Week 1 real and spectacular picks

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 11, 2010



We got inundated with emails the last couple days wondering what happened to our Week 1 real and spectacular picks. We're not sure which you missed most: 
  • the fact that we had an incredible 14 winning weeks against the spread last year in 17 regular-season opportunities
  • the fact that we had an incredible .565 mark ATS (144-111)
  • or the incredible bosom of our prognosticating muse, the 1990s era Teri Hatcher.
We're guessing it was the picks. After all, it seems Uncle CHFF treated you real well last year.
 
Wrote reader Anthony Sanderson: "I just wanted to say thanks for last years windfall! I followed your cold hard picks ATS last year verbatim for one of teams in my office pool, and closely on my other team, with a few differences. I came first and second, winning $3,400!"
 
Wrote reader Shawn Kerachsky: "Just wondering if you guys were doing your picks this year? You were killer last year. P.S.: Kerry is a must-listen on WEEI."
 
Wrote reader Steve Miller: "Don't even tell me the Trolls aren't going to make picks this season. I made over $300 last season in my local bar's pick-'em pool using the Troll's reccomendations." Go take the money and run, Steve.
 
You get the picture.
 
But here's the deal in 2010, folks: we got a lot going on behind the scenes, as we mentioned the other day. We got a great new Quality Stats database coming and a new premium product that we think will revolutionize pigskin "punditry."
 
So things will be different around here.
 
Like a mother bird ushering a baby bird from the nest, we're going to kick you off the limb and hope you fly. Fly or die, little birdy. Fly or die our little Snowbirds! Spread your tiny wings and fly away!
 
show video here
 
 
But those things won't be ready for a few weeks yet. Sorry ... just the way the cookie crumbled this year. In the meantime, you'll get our picks here in the same old place. But great changes ahead.
 
As usual, our spreads come from those published at CBSSports.com.
 
Minnesota at New Orleans (-6)
The "pundits" expect a big-time shootout between two of the game's premier offenses and quarterbacks. We're just playing a hunch here, but look for an unexpected defensive struggle. Adrian Peterson will lead all runners with 87 yards, but Pierre Thomas of New Orleans will provide the winning score with a third-quarter touchdown plunge. Like we said, just a hunch.
 
New Orleans 14, Minnesota 9
 
Cleveland at Tampa Bay (-3)
The NFL dug deep into the offensive trough to give us this "battle" between the Browns and Bucs, who combined for 489 points last year. That's 21 points fewer than the Saints scored last year all by their lonesome. At least Tampa enters the game with a quarterback whose career might conceivably be seen to be on the upswing. Josh Freeman worked out the rookie jitters last year, and even led the Bucs to a completely improbable win over the Saints starters at the end of 2009.
 
The Browns, for their part, enter the game with former gunslinger Jake Delhomme at the helm of his offense. In his bookend starts for Carolina last year, Delhomme completed 21 of 51 passes for 203 yards, 3.98 YPA, 0 TD, 8 INT and a 13.4 passer rating. Good luck with that, Cleveland.
 
Tampa Bay 19, Cleveland 13
 
Miami (-3) at Buffalo
In the good old days, this AFC East clash was a battle of high-profile riverboat gamblers Dan Marino and Jim Kelly. Contemporary QBs Chad Henne and Trent Edwards do not inspire the same passion, leading what were two of the worst passing teams in football last year: the Fins averaged 5.47 Passing Yards Per Attempt (using our adjusted formula); the Bills averaged 5.16 Passing Yards Per Attempt.
 
The big news is on the injury front: Miami running back/wildcat point man Ronnie Brown is ready to play, but Buffalo's 2009 rookie stud DB Jairus Byrd, who led the NFL with nine picks last year, is still a question mark. He leaves a big hole in Buffalo's shutdown pass defense of 2009 (No. 2 in Defensive Passer Rating) if he's not in the line up.
 
Miami 24, Buffalo 20
 
Cincinnati at New England (-4.5)
Tom Brady had quite an eventful week. He became the highest paid player in football, t-boned a van on the way to practice in Boston's Back Bay and, somewhere along the way, woke up next to his filthy rich Brazilian lingerie supermodel girlfriend.
 
