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Week 1 NFL Picks: Falcons-Saints, Packers-49ers The Gems Of Opening Weekend

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
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Drew Brees and Sean Payton (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Drew Brees and Sean Payton (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) – It is once again that glorious time of year, the time when we stash our bathing suits in storage, put the beach chairs down the cellar, close up our swimming pools and bring in the deck furniture. The end of summer is upon us!

Oh, wait, that’s completely depressing and the worst news of the year. Alas, it is a necessary component to the arrival of the greatest day on the sports calendar: the first NFL Sunday of the year.

Perhaps I feel that way toward the Sunday of Week 1 as a coping mechanism for when the beach days become a part of the past, or maybe I just really like a good excuse to sit on the couch and eat 25 pounds of food for 10 straight hours on a Sunday. There’s really not much of a need for any further psychoanalysis, because football is back and we’ve got games – real games – to discuss.

The format here is pretty straightforward. Picks are made against the spread (Wednesday’s lines), and to let you in on the secret that I sometimes misfire, I like to include Ridiculous Quotes From Last Week’s Picks (RQFLWP for short). I’ve been doing this for four years, and my record is 531-511-26, so the opportunities for RQFLWP certainly spring up from time to time. There will be zero RQFLWPs now, however, because I am 100 percent perfect on the year. Here’s hoping that lasts.

(Home team in caps.)

Baltimore (+7.5) over DENVER
You have to love the NFL, where the defending Super Bowl champions enter the season with 30-to-1 odds to repeat, the 12th-best odds in a 32-team league.

Do I think the “nobody-believes-in-us” angle will inspire the Ravens enough to get them back to the Super Bowl? No way. You have to be a lot better than the Ravens to win back-to-back Super Bowls. But it’s definitely enough to inspire them to bring it on opening night of the NFL season. I mean, even the Ravens’ own city isn’t rallying behind them, forcing them to “celebrate” their championship by playing 1,600 miles from home so that the Orioles can play the White Sox. Add in the lopsided line that says they won’t even be able to compete with the Broncos (Jacoby Jones says hello), and I think this might be the best performance the Ravens have all season.

Tennessee (+7) over PITTSBURGH
Will the Titans ever be good? Serious question. Since going to the Super Bowl in 1999, the Titans have won exactly two playoff games in the following 13 seasons. They are the NFL equivalent of people who just walk on the treadmill for 12 minutes once a week. What are they really doing?

The Titans have averaged 7 wins per season over the last four years, and this isn’t going to be the year when it all changes.

All that being said, I’ve got a feeling that Pittsburgh’s going to be just as bad. A seven-point spread is a bit ridiculous.

New England (-9.5) over BUFFALO
This line is way too low. It actually went down three points after E.J. Manuel  participated in practice on Monday, which is interesting because I don’t recall seeing him play well in the NFL yet, but it climbed back up a bit as the week went on and nobody felt like betting on E.J. Manuel.

Of course, the change in the line is not an indication of Manuel’s greatness so much as it is an indication of Jeff Tuel’s complete anonymity. I am so devastated that Tuel won’t be playing on Sunday, partly because I wanted to watch Random Man play quarterback in the NFL, but also because I spent hours upon hours doing research on this guy.

Because I put in that work, I’m going to share the results of my research with you, because let’s be honest, when’s the next time we’re all going to be talking about Jeff Tuel?

Facts

  • His birth name is Riley Tuel, but he changed it to Jeff on his 18th birthday.*
  • He’s had a bushy black mustache on his face since he was 17.*
  • He wears overalls on the reg.*
  • He’s ambidextrous, so defenses never know whether he’s going to throw with his right arm or his left arm. However, he was much more accurate in college as a righty (54.7 percent) than he was  as a lefty (44.8 percent).*
  • He went 4-22 as a starter in college and had nearly one interception for every touchdown thrown.
  • Professional football coaches determined he is better than the No. 10 pick of the 2006 draft and 2004 Heisman Trophy winner.

*”Facts” with an asterisk are not facts at all. If any are factual, it’s complete coincidence. And yes, the last two facts are true.

So yeah, maybe Manuel plays instead of Tuel, but college coach, college quarterback, tough day for the Bills.

Side note: I’m still waiting for an apology for the so-called “Bills Mafia” folks. I had the audacity to write before Week 1 in 2011 that the Bills were not going to be good at football. I got attacked from so many different strangers on the Internet and even had an entire message board thread dedicated to me and how awful I was as a human, and they pestered me relentlessly as the Bill started the season 5-2. Well, they’re 7-18 since then, and while the badgering has stopped, nobody’s ever said, “You know what, Mike? I was wrong and you were right, and I appreciate your honesty. Let’s go get a sandwich together sometime.” The #BillsMafia people must have missed “How To Be Nice Day” at kindergarten.

