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NFL Picks, Week 1: Falcons-Bears, Saints-Packers, Steelers-Ravens And More

A new NFL season means football is back, and gamblers get to start fresh. The road to rags or riches begins here, with the Week One lines.

Football gamblers, embrace that so-fresh feeling. It's a new season, and the chamber of hope is freshly reloaded. Last year doesn't matter. Unless you're a true degenerate who bets on preseason games, the kickoff of a new NFL season means you're now standing at even. Watch the lines with an open mind, the games with an open heart, and the wallet with every other part of your body.

The picks:

New Orleans @ Green Bay (-5). If the Falcons aren't playing on the NFL's first Thursday night, at least Atlanta fans are given a rooting interest - and yeah, it stings just a bit after the way last year ended. But say it with me, even through clinched teeth: "Go, Pack, go." A Green Bay win gives the Falcons a head-start in the NFC South race, and we'll get our turn with Mr. Rodgers and Co. soon enough. Even with Green Bay's recent playoff performance, though, I'm not ready to give 'em more than a field goal against the SaintsPICK: New Orleans

Atlanta (-3) @ Chicago. Well, let no Atlanta fan complain of disrespect. The Falcons are starting the season as road favorites against a team that went to the NFC Championship Game eight months ago. Does this make anyone else nervous, or have I just been an Atlanta fan for too long? The good times have been rollin' for a few years now, but part of me wants to cling to the sick feeling I had in the Dome last January. I want to embrace those warped emotions that made me want to throw a Green Bay fan over the railing (I somehow relented). I'd like to say I'm protective of my own sanity, but a lifetime of Falcons fandom obviously proves otherwise. I need negativity in my life, and this record-breaking outpouring of Falcons hope - supported by national writers, no less - is making me nauseous. And ugh, I'm picking Atlanta, which makes me part of the problem. PICK: Atlanta

Pittsburgh @ Baltimore (-1 1/2). Throw a dart. Both are favorites in the AFC race, and both should end the season with similar records - but am I insane to suggest those "similar records" could be 8-8? There's some age on that thar' field. PICK: Pittsburgh

Detroit @ Tampa Bay (-1). A few weeks ago, I penciled in this one as my "upset special." Detroit has had phenomenal drafts of late, and is on the way up. Tampa is due for a letdown, primarily because their quarterback is Argyle from Die Hard. A great upset pick, right? Well, apparently it was, because now this is headlining everybody's "look at what big cojones I have" upset lock of the week. The beating drums of similar opinion were so deafening that a 6-10 team became just a single-point dog to a 10-6 home squad. Dammit. Mind you, I'm not actually superstitous enough to change my pick, but if you're the type to bet against the crowd, run toward the Bucs. PICK: Detroit

Buffalo @ Kansas City (-7). Speaking of popular predictions, here's one I'm not getting: this whole "the Chiefs will definitely suck this year" storyline. The schedule has some bumps, but Kansas City has Oakland and Denver twice, Buffalo and Minnesota at home, the Colts before Manning possibly returns, and winnable games against Miami, Chicago and even San Diego. I'm not saying Matt Cassel will be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy anytime soon, but this is at least an average team. (Take the compliments where you can get 'em, KC.) PICK: Kansas City

Indianapolis @ Houston (-9 1/2). Drinking game idea: take a shot every time the announcers imply Peyton Manning misses his teammates just as much as they miss him. Try to stay alive into the second quarter. PICK: Houston

Philadelphia (-5) @ St. Louis. Thank you, O Scheduling Gods, for cramming the 1 p.m. slate with Falcons/Bears, Steelers/Ravens, Lions/Bucs and Eagles/Rams. I'm so glad we have the late afternoon to focus on insta-classics like Panthers/Cardinals and Seahawks/49ers. Michael Vick debuts the "dream team" against Sam Bradford and an entire nation of temporary Rams fans. PICK: Philadelphia

Cincinnati @ Cleveland (-7). Where have you gone, Carson Palmer? A fanbase turns its lonely eyes to you, ooh-ooh-ooh. Actually, I'm guessing its poor AJ Green with the puppy dog eyes, especially after seeing rookie Andy Dalton's shaky performance in the preseason. Do you think Green looks at Julio Jones and, I don't know, wets himself just a little? I know I'd be so mad I would pee. Apparently I pee when I'm mad. PICK: Cleveland

Tennessee @ Jacksonville (-3). I literally have the taste of starch in my mouth, which lets me know the AFC South is lurking nearby. People give the NFC West a hard time, but at least they suck with style. When you turn on this game, you'll get a distinct Blazing Saddles/quicksand vibe. "Am I wrong, or is the world - rising?" "I don't know, but whatever it is, I hate it." Oh, and don't say I never do any reporting for you: the starting QBs for this game are Matt Hasselbeck and Luke McCown. There's no way you could have told me that in five seconds. PICK: Tennessee

NY Giants (-3) @ Washington. This is somehow the only game to feature former SEC quarterbacks under center: Eli Manning for New York, and Rex "No, Seriously" Grossman for the 'Skins. And in an alternate, more awesome universe, JaMarcus Russell and Tim Tebow are doing battle on Monday night. PICK: NY Giants

Carolina @ Arizona (-7). Thank God the Panthers have announced Cam Newton as starter, or nobody in the entire freaking world would watch this game. As a UGA alum and Falcons fan, I guess I'm destined to root against Newton, but there's part of me that hopes he throws for seven touchdowns, runs for four more, and "makes it rain" in the postgame press conference while smiling through a gold grill adorned with dollar signs. I'd respect the crap out of that. PICK: Arizona

Seattle @ San Francisco (-6). I will not pay attention to this game. You can't make me. PICK: San Francisco (but seriously, don't bet on this game; you're better than that)

Minnesota @ San Diego (-9). San Diego really is the Notre Dame of professional football. Ignoring all evidence and recent history, a nation of sportswriters contorts itself to proclaim each team at the top of its game. It's a rite of Autumn for these people. San Diego! Notre Dame! No, really! And then, the true rite takes place: they lose to somebody humiliating like USF or, worse, Donovan McNabb. PICK: Minnesota

Dallas @ NY Jets (-5). I'm not sure how many consecutive AFC Championship games the Jets have to reach before I believe in them, but apparently it's more than two. Luckily, the quest for 9-7 starts with fairly easy pickings - a Cowboys team that hilariously lists Keith Brooking as a starter. There's some mild firepower in Dallas, but nothing the Jets D can't smother. Bet the under. PICK: NY Jets

New England (-7) @ Miami. Bad sign for the Dolphins: I just looked up their depth chart, and was legitimately surprised to see Chad Henne was still listed as starter. Even more shocking? Their only other option is Matt Moore. No, seriously, that's it - two quarterbacks on the roster. Chad Henne. Matt Moore. At this point, why not send a 7th round pick to Denver for Tim Tebow? At least they'd sell some tickets, which is more than they'll be doing by Week Three. PICK: New England

Oakland @ Denver (-3). Monday night, 10:15 EST kickoff. Gambling is the only way you stay awake for this one. PICK: Oakland

Last year's regular season: 133-116-7

NFL Odds found here.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.