Anything Can Happen
Ti-i-i-ime is not on my side. Oh, well.
Late as they are, here are my picks for Week 1, when anything can happen, and usually does.
Why? Because, despite four preseason games, teams are still getting used to new players, new coaches, new systems and plays, and even teams that have players who have played together for years still have adjustments to make and timing to get down. So, some of these games, like the Patriots vs. the Bills, that would be clear cut in Week 8 have a bit of uncertainty in Week 1. "Any given Sunday" is even more appropos in Week 1, a week when home-field advantage sometimes means a little more.
There are several great games on the slate. They got started Thursday when Pittsburgh beat Miami, ruining my season (that's a joke, son) and leaving me at a devastating 0-1. Already you hear people berating those who picked Miami to have a great year who may even have picked Miami to reach the Super Bowl. I don't know. I remember one team going 0-2, losing its starting quarterback, limping to 1-3, and then winning the whole darn thing.
So I'd caution (again) about putting too much stock in Week 1 results. Otherwise, either Atlanta or Carolina, either Dallas or Jacksonville, and either Indianapolis or the N.Y. Giants would be out of it at the end of the day. And what should happen should New England lose to Buffalo? Or Denver to St. Louis? Or Seattle to Detroit? Would they suddenly be longshots to make it to the Super Bowl too?
I seem to have digressed. Imagine that.
OK, I fully expect to be around .500 this week. Here are the picks.
Atlanta (0-0) at Carolina (0-0), 1 p.m.
This is one of those games I was talking about. In Week 8, I'd call Carolina by about 13. Carolina should benefit greatly from their home crowd, but it could still be close. I don't understand why Atlanta traded on of the prongs of their three-pronged backfied, and I have a feeling it will come back to bite them -- unless Alge Crumpler makes 187 catches this season.
Prediction: Panthers, 24-20.
Baltimore (0-0) at Tampa Bay (0-0), 1 p.m.
This one could go either way. Both mediocre teams, similarly constructed. This is the dream of Paul Tagliabue realized. Take Tampa on home field.
Prediction: Buccaneers, 17-10.
Buffalo (0-0) at New England (0-0), 1 p.m.
Another on of those games that if this were Week 8, I'd take New England by at least 20. Buffalo almost always plays New England tough, even in Foxboro, but there's just just too much disparity between these teams. Apparently Laurence Maroney, Tedy Brushchi, Chad Jackson and mostly everyone has the green light for today. I think you'll see several of them in limited action, unless absolutely necessary. Expect a lot of platooning. There's no sense in taking chances of getting players injured in Week 1 against a team like Buffalo. Does Buffalo even have a chance in this one? Only if they play a near perfect game, and New England plays a significantly flawed one. As much as possible, New England is going to run the ball and burn the clock.
Prediction: Patriots, 20-10.
Denver (0-0) at St. Louis (0-0), 1 p.m.
St. Louis can only be happy they're playing at home. That's the only thing that might help them. But again, it's that Week 1 thing. Denver has to play like Denver, or St. Louis might surprise them. Not likely, though.
Prediction: Broncos, 21-14.
New Orleans (0-0) at Cleveland (0-0), 1 p.m.
Two pretty bad teams. One that could be good in a few years (Cleveland), the other that never seems to live up to potential, no matter what they look like on paper. New Orleans probably should win this one; I just don't know if they're ready with all the personnel changes. A year removed from Hurricane Katrina, it's still cloudy in the Big Easy.
Prediction: Browns, 17-13.
N.Y. Jets (0-0) at Tennessee (0-0), 1 p.m.
Here's a real barn-burner for you. Tennessee is just in shambles. They've been on a steady decline for years, and the new blood just isn't ready, and may not be for a while. New York remains in a constant state of flux, and who knows what to expect from Eric Mangini. Tennessee probably has the edge in the running game, and give them a couple points for home field.
Prediction: Titans, 13-10.
Philadelphia (0-0) at Houston (0-0), 1 p.m.
Houston should be much better this year. I seem to keep saying that. But they should be. Philly should be better than last year, for somewhat obvious reasons. Really, Philly should be nearly back to pre-T.O. form: Very good, but not great. That should be good enough to beat Houston this week.
Prediction: Eagles, 28-20.
Seattle (0-0) at Detroit (0-0), 1 p.m.
In Week 8, this would be a Seattle blowout. In Week 1, in Detroit, it will be a Seattle blowout.
Prediction: Seahawks, 30-10.
Chicago (0-0) at Green Bay (0-0), 4:15 p.m.
Green Bay, who hardly have a right to field a team this year, shouldn't have a chance in this one. But Chicago has some injuries to deal with, and home field should help Green Bay. It should be a low-scoring game if anything. But in this division? You never know what could happen.
Prediction: Packers, 13-10.
Dallas (0-0) at Jacksonville (0-0), 4:15 p.m.
This is going to be an important game for both teams. Too bad it's a Week 1 contest. A win here is almost definitely going to help one of these teams either win its division, secure a playoff spot or improve their position.
Prediction: Jaguars, 24-17.
San Francisco (0-0) at Arizona (0-0), 4:15 p.m.
San Fran could steal one, but I doubt it. Arizona should be a pretty decent team, and San Francisco should be about as bad as last year.
Prediction: Cardinals, 24-9.
Indianapolis (0-0) at N.Y. Giants (0-0), 8:15 p.m.
"The Manning Bowl." Oh, brother. You have to love the media, huh? This would be a great midseason game, but we're stuck with it in unpredictable Week 1. Flip a coin. I'll take the home team.
Prediction: Giants, 28-27.
Monday, Sept. 11
Minnesota (0-0) at Washington (0-0), 7 p.m.
Possibly the worst of the NFC East against possibly the best of the NFC North. Pretty evenly matched. Keep tossing that coin, because there's no telling what to expect.
Prediction: Redskins, 20-17.
San Diego (0-0) at Oakland (0-0), 10:15 p.m.
I suspect San Diego is the better team, but Oakland will benefit from home field. That should keep it close.
Prediction: Chargers, 23-21.
I evidently missed the Cincinnati at Kansas City game. One of those things when you're rushing around too much.