This could be a long year. First of all, I thought Mark Ingram was supposed to give the Saints the power back they needed? I've never seen a running play stuffed as soundly as that last play was last night, and from the tepid way Ingram was hitting the hole, he wouldn't have scored even if the Packers hadn't guessed the play 100% correctly (it was like Mike McCarthy and Sean Payton both hit right and A in Tecmo Bowl). Secondly, of the 15 games this Sunday and Monday, I picked eight underdogs, seven of which are on the road, which seems like a good way to dig myself an early hole in my picks competition against the universe. Of course, if I'm wrong, I'm supposed to be, but if I'm right, I could be the best game-picker in the county!
NY JETS (-5) over Dallas
I like the Cowboys to bounce back this season, but if the New Meadowlands is ever going to be fired up, it's going to be on the Sunday night of the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
SAN DIEGO (-8.5) over Minnesota
I'm banking on San Diego coming out firing on all cylinders, pissed off about last year's disappointing 9-7 year. Minnesota will be without Kevin Williams, and I don't see their offense getting in sync until a few games into the season (if it ever does at all).
Seattle (+5) over SAN FRANCISCO
San Francisco won 40-21 here last year, but Pete Carroll seems to have a knack for firing his guys up for big games, so I like the Seahawks to build an early lead and turn the crowd against Alex Smith.
Carolina (+7) over ARIZONA
Arizona was 30th against the rush last year, so DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart should be able to pound away on the Cardinals, leaving avoiding turnovers as Cam Newton's only concern. If the Panthers are able to bleed out a lead with clock-killing drives, I am not sold on Kevin Kolb's ability to lead the Cards back.
TAMPA BAY (-1.5) over Detroit
In this battle of up-and-coming teams, give me the home team and Josh Freeman over the Lions and Matthew Stafford.
Atlanta (-2.5) over CHICAGO
Chicago has lost the past two to the Falcons, both in Atlanta. This game might be ugly, but I like Matt Ryan to put together a late drive for the win.
Cincinnati (+7) over CLEVELAND
I like the Browns to win, but seven points? Wow, Vegas expects the Bengals to be worse than I do.
Philadelphia (-4) over ST. LOUIS
The Eagles may look out of sync at times, but they should handle the Rams relatively easily, hopefully tempering some of the Rams love that has been going around this preseason.
Indianapolis (+9) over HOUSTON
The Texans had better win this game, or Gary Kubiak may not survive past Monday. The Colts will be overmatched without Peyton Manning, but they are a veteran team that I expect to come out with a prideful performance.
Buffalo (+6) over KANSAS CITY
I know this game is in revered Arrowhead Stadium, but the Chiefs just put a blah taste in my mouth. I like Ryan Fitzpatrick to run around and make things interesting.
WASHINGTON (+3) over NY Giants
I went out on a limb and put the Giants in the top 10 of my power rankings, but they really are hurt by injuries, especially this week. If Rex Grossman can not be Rex Grossman, and Tim Hightower and Roy Helu can cobble together a respective ground attack between them, the Redskins should steal an early divisional game.
Pittsburgh (+2) over BALTIMORE
These two teams have split the season series the last two years, with the visiting team winning both games last year. Pittsburgh is just better than Baltimore, and I like them 9 out of 10 times in this game.
Tennessee (+2) over JACKSONVILLE
How Jacksonville is favored by 2 while starting Luke McCown at quarterback is beyond me. I like the Titans to roll over the Jags.
DENVER (-3) over Oakland
Denver should get the John Fox era underway with a win, as Oakland will be trying to replace too much talent on both sides of the ball.
New England (-7) over MIAMI
The Patriots won 41-14 here on Monday night last year (mostly on the strength of their special teams), and we could see a similar score this year.
Here are my projected divisional standings, and then how I see the playoffs playing out.
z-New England 14-2
x-NY Jets 10-6
y-San Diego 12-4
Kansas City 6-10
x-NY Giants 10-6
z-Green Bay 13-3
y-New Orleans 12-4
Tampa Bay 8-8
St. Louis 6-10
San Francisco 6-10
San Diego over NY Jets
Baltimore over Houston
Philadelphia over NY Giants
Atlanta over Seattle
New England over Baltimore
Pittsburgh over San Diego
Green Bay over Atlanta
New Orleans over Philadelphia
Pittsburgh over New England
New Orleans over Green Bay
Pittsburgh over New Orleans