Thursday, September 09, 2010

Walker Sports NFL Week 1 Preview

After months of waiting it is finally here, the start of the NFL season. As has been the custom over the past few years we are blessed with a Thursday night edition of football to kick off the 2010 season. I’m not crazy about the Thursday night games, but with the looming NFL labor lockout, I’ll take as much football as I can get over the next four months. But that’s enough talk, let’s get down to some serious business, and of course I’m talking about gambling. Check out this week’s picks courtesy of Walker Sports

Minnesota Vikings v. New Orleans Saints -5.5: This is a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship game. Arguably one of the best conference title games ever played. Brett Favre did everything he could to lead the Vikings to victory and in the end, it was Brett being Brett that cost Minnesota a chance at a Super Bowl. The Vikings will be out for revenge on Thursday night, but despite only being 9 months removed from such a memorable game, a lot has changed.

Brett Favre claims he is ready to take the Vikings to the promise land, but this blogger has plenty of doubts about that. First off the injuries to the Vikings will hamper what was a prolific offense in 2009. No Sidney Rice means Favre will need some time to adjust as he looks for a new favorite receiver. Time is one thing the Saints defense does not allow quarterbacks to have. Despite having many of the same players, the Vikings are retooling their offense just a bit, and one has to expect there to be a small learning curve as a result.

The key to Thursday night’s game will be the Saints defense. We all know what the Saints offense can do with Drew Brees at the helm. You can expect plenty more of that. The key will be for the defense to generate as much pressure as they did last season. The Saints were successful in last year’s NFC title game because they attacked Brett Favre. That’s the way a Gregg Williams defense plays, they get to the quarterback and they put him on the ground every play. Part of the reason the Saints defense was so successful was due to their secondary. When a defensive coordinator can rely on his secondary to shut down receivers, it gives them the ability to send more players on blitz packages.

The spread for this game is sitting at Saints -5.5 as of Wednesday afternoon. While Minnesota fans may not like it, it is a respectable line. The Vikings will come crashing back down to earth after exceeding expectations last year. Combine that graded regression with the sheer insanity that will be the Super Dome on opening night, and you have a dangerous combination if you’re a Vikings fan.

Winners Saints win and cover.

Dallas Cowboys v. Washington Redskins +3.5: Walker Sports is based out of Washington DC, and it’s ‘Dallas Week’ in our nation’s capital. Now I’ll be the first to admit all the hype that the local media is circulating over this game is a bit humorous, but you have to appreciate what they are trying to do. After watching Fed Ex Field rock on Monday night for a college football game, there’s no reason it can’t do the same on Sunday night.

The Cowboys were many people’s pick to make a run to the Super Bowl, but after watching them in preseason action, there are plenty of question marks surrounding this team. Most notably is on the offensive line which has suffered some injuries to key players. Once the line began to collapse, Tony Romo had no time in the pocket, and was sacked 9 times during the preseason. I don’t care how good your skill positions are, if the offensive line cannot provide time for the quarterback it’s all a waste. Bottom line this unit has to play better, or it won’t matter who the Cowboys play because they will struggle.

The Washington Redskins have overhauled their entire team, and there will be immediate and obvious changes. Donovan McNabb is an obvious upgrade at quarterback. The biggest question surrounding McNabb is did he get enough reps during the preseason, since he missed the final two games with an ankle injury. In the backfield the Skins will once again call on Clinton Portis who appears to be in the best shape we have seen him in since 2007. On the defensive side of the ball, the Redskins have plenty of questions. Everyone knows about the Albert Haynesworth distraction, but there are bigger issues. Most importantly, the Skins made the switch from a 4-3 defense, to a 3-4, and while they appeared to make adjustments in the preseason, they will experience some growing pains. One glaring hole is apparent in their run defense.

