that time of year again… the football season has arrived. And
that means it’s time to get the weekly picks column up and running.
get the introductions and general thoughts out of the way…
last year’s champion, Terry, has agreed to return. There was some
mumbling… actually, wide-eyed, loud accusations about someone
still owing her payment on last year’s victory, or something like
that (once she said yes, I wasn’t really listening… figured it
was trash talking or such). Anyway… she’s back. And we’re happy
to have her taking part.
and Gus are on board with the selection process. They’ll be using
the tried and true which-treat-can-I-get-to method that has led
to some embarrassingly good moments for Molly over the past couple
of seasons. Each dog will pick half of the contests for any week,
and we’ll keep their individual and combined stats in the contest.
hope that Mike will be able to join us during the season. He’s
got several plates in the air right now, so his commentary may
not be what we’ve offered in the past. But he’s been a funny and
valuable part of the Backpack NFL efforts in recent years, and
we want to get his picks to you. And, fortunately, as I put the
finishing touches on this, he has sent in a choice for the first
game, so things look good for getting him involved for the full
year, as a special addition to our crew, we’ve invited Dad to
join the festivities.
last thing… here are the divisional preview columns…
AFC East and North
AFC South and West
NFC East and North
NFC South and West
Good. Let’s hit the selections and kick off the movie quotes by
rolling out an old classic… Mr. Mom. Not a ton of quotes…
and I had to eliminate the one about the old Aunt Emily (because
I couldn’t find it to confirm it was Aunt Emily)… but wow, do
I think what we have works for at least one team in every game.
week, in order to get everyone on board and involved, I needed
odds as early as possible. So, we went to MSNBC, used their live
odds section, and combined the 8 sources they list to get the
average shown here. Favored team is noted with the numerical spread.)
at Pittsburgh (5) – “You
yell at my kid like that again, I’m knockin’ you out!”
To quote my passage about Pittsburgh in the preseason preview:
“There are basically two kinds of people writing about Pittsburgh.
Both of them are incredibly wrong. Type number one… giving them
too much respect. (Note: The Steelers are not the team of the
decade. They could be… but only by going undefeated and winning
a title this year. Stop giving them too much respect.) And type
number two… giving them too little respect. (Other than Brady,
only one active, starting quarterback in the NFL has two titles…
and he plays in Pittsburgh. Stop saying they beat weak opponents.
Because it doesn’t matter… they beat them.)” I said more
than that, because they are a very consistent organization, and
they are winners. This is one of the best teams in football. But
you don’t want to go insane with them. Let’s do a bit of a reality
check. The Steelers have a very good team and a couple of championships,
but they are not the best team in the NFL when you first start
considering things… for this season or the past ten years. Not
if you’re being honest and impartial. But there are some lessons
of very solid performance to be learned about them. Pittsburgh
wins at home. They win big at home. And they crush opponents in
the first home game of the year, despite the expectations that
opponent has entering the game. That’s what they do… season after
season. That’s reality. And that’s just the way it is.
at Atlanta (4) – “I
understand that you little guys start out with your woobies and
you think they’re great. And they are. They are terrific. But
pretty soon, a woobie isn’t enough. You’re out on the street trying
to score an electric blanket, or maybe a quilt. And the next thing
you know, you’re strung out on bedspreads Ken. That’s serious.”
Both of these clubs had nice stories last year, but let’s toss
a bit of perspective into this… Tampa Bay Rays style. The Dolphins
are not winning the division again. They earned their woobie…
but it’s a little too soon to be thinking about electric blankets.
They’re good… but a little fall back is in order. The Falcons
are… well… actually… I like what the Falcons are doing. They may
not be ready for a bedspread this season, but I think they could
build on last year and move up to a quilt. Which team got better
between last season and this? The one that added a great tight
City at Baltimore (10) – “Butler,
you got a problem with your horizontal hold?” “I don’t know.”
“Your wife says you do.” It seems like everyone
can see what the folks in the Kansas City organization should
see… adding a quarterback is great… and Cassell may even be a
really good starter over the remainder of his career. But he doesn’t
have a running back… doesn’t have a wide receiver… doesn’t have
an offensive line… doesn’t have… ok… look… yeah, I’m exaggerating
for effect. (And I’m only dealing with the offense.) But you shouldn’t
pick an underdog unless you think they can win the game. I don’t.
Those 10 points are a big spread, and one that should have you
considering the underdog, because I’m not convinced the Ravens
are a 20-pouints a game guarantee. But in this case, those 10
points are also on the road.
