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The Profit - Week 1

Welcome to another year of money-mak...I mean, welcome to another year of selecting winners solely for the joy of a challenge. Last year was a rousing success, except for my so-called "Lock of the Week". For the uninitiated, hereís how we do things. I pick all 16 games on the slate (or however many there are in a given week, depending on byes) against the point spread. Then I select four of those games as my "best bets". Finally, I select one game each week as the "lock". Before you trust me with your hard-earned cash, I assume you want a little history lesson of how I did.

Overall 2004 record: 125-104-6 (54.6%)

Best Bets: 41-22 (65.1%)

Lock of the Week: 9-7 (56.2%)

As you can see, I actually did better with the best bets, so I guess I should be more confident when Iím not as confident (if that makes sense, which it probably doesnít). In any event, I realized that in calling it my "lock of the week", I was defying the gods of gambling and committing the cardinal sin of betting by calling something a lock. So rather than scrap the whole thing, Iím simply changing the name. Weíll now call it simply the pick of the week. Hopefully thatíll lean things a little more in my direction this time around. And hey, Iíll take 9-7 for my lock of the weeks again if I absolutely must. Just as long as you lay at least $20,000 per game, youíll walk away with a cool 20K profit by taking my advice. No wait, donít do that.

One important aside I should also mention here. Many people took this advice here last season and ran with it, placing actual bets based on these recommendations. They are to be used at your own risk, as I donít make any claims to be a guru or have any kind of inside information. As a matter of fact, unlike most of the features on this site, these picks are based very little in statistical trends or matchup history, etc. They are mostly "from the gut", which has always proven to be my most reliable ally. Well, except when I eat tacos. Take these picks for what they are, and that is purely to entertain the audience. And if you make a little coin off of it, my commission is 10%.

On to the picks...

Source: Yahoo.com http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/odds

New England (-7.5) vs. Oakland

A co-worker of mine recently told me his foolproof strategy for picking Patriots games. "Mike", he said, "stay the (expletive) away from the Pats". In truth, the Patriots have been one of the better teams against the spread in recent seasons, but this is one of those games where you could end up convincing yourself that either team is a lock, only to turn around and convince yourself of the complete opposite. I would STRONGLY advise steering clear of this game if you can. Iíve heard some people say that they HAVE to bet it to give it a little "juice" since itís the only game of the night. Well, Iím sorry but if opening night isnít enough "juice" for you, then maybe itís time to find another hobby. Anyway, since a pick must be made for every game, Iíll take the Pats. I could easily see Kerry Collins go off for something like 350 yards and 3 TDs...with 4 picks to go along with it. PICK: Patriots

Carolina (-7) vs. New Orleans

Let me just get this out of the way: if you bet against the Saints primarily because of the devastation suffered in their hometown, thus making them a team in turmoil...and you win your bet...please at least consider donating a portion of the winnings to the relief effort. I know, I know Ė not my place to say, yada yada yada. Just a suggestion. Anyway, seeing as how the Panthers are a legitimate title contender, playing in their home opener, and the Saints have, in fact, endured a much tougher week than most teams in the league, itís probably wise to take the Panthers here. Of course, it wouldnít be the first time a team rallied behind adversity, tragedy, etc., to capture a big win. Just tough to see it happening here, especially when you factor in the REAL football element of the Saintsí lack of defense and the Panthers propensity for dominating the line of scrimmage defensively. PICK: Carolina

One side note Iíd like to make here, as long as weíre discussing the Saints. It went pretty much unnoticed, but I want to reiterate the notion that Joe Thiesmann needs to get a clue. Announcing a game last week, Thiesmann saw a player on the sidelines praying with a teammate. Joe decides to joke that theyíre in a prayer group. Ok, no big deal. He goes on to say the following: "Yeah we should have had a prayer group earlier today at the hotel so that it would stop raining. I thought we were gonna drown!"

Of all the inappropriate things to say, it comes as no shock that this buffoon opened his mouth and said those words. Just about the ONLY thing you canít make light of this week, and he goes and makes a claim like that. While I donít think he meant it hurtfully, I do wonder how he is still on the air. Not necessarily because of last week, mind you (though he did also say itíd be a TRAGEDY if the Ravens took a timeout into halftime without using it). I donít know...I know Iím not alone in this.

And yes Iím officially off my soapbox for the remainder of this article.

