Other than the crying that I am doing, to anyone dumb enough to listen, regarding my Top Gun team residing in dead last after one week, it was a fun-to-watch Week 1 of pro football action.
My picks were fairly vanilla – a ho-hum 9-7 both straight-up and against the number – but to be honest, any mark with more right than wrong for NFL season openers is acceptable to me.
Of course, I will try to do better this week.
One sidenote: I apologize that a couple of my references to injuries (or lack of reference to same) ended up inaccurate by Sunday. Because of my deadline for this column to the editors, and the plethora of good, updated information available at TheHuddle.com, I’m going to refrain from reporting injury information except for the occasional reference to factors related to previously-reported injuries. Make sure you visit TheHuddle.com’s Priority News section frequently and the Sunday Morning Report right up until the kickoffs for the latest info.
2006 Prognosticating Statistics:
FOR THE SEASON: Straight-Up – 9-7 (56 percent); ATS – 9-7 (56 percent)
LAST WEEK: Straight-Up – 9-7 (56 percent); ATS – 9-7 (56 percent)
OVER/UNDER: 9-6-1 for the season, 9-6-1 last week.
BUFFALO (0-1) at MIAMI (0-1)
Line: Dolphins favored by 7 (total points line is 38)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Bills 1-0, Dolphins 0-1
Strongest Trend: The Bills have covered the number in each of the last four meetings.
Last Meeting: Miami edged Buffalo, 24-23, in Week 13 of 2005 at Miami.
Bills Status Report: Buffalo nearly got the upset at Foxborough last week before falling to the Patriots, 19-17.
Dolphins Status Report: Miami should be well rested, having not played since Thursday’s 28-17 season-opening loss at Pittsburgh.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR BUFFALO – none. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR BUFFALO – RB Willis McGahee, WR Lee Evans, Bills defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR MIAMI – RB Ronnie Brown, WR Chris Chambers. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR MIAMI – QB Daunte Culpepper, TE Randall McDaniel, K Olindo Mare.
Game Summary: The Bills defense played well at New England last week, and it’s arguable that the Miami offense won’t pose as many problems… if only because Pats QB Tom Brady takes care of the ball a lot better than the Dolphins’ Daunte Culpepper. Miami’s defense played solidly in the loss at Pittsburgh, also, and at home look for a controlled running game spearheaded by Ronnie Brown to be the difference in a close game.
Prediction: DOLPHINS, 20-17
CLEVELAND (0-1) at CINCINNATI (1-0)
Line: Bengals favored by 10½ (total points line is 42)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Browns 0-1, Bengals 1-0
Strongest Trend: The Bengals have defeated Cleveland handily in each of the last two Septembers.
Last Meeting: The Bengals edged the Browns at home, 23-20, to complete a season sweep of their intra-state rivals last year.
Browns Status Report: Cleveland’s running game failed miserably in a 19-14 home loss to New Orleans in its opener.
Bengals Status Report: Cincinnati knocked out Kansas City QB Trent Green with a vicious hit in the third quarter and went on to cruise past the host Chiefs last week, 23-10.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR CLEVELAND – TE Kellen Winslow. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CLEVELAND – RB Reuben Droughns. QUALITY STARTERS FOR CINCINNATI – RB Rudi Johnson, WR Chad Palmer, K Shayne Graham, Bengals defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CINCINNATI – QB Carson Palmer, WR T.J. Houshmanzadeh.
Game Summary: Palmer is downgraded fantasy-wise because he appeared tentative last week and finished with poor numbers. That doesn’t mean I don’t like the Bengals here, because I do. However, despite the rivalry aspect, the Bengals are candidates for a letdown after the big win at Kansas City and with Pittsburgh on the schedule in Week 3. Perhaps looking ahead a bit, the Bengals play another tight one with Cleveland similar to last year’s most recent contest.
Prediction: BENGALS, 24-16
OAKLAND (0-1) at BALTIMORE (1-0)
Line: Ravens favored by 11½ (total points line is 35)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Raiders 0-1, Ravens 1-0
Strongest Trend: Baltimore is 6-1 in its last seven against Oakland.
Last Meeting: The Raiders won at home, 20-12, in December of 2003.
Raiders Status Report: Monday’s 27-0 home loss to San Diego was even uglier than the score might suggest… and if that isn’t bad enough, the Raiders go on the road and in a short week to face a team that won its opener by the same score.
