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A guide for NFL fans through the game's fancy new schedule - juicy encounters kick off

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The NFL is back. 'From the Bleachers' is here to lead you, the NFL fan, through the first week's action. NFL tipsters all over the States and indeed the world are grouchy today, as they realize they have to make their selections earlier than usual this year, as the NFL has scheduled a Thursday night game for every week of the season. This fancy new schedule starts tonight with the Superbowl Champion New York Giants facing the Dallas Cowboys. A pretty juicy encounter to kick things off. Let's have a look at that and all the other week one games.

Good luck, enjoy the games, and leave your picks in the comments section!    

The finest four.  
Four picks to boost your bankroll

The Game: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
Current line: New York -4
The Science: -4 is the Vegas bookmakers way of putting their hands up in the air and saying, ‘We don’t know’. If you see a home team at -4, this means the Vegas wise-guys basically are as in the dark as you are. There are a couple of streaks in play here, The Cowboys are notorious fast starters, whilst the Giants are the opposite, slow starters who finish well. Add to that the fact New York will spend this coming season as the designated team everyone wants to take down. They, as Champions, have a big bulls-eye attached to their back. Their division rival will be absolutely desperate to attack them early and prove they are not an afterthought. Tony Romo actually had a much superior statistical season to Eli Manning, and is another fast-starter himself, along with the Cowboys in general. Streaks are there to be broken. The home team champion is 8-0 in this relatively new gimmick of starting the NFL season a few nights before Sunday. All elements considered, Dallas can buck that trend, and turn it into 8-1.
The Score: Dallas 27 New York 24
The Pick: Dallas +4
 


The Game: New England Patriots at Tennessee Titans
Current line: New England -5.5
The Science: A few years ago, this would have been a tough road trip for New England. The Titans had a great QB, a young stud RB, a great head coach and a seriously violent defence. Now, coach Jeff Fisher is gone, RB Chris Brown is out of football, poor Steve McNair is dead and the defence is a mess. Tennessee are starting a sophomore QB, and how long before we see our first Jake ‘Hurt’ Locker headline? Chris Johnson, the Titans sole ‘star’ to anyone outside Tennessee, is a pale shadow of his former self. New England? Tom Brady has a new box of toys to play with. Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski represent one of the most dynamic WR\TE groups in football. The last time these two teams met? 0-59, New England. No, seriously.
The Score: New England 34 Tennessee 20
The Pick: New England -5.5

 The Game: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
Current line: Seattle -2.5
The Science: This, for me, is the line of the week. Seattle caused a stir by naming a rookie (Wilson) ahead of their high priced free agent (Flynn) at starting QB. Some people are saying Arizona did same (caused a stir), in naming John Skelton over Kevin Kolb, however those people aren’t paying attention to the fact Skelton has priors, whereas Wilson, decidedly, does not. Skelton went 6-2 at the helm last season, proving a very respectable NFL QB. Here’s the deciding factor for me anyway, on both wings Skelton has Larry Fitzgerald and rookie Michael Floyd to throw to. That’s vastly superior to the travelling ‘Hawks. Seattle are a good team at home, and a very, very average road team. All things considered, this line is a head scratcher.
The Score: Seattle 16 Arizona 24
The Pick: Arizona +2.5


   

The best of the rest.  
Have fun with these, but don’t put the house on them

The Game: St Louis Rams at Detroit Lions
Current line: Detroit -7
The Science: Interestingly this line started at Detroit -9, and has come all the way in to -7. Obviously the Lions had few friends at -9. It is important though to forget the line, consider the game itself, and imagine to yourself, ‘who is going to win this, and by what score?’ Then consider the line. In this case, Detroit, at home, with a healthy squad including a very above average QB (Stafford) throwing to perhaps the greatest living wide-out right now, who also has the coolest nickname in the sport (Calvin Johnson AKA Megatron) while a ferocious Lions defence attacks a relatively average Rams squad. This just smells like a 10 point (or more!) home win, doesn’t it?
The Score: St Louis 17 Detroit 33
The Pick: Detroit -7

The Game: Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints
Current line: New Orleans -7
The Science: Sure, there has been much change in New Orleans. Yes, their head coach is suspended, along with a number of key defensive players. Sure, their defensive coordinators was cast into the dark fires of Mordor, for life seemingly, for his part in the nefarious Saints ‘bounty’ scandal. However, they should still clobber Washington. The ‘Skins debut their shiny new QB, Robert Griffin the third, or RG3, as he is being called, for merchandising purposes! However, unless RG3 runs into a phone booth and comes out shooting lasers out of his eyes, the angry, pissed off Saints should handle them easily. One final note, Washington lost 10 of its last 12 games last season. No, seriously.
The Score: Washington 16 New Orleans 34
The Pick: New Orleans -7


 

The Game: San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
Current line: Green Bay -5
The Science: The Packers don’t ‘do’ losing at home. They have gone 12-4 at home against the spread too, dating back two seasons. Since 1996 they are 9-0 against the 49ers in the regular season. Ask yourself, can the 49ers keep up with Green Bay? Unless you are from San Francisco , or related to Alex Smith, or you had some bad cheese in Wisconsin once, you are going to answer with an empathic ‘no!’
The Score: San Francisco 17 Green Bay 28
The Pick: Green Bay -5

The Game: Carolina Panthers at Tampa Buccaneers
Current line: Carolina -1
The Science: Tell you what, this looks like a serious blow out on paper. Carolina walloped Tampa twice last season, and their running game is amongst the top in the league, whilst Tampa are the worst team in the NFL (statistically) at stopping the run. Hard to see why Vegas has given Carolina such a tiny hurdle to overcome.
The Score: Carolina 33 Tampa 24
The Pick: Carolina -1

The rest.  
Definitely. Probably. Maybe.

