It's time to start making those NFL picks again. Last year, we finished in the black against the spread, although not by much (29-26-2) and we could have gotten off to a great start last night because we loved the Giants but backward glances only distract from the task at hand.
So, here goes for 2008.
Cincinnati at Ravens (+2, 38 over-under) I'm always reluctant to pick games involving the home team for the obvious reason. You don't want emotion to play a role. To be brutally frank, you have to be a heck of a Ravens' fan to go with Baltimore Sunday. Rookie coach, rookie quarterback, rookie running back. Actually, I'm just as concerned with an uncertain defensive secondary and the team running around still signing offensive tackles days before the opener. The oddsmakers and bettors noticed, that's why the Ravens went from one-point favorites to two-point underdogs since this line opened. The smart move, I think, is the under here at 38 points. I believe the Ravens defense will rise to the occasion and the Ravens offense will struggle. Pick: Under (38).
New York Jets at Miami (+3) Another new coaching situation, this one in Miami with Tony Sparano. The quarterback situation with the two teams makes a natural storyline. Brett Favre in the strange role as quarterback of the Jets and the player he displaced in New York, Chad Pennington, now playing for the Dolphins. Quarterbacks aside, the huge contrast here is on the offensive lines. The Jets have been working to build a solid line ever since Eric Mangini arrived through both the draft and free agency. That's the type of thing that determines outcomes. Pick: Jets (-3)
Tampa Bay at New Orleans (-3) After a close call with Hurricane Gustav, New Orleans will have the Saints in the Superdome to open the 2008 season and that should give the home team and even bigger lift than usual. On the field, the Saints have a maturing, versatile offense that features Drew Brees, Reggie Bush, Deuce McAllister, Marques Colston and now Jeremy Shockey. Normally, I don't like picking against Tampa Bay's underrated quarterback Jeff Garcia but he can't play defense against what should be a very productive Saints offense. Pick: Saints (-3).
Houston at Pittsburgh (-6 ½). This game opened at 7 and naturally, if you like the underdog, you'd also like to get the full touchdown. Because of that, this game concerns me on the Texans' side of it. However, I think Houston can win this game outright if quarterback Matt Schaub takes care of the football. The Texans' defense could be the difference-maker here and former No. 1 draft pick DE Mario Williams the player who helps Houston score defensive points or at least gives Schaub a short field. Pick: Houston (+6 ½).