Ravens Status Report: Baltimore routed host Tampa Bay, 27-0, on Sunday in QB Steve McNair’s first real game as a Raven.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR OAKLAND – WR Randy Moss. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR OAKLAND – RB Lamont Jordan. QUALITY STARTERS FOR BALTIMORE – QB Steve McNair, RB Jamal Lewis, WR Derrick Mason, TE Todd Heap, Ravens defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR BALTIMORE – WR Mark Clayton, K Matt Stover.
Game Summary: I doubt that the Raiders will play as poorly as they did in Week 1, and I also suspect Baltimore will return to Earth a little as well. But even if Oakland plays only half as badly, and the Ravens half as well, the final result still points in Baltimore’s direction.
Prediction: RAVENS, 21-13
HOUSTON (0-1) at INDIANAPOLIS (1-0)
Line: Colts favored by 13 (total points line is 42½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Texans 0-1, Colts 1-0
Strongest Trend: Indianapolis has won all eight meetings straight-up.
Last Meeting: The Colts won at home, 31-17, last season in Week 10.
Texans Status Report: Houston lost its opener at home to Philadelphia, 24-10.
Colts Status Report: In the much-anticipated Brothers Bowl featuring the Mannings, Peyton’s Colts defeated Eli’s Giants, 26-21, at The Meadowlands in New Jersey.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR HOUSTON – none. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR HOUSTON – QB David Carr, WR Andre Johnson, K Kris Brown. QUALITY STARTERS FOR INDIANAPOLIS – QB Peyton Manning, WRs Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison, K Adam Vinatieri, Colts defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR INDIANAPOLIS – Every other Colts skill-position player.
Game Summary: The Colts are obviously the clear favorites, but they must avert looking ahead to next week’s clash with Jacksonville. I think they will.
Prediction: COLTS, 30-13
NEW YORK GIANTS (0-1) at PHILADELPHIA (1-0)
Line: Eagles favored by 3 (total points line is 40)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Giants 0-1, Eagles 1-0
Strongest Trend: The Eagles have covered ATS in five of the last six meetings.
Last Meeting: The Giants won at Philadelphia, 26-23, in Week 14, completing a sweep of the two ’05 meetings.
Giants Status Report: The Giants lost at home Sunday night to Indianapolis, 26-21, despite QB Eli Manning defeating his older brother, Peyton, in touchdowns passes by a two to one count.
Eagles Status Report: Philadelphia easily defeated host Houston, 24-10, in its opener.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR NY GIANTS – RB Tiki Barber, WR Plaxico Burress, TE Jeremy Shockey. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR NY GIANTS – QB Eli Manning, WR Amani Toomer, K Jay Feely, Giants defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR PHILADELPHIA – QB Donovan McNabb, RB Brian Westbrook, WR Donte’ Stallworth, K David Akers. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR PHILADELPHIA – WR Reggie Brown, TE L.J. Smith, Eagles defense.
Game Summary: My first mild upset pick of the week… and I do mean mild. The Giants won the division a year ago, and the Eagles finished last. Yet after a single week of the new season, Philly is installed as a field goal favorite. In my view, home field just doesn’t mean that much in an intra-division rivalry such as this… and the Giants are still a solid club while the Eagles are not yet proven as having fully rebounded from ’05, last week’s win over a bottom-feeder notwithstanding.
Prediction: GIANTS, 24-20
DETROIT (0-1) at CHICAGO (1-0)
Line: Bears favored by 8½ (total points line is 33½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Lions 1-0, Bears 1-0
Strongest Trend: The Lions have lost five of the last six trips into Chicago, including 38-6 last season.
Last Meeting: The Bears won at Detroit, 19-13, in Week 8 of 2005.
Lions Status Report: The Detroit defense played much better than expected, but the team lost to Seattle at home in its opener, 9-6.
Bears Status Report: Chicago’s defense and special teams dominated in a 26-0 win at Green Bay that was the Packers’ first home shutout loss since 1981.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR DETROIT – WR Roy Williams. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR DETROIT – QB Jon Kitna, RB Kevin Jones, Lions defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR CHICAGO – RB Thomas Jones, WR Muhsin Muhammad, K Robbie Gould, Bears defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CHICAGO – QB Rex Grossman, WR Bernard Berrian, TE Desmond Clark.
Game Summary: It appears that Chicago’s defense is every bit as good as last season’s NFC North Division championship unit. The Lions are supposed to be a lot more dynamic on offense under new coordinator Mike Martz, but it didn’t show last week. Can’t see things getting much better against da Bears’ defense.
