We’ll I certainly got off to a terrible start on Thursday with the selection of the Ravens over the Broncos. Here are the rest of the games from the week in which I’ll be using the ESPN spreads to pick the games. I’ll link up the financial head to heads for each game if you are interested in seeing how the teams match up in terms of cap and contract dollars.
Falcons (+2.5) over SAINTS– The game should certainly be a track meet, but I think this is going to be a battle of two teams headed in very opposite directions. The Saints failure to upgrade their defense will prove costly for them this season when they are forced to match up with other teams, like the Falcons, who can score with the Saints. The fact that the Falcons can be explosive down the field and really exploit the secondary makes me think they will pull away in this one in the 4th quarter. Falcons 37 Saints 27
Patriots (-6.5) over BILLS– I think the Bills are one of the worst 5 teams in the NFL, barring an EJ Manuel miracle rookie campaign. Buddy Nix did such a poor job constructing the team from both a personnel and a salary cap standpoint and just two years after doling out some big contracts the Bills are already rebuilding and trying to rummage through some of the mistakes made. Nothing really makes the Patriots stop being the Patriots even when they get off to sluggish starts. I think it will be interesting to see if Amendola can gain the kind of yards Welker did in the offense once he catches the ball as he was not able to do that in St. Louis, but that was with an inferior QB. Watch the Patriots running game this week as well. Patriots 31 Bills 10
BEARS (-3.5) over Bengals– I don’t really have a great feel for this game one way or the other. I kind of think coming off the TV special and having a number of key players get big contracts late in camp may have the Bengals misfire early. Chicago still has a good defense and I don’t think they will allow Andy Dalton to get away with mistakes when he misses his main target AJ Green. I have no feel at all for what Chicago will be offensively but Marshall and Cutler do have good chemistry and Cutler is capable if he is given time to throw the ball. If they can stifle the Bengals pass rush they should win this game. Bears 20 Bengals 16
Dolphins (-0.5) over BROWNS– There are a lot of people with expectations for both of these teams, but I am not one of them. I just do not see anything in the Browns whatsoever that makes me think they can be a good team. They have some talent here and there but I can’t see them scoring points at all. The QB situation is not great and I think there will be whispers by the end of the season that Trent Richardson was a wasted pick- he was one of the least efficient runners in the league last season. I’d expect Miami’s offense to struggle, especially early in the year. The loss of Dustin Keller is huge because Mike Wallace needed that third target in the offense to open up the long routes and now he doesn’t have that. But I know they can play defense and rush the QB. Dolphins 23 Browns 13
Vikings (+3.5) over LIONS– The Lions were a hard luck team in 2012, seemingly never winning a game when it was close. Some of that is bad luck but some they bring on themselves. The Lions are one of the worst coached teams in the NFL and that did not change this offseason. Until that does I can not see the Lions being anything more than a 6 or 7 win team. By no means are the Vikings great but they do have an all world running back and they should be able to pick on the Lions suspect defense to win outright. Vikings 20 Lions 17
Titans (+6.5) over STEELERS– I do think too many people are writing the Steelers off because they know the team is older on defense and does not have the running game people feel they need to be successful. For whatever reason when discussing good QB’s in the NFL Ben Roethlisberger is lost in the shuffle. As long as Ben is healthy for 16 games the team is going to contend for the division. He is just that tough of a football player able to turn something into nothing in crunch time. For this game I do think the Titans can stay close by running the ball and the Steelers will be more than happy to play the low scoring conservative game which leads me to think they win, just not by a full touchdown provided there is no late game pick 6 by the Titan QB. Steelers 16 Titans 13
COLTS (-6.5) over Raiders– The Colts are going to need Luck to make a huge leap from last season if they really want to contend rather than be a one season wonder. They were the polar opposite of the Lions in that everything went right for them in the closer games. So I’m not on the Colts bandwagon, but I can not recall a team on paper as bad as the Oakland Raiders in the 30 plus years I’ve watched football. I don’t know if there is any positive whatsoever with the Raiders. They are an expansion team without the high draft picks and ability to pluck overpriced but decent players from other rosters. Colts 30 Raiders 13
