Picking games is an interesting art for Vinnie every time Week 1 rolls around. Game lines tend to be on the conservative side, with little for experts to go on beyond preseason games and/or games from the previous year. Fortunately, this extends to the over/under in some cases. Speaking of which, consider these two your Week 1 appetizers.
Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets (over/under 36): Teams will have to throw the football to beat the Ravens, something Mark Sanchez right now appears ill-equipped to do very well. Doesn’t help matters that Santonio Holmes is suspended for New York’s first four games. This game figures to be an absolute brawl, a delight to watch if you prefer minimal touchdowns and punch-you-in-the-mouth defense on just about every series. Key stat: the Jets have played four consecutive season openers that resulted in unders.
under 36 total points.
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (over/under 47): Most NFL fans are probably familiar with how dominant the Colts have been against the Texans; they’ve defeated the Colts exactly once in 16 meetings (that would be 2006). Consider the weapons Peyton Manning once again has at his disposal, including a (for now) healthy Joseph Addai. Consider that Houston’s best defensive player, outside linebacker Brian Cushing, won’t be on the field in Week 1. Now consider how far the Texans offense has come, featuring the Matt Schaub to Andre Johnson connection. Key stat: spanning the past five years, nine games between Indianapolis and Houston have resulted in overs – as compared to the one occasion in which the total score fell short.
over 47 total points.
As for the Vinnie’s five premiere picks, enjoy …
Denver Broncos @ Jacksonville Jaguars (-2.5): If there’s a mediocre NFL team that has within the past year shown itself to be significantly more dangerous at home than in road games, it is Jacksonville. While the reason Maurice Jones-Drew was yanked from preseason action remains shrouded in mystery, it appears he’s going to be good to go come gametime. David Garrard certainly isn’t a world beater, but has Mike Sims-Walker back and Mike Thomas emerging as another weapon. Denver, meanwhile, has injury-related question marks emanating from its offensive line and backfield. And Elvis Dumervil sure will be missed from the Broncos defense.
Gimme the Jaguars minus the points.
Green Bay Packers @ Philadelphia Eagles (+2.5): Vinnie is well aware of how volatile a place Lincoln Financial Field can be for visiting teams. But Green Bay seems to him the best looking team in the NFC thus far, and say what you will about its secondary but that front seven on defense can torture the opposing quarterback in a given game. Bad news for Kevin Kolb, who probably does have the tools to become a quality NFL quarterback but has struggled whenever pressured.
Gimme the Packers minus the points.
Cincinnati Bengals @ New England Patriots (-4.5): Last minute addition. Despite feeling initially weird about picking against New England at home, Vinnie finds himself unable to ignore a pair of key factors. Keep in mind that the spread, here, is substantial compared to the majority of other Week 1 matchups. And that Cincinnati did quite a bit in the offseason to shore up deficiencies that rendered its offense rather one-dimensional in 2009. Vinnie likes what he sees in the Bengals defense, but figures New England will lay plenty of points on the board. It’s the Patriots defense and, namely, the number of key injuries on that side of the ball that make the difference in Vinnie’s mind. Think about it – are Carson Palmer, Cedric Benson, Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens really going to be held back much in this game?
Gimme the Bengals plus the points.
Cleveland Browns @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3): Two bad teams squaring off against one another makes for less watchable football. But that matters little for Vinnie’s purposes. Whereas the Browns have an adequate defense, a so far not that bad looking Jake Delhomme, and a decent running game to rely on, what do the Buccaneers have other than lots of youth at most positions and an exuberant head coach? Not enough to convince Vinnie of three-point favorites, any way.
Gimme the Browns plus the points.
Atlanta Falcons @ Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.5): Vinnie isn’t getting excited about Dennis Dixon, envisioning an impactful Falcons defense that creates turnovers. And as good as Pittsburgh’s defense is, Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez are going to prove far more formidable than most opponents can handle. Key stat: in 10 of their last 12 season opening games, the Falcons have beaten the spread.
Gimme the Falcons minus the points.
Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills (+3): Were it not for the Dolphins offensive line looking less dominant and cohesive a unit than it did over the first half of 2009, and the Chad Henne to Brandon Marshall connection looking pedestrian in the preseason, Vinnie would be steering clear of this matchup. But the Bills are moving the chains on offense, with rookie running back C.J. Spiller looking spectacular and veteran wide receiver Lee Evans refusing to let fantasy football give up on his talents. Key stat: Miami has failed to beat the spread in five of its past six road games versus Buffalo.
Gimme the Bills plus the points.