The gauntlet has been dropped, which is odd considering neither of us wear gauntlets. Golf gloves, perhaps, but not gauntlets. If we did wear gauntlets, however, I imagine they would look like the cool one Thanos wore, with five different time stones in the knuckles, representing each of our five weekly picks.
Either way, as the man who came in third place picking football games last season against both Kevin and our celebrity guest prognosticators, I have accepted the honor to try to regain what little honor I have left.
As you may recall, last season, the brainchild behind The Wife Hates Sports and I dabbled in a little five-game-per-week wagering, within which we chose five college or pro football games against the spread and ranked them in order of which we liked best. We invited you all to join us, a weekly celebrity reader gracing us with their presence.
While Kevin barely edged me out in efficiency, going 51-37-2 (.567) against the spread to my 49-41 (.544), the games he wagered more fake money on ended up with him netting $630 to my $200. This happened by betting a fictional $150 a week: $50 on the game we were most confident about, $40 on the second most and $10 on the fifth most. Our guests went 46-38-1 (.541) and earned $460.
This year we are getting the band back together and hosting the event once again, hoping to provide some healthy tips on how, and upon whom, to wager. I will track our progress with the hopes that we all come out winners, as we did last year.
Here’s to another fun and hopefully profitable season.
Without further ado, here are my Week One picks…
San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears (+7) for $50
I’ll be honest. I thought the Bears might be favored in this game. While yes, they’re the Bears and have proven that they still cannot score with any regularity, the Niners start an unproven quarterback in Trey Lance. The Niners re-signed Jimmy Garoppolo not because they couldn’t find a market to move him but because they’re not entirely confident Lance is ready for prime time. Meanwhile, behind center for the opposing team is a young Justin Fields with something to prove. He might just do it, at least in Week One. While many love the Niners chances at a deep run this season, I’m still not convinced Trey Lance is the man that can take them there, at least not yet. A well-managed game by the Bears should be able to stifle any potential Niner threat. Look for Chicago’s defense to force the young Lance into making some bad decisions. In fact, if you can find some sort of defensive props in this game for either team, take ‘em. In real life, I’ll probably take a stab at the Bears money line in their home opener. For the sake of this exercise, I’m going to take the Bears plus the seven.
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins (-3) for $40
We’ve heard all off-season how Bill Belichick hired a defensive specialist as his offensive coordinator and an offensive specialist as his defensive coordinator. Round hole, square pegs. The fact that one of those square pegs is Matt Patricia is all you need to know. Either Belichick is a genius for turning the coaching applecart on its head or the old man is slowly starting to lose his mind. Either way, the Pats always have problems in South Florida. Meanwhile, the Dolphins have reloaded offensively. While they have a new, inexperienced (and yes, openly biracial) head coach, anticipation is brewing for these new look Dolphins. They have multiple options at both running back and wide receiver and will look to put up points, even against a normally steady New England defense. I look for Miami to turn some heads in Week One against a Pats team that might be heading towards a very un-Patriots-like season. I’ll take Miami minus the three.
Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers (-2.5) for $30
You know who the Panthers’ starting quarterback is, right? It’s Baker Mayfield. You know where Baker Mayfield played the last four seasons, right? In Cleveland. You know where Baker’s replacement is, right? I don’t know but I can tell you where he’s not and that’s anywhere near the Browns’ practice facility until Week 12. Carolina started out hot last season until the league caught up to Sam Darnold. If you think for one second, Baker Mayfield’s new team is going to lay down against his former team, you got another thing comin’. I’ll take the Panthers minus the three in anticipation of Baker’s post-game press conference. I’m sure he’ll only have the nicest things to say about his former employer.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys (+2) for $20
As a Buccaneers fan, I hate that I’m about to do this, but I worry about these Buccaneers. They return a stout defense and have added both Russell Gage and Julio Jones to replace the certifiable Antonio Brown. But they have no Rob Gronkowski, the GOAT’s security blanket, and their offensive line is nowhere near the line Brady played behind the last two seasons. Dallas should throw non-stop pressure at Brady all game long. While the GOAT has an outstanding record against Dallas (6-0), early Dallas mojo might give us an indication that they’re ready to make their mark this season, at least early on. I’m going with the home team plus the two points in Sunday’s prime time game with the hopes that Tom Brady comes out of this thing unscathed.
Kentucky at Florida (-4.5) for $10
From 1987 to 2017, Florida didn’t lose a single game to the University of Kentucky. Since then, they’ve gone 2-2. We Gator fans don’t like to talk about those years. Last year, the Gators lost in Lexington, 20-13. Enter a new Florida regime that Gator faithful hope will reestablish dominance over a team it should legitimately own. In their home opener against Utah, SEC Offensive Player of the Week Anthony Richardson rushed for three touchdowns, seeing his Heisman future odds drop from +5000 to +2000. Kentucky will have a difficult time stopping the one they used to call AR-15. Florida knows what this game means if they want any chance of competing in the SEC East. It is also coach Billy Napier’s conference opener. If he thought the record home opening crowd of 90,799 fans were loud against Utah, wait until he hears them against a conference opponent. Florida will look to exact revenge for last year’s loss in Lexington. Gators cover the four-and-a-half.
