Labor Day is the ultimate Catch-22. The summer is over and the days get shorter as baseball starts to come to an end. But the temperatures get more reasonable, baseball pennant races pick up with hockey just around the corner and it’s the start of football season. The last thing there, “the start of football season,” is the one thing that keeps me from staying in bed, putting my Cliff Lee Sad Song Playlist on repeat and just waiting for the first nice day of spring, especially after a summer in which the Yankees have put themselves in a position where they have to win nearly every game in September.
The first day of football season means the first day of picks, doing longhand addition on the back of bills to create wild parlays, figuring out how to track four fantasy teams without getting the “Stop running this script?” message on a computer, freaking out over a suicide pool in the fourth quarter of the first week, searching for some overseas site that has every NFL game available to watch if you just answer some survey questions, drinking excessive amounts of beer and eating foods that contain little to no nutritional value.
Football is back in my life and so are the New York Football Giants.
When I last left off with the Giants, they decided to try and save their season in Week 17 against the Eagles when their season was already over. The embarrassment of another second-half collapse and destruction of a 6-2 record completed by the blowouts at the hands of the Falcons and Ravens in Weeks 15 and 16 made me happy that football was going away for eight months. But it’s been a long eight months of wondering “What could have been?” had the Giants not gone into the same freefall they have gone into every season during the Tom Coughlin era with the exception of the two Super Bowl winning seasons. But when Carrie Underwood leads us into Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth and the Giants and Cowboys kick off in the Big D on Sunday night, the bad memories of how the 2012 season ended will be erased (but not forgotten) and the hopes of playing in the last game of the football season will begin.
Football is back and that means so are the weekly picks.
Week 1 … let’s go!
(Home team in caps)
Baltimore +7.5 over DENVER
Week 1 is so hard to pick because there is nothing to go off of except what you remember from last season and everything you have been told and force fed in the offseason and possibly some preseason action if you actually watch preseason football. The only thing harder than Week 1 is Week 2 when all you have to go off is what you saw in Week 1, which could be completely off.
The defending Super Bowl champions are on the road to open the season because the Orioles are hosting the White Sox across the street from M&T Bank Stadium. That’s right, the fading Orioles are playing the 56-82 White Sox, so Ravens fans will have to celebrate their championship for the last time by watching on NBC or by spending thousands of dollars to travel to Denver for the game.
Last season the Ravens lost to the Broncos, 34-17, in Week 15 before beating them in two overtimes in the divisional round of the playoffs thanks to a 70-yard touchdown with 31 seconds left in the game and some terrible coaching and decision making form the Broncos.
So why are the Broncos giving over a touchdown at home on Opening Night to the defending champions? I’m not sure.
New England -10.5 over BUFFALO
Just for fun I took a look at the Bills depth chart to see what their working with in 2013 and it’s not pretty. Bills fans don’t like when anyone talks poorly about them or picks against them (even when a spread is involved), but even a Bills fan with the Bills logo tattooed on his neck (someone like this has to exist) or a Bills fan with the Bills logo tattooed on his bald head (someone like this also has to exist) would tell you that the 2013 season is going to be fine.
Pittsburgh -7 over TENNESSEE
I really, really, really don’t want to pick the Steelers at seven-point favorites, but then again, how can I pick the Titan to cover? I can’t.
NEW ORLEANS -3 over Atlanta
Last year the Saints season was over at 0-4 then revitalized at 5-5 then destroyed with a three-game losing streak. They were coming off the punishments from their bounty program and Sean Payton was suspended for the season. Saints fans haven’t had a chance to go crazy since their playoff game against the Lions on Jan. 7, 2012 and that was a long time ago. The Superdome is going to be a scary effing place on Sunday and it’s the last place the Falcons defense wants to be to open the season.
Tampa Bay -4.5 over NEW YORK JETS
With the start of football season comes “fan denial.” Every fan thinks their team is going to have a great year and no one wants to hear about the possibility of a lost season or being out of it before the end of September. “Fan denial” is prevalent around the entire NFL, but when it comes to the New York Jets and their fans it’s scary how out of touch with reality people can be.
