How the darts landed
Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden was 12 for 35 with four interceptions last week. He was abysmal. I was worse. If my Week 1 records do not prove to be my worst of the season, both ways, I’ll latch a giant yoke onto my shoulders and hand-pull an American Old West-style covered wagon teeming with drunken hecklers in Jets jerseys from Miami to Los Angeles. While naked. I hit a rare exact score in calling Miami’s 30-10 loss down to the point. Alas, that was the cherry on a bowl of dung. What next? We rally, of course! [Note: Thursday game pick was Packers (-6) over Bears, 34-30].
Dolphins this week
For its home opener, the club will hand out free “Still Perfect” hats to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Perfect Season, torturing Dolfans with the latest reminder that the franchise’s good old days have grown ancient and that the current team is comparatively crappy. Miami has begun 0-1 for the eighth time in the past 10 seasons. However, there are indications of an upset win here. Raiders have the long trip on the short week (a historic precursor to defeat), and Dolphins are on a 12-3 series run including a win here last year. So, yes, the upset pick surely does tempt. Can’t do it, though. Don’t see this as a great matchup for Miami. Oakland’s defensive front will limit Reggie Bush and harass Ryan Tannehill, and I’d imagine that slingin’ Carson Palmer might roll a 300 against that suspect Dolphins’ pass defense. Oakland isn’t great but IS better than Miami, and the Dolphins simply don’t have much in the way of any special home-field advantage these days. Miami won’t be a good bet until the offense proves it can pop for three or four touchdowns a game on occasion. I’ll wait to see that before I hail the bandwagon.
Game of the week
There were other solid nominees put before the Game of the Week committee (Lions-49ers, Broncos-Falcons), but a Bird Bowl doesn’t get much better than Ravens-Eagles, which feels like a pick-’em game to me. Crows looked great last week. Baldies certainly didn’t in eking past Cleveland by a point but get the home-opener lift here. Plus you can bet Mike Vick won’t suffer another four-interception game (even though Ed Reed might have something to say about that). Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy make this a major fantasy-watch game, another reason why it tops the Week 2 marquee. John Harbaugh is a former 10-year Philly assistant under Andy Reid, but mentor tops student in this one.
Upset of the week
“AAAWWWK!” trills the Upset Bird, pride battered but beak held high. “St. Louis Raawwk!” Plainly our gamble is propped up on this: the Letdown Factor. It is human nature. Washington and sudden-superman Robert Griffin III fashioned a stunning upset at mighty New Orleans and simply CAN’T but be overconfident in now facing the lowly Rams. Thus the home hunch on St. Louis, which is playing harder and isn’t the same level of sad-sack under Jeff Fisher that we have seen in previous years. “Griffin will play more like a raawwkie this week,” guaranteed U-Bird. “No III-peat. No III-paawwk!”
Dog of the week
Dog of the Week refers to worst game, not a betting underdog, and Chiefs-Bills staved off a late charge by Browns-Bengals. KC and the Buffs both hugely disappointed last week, the Injuns crushed by Atlanta and the Williams dominated by NYJ. See this game as coin-flip even so make it a venue call. It’s the home opener for the Bison, and they’ve won seven of past eight at home in this series. I don’t trust Ryan Fitzpatrick. But I trust Matt Cassel even less.
Brownies have not won a division game since Oct. 3, 2010. Why start now? Cincy got crushed by Baltimore last week but is due a big home rebound vs. a rival it has beaten in 12 of past 15 meetings including three in a row. Play it close, though. Earthtones gave Philly a game last week, and Brandon Weeden can’t possibly be that bad again … can he?
Upset! Hunching Colts at home here largely because of Andrew Luck facing a susceptible, beatable Minnesota secondary. Luck topped 300 yards in his debut last week, although the feat was thoroughly overshadowed by the QB quiniela of Robert Griffin III’s coming-out party and Peyton Manning’s comeback party. Besides that, Vikes tend to shrink on the road.
N’Awlins opened as a mere 1-point favorite before the line understandably plumped a bit. Anybody jumping off Drew Brees’ bandwagon after one loss is knee-jerking to say the least. Brees and Cam Newton should make this one a shootout, and Cam gets a lift with expected return of RB Jonathan Stewart. But give me Brees. Just can’t picture Saints 0-2.
Seven-plus is lot of points to give a home team in a division game, but I can’t see Jax covering. Houston has won three in a row in series and Matt Schaub (106.3 passer rating) and Arian Foster (103 rushing yards) have big career averages against Jags. Plus, Blaine Gabbert is headed for a nightmare behind a seriously beat-up offensive line.
Tom Brady with a much-improved defense is a scary thing, which is why Pats are Super Bowl faves at the moment. And the English have won an NFL-best 10 consecutive home openers at Razor Blade Stadium, which is why this is the biggest point spread in Week 2 by a lot. Can’t see Kevin Kolb and the Cacti hanging within two TDs of this opponent in this place.
Doesn’t it seem like the Giants and Cowboys opened the season about a month ago? Playing a week ago Wednesday gives NYG a huge edge in rest and prep time. Love Biggies outright but hunch Bucs with points. Jersey homecoming for TB coach Greg Schiano (11 years at Rutgers) and O-boss Mike Sullivan (eight years a Giants assistant).
Waiting 11 days to play again might not be a great thing for Dallas after that emotional win at NYG. Plus Seahawks tend to be appreciably different (better) at home, so give ’em a very large upset shot here. I can’t find the trigger, though. I like Dallas beating that SEA offensive line and living in the pocket of rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.
Jets last week scored more season-opening points than any NFL team since 2003. Tony Sparano power! Now it’s back-to-Earth time for Planes. Good teams rarely lose two in a row; Pittsburgh is a good team. And a great team at home, winners of nine consecutive openers at the Ketchup Bottle. Also, Steelers are much healthier this week than last.
Diego has won seven in a row over Tennessee, and this is a long trek for Titans, but I still like the visitors to somehow keep the final score inside the bet number. Think Tenners are a bit better than Tom Brady made them look last week. And the Bolts are one of those maddeningly inconsistent squads that can’t quite be trusted from week to week.
Niners have beaten Lions eight consecutive times including last year, when coaches Jim Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh forgot to put on their big-boy pants and didn’t shake hands afterward. This time I’d bet the Jims shake and make up. I’d also bet San Fran continues its series command in this prime-timer. Home and defense shape the call, but Motown has too much O in the air to not keep it close.
I know that we are all breathlessly singing praises for the magical comeback of Peyton Manning. But guess what? While you weren’t watching, Matt Ryan turned into an elite quarterback. Or seems to be making that leap, at least. In what looks like a high-flying game between up-tempo attacks and matchup fit for the Monday stage, I make it a venue call. Home openers in prime time magnify an advantage. Last week Peyton rode that wave. Now Ryan will.