There are three principle reasons why the American male loves the NFL so much. 1) He loves rooting for his favorite team. It’s the manliest sport there is and by aligning ourselves with a specific team it makes us more manly simple by following the sport passionately. We feel so invested with these teams that we actually find ourselves talking about them in the first person as if we’re actually a member of the team. You’ll never find me doing this in my writing of course because I’m a professional. Okay, that’s a lie. Incidentally, I’m super excited about the Browns this season. I’m pretty sure we’re going to the playoffs. 2) Fantasy football. Whether you do a regular draft or an auction, fantasy football is fantastic. It allows us to play GM and to beat and humiliate our friends and family members at the same time. It also allows you to do things like write in your online column about how your younger brother spends way too much time researching his fantasy team and doing mock drafts only to be all but guaranteed that he’ll lose to his smarter, more intelligent older sibling who’s never done a single fantasy draft and spends about a half an hour with his team every week and has yet to manage a team that didn’t at least win the regular season points title. 3) Gambling. Now, I don’t gamble. But I sure as heck do enjoy listen and reading about gambling and football. The weekly lines fascinate me and Bill Simmons’ weekly picks column is essential reading every Friday.
Last season I decided that it’d be fun to do my own picks every week and expected it to be a colossal failure. To my surprise, it actually wasn’t. I actually finished the season with a record of 121-113. So riding the uproarious success of a season finishing eight games over .500 let’s get back at for Week 1 of the 2013 NFL season!!!
[Home team is in CAPS. Lines are from SportsBook.com. And gamble at your own risk.]
BROWNS (-1.5) over Dolphins
The Browns are terrible in openers with a record of 1-13 since ’99. Even though they’ve really bad since the rebirth they haven’t been that bad in totality which makes that 1-13 record in opening games a statistical anomaly. Eventually it’s going to have to start to correct itself and regress to the mean. Right? It’s math so it has to work that way. I think.
Setting our rough history aside (see, there I used first person again) if the Browns are going to be as good this season as I believe they will then they need to get off to a good start in the opener. This pick though isn’t just to justify my picking the Browns to finish 10-6. I legitimately believe that the Browns are a better football team than the Dolphins and that they will win this game. The Dolphins had line issues last year before they lost Jake Long. They’ve sunk a bunch of their cap money into receivers Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline and if history tells us anything, that usually isn’t the best way to build a winner. They also haven’t had much of a running game for several years and what little success they had was with Reggie Bush, who is now playing in Detroit. The Browns defense is going to get after Ryan Tannehill and force him to make quick decisions with his passes and likely force a couple turnovers. Tannehill played well at times last season but the jury is still a long ways away from being in on his legitimacy as an NFL QB.
I expect the Browns to come out firing on offense and put pressure on the Dolphins to try and keep up the scoring. I’m excited to see what The Norv has in plan for this offense when the games count for real and I rest easy in the fact that The Norv’s offenses usually look pretty dang good. I have the Browns in this one and if you’re worried about me being a homer with my picks, I was 8-6-1 picking Browns games last season.
Patriots (-10.5) over BILLS
It’s seems insane to lay the points with a road team favored by double digit points until you factor in everything at stake. First, it’s Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Second, it’s the Bills who are starting a rookie QB in his first game going up against Belichick. And third, it’s the Bills.
Titans (+7) over STEELERS
The Titans might be one of the worst teams in the NFL this season and I’m far from being sold on Jake Locker at a legitimate starting QB. This is more about not being sold on the Steelers at all. I think they’re going to finish last in the AFC North. I mean, seriously, who exactly is their starting running back? The talent has started to dry up in Pittsburgh (about time) and it’s going to show.
SAINTS (-3) over Falcons
This was probably the toughest game of the week to call. Atlanta really proved last season that they’re a legitimately great team. But last season also showed us all how important Sean Payton is to the Saints. With that team playing at home, in Payton’s first game back in a year, I just can’t bet against them.
