1:00 p.m. ET
Miami at Atlanta (-4)
Will Matt Ryan fall prey to the sophomore slump? I know I did when I was a sophomore. But then I worked on my core strength and saw a doctor about my scoliosis. And by junior year I had my first date! (She still had terrible posture, unfortunately.)
My pick: Miami (and to win)
Denver at Cincinnati (-4)
Marvin Lewis better win this year or he's going to lose his job. (No, just kidding. I say that every year. Apparently Bengals management doesn't give a crap about winning.)
My pick: Cincinnati***
Minnesota at Cleveland (+3.5)
Eric Mangini is still trying to keep his starting quarterback a secret. But Mangini sucks at trying to keep secrets. Take his name, for example. Dude, it doesn't matter how you spell it, we know your ancestors immigrated here from Italy due to being discriminated against in their homeland for their manginas.
My pick: Minnesota
Jacksonville at Indianapolis (-7)
The Colts have a new head coach, but there is some continuity on the staff in that offensive coordinator Tom Moore is still in place. It would have been hard for Peyton Manning to learn all new plays to ignore.
My pick: Indianapolis
Detroit at New Orleans (-13)
Relax, Lions fans. Don't freak out and claim Matthew Stafford is the messiah when he puts up gaudy stats in this game. He's playing against the Saints defense. They suck. And, really, a line like 14-for-29 with 140 yards and an interception is not a gaudy passing line. It's just that you're Lions fans and you don't know any better.
My pick: New Orleans
Dallas at Tampa Bay (+6)
The Cowboys weren't very good when Terrell Owens was on the team. But at least they were interesting. Now they're not very good and boring. And what a perfect segue for me to talk about the Buccaneers. Hey, did you ever notice that the Buccaneers are not very good and boring?
My pick: Dallas
Philadelphia at Carolina (+2.5)
Their defensive coordinator passed away. Their starting running back is hurt all the time. Their best linebacker is out for the year. Their starting quarterback is inconsistent. They have a quarterback controversy in the waiting. And their head coach can't win a big game. Some people are way too high on this Eagles team. Like, Andy Reid blood sugar-high after a lunchtime trip to Krispy Kreme.
My pick: Carolina (and to win)
Kansas City at Baltimore (-12.5)
Matt Cassel was brought in to be the savior in Kansas City. That's something Joe Montana could not do. But I'm totally sure someone of Matt Cassel's ability will succeed where Joe Montana could not.
My pick: Baltimore
New York Jets at Houston (-4.5)
Many people are picking the Texans as a breakout team this year. And I agree. I think by season's end the percentage of Americans who have heard of the Houston Texans will grow from 3.7-percent well into the lows 4.0s. Maybe even as high as 4.5 in the very unlikely circumstance they make the playoffs.
My pick: Houston***
4:15 p.m. ET
Washington at New York Giants (-6.5)
The current line among Giants homers for Eli Manning's continued mediocrity is that his accuracy problems are due to the swirling winds at Giants Stadium. (They're still working on a theory for road games.) Even if that's true (it's not), what the theory doesn't take into account is the whole chicken-or-the-egg thing. You've heard how the single flap of a butterfly's wing can lead to a massive hurricane or a tornado. Imagine the sort of weather disturbance caused by a flipping and flopping and wobbling Eli Manning pass. We're lucky we're not all dead.
My pick: New York Giants
San Francisco at Arizona (-6.5)
After Troy Polamalu's injury, Larry Fitzgerald has to be legitimately concerned for his health. But I think the Madden "curse" has something especially cruel in store for him. He won't be hurt. Instead, Kurt Warner will be hurt. And Fitzgerald will have to play with Matt Leinart as his quarterback. Mwuah-ha-ha-ha-ha.
My pick: Arizona
St. Louis at Seattle (-8)
Many think the Seahawks will be back in playoff contention this year. And they probably will. But I'm not sure it's good when your head coach is considered the dumber version of Jim Mora, Sr.
My pick: Seattle
8:20 p.m. ET
Chicago at Green Bay (-3.5)
With complimentary lighting, it's possible to make Jay Cutler look like he doesn't have a double chin. Unfortunately, there's no sort of trick that can make Jay Cutler not seem like a divisive prick.
My pick: Green Bay
Buffalo at New England (-10.5)
How ineffective has Buffalo's offense been? So bad it may only score 20 or so points on New England's defense.
My pick: New England
San Diego at Oakland (+9)
This game ends the opening week of the NFL and doesn't kickoff until 10:15 p.m. ET. It's an appropriate late start for what is essentially a snuff film.
My pick: San Diego
— THURSDAY PICK NOW BELOW —
Last week vs. spread: n/a
Last week just winners: n/a
- – – – -
Season vs. spread: n/a
Season just winners: n/a
- – – – -
***Lukewarm Locks last week: n/a
***Lukewarm Locks last season: n/a
Tennessee at Pittsburgh (-6.5)
Trying to handicap games this early in the season is a futile effort. There is nothing to draw on. No previous games. No idea which rookies might contribute. No idea who might get the bulk of the carries on some teams. No way to know who's lost a step. Nothing.
It's a waste of time. There is no way to accurately predict the outcome of an early season game. And don't let anyone try to tell you otherwise.
That said, I am making my pick in this game a Lukewarm Lock. Why? Because I'm a moron.
Anyhoo … here are some actual predictions I have for the outcome of this game.
The winner of the game will have the following said about them in the media, almost verbatim, despite it being only one game in a very, very long season …
— "It's only Week 1, but winning this game, on this stage, against a high-quality opponent, proves they are a clear Super Bowl favorite."
— "Tonight they have served notice to the rest of the AFC that the road to the Super Bowl this year goes through them."
— "Teams like the Patriots and Colts are the NFL's glamour teams, and Brett Favre and Michael Vick have been garnering all the headlines, but flying under the radar all this time is a championship-caliber team. And that's just how they like it."
And the loser will have the following said about them in the media, also almost verbatim, despite it being only one game in a very, very long season …
— "They entered the season full of hope and with huge goals, and while this team still has potential, you have to wonder if it's time to hit the panic button after tonight's performance."
— "0-1 is just 0-1. One game. But 0-2 is a pretty deep hole for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Next week is a already a must-win. Lose that and they're on the ropes, about to be knocked out."
— "Seriously, how is Kerry Collins still starting for an NFL team? Especially an NFL team that thinks it has a chance to win the Super Bowl? That old drunk suuuuuuucks."