Sushi’s Week 1 Picks

As promised, I’ll be writing an article a week picking that week’s football games against the spread. Of course, I also promised that I’d write an NFL Preview but let’s not talk about that.

In lieu of a comprehensive four-thousand word NFL Preview, I’ll spend eighty words doing a half-assed job of it. Running through division leaders, I like the Pats, Bengals, Colts, Broncos, Eagles, Saints, Packers, and Seahawks with the Wild Cards being the Chargers and Dolphins in the AFC and San Fran (barely squeaking in) and Chicago in the NFC. I think Denver will make it to the Super Bowl against either New Orleans or Seattle, whichever one manages to get home-field advantage in the NFC. Since Seattle has a tougher schedule, I pick a Broncos-Saints Super Bowl, which I predict the Broncos will win.

Let’s get started with the Week 1 picks. Remember, each pick is against the spread. The home team is in caps.

SEATTLE -5.5 over Green Bay

This paragraph was written on Wednesday, the day before this game.

Super Bowl champs, playing at home, fired up and ready to defend their title and only giving six? Count me in! Yeah, I suppose Green Bay has a very good team and they’ve got Aaron Rodgers, but how are they supposed to compete with the Hawks, on their turf, on opening night?

I like Green Bay a lot this year, with Aaron Rodgers and the passing game, by and large Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, finally being supported by a strong running game in Eddie Lacy. I like them a lot, just not enough to defeat Seattle, even when getting 5.5 points.

New Orleans -3 over ATLANTA

Yes, Atlanta was wracked by injuries last year. Yes, Atlanta is now healthy. Yes, Atlanta now has Julio Jones and a full strength Roddy White. Yes, Atlanta will be better than last year.

However, this line seems to have overcorrected. While the Falcons got much better by merely getting back their injured stars, they also lost Tony Gonzalez, the future Hall of Fame tight end. This is all without mentioning the improvements that the Saints made. They traded up to draft Brandin Cooks, a wide receiver, in the first round. He’s been great this preseason and in camp, and while we all know that the preseason isn’t a good indicator of future success, he has gotten praise from Drew Brees which speaks to Cooks’ ability. In addition, Rob Ryan has gotten another toy to play with in Jairus Byrd, the star free safety signed away from Buffalo so their underrated defense should get even better.

There’s not even cold weather to mess with the Saints. The line should be higher than it is, but I’ll happily take New Orleans.

ST. LOUIS -3.5 over Minnesota

Let’s play a betting game I like to call Would You Bet Your Life On?

In this week’s edition of Would You Bet Your Life On? the question is:

Would you bet your life on…

  1. A fearsome defensive team at home giving only three points or…
  2. A team starting Matt Cassel (which in itself is enough) facing the aforementioned intimidating D-line?

If you want to bet your life on the shaky right arm of Matt Cassel then the real question is whether you’d like to die by lethal injection or by firing squad.

And by the way, there’s a 79.3% chance that Cassel leads a comeback win over the Rams causing me to lose whatever credibility I may have built up after my successful “Germany wins the World Cup” prediction.

Cleveland +6.5 over PITTSBURGH

Is it just me or does Cleveland seem like this year’s early favorite for the Sneaky Good Team, as the team that doesn’t necessarily have a great record but is surprisingly good and plays everyone close? (For reference, last year’s winner was the Rams.) I mean, they’ve got a top 5 corner in Joe Haden to shut down the opposing number one receiver, a pretty good defense overall, and a not-too-bad offense. Hamstrung by their offense, it’s unlikely they’ll win much, but their defense will at the very least keep things close.

That defense, against their overrated opponent, will make sure, if they don’t win outright, that at the very least they’ll cover the spread.

PHILADELPHIA -10.5 over Jacksonville

Let’s see, do I take a high-octane offense playing at home against a weak defense or the team starting Chad Henne? Hmmmm….

By the way, I’m all in on this game. In my main fantasy league I’m streaming both the Eagles’ defense and their kicker, Cody Parkey. Here’s to a 42-7 point old-fashioned ass-whupping by the Eagles!

