2011 NFL Predictions: Week 1 Pointspreads and Picks
It's hard to imagine, but the NFL season will kickoff in about a month when the New Orleans Saints visit the defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers on Thursday, September 8.
Even more difficult to comprehend is the fact that lines are set and bets can be placed on the opening weekend slate of games.
You may wonder how a line can be set with free agency going on, but the players who could potentially holdout or sign with other teams will not impact the point spread of these games.
The road team is always listed first, followed by the points they are getting or laying.
My pick follows a brief overview of each game.
All lines are taken from sportsbettting.com.
New Orleans +4.5 vs. Green Bay
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If the game were played late in the season with freezing conditions I would almost blindly take Green Bay over a dome team whose offense has traditionally been predicated on the pass.
But since this game is going to be played in likely mild conditions I don't think Green Bay has the typical home-field advantage in this spot.
Yes, Green Bay will be excited to play in front of their fans for the first time since winning the Super Bowl XLV 31-25 over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I expect New Orleans to match that emotion with their desire to rid themselves of their embarrassing 41-36 playoff loss on the road to Seattle.
Everyone talks about how great Green Bay, and rightfully so. But don't forget New Orleans finished with a better record than Green Bay last year at 11-5.
Green Bay should be the favorite, but not by this much.
Green Bay 31, New Orleans 28
Pittsburgh +2.5 vs. Baltimore
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Last year the Steelers and Ravens split the season series with each team winning on the road by three points in each game.
Sounds like you should take the Steelers here.
I'm going to look at last year's playoff matchup as my motive.
The Ravens went into Heinz Field, beat the living hell out of the Steelers and found themselves up 21-7 at halftime.
Pittsburgh erased the deficit and eventually won 31-24.
While everyone was focusing on the lockout I can almost guarantee you the Ravens were focused on getting another shot at the Steelers.
They get it early and in their house.
I'm honestly not sure who has the better team, but sometimes you simply play the situation.
Baltimore 17, Pittsburgh 10
Detroit +3 vs. Tampa Bay
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Everyone is going to have Detroit as their sleeper team this year.
They played better than their 6-10 record from last year suggests and they have some big-time names in Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh.
It also seems like people want the Lions to be good again. We love the underdog in America and we love seeing a young team grow together instead of watching a team attempting to buy a championship.
I would normally tell you to take your emotions and toss them out the window. In this case though, ride with them.
Detroit may actually have the better offense and defense in this game. It will be tough for them to win on the road considering they set an NFL record last year by losing 26 consecutive games away from home. But who did they break the streak against?
The Tampa Bay Bucs.
Detroit 24, Tampa Bay 20
Atlanta -2.5 vs. Chicago
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Matt Ryan goes into Chicago with Atlanta as a favorite?
I can see the Falcons being a favorite on the road against Carolina, Cincinnati or the bottom feeders of the NFL. But to lay points against a team coming off a trip to the NFC Championship game doesn't sit well with me.
I don't feel comfortable laying points on the road with a quarterback who is 20-2 at and then drops to a 13-11 mark on the road.
On the flip side it's also tough to back Jay Cutler after many people think he quit in the aforementioned NFC Championship game, which came against division rival Green Bay at home no less.
If there was ever a game to avoid, this would be the one.
But if you absolutely need to take a side, I think you have to listen to the line.
Atlanta 27, Chicago 20
Buffalo +6.5 vs. Kansas City
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Do you really feel confident laying 6.5 points with the Kansas City Chiefs?
I don't care who they're playing or where the game is at. The Chiefs don't strike me as a team who will run away and hide from their opponents.
I know the Chiefs blew out some teams last year, but laying this many points early in the season with a team that lacks a track record of being dominant does not seem wise to me.
Heck, I don't even think the Chiefs win this game.
Give me Ryan Fitzpatrick, Steve Johnson, and Fred Jackson and I'll gladly take the points against a middle-of-the-road team.
Buffalo 23, Kansas City 21
Indianapolis +2.5 vs. Houston
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The Texans finished 6-10 last year while the Colts went 10-6.
The Texans define what it means to underachieve and choke while Peyton Manning may be the greatest regular season quarterback who ever lived.
So then why are the Texans a favorite in this spot?
Maybe it's because Houston beat Indianapolis in the same situation last year 34-24 or maybe someone knows something we can't figure out.
Regardless for the reason I'm going to listen to this line and call for the Texans revamped defense to make a statement against Manning.
Houston 28, Indianapolis 17
Philadelphia -4.5 vs. St. Louis
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I love the Eagles and I desperately want them to open the season with a win because their second game puts them back on the road playing against the Atlanta Falcons.
Too bad I think St. Louis presents some a matchup problem and I hate laying points on the road with the Eagles.
Everyone is excited about the Eagles additions on defense and it centers around cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
It's great against the pass, but how are they going to slow down Steven Jackson?
Simple: Score early and force the Rams to throw the ball.
If the Eagles make the Rams play into their strengths I will fight the urge to take the home dog.
