NFL Week 1 Picks

The other day I talked about seasonal depression. Let’s talk about real depression. Since Tuesday, the Yankees have lost their AL East lead completely then regained it the following night only to lose it again the next night and the Giants lost on Opening Night at home to the Cowboys. But I really shouldn’t worry about that since it’s not like the Giants have the hardest schedule in the entire NFL or anything. And oh yeah, the NHL still isn’t close to preventing a second lockout in eight years. I’m not really a Coldplay fan, but this seems like a good time to get into them.

Before Super Bowl XLVI I promised a lot of things and said a lot of things that sort of got thrown out the window in the heat of Wednesday night’s battle between the Giants and Cowboys. How badly did I fail to hold up my end of the bargain? Let’s ask Maury Povich.

“Neil, you said if the Giants win for the second time in four years and beat the Patriots again and beat Tom Brady and Bill Belichick again and beat all the Patriots fans you went to college with in Boston again and beat the city of Boston again, you won’t care if the Giants don’t make the playoffs for the next 20 years. The lie detector determined … that was a lie!”

“Neil, you said if the Giants win Super Bowl XLVI, you would never say a bad thing about Kevin Gilbride again. The lie detector determined … that was a lie!”

“Neil, you said if the Giants win Super Bowl XLVI that when it comes to the two-minute drill defense, you wouldn’t complain about the Giants’ inability to make a stop in the final minutes of either half anymore. The lie detector determined … that was a lie!”

“Neil, you said if the Giants win Super Bowl XLVI that if the receivers make numerous drops in a game, you said you would no longer complain about the excessive miscatches. The lie detector determined … that was a lie!”

There were a lot more things I said and promised, but I freaked out on Maury, gave the finger to the booing audience, threw a chair, ran behind the set and curled up in a corner and bawled my eyes out while Maury tried to console me with his expert counselor. That’s how bad things were on Wednesday night against the Cowboys.

We always hear about the “same old Jets,” but what about the “same old Giants?” Opening Night was the textbook example of what the Giants have put me through over the years, and while I understand anyone disgusted with me for being upset with a team that is coming off their second championship in four years, but at the same time if you’re not a Giants fan then you just don’t get it.

So I lied. We all do it. We all make promises to win a championship, but when that new season starts, all you want is another championship, and another and another and another. Look at Boston. In October 2004, people were willing to give up their life savings and their homes and their hair and their limbs and their children for a Red Sox World Series. They got it, but a year later those same people were devastated when the Red Sox were eliminated in the ALDS by the White Sox. If the Cubs win the 2013 World Series, their fans will want to win in 2014. And if the Jets win the Super Bowl this year, their fans will want to win it again next year. (Of course neither of those hypothetical situations will come true.) It’s the nature of the beast, and you can’t change it.

I want to apologize to Kevin Gilbride for granting him the empty promise of “Ladies and gentlemen!” immunity and I want to apologize for all of the promises I didn’t keep, but now that the new season has started and the Giants are 0-1, all I can think about is playoff football again (since there might not be playoff baseball for the Yankees) and I remember what it’s like to not have your team in the playoffs, and it sucks.

I’m still telling myself that if the Giants become the Jets this season and don’t make the playoffs, I will still have XLII and XLVI. But I know I’m just lying to myself, and there’s nothing wrong with that.


Last season, my NFL picks went about as well as the Bay of the Pigs. I started off hot, got warm, got lukewarm, got cold, got ice cold and then froze. I did manage to redeem myself in the postseason, but by then it was too late to salvage the year. However, I think my success was due to the Giants’ success, so I had less time to worry about the picks because I was focused on the Giants and writing about them on their second magical run.

Week 1 is my favorite week to pick games for. Why? Well, you get a clean slate (well, almost clean since I already lost the Giants game on Wednesday night) and because all you have to go off is what you have learned from the end of last season and the offseason. Once every team plays a game, everything you have taken in over the last seven months gets masked by how that team performed in Week 1 and it only gets worse as they play more and more games.

Week 1 … let’s go!

(Home team in caps)

NEW YORK GIANTS -4 over Dallas
I picked this one on Twitter on Wednesday. How about a mulligan? No? OK.

CHICAGO -10 over Indianapolis
I think there are three places that Andrew Luck didn’t want to begin his NFL career: the SuperDome, Lambeau Field and Soldier Field. Unfortunately for Luck, he will make his first career start in Chicago at Soldier Field against one of the best defenses in the game. I actually thought this line was low given the Bears’ success last season before Jay Cutler got hurt and given how bad the Colts were last year.