Now on Sunday he's the hometown quarterback in a game featuring one of the most impressive receiving foursomes ever to take the field at the same time: New England's Randy Moss is No. 2 all time with 148 receiving touchdowns, while teammate Wes Welker caught 123 passes last year, the second most in history, and did it in just 14 games. Cincy newcomer Terrell Owens is No. 3 all time with 144 receiving touchdowns, while teammate Chad Ochocinco is the franchise's all-time leading receiver (9,952 yards)
 
This game has the potential to be explosive. New England cleary has the advantage on offense. We see the Patriots as a potential 500-point team. But Cincy seems to have the advantage on defense. They were No. 7 last year in Defensive Passer Rating and No. 6 in scoring D (18.2 PPG). But Cincy struggled badly on offense last year, and not even Terrell Owens at this point in his career can make it in instant offensive powerhouse.
 
New England 27, Cincinnati 20
 
Indy (-2.5) at Houston
See our Game of the Week profile on Sports Illustrated.com here.
 
Houston 26, Indy 24
 
Denver at Jacksonville (-3)
We understand that long-distance trips add up to a lot of losses in the NFL. But we just don't get this one here. Denver was a fairly competitive team for most of 2009; the Jags, though only one game worse, were outscored by nearly 100 points over the course of the year and just up and quit with the playoffs in their grasp.
 
Jacksonville, 7-5 through 12 games, closed out the season with four straight losses, including a 23-17 loss at Cleveland the last time the team played a game in anger.
 
The biggest question to us? Will Jacksonville native Tim Tebow get a chance to take a snap in front of his hometown fans?
 
Denver 24, Jacksonville 23
 
Atlanta (-2.5) at Pittsburgh
These teams were almost perfect statistical equals in 2009: both went 9-7, while Pittsburgh scored 368 points and surrendered 324; Atlanta scored 363 points and surrendered 325. Both teams closed out the season with three straight wins, but missed out on the playoffs.
 
The big difference this year, of course, is Big Ben. The Steelers quarterback is serving a four-game suspension for being an obnoxious dick-wad. The Chief Troll says that Dennis Dixon can shine at quarterback in his place – but the advantage in this game goes to Atlanta and Matt Ryan. He took a step back in 2009 after his quite productive rookie campaign of 2008. But he should be able to carry the day against a defense that disappointed badly last year by Pittsburgh standards.
 
Atlanta 24, Pittsburgh 21
 
Oakland at Tennessee (-6.5)
Stop us if you heard this one before, Oakland: This contest has the potential to be real ugly real fast.
 
The Titans put their game in the hands of Chris Johnson, who's proven in just two short years to be one of the most explosive ball carriers in history. The Raiders, meanwhile, fielded some of the worst run stoppers in football last year, surrendering 4.54 YPA on the ground (28th).
 
Oakland will improve this year with Jason Campbell at quarterback. But they won't improve enough to contain the Titans or win one of those tough long road trips.
 
Tennessee 28, Oakland 20
 
Carolina at N.Y. Giants (-7)
We're real high on Carolina this year. They have one of the best 1-2 running back combos in history in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, quarterback Matt Moore impressed in his late season starts (8 TD, 2 INT), during which the Panthers went 4-1, and Carolina fielded the league's No. 5 unit in Defensive Passer Rating. That's a pretty good formula for success.
 
And last we checked, the Panthers destroyed the Giants, 41-9, last December in New York.
 
Carolina 27, N.Y. Giants 24
 
Detroit at Chicago (-6.5)
Classic battle of a Detroit team that can't stop the pass year after year, no matter who's playing D, vs. a Chicago team that can't pass the ball year after year, no matter who's playing quarterback.
 
There's something close to excitement in Detroit surrounding Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Jahvid Best on offense, and the arrival of rookie stud Ndamukong Suh on defense.
 
But Detroit needs a lot more than excitement before we trust that they can actually compete like a real football team.
 
Chicago 26, Detroit 20
 
Arizona (-4) at St. Louis
Some pigskin "pundits" have questioned Kurt Warner's Hall of Fame credentials. This doubters will finally come around this year, and see how important we was, now that Arizona hands over the post-Warner, post-Matt Leinart reins to Derek Anderson. After his improbable 2007 Pro Bowl season in Cleveland, Anderson has thrown just 12 TDs vs. 18 INTs, while failing to complete even half his passes (223 of 465; 48.0%).
 
