5) VS. BALTIMORE RAVENS: The Joe Flacco era begins in Baltimore as both Kyle Boller (injury) and Troy Smith (illness) couldn’t answer the bell. Flacco played well in preseason at times and has shown the tools that made Baltimore salivate over his selection in the draft. Count on a heavy dose of RB Willis McGahee as the Ravens try to ease the transition for their franchise QB. On defense is where this team’s strength lies as usual as Ray Lewis and company look to clamp down on opposing offenses as they have done so well over the years. They will look to do just that against a solid on paper Bengals offense. led by QB Carson Palmer. Palmer certainly has lots of weapons to throw to as Chad Johnson and TJ Houshmandzadeh form possibly the best wideout combination in the NFL. As far as the running game is concerned, Chris Perry gets his chance after Rudi Johnson was cut and there is no telling whether he can hold up over the course of the season as injuries have been a problem. This is a very tough game to call as the Bengals struggled tremendously on the road last season but with Flacco starting for Baltimore, things could take awhile for them to get going. One trend that does stick out is that the Ravens qualify in a 33-19-1 ATS home underdog season opening angle so based on that aspect, we will go with the home team to stay competitive. THE PICK: Baltimore Ravens (+1.5)

Jacksonville Jaguars (-3) VS. TENNESSEE TITANS: These teams played a crazy series last season as each won on the other’s home turf. Both teams also had successful 2007 seasons as each qualified for the postseason, with the Jags winning a game in Pittsburgh. Expectations are certainly high as we go into 2008 so this will be a barometer game for both squads. Jacksonville needs contributions from a so-so receiving unit in order to take that next step and the Titans needs QB Vince Young to learn to be a better passer for them to progress. This game figures to be a defensive contest as both units can lockdown any offense so the UNDER is worth a look. The Titans are also in the better betting position as a home underdog at home against a division foe which has gone 33-19-1 ATS. Just like the Cincy-Baltimore game, we will take the points and back that solid trend. THE PICK: Tennessee Titans (+3)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-6.5) VS. Houston Texans:*******BEST BET******

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (-9) VS. Carolina Panthers: Another interesting game here as the Chargers have the look of a team destined to make the Super Bowl and the Panthers look to make a run of their own now that QB Jake Delhomme is back. The Chargers have stars all over the field at almost every position and 14-2 is not out of the question. The offensive is explosive with RB LaDainian Tomlinson, TE Antonio Gates, and WR’s Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson. The defense is just as good with All-Pro LB Shawne Merriman, DE Luis Castillo, DT Jamaal Williams, and CB Antonio Cromartie. Carolina on the other hand more of a blue collar look to them but don’t take this team lightly. Delhomme is a Super Bowl runner up so he has proven he can win games and take his team deep into the postseason. Also rookie RB Jonathan Stewart is the perfect fit in coach John Fox’s run heavy offense. The problem is that WR Steve Smith is suspended for the first two weeks of the season due to sucker-punching teammates Ken Lucas in practice. Without Smith the offense looks almost punch less, at least from a passing standpoint. It’s almost too easy to say the Chargers will cover this one easily but based on the matchups, you can’t argue against it. The only problem is that Carolina historically is a great bet as an underdog under Fox (31-16-2 ATS, with Delhomme at QB its 19-4-1 ATS). Those are some serious trends to look over when going with San Diego as the Chargers are great at home as evidenced by them having a 22-6-1 ATS when not favored by more than 11. So based on last trend and the fact Smith is out, leans us toward the home squad. THE PICK: San Diego Chargers (-9)