Cincinnati (+3) over CHICAGO
No team has made me look more foolish over the past three years than the Bears. I go back and forth every single week with them. They’re in my head. It’s to the point where you can probably just go with the opposite of my Bears pick every week and make a living out of it. I’m just trying to be up front with you right now.

Miami (pick ‘em) over CLEVELAND
Was there any offseason story line more bizarre than the Browns’ unwillingness to commit to Brandon Weeden as the starting quarterback? He’s not Tom Brady, but he did lead the Browns to their third-best offensive season since the franchise rebooted in ’99. Yet he had to compete with Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer, who threw a combined three touchdowns and four interceptions last season, just to get his job back. I suppose that’s Cleveland sports for you.

NEW ORLEANS (-3) over Atlanta
The most emotional team in the league gets its beloved head coach back in front of 72,000 crazy people from Louisiana. I know there are many more factors at play than just raw emotion, but you’d be kind of nuts to go against that kind of groundswell.

Tampa Bay (-3) over NEW YORK JETS
I think for Jets games this year in which they’re getting anything less than a touchdown, I might just write “LOL” and move on to the next one. Not much further explanation is needed.

The Jets used to thrive in these kinds of games, but Rex Ryan also used to be humongous (I don’t like skinny Rex, but good for him and all of that) and the team used to employ capable defensive players and also knew who its starting quarterback was. Now? It’s just “LOL.”

Minnesota (+5.5) over DETROIT
My one good look at the Lions this preseason showed they have the same stupid disciplinary problems that helped turn them from a 10-6 team in 2011 into a 4-12 team last year. And the last time I saw the Vikings, they legitimately competed with the Packers at Lambeau for a while with a quarterback who once threw a ball straight up into the air.

There’s also the minor detail that the Vikings beat the Lions twice last year, with Adrian Peterson rushing for 171 yards the last time they met, so do you want to take the Lions giving five-and-a-half?

INDIANAPOLIS (-10) over Oakland
On Monday, just six days before this game kicks off, I saw a headline which read, “Who is the Raiders’ quarterback?” I didn’t click on the story, but I imagine the author was legitimately asking a question, looking to get some help with the answer.

Seattle (-3.5) over CAROLINA
I fell in love with picking Cam Newton and the Panthers two years ago, when they started the season 5-2 against the spread. They then went on a 9-12 stretch against the spread, destroying me in the process, thereby ending the love story. Then they ended the season 4-0 against the spread, winning all four games outright, three times as an underdog.

That’s all to tell you that the Panthers are hard to figure out. And while I don’t think the Seahawks are the Super Bowl team that so many seem to be predicting, I think a 3.5-point spread is going to look laughable when we look back on Week 1 lines in a couple of months.

Kansas City (-4) over JACKSONVILLE
Arizona (+4.5) over ST. LOUIS

Just in case you’re someone who thinks there are such things as “football gods,” remember that these games were scheduled on Week 1.

SAN FRANCISCO (-4.5) over Green Bay
The 49ers might just own the Packers. The Niners won twice against Green Bay last year, once by eight points with Alex Smith under center, and once by 14 points with Colin Kaepernick running wild all over the Packers (263 passing yards, 181 rushing yards, two passing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns). The Packers gave up 579 yards of offense to this team the last time they played, and those types of things don’t just get fixed overnight, no matter how much they ask college coaches how to stop the read option. They’ll probably be better prepared to defend it (at least I’d hope so) but until it’s proven otherwise, I’ll go with my Niners-own-the-Packers theory.

New York Giants (+3.5) over DALLAS
The Giants and Cowboys will meet on Sunday Night Football for the 374th time since 2007. The Giants will probably win, because they’ve won four straight in Dallas, even when they fully commit as a team to only play for about two full quarters.

WASHINGTON (-3.5) over Philadelphia
I don’t know if Chip Kelly’s crazy ideas are going to work in the NFL, but if they are, I think they’ll take some time to function at a winning level. Week 1 in his first season is probably a little bit optimistic.

Houston (-3.5) over SAN DIEGO
The Chargers are so bad that not even one player on the “Key Additions” and “Key Losses” from the 2013 offseason is a player worth talking about.

Nevertheless, like so many other sad sacks around the country, I will stay up past midnight to watch what will most likely be a meaningless fourth quarter in San Diego, even though it will mean listening to Chris Berman when I’m tired and cranky. Week 1 of the NFL season is upon us, and I intend to enjoy every last second of it. (Except for the Arizona-St. Louis game. Seriously with that?)

Last season: 129-130-9
This season:
Perfect so far! (Update: Not after the Ravens loss!)

Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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