Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Official NFL Week 1 Primer

Will Joe Flacco again be jumping for joy in Denver?
By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Week 1. It's here. No more screwing around. Football. We're not even going to bother with a real intro.

Game(s) of The Week:

Holy crap there are too many to count:

Baltimore @ Denver (8:30 p.m. Thursday; NBC)

Last year's Super Bowl champion? A re-match of the most exciting playoff game in recent memory? Peyton Manning in a night game? Last year's AFC Champion against this year's AFC favorite? Opening night? Yes please.


Atlanta @ New Orleans (1 p.m. Sunday; Fox)

Cincinnati @ Chicago (1 p.m. Sunday; CBS)

Green Bay @ San Francisco (4:25 p.m. Sunday; Fox)

Another playoff rematch - this one featured an NFL playoff record for quarterback rushing yards when Colin Kaepernick pistol-zone-read-ed the Packers defense, as Mike Tyson would say, into Bolivian. Now, the Packers will (presumably) be more prepared, and have a new-look running game to make their offense (presumably) less predictable, something that played right into San Francisco's hands last season. I wouldn't be shocked if the battle for a first-round playoff bye is decided by this head-to-head matchup in Week 1.


New York Giants @ Dallas (8:20 p.m. Sunday; NBC)

Philadelphia @ Washington (8:30 p.m. Monday; ESPN)

The NFL's most potent zone-read attack vs. College Football's most potent zone-read attack. Michael Vick 1.0 vs. Michael Vick 2.0. A divisional tilt. Chip Kelly's first NFL game. The first Monday Night Football game of the season. Jon Gruden liking this guy. Wild horses couldn't keep me away.


I have literally nothing to add to this, except that I think that Philly-Washington game will be must-see TV for all the zone read action we see. Flip a coin in Dallas vs NYG, and Green Bay's offense will look to finally figure out that Niner defense. Cincy and Chicago will feature two of the game's best receivers in Brandon Marshall and AJ Green, while Atlanta-NO has "quarterback duel" written all over it.

As for tonight's game between the Ravens and Broncos, I'm still mad at the Orioles that it's not in Baltimore.


Here Are The Picks We Agree On (Home Teams in CAPS)

Baltimore (+7.5) over DENVER 

JC: It seems like we've swung too far against Baltimore and towards Denver. Yes, Baltimore is a little bit worse than they were last year, and yes, Denver is a little bit better, but not to the point where Baltimore should be getting more than a touchdown. Von Miller and Champ Bailey are both out for the Broncos, meaning Torrey Smith should have as good a chance as he's ever going to have to get behind the defense. Denver might win, but it'll be close.

JP: Yeah, no way I'm betting against the defending champs in one of these season opening games, even if they have to play on the road because of their city's miserable baseball franchise.

New England (-10.5) over BUFFALO

JC: The Patriots have Tom Brady. The Bills have an undrafted rookie who was 4-22 as a starter in college.

JP: "WHY GOD, WHY?!?!"- Every Bills fan in reference to the Tom Brady vs Jeff Tuel QB Duel.

Atlanta (+3) over NEW ORLEANS

JC: I get the whole "two even teams - home team is the 3-point favorite" thing. I just don't think these two teams are equal. I think Atlanta has spent the last calendar year proving that.

JP: Wait, an NFC favorite is getting points against a non-playoff team?

Tampa Bay (-4.5) over NEW YORK JETS

JC: This really seems like a waste of Darrell Revis' talents. Lining up against Stephen Hill, who will have Geno Smith throwing him the ball? It doesn't even seem fair. The Jets' season will start ugly and set the tone for the next three months.

JP: And the destruction of Geno Smith's promising quarterback career begins against a suddenly talented Bucs secondary.

Kansas City (-4.5) over JACKSONVILLE

JC: I'm more than a bit apprehensive that a 2-14 team from last year is GIVING four and a half points on the road. Then again, they have a new coach and quarterback who aren't awful and they're playing against another 2-14 team whose coach and quarterback ARE awful.

JP: I'll change my pick if the Jags pick up Tebow Saturday night.

Miami (+1) over CLEVELAND

JC: These two teams have somehow become the inexplicable sleepers in the AFC. Kansas City is the more popular sleeper, but they're explicable (I'll just use that as the opposite of inexplicable for now). I don't think Miami is THAT good, but until proven otherwise I don't think Cleveland should be favored over anyone other than Jacksonville or Oakland, even at home.

JP: Okay, Cleveland is not a sleeper. They're freaking Rip Van Winkle in the AFC. The Dolphins, however, have some promise. I'll take them getting a point, even on the road.

CAROLINA (+4.5) over Seattle

JC: Given the insane amount of close games these two teams played last season, I think I'll just take the points.