(1) at Carolina – “He’s
married!” “So were we once!” Both of these teams
were good once upon a time. The honeymoon is over. (Sure… McNabb
is part of that joke. But the sentiment works in Carolina especially.)
Both of these clubs have visions of success and happiness in 2009.
I only think one of them is in a situation to accomplish even
a whiff of it though. And… hurts me though it does… I think that’s
at Cincinnati (4) – “I
yelled at Kenny for coloring outside the lines! Megan and I are
starting to watch the same TV shows, and I’m liking them. I’m
losing it!” Both of these clubs are losing it
as well. Denver has just been a circus for months. And Cincy…
wow… I don’t know what to say. I do believe they’ll miss T.J Houshmandzadeh…
and I think they may end up closer to Cleveland than to Pittsburgh
or Baltimore. Still… it’s Denver coming in for a visit. The spring
and summer punch line. Right? Here’s the funny thing… I haven’t
heard much out of Denver except from the two disgruntled players…
one that got traded, and one that they suspended. Maybe part of
that is me not frequently getting the local news from Denver.
But, since the national news sources are only mentioning those
two players are their whining, maybe not. The point is… I really
think there is a very good reason to believe that Denver isn’t
as huge a mess as the embarrassing laundry we do see would indicate.
That said… they weren’t in a position last year to win a division
that almost was won by a team with a losing record. And they’re
rebuilding. And they’re on the road. (Can you tell I want to make
a case for taking Denver here?) I just don’t see it. This is a
very important game for the Bungals. If they lose here, their
season could be over. (I am not kidding.)
(4) at Cleveland – “Hello
Jack. I’m Annette. You’re doing it wrong.” Zero
faith in the Browns. None… nada… nothing. If there was anything
they could have done right heading in to this season, they stopped,
looked it over, and changed it so it would be wrong. Name a quarterback
early on? No… no… why do that when we can let everyone know at
the Labor Day team barbecue? It’s like the Browns management are
approaching the season as if it’s one of those leagues for kids
where they claim they don’t keep score and everybody plays. On
the other side, alot of the talent is playing for the Vikings.
Quarterback… running back… promising rookie wide receiver… and
these are all players involved in a situation where a fast start
will take alot of pressure off. Seriously… think about this one.
If Minnesota wins this game like 31-3, alot of doom-and-gloom
stories get put on hold. They really benefit from a fast start.
I say they get it.
York (Jets) at Houston (4½) – “Honey
if you call and I’m not home I’ll be at the gym or the gun club.”
Both of these teams are pretending to be much more than they are.
The Jets will not be challenging any one for the division crown.
In fact, they’ll be challenged enough to stay out of the division’s
basement. And Houston? I like some of the things they have in
place much more than I ever thought I would, but let me ask you
this… doesn’t it seem like every time Houston does something well,
it happens when you don’t expect it? Starting quarterback goes
down… expectations lowered… team goes on a three-game winning
streak. Reggie Bush doesn’t get drafted first… he doesn’t play
amazingly well… suddenly the draft they did offer looks more impressive
and begins delivering results. When you think they’re doing things
right… when you expect the victory on the road… when you think
they have an opponent they should handle… nope.
Terry: New York
at Indianapolis (7) – “Wow,
what a house!” “Yeah, probably mortgaged to the eyeballs.” “Not
this one, his great grandfather, Commander Richardson, built it.”
“Ehh. Hand me down.” So the Colts are moving on
to the next generation of leadership. Doesn’t matter really… the
foundation is the same as the one that built the success in recent
years. If we played this game a bit later on… say in week five
or six… I’d be tempted to look up results over the past few seasons,
where Jacksonville has really surprised Indy and been very competitive
(if not a downright pain). But something tells me that Indy won’t
even be challenged in this one. They should have the spread covered
at New Orleans (13) – “Are
you gonna make it all 220?” “220. 221. Whatever it takes.”
The spread in this game is killing me. But there is zero way Detroit
wins this game. Zero. And the brief moments I’ve seen from the
Saints so far, I like.
Bob: New Orleans
Terry: New Orleans
Mike: New Orleans
Molly: New Orleans
(5½) at Tampa Bay – “Are
you crazy? You don’t feed a baby chili!” There
are so many things here that are just wrong. Tampa is going to
struggle all season. And in the end, that’s what matters. It matters
more than whether or not the Dallas offense can show up… or organize
their defense. It matters more than the coaching hot seat candidate
stories that will swirl around the Cowboys all year. It matters
more than sorting out a true top running back for the Bucs… more
than picking a long term quarterback… more than a rebuilding effort.
