The Lineman is back! Week One NFL picks
PICK OF THE WEEK
Carolina Panthers (0-0) at Arizona Cardinals (0-0) (Line Cardinals minus-6.5)
Welcome to the NFL Mr. Cam Newton.
The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback is sure to be the man in the spotlight for both TV talking heads and a Cardinals defence that will try to pressure the Panthers rookie into mistakes and turnovers of which there should be plenty.
Newton takes control of an offence that finished last in scoring and total yards last season and it’s hard to see Carolina improving on those numbers this year.
With Newton facing a steep learning curve, the Panthers are likely to rely on running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams to carry the load.
The Cardinals were not much better offensively but the addition of quarterback Kevin Kolb from the Philadelphia Eagles is a huge upgrade over a trio of flops, Derek Anderson, John Skelton and Max Hall.
Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is a game breaker supreme and tight end Todd Heap a big sure handed target.
The Cardinals finished dead last in rushing last season averaging just 86 yards a game and will need more production out of Beanie Wells.
Interesting fact. Cardinals are 12-3 when Wells has 10 or more carries.
The Cardinals also play tough at home. Take these Beanie Babies and give up the 6.5.
- – - -
Philadelphia Eagles (0-0) at St. Louis Rams (0-0) (Line Eagles minus-4.5)
Labeled the “Dream Team” after some flashy off-season signings the Eagles now must live up to the hype.
The “Dream Team” tag did not exactly pan out for the NBA’s Miami Heat (did it LeBron James) but the Eagles possess enough talent to make their Super Bowl dreams a reality.
The addition of shutdown corners Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie gives Philadelphia arguably the best secondary in the NFL.
Michael Vick, whose career looked finished after going to prison on dog-fighting charges, is now the man the Eagles are betting on to lead them to a Super Bowl as the team recently signed the quarterback to $100 million six-year deal.
Newly acquired wide receiver Steve Smith will give Vick a speedy target while the addition of former Pro Bowl running back Ronnie Brown will add some punch to the Philadelphia ground game spearheaded by Sean McCoy.
The Rams made a big leap last season going from one win in 2009 to seven in 2010.
Quarterback Sam Bradford gets much of the credit but taking that next step will be tricky.
Running back Steven Jackson is a workhorse and will be counted on again to take some of the pressure off his quarterback.
The Rams could be the class of the mushy NFC West and playoff bound but opening with a win against a stacked Eagles team many tip as Super Bowl champions is a tall order.
Dreams do come true, take the Eagles and give up the 4.5.
- – - -
New England Patriots (0-0) at Miami Dolphins (0-0) (Line Patriots minus-6-5)
Dolphins fans spent the pre-season putting together an “anyone but Chad Henne for quarterback campaign”.
But Henne, who is about as popular as cold weather in South Beach, will get the start against the Pats who have the look of a team with something to prove after last year’s 14-win season ended in an early playoff exit.
Last season, the Pats fileted the Fish 38-7 and 41-14 and it is hard to see where the Dolphins have improved enough to avoid another Tom Brady dissection.
Running back Reggie Bush moves from the Big Easy to South Beach and should add some pizazz to the Miami attack and Miami sack machine Cameron Wake will keep Brady on his toes.
Bill Belichick’s two newest reclamation projects, wide receiver Chad Ochocinco and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth make their regular season debut in Miami.
Brady has as many weapons at his disposal as any team, has not thrown an interception in a record 335 regular season pass attempts and has by far the league’s nicest hair.
No close cut here. Take the Patriots and give up the 6.5.
- – - -
Cincinnati Bengals (0-0) at Cleveland Browns (0-0) (Line Browns minus-6.5)
The season has just barely started but it’s not too early to proclaim the Bengals the NFL’s worst team.
Quarterback Carson Palmer may have made the best call of his career when he told the Bengals he had done his time in Cincinnati and would not be back.
Rookie Andy Dalton takes over for Palmer while first-round pick A.J. Green moves into the receiver slot left vacant after Chad Ochocinco moved to New England.
The Browns will not be Super Bowl contenders but are a team on the way up with an offence led by promising Colt McCoy and hard-nosed running back Peyton Hillis.
Browns win the Battle of Ohio, Bengals get jump on first overall pick in next year’s draft.
The Lineman’s wife says she likes the Bengals because they have cool helmets. That may be the only reason to take Cincinnati.
Take the Browns and give up the 6.5.
- – - -
Tennessee Titans (0-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0) (Line Titans plus-3.5)
Does Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio know something we don’t or is he simply looking for a way out of Jacksonville. The Jaguars jettisoned quarterback David Garrard just days before their season opener handing the play calling duties to Luke McCown, who will make his first start since 2007.
After nine seasons in charge in Jacksonville, Del Rio has yet to deliver a division title and it is difficult to see how this latest move is going to aid that cause.
A career backup, McCown has completed just 12 passes over the last three seasons and the Jags will not be able to rely on the power running of Maurice Jones-Drew as he returns to action after undergoing off-season knee surgery.
However, Titans bruising running back Chris Johnson will also not be hitting full stride having missed a large chunk of the pre-season in a contract dispute.
The difference maker for me in this one is quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who brings stability and experience to the Titans after 10 mostly productive seasons in Seattle.
After a forgettable season last year, Remember the Titans this Sunday.
Take the Titans and the 3.5 points.
- – - -
Indianapolis Colts (0-0) at Houston Texans (0-0) (Line Texans minus-8.5)
I feel like I am stepping into a trap here but I am going to do it anyway. I look at this game and when I see the Colts without Peyton Manning, I see the Buffalo Bills.
After spending most of the summer on vacation sipping drinks on some beach, grey beard Kerry Collins takes over for Manning, a four-time NFL MVP. No pressure there.
The Texans’ leaky secondary was among the NFL’s worst last season surrendering an average of 267 yards per game but improvements have been made and Collins is no Manning.
The off-season brought little tinkering to a Houston offence that has been among the league’s most productive units.
Quarterback Matt Schaub and super wideout Andre Johnson remain one of the NFL’s top pass-catch combos but Arian Foster, the NFL’s leading rusher last season, could miss the opener with a hamstring injury.
The Texans are chasing their first ever playoff appearance in franchise history and now must prove they can finish off a wounded opponent. Bottom line. No Manning, no way.
Take the Texans and give up the 8.5.