September is a time for prognostications. I made my unflinching, heroic Super Bowl and player award picks in our 2013 NFL season preview, and since those have yet to be proven wrong, it seems like a positive omen for spitting out the weekly picks piece.
The spread is indicated in parentheses. Lines come via Odds Shark and are the most recent projections from the good people who do this kind of thing. My picks, against the spread, are italicized. In the comments, you can share your picks, praise this display of football prescience or spew some vitriol, within certain boundaries.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Boncos (-7 1/2)
Remember this game? If you're a Broncos fan, you probably spent the last seven months trying to forget. Then the NFL came and hung Joe Flacco banners up and down 16th Street and a massive one on the front of [corporate sponsor named] Mile High Stadium. Earlier in the week, I was pretty confident that the Broncos would take this one, but John Fox won't have Champ Bailey in the secondary this week, in all likelihood. Throw in the Von Miller suspension, and Joe Flacco could land a few deep strikes just to troll fans further.
Peyton Manning in 10-4 in season openers through his career. I think he'll be 11-4 on Friday morning, but you can take Baltimore to cover the spread with confidence.
New England Patriots (-10) vs. Buffalo Bills
I am looking forward to what Mike Pettine, the Bills' defensive coordinator, can do with this group. Unfortunately, he is not gifted with magic heeling powers that would get Jairus Byrd and Stephon Gilmore on the field this week. You don't have a chance against New England with a depleted secondary.
Seattle Seahawks (-3 1/2) vs. Carolina Panters
That line seems low, considering how many pundits have Seattle as a Super Bowl pick. Traveling from the West Coast for a 1 p.m. game on the East Coast isn't easy, and the Seahawks have struggled with that in the past. Expect that to change this year.
More importantly, this game has the potential to produce some burning hot sports takes. I'm giddy just thinking about some crusty newspaper guy sharpening his pencil to juxtapose Cam Newton with Russell Wilson.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Chicago Bears (-3)
A three-point edge for the home team is essentially an even line. So does that mean the Bears and the Bengals are on equal footing? Uh, no. We spent the better part of August making the Bengals a darling pick for the postseason. They have a tough defense and an offense loaded with weapons. But the Bears and the Bengals have something in common: unlovable quarterbacks.
Miami Dolphins vs. Cleveland Browns (-1)
So much hope on the field with these two teams. Hope and desperation. Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland is hoping that he can be the one exception among teams that spent big in the offseason only to flop. But a game against Cleveland's front seven ought to be a good reminder that he forgot about getting a left tackle. The Browns finally have something on the horizon, if only the owner can escape federal indictment.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions (-5 1/2)
One of these teams will end up in the NFC North basement. Let the race begin!
Oakland Raiders vs. Indianapolis Colts (-10)
I get the sense that we're about to witness history. The Raiders are in bad shape, recovering from years of mismanagement. In light of the Matt Flynn trade, we can't be 100 percent sure that the post-Al Davis era will be any better. Are we going to see an 0-16 team this year? Oakland's one hope is that this is the one game Darren McFadden should be healthy, at least for the first half.
Kansas City Chiefs (-4) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
The party line on the Chiefs is that it's a talented team that underachieved last season. If there's one man who can shatter that narrative, it's Blaine Gabbert ... just kidding. Jacksonville isn't going to get noticeably better until the team can erase one of Gene Smith's biggest mistakes. The good news is that the Jags should be in the running for Teddy Bridgewater.
There's not a bigger mismatch this week -- outside of Buffalo -- than the Falcons' offense against the Saints' defense. Someone in Vegas must be expecting a shoot out with a line like that.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3) vs. New York Jets
Darrelle Revis, meet Geno Smith. Geno Smith, meet Darrelle Revis.
Tennessee Titans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (-7)
Once upon a time, someone listed Ben Roethlisberger's name in the player comparison section of a Jake Locker scouting report. Nate Washington made that same link in July. The Better Business Bureau has been notified of this misleading advertisement.
Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers (-4 1/2)
Did the Packers figure out this whole read option business over the summer? We'll know soon enough because it's Kaepernick this week and RGIII next week.
Arizona Cardinals vs. St. Louis Rams (-4 1/2)
The battle of past and future St. Louis expats! For the immediate future, Arizona has to prevent a repeat of last year's game when the offensive line allowed nine sacks, lest Carson Palmer get turned into Kevin Kolb.
New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys (-3)
You really should care about the NFC East. It's obviously the best division in the NFL ... wait, come back! The Giants are 4-0 in Jerry Jones' gilded palace of Texas ego. That's totally going to change this year because the Cowboys have Bill Callahan calling plays along with Tony Romo, some input from Jason Garrett and Jerry's always a phone call away. If you can't trust play calling by committee, what can you trust?
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington NFL TEAM (-3 1/2)
Finally, the NFL world gets a first look at Chip Kelly's offense. Most writers will be thoroughly confused and upset when it won't fit underneath an easy label. They will probably label it "read option," whether Kelly runs that particular offense or not. Meanwhile, RGIII will probably decimate Philadelphia's defense with the read option, pocket passing, bootlegs and a heavy dose of Alfred Morris.
Houston Texans (-4) vs. San Diego Chargers
It's fair to wonder if the Berman portion of the Monday Night Football doubleheader will be the week's biggest blowout. J.J. Watt matched up against San Diego's offensive line and Brian Cushing waiting for whatever hapless Bolt who does manage to escape ... this game straddles the line between mismatch and human rights violation.