Dallas wins this one with ease.
Francisco at Arizona (6½) – “My
wife and I went to the movies the other day, we saw Rocky. While
I’m watching it, I’m thinking ‘This guy has taken some falls’
you know.” “Which Rocky was it? One or two? Or three?” “I don’t
know. Three I guess. But…” “Hey, did the guy have a mohawk like
Mr. T?” “Ok. Forget Rocky. The point is, when you’re down, you’re
not exactly out. I mean, I mean you gotta hang tough. I don’t
know.” “Well hang tough baby! Do what Rocky would do!” (Pause)
“He didn’t see Rocky.” This game has me stumped.
The Cardinals should win this one without breaking a sweat. Should.
The 49ers don’t have the same talent as the Cardinals. They have
questions that Arizona doesn’t. But something tells me that Arizona
isn’t prepared to take care of business. I think they’ve been
reading their press clippings a bit too much. And I think the
49ers win this game… and start people talking (talking way too
early) about a Cinderella-story season. And if they don’t win
this game, look for a 31-30 final score.
Bob: San Francisco
Molly: San Francisco
at New York (Giants) (6½) – “Keep
that sense of humor. It’s critical.” Wow. Normally
these two teams get involved in slugfests. Low scoring, victory
by 3 points at most, reflect the results in the records but as
a future opponent you didn’t learn anything about either club
from these game films slugfests. Then the Giants hit some successes.
A title two years ago. Some blowouts of the Redskins. It is really
tempting to decide that Washington doesn’t have a quarterback
and just put those slugfests out of your mind. Not so fast. Washington
beefed up the defensive line in their moves getting ready for
this year. And that defense should be able to contain New York’s
running game… which is critical for the Giants to establish in
order to have any success. I think the slugfests are going to
return. I think the Redskins could win this game. I don’t expect
them to. I believe they’ll lose a close one, with the Giants scoring
last to win it.
Terry: New York
Mike: New York
Dad: New York
Gus: New York
Louis at Seattle (7½) – “You
wanna beer?” “It’s 7 o’clock in the morning.” “Scotch?”
Talk about a game that used to be exciting, but now seems like
too much to even think about. Wow. It’s weirdly out of place.
I love the addition of Houshmandzadeh for the Seahawks… but I
don’t know if anyone will consistently get him the ball. I have
always liked Jackson for the Rams, but they don’t look so dynamic
either. The Seahawks used to be dynamite at home, and then either
lose all their road games or most of them. Not so in 2008. 4-12
overall, 2-6 at home. Naturally… one of those wins… a demolition
of the Rams in week three. And… oh yeah… the Rams were outscored
2 to 1 last season (232 points for, 465 against).
at Green Bay (3½) – “Kenny,
don’t paint your sister!” Someone is going to
look great after this game… and someone is going to look dumb.
Will it be all of the people telling you Aaron Rodgers is going
to be one of the best quarterbacks in the game? Will it be the
people telling you Chicago fleeced Denver and finally got their
own quarterback? In this case, I’m going with Rodgers. Here’s
why… Brett Favre. I think having him in Minnesota matters much
more to this club than last year’s mess when he ended up in New
York. I think being successful… making the playoffs… and any victory
in the division (sure, especially against Minnesota)… matters
to them. I also wonder about Chicago’s defense. They may ultimately
prove me wrong… and probably will… but I don’t expect them to
be a ridiculously dominating force. Very good? Yeah. But a bit
older than amazingly great.
Bob: Green Bay
Terry: Green Bay
at New England (10½) – “Can
I give you a hand?” “You can give me two I don’t know what the
hell I’m doing.” And Buffalo doesn’t have a clue
what’s going on right now. Take the points, have them covered
by the end of the first quarter, and then take a nap so you can
watch the special late broadcast of the second Monday night game.
Bob: New England
Terry: New England
Mike: New England
Dad: New England
Molly: New England
Diego (9) at Oakland – “Do
you want to go over the list one more time?” “No I don’t want
to go over the list! Ok. Let’s go over the list.”
The Chargers have destroyed the Raiders in recent seasons. And
despite the distractions, that will definitely continue here.
Bob: San Diego
Mike: San Diego
Dad: San Diego
Gus: San Diego