Prediction: BEARS, 23-9
CAROLINA (0-1) at MINNESOTA (1-0)
Line: Panthers favored by 2½ (total points line is 39½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Panthers 0-1, Vikings 1-0
Strongest Trend: Four of the last five meetings at Minnesota have gone under the points total.
Last Meeting: The Panthers rolled to a 38-13 home victory last October.
Panthers Status Report: Playing without WR Steve Smith, the Panthers offense lacked punch in a 20-6 home loss to Atlanta.
Vikings Status Report: Minnesota surprised host Washington, 19-16, on a last-minute field goal by Ryan Longwell in Week 1.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR CAROLINA – K John Kasay, Panthers defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CAROLINA – QB Jake Delhomme, RB DeShaun Foster, WR Steve Smith (if he plays), WR Keyshawn Johnson. QUALITY STARTERS FOR MINNESOTA – RB Chester Taylor, K Ryan Longwell. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR MINNESOTA – QB Brad Johnson, WR Troy Williamson, TE Jermaine Wiggins, Vikings defense.
Game Summary: Smith is obviously a key for the Panthers – so much so that I would go so far as to write that they win this game if he plays, and lose it if he doesn’t. At this writing, there’s not much reason for optimism – he’s still bothered by both his hammies – but knowing how badly he’s needed, I’m going with the notion that he suits up and plays at least part of the game… and the Panthers even their books.
Prediction: PANTHERS, 20-16
NEW ORLEANS (1-0) at GREEN BAY (0-1)
Line: Saints favored by 2 (total points line is 43)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Saints 1-0, Packers 0-1
Strongest Trend: Green Bay is 7-2 ATS in its last nine against the Saints.
Last Meeting: The Packers entered the contest 0-4 and took out its frustrations on the visiting Saints, posting a 52-3 blowout in Week 5 last season.
Saints Status Report: Rookie Reggie Bush’s debut was a success, but it was the Saints defense that was truly impressive in a 19-14 season-opening win at Cleveland.
Packers Status Report: Green Bay was skunked at home by Chicago, 26-0.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR NEW ORLEANS – QB Drew Brees, RB Reggie Bush, WR Joe Horn, K John Carney. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR NEW ORLEANS – RB Deuce McAlister, WR Marques Colston, Saints defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR GREEN BAY – QB Brett Favre, RB Ahman Green, WR Donald Driver. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR GREEN BAY – TE Bubba Franks.
Game Summary: The Packers are obviously struggling bigtime out of the gate, but I’m not prepared to anoint the Saints as contenders just yet. Green Bay won this clash by 49 points last season, and while I suspect it will be a whole lot closer this time, I’m comfortable taking Brett Favre and company to rebound at home and put up some points.
Prediction: PACKERS, 27-20
TAMPA BAY (0-1) at ATLANTA (1-0)
Line: Falcons favored by 5½ (total points line is 36½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Bucs 0-1, Falcons 1-0
Strongest Trend: Tampa Bay is 5-1 ATS in its last six trips to Atlanta.
Last Meeting: The Buccaneers edged the visiting Falcons, 27-24, in Week 16 of last season.
Bucs Status Report: Tampa Bay was dominated by Baltimore in a 27-0 season-opening, home loss last week.
Falcons Status Report: Atlanta shocked host Carolina a week ago, 20-6.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR TAMPA BAY – RB Carnell Williams, Bucs defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR TAMPA BAY – WRs Michael Clayton and Joey Galloway, K Matt Bryant. QUALITY STARTERS FOR ATLANTA – RB Warrick Dunn, TE Alge Crumpler, K Michael Koenen, Falcons defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR ATLANTA – QB Michael Vick, WR Michael Jenkins.
Game Summary: My upset special. Head coach Jon Gruden will get the Bucs in the right frame of mind to rebound off their horrid opener and, well, I’m not yet convinced of the Falcons offensively. This game will show a lot about Atlanta – a tough divisional foe for the second time in as many weeks. Tampa Bay has had good success in this match-up previously, both at home and on the road.
Prediction: BUCCANEERS, 21-16
ARIZONA (1-0) at SEATTLE (1-0)
Line: Seahawks favored by 7 (total points line is 44)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Cardinals 0-1, Seahawks 0-1
Strongest Trends: Arizona is 2-6 ATS in last 8 against Seattle, and 5-14 ATS in September going back to 2003.