KP’s Week One Picks
50: New Orleans Saints (-5.5) at Atlanta Falcons
Saints: New Orleans has an underrated WR group. Michael Thomas needs a bounce back, but has Jarvis Landry and rookie Chris Olave as a support group. Alvin Kamara leads the run game again, while Jameis Winston is back. The defense remains loaded with talent and tenacity. Dennis Allen now leads the team, so we’ll see how they do.
Falcons: Atlanta is rebuilding. With Julio Jones gone and Calvin Ridley suspended, rookie Drake London will need to grow up fast. Kyle Pitts is a freak athlete, but opposing defenses will likely focus on shutting him down – if they can. Meanwhile, Marcus Mariota gets another chance to revive his career, as rookie Desmond Ridder waits for his time.
The Game: Overall, the talent gap on paper is pretty significant. The balance on the Saints roster should overpower the Falcons. It’s a rivalry and Atlanta does have home field, but I expect New Orleans to pull away in the second half. Saints cover on the road.
40: Baltimore Ravens (-6.5) at New York Jets
Ravens: Hollywood Brown has moved on to Arizona. That leaves a question mark regarding playmakers for Lamar Jackson to throw to. Will Devin Duvernay step up? Will others? How healthy is J.K. Dobbins and will the Ravens spread the ball around to numerous runners? Plenty of talent, but a lot of questions.
Jets: Zach Wilson will miss the first few games following his injury during the preseason. How will the offense run under Flacco? What about Sauce Gardner – will he make an immediate impact on defense? This is an improved roster, there’s no doubt about that.
The Game: Joe Flacco vs. his former team – that’s one of the big storylines. However, this is an aging veteran in Flacco and one that will be facing an aggressive defense headlined by Calais Campbell and Odafe Oweh up front. After not getting a contract extension, Lamar Jackson should be motivated to put up big numbers and prove his doubters wrong. The Jets have an improved roster, but I don’t see them handling the talent of the Ravens for four quarters. Ravens cover on the road.
30: San Francisco 49ers (-7) at Chicago Bears
Niners: San Francisco has versatile and explosive talent offensively, from Trey Lance to Deebo Samuel, and more. Expect a heavy dose of the run game with creativity, as always. Defensively, it’s a talented group led by Nick Bosa. For the Niners, it’s whether they can stay healthy this season.
Bears: Chicago is rebuilding. Justin Fields will need to make the next step up. It may be tough considering Darnell Mooney is the team’s top returning receiver. The defense also has a lot of youth in the secondary.
The Game: The Bears have the home field, but the talent gap appears to be significant here. Expect the Niners to run and then run some more, eventually wearing down the Chicago defense. Give me the 49ers to cover easily on the road.
20: Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers (pk)
Browns: The QB situation is a mess that Cleveland created with stacks of cash. It’s hard not to imagine opposing defenses focusing on the run game and forcing Jacoby Brissett to beat them.
Panthers: Baker Mayfield isn’t perfect, but he’s an upgrade over Sam Darnold. A healthy CMC is a must for Carolina. Defensively, the Panthers have a ton of young talent that is only going to get better.
The Game: There’s just something about revenge games. Then there’s Baker Mayfield. He’s that crazy drunk guy at the bar that you find arm wrestling every massive dude – and winning. We have heard him run his mouth for years. It’s really hard not to imagine him extra amped for this game. Add in the home field element. Give me the Panthers at home.
10: Jacksonville Jaguars at Washington Commanders (-2.5)
Jags: New coach Doug Pederson is the QB mind that Trevor Lawrence needs. Expect a step up from Lawrence and the Jacksonville offense this year. Overall, the team should be more competitive (and competent) with Urban out of the picture.
Commanders: Carson Wentz gets way too much criticism. He is an improvement at the position. He throws an accurate and catchable ball. Washington adds a healthy Curtis Samuel and explosive rookie Jahan Dotson to the offense. This is a group that could surprise some people.
The Game: FedEx Field may be held up by toothpicks, glue, duct tape, and Band-Aids, but it’s still home field. In the past, nearby rival teams will travel and take over the stadium. Don’t expect that from Jacksonville fans. Also, the new look Commanders may get some fans back for the home opener. The Wentz versus the Jags curse is overblown. All these factors will be enough facing a Jacksonville team that still has room for growth. Commanders cover at home.
Celebrity Guest Week One: Croshere
I have decided to stay in the NFL for my Week One picks…
My $10 and $20 picks are simple
Colin Cowherd was talking before Thursday’s game about Zach Wilson and the overall decline of New York football in recent years. Both are less than a TD dog in Week One.
$10 on Ravens – 6 ½ (Ravens 34 – Jets 10)
$20 on Titans – 5 ½ (Titans 31 – Giants 13)
My $30 pick is Vikings +1 ½ (Vikings 31 – Packers 28)
Michael Irvin said Cousins will be MVP and Jefferson will have a Cooper Kupp year. I trust the playmaker.
I noticed that Derek Carr is reunited with his college teammate, some guy named Adams. Healthy Waller, Renfro and beastly Jacobs to a playoff team. I see big offense.
My $40 is Raiders + 3 ½ (Raiders 38 – Chargers 31)
Alas, my $50. I win if Belichick plays a FG game against the Dolphins. That’s good enough. Pats +3 ½ (Pats 23 – Fins 21)
Best of luck, all!