Despite the long, scary, lockout-filled offseason, the National Football League is back with another regular season – and the 2011 schedule is kicking off with a bang.
Among the long list of marquee Week 1 matchups include Saints at Packers, Cowboys at Jets, Steelers at Ravens, Eagles at Rams, Giants at Redskins, Falcons at Bears and more.
With another regular season set to get under way, it’s time for KP to “Pick His Knows” – as in, make his weekly selections against the spread.
Last season was a solid one, posting a final 2010 season record of 144-112. Let’s see if 2011 can bring as much consistency.
It’s once again time to “Pick Your Knows” – the only time it’s not a disgusting habit – and here are Week 1’s scheduled games (with spreads as they appear through CBSSports Fantasy).
Pick Your Knows: 2011 NFL Week 1 Picks Against the Spread
New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers (-4.5)
Lambeau will be amped up hosting the opening game of the season, as well as giving their hometown champs a super welcome. But Green Bay loses a hair of its intimidation without the freezing temperatures, and the Saints are one of the more talented teams in the NFC, too. While this may not be an offensive explosion since each team could be rusty, it should still be a tight matchup. Take the Saints, who should keep it close throughout.
KP’s Pick: New Orleans
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (-2.5)
It’s one of the most heated rivalries in the NFL today, and each team is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. With that in mind, and this being an opening week game, it would be a good bet to assume that this game will be decided by a fourth quarter game-winning field goal. Take the home team, which this time around is Baltimore.
KP’s Pick: Baltimore
Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears (+2.5)
It’s an opening week matchup of two NFC playoff teams. Since each team’s exit, Jay Cutler has taken a lot of heat, while the Falcons have been the forgotten bunch after getting blown out by the Packers. The Bears had trouble protecting the quarterback last season, while Atlanta made few changes to its top-seeded 2010 roster. One addition: talented rookie WR Julio Jones. Atlanta has too many weapons and covers on the road.
KP’s Pick: Atlanta
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns (-6.5)
Expect a lot of growing pains from Cincinnati’s offensive rookies, specifically Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. Both are very talented, but this is their first pro game. Cedric Benson is a few days removed from jail and could be rusty. Colt McCoy has a year of experience under his belt while Peyton Hillis is eager to prove last year was no fluke. Playing at home, the Browns do just enough to cover, and win by a touchdown.
KP’s Pick: Cleveland
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (-1.5)
This game comes down to the health of two key players. Peyton Manning will not play and Kerry Collins starts in his place. Houston RB Arian Foster is a question mark with a hamstring injury. It’s hard to imagine that the Colts can muster up enough offense without Peyton, while Houston has plenty of passing weapons, plus depth at running back. Take the Texans to cover at home.
KP’s Pick: Houston
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars (-2.5)
The Jacksonville roster took a shock to its system when starting QB David Garrard was cut a few days ago. Luke McCown will start in his place. Meanwhile, Tennessee came to terms with RB Chris Johnson. Having a top weapon, plus a steady veteran presence in Matt Hasselbeck, the Titans steal away a win on the road against the Jags.
KP’s Pick: Tennessee
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5)
Reports are out that Matt Cassel is healthy enough and will play for the Chiefs. Adding Steve Breaston to play alongside Dwayne Bowe, plus being anchored by its power running game, Kansas City has the edge. Buffalo was a scrappy team in 2010, but it’s always a challenge to play at Arrowhead, so expect the Chiefs to win by more than a touchdown.
KP’s Pick: Kansas City
Philadelphia Eagles at St. Louis Rams (+4.5)
While Vince Young thinks the Eagles are a “Dream Team”, Vick and Co. struggled at times during the preseason. It can be expected, what with the shortened offseason combined with the number of moves the team made. The Rams are no slouch and Spagnuolo has experience playing the Eagles. On their home field, I wouldn’t be shocked to see St. Louis keep this one real close – that is, if the Rams can keep Philly from making this game a track meet on the artificial turf.
KP’s Pick: St. Louis
Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5)
The Bucs were an upstart young team last season, but this year, the schedule appears to be tougher and opponents will be more prepared for them. Playing at home is not the advantage it used to be and the Lions are a team that continues to improve in recent years. If Stafford can remain healthy, the Detroit offense could flourish. I like Detroit to win outright on the road.
KP’s Pick: Detroit
Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals (-6.5)
Rookie Cam Newton will start for the Panthers and Kevin Kolb gets his first start as QB for the Cardinals. Clearly, Newton has less talent to pass to and the Cardinals could have a healthy Beanie Wells to provide balance on offense. A seven-point victory at home seems likely in Week 1 for the Cards.
KP’s Pick: Arizona
Minnesota Vikings at San Diego Chargers (-8.5)
San Diego’s biggest challenge in 2010 was its special teams. The Chargers have done what they can to address that, and this time, they also have Vincent Jackson in Week 1. The Vikings have Percy Harvin and Bernard Berrian, but lost Sidney Rice. It’s clear that the Chargers will focus on handling Adrian Peterson, while making McNabb beat them. I like Rivers & Co. to start strong.
KP’s Pick: San Diego
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers (-6.5)
This may be the trickiest spread of the week. It’s hard to trust Tarvaris Jackson as QB in Seattle, while the same could be said for Alex Smith, San Francisco’s QB that’s had Jim Harbaugh to help improve his game. The 49ers will be without Michael Crabtree, but do have Frank Gore to anchor the running game at home. In the end, it’s hard to imagine either team pulling away.
KP’s Pick: Seattle
New York Giants at Washington Redskins (+2.5)
Rex Grossman gets the start for the Redskins, and he’ll face off against a Giants defense that lost a few starters to season-ending injuries during the preseason. Still, the Giants have so much talent led by Eli Manning on offense. LaRon Landry will be out in Week 1, which could hurt the Redskins’ pass defense. The Giants winning by a field goal is the safe choice.
KP’s Pick: New York Giants
Dallas Cowboys at New York Jets (-4.5)
Normally, I would like the Cowboys to keep a game close against another strong team. But Dallas has question marks on the offensive line and Rex Ryan will blitz the ‘Boys like crazy to try and force turnovers. Rob Ryan will attempt the same, but on an emotional 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, New York will be ready to win one for the city. Jets win by a TD.
KP’s Pick: New York Jets
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins (+6.5)
The Dolphins may be at home, but they will be starting a rookie running back (Daniel Thomas) and an inconsistent quarterback (Chad Henne) against Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. The Pats have mostly played well during the preseason, and have reloaded with new talent at multiple positions. A touchdown victory for the Pats seems likely.
KP’s Pick: New England
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (-2.5)
The Raiders were undefeated within the division last season, and clearly Oakland – headlined by a solid backfield – has been a team on the rise. However, Kyle Orton’s productivity in Denver has been highly underrated. Combine that with the fact that the Raiders will likely miss star corner Nnamdi Asomugha in the early weeks, I like the Broncos to post solid passing numbers at home.
KP’s Pick: Denver