ESPN NFL Picks Week 1: Breaking Down the Most Embarrassing Expert Predictions

Wes ODonnell@wesodonnellFeatured ColumnistSeptember 8, 2011

The World Wide Leader in Sports released their "expert" picks for the NFL season today.

In all their infinite wisdom, the "experts" unanimously agreed on the following games:

Packers over Saints
Browns over Bengals 
Texans over Colts
Cardinals over Panthers
Chargers over Vikings
Jets over Cowboys
Broncos over Raiders

Of these seven locks chosen by the experts, four of them—Browns, Texans, Cardinals and Chargers—get passes. The four favorites are far and away the better football teams right now, and their opponents will have trouble competing with them on Sunday.

The same cannot be said for the Packers, Jets and Broncos.

First and foremost, the Packers enter this season as defending Super Bowl champions. They will find out quickly, like the Saints did last year, that being the hunted is not nearly the same as being the hunter.

New Orleans is more than capable of winning the opening game.

The Jets are better than the Cowboys, but it is tough to digest the fact that not a single "expert" picked Dallas. Gang Green still has an unproven signal-caller, who is as likely to throw a touchdown for the Cowboys as he is for the Jets.

If Dallas can put pressure on Mark Sanchez, there is a good chance they can steal this game.

However, by consensus measure, I can let these two slide as well. Both Green Bay and New York are the deserved favorites in their respective matchups.

The Denver Broncos are not.

It is baffling to me that they are three-point favorites over the Oakland Raiders and even more baffling that every "expert" picked the Broncos.

Since when did Kyle Orton play defensive tackle? If I am not mistaken, Orton was 3-10 as a starter last season. One of those losses happened to be an embarrassing 59-14 loss against the Raiders.

In fact, the Raiders were 6-0 in their division a year ago.

Although the team took a major step back with a coaching change and losses at tight end, offensive guard and cornerback, they still have the components of one of the league's best rushing attacks.

One of the league's worst rushing defenses versus one of the league's best rushing attacks seems like an easy prediction to me. Even with the few additions added to new coach John Fox's 4-3 defense in Denver, the Broncos are not equipped to stop the run just yet.

If some "experts" wanted to jump on the Broncos, that's fine. However, it is embarrassing how little respect they gave the Raiders.

There were plenty of other notable picks to harp on, too. Mostly from one, Merril Hoge.

The controversial ESPN analyst made two very curious picks aside from the Broncos-Raiders fiasco.

First, he chose the upstart St. Louis Rams over the Philadelphia Eagles.

I know the best way to get lead in picks is to take a few different games than everyone else, but this is a foolish branch-out by Hoge.

Eagles head coach Andy Reid and Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo are not strangers. More importantly, Reid knows exactly what Spagnuolo likes to do. Forget about the Eagles' "Dream Team" talk from this summer, they are simply a better football team than the Rams right now.

Michael Vick thrives in dome games and this Rams team, while improved, is still learning how to play together.

The Eagles should be the pick.

Another shocking pick to me is the Redskins over the Giants. Whatever reason Hoge came up with cannot be more convincing than this.

New York has beaten the Redskins six times in a row and covered the spread in three out of the last four.

They have a defensive line, even without Osi Umenyiora, that will cause nightmares for the Redskins up front.

Eli Manning still has four good weapons around him that he'll make use of. Not only are the Giants the pick, but they could lay five to seven points and still be the pick.

Moving on to another genius "expert" of ESPN's brings us to Ron Jaworski. Both Jaws and Seth Wickersham, for some inexplicable reason, took the Chicago Bears over the Atlanta Falcons. 

Atlanta added Ray Edwards to their pass rush opposite John Abraham, and the Bears' offensive line is in major trouble once again.

The Falcons will prove, once and for all, that the Bears' run to the NFC Championship Game last year was nothing but dumb luck.

In typical fashion, the most embarrassing pick of all was made by Chris Mortensen.

The veteran insider picked the Miami Dolphins over the New England Patriots in a bid to steal a win. I can only assume he made this pick to get a bit of separation, should the impossible happen.

If he has some statistic to back it up, I would love to hear it.

The Dolphins won one game at home last season and actually got worse in the offseason. A rookie center and rookie running back will only help so much against the mighty Patriots and quarterback Chad Henne is still quarterback Chad Henne.

The Patriots, more than anyone else in Week 1, are a lock.

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