Much like Regina Falange or Art Vandelay, John Manoogian is my jack-of-all-trades alter ego. Here's his back-story and why you should trust him as an NFL prognosticator.
A frustrated high school football coach from Huntsville, Missouri, John R. Manoogian was fired after a successful eight-year tenure at George Washington High after he kicked one of the opposing players as he was running down the sideline.
"There were two blatant holds on the line. I was just evening the play out," Manoogian recalls.
After interview requests with ESPN, CBS, NBC, FOX, Yahoo Sports, The Alaska Free Press and Puerto Rico Futbol Caliente were denied, Manoogian approached me for a regular spot on Bleacher Report.
I calmly explained to him that he could create his own user and publish his analysis directly, but he refused. "Don't trust computers. Never have. In accordance with The Manoogian philosophy which states: 'Always be aggressive, play the whole 60 minutes and never trust computers.'"
After several ideas for articles were discarded for being too specific and/or wacky ("Calculating how many times Philip Rivers lick his fingers during the third quarter and how often does this correlate to victory in October night games"), I've given him a weekly picks column to get his feet wet.
This first week will be purely win/lose, while future weeks will also include spread lines.
Take it away, John!
The Pick: PITTSBURGH
The Reasoning: Let's face it, because it already happened. It was a lot closer than I thought it would be, though. What the heck happened to Pittsburgh's running game?
Note to self: Never agree to appear on Madden cover. Polamalu should be glad a helicopter didn't fall on him on his way to the stadium. Is it just me, or is being on the Madden cover the equivalent of wearing Kenny McCormick's parka for an entire year?
The Score (Predicted, not actual) : Steelers 20, Titans 13
The Pick: ATLANTA
The Reasoning: Ok, so Miami was the big surprise last season, riding a Big Tuna and a big season from Chad Pennington to the AFC East crown. Here's the thing though: Teams have had about 8 months to study, dissect and come up with ways to beat the Wildcat.
I mean, seriously, what's so terrifying about watching Ronnie Brown under center? What can he do besides run or dump it off? Play a QB spy, fellas! Are we really putting a top-tier CB on Chad Pennington? What's he gonna do? Do a 4.3/40 and go for the deep ball?
Pat White is certainly a nice wrinkle for this scheme, but this ain't college, kid. The option is a gimmick in the NFL, not a system. Matt Ryan comes out and smacks the sophomore jinx right in the fanny by tossing a couple of sixes to Tony Gonzalez.
By the way, does anyone know if Gloria Estefan and Marc Anthony and Pitbull and every other Latin music star in the country is planning to perform at halftime of every Dolphins game? I'd pay to watch that.
The Score: Falcons 31, Dolphins 27
The Pick: BALTIMORE
The Reasoning: Listen, everyone looks good when they have New England's offensive line protecting them and offensive weapons like Randy Moss and Wes Welker turning your ten-yard dump-offs into 70-yard TDs.
I'm not buying your hype, Matt Cassel. And as for Kansas City? Everyone keeps telling me they're a dark horse, this year's Miami just flying under the radar. No. Not yet. Not even in this league.
First of all, you've pretty much revamped an entire defense over an offseason. Prove to me the new system is the adequate one. Having Dwayne Bowe is nice, but now there's no short-to-middle range threat since Tony Gonzalez is gone.
Meanwhile, Baltimore's got one of the best defenses in the league and just enough of an offensive game to get by in their division. I'm a little bit bothered by Baltimore's running game though. Seriously, what the heck happened to Willis McGahee?
The Score: Baltimore 17, Kansas City 6
The Pick: PHILADELPHIA
The Reasoning: This is one of the biggest games of the week, and I'm not talking about Andy Reid's ever-expanding waistline.
Before Carolina (read: Jake Delhomme) flamed out spectacularly in the playoffs last season, they were definitely one of the big candidates to make it to the Super Bowl.
Everyone keeps referring to that Delhomme game as a fluke. Fair enough, but there's something in Jake's eyes that says to me "Hey look, there's Steve Smith, being covered by four DBs. Let's throw the ball there anyway," which is why traded him in my fantasy league for a half-eaten pack of beef jerky.