The Jets are going to suck. They are going to suck in a way that when Rex Ryan is finally showed the door, the Butt Fumble might not be the most embarrassing moment that happened under his watch. But don’t tell Jets fans this. I have had some Jets fan friends tell me the team has a shot at the postseason if everything falls right and I have had others tell me at worst the Jets will finish 8-8. There’s no way to respond to anyone who could make themselves believe that, so I have just to nod my hod in agreement or say things like “Oh yeah, I could see that.” The key to handling Jets fans is to just wait them out. By Week 6 their season will be mathematically destroyed and they won’t be able to use overconfidence as a personality. Just wait them out.
Kansas City -4.5 over JACKSONVILLE
Somewhere someone who isn’t a Chiefs fan or a Jaguars fan is going to bet on this game and watch it in its entirety. Think about that.
CHICAGO -3 over Cincinnati
The Bears are the closest things to the Giants in the NFL when you look at their talent and ability to completely destroy a playoff-bound season. But when it comes to the Bengals there isn’t a team that has gotten as much positive attention and has had as many preseason predictions in their favor since the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays, the 2012 Kansas City Royals, the 2011 Boston Red Sox and every Cowboys team during the Tony Romo era. Nothing says “Letdown season” more than the 2013 Cincinnati Bengals if only because they are being picked to go play at MetLife Stadium in February.
CLEVELAND -1 over Miami
I keep hearing about how the Browns weren’t as bad as their record says they were last season and how close they were to being 8-8. The only problem is they weren’t. And because I initially picked the Dolphins to cover here and then switch my pick to the Browns like a ninth-grade U.S. History Scantron test, I know the Browns are going to lose and their offseason hype bandwagon is going to stall.
Seattle -4.5 over CAROLINA
Somewhere someone who isn’t a Seahawks fan or a Panthers fan is going to bet on this game and watch it in its entirety. Think about that.
Minnesota +6 over DETROIT
The way everyone says each season that three playoff teams could come from the NFC East can now also be said about the NFC North. And it’s time I think everyone needs to look at NFC North games the way they look at NFC East games (before the Eagles fell apart) in that every spread should be three points and any spread over that, you have to take the points.
INDIANAPOLIS -10 over Oakland
Remember when Matt Flynn was highly coveted because of one game (the final game of the 2011 season)? Remember when the Seahawks gave him $10 million of guaranteed money off that game and then made Russell Wilson their starting quarterback over him? And then remember when Flynn was traded to the Raiders two be their starting quarterback and lost out on the job to Terrelle Pryor? I always thought Matt Cassel being coached by Bill Belichick and getting to play with the Patriots offense in 2008 and then cashing in would always be the easiest way any NFL quarterback not named JaMarcus Russell would get rich. But then Matt Flynn came along and totally changed the game by having one good game.
It’s the Everyone Who Is In A Suicide Pool Is Picking This Game of the Week. And I guess it also should be the Anyone Who Is Doing A 10-Point Teaser Is Picking This Game of the Week.
ST. LOUIS -4.5 over Arizona
Somewhere someone who isn’t a Rams fan or a Cardinals fan is going to bet on this game and watch it in its entirety. Think about that.
Green Bay +5 over SAN FRANCISCO
I thought this line was high when I first looked at it in the middle of the summer long before the NFL season was in sight because why wouldn’t I check out Week 1 lines with the season months away? And I still think it’s too high especially with the entire world that isn’t all over the Broncos, Seahawks and Bengals being all over the 49ers when the Packers have the “best” quarterback in the league.
New York Giants +3.5 over DALLAS
The Giants have never lost in Cowboys/AT&T Stadium. (And did you think I would pick against the Giants playing the Cowboys in Week 1?)
WASHINGTON -4.5 over Philadelphia
After beating the Giants in Week 4, the Eagles were 3-1. After losing to the Giants in Week 17, the Eagles finished the season 4-12. A 1-11 stretch was enough for the Eagles to finally fire Andy Reid and try to give their team a much-needed facelift. The common theme this offseason has been that the Eagles won’t be good, but that Chip Kelly might be able to revitalize the team in his first year. Even if he can, it won’t happen in Week 1.
Houston -5.5 over SAN DIEGO
It’s disappointing that Norv Turner is no longer the Chargers head coach because I liked free wins with my picks. But I’m also happy that Norv is gone because this line would have been higher and more challenging had he still been the coach. I have been anti-Philip Rivers and anti-Chargers all along, so I’m not about to turn my back on my beliefs now even if Norv isn’t there.