NEW YORK JETS -5 over Oakland

New York’s intimidating run defense will swallow up MJD and Darren McFadden alive. Their impressive D-line (probably the second best in the league behind the Rams) should get after Carr enough to mask their deficiencies in the secondary. Last year’s horrendous offense should be improved with the Decker and Johnson signings, and again, Oakland isn’t good enough to stop even the Jets’ feeble offense.

Against superior teams to the Raiders (pretty much every team in the league) the Jets won’t be able to do much at all, but in this matchup, a 1:00 game on the East Coast, the Jets should roll.

Cincinnati +2 over BALTIMORE

This line mystifies me. The Bengals are superior to the Ravens in every single facet of the game. The only non-special teams position that isn’t clearly in Cincinnati’s favor is at QB, and even so, I’d rather have Dalton than Flacco this year.

Yes, the game is in Baltimore, but even so, having home field advantage is only an extra three points in your favor. I can’t believe that the Bengals are only considered to be a single point better than the Ravens at a neutral site. That makes this pick pretty easy for me.

This, by the way, is my Taco Bell Upset Pick of the Week, named in honor of what Taco Bell’s food will do to your stomach.

CHICAGO -7 over Buffalo

The Bears will have a top 3 offense, along with the Saints and Broncos. That’s one of my big predictions this the year. They’ve got Trestman running the show, Cutler’s healthy (for now), their offense has Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Santonio Holmes, and Martellus Bennett. That’s two superstars (Forte, Marshall), three studs (Jeffery, Trestman, Cutler), and two above average players for their position (Holmes, Bennett).

Last year, the Bills’ defense was criminally underrated. This year, it’s lost much of its luster. They’ve lost two important players off of last year’s squad in linebacker Kiko Alonso, who’s out for the year after an injury, and free safety Jairus Byrd, who went to New Orleans through free agency.

The Bears should smash through the Bills this game. Buffalo has no one to cover Marshall or Jeffery and their weak offense won’t be able to attack Chicago’s defense.

HOUSTON -3 over Washington

The Washington Professional Football Team (which will henceforth be known as the WPFT) is boom or bust this year. Their defense is okay, nothing special. Their offense has the potential to be a top 5 unit or a bottom 5 mess.

The WPFT has acquired a number of players to help RGIII shine on offense. Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Alfred Morris, and Jordan Reed all combine to form a formidable passing attack. However, they need someone to throw them the ball. If RGIII is hurt or ineffective, the WPFT will have to turn to Kirk Cousins, who, while he’s a good backup, is almost certainly not starting material.

Also, I’m looking forward to watching Jadeveon Clowney and JJ Watt in action. Not so much Ryan Fitzpatrick, but the WPFT’s defense isn’t good enough to properly take advantage of Fitzpatrick’s shortcomings.

KANSAS CITY -4 over Tennessee

Last year, Kansas City was the league’s Good-Bad team, meaning that they beat all the bad teams and lost to all the good ones. The only good team they beat last year that I can recall offhand was the Colts, 20-6, in Week 16.

Luckily for the Chiefs, the Titans aren’t a good team so they’re in good shape.

NEW ENGLAND -5 over Miami

Gronk is back! Gronk is back! Gronk is back! Gronk is back!

Seriously though, who are the Dolphins gonna use to cover Gronk? Dannell Ellerbee. Yeah, that seems likely…

For both my fantasy team’s sake and Tom Brady’s, GRONK IS BACK!!!! WOOHOO!!!!

TAMPA BAY -2.5 over Carolina

I was a little surprised at this line when I saw it. Last year’s Tampa Bay Staph Infections were favored at home against the 12-4 breakout team of the year! Then I thought about it a little and was kinda like “Huh”. Surprisingly, this line is actually quite reasonable.

Lovie Smith, the defensive guru, is now Tampa Bay’s head coach. He’s got a bunch of skilled players with which to mold his defense from Gerald McCoy to Lavonte David to Alterraun Verner. Now he faces the Panthers’ crappy offense, with a hurt QB who’s not going to run (which is his biggest skill), poor wide receivers, and a nonexistent line.

Carolina’s defense isn’t anywhere near as good as it was last year after losing three out of the four starters in their secondary, so they won’t be able to take advantage of Josh “The career backup who somehow parlayed a half season of playing unsustainably well into a starting job and a new contract” McCown and the rest of the Buccaneer’s offense.