Denver (-4.5) at Miami

This is definitely one of the best games of the week. Oh wait a minute, I thought it was 1995. No, this wonít be very close. Mostly for this reason: "Dolphins Name Frerotte Opening Day QB". PICK: Broncos

Detroit (-3) vs. Green Bay

You know what I love about this game? How everyone and their mother likes Green Bay. Itís true, I asked my brother and he said he liked Green Bay. Then I asked my mother and she said the same. What they fail to realize is that in addition to Favreís problems in domed stadiums, the Packer defense is just about as bad as Detroitís. So that leaves the game in the hands of the two offensive units, meaning the Pack has a decided advantage, right? WRONG! The Lions will boast one of the leagueís top offensive units in 2005, led by Joey Harrington (a.k.a., "the 2005 Drew Brees") and offensive playmakers all over the field. The Lions are at home, eager to take the next step towards credibility, and beating the Packers in Week 1 would do just that. Call me crazy, but I say by Week 4 or 5 youíll be making a lot of money betting against the Packers Ė one of the leagueís most disappointing teams of 2005. PICK: Lions

Jacksonville (-3) vs. Seattle

Every year, I find myself wanting to like Jacksonville. And every year, I end up overrating them immensely. Problem is, I usually do the same thing with Seattle. So when youíve got a situation like this, featuring two teams with potentially great defenses, solid quarterbacks, good options in the receiving game, and a history of underachieving, what does one do? Easy. Take the team with Shaun Alexander and NOT Fred Taylor. PICK: Seahawks

Kansas City (-3) vs. New York Jets

I for one am not buying into either of the following two things: 1) Trent Greenís leg surgery is no big deal, and 2) The Chiefs defense is vastly improved. I know itís a tall order, asking a team to go into Kansas City and emerge victorious, but if any team is equipped to do just that, itís the Jets this week. I know itís scary to trust a Herman Edwards-led bunch because he has a tendency to, hmm how do I put this...uh, well, he BUTCHERS the end of games. But with that said, the Jets are one of the only teams in the league that donít have a definitive weakness really at any spot on the field. The Chiefs are excellent still offensively (though theyíd be a lot better with a 70/30 rushing split between Holmes and LJ with Johnson getting the 70, but thatís a story for another day), but theyíll continue to struggle defensively. Sure, they are improved, but not quite enough right at the outset at least. The Jets, meanwhile, are a legitimate Super Bowl contender and will give the Chiefs everything they could ask for. PICK: Jets

New York Giants (-3) vs. Arizona

Not putting any stock into the whole "Warnerís return" thing. I mean, if there is any player in the NFL who seems to be completely and utterly lacking in any need for revenge or anything, itís Warner. The guy is almost timid off the field. Not saying heís soft, just that I donít see him getting all charged up to return to the Meadowlands and bludgeon his former team. No, soft would be the new Frankie J (sp?) song, a remake of the old song "More Than Words". I didnít think it was at all possible, but olí Frankie has actually made that song sound even MORE effeminate than before. Getting back on topic, though...

The Cards are, believe it or not, division-title contenders this year. Theyíve got 3 dynamic playmakers (donít forget about Bryant Johnson, who has had an awesome training camp Ė he may be one of the leagueís best #3 wideouts this year), an excellent rookie running back, a solid QB in Warner who wonít cost you any games with bad decisions, and an ever-improving defense. Obviously, if they did make it to the playoffs, HC Denny Green would find a way to lose to an inferior team, but hey at least they could get there! The Giants, meanwhile, will struggle. Sure, there are a lot of changes that have been made, but it may actually be too many changes. Itíll take some time to gel, and this will be a team to watch out for in 2006. PICK: Cardinals

Pittsburgh (-7) vs. Tennessee

I hate to say it, but Pittsburgh is due for a hard fall from grace this year. The defense is still there, and the solid run game remains, but theyíll be attacked from all sides by the Ravens and Bengals for the division crown. Iím not saying theyíre going to go belly-up and finish below .500, but taking a step back certainly wouldnít be unprecedented. Big Ben and the rest of the offense has been in shambles to this point, and wonít be expected to blow many teams out in the early going. Thatís just what a 7-point win would have to be considered, a blowout. Iím not suggesting Tennessee is any good, either, but I just canít drop 7 points with a team I trust as little as I do Pittsburgh at this point. PICK: Titans

San Diego (-4.5) vs. Dallas

I like Dallas for this season. And despite being a Chargers fan (keep that in mind for future betting advice, if you wish), I do see them taking a step back this year, somewhere in the 8-8 or 9-7 territory. This game, however, I like for the Bolts. Theyíve got LaDainian Tomlinson, and quite frankly, thatís all you need. HEY Steven A. Smith, get the hell out of my column!