The Game: Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns
Current line: Philadelphia -9
The Science: There’s no getting away from it, the Browns are going to struggle. Rookie RB, rookie QB and a host of other players of little or no experience throughout the lineup. They are in the middle of the dreaded rebuilding process. Trent Richardson may turn out to be an NFL superstar down the road, however right now he just needs to get healthy, coming into this one with a lingering injury. These are not exactly the kind of things you want to be thinking about facing a dominant defence that led the way to the Eagles winning their last five in a row to end last season. The line is a little on the steep side, so this may not be the one you bet the proverbial house on, but the Eagles should still get the job done.
The Score: Philadelphia 24 Cleveland 13
The Pick: Philadelphia -9

The Game: Buffalo Bills at New York Jets
Current line: New York -2.5
The Science: Let’s hang on one hot New York second here. The Jets didn’t turn into mush overnight. Admittedly they are a bit of a circus, and their head coach (Rex Ryan) can’t get out of the way of his own loud mouth often enough, however they are still a top defence, and a somewhat serviceable offence. The Bills will benefit from having a healthy Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm, and they are an improving side, however they are still absolutely rubbish in divisional matchups going 4-10 against the spread in their last 14. Can’t you see the Jets casting aside all doubts at home, Tebow barrelling in for a couple of score from the goal line, and Rex Ryan celebrating with an extra half dozen cheeseburgers and a good foot rub post game? They can collapse later in the season, for now, they can get the hopes of the city of New York and the assembled, frothing masses of media, up.
The Score: Buffalo 20 New York 24
The Pick: New York -2.5


 

The Game: Atlanta Falcons at Kansas City Chiefs
Current line: Atlanta -3
The Science: Arrowhead stadium is no longer the intimidating fortress it once was. The Falcons are also a pretty decent road team, going 12-4 in their last 16 road games. The Falcons finished last season with a flourish, only to fizzle out against eventual Champions the Giants. The Chiefs are a bit of a mystery, so go with the sure thing, Matty Ryan and the Falcons.
The Score: Atlanta 27 Kansas 20
The Pick: Atlanta -3

The Game: Jacksonville Jaguars at Minnesota Vikings
Current line: Minnesota -4
The Science: We probably won’t see much of either the Vikings Adrian Peterson or the Jags Maurice Jones Drew here, so it will be up to young QBs Christian Ponder and Blane Gabbert respectively. The Jags might have given their young gunslinger the better options, Laurent Robinson was a great signing, and Justin Blackmon a potentially great young receiver. Remember, that -4 for a home team is Vegas sating ‘we just don’t know’, in that case, best to take the points and run. 
The Score: Jacksonville 20 Minnesota 17
The Pick: Jacksonville +4

The Game: Indianapolis Colts at Chicago Bears
Current line: Chicago -9.5
The Science: Too. Many. Points. The Bears lost 5 of their last 6 games last season! They are not the ’85 Bears! Andrew Luck might be the most NFL ready QB we have seen out of the draft since Peyton manning! I am running out of exclamation marks! Seriously, though, this is way too many points to entrust to a Chicago team that has not as yet won our trust. I fully expect them to win, however, not by that many points. They may have a 10 point lead and be knocking Luck around all day, but can’t you see the classy, accomplished rookie leading a meaningless drive in garbage time to get a late consolation TD?
The Score: Indianapolis 20 Chicago 24 
The Pick: Indianapolis +9.5

The Game: Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans
Current line: Houston -11.5
The Science: What is it with these enormous lines? Is it the end of the season and are teams out of contention mailing it in? This line is way too big. Yes, we understand Matt Schuab is back. Sure, Arian Foster is a beast. Yes, Miami are starting a guy that sounds like he just stepped off the set of Falcons Crest (Ryan Tannerhill). However, Miami went 8-2 down the stretch against the spread last season, and they have upgraded their offence by adding the talented Tannerhill. Sure, Houston should win, but that is an awful lot of points.
The Score: Miami 19 Houston 26
The Pick: Miami +11.5

The Game: Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
Current line: Denver -1
The Science: There is potentially something brewing in Denver. They are building around a former MVP superstar in Manning, who looks healthy and motivated if pre-season is anything to go by. The atmosphere should be absolutely electric for their home opener. The Steelers are missing some defensive key parts and their running game is in flux too. Denver should open with a statement.
The Score: Pittsburgh 24 Denver 30
The Pick: Denver -1


 

The Game: Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
Current line: Baltimore -6
The Science: Fully expect this line to grow closer to game time when everyone realises ‘hey, all the Bengals are injured’. Baltimore, at home, against a depleted Bengals is worthy of more than -6.
The Score: Cincinnati 17 Baltimore 28
The Pick: Baltimore -6

The Game: San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders
Current line: Oakland -1
The Science: The Chargers go into this without their injured top RB and having sent Vincent Jackson off to purgatory (Tampa). Oakland come in healthy with Darren McFadden playing with the confidence of being named the Raiders go-to, top dog, big enchilada RB. Fully expect Oakland to feed off the home energy and beat a lacklustre Chargers side that is relying way, way too heavily on Phillip Rivers.
The Score: San Diego 20 Oakland 30 
The Pick: Oakland -1


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