The first week of the National Football League season is in the books and there are plenty of unanswered questions that leave those that wager on the games (you know, if you’re in an area where you can LEGALLY place a bet) in a difficult spot. Are the New York Jets THAT good that they laid 31 on the Cleveland Browns (let’s be honest, after Browns QB Josh McCown was knocked out of the game with a concussion, ushering in Johnny Manziel to show again why he shouldn’t be playing quarterback in the NFL)? Have the years finally caught up with Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning (I think I’ve seen mannequins move better and have more zip on the ball than Peyton has in the first two games)? Has New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin finally lost his mind?
The first four weeks of an NFL season are really a feeling out process. You have to be able to crunch the information from all the teams, figure in for those “weird” games when the outcome should have been different (we’re looking at you, Kansas City Chiefs) and make a solid decision on limited information. Some of the matchups this weekend that I’ve decided to offer a pick with seem to be gift wrapped from the bookies, though.
(Home team in CAPS, pick in bold)
New England Patriots (+1) vs. BUFFALO BILLS; UNDER 44
Inter-division games are always a tough pick because they usually are a rivalry game. With the AFC East, every other team in the division considers the Patriots an “arch rival” while the Patriots wonder what these teams are talking about; the Pats have won the division title in 11 of the past 13 years, not exactly something that rivalries are made of. If there’s a game with head coaches Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan involved in it, however, there is going to be some heat in the game.
The Patriots utilized the usual suspects on offense – QB Tom Brady, TE Rob Gronkowski and RB Shane Vereen – to effectively whip the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 and, with 10 days to rest up for the Bills, I don’t see how they’re going to lose this one. I’ve also got to question just how good the Jets’ defense is. They had a great game against the Browns, but that was after the injury to McCown sent Manziel into the game to turn the ball over to them twice. I’d like to see them stand up against a team that doesn’t lose their starting quarterback in the first game.
This is going to be a bit of a slugfest, though. I don’t see the two teams scoring more than 44 points, hence I’ll take the UNDER there. As to the game, you’re giving me Brady AND a point? I’ll take it.
Baltimore Ravens vs. OAKLAND RAIDERS (+6.5)
The Ravens looked anemic against Denver last Sunday night. No running game to speak of and, without that, QB Joe Flacco’s play-action passing game has a bit of a problem getting started up. Still, there are more concerns about this team, whom many thought might be challenging for another trip to the playoffs.
The Raiders…what can you say about the boys by the Bay? QB Derek Carr went down early in the action with an injury (he is expected to start on Sunday) and the Silver and Black never even got the engines started in losing to the Bengals. I don’t expect the Raiders to win this game but I do expect them to make it much more competitive than Week 1 (even the Raiders have some pride to their game). That 6.5 points is just a bit too juicy to pass up, so let’s see if the Raiders have some resolve and come back strong.
Seattle Seahawks vs. GREEN BAY PACKERS (-3), UNDER 49
Seattle was shocked in Week 1 in going on the road and losing to the St. Louis Rams in a game that the ‘Hawks had to scramble to get back into (Seattle outscored the Rams 18-7 in the fourth quarter) before losing in overtime. It isn’t clear if DB Kam Chancellor’s contract holdout is causing issues to their once vaunted defense, it isn’t clear if QB Russell Wilson’s big new contract has satiated his drive, it isn’t clear if RB Marshawn Lynch is just having issues, period. What is clear is that the Seahawks can ill-afford to go to 0-2 on the season, especially giving up a game to a team that may be a divisional champion.
The Packers seem to keep plugging in players to maintain the smooth running of the ship. After losing WR Jordy Nelson to a knee injury in pre-season, all they did was go and get James Jones back on the roster. All James would do is light up the Chicago Bears defense for two TDs (James had six for the Raiders in 2014) in their victory. Alongside fellow WR Randall Cobb, QB Aaron Rodgers has plenty of options on the offensive end of the ball (hey, we didn’t even talk about RB Eddie Lacy).
The Packers are nearly unbeatable at home and they are looking for some revenge after losing to the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game to close last season. Look for them to cover the spread, but it’s going to be something along the lines of 21-17 or 17-13 on Sunday night.
CURRENT RECORD: 4-2-1
Not a bad week overall for Week 1. Could have been better if the Patriots had not given up the late TD to the Steelers in the opener (that was the push on the board with the Pats -7) and there had been a real game between the Browns and Jets. Then again, Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo’s fourth quarter heroics did save our OVER bet (the 27-26 final went over 51.5), so maybe we shouldn’t complain.
It promises to be another interesting week in the NFL. Over the next couple of weeks, some trends will begin to emerge and players can begin to use them accordingly.