How hard could it be to predict games versus the spread? Every season, I ask myself that question but never do anything about it. This season, I'm throwing my hat into the ring with the scores of self-proclaimed experts to see exactly how I fare. Statistically speaking, I should bat around .500, as that's essentially the purpose of the point spread. What a solid percentage would be, I'm not entirely sure, but I'm willing to set the bar to whatever percentage I end up at for the season.
This, obviously, means I've committed myself to at least one blog entry a week for the entire football season. Well, either that or until my picks have depressed me to the point of total abandonment. Just like the spreads, that option may also be 50/50...
All spreads are taken from Sheridan's Odds from the USA Today the day before the first game of the week. You can find them here.
New Orleans (+6) at Indianapolis - In every season of every sport, it seems that whenever a team is receiving their rings, there's an inevitable letdown when the game finally rolls around. It doesn't mean the Colts will lose the game or struggle this season, but there's a certain intensity that's lacking, as the game can never lives up to placing that ring on their collective finger. With that being said, I'd still bet the over.
Houston (-3) vs Kansas City - Larry Johnson isn't into season shape yet, while it's too early for Ahman Green to have gotten hurt. Matt Schaub will be able to find Andre Johnson and rookie Jacoby Jones running through the Chief's defense. Damon Huard, however, will wonder once again when will the Chiefs finally do something about their mediocre receiving core.
Denver (-3) at Buffalo - The Bills' running game hasn't rounded into shape yet, while you can be sure Travis Henry would like to once again stick it to his old team. By controlling the clock, the Broncos should be able to limit J.P. Losman's big play ability (I never thought I'd say that...) and Jay Cutler gets the advantage of playing in Buffalo in September instead of blustery December.
Pittsburgh (-4.5) at Cleveland - Ben Roethlisberger tries to put last season behind him and there's no better team to help him do that than the Browns. Jamal Lewis will have trouble finding room against the Steelers while Charlie Frye will just be Charlie Frye. Willie Parker, if fully healthy, will run all over the Browns defense and Mike Tomlin will quickly earn his first career victory.
Tennessee (+6.5) at Jacksonville - I'm a bit concerned that I continue to pick road teams to cover but the 6.5-point line is a little much for a Jacksonville team that just changed starting quarterbacks. Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor will get their yards, but when put onto David Garrard and his crew of receivers, I see many drives stalling well short of the endzone.
St. Louis (-1) vs Carolina - Despite Torry Holt's iffy knee, Marc Bulger has enough weapons at his disposal to rack up points against Carolina. That main weapon, Steven Jackson, will carve out a large chunk of his predicted 2,500 season total yards in Week 1. The DeRunning backs on Carolina (Foster and Williams) will get their yards against a porous run defense as well, but I feel turnovers will be the difference here.
Philadelphia (-3) at Green Bay - A home opener in Green Bay will bring out the loudest of fans, but with no defined running game to speak of, the Packers will have to resort to flinging the ball around the field. With the recent vintage Brett Favre at the helm, this can prove dangerous. The Packer defense, however, will give little space to the Eagles' offense, but Donovan McNabb is out to prove he's healthy again.
Minnesota (-3) vs Atlanta - The Joey Harrington era officially begins well earlier than anybody anticipated up in the Metrodome. Neither quarterback elicits fears from the opposing defense, so this game will most likely come down to a few critical runs and turnovers. Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson will limit the Vikings pass attempts, while the Falcons will most likely at least try to throw... and therein lies the problem.
Washington (-3) vs Miami - Two teams I have little faith in this season square up in a match-up in which, when it's over, somebody can claim to have a winning record. Merely looking at offensive weapons, the Redskins can look to hand it off to the insane Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts, while Jason Campbell tries a few deep passes to Santana Moss. The Dolphins can... hand off to Jesse Chatman?
New York Jets (+6.5) vs New England - It's a game I believe the Patriots will win, but this early in the season, the pre-season favorites are still working through continuity issues, and Bill Belichick isn't going to open up his entire bag of tricks. Eric Mangini would love an opening win, but Chad Pennington hasn't found his groove yet, and a shaky QB against New England does not bode well for the J-E-T-S Jets.
Seattle (-6) vs Tampa Bay - Against an aging defense on the road, Shaun Alexander should enjoy a productive opening day in a season aimed at returning to the upper echelon of running backs. Matt Hasselbeck lost his favorite target, but what were 4-receiver sets will now just become 3-receiver sets, which will still be enough to take care of the Bucs. And if that doesn't do it, the home crowd will.
San Diego (-6) vs Chicago - What can LaDainian Tomlinson do for an encore? Fantasy owners everywhere are drooling over the possibilities, while Bears fans simply shiver at the thought. Both teams can boast rosters with depth at nearly every position, but the Chargers have proven what they're capabilities are. The Bears offense is still trying to work in several different components.
Detroit (+2) at Oakland - The Raiders defense ranked among the best against the pass last year, but how much of that was talent and how much was the fact that you didn't need to throw against this team to win? The offensive talent the Lions have finally assembled will discover some of those answers early this season. But the key for the Raiders is how will they score? That'll take more than a week to figure out.
Dallas (-5.5) vs New York Giants - I was tempted to pick this going the other way, but with the game in Dallas, I think the Cowboys will just be too much for the Giants. Tony Romo, with the crowd behind him, will hit a couple big plays, while the running back duo of Julius Jones and Marion Barber III will control the tempo of the game. Eli Manning will be solid, but not enough, as Tom Coughlin begins his final season...
Cincinnati (-2.5) vs Baltimore - Trying to shake off the negative stigma from the off-season, the Bengals will rally behind the home crowd and claim the first Monday victory of the new season. The Ravens defense, one of the best in the league, will get their turnovers and field position, but the offense will again have trouble getting the ball into the endzone. Carson Palmer, however, will not.
Arizona (+3) at San Francisco - With Frank Gore still working his way back from a broken hand, the Cardinals will take the opportunity to pull out a road victory right off the bat. The last MNF game for Arizona didn't end very well, but this time around, Matt Leinart will control the game by hitting any of his plethora of receivers. While the 49ers spent a lot trying to fix their secondary, the Cardinals will still have their number.