Free Week 1 NFL Picks

I’m back in action. Fresh off one of my best seasons, I’m ready to deal out my absolutely, 100%, completely, with no small lettered catches at the bottom, Free NFL Football Picks. It’s not often that you get free like this, I know. Willy didn’t even get this free. Perfect. Well I guess you have that blasted internet bill, and you are likely paying for electricity, so it’s not completely free, but I’m not charging you anything. So, at least from me to you is free. Enough free talk. Lets talk football picks. I’ve busted out some previews and some fantasy football action and plenty of other football stuff. But now for the advice. Who do I think is going to take the cake in Week 1? The answers are below. Free. Ha – check them out!

Tennessee Titans (+6) @ Pittsburgh Steelers: This isn’t the easiest pick for me, but in the end a hard nosed game, that promises to be an ugly smash mouth defensive battle, has me thinking 6 is just too much. I like the Steelers, don’t get me wrong, but the Titans didn’t get that much worse. Sure, they lost a lot with Albert Haynesworth (the Titans didn’t dominate without Haynesworth), and Pittsburgh’s defense is legit, but I’m not buying a repeat performance for the Steelers in 2009 – last year’s Super Bowl winners usually aren’t very good beginners – write that down. Their offensive line isn’t great, and that’s enough for me to take Tennessee on opening night.

Denver Broncos (+4) @ Cincinnati Bengals: I’m not sold on Carson Palmer’s health quite yet. Okay, I think he’s healthy enough to play, but I’m not sure he’ll come out firing on all cylinders to start the season. He’s been out for quite some time. The Broncos have at least one shut-down corner, and I like their defense a lot more than last season’s pathetic unit. I just think their game plan is better. I know they’ll be tougher against the run and put a little more pressure on the QB. Kyle Orton will be better than he showed early in the pre-season, Knowshon Moreno will be dynamic, because, well, he is dynamic. And the Broncos will be a little better than people thought they’d be. Josh McDaniels doesn’t have many fans as of now, but I’m one of them. There’s lots of big plays to be had on that offense, and Cinci isn’t really a machine on either side of the ball. I’ll take the points!

Minnesota Vikings (-4) @ Cleveland Browns: I may be riding with the public here (shoot 99% of sportsbook wagers are taking the Vikings against the spread… I hate picking Minnesota, but I don’t see it any other way. The Browns defense is better than advertised, but Minnesota will be able to gang up on the Browns rushing attack, and their two big guns up front are still in play after the court battle isn’t settled. The Vikings have a great offensive line and a QB, while quite long in the tooth, can make all the throws on the field, and has a tendency to start strong. I like Minnesota: me and everyone else.

New York Jets (+5) @ Houston Texans: This is a close one because the spread is 5, I like the Texans to win, but I like the Jets to cover. 28-24 maybe? Maybe less scoring? Here’s the deal, Mark Sanchez is the real deal. He has great feet, watch him, his confidence in the pocket is awesome. That offensive line is one of the top 5 units in football, and I haven’t even gotten to talking about the Jets defense yet. They may be missing Calvin Pace, but with David Harris and Bart Scott at linebacker, and Kris Jenkins protecting them, I think this team has plenty of playmakers and ball hawks to make some big plays happen. The Texans won’t be able to run, and the Jets will. That’s why I’m taking the points.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts (-7): I actually think this line is one of those that looks to good to be true. If Maurice Jones Drew, a guy that is obviously supposed to be the focal point of this offense in Jacksonville, was completely healthy, I would probably steer toward the Jaguars, but nothing about Jacksonville’s defense tells me that Peyton isn’t going to pick his way to score after score. The Colts might start off a little slow in their new schemes, but this is a veteran team with elite talent at very key positions. Bob Sanders out could hurt, but where are the Jaguars really going to pick apart the Colts? Indy looked better against the run in the pre-season. Like I said, that 7 points for the Colts originally made me think, great bet for the Jags, but after looking at it, the line seems about right. Indy at home against a team that can’t pressure Manning, nor can they guard all the offensive playmakers. So, after much deep though action, I’ll roll against the Jaguars, whom I think will turn it around this season.

