Thursday, September 10, 2009

NFL pool is up and running

The NFL pool is going now at chez106.com. It took a while to get it up there, it took a while to get the spreads in, but just in time for tonight's first game of the season, it's good to go. You have to go to the main page, then click on "music and stuff", then click on "contests", then scroll down past the World Of Sports, and you can see the football pool. Click on the little link at the bottom on the right, then click "register" once you're in. It's that simple!

Also new this year will be some serious NFL parties at Tail Gators on Merivale Road. I'll be hosting one every month, showcasing one game in particular and hanging out there from about 1:00 until 8:00 (as is my understanding). There will be a poker event, where you can win your way into the World Poker Tour. There will also be a prize for knocking me out of the poker game. Oh, and football. Prizes for all kinds of football-related games, and of course we'll be giving out the NFL team jerseys that are being given away by Tail Gators to the weekly winners in the CHEZ NFL pool. First event takes place on the 20th of September - I'll provide more details when I know exactly what the hell it is I'm doing there.

In the meantime, week one is kicking off tonight with the Steelers and Titans. And, as I do every year, I am going to make predictions here on my blog. And, as I do every year, I will caution you not to follow my advice. I am doing this for myself, merely so I have a record of my pool picks before the games take place, and I can then reference them later should a discrepancy arise in one of my pools. I didn't win any of my pools last year, so my advice will likely help no one.

Titans at Pittsburgh (Line: Steelers by 6):
I think the line is too big. I like the Steelers, at home in prime time, where they are virtually unbeatable. But remember, the Titans had the best record in football last year, and they are no slouches on the road. Most of their team remains intact. But in prime time, I will take the Steelers to win. Titans to cover. Pittsburgh 23-20.
Verdict (Steelers 13-10): Bang on. Even if Hines Ward had held onto the ball at the end of the game, it still would have been a 3-point Steeler victory. The Titans aren't quite the team they were last year, but they are still awfully good. They miss Albert Haynesworth quite a bit, it appears. And Pittsburgh has some big questions with their running game, and could be hurting with Polamalu out of the lineup for a few weeks. But they should still win more than they lose.

Miami at Atlanta (Line: Falcons by 4):
Were this game in Miami, I would like the Dolphins. I am not convinced that either team is as good as their records indicated last year, and I expect Matt Ryan to suffer from a sophomore jinx. But I expect the Fish to come down to earth a little bit harder, and I think an above-average team in the NFC is actually better than an above-average team in the AFC this season. Atlanta to win and cover. Just. Falcons 25-20.
Verdict (Falcons 19-7): The Falcons did win, and did cover, but I didn't think they would do it this easily. Matt Ryan certainly looked better than I thought he would, and the Falcons defense appears to have stepped up some. Or, the Dolphins fall has been faster than even I anticipated.

Kansas City at Baltimore (Line: Ravens by 13):
I think this line could be 20 and I would still pick the Ravens to cover. The Ravens are awfully close to being one of the elite teams in the AFC (Colts, Patriots, Steelers), and the Chiefs will be abysmal this year. Sophomore jinx won't happen to Joe Flacco, because the team around him is superb and he doesn't have to do much anyway. Ravens, 33-10.
Verdict (Ravens, 38-24): The Chiefs actually came to play, keeping the game tied at 24 until Joe Flacco got rolling late. If Flacco can look like this, or at least close to it, for the rest of the year, the Ravens could be the best team in football.

Philadelphia at Carolina (Line: Eagles by 2):
I like both these teams. I like the Eagles more. This will be their first game on their way to the playoffs and eventually the Super Bowl. The Eagles weren't that good on the road last year - this year they will be far better. And Carolina was unbeaten at home last year. Which means this is a really tough one to call. I'm going to chicken out and say Eagles win, Panthers cover. Eagles, 21-20.
Verdict (Eagles 38-10): I shouldn't have chickened out. The Eagles did win, but the Panthers came nowhere near covering the spread. Looks like that home playoff loss they took last year was more indicative of their level than was their 8-0 home record during the season. And the Eagles are that good.

Denver at Cincinnati (Line: Bengals by 4):
Both these teams are just awful. But the Bengals look to have had a reasonably productive off-season and might be just bad, rather than dreadful, this year. The Broncos are in disarray and I think they will be at the very bottom of the league this season. Bengals to win and cover. Cincinnati, 27-17.
Verdict (Denver, 12-7): Seriously? Seven points by the Bengals offense, with Carson Palmer back and playing against that dreadful, dreadful Denver defense? How sad. The Broncos are still truly, truly awful. But maybe the Bengals will NOT be the surprise team people think they will this season. I was wrong, and...wrong.

Minnesota at Cleveland (Line: Vikings by 4):
Favre's going to start the season hot. The Browns just announced their starting QB a couple of days ago. Brady Quinn isn't going to come out of the gate on fire, thanks Mangenius. Vikings to win big. Minnesota, 30-13.
Verdict (Vikings, 34-20): Brett Favre will start the season hot. Check. Vikings win big. Check. Brady Quinn will be ineffective, average at best. Check.