JP: If this game were in Seattle, I'd definitely roll with the Hawks, but they're just not the same team on the road. Must be because you can't get that Starbucks coffee ANYWHERE else.

Minnesota (+6) over DETROIT

JC: Wait a minute - Minnesota was in the playoffs last year, Detroit was not. But if home-field advantage is worth three points, this means that Vegas thinks Detroit is just three points better than Minnesota on par. But again, The Vikings were in the playoffs last season and haven't changed much. The Lions weren't in the playoffs last season and haven't changed much. I don't get it.

JP: You lost me with all that math, but yeah, I'll take the playoff team, with points, over the non-playoff team.

Arizona (+4.5) over ST. LOUIS

JC: I'm not even sure St. Louis is better than Arizona straight up. Their offense is going to be brutally bad. After what Arizona's defense did last year I'm not sure how St. Louis even scores in double digits here.

JP: Call me crazy, but I like the Cardinals this year. Solid defense and special teams, plus Fitzy on offense should make Carson Palmer look decent. They might be a playoff team in the AFC.

New York (+3.5) over DALLAS

JC: The more I look at the NFC East, the more I have no [expletive deleted] idea who is going to win the division. Until I start to get a better idea, I'm just taking the points.

JP: I trust that the Boys will start slow, then fight like hell to get back into the playoff race, only to let their fans down on the season's final weekend. To follow that arc, they must lose at home to New York.

Philadelphia (+4.5) over WASHINGTON

JC: See above.

JP: I think Vick is gonna go all RGIII on these suckers. Show that young blood who's boss playa.

Houston (-5.5) over SAN DIEGO

JC: I think this is the beginning of the end for the Chargers. The just don't have enough talent to hang with the top teams in the conference.

JP: How did the Chargers get this bad?

Here Are The Picks We Don't (Home Teams still in CAPS)

JC: Oakland (+10) over INDIANAPOLIS

Indianapolis only had two double-digit wins all of last season and one was against the Jaguars. Yes, they made the playoffs, but they needed CLOSE wins over Cleveland, Tennessee (twice), Miami, Kansas City, Buffalo, and Detroit to do it. They shouldn't be favored by 10 against anyone, even Oakland. 

JP: INDIANAPOLIS (-10) over Oakland

The Raiders will be breaking in a new quarterback on the road against a team looking to prove they weren't a fluke last year... Yeah, I'm betting Oakland will wet the bed.

JC: Green Bay (+5) over SAN FRANCISCO

Along the same vein as Atlanta @ New Orleans - a five-point spread at home means that Vegas thinks San Francisco is decidedly better than Green Bay. I'm not sure I see it this way - I'd say both teams are even. In that case, this line is two points too high.

JP: SAN FRANCISCO (-5) over Green Bay

The Niners are the one team that has shown they can slow down Aaron Rodgers, and Kaepernick made the mediocre Green Bay defense look like a JV unit in the playoffs. Add in the fact that this thing is in SF, and I think you have to assume the 49ers can take it by a touchdown.

JC: CHICAGO (-3) over Cincinnati

NFC over AFC. I'm riding that bandwagon until it throws me off or Vegas catches up.

JP: Cincinnati (+3) over CHICAGO

Chicago's offensive line, particularly on the inside, is lumbering and immobile. So, I'm going to put my money on Geno Atkins living in Jay Cutler's lap for the duration of this one, and that stingy Bengals defense should put the clamps on Chicago's running game. On the other side, I think Chicago's secondary will contain AJ Green, but I like Cincinnati's two-headed running attack to make enough plays to pull this one out.

JC: PITTSBURGH (-7) over Tennessee

I'm not particularly high on Pittsburgh this year, but that's because they never stay healthy. That shouldn't be a problem in Week 1. The Steelers should terrorize Jake Locker into submission - Tennessee's only hope is if Chris Johnson busts out a handful of 50-yard runs. I'm not seeing it.

JP: Tennessee (+7) over PITTSBURGH

I'm a Steelers fan, but the Steelers haven't started particularly quickly lately, and I actually think the Titans will be much improved. Locker should have some time to throw, as Pittsburgh looks to rebuild its pass rush around Lamarr Woodley and rookie Jarvis Jones/third-year guy Jason Worilds, and I am a big believer in this new-look Tennessee offensive line, led by rookie Chance Warmack and free agent Andy Levitre inside. Also, Roethlisberger is still waiting for his young line to improve, and he won't have deep threat Mike Wallace or safety blanket Heath Miller this time around.

Also, need I remind you that Pittsburgh lost to a worse Tennessee team, plus Oakland and Cleveland all in the first 11 games of last season?

The Three Team Tease(s) of The Week:

JC: Kansas City (to +5.5), Tampa Bay (to +5.5), New England (to -0.5)
JP: I don't do these things.

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