Dallas Cowboys (-6) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I actually like the Bucs this season, I think they’ll be just fine as I noted in my Total Wins column. However, this is just a bad match-up for them. Despite having a plethora of backs, a trio I guess, and a pretty damn good offensive line, the Cowboys may just be too tough up front. The pre-season doesn’t always show it all, but last season it was real tough to run against the Boys, and this pre-season was no different. A couple solid run games did nothing against Dallas’s top unit. Many think they’ll lose a lot of punch without one of he league’s all time wide receivers, but I don’t see much drop off from this offense sans TO. They’ll run the ball more, which should bum Tampa Bay out, and check down more to guys like Felix Jones, Marion Barber, and Patrick Crayton – the first two are big time play makers that will make defenses pay all year. I like Dallas to win by double digits on the road in this one. Not because the Bucs are bad, but because it’s just a bad match-up for the home team.

Miami Dolphins (+4) @ Atlanta Falcons: I’m such a baby, the Dolphins make me cry… A little Hootie and the Blowfish for ya, you bet. Alright, so I’m taking the Dolphins because they only got better. They seem to struggle a lot with teams that light up the airways and teams with really stellar run defenses that force Pennington to beat them over the top. Atlanta has neither of those aspects on their squad. I know the Falcons are a lot to handle in the run-game, and the Dolphins don’t have the toughest run-stuffing crew in the league, but this group is talented, no doubt. I think Jason Taylor will be a great addition to this defense, and I see Matt Ryan having a lot of trouble every time he drops back. Joey Porter and Taylor are no joke coming off opposing edges. The Dolphins just seem to find a way to win in close games, and last year they played a lot of close games. They can run the ball really well, Pennington plays close to mistake free football, and Matt Ryan still has to stare down the sophomore slump. This game will be very close, and those 4 points could really come in handy.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Baltimore Ravens (-13): I think the Ravens run all over the Chiefs and that punch-less KC “offensive” attack has a lot of trouble doing diddly in Baltimore. Bo don’t know Diddly, but I do, and the Chiefs won’t be doing it. Got me? Nobody runs against the Ravens, and something tells me the Chiefs won’t change that history. Matt Cassel might be healthy enough to start, but I wouldn’t care if he got to borrow Randy Moss and Wes Welker for this one, he’s not going to light up the Ravens, even with a secondary that has become a little more unknown if not suspect over the years. This game has really shot up, from -7 to -13, and I still like the Ravens. It’s kind of gross, I know, to like a line after it’s almost doubled, but what can I say. I see Flacco being very accurate against a defensive secondary that recently cut their starting safety and is in the midst of changing defensive schemes under a new head coach. The Chiefs will win some games this year, just not these kind of games. 27-6 is a score I wouldn’t be surprised about.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Carolina Panthers (+1.5): I love the Eagles this season, really, I do. But I won’t love them against one of the best rushing attacks in the league until they do something or prove something with that front seven. They couldn’t stop the run this pre-season as I watched opponents run freely over the Eagles. Philly should put up a lot of points, and I fully understand that the Panthers have no interior defensive line either – but the Panthers will fully take advantage of that while the Eagles instead decide to throw the ball 4 out of every 5 downs… Just in this match-up, I like the underdog, hometown, returning best record in the NFC. Call me crazy. The Eagles just have too much hype for me.