The spread for this game sits at Washington +3.5. While Dallas may be the better team on paper, the injuries they are fighting on the offensive line are scary. As of Wednesday, three starting linemen did not practice for the Cowboys. This is not good when they are facing a team that is a virtual unknown. There is no film on the new look Redskins, and that element of surprise should be enough to get Washington over the hump.
Winner: Washington covers the 3.5

Baltimore Ravens v. New York Jets -2.5:: If you talk to a lot of people around the league there is a legit chance this Monday night match up could be a preview for the AFC Championship. The Jets were the darlings of the playoffs last year. Over the course of the offense the Jets have reached a level of exposure that only rivals the Cowboys. Head coach Rex Ryan is full of bravado when he speaks about his team, and with star cornerback Revis back in the fold he has plenty to be proud of when it comes to the Jet defense. Once again they will be a unit that terrorizes opposing teams. The front seven is stout against the run, and the secondary will isololate receivers and force quarterbacks to throw the ball into bad places. The glaring issue the Jets will face in 2010 is their offense. Simply put Mark Sanchez is not the answer at quarterback. From what we have seen during the preseason he has done little to advance his on the field skills or his leadership. When watching Sanchez play it becomes obvious he has lost some of that confidence he once had. The Baltimore Ravens are not the team you want to play when you are still looking for your confidence.

The Baltimore Ravens were the big movers over the offseason and now they are ready to make a run to the Super Bowl. Joe Flacco is the proven leader of what will be a high powered offense (never thought I’d say that about a Ravens team). He has the tools to make all the throws on the field. He also has an arsenal of receivers to work with. Derrick Mason, TJ. Hoosyamamma, and Anquan Boldin create a trio that even the Jets will struggle to cover. At some point the Jets will have to rely on rookie corner Kyle Wilson to cover one of this big three, and that is when the Ravens will attack. If the passing game is in doubt, Baltimore can turn to one of the best ground games in the league. Ray Rice has proven to be an all around star. I’m expecting big things from him this year, (think Marshall Faulk in 1999/00). He is a powerful back who has the burst to run away from defenders and he can catch the ball coming out of the back field. Expect the Ravens to spread the ball around and look to exploit the Jets defense when they shift into their nickel packages.

From the looks of the line, people believe all the preseason hype surrounding the Jets. Currently the line favors the Jets at -2.5. I would have gone with this line in a heartbeat a month ago, but after watching the Jets closely this preseason I’m simply not sold on their ability on offense. Mark Sanchez has been awful, and I don’t expect him to improve. Even if it is a depleted Ravens defense, it is still Baltimore and they know how to play. I am also a huge fan of the revamped Ravens offense. If they can go up early, it could be a long day for Rex Ryan’s boys.

Winner: Ravens win and cover the 2.5

Cincinnati Bengals v. New England Patriots -4.5:: Get your popcorn ready because the bright lights are on every time Ocho Cinco and T.O. take the field. This time they are making their regular season debue as teammates when the Bengals take on the New England Patriots. The Bengals made a few tweaks to their offense, and now it’s time for them show what they can do. Surprising to most people last season the Bengals were a run first team. Quarterback Carson Palmer had one of his worst year’s on record, but the offense was bailed out by the efforts of Cedric Benson who ran the ball like a mad man. The key for the Bengals in 2010 will be finding a balance and not abandoning their running game all together.

The New England Patriots are still clinging to the last hopes of greatness they experienced in the early 2000’s. However, with each passing year those memories fade farther and farther away. The Patriots haven’t won a playoff game since 2007, and this year they will have their hands full just making the playoffs. Anyways, I’m not here to break down the Pats season just what they are going to do on Sunday. The biggest obstacle for the Patriots on Sunday will be adjusting to a new look defense. New England replaced five of their starters on defense over the offseason. The average amount of their experience in their secondary is 1.5 years, not exactly what you want when you’re facing one of the best receiver duos in football. Adding to the Patriots problems is the car accident Tom Brady got into on Thursday morning (Boston drivers do suck). While it is reported he is okay, an accident can leave a person sore for a few days.

The spread on the game favors New England at -4.5. This is a real tricky game to predict. I’m of the belief that the Bengals have bought into their own hype a bit too much this season. That being said, I don’t think there will be a massive meltdown until later in the season. It’s difficult to predict what the Patriots will do this year, but what I do know is even in their best years they can get off to slow starts. An inexperienced secondary will haunt them when they cannot run their typically blitz schemes.

Winner Cincinnati Bengals cover the 4.5 point spread.


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