Except for Week 17, this is probably the biggest crap shoot of the year. Throw in the lockout with players changing teams on short notice, and it's likely worse than usual this season. Amid the uncertainty, I took 11 dogs, though I probably feel best about the five favorites (Giants, Jets, Bucs, Texans and Ravens). Enjoy the games.
Saints +4.5 at Packers
The Packers were the better team last year on both sides of the ball, but given that seven months have passed, and the Saints are getting more than four, this is probably the right line. I expect a veteran New Orleans squad to be more in sync than most given the lockout. Back the Saints who keep it close enough.
Packers 24 - 23
Falcons -3 at Bears
I think Atlanta's probably the better team, but I'm not sure enough about it to lay three points on the road. I probably wouldn't bet this game at all if it weren't my job, but I have to go Chicago.
Bears 20 - 19
Colts +8.5 at Texans
The downgrade from one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time to a 38-year old Kerry Collins who came out of retirement a few weeks ago is severe. The Texans are actually fairly stout against the run, and I don't think Collins will be able to exploit their weak pass defense (which they incidentally shored up somewhat this offseason). Back the Texans who roll.
Texans 24 - 9
Bills +6 at Chiefs
If I knew the Chiefs would give Jamaal Charles the ball 25 times no matter what, I'd probably steer clear of this game, but between Todd Haley's bizarre running back usage, Matt Cassel's nagging rib injury, Dwayne Bowe's odd disappearing acts and the loss of Tony Moeaki for the year, I'm not sure about this group. The Bills are a bad team, but they'll throw the ball down the field and put up a fight. Back Buffalo who keeps it close.
Chiefs 20 - 19
Titans +3 at Jaguars
Did the Jaguars really just cut their starting quarterback five days before the start of the season? It's not exactly the Manning to Collins downgrade, but it's hard for a backup to get up to speed that quickly. Back the Titans.
Titans 19 - 12
Bengals +6.5 at Browns
I like the Browns this year, esepcially if Colt McCoy builds on a solid rookie season. But I'm not ready to lay 6.5 with them just yet. Back Cincy who sticks around.
Browns 17 - 13
Eagles -4.5 at Rams
The Eagles tried to build a superteam this offseason, but offensive line issues and questionable health/conditioning of their receivers could be a problem on the road against an improving Rams defense. Take St. Louis.
Eagles 19 - 16
Steelers +2 at Ravens
Getting rid of Derrick Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh for a real deep threat in Lee Evans was a good move, and Joe Flacco is improving every year. This is the year the Ravens surpass Pittsburgh, and it begins at home this week. Back Baltimore.
Ravens 20 - 17
Lions +1 at Buccaneers
It seems like the Lions are everyone's sleeper, while the Bucs are predicted to self-correct from last year's winning season. Maybe so, but these assumptions are already priced into this line with Detroit only getting one on the road. Back the Bucs.
Buccaneers 23 - 17
Vikings +9 at Chargers
The sabermetic football guys love the Chargers. Their net YPA, DVOA and certainly xFIP are Super Bowl caliber. Bad luck is the only thing dogging them, and it must eventually correct, right? Or maybe there's a reason they constantly underperform their peripherals. Either way, this line treats them like they made the AFC title game last year, when in fact they missed the playoffs. Back the Vikings.
Chargers 27 - 20
Giants -3 at Redskins
If I'm not around Sunday, it's because I'm filling in on the Giants defense. Seriously, after losing Jonathan Goff, Clint Sintim, Terrell Thomas, Marvin Austin, Brian Witherspoon and Bruce Johnson for the year, as well as first-round pick Prince Amukamara and Pro Bowler Osi Umenyiora for several weeks, this unit is paper thin. Laying the three points on the road under these circumstances is a sucker play, but I can't help myself. Middling linebackers don't matter much, the defensive line will still get pressure and Corey Webster will check Santana Moss most of the time. Back the Giants who have too much offense for Washington.
Giants 24 - 17
Panthers +7 at Cardinals
I'd be inclined to take the Cardinals here if it were Week 4 or 5, but given that Kevin Kolb is new to the team, and players haven't had a ton of time to get in sync, I could see this being an ugly slugfest, in which case the Panthers will keep it close. Back Carolina.
Cardinals 17 - 12
Seahawks +5 at 49ers
I really don't know what to make of this game. One team has a new coach and new offensive system, the other has a new quarterback and new pass-catching targets. The Seahawks, believe it or not, were one win (over the Bears) from hosting Green Bay in the NFC Championship game (in which they probably would have gotten throttled), while the Niners were big favorites in the division and failed to make the playoffs. I'm flipping a coin here and taking the points.
49ers 19 - 16
Cowboys +4 at Jets
It's no secret I despise both of these teams, but in my heart of hearts I have some grudging respect for the Jets and their defense. The Cowboys on the other hand are a bunch of flashy talent that in the end usually amounts to nothing. Maybe that changes this year with a healthy Tony Romo and Jason Garrett at the helm, but I'll have to see it first. Back the Jets.
Jets 24 - 13
Patriots -7 at Dolphins
I have to take Miami here out of principle. Not only are they a big Monday night home dog against a division rival, but the Pats are almost never going to be a good value because everyone expects them to be so good. Back the Dolphins.
Patriots 23 - 20
Raiders +3 at Broncos
Maybe the Broncos will improve this year, but the Raiders were better a year ago, and they're getting full credit for being on the road. Back Oakland.
Raiders 21 - 17
We were 126-125-5 last year. From 1999-2010 we've gone 1565-1387 (53%, not including ties).