Detroit Lions (+13) @ New Orleans Saints: What can I say? I’ve never liked the Saints as a huge favorite against anyone. While they have plenty of fire-power, this is a team that can lose to anybody. Kevin Smith’s running ability, and a couple big plays through the air between rookie signal caller Matthew Stafford and one of the best receiving prospects ever, Calvin Johnson, should be just enough to keep the Lions covering this spread in New Orleans. 5 of the Saints 8 wins were by 10 points or less, and while one of those was a 42-7 beating of Detroit, This line is moving on up, and is getting to 14 in some circles, so you might want to wait just to see – 14 obviously has more value that 13 for obvious scoring reasons. I like the Lions either way. One thing that really scares me is the fact that New Orleans was 7-1 ATS as a favorite last season, meaning they beat the teams they’re supposed to beat. Still, 13 points in Week 1 is too much for me, despite those stats telling me otherwise. A stat on my side sees the Lions at 7-1 ATS last season as a double digit dog.

San Francisco 49ers (+6.5) @ Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals have not impressed me. They have a couple talented backs, but no run blocking offensive linemen to spring them loose. They have Kurt Warner, Larry Fitz, Boldin, and Breaston – but they have no toughness, and they just played too well late last season to not come back to earth this time around. The 49ers may have not signed their top draft pick, a guy with the dynamic playmaking ability they desperately need, but I think they’ll be fine without him. Frank Gore is going to run the ball a lot, and Shaun Hill will use that to get some play action throws to open receivers down field. The Cardinals won’t be as tough against the run this season, and the 49ers will be better at everything in Mike’s first full year as head coach. Their offense may be simple, but that toughness will shine through early.

Washington Redskins (+6.5) @ New York Giants: I don’t think the Giants are scary enough offensively to bust the Skins through the air. Washington will get more pressure on opposing offenses this season as Haynesworth really is that good. Al will also help ease the pain against one of the best offensive lines in the league, and I think Washington stacks the line against the Giants in this game. I think 6.5 is too much in a game that looks to have very few scoring opportunities.

St. Louis Rams @ Seattle Seahawks (-8.5): Its hard for me to be too excited about the Rams, I called them the worst team in football last season, and despite the Lions hideous record, I stand by that claim. There was no team that was more pathetic than this Rams team a year ago. They no longer have Orlando Pace, but Alex Barron and Adam Goldberg at the edges instead. They don’t have Torry Holt or Isaac Bruce, but Laurent Robinson and Donnie Avery. Steven Jackson is still there, but unfortunately still is Marc Bulger. The guy kills more drives by hanging onto the ball than any QB I know. The defense is aging and hurting (like Leonard Little) and failed draft picks over the last couple years are coming back to haunt the new regime. That being said, it’s still 8.5 in Week 1 against a Hawks team that hasn’t proven to be beastly quite yet. I’m going on record and saying this spread is too high. It’s bad value, and I don’t know what I’m thinking by taking the Hawks anyway. It’s one of those times where I just have that feeling…

Chicago Bears  @ Green Bay Packers (-3.5): The Bears have gained some momentum going into Week 1. Jay Cutler has looked good in a Bears uniform, and Matt Forte should get more room to run because of it – but can they hang with the Packers in Green Bay? I don’t think the Bears are healthy enough up front, to be honest. I know that sounds crazy, but Chicago will continue to hurt in the front 7 without a healthy Tommie Harris. His push, with quickness against the run and pass, really makes a difference for this defense, and I just haven’t seen that yet. The Packers were better than their record showed last season, and that usually starts to even out the season after some tough luck losses. I expect Ryan Grant to get off to a nice start while Aaron Rodgers gives the Bears secondary fits. A key factor that has me going away from Chicago here is the Packers corners. That group is very tough on the young Bears’ receivers – they’re just too physical and too crafty for those young pass catchers. I like Green Bay.

Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots (-10.5): I like the Patriots to dominate in this game. Call me crazy, but I’m not sold on the Buffalo Bills offense, defense, special teams, coaching staff, ownership, etc. They could come out and surprise me, but after spending all pre-season putting together a special offensive plan only to fire the coordinator and scrap it all for something else cries of a TO blow-up on the way. He’ll be asking to get traded to Philly after this year is over. The Bills don’t have a powerful offensive line anymore, and while they do have a couple big time playmakers lining up out wide, I’m not sure Trent is ready to fully take advantage of their talents. New England, on the other hand, should continue to be a beast offensively. I’m probably riding on the Patriot train with a bunch of other public chalk lovers, but I don’t see the Bills slapping enough points on the board to hang with Tom and company. Belichick has had his way with the Bills over the last few years – that trend continues as Dick Jauron’s job security loses some sway. In my happiest of dreams, the OC is brought back half way through the season to take Dick’s job, and he leads the Bills to one of the most stellar offensive outputs in the 2nd half… Dreams. I’ll take the Pats.

San Diego Chargers @ Oakland Raiders (+9): This line will likely move to 10 if you wait. I don’t have that options because I’m not allowed to wait. Schucks auto supply! Oh well, I still like the underdogs in this divisional match-up. I know, the Chargers get to show up and win, they can sleep through the season and easily take the division, and they have more talent in 5 positions than the Raiders have all over the field. I don’t care. What I care about is that the Raiders will be able to run enough to keep themselves in it. JaMarcus Russell has looked impressive enough to me, and he’s not a mistake prone guy. If a team can run, and they limit their mistakes, that’s good enough to walk with them and a nine point cushion. The Raiders won two straight to end last season, and those weren’t the Lions and Rams, those two wins were against the Texans and a Bucs team that only needed a win against the lowly Raiders in Week 17 to get a playoff birth. They didn’t get it, Gruden lost his job, the Raiders brass (AL freaking DAVIS) rejoiced. I hate the Raiders, let that be known, but I think their rushing attack and fewer mistakes keeps them close enough. If Richard Seymour wipes the sand out and gets to Oakland tomorrow, I like this bet even better.

Dominate Your Draft: Fantasy Football Predictions from Josh

Better late than never, my fantasy predictions for the 2009 NFL season are here to ease your draft day anxieties.  There is a ton of value to be found in the mid-to-late rounds this year, especially at the running back position.  Wise owners will recognize the opportunity to load up on WR talent in the early rounds if they don’t find themselves in a position to grab one of the top three or four running backs.  Remember, fantasy championships are rarely won in the first few rounds of a draft, but they can definitely be lost.  Be a savvy owner this season and choose based upon value, not name recognition.  With that in mind, here are the true pearls of wisdom to guide you on your path to fantasy greatness … because anything worth doing is worth doing better than your friends.

1.  Carson Palmer will return to prominence as a top-tier fantasy QB.  I am predicting 4,000 yards passing and at least 25 TDs for the Bengals signal-caller.

2.  In his second season as a pro, Kevin Smith will make the jump from rookie sensation to fantasy stud.  I think he’ll pile up 1,500 yards from scrimmage with 40 grabs and 12 TDs.

3.  Chris Cooley will out-produce Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates.  This guy is just a good football player and there will be no shortage of targets with that receiving corps in DC.

4.  The Seahawks will recapture the NFC West crown on the strength of a huge season by a receiver not named TJ.  Nate Burleson will catch 70 balls for 1,000+ yards and 7 TDs.

5.  Matt Leinart will throw for more yards and account for more touchdowns than incumbent starter Kurt Warner.  Thanks to a suspect defense, the Cards will still miss the playoffs.

6.  Although technically the #3 WR in Cincy, Chris Henry will produce like a #2 fantasy wide receiver.  Expect 50-60 grabs with at least 8 of those going for TDs.

7.  A forgotten man in the Saints attack last season, Marques Colston will remind owners that he is a top fantasy WR.  90+ catches and 1,200 yards in the 4th round? … yes please!

8.  Hakeem Nicks has an outside shot to win ROY honors, and I think that he’ll come on strong as the season wears on.  Pencil him in for 850 yards and 6 TDs for the G-Men.

9.  Speakig of outstanding rooks, Mark Sanchez will get you 20 TDs and is a great late-round pick as a #2 QB.  Dynasty leaguers don’t wait too long on this kid, he’s going to be a good one.