Philadelphia 30, St. Louis 14
Cincinnati +4.5 Vs.Cleveland
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The Browns stink.
The funny thing about it is they will still beat the living hell out of Cincinnati in this spot.
Andy Dalton is making his NFL debut on the road. If he struggled against Boise State I'm pretty sure the Browns can figure out a way to make him look confused early and often.
Cincinnati should be a double-digit dog in nearly every road game this year. And until the line adjusts I will blindly take whoever they are playing.
Cleveland 30, Cincinnati 13
Tennessee +2.5 vs. Jacksonville
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
This is what makes the NFL horrible.
When you get Matt Hasslebeck facing David Garrard you are tuned into one of the worst games on the slate.
Can you imagine being a fan of either team?
You get yourself pumped up for the season to begin and then you have to watch these two clowns throw for a combined 287 yards on 27 of 45 attempts with a pick and a touchdown each.
This is why DIRECTV makes a killing.
Tennessee 17, Jacksonville 14
New York Giants -3 vs. Washington
Al Bello/Getty Images
That's all you need to know in this game and any game he starts for Washington.
"Well what about..."
I don't want to hear it. Nothing else in this game matters. The Giants can show up late for the game, make its players play on both sides of the ball and not dress the punter.
The Redskins have no shot in this game or any divisional game in which Beck starts.
How many people will play the song ,"I'm a Loser" by Beck?
New York Giants 27, Washington 6
Carolina +4.5 vs. Arizona
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This game almost seems too easy.
You get Cam Newton making his NFL debut on the road.
The only concern in taking Arizona is how well Kevin Kolb will play. He was able to workout with Larry Fitzgerald during the lockout and he has started in the NFL before. That has to count for something.
There were times Fitzgerald made Max Hall, John Skelton and Derek Anderson look like they were functional. Assuming Kolb's moments of good play in Philadelphia were not complete flukes it seems like a safe bet to think Kolb will play well enough to help the Cardinals cover the number.
Speaking of Anderson, I wonder if he will see some action in this game.
Arizona 30, Carolina 16
Seattle +5.5 vs. San Francisco
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Alex Smith is likely to start, but rookie Colin Kaepernick could move into the starter's role if things don't go as planned.
Is there really anything else to add here?
You get stiff 1 or 1A.
I'm not sold on Seattle by any stretch of the imagination, but whenever I get a chance to bet against Smith I rarely pass it up. And if Kaepernick, the most overrated quarterback in the draft, steps in I actually feel even better getting points.
Here's the sad part about this game: It's an important game for the NFC West.
If the NFC East ever gets this bad I'll stop watching football.
San Francisco 9, Seattle 6
Minnesota +9 vs. San Diego
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It makes sense to bet against the San Diego Chargers early in the year given their track record for slow starts.
It's also wise to back Minnesota right now because everyone will have their poor 2010 season fresh in their minds and their lines will be inflated.
Donovan McNabb and the Vikings may not be able to get into shootouts with teams like the Chargers because they don't have the firepower on offense to consistently score in the 30s. But if they can grind games out with Adrian Peterson and get some stops from a much improved defense, they can steal games like this.
Unfortunately for Vikings fans I don't think their defense will be sharp enough to slow down future MVP Philip Rivers.
The Chargers get the win, but not the cover.
San Diego 35, Minnesota 28
Dallas +4 vs. New York Jets
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Dallas is the most underrated team heading into the 2011 season and I think this is a great spot for them to prove how good they can be.
I don't think they will go into the New Meadowlands and win, but I think they will give the Jets a scare and make some people are the league realize they will give the Eagles a run in the NFC East this year.
But if I think Dallas is going to play well this year, what does it tell you about the Jets?
New York Jets 21, Dallas 20
New England -4.5 vs. Miami
You should salivate to get New England for less than a touchdown because it won't last long.
When the Patriots roll to a couple easy wins early in the season you will see some of their lines creep into double digits and you will be kicking yourself for passing up this bargain.
The only thing that scares me a little bit is who the Patriots are playing and where the game is.
The Dolphins seem to give the Pats a close game every so often down in Miami.
There's not explanation for it other than it's probably the biggest home game for the Dolphins each year.
My worries are quickly eased when I remind myself Chad Henne is under center for the Dolphins and Tom Brady leads the way for the Patriots.
New England 34, Miami 17
Oakland (Pick Em) vs. Denver
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That was the final score of last year's beat down in Denver handed down by the Oakland Raiders.
If the Broncos have any pride whatsoever they will find a way to win this game regardless of who is starting at quarterback.
Kyle Orton should get the nod over Tim Tebow, which could move the line a couple points and make Denver a skinny favorite.
It will be interesting to see how first year coaches John Fox and Hue Jackson adjust to their new teams with such a short offseason. If anything I think Jackson walks into a better situation because the Raiders have more talent.
Despite the edge on paper I have to side with the team playing with a ton of revenge.
Denver 23. Oakland 17