Warner to Anderson is what's known in the football analysis biz as an "oh f*ck me!" type of downgrade.
 
St. Louis rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, meanwhile, impressed in the preseason and gives the Rams something it hasn't had in years: an advantage over an opponent at quarterback. Crank up the Rookie of the Year talk!
 
St. Louis 23, Arizona 21
 
Green Bay (-3) at Philadelphia
You know those t-shirts and bumper stickers going around with the picture of George Bush that says, "Miss Me Yet?" Our prediction is that the same t-shirts with a picture of the previously unloved Donovan McNabb will be a big seller in Philly by the end of September.
 
The Eagles have been a fairly sure bet at home over the past decade. But Green Bay was a superior team by every measure last year, while Philadelphia has encountered what will likely be a big downgrade at quarterback. We're drinking the Green Bay Kool-Aid.  
 
Green Bay 30, Philadelphia 24
 
San Francisco (-3) at Seattle
It's hard to believe that as recently as 2007 Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck was one of the league's elite quarterbacks. Since then, he's missed great swaths of the past two seasons, while throwing 22 touchdowns and 27 picks.
 
San Francisco, meanwhile, is something of a trendy pick NFC pick this year, pegged by most pigskin "pundits" to win the NFC West. Perhaps the pigskin "pundits" forget that the 49ers were a meager 2-6 vs. Quality Opponents last year and somehow count as their top two quarterbacks two of the biggest busts in modern NFL history (former overall No. 1s Alex Smith and David Carr).
 
Fortunately for 49ers faithful, the Seahawks should provide a nice welcome: their once-proud defense ranked a dismal No. 28 last year in Defensive Passer Rating, allowing newly named "captain" Smith an opportunity to build upon several solid late-season performances of 2009.
 
San Francisco 28, Seattle 21
 
Dallas (-3.5) at Washington
Early in his Eagles days, Donovan McNabb owned the Cowboys, winning eight of his first 10 meetings with the Glamour Division rivals. But his relationship with Dallas changed over the last half of his career: McNabb's Eagles lost seven of their last 10 games against the Cowboys, including last year's 24-0 regular-season finale loss and 34-14 playoff loss.
 
On to Washington: McNabb instantly makes the team better. But it was also a bad team last year, and one that's had its own struggles against Dallas, losing three straight.
 
We like Washington to improve steadily during the year. But the Cowboys should have too much firepower to beat a team looking to carve it's own new groove.
 
Dallas 26, Washington 20
 
San Diego (-4.5) at Kansas City
Put this one in the bank. The Chargers boasted the league's best passing attack last year (7.96 Passing YPA),while the Chiefs defense ranked a humble 20th in Defensive Passer Rating.
 
Oh, and the Chargers outscored the Chiefs 80-21 in their two meetings last year (37-7 at Arrowhead). We have little reason to believe KC will be any more competitive here in 2010.
 
San Diego 30, Kansas City 20
 
Baltimore at N.Y. Jets (-2.5)
What a great way to kick off Monday Night Football: with a preview of what we anticipate will be the 2010 AFC title game.
 
Both teams have generated plenty of off-season hype. The Jets, of course, have generated much of their own hype, thanks to a loudmouthed head coach, whose confidence is buoyed by the fact that he delivered the defensive goods last year as promised.
 
But put most simply, we see Baltimore as a better team. The Jets were definitely the best D in football last year, but the Ravens surrendered just 25 points more than the J-Men. Baltimore, meanwhile, was superior on offense last year, and appears to have made more improvements than New York on that side of the ball.
 
Most notably, the Ravens may field the first big-time receiving corps in franchise history, with newcomers Anquan Boldin (84 catches last year in Arizona) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (79 catches last year on lousy Seattle offense) adding firepower previously provided only by franchise stalwart wide receiver Derrick Mason and tight end Todd Heap. It also sets up a great battle with the game's top secondary from New York.
 
Baltimore 23, New York 21

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