Our wagerer-at-large, Stefan Tornquist, is back again for the NFL season. This year he’s joined by Brooke Costello, lifelong Bills fan and burgeoning betting aficionado. They will be picking their favorite games from a gambler’s perspective and weighing in on high-profile match-ups—all while hoping not to lose their shirts. We hope they do, “for amusement purposes only,” that is (Of course, we don’t support illegal gambling. Besides, we’re terrible at it).
Those of you that read my columns last year may know things didn’t end so well (Ed.: Remember when he said the Saints would roll). Bizarre games turned what should have been an easy playoff run into the Bataan Death March, and predictions ended under .500 for the last month of the season. But, like a quarterback who’s just been flattened, it’s time to shake it off, play to my strengths, give 110 percent, and make some good picks.
Stefan’s Picks (Check the lines on Sunday. They’ll change.)
Sunday 1 p.m.
Atlanta at Jax (Jax by 11, 34.5)
Jax is pissed about the loss to the Titans, and they’re a solid team with a great line and good coaching. I expect them to tee off on Joey Harrington and arguably the worst team in football. Even at 11, Jax should cover. Could be a shutout, so stay away from the Over.
Cincy at Cleveland (Cincy by 7, 42)
If the line stays at a touchdown, I like Cincy a lot. Cleveland is very, very bad. Concerned that Brady Quinn might might play? Don’t be. He couldn’t score against college teams, and I just don’t see his debut in brown going well.
Packers at Giants (Giants by 1, 38)
Eli Manning showed some skills last week, and if he manages to stay consistent (he won’t), they’ll be putting up some big numbers. Green Bay shut down a Philly offense that didn’t make the plane, so I’m not too worried about a trench battle in this one. I disagree with Brooke on this one. If Manning plays (still no clue at press time) I like the Over and the Giants at home. Lost in the Green Bay win was that Favre had a QB rating 30 points lower than the total in the Giants/Dallas game.
Sunday 4 p.m.
KC at Chicago (Chicago by 13.5, 34.5)
KC is dreadful, and Chicago has a knack for scoring serious points at home against bad teams. Don’t be worried about the spread. That Chicago D is better than last year and will quite possibly pitch a shutout while scoring 7 of their own. Of course, with Rex Grossman at QB, those might be the only points Chicago scores. Seriously though, Chicago.
Chargers at Patriots (NE by 4, 46.5)
This game has gotten so much attention that you don’t need me to tell you the various story lines. New Moss, old bitterness, Bill’s wandering eye, stymied LT, etc., etc. Even though my Pats won last year, they were the second best team on the field, There was no shortage of random events to help them win. This year, they should do so legitimately. Chicago showed that the patented 2D Charger offense is vulnerable to keying on Tomlinson and forcing Rivers to look for his decidedly second-tier receivers. Relying on a halfback option and hitting somebody in the back with a punt isn’t exactly a strategy. Chicago moved the ball in the air better than the score indicates, and the their QB and receiving core don’t compare to the Pats. No doubt the Chargers will be all kinds of fired up for this game, and I’m sure they’ll put up some points in Foxboro. But, until the Pats show signs of weakness they’ve got to be given the nod at home. Pats by a touchdown.
Washington at Philly (Philly by 7, 40)
Sooner or later, the real McNabb shows up. Is it this week? That may not matter against the Skins, who seem to have the same recruiting skills as the Bush Administration. I wouldn’t bet, or make a prediction on this game if it weren’t on MNF, but since it is, I guess I’d tease Philly down to 1 and the Under up to 47. If you don’t like playing the under, do the reverse and get that Over down to 34.
Sunday 1 p.m.
Atlanta at Jacksonville (Jacksonville by 11, 34.5)
Bet against Atlanta all year, and you will win a lot of money.
Buffalo at Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh by 10, 37)
This is a perfect tease and a sentimental pick. The Bills are feeling frisky after the return from the dead by Kevin Everett. They will not lose by 2 TDs, They will also score 14 points so add it up.
Cincinnati at Cleveland (Cincinnati by 7, 42)
Name me four Browns starters, and you can stop paying attention. These guys are giving you the win. Pick Carson to “ocho cinco.” (Note from Stefan: I have no idea what Brooke is talking about, but I think he likes Cincy.)
Green Bay at New York (New York by 1, 38)
The Giants stink, and the Packers stink just a little less.
Indianapolis at Tennessee (Indianapolis by 7.5, 46)
Tennessee is Jacked. Vince Young is a Winner. I Like Tennessee to play these guys tight at home. I also like the Under.
New Orleans at Tampa Bay (New Orleans by 4.5, 41.5)
If the New Orleans O is going to show us anything, they will against an aging Tampa D.
San Francisco at St. Louis (St. Louis by 3, 44)
Do not bet on NFC WEST football until week 10, at least.
Sunday 4 p.m.
Minnesota at Detroit (Detroit by 3, 43)
Get in on Minnesota before everyone else does and then they pull their late season swoon.
Seattle at Arizona (Seattle by 3, 42.5)
As I said, do not bet on NFC WEST football until week 10, at least.
Kansas City at Chicago (Chicago by 13.5, 34.5)
I agree with Stefan. Kansas City is about as good as a Salisbury Steak TV dinner straight from the fridge. Chicago will make them bleed, and cover the Over on their own.
Sunday, 8:15 p.m.
San Diego at New England (New England by 4, 46.5)
Common sense says, “Do not bet on this game.” But I like deep fried hot-dogs w/chilled tequila shots first thing in the morning, and the old Patriots used to cover this kind of spread all the time. These guys appear to be better than the old Pats. Bet on it.
*Stefan’s Notes from Week 1.
- When in doubt, bet the AFC. Somehow the quality gap has widened in the off season, and the disparity between the top NFC teams (Chicago, NO and Dallas I suppose?) and the top AFC teams (Colts, Pats, and Chargers) is vast.
- The Titans will go to the playoffs.
- Any team with a reasonably good offensive line will generate Overs when playing the Saints, Cowboys or Giants.