If you haven’t read my inaugural gambling picks column for college football, let me give you a brief recap.
I hate losing money, therefore I hate gambling. I hate feeling like I’ve been put on, therefore I hate gambling. I hate tracking scoring lines over the actual score, therefore I hate gambling. I hate trying to be John Henry to some Vegas computer, therefore I hate gambling. It works for some people, just not for me. I’m one of those naïve purity of sports kind of guys.
Knowing all of this, what do my editors assign me? Why a betting column on college football, of course. After watching my heart get ripped three times on opening night, the sadistic Powers-that-be have assigned the same task for the NFL. “It’ll be good for you,” they said. “You’ll be nailing picks by Week Three,” they cooed. They played to my ego and damned if they didn’t win.
So here I sit, holed up in my office with a half-empty glass of bourbon at 4:40 on a Thursday afternoon. It’s mere hours before the NFL season kicks off. The Atlanta Journal Constitution, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, ESPN the Magazine, and final edition of Pro Football Weekly clutter my desk. I have 20 tabs open on everything from Bill Simmons Gambling Manifesto, to Matthew Berry’s Fantasy Guide, to old Jimmy the Greek videos, to the Gamblers Anonymous Handbook. Knowledge is power, and damned if any stone will go unturned.
Unfortunately, nobody knows anything. Week One is a crapshoot. Power Rankings have changed every week this summer, and we haven’t played a game since February. These first few weeks are a feeling out process. Dip your toes in the pool and only go “balls-deep” when absolutely certain. There are a few teams guaranteed to be great, a few guaranteed to be terrible, but a whole lot lying in the gray. Time to make some money.
Note: All picks are against the spread; home team in caps.
Baltimore (+7 ½) over DENVER
This game should’ve been in Baltimore and the Ravens are pissed. Defending Super Bowl champs getting more than a TD? I like that action. John Harbaugh is 5-0 in season openers. No Lewis, no Reed, no problem.
New England (–9 ½) over BUFFALO
Does anyone else sing the Emmanuelle in Space theme song when they here E.J. Manuel’s name? Emmanuelle: queen of the galaxy… Emmanuelle: from the stars you came … Emmanuelle …” E. Manuel may very well be the real deal, the king of the galaxy, per se, just not this week against Tom Teriffic.
PITTSBURGH (-7) over Tennessee
I hate this game. Both teams are tough to peg. Basically, I trust Big Ben more than the Hurt Locker. Ben can win without a run game. Jakester can’t, and I don’t believe in CJ1K.
NEW ORLEANS (-3) over Atlanta
What a great rivalry game for the first week. This is going to be like a Madden 64 matchup, with tons of points scored. Atlanta’s defense is atrocious (at least I’m sensing it hasn’t gotten that much better) and the Saints are ready to re-welcome Sean Payton. This one is going to be like when they reopened the Dome in ’06.
NY JETS (+3) over Tampa Bay
The Darrelle Revis lovers quarrel. Quite honestly, I don’t like either of these teams. I’m looking for Tampa to take a step backwards. Somewhere deep down Rex Ryan’s players have to care for him, right? They want to win for him, yeah? They’re embarrassed by being home ‘dogs, okay? I do not feel confident in this.
Chiefs (-3 ½) over JACKSONVILLE
This is like playing Russian roulette but only taking out one bullet. Going with the Chiefs because they have better players and a better coach.
CHICAGO (+3 ½) over Cincinnati
Bengals may be good; they may be overrated. Every year one team supposed to “make the leap” falls on its face. I’ll grab some points on Chicago at home, why not.
CLEVELAND (PK) over Miami
Miami Dolphins Song versus The Dawg Pound. I’m going Cleveland for two reasons. One: Trent Richardson is on my fantasy team. Two: David Nelson gave a great interview for our site. Check out imme.org and the Sudden Change Challenge to help out two great charities.
Seattle (-3) over CAROLINA
Is Russell Wilson this year’s Cam Newton? Can Cam Newton play like last year’s Russell Wilson? Newton’s looking over his shoulder at new management; Wilson’s guys love him. Wilson also plays this game with a chip on his shoulder, showing the NC State faithful what they missed by letting him go to Wisconsin for one final season.
DETROIT (-4 ½) over Minnesota
Stop ADAP (All Day Adrian Peterson) and win the game. Losing a leader like Antoine Winfield hurts the Vikings more than people are letting on. I just don’t like Minny’s offseason moves heading into Week 1.
INDIANAPOLIS (-9 ½) over Oakland
I’ve got to be honest here: the points scare me. But so does picking Oakland in any game since they lost Super Bowl XXXVII. Indy played over their heads last year (CHUCKSTRONG!), but I just don’t see the befuddled franchise of Oakland stealing this one on the road.
Arizona (+4 ½) over ST. LOUIS
Truth be told, I like St. Louis this year. But hey, anyone can be caught off guard in week one. A blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while, right? Cards cover.
Green Bay (4 ½) over San Francisco
Aaron Rodgers comes home for Rd. 2 against his boyhood team. He plays mad; he takes it. Not going to lie, I’m afraid to go against Mr. Rodgers whenever he’s getting points. I don’t care who the opponent is.
Giants (+3) over DALLAS
Who ever knows with these two teams? All we know is that it’s going to be sloppy and to expect the unexpected. When Elisha and Antonio square off, all bets are off—remember last year in Giants Stadium? I’ll take the points and know that either way I picked would’ve been wrong.
Philadelphia (+3 ½) over WASHINGTON
I figure Chip Kelly is worth three points alone. Who knows what he’s going to do. Can’t you see RGIII and Shanny having a tiff on the sidelines after Griffin telegraphs a pass for a pick-six? Yep, me too. Washington may be good this year, but early season is the time to bet wildcards.
Houston (-4) over SAN DIEGO
Do I really need to explain this one?