NFL Picks, Week 1: The Peyton Manning Experiment Gets Its First Big Test

Aug. 30, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback (18) Peyton Manning against the Arizona Cardinals during a preseason game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

The NFL is back, and we've picks and point spreads for all 15 games this weekend. From Peyton Manning's Broncos debut to the 49ers and Packers to a Monday night doubleheader, and everything in between.

The NFL is back, and that means it's time to start gambling again. And there's no better time to gamble than the first week of the season because there's no other week where you'll bring more irrational confidence to the table. In the first week of the year, you know who's good, you know who's underrated, you know who's overrated, and it all makes perfect sense right up until the games start.

On Sunday, it all goes to hell and you feel like an idiot for ever believing in [Team X] and not seeing the upset by [Team Y] that should have been OBVIOUS. Until then? We're all experts!

With one exception: Peyton Manning is a complete wild card. He plays the Steelers on Sunday Night this week, and we really have no idea what to expect. Look at his preseason numbers.

  • 16-23 for 177 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs against the Seahawks. This sorta seems like the Peyton Manning we should expect this year -- a good quarterback who makes just a few more big mistakes than he used to and ultimately can't do enough to carry the Broncos. But then ...
  • 10-12 for 122 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs against the 49ers. Just ruthlessly efficient -- where he toys with every defense and makes it all look easy and turns some random dude like Jacob Tamme into a superstar. Like a better version of Favre's good season with the Vikings a few years ago. This is the Peyton Manning the entire league should fear. Because even if Peyton's not the player he used to be, we're still talking about one of the three or four greatest QBs of all time. One more ridiculous season doesn't seem that far-fetched.

So anyway, it's an open question: Will we see the old Peyton Manning, or just Old Peyton Manning? Week 1 should go a long way toward setting our expectations. Until then, just like always, it's terrifying to bet against Peyton Manning. Now then, PICKS.


More: Best Week 1 Games | NFL Odds | 21 Season Predictions


We finished last season above .500 and then went 9-2 in the playoffs, and then I proceeded to lose all the money I made in the NFL playoffs betting on a Pacers-Heat regular season game. The Heat were playing their third game in three nights and the Pacers were at home, so I took the points and bet big on Hibbert and co. Miami was up 30 by halftime:

Things were going so well ... that James turned to the crowd and acted like he was reeling in a fish. Then during a third-quarter timeout, Mike Miller grabbed something resembling a rope from the team trainer and acted like he was going to bring in a steer. There were smiles all around all night long.

Gambling is stupid and you shouldn't do it. On that note... All picks in BOLD.

Cowboys (+3.5) at Giants -- Hey, starting off with a win!

Sadly, Collinsworth went way under with the passive agressive shots at Dez. Instead he and Al Michaels spent much of the three hours making smug comments about the refs, before Collinsworth told us at the end that they'd actually done a pretty good job. Okay then!

You know what's unfair about being a replacement ref? ALL REFS SUCK. In any sport at any level, but especially pro football and basketball, where everyone's so insanely athletic that keeping track of every penalty is completely impossible. Nobody's saying the replacement refs are great or anything, but if we wanted to scrutinize every call the normal refs made or missed, you'd have just as much shady material to work with. So shoutout to the replacements. I'm rooting for you guys, because you're in a no-win situation.

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(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Colts at Bears (-10) -- Being a rookie quarterback would be so, so awful. Last year Andrew Luck opened his season on a top 10 team playing San Jose State and won 57-3, and the entire country loved him for Playing The Right Way and being white and smart and getting his degree and all that. This year he has an overmatched offensive line and horrible wide receivers, and he begins the year against mutant humans like Brian Ulracher, Lance Briggs and Julius Peppers, each of whom can and will tear his body in half. And he was born two years two late, so instead of Sam Bradford's contract (6 years, 78 million), he's got a 5-year deal for $22 million. He's got that degree, though!

Eagles (-9.5) at Browns -- Did you hear about the Philadelphia woman who got arrested this week? It's amazing:

Police say it was approximately 7:30 a.m. Thursday when a call was received at Philadelphia police airport headquarters from a person stating that a specific individual would attempt to get past TSA and board a flight to somewhere in Texas with a dangerous and hazardous substance.

"It was alleged that a male, and a name was given, would attempt to get onto an airplane en route somewhere in Texas with a dangerous or hazardous substance," Sullivan said.

Police say that information was immediately given to the FBI and TSA. It was then confirmed that the man identified in the tip call was on US Airways flight 1267 that had already departed at 7:39 a.m. to Dallas.

[...]

Bethlehem native, Mathew Pirozzi was on his way to a golf trip in Texas when the flight was interrupted and federal agents stormed on the plane.

"Midway down the plane, they found the passenger and they drew weapons on him, got him out of his seat and got him off the plane rather quickly," Pirozzi said.

HOLY SHIT.

The victim was clearly excited about his trip to Dallas as he snapped pictures of himself on the plane after he settled into his seat. A half hour later, he posted this message on Facebook, "I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty disappointed in US Airways currenlty. We just spent a half hour in the air to be notified that that the plane 'has technical difficulties' and had to fly back! Flight 1267 Cancelled."

A friend commented back, "I just seen on the news that your plane has been landed because of a suspicious passenger. Are you the suspicious passenger?"

It turned out he was.

You do NOT mess with Philly women.

