Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rambling Gambler: Pick Six Week ONE

Ramblings and Gambling:
By Erik Laurinovics, for The Football ERA

Hello to all you fellow handicappers and sports-bettors! The regular season is 24 hours away from starting, and it's time to start making picks. In what will be a weekly column, I'll be giving you my top six picks for the week and a brief analysis on why I like their chances. While it's easy to run down the list and give you my pick for every game, that's not what I'm after; I want to give you six premium picks, six games that I really feel stand out, and allow the wise bettor to capitalize.

Week 1 is, in my opinion, the most difficult week in football to pick. Offenses are still developing chemistry, giving defenses a slight advantage, and new players, whether they are rookies or simply on a new team this year, have yet to be tested in battle. However, difficult as this week is, opportunity can be found...

***Note: All HOME teams will be listed in CAPS***

Miami (-3) over BUFFALO

If this game was in December, it may be a different story. Miami greatly benefits from visiting Buffalo before the weather can get too ugly, and their offense should be able to out pace Buffalo's. Buffalo has the 30th ranked offense in 2009, and little was done to improve. CJ Spiller was a waste of a first round pick for a team that already had Lynch and Jackson in the backfield. Quarterback is Buffalo's issue, and Trent Edwards is still the quarterback. Buffalo's defense is average at best, and I do not see any way for their inept offense to keep them in the game. Barring defensive/special teams TDs, I wouldn't even be surprised if the Bills don't find the endzone in this one. Miami, having added Brandon Marshall in the offseason to help the development of Chad Henne, is a no-brainer this week.

Atlanta (-2) over PITTSBURGH

Don't forget Ben Roethlisberger is out for 4 weeks. The Steelers offense suffered in their lone game without him last year, generating only 240 yards in their game against Baltimore. Throw in a mangled offensive line this year, and Dennis Dixon will likely be running for his life against the Falcons. The young Dixon has been mistake-prone in the preason, producing 3 turnovers in limited action. The Faclons, on the other hand, greatly improved their passing defense with the acquisition of Dunta Robinson, and return an average offense (ranked 16th overall in 2009). Under normal circumstances, the Steelers would be favored, but the crippled o-line and lack of Big Ben make this one pretty straightforward.

JACKSONVILLE (-2.5) over Denver

In what will be another ugly game, we should really get to see how far the Broncos have fallen. Kyle Orton is left with Eddie Royal and rookies to throw to, and they've already lost their best defensive player, Elvis Dumervil, to injury. Mike Nolan did a masterful job with the Bronco's defense in 2009... but he's in Miami now. As you may already know, I'm picking Denver for an under this year, and while Jacksonville doesn't have the most potent of offenses (18th overall in 2009), they should be able to take advantage. While Josh McDaniels may be building a team of players with good character, he has stripped the Broncos of talent. MJD and the Jaguars will run all over Denver, and should be able to cover a field goal.

Green Bay (-3) over PHILADELPHIA

This should be one of the more exciting week one games, and we'll get to see if the Packers can continue to be an offensive juggernaut in the regular season. After watching the Packers utterly destroy the Colts' first team defense in week 3 of the preseason, I'm a believer. Moreover, the Packers had the second best defense in the league last year, and there is no reason for them to decline this year. The offensive line is also completely healthy, and depth was added in the draft. If the Eagles cannot put pressure of the Packers, they'll be torn apart. I know that the preseason "is only the preseason", but seeing is believing. The Pack should have one of the top offenses this year, and I think they're a push at worst this week.

San Francisco (-3) over SEATTLE

This is the lock of the week. Russell Okung, Seattle's much-heralded rookie left tackle, has been declared out for week one. Seattle is starting Tyler Polumbus, and if this is any indication for you, coach Pete Carroll couldn't even remember his name, referring to him as "Troy" during a press conference. The Niners racked up the third most sacks in the league in 2009, and Seattle is ripe for the picking again. With Houshmanzadeh shipped out to Baltimore, Seattle is left with Deion and Mike Williams as starting wideouts. The vulnerability in the Niner's defense is in the secondary, but unfortunately for Seattle, they won't have any means to capitalize on that weakness. Regardless of Alex Smith's performance in this game, San Francisco should win easily, as the defense will create opportunities all day.

NEW ORLEANS (-5.5) over Minnesota

The line for the season-opening, NFC Championship rematch has blown up over the past 24 hours. This line originally opened at 4, and has moved 1.5 points in 24 hours. I was struggling for a sixth pick, and when all else fails, you can always try following the money. Analytically speaking, this pick makes sense, as the loss of Sidney Rice is a significant blow to Minnesota's offense. They don't have a real deep threat without him as Percy Harvin will likely get the bulk of his work out of the slot. While the Saints may struggle to contain AP (who doesn't?), their defensive rankings are a little misleading as they gave up significant yardage in garbage time last year. Minnesota is also a little weak against the pass (19th overall in 2009), and I foresee them having a hard time keeping up when this game becomes a shootout.

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