Here we go again. The column often considers the week before the first NFL games of the season to be one of the finest, most enjoyable of sporting weeks. For that week, pre-kickoff, your favourite team can win the Superbowl. Your favourite Quarterback is primed for a juicy season stats wise. Your fantasy football team looks beyond awesome on paper, and you, as yet, haven't lost a penny betting on the NFL. Life is beautiful. Then of course, the season starts, and, this happens...
Atlanta @ Chicago
Popular opinion is forming, swelling, loading up behind Matty Ice and the Falcons. If Popular Opinion was something we should take note of, there would be no such thing as bookmakers, as they would all be broke. Huge, gigantic over reaction to the Bears unfortunate demise last season. A fit, healthy Jay Cutler and a fit, healthy Matt Forte in front of their vociferous home fans can stay within a field goal of an admittedly exciting looking Falcons team. Just remember, it was the Bears that won the NFC North last season. Tough one to 'lump into' because it should be tight, maybe have a little pop at the total points, sit back and enjoy the potential fireworks.
The pick: Chicago +2.5
Buffalo @ Kansas
The venerable Admiral Ackbar, upon coming out of hyperspace and noticing the Imperial Star Destroyers massed around the Death Star, famously exclaimed 'It's a trap!'. Well, those 6.5 points the Bills are getting? It's a trap! Take the points, and sigh a huge sigh of relief as the Bills muddle their way to losing to a rusty Kansas team by a handful of points, and you look all smart and stuff.
The pick: Buffalo +6.5
Cincinnati @ Cleveland
The signs are not good in this one for The Bungles. First off, their nickname is, The Bungles. This does not inspire confidence. Further to this, they will be starting a (presumably) trembling rookie (Andy Dalton) on the road, against an opponent that is starting to look like a real NFL team. They have something approaching a plan. They have a hard running RB and a very decent QB (Colt McCoy) and they are playing solid defence also. Hard to see anything but a serious beat down here.
The pick: Cleveland -4.5
Detroit @ Tampa
Step aside all other underdogs, here come the Lions! The potentially explosive trio of Stafford, Johnson and Best are healthy and ready for action. Tampa are no slouches themselves, but Detroit feel like the right pick here. Remember, the Lions rolled into Tampa last season and knocked their hosts over. This Column foresees a repeat. Take the field-goal-plus and enjoy.
The pick: Detroit +3.5
Tennessee @ Jacksonville
Wait a second, the bookies are giving a rejuvenated Chris Johnson and savvy, veteran QB Matt Haselbeck +3.5 points against a team they have handled easily enough the last few seasons, who also just jettisoned their starting QB just before the season started? Really? This isn't some kind of elaborate joke? How fast can you get a bet on Tennessee with those tasty +3.5 points?
The pick: Tennessee +3.5
Indianapolis @ Houston
Houston, we have a problem. This game is shorn of two superior talents in Manning and Foster, and will be all the less enjoyable because of same. The Colts will put up an honourable fight but Houston, at home, with a genuine star QB at the helm, will prove too much.
The pick: Houston -2.5
Philadelphia @ St Louis
So, everybody remembers how Michael Vick 'set the world alight' in his first go-round in Atlanta, before opposition defensive coordinators figured out how to contain him, and he started to, you know, suck? Look, you should probably seek advice on this one somewhere else, because as a dog lover, this column is never, ever going to give Vick a break. Ever. Logically though, this seems like a lot of points for a decent, up and coming side, at home, with a very decent QB (Bradford) throwing to some good weapons, and former Patriots whizz kid Josh McDaniels calling the plays on offence. Take the points, crack open a beer and pet your dog.
The pick: St Louis +5.5
Pittsburgh @ Baltimore
Alright Ravens, I am giving you one more chance! Baltimore has never had a better opportunity to handle the Steelers. At home, with new WR Lee Evans streaking down the sidelines. The Ravens have to make a statement here, and they know it. Baltimore must have this game.
The pick: Baltimore -2.5
Minnesota @ San Diego
Cue Admiral Ackbar again, 'It's a trap!' Come on now, seriously? 8.5 points in a season opener, against Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin and Donovan McNabb? Way, way too many points. It's a trap!
The pick: Minnesota +8.5
New York Giants @ Washington
Put the kids to bed early this could be a nasty defensive slug fest. Washington can't get into a high scoring shootout, so will opt to slam the rock on the ground with little Timmy Hightower leading the way. The Giants have decided to run an offence with basically no decent wide outs and a QB that carries a constant 'deer in the headlights' look about him. Manning is going to miss Smith and TE Boss, now who is he going to throw-the-ball-up-in-the-air-while-ducking to? Close, ugly game potentially, so take the home dog points on offer, and then go watch something else.
The pick: Washington +3.5
Carolina @ Arizona
Lately it is not often Arizona are favoured by almost a TD. The oddsmakers have overlooked Carolina's potentially punishing running game. Stewart and Williams, both healthy and ready to go, will take a lot of heat off of rookie QB Cam Newton. The big play maker can then relax and play his game, knowing he is going to have the safety net of handing the rock off to his big bruisers. Arizona can't be over looked, they will be decent in '11, however this is too many points to resist. It's a trap, kind of.
The pick: Carolina + 5.5
Seattle @ San Francisco
Alex Smith's career record? 19-31. Everyone knows Seattle made the playoffs last season, right? Take the points, and go read a book or something,
The pick: Seattle +5.5
Dallas @ New York Jets
The combination of Austin, Bryant and Witten gives Tony Romo plenty to throw at, while Felix Jones surely has to start showing the consistency to go with his undoubted talent. Rex Ryan can throw all the pathetic temper tantrums he wants, but eventually teams are going to stop being afraid of the wildly over rated, one dimensional Jets. No amount of bluster can hide the fact the Jets are a one trick pony. Dallas, on the other hand, have plenty of tricks they can pull.
The pick: Dallas + 4.5
New England at Miami
Miami, at home, will no doubt put up a good fight in the first half, but expect New England to pull away with just too many offensive weapons available to Tom Brady. I suppose we need to sit down and talk about this latest embarrassing shoe commercial, huh?
One thing you can say, from a positive perspective, is that Brady does appear to have his nimble foot-work back, post surgery the season before last. I mean, look at him dance around in those comfortable looking shoes. Looks like he is ready to bounce around the pocket while looking for open wide outs, right?
Questions remain however as to why he is seen running around The City looking vaguely confused. Answers on a postcard, I guess
The pick: New England -5.5
Oakland @ Denver
All sorts of worrying signs for Denver going into this one. They appear to be at least three or four steps behind Oakland in the rebuilding process. Remember, Oakland absolutely annihilated them last season. Oakland have reinforced things in the off season, and are ready to move one more baby step in the right direction. Too many questions still surround Denver.
The pick: Oakland - 0.5