NFL Week 1 Picks

Eli Manning

Last season, the Makeshift Yankees got me to September and got me to the Giants. Unfortunately, the Giants couldn’t even make it through September to get me to the Rangers by going winless through September and half of October. Yes, the Giants fought back to give me a meaningful game on the Sunday before Thanksgiving in Week 12, but they blew that game and blew a gift from the Football Gods, who gave them a chance to take over the NFC East lead and a chance at the playoffs despite starting the season 0-6.

This season, the Yankees got me to the Giants (barely) and are still somewhat going even if they need to go like 25-0 the rest of the way to make the playoffs. The Giants, though, might not get me to the Rangers again, judging by their preseason offense and all of the questions surrounding a team that seems to be headed in the wrong direction. But not even the thought of Eli throwing another 27 interceptions can get me down today because it’s the start of the football season.

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 won their season finale over the Redskins in front of one of the most embarrassing Week 17 home crowds the Giants have likely ever seen. But when I really left off with the Giants was when they were blowing that Week 12 game against the Cowboys, because after that, the final five weeks of the season were just a formality.

After the Giants won Super Bowl XLII, Plaxico Burress ruined what should have been the next NFL dynasty and the Giants lost their only playoff game in 2008. They missed the playoffs completely in 2009 and 2010 thanks to back-to-back second-half collapses before winning the Super Bowl in 2011. Now they have gone back-to-back years without a trip to the playoffs once again and all I can think is maybe there’s a pattern there.

Football is back and that means so are the weekly picks.

(Home team in caps)

Green Bay +6 over SEATTLE
The Seahawks are going to win on Thursday night because they don’t lose in Seattle and they certainly about to start losing at home on the same night they are raising a Super Bowl banner in their first home game since becoming champions. However, Aaron Rodgers is as healthy as he’s going to be for the next four months and that’s enough for the Packers to cover.

ATLANTA +3 over New Orleans
Here are the last five Saints-Falcons games in Atlanta:

2013 – Week 12: NO 17, ATL 13
2012 – Week 13: ATL 23, NO 13
2011 – Week 10: NO 26, ATL 23 OT
2010 – Week 9: NO 17, ATL 14
2009 – Week 14: NO 26, ATL 23

The Saints have won four of the last five games in Atlanta and all of their wins have been by four points or less. The only Falcons win in there came in a 13-3 season, which should have resulted in Super Bowl appearance if they didn’t blow a 17-point lead in the NFC Championship Game and cost me my 10-to-1 Falcons-Ravens parlay that Sunday. I know how different the Saints are outside of the Superdome, but the Georgia Dome is still a dome and you would think they would play at least near their Superdome abilities, but they were barely able to get by the miserable 2013 Falcons last year with a four-point win. I have been burned too many times by the Saints on the road in the past even if they have been successful of late in Atlanta, and I’m still not over their loss in New England last year.

Minnesota +3.5 over ST. LOUIS
I had to do a double take when I saw this line to make sure I wasn’t reading it backwards or that it hadn’t been posted wrong.

I’m petrified at the thought of picking against Shaun Hill because when he was on the 49ers he cost me a lot of picks. A LOT of picks. I don’t care that Hill is 34 years old and has only attempted 16 passes in the last three years. He could be 56 years old and coming out of a 20-year retirement and starting in this game and I wouldn’t feel comfortable. But it’s time to start collecting on my past losses against Hill and it starts this week.

Cleveland +7 over PITTSBURGH
I’m not sure who told a bigger lie on Wednesday: Wes Welker saying someone slipped something into his drink to produce his positive Molly test or Mike Pettine saying “We’re not going to have a quick hook” when it comes to Brian Hoyer. It’s hard to take Welker at his word when you consider that he looked like this at the Kentucky Derby and that Tom Brady laughed like this when asked if he saw Welker taking anything at the Derby. Brady’s laugh could have meant “Haha, yeah, I’m going to say I watched my suspended friend do drugs,” since that would go over real well for one of the faces of football and for every anti-drug Tom Brady fan on the planet. Or it could have meant “Haha, obviously I watched my friend take drugs because we were partying at the Kentucky Derby.” I think it meant both.

Brian Hoyer is virtually an unknown, having started just two NFL games, and Johnny Manziel is also an unknown having never played one second in the NFL. The difference is that Johnny Football is the new Tim Tebow if Tim Tebow had Manziel’s quarterback abilities. In Week 1 in 2011, it didn’t take Mile High long to start a Rudy-like chant asking for Tebow to play and three weeks later they got their wish when Tebow became the starter. Cleveland has had one winning season in the last 11 years and have made the playoffs once (2002) since returning to the NFL in 1999. It’s going to take a lot less and a lot less time for Browns fans to turn on Hoyer and call for Johnny Football and once those chants start, there’s no stopping them and certainly not a first-year head coach in a job he wasn’t the first choice for. The only reason Manziel isn’t starting is because it’s easier for Pettine to bench Hoyer than it is Manziel.