Dallas Cowboys (-5.5) VS. CLEVELAND BROWNS:******STRONG OPINION*****

Arizona Cardinals (-2.5) VS. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Certainly no one will be paying much attention to this one as both teams figure to struggle. The 49ers are in worse shape than the Cardinals however as its been determined that journeyman QB JT O’Sullivan gives them their best chance to win. Unreal. The Cardinals had their own QB issues as Kurt Warner beat out Matt Leinart in preseason. That’s actually good news for Arizona as Warner had a great year last year and has much more ability to run the offense. WR’s Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald should both have huge years with Warner at the helm and if RB Edgerrin James can give them one more good year, then this unit will be a major force. The defense needs work however but they do have some nice pieces in S Adrian Wilson and DE Bertrand Berry. They certainly wont have to work hard against a terrible 49ers offense that has only RB Frank Gore to scare people. Mike Martz comes over from Detroit to shore up the unit but there is no talent to work with. Hate going with Arizona on the road as they certainly have a long track record of letting down to the opponent but no way we back the ‘Niners in any situation. THE PICK: Arizona Cardinals (-2.5)

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-9.5) VS. Chicago Bears: Colts QB Peyton Manning looks like he will play after having an abscess removed during the preseason. He will once again lead an offense that is one of the NFL’s best and is expertly run. Manning will have four great options to throw to in star WR Reggie Wayne, TE Dallas Clark, emerging WR Anthony Gonzalez, and the returning from injury WR Marvin Harrison. Harrison’s return is huge in that the offense will be much tougher to contain with him on the field. Throw in the great running of Joseph Addai and the Colts are one of the bets units out there on offense. The defense on the other hand struggled toward the end of last season due to injuries but star DE Dwight Freeney is back and S Bob Sanders looks like he is ready to go. When all hands are on deck, this is a very tough defense to score points on. The Bears certainly are no strangers when it comes to struggling to score points. Kyle Orton is in QB and rookie RB Matt Forte will run the ball. Not very scary. The defense is decent as there are big names up and down the roster but this is the same group that struggled badly toward the end of 2007. The Colts will be able to score no matter who they play and the Bears just don’t have the ability to hang tight. If Manning doesn’t play however then we pass. THE PICK Indianapolis Colts (-9.5)

GREEN BAY PACKERS (-2.5) VS. Minnesota Vikings: The Aaron Rogers era begins on Monday night at home against division rival Minnesota. The whole Brett Favre drama was certainly a major distraction for the Pack but they have said all along that Rogers is their guy and he looked all right in preseason. For Minnesota, QB Tarvaris Jackson is the key to the whole team’s fortunes as every other unit looks outstanding. If Jackson can be even somewhat decent, then the Vikings could be Super Bowl-bound. The defensive line looks to be one of the best units ever assembled with incoming star DE Jared Allen joining stud DT’s Kevin and Pat Williams to make life miserable for opposing passers. That will spell big trouble for Rogers who really couldn’t have drawn a worse assignment from a pass rushing sense. RB Adrian Peterson is looking to build on a ridiculously awesome rookie year and so Green Bay must be ready on D to make sure this game doesn’t get away from them early. This is a very tough game to call as it could go either way. There is way to much uncertainty here so it would be best to stay away as there are no trends pointing firmly toward either squad.. THE PICK: PASS

Denver Broncos (-3) VS. OAKLAND RAIDERS: There is nothing that Mike Shannahan loves more than to beat up the Oakland Raiders. Ever since he was unceremoniously fired by Al Davis as coach many eons ago, Shanahan has made it a point to stick it to his former boss whenever he can. The opportunity is there again as the Raiders are very young and raw on offense with QB JaMarcus Russell and RB Darren McFadden. The wideout corps is weak and there surely will be struggles for Russell early on. The defense needs a comeback from DE Derrick Burgess in order to be able to stay in games. The Broncos on the other hand have an emerging talent in QB Jay Cutler who has successfully dealt with the diabetes that plagued him last year. Cutler has a cannon of an arm and will be looking to air it out. The running game will also churn along as always with Selvin Young being the guy to pick up the workload. Oakland could certainly make strides this season but they have to go through some growing pains before they can take that step. Denver is the safe choice in this game. THE PICK: Denver Broncos (-3)