Football nation Represent!!! The Hoodwood Citizens weep tears of joy....Bandits football picks are back!!!
Football is back! I know that preseason and college games have been floating around for the last month or so but until the NFL kicks off, it doesn’t feel like football season. The NFL gears up for it 95th season and its 49th journey to the Super Bowl. This time the roads are headed to the desert as the University of Phoenix Stadium is the goal for the 32 teams in the NFL and a shot a hoisting the most treasured trophy in pro football the Vince Lombardi Trophy. But that’s 5 months, 256 regular season and 10 playoff games down the road and is right now a mere speck on the horizon. So for the umpteenth season, I bring you my NFL picks, each game will have the specifics on where and when the game as well as a fast fact and my take on who will win. Also included is the favorite which will be provided by a variety of sources. These lines are provided strictly for entertainment and comparison purposes, if you bet the lines provided and get hosed that’s your problem to deal with. I don’t pay bookies and don’t provide housing for those that get booted from their domicile because of betting losses. That said in the words of the classic from MC Hammer and echoed by the Black Eyed Peas: “Let’s Get It Started!”
Week 1 (Final 2013 Regular Season Record)
Thursday September 4th
Packers (8-7-1) @ Seahawks (13-3)
CenturyLink Field, Seattle 8:30 (NBC)
Favorite Seahawks by 6
Fast Fact This marks the 11th time that the defending Super Bowl Champion will kick off the season, defending champs are 8-2 in the kickoff game.
The Champs lead the season off, and by and large return the same ball hawking, rough house big play defense that carried them to their first ever Super Bowl title. They get a true opening test with the high powered Pack offense fronted by perennial MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers. The defense and the ear-splitting, brain rattling noise provided by the perpetually delirious Seahawk fan base at CenturyLink Field is worth at least a 4 point swing. I’m seeing a taut tight game that may come down to a late defensive stand by the home team. It’s so hard to bank against the champs in their crib
Sunday September 7
Saints (11-5) @ Falcons (4-12)
Georgia Dome, Atlanta 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Saints by 3
Fast Fact Saints QB Drew Brees is the first QB to have multiple 5000 yard passing seasons
The Saints head into the Dirty Dirty to tangle with a team that has developed a chippy rivalry with. Both teams have the offensive punch to make this a high scoring slugfest, powered by big name QB’s in Drew “Cool” Brees and Matt “Ice” Ryan” but the Saints have the better defense and that should be the difference here.
Bengals (11-5) @ Ravens (8-8)
M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Ravens by 1½
Fast Fact The Bengals have lost in their last four visits to Baltimore
The Bengals are a team that many think are the chic pick to repeat as divisional champs and make an unprecedented 4th straight playoff berth. The Ravens are not the fearsome bird that they were 2 short years ago. The Bengals have a crisp efficient offense that the aging Ravens defense may have a hard time slowing down if not stopping. As much as I want to fall back into the easy cliché saying the Bengals will fall flat in the face of high expectations. I can’t see it here, even on the road. Though I’ll likely regret this but…
Bills (6-10) @ Bears (8-8)
Soldier Field, Chicago 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Bears by 7
Fast Fact The Bills have never won in Chicago (0-5)
The Bears are another team that are facing high expectations. Like the aforementioned Bengals, they have a high powered offense that can score points and have a pair of dynamic receivers in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. If Jay Cutler can show half a pulse and stay healthy this team will win a bunch of games. The Bills are just so disorganized it’s a shame, since they have a lot of decent pieces. The Bears are the better squad and are a tough draw at home.
