Despite the contentious labor battle this offseason between NFL owners and players and what appeared to be a legitimate possibility of the season being delayed because of it, the NFL season is already under way.
Even better, we will have labor peace for the next 10 years.
One of the early games on Sunday features the Steelers and Ravens, who have the league's best rivalry in my opinion (discuss game here). Sunday Night Football features the battle of the Ryan twins as Rex Ryan's Jets host the Cowboys, where Rob Ryan takes over as defensive coordinator, on the tenth anniversary of September 11. In other words, we have great high-profile matchups from beginning to end on Sunday.
Every week, we (our three "handicappers" at The Weekly Blitz) pick the three NFL games against the spread (ATS) that we like most.
Here are my three best for Week 1:
Although the Jaguars technically did not sell out their home opener, the game will still air in the local Jacksonville television market. Great news for fans looking to see David Garrard. Oh, wait. The Jags cut their starting quarterback five days before the opener.
Not only won't Garrard be under center, neither will the player who actually led Jacksonville in preseason pass attempts (70), first-round rookie Blaine Gabbert. The abrupt transition to Luke McCown, who has thrown 24 NFL regular-season passes in the past three years combined, worries me. Regardless of what I think, you have to think this move sends the wrong message to the players in the Jaguars' locker room.
In six career games against the Jaguars, Titans running back Chris Johnson has 632 rushing yards and 114 receiving yards. In addition, the Jaguars pass defense is not good. Last year, only four teams allowed more passing yards and only five teams allowed more passing touchdowns than the Jaguars.
With the departure of Charlie Weis, the Chiefs offense could very well take a step back in 2011. Although he injured his ribs in the team's final preseason game, Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel was a full participant in practice and will be ready to go this week. In addition, the loss of tight end Tony Moeaki for the season was a big blow to the team's offense.
The addition of Marcel Dareus, the team's first-round pick, to the defensive line and linebacker Nick Barnett via free agency plus having a healthy Shawne Merriman should help improve the Bills defense.
When these two teams faced each other last year, the Chiefs won 13-10 in overtime. In the nine-game stretch after their bye week last year, the Bills went 4-5 but four of their losses were by three points including their loss to Kansas City. In fact, all four of those three-point losses were to teams that won double-digit games and three of them went into overtime.
Although I think the Chiefs win this game, the Bills keep this game close enough to cover the spread. In their last 11 games, the Bills are 7-3-1 against the spread (ATS).
When a team expects to play in a hostile environment, they often try to prepare for the crowd noise. That's what the Dolphins are doing to prepare for the Week 1 matchup against division-rival New England. The problem? The Dolphins are the home team.
Last year, the Patriots blew out the Dolphins by 27 and 31 points in their two matchups for a combined score in those two games of 79-21. Over the last five seasons, the Dolphins are 0-5 in home openers. In fact, the Dolphins were pathetic at home winning a league-worst one game at home in 2010. On the other hand, the Patriots have won seven straight games in Week 1.
The Patriots led the NFL in scoring offense last year and Tom Brady was near perfect down the stretch as he set the NFL record for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception. For the Dolphins, Chad Henne tied Brett Favre for the fourth-most interceptions (19) in 2010.
To see the rest of our picks, click here.