Last Meeting: The Seahawks rolled at Arizona, 33-19, in Week 9 of ’05 to complete a sweep of the season series.
Cardinals Status Report: Arizona’s offense was impressive in a 34-27 conquest of visiting San Francisco last week, but the Cardinals defense in its first game in the team’s new digs was shoddy for much of the game.
Seahawks Status Report: Despite not scoring a touchdown, the Seahawks managed to beat Detroit on the road, 9-6.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR ARIZONA – QB Kurt Warner, RB Edgerrin James, WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR ARIZONA – K Neil Rackers. QUALITY STARTERS FOR SEATTLE – QB Matt Hasselbeck, RB Shaun Alexander, K Josh Brown. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR SEATTLE – WRs Darrell Jackson, Nate Burleson and Bobby Engram, TE Itulu Mili, Seahawks defense.
Game Summary: I pondered an upset pick here, but I just can’t convince myself that the Arizona defense can even come close to slowing an offense like Seattle’s, especially on the road. The line is a bit heavy, but take the defending conference champs… and the overs.
Prediction: SEAHAWKS, 34-24
ST. LOUIS (1-0) at SAN FRANCISCO (0-1)
Line: Rams favored by 3 (total points line is 41½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Rams 1-0, 49ers 1-0
Strongest Trend: The 49ers have won three of the last four meetings straight-up.
Last Meeting: San Francisco posted a 24-20 victory at St. Louis in Week 16 last season.
Rams Status Report: St. Louis demonstrated a much-improved defense in an 18-10 victory over Denver, forcing five turnovers.
49ers Status Report: San Francisco played relatively well, but lost a 34-27 decision at Arizona in its opener.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR ST. LOUIS – QB Marc Bulger, RB Stephen Jackson, WRs Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, K Jeff Wilkins. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR ST. LOUIS – Rams defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR SAN FRANCISCO – RB Frank Gore, TE Vernon Davis. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR SAN FRANCISCO – WR Antonio Bryant.
Game Summary: The 49ers have played St. Louis extremely tough recently, and the Rams’ problems cashing in offensively last week have to be disturbing for the principles. But this new version of the Rams… you know, the one that has them running more than throwing, and playing solid defense, is one that should net a victory here.
Prediction: RAMS, 23-13
NEW ENGLAND (1-0) at NEW YORK JETS (1-0)
Line: Patriots favored by 6 (total points line is 40½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Patriots 0-1, Jets 1-0
Strongest Trend: New England is 6-0 SU, 5-1 ATS against the Jets since 2003.
Last Meeting: The Patriots won at The Meadowlands, 31-21, last December.
Patriots Status Report: New England escaped a home upset in its opener, getting a key safety to beat Buffalo, 19-17.
Jets Status Report: The Jets squandered an early big lead, but rallied to beat Tennessee on the road, 23-16.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR NEW ENGLAND – QB Tom Brady, TE Ben Watson, Patriots defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR NEW ENGLAND – RBs Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney, WRs Reche Caldwell and Doug Gabriel. QUALITY STARTERS FOR N.Y. JETS – none. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR N.Y. JETS – QB Chad Pennington, WRs Laveranues Coles, Justin McCareins and Jericho Cotchery.
Game Summary: The Jets are already ahead of where many naysayers forecasted them, after the win at Tennessee, but I insist this team will be better than the 4-12 that’s been commonly predicted. Still, the Patriots have owned this series and after last week’s close call, look for a better total effort from the former champs.
Prediction: PATRIOTS, 27-13
TENNESSEE (0-1) at SAN DIEGO (1-0)
Line: Chargers favored by 11½ (total points line is 45)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Titans 0-1, Chargers 1-0
Strongest Trend: San Diego has won the last four meetings, but gone only 2-2 ATS.
Last Meeting: San Diego rolled at home, 38-17, in October of 2004.
Titans Status Report: Tennessee was upended at home by the New York Jets last Sunday, 23-16.
Chargers Status Report: San Diego routed the Raiders at Oakland, 27-0, Monday night.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR TENNESSEE – none. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR TENNESSEE – QB Kerry Collins, WRs David Givens and Drew Bennett, TE Ben Troupe. QUALITY STARTERS FOR SAN DIEGO – RB LaDainian Tomlinson, TE Antonio Gates, K Nate Kaeding, Chargers defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR SAN DIEGO – QB Phillip Rivers, WRs Keenan McCardell and Eric Parker.