New York Jets at Houston (Line: Texans by 5.5):
Mark Sanchez isn't winning this debut. Up against that Texans defense, he will be shaken, stirred and totally crushed. The Jets just don't have the protection or weapons he needs to make a game of this. Houston will have a good year, the Jets will not, and it all starts here. Texans, 30-14.
Verdict (Jets, 24-7): This is the biggest stunner of the week for me. Mark Sanchez isn't winning? Or, he will throw for 272 yards against what I thought was a pretty darn good Houston pass defense. And have the Jets actually gotten...better on D? Well, colour me very wrong.

Jacksonville at Indianapolis (Line: Colts by 7):
Colts will be great, again, like they are every year. The Jaguars will be a little better this season, but not enough to cover the spread against Peyton Manning in Game One. Colts, 34-21.
Verdict (Colts, 14-12): Jaguars kept it close, and covered the spread. Good for them. They do tend to play Indy very tight and very well. I wouldn't read too much into their effort for the rest of the year though.

Detroit at New Orleans (Line: Saints by 13):
The Lions, of course, will not go 0-16 this season. But they won't be good. They started to play reasonably well in their last few losses of last season, and they will want to make a game of this one. Matt Stafford gets a pretty easy defense in his first ever start in the NFL, and I think he will do OK. The Saints D is terrible. Their offense is too good for them not to win the game, but I think it will be closer than this spread. Saints, 42-35.
Verdict (Saints, 45-27): It could have been closer. Matt Stafford really did look good in his NFL debut. But the Saints are so explosive on offense that they blew the game wide open toward the end. This is a team you will have to outscore in shootouts this year, beating up on their defense and keeping that offense off the field.

Dallas at Tampa Bay (Line: Cowboys by 6):
I think this will be a disaster year for Tony Romo and the Cowboys. Or maybe I just hope that. The new stadium, the distractions, this team needs no more distractions. Starting away from that new dome is good for them though, and the Buccaneers are almost certain to have a worse season when it's all said and done. Cowboys, 24-14.
Verdict (Cowboys, 34-21): Pretty darn close. Cowboys did cover, did win, and looked a heck of a lot better than the awful Bucs. Wait until they hit some good competition though. Like, their division.

San Francisco at Arizona (Line: Cardinals by 6.5):
The Niners played the Cardinals very, very close last season. And the Cards have lost a step since their Super Bowl appearance. With Larry Fitzgerald catching passes from Kurt Warner, they will win this game. But the Niners will make it close. Cardinals, 23-21.
Verdict (Niners, 20-16): They certainly made it close. And then some. The Cardinals will not have the year they had last year, but it looks as though the Niners might actually be a contender for that division. Really? I guess...

Washington at New York Giants (Line: Giants by 6.5):
The Giants remain very, very good. The Skins aren't awful, but they will finish third or fourth in the division, and the Giants know that the division games will be the ones that count biggest when the season ends. They will want to make a statement in Game One. And they will. Giants, 27-10.
Verdict (Giants, 23-17): Well, not quite the statement I was expecting. They hit the spread pretty much bang-on, and Washington managed to cover. The Giants still look like the far superior team here though.

St. Louis at Seattle (Line: Seahawks by 8.5):
The Seahawks look surprisingly improved since even the start of the preseason. But they are still not a great team, or even a good one. Although the Rams are dreadful, they are not 9 points worse than the Hawks, even in Seattle. Seahawks, 27-24.
Verdict (Seahawks 28-0): Wow. The Rams are nine points worse than the Seahawks. In fact, they are 28 points worse. This team just kept shooting themselves in the foot, over and over and over. Which meant they couldn't score. Or walk.

Chicago at Green Bay (Line: Packers by 3.5):
Both these teams will be good this year. I would take Chicago if the game were in Chicago. But it's in Green Bay, and the Packers are looking at the playoffs again. Aaron Rodgers will be good, the defense will be good, Greg Jennings will have a big game, and the Pack will win. Packers, 21-13.
Verdict (Packers 21-15): Pretty darn close. Looked for a while like Cutler would rebound from a truly awful first half (where he threw three picks - it could have been six) and lead the Bears to victory. But nope. You know, it was just that one safety that kept me from being totally right.

Buffalo at New England (Line: Patriots by 10.5):
Terrell Owens is going to make the Bills better. But with New England getting Brady back, they are once again the team to beat in the AFC. The Bills will not finish with a winning record, the Patriots will win this division easily, and it all begins with a beatdown Week One. Patriots, 35-17.
Verdict (Patriots, 25-24): Well, that wasn't exactly a beatdown, was it? I was pretty wrong there. I liked the way the Patriots still don't lose their composure, and there remains something terribly inevitable about that team where even down 24-13 I just expect them to win. And in Game One, they did.

San Diego at Oakland (Line: Chargers by 9.5):
San Diego barely needs to show up this year to win their weaksauce division. They can half-ass their way through every single game. And I predict that, to start their season, they will. I think that with a concerted effort, they could pound Oakland worse than any other game this week. But I don't think they will. I think they will squeak by with a slim margin of victory. Chargers, 21-18.
Verdict (San Diego, 24-20): Pretty much dead on here. The Chargers have way more talent than the Raiders, and ought to destroy this team. But they allowed themselves to get punched in the mouth throughout the first half, and it took a few young-QB mistakes from JaMarcus Russell to give them the win. It also looks like Philip Rivers is not quite in the form he showed at the end of last year. The Chargers will still, of course, win their division easily.

Overall: This week, kicking off the year, I went 13-3 straight up, 8-8 against the spread. That's a pretty messed up discrepancy.

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