10.  Willie Parker has fallen off the map in a lot of fantasy drafts but he’s a good bet to contribute 1,500 total yards this season with 8-10 touchdowns … tremendous value late.

11.  Speaking of forgotten men, Ryan Grant will rebound in a big way for Green Bay.  You can go receiver early and nab Grant and his 1,300 yards and 10 TDs later on.

12.  Steve Slaton is due for a sophomore slump.  He still carries nice value in PPR leagues, but not for where you’ll have to draft him to get him.  Don’t expect 16 healthy games, either.

13.  How many 300-carry backs can you find outside of the first round? … Value, thy name is Clinton Portis.  The Skins meal ticket is slipping in drafts, not production.  1,400 and 10 TDs.

14.  Vincent Jackson finished with 59 catches for 1,098 yards and 7 TDs and didn’t become the #1 WR in San Diego until mid-season.  He finishes with more of all three in 2009. Hop on board before it’s too late, this guy is a beast.

15.  This is finally the season to go get Vernon Davis.  Nothing like getting top-10 production from the 20th TE off the board.  I like Davis to reel in 50 balls for 700 yards and 5 TDs.

16.  Speaking of underrated tight ends, Visanthe Shiancoe was a pleasant surprise last season but is still receiving no love.  If he’s there late grab him and his considerable (8 TDs) upside.

17.  Starting RBs are overrated (at least when they have great backups) … let others spend top round picks on Gore, Jacobs and Williams then go get Coffee, Bradshaw and Stewart, each will approach 1,000 yards.

18.  That said, I am buying what the 49ers are selling.  If he stays healthy Frank Gore has a shot to be the top fantasy point-scorer.  2,000 total yards and 15 TDs is not out of the question.

19.  Knowshon Moreno could be great at some point, but not this year and not for this team.  The Broncos are a gong show and I wouldn’t count on anything more than 800 yards and 5 TDs.

20.  I love Jason Witten, but his numbers are due for a hit following TO’s departure.  Expect him to see plenty of double-teams unless Roy Williams can command some respect early.

21.  I rank my fantasy RBs with dreads in this order:  Steven Jackson, Marion Barber, Chris Johnson, Marshawn Lynch, Tim Hightower.  Close fades > Dreads.

22.  I rank this receiver with dreads above all the running backs mentioned previously.  Larry Fitzgerald is a sure thing and keeps getting better.  Hello 1,600 yards and 18 TDs

23.  Ray Rice has the potential to be a top-15 running back as early as this season, especially in PPR league.  I expect a Slatonesque 1,500 total yards and 10 TDs for the diminutive fireball.

24.  The Chargers D/ST will be a top-5 unit this season.  When you see the Broncos, Chiefs and Raiders twice a year the odds are in your favor (getting Merriman back doesn’t hurt either).

25.  Leon Washington will be the best fantasy option in the Jets backfield.  What he lacks in goal-line looks he will make up for in reception and receiving yards.

26.  In his first season in the league, LeSean McCoy will get as many snaps as Brian Westbrook and will make the majority of the starts for the Eagles down the stretch.

27.  I hate to say this, but I think Maurice Jones-Drew is actually being slightly over-valued in drafts.  The Jags offensive line is just that, but I still think MJD is good enough for 1,500 total yards and 12 total TDs.

28.  Nate Davis will make at least four starts for the 49ers this season and he will win at least three of those starts.  This kid from Ball State does everything well, winning most of all (Singletary needs winners, remember?).

29.  When drafting your running backs, avoid the muddy situations in Denver, New England, Tampa Bay and Cleveland … I don’t see a single 1,000 yard rusher in these backfields.

30.  I think a return to prominence is in the cards for Larry Johnson.  He is the most talented player on the Chiefs roster and has a favorable schedule … look for him to turn back the clock with 1,200 yards rushing and double-digit TDs.