Titans (7-9) @ Chiefs (11-5)
Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Chiefs by 4
Fast Fact The Chiefs were tied for the fewest points allowed in the AFC in 2013 (305-T1 with Bengals)
The Titans have more than a few question marks on both sides of the ball and that’s not a good prospect heading into madhouse in Arrowhead. The Chiefs have a dynamic running game with Jamaal Charles and a rock solid defense that is stingy on points allowed. Both QB’s have a ton of pressure on them, The Titans Jake Locker need to step up to the high draft status, while Alex Smith of the Chiefs needs to prove his worth in that huge contract he just signed. I have a hard time betting against the Chiefs at their crib. But this game will be closer than many think
Jaguars (4-12) @ Eagles (10-6)
Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Eagles by 10
Fast Fact Eagles RB Shady McCoy set Eagles records with 1607 rushing yards and 2146 yards from scrimmage in 2013
The Jags showed a lot of growth down the stretch and Blake Bortles will push incumbent starter Chad Henne hard from the start. Henne gets no break to start the season heading into Philly and being forced to keep up with the Eagles fast breaking high octane offense. The Jags defense is young and inexperienced, a noxious combo on the road against a veteran team like the Eagles. Add to boot that Henne pilots a young offense himself and this game could get ugly fast.
Pick-Philadelphia (Lock of the Week)
Patriots (12-4) @ Dolphins (8-8)
SunLife Stadium; Miami Gardens, FL 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Patriots by 5½
Fast Fact Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill was sacked an NFL high 58 times in 2013
Long time and often bitter divisional rivals tangle in this matchup; Tom Brady keeps chugging along as a grizzled vet and leads an efficient cagey offense. The Dolphins are a tough team to get a read on, having survived the Martin-Incognito fiasco of a year ago, the Dolphins looked look to break even last year. Bolstered by new RB Knowshon Moreno the Dolphins are trying (again) to present a balanced offense. Though they show lots of promise, I don’t trust the Dolphins inconsistencies on both sides of the ball.
Vikings (5-10-1) @ Rams (7-9)
Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Rams by 4
Fast Fact Vikings defense allowed an NFL worst 37 touchdown passes in 2013
The Vikings look like a team that has more confidence that it should expect, Matt Cassel is simply keeping the starters seat warm for Teddy Bridgewater. The running game is still top notch, but if the passing game doesn’t do its share it’ll be more 8 and 9 man fronts facing the All-Pro RB Adrian Peterson. The Rams have a decent defense but their offense, suspect at best with Sam Bradford is highly questionable under journeyman Shaun Hill. This isn’t an upset in the classic sense but the Rams are the home team and the Vikings are supposed to be a doormat
Raiders (4-12) @ NY Jets (8-8)
MetLife Stadium; East Rutherford, NJ 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Jets by 5½
Fast Fact Jets WR Jeremy Kerley led the team in 2013 with 43 catches the fewest for any team leader since 2009
The Raiders are a hot mess; Matt Schaub was brought into be a veteran QB at the helm, but couldn’t even supplant Derek Carr as the starter. The grinning jeering Rex Ryan isn’t full of boasts yet, but he has a defense that is fairly decent. If the offense can hold its own they could win their fair share of games. My theory on west coast teams flying east for early games got disproved a few times last year, but I’m banking that the Raiders will hold to form. The Jets are better on both sides of the ball and will give Carr a rude welcome as an NFL starter.