Buccaneers (-4.5) over JETS
I was driving the Bucs bandwagon for quite a while last season before the wheels came off and Josh Freeman forgot how to be a good QB. It’s tough to take a road team favored by more than a field goal until you realize that it’s the Jets, who suck. I have a feeling that I’m going to find it very difficult to pick the Jets to cover at all this season. I mean they’re starting Geno Smith in Week 1…Geno Smith. Ouch.
JAGUARS (+4.5) over Chiefs
Why is everyone so convinced that the Chiefs are just magically going to transform into a good team this season. I get that they didn’t have a QB last year and that really kills your team. But they were really bad. I mean really bad all season. Are we actually convinced that Alex Smith is that good or that Andy Reed is that good of a head coach? I’m not. I call BS on the Chiefs being good. Even if does mean picking the Jags.
BEARS (-3) over Bengals
Cincinnati has been another trendy Super Bowl pick that I’ve been hearing of late and it feels a little forced. I like their team and everything fine. But do we really think Andy Dalton is going to lead them to the Promised Land? Please! Also don’t forget how good the Bears were last year before Cutler got hurt and they suffered all those other injuries. They might have been the best team in the NFL. I’m not picking them to go the Super Bowl or anything but I really liked this Bears team last year and I like them in Week 1 over the Bengals.
PANTHERS (+4) over Seahawks
I really like Seattle this season as I did last year. I just don’t like them this week going cross country playing in the early game about Cam Newton. I’m excited to see if Cam can pick up where he left off at the end of last season when he was playing like one of the best QBs in the NFL.
Vikings (+6) over LIONS
Can someone please explain to me why a team that finished 4-12 is favored by almost a touchdown against a playoff team? Anyone? Seriously? What did I miss? Is Adrien Peterson out? Did the Lions all of a sudden get good at defense? I get that they’re at home but six points? Really? This is the Lions we’re talking about.
Raiders (+10.5) over COLTS
This game feels like the Browns/Bengals season opener in 2011. Everyone’s picking Indi in their eliminator pools because they’re going up against the Raiders who are supposed to suck and are starting Terrell Pryor at QB. And the Colts have Andrew Luck and they were a playoff team last year, it just makes sense. I’m probably over-thinking it but if you look back at that Colts 2012 season it was pretty fluky and they got murdered in the playoffs and didn’t look like they belonged. The Raiders might be terrible, but I don’t think the Colts are nearly good enough to give 10 points to anyone.
RAMS (-4.5) over Cardinals
No one really cares about this game so let’s just move on quick. All I’ll say is that I think Carson Palmer is terrible and Sam Bradford isn’t all that bad.
Packers (+5) over 49ERS
I know Kaepernick made Clay Mathews spin like a top in the playoffs but do you really think that with a whole offseason to get ready for the Niners that that’s going to happen again? It’s an insult that the Packers are getting five points. No way they don’t cover.
Cowboys (-3.5) over GIANTS
I’ll be honest, I’m not crazy about having to give the extra half point. I’d feel a lot better if it was a straight three. All the same, the Cowboys usually play great at the beginning of the season and Giants usually wait till the end to pick it up. I don’t like either team to win anything meaningful this season but I like the Cowboys just a little bit better than the Giants.
REDSKINS (-4.5) over Eagles
This was a bit of a conflict of interest for me as my top coach and QB man-crushes are on opposing teams in this game. I’m a huge believer in Chip Kelly as a coach and believe he’ll do great things in the NFL. RG3 is coming off the ACL which gives me a little pause with this pick, but then I remembered that the Eagles aren’t good. And as much as I like Chip Kelly he can’t change the fact that his roster isn’t good enough to compete this year.
CHARGERS (+5) over Texans
A little crazy that a team would be giving five points at home on a Monday night in Week 1. I like the Texans to win the game but five points is just too rich for my blood on a Monday night this early when Phil Rivers hasn’t given up on his team yet.
 In case you didn’t notice, I’m not a fan of Geno Smith. I thought he was wildly overrated leading up the draft and probably enjoyed it a little bit too much as he slid into the second round. Nothing against him personally. I just don’t think he’s very good. If ever there was a system QB in college, Geno Smith was a system QB.