Well, I'm making the picks a full week before Sunday's kickoff. Anyone is free to comment.
1.) New York Giants at home (-4) vs. Dallas Cowboys
The Giants don't seem to get the respect they deserve. How many Super Bowls must you win to be marked as a favorite in your division? Forget the naysayers who think this is the Eagles or Cowboys division to lose because the Giants are still a threat if not the real favorite.
The Cowboys look like they are in a state of dysfunction despite their talent. It's up to Tony Romo to lead them through the storm. I'm not counting on it though. The Cowboys, even with Mo Claiborne are questionable in the defensive backfield.
2.) Chicago Bears at home (-9.5) vs. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts really did get their franchise QB in Andrew Luck and their future is bright. Coach Pagano will have them playing more physical than we're used to seeing from the Colts. The Colts have too little talent right now to compete against the Bears defense and real deal or not, Andrew Luck has a daunting task in his first career start.
The Bears, as much as I hate to say it are for real. They are perhaps the most balanced team in every facet of the game in the NFL. The addition of Brandon Marshall as a target for Jay Cutler. A "healthy" Matt Forte, spelled by former Raider, Michael Bush provides valuable depth at the position. 9 1/2 points should be treated as a trap, but at home against the rookie QB ought to be good for the Bears.
3.) Philadelphia Eagles (-9) at Cleveland Browns
There is no shortage of people jumping on the Eagles bandwagon. I'm dubious. The Browns are no real challenge, but the Eagles have a glaring weakness at safety which exposes them to big plays from Tight Ends and makes them vulnerable to speed on the outside if coverage breaks down. Until they demonstrate otherwise we must assume the Redzone defense has not improved dramatically. The Defense Backs may improve by default with the clear upgrade of All Pro Demeco Ryans at MLB and the addition of rookie 2nd round draft pick Mychal Kendricks at OLB. We'll see.
The Eagles offense is explosive and a renewed sense of duty from Deasean Jackson has promise. The Eagles are keeping four RB's and are faster at WR, believe it or not. Michael Vick's health is an obvious concern, but at least there is some hope that rookie Nick Foles can make all the throws if called upon to take the field. Preseason is never an adequate means of assessing a rookie QB, but arm strength is arm strength. You either have it or you don't.
The Browns are starting rookie QB Brandon Wheedon and Trent Richardson may yet play despite limited reps in preseason. Unless Richardson runs amok, the Browns are outclassed and wholly dysfunctional to boot. Even if they can score, they can't stop the Eagles offense.
4.) New York Jets at home (-3) vs. Buffalo Bills
Everyone is focused on the wrong part of the Jets backfield. Tebowmania? So what? Mark Sanchez has shown he can get the job done, but he gets all the blame when they don't. Sound familiar Eli Manning fans? The real issue is the lack of a complement to RB Shonn Greene. He's a good back, but not an every down back. Three years ago the Jets rushed 58% of the time but they had Greene and a veteran like Tomlinson as an effective complement. Then there's this bizarre expectation that any QB, much less Sanchez can make plays when he's on his ass because there's a gaping hole at RT. Does anyone think that 2009 2nd overall Rams pick (and bust) Jason Smith is the Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke? Santonio Holmes seems to have his head up his ass and the only other offensive weapon is Dustin Keller at TE.
The Jets Defense will need to play at a higher level than reasonable. If the Jets turn to Tebow at any time as QB it is an admission not of his talent but reflects the loss of faith in the Offensive line. If they can block, Sanchez can win, if not Tebow is their last hope to save Rex Ryan's job.
The Bills are a team poised for lightning in a bottle like season. Can Ryan Fitzpatrick get them to a wild card? Probably, but with Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller they have a splendid RB combination. The addition of Mario Edwards makes their already good and underrated defense better and takes pressure off their offense in turn.
Prediction: Bills To Win
5.) New Orleans Saints at home (-9) vs. Washington Redskins
I hate nine points in this game. The absence of Jonathan Vilma to the Saints defense has been understated,surprising because it is such a profound loss. Will Smith as well. This makes RG III's life easier, but the lack of talent on both sides of the ball can't save the rookie QB. The Saints offense will light up the Redskins.