Pick-New York Jets
Browns (4-12) @ Steelers (8-8)
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Steelers by 6½
Fast Fact Brian Hoyer is the 11th opening day starter at QB for the Browns since their 1999 return to the NFL
Brian Hoyer is in a bad spot, having earned the starting QB job he will have to look over his shoulder constantly as the media and some of the Browns faithful pine for Johnny Manziel. The Steelers aren’t the scary bunch of yesteryear defensively but they are still better than the Browns. Lacking a home run threat like Josh Gordon, the Browns will struggle on offense and though the Steelers offense is mediocre at best they still have enough to grind over the Browns capable defense that will be too tired late from being on the field too much
Washington (3-13) @ Texans (2-14)
Reliant Stadium, Houston 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Texans by 3
Fast Fact The Texans 14 game losing streak is the NFL’s longest current skid
*I will refer to the Washington football club by locale only
A pair of 2012 playoff teams that were mammoth disappointments in 2013 square off in the last of the early games. Washington has so many questions in their offenses game plan and their defense is atrocious. Houston was an offense that could have been so much better but was derailed by the implosion of Matt Schaub. Will Ryan Mallett be the answer? He’ll have a fairly soft start, against Washington butter booty soft defense. I think the Texans may get off to another good start of the season, now after the season turns from summer to fall…
Panthers (12-4) @ Buccaneers (4-12)
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa 4:25 (FOX)
Favorite Buccaneers by 2
Fast Fact New Bucs QB Josh McCown posted an impressive QB rating on 108.2 in his 5 starts in 2013
The Panthers were the surprise team last year as Cam Newton had a breakout season, while the Bucs imploded under the inept coaching of Greg Schiano. I see both these teams getting closer to the collective middle, Newton while capable has lost a solid safety blanket in Steve Smith while the Bucs have shown real growth under the guidance of new coach Lovie Smith. While still wildly unsettled at the QB position and the regression of RB Doug Martin, I still like that defense. Something just tells me that this is an upset waiting to happen
Pick-Tampa Bay (Upset of the week)
49ers (12-4) @ Cowboys (8-8)
AT&T Stadium; Arlington, TX 4:25 (FOX)
Favorite 49ers by 5
Fast Fact The Cowboys allowed 415.3 yards per game in 2013, the third worst figure since the 1970 merger
An old school rivalry is the other late afternoon game; the Niners are a team in a spot of turmoil with a couple players facing discipline issues. The Pokes are their usual middling self, a high powered offense weighed down by a porous defense that is further weakened by the loss of Sean Lee and the defection of DeMarcus Ware. While the Niners may not be a 12 win team again this year, I still think that they are better on both sides of the ball. Pokes coach Jason Garrett’s seat gets even warmer with every passing loss.
Colts (11-5) @ Broncos (13-3)
Sports Authority Field @ Mile High, Denver 8:30 (NBC)
Favorite Broncos by 7½
Fast Fact The Colts have won the last 6 meetings
The initial Sunday nighter is a doozy. The Colts were one of 4 teams last year to handle to high powered Broncos, but the rematch is in the thin air and ear-splitting expanse of Mile High and the Broncos are just about untouchable at home nowadays. In spite of the stunning loss of Wes Welker to a drug suspension, Peyton Manning still has an arsenal of offensive weapons. Andrew Luck is a highly capable signal caller, but I can’t go against the Broncos at home.
Monday September 8
NY Giants (7-9) @ Lions (7-9)
Ford Field, Detroit 7:10 (ESPN)
Favorite Lions by 5
Fast Fact The Giants have yet to lose at Ford Field, beating the Lions in 2007 and 2013, and beating the Vikings there in a rescheduled, relocated game in 2010.
A pair of disappointing teams from last year square off in the Monday opener, the Lions are a highly talented if undisciplined squad who could be so much better if they had their collective minds right. While the G-Men are a quickly aging crew that are creaking and groaning with each step. The Lions have the tools and talent and I just like their overall makeup. The Giants will find a way to stay in this game, but I feel like Eli Manning will find a way to mess it up.
Chargers (9-7) @ Cardinals (10-6)
University of Phoenix Stadium; Glendale, AZ 10:20 (ESPN)
Favorite Cardinals by 3
Fast Fact The Cardinals are coming off just their 2nd 10 win seasons in their 26 in Arizona (1998)
I’ve long be on the record saying that I love the Monday Night doubleheaders and think that these not the Thursday night games should be the standard. The late Monday game is an intriguing one as the Chargers who were a surprise playoff team take on a Cardinals squad who were left home watching despite a 10 win season. Will Carson Palmer continue to play the role of grizzled mature vet or will he regress to the wounded duck, pick magnet that made him the bane of fan bases in Cincy and Oakland. The Chargers defense is sneaky good and can play the role well. I’m gambling that a rowdy home crowd that doesn’t get the primetime love that they should (they don’t play in primetime again till December) will be the difference here in a tight well-played game
Last Year: Overall: 163-90-1