It’s customary to begin a weekly column/article/post/piece/hot-take about the return of the NFL season with a tried-and-true football cliché – Are You Ready For Some Football? Football Is Back! – but considering all that’s happened since the Patriots beat the Seahawks back in February, I’m not sure this is really necessary.
Ah, screw it.
Football Is Here, Baby!
Maybe it’s this way ever year, but the NFL felt particularly inescapable this summer, even without any games. Deflategate lasted longer than an entire season, for one thing. But there was also Jason Pierre-Paul’s explosive 4th of July, Chip Kelly being accused of being a racist, the 49ers’ exodus, thirty seconds of Tebowmania, Russell Wilson’s magical sports drink, Robert Griffin III’s concussion flip-flop and subsequent benching (he just works here, man!), Geno Smith’s broken jaw, Kam Chancellor’s never-ending holdout, at least 33 suspensions, and now all sorts of crazy new details surfacing about Spygate!
All of which is to say, thank goodness the actual games are here. I am more than ready for some football. There are only so many bare-handed double-plays and walk-offs I can endure. And even if the NFL is making a convincing run at FIFA for the most dysfunctional and slimy sports organization in the world, let’s face it: Sundays – and Thursdays, and Mondays – are just better with football.
This season, BI Executive Editor Jay Yarow has retired from making NFL picks. I suppose he has a child to raise and an entire website to oversee, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, every week this season I’ll be making picks against the Vegas point spread.
Rather than picking every game (which I’ll inevitably do when my record falls below .500), the plan is to make picks for the 7 or so games each week that I think will be the most intriguing. This will likely entail picking the Thursday game (until those get boring), the Sunday and Monday night games, plus a few of the premier Sunday afternoon games.
So, let’s do this!
(All lines courtesy of Vegas Insider)
The New England Patriots are 7-point favorites at home vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers
- CBS Sports
There’s just no way the Patriots don’t cover here. I’ve almost certainly just jinxed the Pats now (sorry!), but consider the following: the Steelers are without RB Le’Veon Bell, Pro-Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, and WR Martavis Bryant tonight. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are 90-15 in Foxboro. Brady is so pumped to be playing that he’s dropping hype videos on his Facebook page. You just know that the New England crowd will be fired up (if not a little teary-eyed!) to see their golden boy back in action. The last time the Steelers played in New England, they lost 55-31.
Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown might pick apart the depleted Patriots secondary, but I still like the Pats to win by a TD or more.
The pick: Patriots -7
The St. Louis Rams are 4-point underdogs at home against the Seattle Seahawks
- Michael B. Thomas/Getty
How many times do you think Russell Wilson has watched the Malcolm Butler interception? 20,000? More? The Seahawks are everyone’s favorites to return to the Super Bowl, even without Kam Chancellor, and I think we’ll see a Packers vs. Seahawks NFC Championship rematch this year.
The Rams, on the other hand, are kind of a mystery. The defense is terrifying, and bolstered by the addition of Nick Fairley. If the offense is any good, the Rams might turn a few heads. I just don’t see Nick Foles giving Seattle much of a scare.
The pick: Seattle -4
Vegas is giving the Buffalo Bills 2.5 points at home against the Indianapolis Colts
Who’s excited for Tyrod Taylor?!
I think the Bills will be really solid this year, even if the quarterback situation is still totally up in the air. Rex Ryan is a really good coach and the defense is stifling. LeSean McCoy is an upgrade at RB from CJ Spiller. If Taylor doesn’t pan out, there’s always Matt Cassel!
Meanwhile, everyone loves Andrew Luck to make a leap and maybe even win the MVP. But the line protecting him is worrisome, and their two key off-season additions (Frank Gore and Andre Johnson) could both be past their primes.
It’s tempting to pick the Bills here, and I’ve switched this pick twenty times. In the end I’m living and dying by quarterbacks this season. The line is too low to not take Indy.
The Pick: Indianapolis -2.5
The Green Bay Packers are 7-point favorites against the Bears in Chicago
- Getty Images
I’m just not going to let myself over-think this one. The Packers are significantly better than the Bears all over the field – Aaron Rodgers is better than Jay Cutler (although I think Cutler will be better this year), Eddie Lacy is better than Matt Forte, and the Chicago secondary is, uh, not great! The rivalry factor makes this game more interesting, I guess, but I’m feeling good about this pick.
The Pick: Packers -7
The Denver Broncos are 4-point favorites at home against the Baltimore Ravens
- Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
It seems like these are two teams trending in opposite directions. Is this the end for Peyton Manning? Apparently he hasn’t had feeling in his fingers for four years, and who knows how he’ll fare in the Broncos’ brand new offense this season. The Ravens, on the other hand, are favorites to win the AFC North.
I keep going back and forth here: Denver has a big advantage with the altitude – especially in Week 1 – and the best receiver on the Ravens is 36-year-old Steve Smith. But as Bleacher Report noted, the Ravens are 4-0 against the spread in their last four games as underdogs.
The Pick: Ravens +4
The Dallas Cowboys are 6-point favorites at home against the New York Giants
- Sarah Glenn/Getty Images
I’m not too worried about Dallas’ committee of running backs. The Cowboys have such a solid offensive line and such a good passing game that Joseph Randle – even if he’s not DeMarco Murray – will still be an effective rusher.
I am, however, worried about the Giants. Too many injuries (what the heck is going on with Victor Cruz?) and not enough talent. Is this Tom Coughlin’s last season?
The Pick: The Cowboys -6
The Eagles are 3-point favorites on Monday night in Atlanta
- Mitchell Leff/Getty
This line feels way too low. The Falcons had the worst defense in the league last year, and buzz is building around the Eagles. Adam Schefter just picked them to win the Super Bowl!
If nothing else, we can finally see if Chip Kelly’s off-season bonanza was worth it, or if he’s crazy. I’m inclined to believe that he knows what he’s doing and that most of the moves were chiefly about money. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are a scary duo, but that’s about it. The Eagles will win by at least a field goal.
The Pick: Eagles -3