Here is how Peyton Manning’s rookie season started:

Week 1 vs. Miami: Loss, 1 TD, 3 INT
Week 2 at New England: Loss, 1 TD, 3 INT
Week 3 at New York Jets: Loss, 0 TD, 2 INT
Week 4 vs. New Orleans, Loss, 1 TD, 3 INT

Peyton started the year 0-4 with three touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He didn’t get his first win until Week 5 against the Chargers and would go just 2-14 that season. If things were that bad for Peyton Manning and the Colts in 1998, I don’t see how they will be that much better for Andrew Luck and the Colts in 2012.

Philadelphia -9.5 over CLEVELAND
You don’t know how bad I want to pick the Browns here, but I just can’t and Brandon Weeden is why. If the Eagles are as good as everyone thinks they are and the Browns are as bad as everyone thinks they are, this line could be 14 and I would still have to take the Eagles.

Buffalo +3 over NEW YORK JETS
On Friday, I did a podcast with my friend and crazy Jets fan Tim Duff. The optimism glowing from him over the phone was what I imagine it’s like talking to a Kansas City Royals fan on the eve of Opening Day. There’s just so much hope and so much promise and the new-car smell and feel of a clean season is very powerful. But I have a feeling Tim is going to be hungover on the train from MetLife back to the city on Sunday afternoon wondering why he even cares about the Jets.

NEW ORLEANS -7.5 over Washington
I watched maybe three minutes of preseason football. And because I’m not a college football guy, the only RG3 I have ever seen is on highlights. Last season, Eli Manning the eventual Super Bowl champions went into the SuperDome and got absolutely destroyed. So am I supposed to think that the absence of Sean Payton is going to be enough for an unknown rookie quarterback and a bad team to go in and play a tight game against the best home-field advantage in the league? No, I’m not.

New England -6 over TENNESSEE
I wonder how much money the Patriots have cost people picking them to cover since 2007. The Patriots continue to get incredible respect, and they have earned it, but if their defense is as bad as it was last year, this will be a pick I regret. On the other hand, I can’t talk myself into taking the Titans and watching the Patriots score touchdowns on their first three possessions, so I have to play it safe here.

Jacksonville +3.5 over MINNESOTA
The year after the Vikings lost to the Saints in the NFC Championship Game I was picking the Vikings every week to open the season. What did they do? They started 0-2 then they were 2-5 then 3-7 and finished 6-10. The 2010 Vikings destroyed me and I’m still not over it. The scars are deep enough that I’m taking Blaine Gabbert and the Jaguars on the road to open the season.

HOUSTON -13 over Miami
The only team the Browns have to worry about giving them a run for the worst record in the league is the Dolphins. Hard Knocks didn’t do the Jets any favors in the summer of 2010 when it came to making unnecessary headlines and this summer Hard Knocks didn’t do the Dolphins any favors by exposing just how atrocious they are going to be this season. Meanwhile Houston is a legitimate contender and the AFC South favorite. If the Yankees don’t make the playoffs and the Dolphins are once again the laughingstock of the NFL, we are going to need to make sure there is someone watching John Jastremski around the clock.

DETROIT -7.5 over St. Louis
It shouldn’t be as easy to win money as it was when you picked against the Rams last season, but it was.

KANSAS CITY +3 over Atlanta
This isn’t a popular pick since Matt Ryan wins the Battle of the Matts over Matt Cassel, but when you take the Falcons out of the Georgia Dome it’s like taking a fish out of the water.

San Francisco +5 over GREEN BAY
If there’s one game that has “REGRET” written over it in red pen and capital letters, it’s this one. Yes, I’m really taking Alex Smith in Green Bay on Opening Day. This feels so wrong. But at least I know what goes through Joe Girardi’s head when he starts Steve Pearce against left-handed pitchers.

Carolina -2.5 over TAMPA BAY
The Panthers have Cam Newton and Steve Smith and a good running game and a good defense. The Bucs have none of those things.

Seattle -3 over ARIZONA
An NFC West matchup! I always love these. I guess I have to take the Seahawks since they know who their starting quarterback is.

Tim Tebow’s Broncos beat the Steelers in Denver in the playoffs. So why wouldn’t Peyton Manning’s Broncos have an easier time doing the same thing?

BALTIMORE -6.5 over Cincinnati
Everything points to this being too many points for a division matchup that isn’t the Patriots against the Dolphins.

OAKLAND -1 over San Diego
When I first saw this line, I couldn’t believe the Chargers weren’t favored because no one gets undeserved respect like the Chargers do. For a team that has done nothing to earn respect from Vegas over the last few seasons, picking against the Chargers has been a good way to earn some easy wins, and I’m not going to shy away from my love of picking against them now.

Season: 0-1-0