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(home team in CAPS)

A word to the wise: work up a decent lather before bursting into an all out assault on Vegas. The sharps are formidable, particularly with several months to prep for Week 1. No need to slide down the mountain before mid-September. Tread lightly, grab momentum!

Atlanta Falcons and NEW ORLEANS SAINTS OVER 54: Handicapping, 101. Two elite QB’s with plenty of weapons on a fast surface with a comfy, controlled dome climate generally equates to a ton of scores. Brees and Ryan reward this play with 35 + points in the 1st half alone, making the final 30 minutes “Coast City.” Enjoy an early gift.

Elite vs elite.

Elite vs elite.

Kansas City Chiefs (-4) over JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: The equivalent of a tap-in putt for Andy Reid as the removal of the stench suffocating KC gets off to a quick start with a road win and cover. Beware, however, as Alex Smith is more dink and dunk than downfield, so a blowout seems unlikely. Still, the Jags are road kill once more in the AFC while the Chiefs should be in the mix for a WC. Better talent, better coaching. KC handles Blaine Gabbert and the Jags.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-9.5) OVER Oakland Raiders: I’m not sold on Indy making a return trip to the playoffs, but I am very aware of the frightening dearth of talent Dennis Allen has to “work” with. It’s not his fault his GM has failed to stock the cupboards with a viable NFL roster. This game opened at 7 and has ballooned nearly three full points for a reason. Act fast, because the number ain’t going south. Indy exploits the Silver and Black’s deplorable offensive line and hangs a demoralizing loss on the worst team in the NFL. They’re baaaaaad. Biggest play of the day. By the way, anyone else think Reggie McKenzie resembles a “chubby” Blake Griffin?

Cincinnati Bengals and CHICAGO BEARS OVER 41.5: With back-to-back playoff appearances on their resume for the first time since the 80’s, the Bengals bring a wealth of explosive and hungry talent to the Windy City for a marquee matchup with the Bears. Injuries to Jay Cutler the past two seasons have derailed positive starts, but with QB-friendly Marc Trestman now calling the shots, look for Cutler to have his best season to date. Not sure this one climbs into the 30’s, but with a relatively low total of 41, lucky for you, it won’t have to. Roll with the over.

The next generation is here. #beast

The next generation is here. #beast

Arizona Cardinals and ST. LOUIS RAMS OVER 41.5: Bruce Arians looks to shore things up offensively with a vertical style that will match Carson Palmer’s skill set nicely. Both teams are trending in the right direction, particularly Jeff Fisher’s squad. In the bloodbath knows as the NFC West, the Rams, not the Niners or Seahawks, owed the best divisional record in ’12. (4-1-1) It’s officially time for Mr Bradford to step up. While this game lacks national sizzle, it has under-the-radar intrigue. Welcome back, Larry Fitzgerald. Over.

NEW YORK JETS (+3.5) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers: While the Jets have very publicly staged yet another QB circus, they have enough elements to hang at home against a team with QB and injury issues of their own. Darrelle Revis hasn’t played a meaningful snap in a year and will undoubtedly be very rusty. The Jets offensive line and defense is stout enough to keep things interesting before they become unraveled in Week 2 vs the Pats. If you’re patient, you might gain 1/2 point Sunday morning with some late action on the Bucs. Capitalize as Gang Green registers a surprise and possibly rare cover.

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