Philly's one of my favorites this year, they have all the pieces to put it together, which is true every year, and they always manage to screw it up. They're like the NFC's version of the Chargers.
Either way, the Michael Vick era starts with a woof in Carolina.
The Score: Philly 34, Carolina 24
The Pick: CINCINNATI
The Reasoning: My dentist is a jerk. I mean, he constantly makes digs at my haircut (not a bowl job), always makes the same joke implying I have chronic halitosis (I don't), and asks me questions while he's got 25 tools in my mouth.
But, he's a damn good dentist. Last year, I was so tired of his crap I picked a random dentist out of the phone book. This one was real nice, but somehow I ended up with cold sores on my face.
In my story, Jay Cutler's the jerky dentist, Josh McDaniels is me and Kyle Orton is Dr. Cold Sore.
The implosion of the Bronco franchise begins this week, where even the weak Bengals will be able to pull one out.
The Score: Cincinnati 35, Denver 21
The Pick: MINNESOTA
The Reasoning: It's not November yet, so there's no need to be alarmed about Brett Favre's arm falling off, and Adrian Peterson against any defense favors No. 28, who I fully expect to put up numbers similar to Bo Jackson's in Tecmo Super Bowl.
The Browns commence the Mangina era with Brady Quinn and not much else, and much like recently drafted USC players on the offensive side of the ball, former Bellichick assistants will continue to falter in the NFL.
The Score: Minnesota 27, Cleveland 10
The Pick: HOUSTON
The Reasoning: So, Houston has this big, bad offense this year that is now coupled with its solid defense, and—gasp! They're a trendy pick to make the playoffs in the AFC!
Okay, Matt Schaub, prove to me that you can stay healthier and break fewer bones than an 80-year-old man living in a darkened, three-story house with random holes and a bad tile floor (we miss you, Grandpa) during the next four months and I'll anoint your Texans as The Next Big Thing According To Manoogian (TM).
Until then, you're 8-8 or 9-7 at best in a tough as nails division. Mark Sanchez, welcome to the NFL. If Thomas Jones can't get it going early, prepare for several, constant blows to the head.
Sound like fun?
The Score: Texans 20, Jets 7
The Pick: JACKSONVILLE
The Reasoning: Is Frank Caliendo contractually obligated to pick an "upset special" every week while he imitates John Madden for 20 minutes? (We get it, John likes food, Brett Favre and saying "Boom!"... in 1992)
If so, let me suggest this game. This was gonna be close even with Tony Dungy on the sidelines, but Jim Caldwell will be probably be over matched, even with offensive coordinator, er, QB Peyton Manning calling the plays, audibly eight times on every play, and pointing out the potential blitzing players on every down.
"Hey Jeff, you see that backup kicker on the sideline over there? I'm pretty sure he's coming on a delay. Block him, would ya?"
Meanwhile, Maurice Jones-Drew will probably implode after six or seven games of 30 carries, but until then, he balances the solid Jaguar offense. This one's going down to the wire.
The Score: Jacksonville 24, Indianapolis 23
The Pick: NEW ORLEANS
The Reasoning: You know all those GM and Ford commercials that have come out lately, where the car companies insist that "BANKRUPTCY DOESN'T MEAN WE'RE DEAD... WE'RE JUST... UH, RESTRUCTURING..."?
The same goes for the Lions really, you can tell they're going in the right direction now because there's nowhere to go but up, but let's face it, do you really want to buy a Taurus right about now? No? Didn't think so.
Drew Brees will probably throw for about 1,000 yards despite not being able to see over the offensive line, and Reggie Bush will be asked more questions about Kim Kardashian and his injuries than football.
The Score: Saints 41, Detroit 21
The Pick: DALLAS
The Reasoning: The Bucs sideline should look pretty thin this weekend, considering Raheem Morris fired all coordinators, trimmed his roster down to 35, and told the guys who hold the down markers to stand on the other side of the field.
On the other sideline, those puddles of water? It's the sweat coming from Wade Phillips' body. Wade should lose about 40 pounds by Week four, especially if Dallas gets off to a rough start.