Philadelphia fans get a bad rap for the booing Santa Claus thing, yes. But that doesn't mean people from Philadelphia AREN'T every bit as grimy and ruthless and amazing as their reputation suggests. If anything, the stupid Santa Claus story just distracts people from the truly awesome stuff like the ex-girlfriend who calls in a bomb threat to the FBI. And for the record, some Patriots fan in Revere Beach is probably upset she didn't think of that idea first. Anyway, GO EAGLES.

Rams (+7.5) at Lions -- Hey, Jeff Fisher's mustache is back!

Dolphins at Texans (-13) -- This line can't be high enough. Have people seen the Texans defense? They are going to absolutely destroy poor Ryan Tannehill, and that's before the Houston offense takes the field and eviscerates whatever shambles defense Miami trots out on the other end. Having said all that, Arian Foster will probably tear his ACL on the first drive and Miami will win outright, just because. The NFL makes no sense sometimes.

Falcons (-3) at Chiefs -- We all should have drafted Julio Jones in fantasy this year.

Jaguars (+3.5) at Vikings -- Do you think if Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert had been drafted in the fourth round, they'd eventually turn into good quarterbacks? There would be less pressure on them, for one thing, but there would also be less pressure on the coaches to play them immediately, giving them two or three years to learn without getting psychologically destroyed as overmatched rookies, and then maybe one of them takes all their natural gifts and turns into Tony Romo. Just saying: reaching for bad quarterbacks and then playing them too early is a great way for mediocre teams to stay mediocre forever.

Redskins at Saints (-7.5) -- Like Kirk Cousins. He isn't ready now, but in three years? Who knows. RG3 seems like he IS ready now, which will only make it sadder when the Skins ruin him.

Unrelated: As a D.C. resident, I really can't overstate how confused I was when I encountered "FNO" in Georgetown last night. At first I saw a bunch of camera flashes and saw what I thought was a wedding party inside one store and thought, "Cool place for a wedding party, I guess." Then I kept driving and saw camera flashes going off in like five other stores and got pretty freaked out. I looked closer and there were wedding parties in ALL OF THEM. I felt very confused and alone at this point. There were flashes everywhere and everyone was wearing way too much makeup and there was a red carpet photo shoot on a street corner and I had no idea WHY IT WAS HAPPENING. Anyway, I escaped Georgetown and later found out through Facebook it was this #FNO event, where everyone dresses up and goes around to different stores and has cocktail parties. Or something. I still have no idea why it was happening, but I hope it never happens again. And if you're ever thinking of moving to Georgetown, you should probably just move to New Orleans instead.

Bills (+3) at Jets -- Ah, it's going to be so much fun to bet against the Jets for the first few weeks of the year, before Vegas realizes how terrible this team is.

This is a preview of the Bills against the Jets offensive line.

Seahawks (-3) at Cardinals -- #FreeLarryFitzgerald.

49ers at Green Bay (-5) -- Aaron Rodgers took time this week to defend Alex Smith, his fellow 2005 draftee:

Rodgers stook up for Smith, who was drafted No. 1 overall in 2005 (23 spots in front of the 2011 MVP) by the team the Northern California native hoped to play for, and bristled this week at the notion that Smith is merely a "game manager."

"I think that term is a condescending term for quarterbacks," Rodgers said.

"I don't think he's a game manager. I think he's a guy who takes care of the football and makes a lot of plays. I don't think he got the respect that he deserves. I've been friends with him since we were 21 and I've followed his career."

Oh come on. Alex Smith is the DICTIONARY DEFINITION of game manager. Except for that one game against New Orleans in the playoffs, Alex Smith succeeded last year almost entirely because he didn't screw anything up. That's all San Francisco ever needed. And he was good at it. On Sunday they'll need more, and I refuse to believe Alex Smith will give it to them.

Patriots (-6) at Titans -- If you ever find yourself getting jealous of the Patriots, just remember that 80 percent of Boston secretly hates Tom Brady and everything he represents. He's basically the polar opposite of Larry Bird, and you know it's got to drive Boston fans CRAZY. If Tom Brady were a New York Jets quarterback who lost his last two Super Bowls, Boston fans would spend DECADES talking about what a worthless primadonna he became.

Tom Brady and his Uggs commercials are not Boston. THIS is Boston.

Or more specifically, Kizzy, Marky Mark's friend who pops up at 1:45 in that video. THAT is Boston. Kizzy wouldn't be caught dead in Uggs or some GQ fashion spread. Kizzy bought his suit off the rack in Watertown, thank you very much. Yeah Kizzy has a black eye, what of it? Kizzy got into a barfight down at the Cape last weekend. But it's all good because his uncle knows the D.A. down there so it'll get taken care of. And I'm telling you, Kizzy and all his friends will never say it, but they secretly hate the most successful athlete their city's had in decades. So much. POW!

(HT to Haines for uncovering the greatest video in YouTube history)

Panthers (-2.5) at Bucs -- CAM IS BACK. In my NFL preview this week I said Cam will struggle this year, and I stand by that, but goddamn I'm excited to watch him play football again.

Steelers at Broncos (-2) -- A complete toss-up, you say? Well then we're taking the Broncos, because it's always fun to root against the Steelers.

Bengals at Ravens (-6.5) -- Hey, this is actually a pretty big game.

Chargers at Raiders (-1) -- Man, I can't wait to not watch this game Monday night.

And ... Alright! Enjoy the games this weekend. And especially Cam.

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(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

OVERALL RECORD: 1-0

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