Sorry about that, folks. Man, I canít stand that guy. So anyway, as I was saying, the Dallas defense will be a nice early-season test for the Chargers, as I expect the Boys to feature one of the leagueís better defensive units. If the Chargers can make it through this week relatively unscathed, itíll mean a boost in projections for future weeks. As for Dallas, I just canít trust a Drew Bledsoe-led team on the road against a team coming off a division title. Even if it made sense, I couldnít bring myself to do it. PICK: Chargers

Washington (-6) vs. Chicago

Weíve got one team with a very good defense, a decent WR corps, and a giant question mark at QB (though backed up by a solid veteran). Weíve got another team with the EXACT SAME THINGS. So if everything is so equal, why is this line so high? I suppose people are expecting Kyle Orton to get lit up in his NFL debut. Fair enough, but what makes Patrick Ramsey so special that heíll be able to muster any offense against the Bearsí stout defense? PICK: Bears Ė theyíll lose the game 5-2

Philadelphia (-1.5) at Atlanta

Not many times the game of the week is on Monday Night Football, but early in the season we get gems like this one. This matchup pits two of the leagueís most exciting quarterbacks against one another. Both guys are fast, agile, extremely athletic, have cannon arms, make good decisions when things break down, and each led his team to the NFC Championship Game last year. Oh, and thereís one other thing they both have in common. What is it again? Oh, thatís right Ė both guys played for Big East schools in college. Thereís probably something else, but I canít think of it right now. Maybe if I go back and watch some of the coverage during Championship Week last year, one of the newscasts mentioned something about it. Iíll let you know.

As for the game itself, the teams are evenly matched in a lot of ways. Each teamís strength is the other teamís strength, and the weaknesses equal out in a lot of ways, too. Neither team has a dominant RB, instead relying on a balanced attack featuring several players. Both have excellent defenses, and two of the leagueís best head coaches. The big thing separating the two? The one thing Philadelphia possesses that neither Atlanta, nor any other team in the NFC possesses? Thatís right, you guessed it. David Akers. It will come down to a kick from Akers, and he will come through as the difference-maker.

(Ha, bet you thought I was gonna say T.O. there huh? Well, I like to be unpredictable. Too boring to suggest heíll be the difference-maker. This way, if it DOES come down to Akers, I can bask in my genius all week long.) PICK: Eagles

BEST BETS

Cincinnati (-3.5) at Cleveland

Did I miss something? Isnít Cincinnati one of the teams on the rise? And Cleveland is still a laughingstock, right? I mean, if something happened otherwise, please let me know. The Bengal offense is going to score pretty much at will this week, and the Brownsí "playmakers" will be held in check by an improving Bengal defense. I am fairly certain of this. Three and a half points for this game is Christmas in September, folks! PICK: Bengals

Indianapolis (-3) at Baltimore

For those who werenít with us last year, repeat after me: "Take the Colts and lay the points, take the Colts and lay the points, take...".

Seriously, itís not very difficult. You just do it until it stops working. With a hobbled Lewis, a thus-far-ineffective Boller, and a Colt offense still clicking on all cylinders, this isnít really a tough call. PICK: Colts

Minnesota (-6) vs. Tampa Bay

Donít count me among the people who think the departure of Randy Moss was a good thing. While I do believe Minnesota wins its division and challenges for the NFC crown, I donít believe weíll see the same offensive juggernaut weíve grown accustomed to the past few years. Daunte Culpepper, great as he is, canít do it alone. Donít tell me his numbers were fine without Moss last year. He had one great game without Randy that skewed the rest, but he had very pedestrian stats in several of those games. Now factor that in over a full season, with teams knowing they donít have to worry about Moss at all times Ė thatís huge. With that being said, Iím still picking them in this particular game, because I donít think Tampa has enough offensively to hang around with the Vikings anyway. I mostly said that whole thing about Moss to get it out of the way now, so that I can brag later in the season when Culpepper struggles to throw 30 touchdowns (like thatíd be SUCH an awful year, right?). For this week, I like the Vikes to roll and not only begin, but actually FINISH, a division title run. PICK: Vikings

Saint Louis (-5.5) at San Francisco

Five and a half? FIVE AND A HALF?!? Are you kidding me? The Niners may not score five and a half points this SEASON! PICK: Rams

(oh, and I donít care if my logic just made sense or not...the Rams will win with ease)

PICK OF THE WEEK: CINCINNATI BENGALS

Contact Michael Brown by mailing to brown@footballguys.com

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