The good news? Tampa Bay is but a shadow of its former self, and the TO-less 'Boys have enough offense to muster a W and keep Jerry Jones from lowering those screens about 50 feet every time an opposing team lines up for a punt for just a couple more weeks.
The Score: Dallas 24, Tampa Bay 14
The Pick: ARIZONA
The Reasoning: The Cardinals are in an apparent double whammy this season, what with The Super Bowl Loser Curse AND The Madden Jinx prowling their organization. Either way, they're still better than a San Francisco team in ascendancy (thank you, dictionary.com) at home.
This one ends up a lot closer than everyone thinks though, especially after a mystery linebacker suits up for the 49ers in the second half. Hey, where's Mike Singletary?
The Score: Arizona 31, San Francisco 28
The Pick: GIANTS
The Reasoning: Tom Coughlin is my hero. When I was coaching the Mudsnails, I tried implementing some of his disciplinary measures in order to get my kids running on all cylinders, but apparently some of the parents thought $1,000 for wearing white socks with black pants was a little excessive.
I'm not on the Eli Manning train, but the Giants are too good of a team right now for Eli to screw them up. Whenever I watch Team America now, and they put that Matt Damon puppet on screen, I figure he looks more like Eli than Matt.
Everyone wants to fire Jim Zorn, and I don't get it. I mean, all he's done in Wash--oh, right Washington. Daniel Snyder. Never mind. Is Al Groh available?
The Score: NY Giants 19, Washington 14
The Pick: SEATTLE
So the NFC West, the least interesting division in football, gets two intra-divisional games in the first week of the season? Looks like my subscription to NFL Sunday Ticket is paying... yawn... off.
Jim Mora, Jr. gets another chance to run a team into the ground while St. Louis gets another crack at explaining to us why they let Kurt Warner go in the first place.
Holmgren, where art thou?
The Score: Seattle 23, St. Louis 16
The Pick: CHICAGO
The Reasoning: So Aaron Rodgers was pre-ranked No. 3 or No. 4 in all my fantasy drafts. Is this just a subliminal act? Is everyone used to the QB in Green Bay leading most passing categories? I don't see it yet, guys. Prove me wrong, A-Rod. Prove me wrong.
The other signal caller, Dr. Jerk Cutler kept the same haircut (that's a bowl cut), but changed jerseys, and has now immediately poised himself for a deep playoff run. Seriously, great job Josh McDaniels.
The rule is always take the home team in a rivalry game unless the home team is absolutely gutted and terrible, but every time I think about Chicago winning this game, my left knee wiggles.
And that's my lucky knee.
The Score: Chicago 21, Green Bay 20
The Pick: NEW ENGLAND
The Reasoning: Remember those mid-90's Steelers teams that lost about five or six key guys over the off-season and still managed to make the playoffs and be a serious Super Bowl threat?
It's as if Bill Bellichick saw tapes of those guys and said "Hmph, I could do that." You know, just to keep things fresh after 18 Super Bowls? "Here Oakland, take Richard Seymour. Here Kansas City, take Mike Vrabel and Matt Cassel. Here Denver, take Josh McDaniels" ...oh wait, yeah.
Next, on the T.O. Show... T.O. begs Bill Bellichick for a roster spot!
"PLEASE MAN, PLEASE!"
The Score: New England 42, Buffalo 23
The Pick: SAN DIEGO
The Reasoning: Manoogian Pick Rule #1: Always take the home team in a rivalry game. Always. Unless it's the Raiders and the Chargers and the Raiders haven't won a game against San Diego since 2003.
Playing the Raiders is LT's fountain of youth. Watch LaDainian dump that huge chip off his shoulders squarely on the Oakland defense, and Richard Seymour who casually lays a paw on LT and lets him get away.
"Oh no, another touchdown? Man, I suck tonight. Uh-oh, guess I'm gonna get cut and re-sign with the Patriots..."
Bill Bellichick is an evil, evil man.
The Chargers start their run to the Super Bowl (or at least the fake Super Bowl against the Eagles) Monday night as Norv Turner runs up the score.
"Fire me after two terrible seasons—even by Raider standards."
The Score: San Diego 45, Oakland 14