Game Summary: The Chargers are coming off the big win over rival Oakland but were stuck with a short week to prepare for this one. Can a team look ahead to a bye? The Chargers get theirs next week. I’m sticking with the recent trend in this series – Bolts win, Titans cover the gaudy, double-figure number.
Prediction: CHARGERS, 24-17
KANSAS CITY (0-1) at DENVER (0-1)
Line: Broncos favored by 10½ (total points line is 43)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Chiefs 0-1, Broncos 0-1
Strongest Trend: Denver has won and covered the line in its last five home games against the Chiefs.
Last Meeting: The Chiefs beat Denver, 31-27, last year in Week 13 at Arrowhead Stadium.
Chiefs Status Report: The Chiefs lost QB Trent Green to a concussion… and lost the game at home to Cincinnati, 23-10, last week. Journeyman Damon Huard starts this week.
Broncos Status Report: Denver QB Jake Plummer tossed three interceptions as the Broncos had five turnovers in an 18-10 loss at St. Louis Sunday.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR KANSAS CITY – RB Larry Johnson, TE Tony Gonzalez. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR KANSAS CITY – WR Eddie Kennison. QUALITY STARTERS FOR DENVER – K Jason Elam, Broncos defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR DENVER – QB Jake Plummer, RBs Mike Bell and Tatum Bell, WRs Javon Walker and Rod Smith, TE Stephen Alexander.
Game Summary: Two talented teams coming off decidedly ugly performances. Well, at least Kansas City had somewhat of an excuse. Nevertheless, the Broncos at home are usually a different team… Plummer a different QB. Remember when Denver got pasted at Miami in its opener last year? The Broncos went 13-2 thereafter. They’re the logical and undeniable choice here.
Prediction: BRONCOS, 28-14
WASHINGTON (0-1) at DALLAS (0-1)
Line: Cowboys favored by 6 (total points line is 38½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Redskins 0-1, Cowboys 0-1
Strongest Trend: Dallas had won 13 consecutive games in this rivalry before being swept by the Redskins last season.
Last Meeting: Washington routed the visiting Cowboys, 35-7, last season in Week 15.
Redskins Status Report: Washington lost its home opener to Minnesota, 19-16.
Cowboys Status Report: Dallas seized an early 10-0 lead at Jacksonville but ended up losing, 24-17, in its opener.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR WASHINGTON – QB Mark Brunell, RB Clinton Portis, WR Santana Moss, TE Chris Cooley, K John Hall. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR WASHINGTON – WR Brandon Lloyd, Redskins defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR DALLAS – QB Drew Bledsoe, RB Julius Jones, WRs Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn, TE Jason Witten. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR DALLAS – K Mike Vanderjagt (if he plays), Cowboys defense.
Game Summary: I like this rivalry game to be close, and for Dallas to win as a measure of revenge for last year’s double-drubbing as well as because the Cowboys are at home. Both defenses are likely to demonstrate a bend-but-not-fully collapse propensity, which is why I like several players to emerge with decent stats even though the game ends up relatively low-scoring.
Prediction: COWBOYS, 17-14
PITTSBURGH (1-0) at JACKSONVILLE (1-0)
Line: Even (total points line is 37)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Steelers 1-0, Jaguars 1-0
Strongest Trend: Jacksonville is 8-2 ATS in it last 10 games against Pittsburgh.
Last Meeting: The Jaguars shocked the eventual champs on the road, 23-17, last season in Week 6.
Steelers Status Report: The Steelers rallied past Miami at home last Thursday, 28-17, in the season’s first game.
Jaguars Status Report: Jacksonville overcame an early 10-point deficit to beat Dallas, 24-17, in its opener.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR PITTSBURGH – RB Willie Parker, WR Hines Ward, TE Heath Miller, Steelers defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR PITTSBURGH – QB Ben Roethlisberger (if he plays), WRs Cedrick Wilson and Santonio Holmes, K Jeff Reed. QUALITY STARTERS FOR JACKSONVILLE – RB Fred Taylor, WR Matt Jones. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR JACKSONVILLE – QB Byron Leftwich, Jaguars teams.
Game Summary: Jacksonville has had its way in this series in recent years, although the prevailing trend when the two clubs were in the old AFC Central Division was that – believe it or not – the road team would often prevail. That resumed again last year with the Jags’ win at Pittsburgh… so I like a return-the-favor by the road-tested Steelers, but only if Big Ben starts.
Prediction: STEELERS, 20-13