6.) New England Patriots (-6) at Tennessee Titans
The Titans are starting 2nd year QB Jake Locker at home against the Pats. If Chris Johnson is back to explosive form, then the Titans may find themselves with an upset win, but as porous as the Pats defense can be how does the Titans defense stop Tom Brady? I hate six points, but not ready to take the home dog. The Pats are still itching after a second Super Bowl loss to the GMEN and the rookie QB will likely make rookie mistakes.
7.) Minnesota Vikings at home (-4.5) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Christian Ponder vs. Blaine Gabbert? Let my heart be still, it's the dream QB competition of a lifetime! Maurice Jones Drew just reported to the Jags but it remains to be seen how much time he will get. Adrian Peterson is back, but how healthy? It seems this game will come down to who throws the most pick sixes or special teams returns. UGH! I'll stick with the home team.
Prediction: Vikings (Ugh!)
8.) Houston Texans at home (-10.5) vs. Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill is likely to get the start at QB. It won't matter. A healthy Matt Schaub, at home and a Dolphins defense that can't keep the game close.
9.) Detroit Lions at home (-9.5) vs. St. Louis Rams
Everyone is on the Lions bandwagon. The offense is as potent as they come. They have a hole in the secondary, competing in a division with the Bears and Packers. The Rams have a back like Steven Jackson who if he gets started can eat up the clock, but they don't have the WR's to keep pace with the Lions defense. Jeff Fisher is a proven head coach, but the talent is lacking. He can't win a shootout and must hope his potent defense can keep Stafford and Megatron off the field. Not likely.
10.) Atlanta Falcons (-2.5) at Kansas City Chiefs
This is the most intriguing match up of the week and may be a bellwether for both teams. Will Julio Jones really step up to the level of play they expected? If so, then the Falcons must be viewed as a viable contender. The Chiefs are young and on the rise, but still questions linger. Arrowhead is an intimidating placed to play as a road challenger, much less a favorite. Can the Falcons stop the Chiefs running game? This is a difficult pick, but the home team deserves some advantage. I'm thinking the Chiefs can run the ball and eat up the clock. We'll see.
11.) Green Bay Packers at home (-5.5) vs. San Francisco 49ers
An interesting game. Packers offense versus 49er defense. The Packers signed Cedric Benson as their primary back, but he has a history of fumbling. The 49ers improved their roster and the spread is too much in my mind
Prediction: 49ers to cover
12.) Carolina Panthers (-2.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
First of all, as I am typing this this game has yet to sell out and as such like most of the last two years I will not get to see the game here in Tampa. Greg Schiano has already shown great promise as a head coach and I expect great things from him. The loss of Davin Joseph is staggering to their offense in a division where it must score points. The Bucs defense can stay with the Panthers offense but at the moment the advantage is likely with the Panthers and Cam Newton.
13.) Seattle Seahawks (-2.5) at Arizona Cardinals
Pete Carroll better be right about Russell Wilson. He is his third different starting QB in three years as the Seahawks Head Coach. Preseason is not a good barometer. Matt Flynn was a high profile signing and he'll be holding a clipboard. Odd. John Skelton gets the start for the Cardinals and it's the correct choice for Ken Whisenhunt. Ugly game.
Predictions: Cardinals to win
14.) Denver Broncos at home (-1) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Peyton Manning looks like his old self and the Steelers just look older.
15.) Baltimore Ravens at home (-6) vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The Ravens have no Terrell Suggs, a gigantic loss, but the Bengals are per their history looking snake bit. They never put two seasons together successfully as a winning team and as promising as Dalton-Green is, the Ravens are still the class.
16.) San Diego Chargers (-1) at Oakland Raiders
If Carson Palmer hadn't played so atrociously in the pre season, the Raiders would be favored in this game. Darren McFadden's progress is questionable. These two teams are classic under achievers and Philip Rivers is clearly going to waste with the Chargers. But he has more weapons.