Chiefs (-2.5) over JAGUARS– Kansas City has had talent but some poor coaching the last few seasons. That should be fixed with Andy Reid at the helm. Reid might drive people wild with some decisions, especially on third down, but he is a legit coach. They should have a very well balanced offense and solid defense. The one thing Jacksonville has going for them is that they have a nice young stable of WR’s, except the best one is suspended for this game. Outside of that the Jaguars simply do not seem like a good football team. Chiefs 24 Jaguars 14
JETS (+1.5) over Buccaneers– Everyone is down on the Jets, myself included, but I like this matchup for them. Josh Freeman has a tremendous amount of pressure on him in 2013 and for all the flaws the Jets have Rex Ryan knows how to construct a defense to take advantage of a team like the Bucs. The Bucs best chance to win is to hand the ball off and ram it down the throat of the Jets, as they are suspect in the middle, but I just think that the Bucs gameplan is going to be to attack via air and try to pick on the Revis-less Jets. Offensively I’d imagine the Jets will run the ball a good amount of time and put Geno Smith in some very short passing situations where he doesn’t have to do much thinking. Jets 17 Buccaneers 14
PANTHERS (+2.5) over Seahawks– Seattle was the best team in the NFL at the end of last season when they lost that heartbreaker in the playoffs, but this is a new season and for this week I actually have a feeling that Cam Newton and Carolina will come into this game with a chip on their shoulder and upset the Seahawks. I still think Seattle will be a good team this season but I think teams at times believe the press clippings too much and then misfire in the first week of the year especially on the road. This is going to need to be a money year for Newton and he needs a big season. I think he will have it. Panther win late on a FG. Panthers 20 Seahawks 19.
49ERS (-4.5) over Packers– Overall I think the 49ers will take more of a step back this year than Seattle, but I really dislike this matchup for the Packers. The Packers don’t deal well with teams that can play really physical football and that is what the 49ers are all about. Green Bay is a front running team that is going to play great once they get the lead and then have the ability to pad it, which they can do to most opponents, this just does not happen to be one of them. Score will actually be closer than the game itself. 49ers 27 Packers 20
Cardinals (+5.5) over RAMS– Arizona is going to hope that the insertion of Carson Palmer into the QB position completely changes the fortunes of a team that has fallen on hard times since the retirement of Kurt Warner. Palmer is certainly a professional and an upgrade over whom they had before but I’m not sure if it’s enough to have them competing for the playoffs. I’m not a big believer in the Rams who I feel are destined to be the NFC’s version of the Dolphins from the last few seasons- a team that just constantly hovers around 7 or 8 wins and never goes anywhere. Rams win at home, but don’t cover. Rams 21 Cardinals 17
COWBOYS (-2.5) over Giants– I think New York is a better team than Dallas and if I think the Giants have a far stronger chance of going to the Super Bowl than Dallas, but watching the Giants in the preseason has me a bit worried about them early on. Maybe it was missing Victor Cruz or maybe it was just boredom with the preseason itself, but I just did not see a team ready to play just yet. This is a huge game for the Cowboys. Tony Romo got his big money this offseason and needs his team to win. The offensive line is a major issue in Dallas though they brought in a terrific coach that should help them somewhat. I think Dallas answers the call on opening night. Cowboys 24 Giants 16
REDSKINS (-4.5) over Eagles– If I had any faith in the Eagles defense I would probably take the points since there are so many questions surrounding Washington’s QB situation, but the Eagles defense is abysmal. The Eagles may be a fun team to watch this season if the offense produces points, but could be dreadful if they struggle early in games and give the opponents multiple chances while not allowing the defense to rest. Both Vick and Jackson are more or less entering contract years making it extremely important for both to have great chemistry right out of the gate. I just think the Redskins have too much firepower and can control the ball which will really put a damper on the Eagles offensive gameplan. Redskins 27 Eagles 21
Texans (-2.5) over CHARGERS– While I think the window has closed on the Texans, it has slammed shut on the Chargers. San Diego is a team sifting through the mess right now that was created by the prior regime and doing their best to keep things together while they formulate a rebuilding plan. If Rivers can find himself and play as he did two years ago the Chargers could compete again, but he struggled so badly last season that I don’t think anyone can count on it. Texans 23 Chargers 14
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.