No one believes Welker and no one believes Pettine.

PHILADELPHIA -11 over Jacksonville
Here are Philadelphia’s last three season-opening opponents: Washington, Cleveland and St. Louis. Apparently things weren’t easy enough for the Eagles to get their seasons rolling with three straight 1-0 starts, so the NFL schedule makers gave them the Jaguars to kick off 2014. So when the Eagles hang 40-something points on the Jaguars on Sunday and for the next week we are forced to hear about how Chip Kelly is a genius and the Eagles’ offense is unstoppable and every trash site that create lists about the “Best” this and “Top” that for content start to compare Nick Foles to all-time greats and the Eagles’ offense to the 2013 Broncos or 2007 Patriots, it will be the NFL schedule makers’ fault. Eff you, NFL schedule makers. Eff you.

NEW YORK JETS -5.5 over Oakland
Here is the Jets’ schedule for their next six games after the Raiders: at Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit, at San Diego, Denver, at New England.

The Jets could easily lose all six of those games, but even if they don’t lose all six of them, it’s going to be very, very hard for them to go even .500 during the gauntlet. The Jets know this and know that if they have any hopes of staying in the playoff hunt through October they HAVE to beat Oakland. And even if they didn’t know this, there’s nothing the Raiders can do about it anyway.

Cincinnati +1.5 over BALTIMORE
Ravens-Bengals seems like it’s becoming what Ravens-Steelers was for so long. And if that’s the case, then I have to go with what I write for every Ravens-Steelers pick:

This game will be decided by three points. And when you know that, how can you not take the points?

CHICAGO -7 over Buffalo
Here is what I said about the Bears in my 2013 NFL Week 1 Picks:

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.

Here is what I said about the Bills in my 2013 NFL Week 1 Picks:

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.

Both things held true as the Bears blew their season and the Bills were what the Bills have been for basically my entire life. This game and line does feel too good to be true and whenever a game feels too good to be true, it usually is.

HOUSTON -3 over Washington
I want the Redskins to fail, so that when it comes time for Giants-Redskins on Thursday Night Football in Week 4, I can talk to my friend Ray, the biggest Redskins fan I know, and have him in a serious depression.

KANSAS CITY -4 over Tennessee
This line feels low. This game also feels like the one where I’m going to be thinking “Why didn’t I just take the points?” before halftime.

New England -5 over MIAMI
I wanted to take the Dolphins here. I really, really, really wanted to take the Dolphins here. But then I thought about flipping around between games on Sunday at 1:12 p.m. and flipping back to Patriots-Dolphins just in time to see CBS cutting to commercial with their NFL theme music playing and a shot of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick talking on the sidelines as a graphic appears on the screen that says New England 7, Dolphins 0, 13:54, 1st QTR. That exact situation has played out many times and I have tried to avoid being on the wrong end of it.

Carolina +2.5 over TAMPA BAY
I was initially confused about this line because the Panthers went 11-1 after a 1-3 start last season and the Buccaneers became the most dysfunctional team in a league that still has the Raiders. So when I saw the Panthers were 2.5-point underdogs with Cam Newton playing with a hairline fracture in his ribs, I was skeptical and still am. It seems like Vegas is joining the Tampa Bay bandwagon along with a lot of the football world and at least for one week they have me on board, but I’m sitting coach and next to the emergency exit for when I inevitably jump off for Week 2.

San Francisco -5 over DALLAS
If you saw the Cowboys roster and it was listed as the roster for “Team X” and Team X didn’t happen to be a national team with a heavy gambling presence, this line would be a lot higher than 5 for one of the NFL’s elite teams on the road against a team that’s headed for a six- or seven-win season. And I’m going to cherish every minute of the Cowboys’ inevitable miserable season.

DENVER -7.5 over Indianapolis
I honestly believe Peyton Manning has every single play for the entire first quarter already scripted out. If the script comes relatively close to the way it went at home last year for the Broncos then this pick will be fine.

New York Giants +6 over DETROIT
I originally saw this line at DETROIT -3.5 and now it’s moved 2 1/2 points to 6 as everyone watched the Giants’ first offensive team struggle to produce any kind of offense in five preseason games. But even with their struggles as long as Kevin Gilbride doesn’t have a direct connection into Eli Manning’s helmet to tell him to run a draw play on third-and-7 from the opponent’s 47-yard line then I like the Giants’ chances not only to cover in this season-opening game, but all season. (And it’s Week 1, of course I’m not picking against the Giants.)

ARIZONA -3 over San Diego
Maybe one day I won’t be so anti-San Diego and pick against them at any opportunity I get, but that day isn’t today in Week 1.