NFL Week 1 Lines and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 07/26/2007
Week 1 in the NFL is getting close, but it's still way too far away for my impatient mind. The season kicks off with the Saints visiting the Colts on Sept. 6 and then gives us a full card of games on Sunday and a doubleheader on Monday. The league and ESPN are showing that they are willing to take risks in the first week - the second Monday night game is the Cardinals in San Francisco. That has some potential to be decent, and I'm intrigued by it, but it could really be terrible, too, and it certainly isn't going to capture the imagination of the casual fan.
The season is still weeks and weeks away, but the lines are already out, and the speculation and value seeking can begin. I'm not suggesting for a second that making serious bets before training camps have opened, rosters have been set and we've seen a single player on the field is generally a good idea. I'm just looking at these lines for two reasons - it's fun and they are going to be pretty untouched. Here's a look at some of the highlights:
Falcons (+2.5) at Vikings - Joey Harrington haters, or those that believe that the Vick chaos will be an insurmountable hurdle to overcome, will be drooling over the opportunity to give up less than a field goal to the Falcons on the road. Vick is unlikely to be there, but the crowd is likely to be hostile anyway. The only thing that would stop me from jumping on this opportunity right now is that betting against the Falcons means betting on the Vikings, and that's dicey. The quarterback situation, with Tavaris Jackson as the likely starter, is full of potential but totally unproven. There is no clear No. 1 receiver, and Adrian Peterson will be relied upon to hit the ground running from the start. The Falcons will likely struggle, but are the Vikes in position to capitalize?
Lions (+2.5) at Raiders - This was a very surprising line for me when I first saw it. I'm not as optimistic as Jon Kitna is about the Lions' prospects, but I do think that they are an improved team, and they are almost certainly going to have a potent offense. The Raiders were solid on defense last year, and could be again this year, but in the short term there is no reason to believe that they will be able to score at all. JaMarcus Russell has a bright future but he likely won't be playing, and if he is then the team really has troubles. This game won't be pretty, but unless the Raiders have an unexpectedly strong camp I suspect that this line will be bigger by kickoff. That means current value on the Lions.
Bucs (+6) at Seahawks - Training camp could change this, but at this point I like Tampa Bay at this price. Seattle was unimpressive last year. Neither Matt Hasselbeck nor Shaun Alexander were anywhere near their best, and I suspect age and wear and tear was as responsible for that as anything. They should be better than last year, but I don't see them returning to former glory. The offensive line was a problem because they missed Steve Hutchinson more than they may have thought, and they have done nothing significant to remedy that situation. On the other side you have a team and a coach that are going to be hungry, a wily veteran QB in Jeff Garcia, a much improved pass rush that should be able to pressure Hasselbeck, and a running game that should be much better than last season if Cadillac Williams can regain some of his chops. The Bucs may not win, but I think that six points is too many to give them.
Giants (+3.5) at Cowboys - I'm going to start doing what I suspect will be a trend for much of the season - being incredibly negative about the Giants. Nothing about the way the key parts of this team have handled themselves this offseason shows me that they have improved. Eli Manning is a whiner, and I don't see him emerging as a needed leader. There are questions at running back, cornerback, linebacker and pretty much everywhere else on the field. The Cowboys are pretty much intact, and so far in the offseason the change in coaching staff seems to have solved some of the problems that they had last year. My opinion may change if Tony Romo doesn't come back strong or if the other T.O. starts his ridiculous act early, but at this point I think the Cowboys can be had at a bit of a discount.
Patriots (-6) at the Jets - Six points is a lot to give up on the road, but I suspect it is a point or two less than you will have to give up on this game by the time it gets here. The Pats come into the season with a tremendous amount of hype, but there are more reasons to believe they can meet expectations than there are to be concerned. The Jets are full of questions. Chad Pennington has a lot to prove, and if he gets in trouble the alternatives are just plain scary. The Jets drafted well on defense, but the Pats offense will eat the rookies alive if they have to start, and they probably don't have the depth to avoid it. I don't think the Jets are a total disaster, but the Pats are clearly better, and clearly hungry. More importantly, if you like the Pats you are in line with the public, so this is a better price than you are ever going to see again.