DALLAS +4.5 over San Francisco

Dallas’ defense is nonexistent. They’ve lost players to injury, to free agency, and they’re hamstrung by cap concerns so they’re unable to sign any good new players.

Scott Linehan is their new offensive coordinator and he throws a ton. Also, they’re going to have to score to keep up with their horrendous defense, leading to more passing. Luckily, their offense is well built to account for that defense. Their O-line, led by Tyron Smith, is great, and should give DeMarco Murray a chance to run. They’ll also keep Tony Romo upright so he can throw to Dez Bryant. The Cowboys won’t be good this year per se, but they’ll stay in games, and will be able to steal a few. Anyways, the Cowboys are great at the two most important things in football: they’re gonna be fun to watch because of their high-scoring games, and because of their prolific offense and horrible defense, they’ll likely be the team that swings the most fantasy matchups (including mine as I’m starting Tony Romo and my opponent is starting the 49ers D/ST).

However, I don’t like San Francisco at all this year. Their defense is overrated after the defections in their secondary, the suspension of Aldon Smith, the injury to NaVorro Bowman, and the increasing age of Justin Smith and Patrick Willis. Their offense is okay, but nothing special. I think they’ll squeak into the playoffs, but barely.

Anyways, in this game, Dallas, even if they don’t win outright, should keep it close enough to cover the spread.

DENVER -7.5 over Indianapolis

The .5 scares me. I can’t lie. It’s the difference between getting your money back from the casino if Denver wins by a touchdown and losing it all. While we’re here, the two most important milestones in football lines are 3 and 7, as those are the most common margins of victory.

Still, I think Denver will mash Indianapolis. If you look at the Colts, their whole team is bad other than Andrew Luck. Only Luck (and luck) prevented the Colts from being a crappy team the past two years. The Broncos, on the other hand, upgraded their defense a ton this offseason with the acquisitions of TJ Ward, DeMarcus Ware, and Aqib Talib, and their offense is still great, even if it’s not necessarily going to be the unstoppable force it was last year.

The scary thing is that Denver might even be a little underrated this year, if that’s possible for the preseason favorite to win the Super Bowl.

Also, an important lesson for a fledgling bettor to know is to never bet against Peyton Manning in a night game. Would you like to take the “unless it’s in the playoffs” joke, or should I?

DETROIT -6 over New York Giants

Can anyone cover Calvin Johnson? A double or triple team usually can (although not always (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8tCdCWB1LM), which is why Johnson is probably not quite reaching his immense potential stats-wise. Now he finally has the opportunity to dominate because of his teammates finally being able to take some defensive attention off him. Instead of the likes of Nate Burleson lining up opposite him, he’s now got big free agent signing, wide receiver, Golden Tate, and first round pick Eric Ebron, a tight end, playing with him, along with Reggie Bush and Joique Bell.

Of course, that whole last paragraph is irrelevant in this game. The Giants have a bad defense and won’t be able to stop Matt Stafford and Co.

San Diego +3 over ARIZONA

Arizona’s impressive defense of last year is no longer as spectacular after defections and injuries. San Diego’s defense was never good in the first place.

The Cardinals’ offense is improving. Their offensive line could finally be more than a turnstile, and they’ve got three good receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and John Brown. Their rushing attack is led by Andre Ellington and Carson Palmer hasn’t been too bad on the downside of his career.

The Chargers have a three-headed committee and running back between Ryan Matthews, Donald Brown, and Danny Woodhead. They’ve got Keenan Allen leading the pass attack and a couple of good tight ends in Ladarius Green and Antonio Gates.

Based on talent alone, Arizona has a slight edge over San Diego. However, as far as I can tell, they’re more or less equal, leading me to take the points as the deciding factor.

Or maybe I should take the Cards with Peterson. Or the Chargers with Rivers. Or ‘Zona with Mathieu. Or San Diego with… You know what? I think I’m just gonna end this article before I go crazy trying to figure this game out.

Last Week: 0-0-0

This Week: 1-0-0

Total: 1-0-0

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