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Start Your Engines. Week 1 NFL Picks

Thursday night was monumental. President Obama demanded change; Congress couldn’t decide whether to sit or stand; and most importantly, America’s lifeblood returned. That’s right: Football is back.

I’m not one for politics, but I enjoy speeches like President Obama’s Thursday night address. Anytime a room full of adults goes into excessive standing ovation mode is quality entertainment. Is there a secret rule in Congress that requires standing ovations throughout a speech instead of just one at the end? The guy over Obama’s left shoulder was Thursday night’s real winner. He never stood, rarely clapped, completely ignored the Vice President, and never broke a smile. (No, I don’t know his name. Shoot me.) His performance was flawless. Only Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees were on his level. Well done, men.

Last Season:  154 – 102 – 0
Season:     0 – 0 – 0

Thursday Night (8:30PM ET)

Saints at Packers
New Orleans and Green Bay should kick off every NFL season until either Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers leaves his respective team. NFL, “You should pass this right away.” I’m trying to think of a more exciting game, start to finish, from the entire 2010 season and I can’t. Tonight’s contest was only the first game of the 2011 season, and yet it felt like the NFC Championship. Hold on… Everyone in the room is clapping and giving me a standing ovation. I feel like the President… And we’re done. That was nice.
Seriously though, tell me you weren’t glued to your TV the entire game? My neighborhood was/is on the verge of being evacuated due to excessive flooding. If they gave the evac order before the end of the game, I would have thrown on a life vest (I have several) and taken my chances. I needed to see the end. I needed to know what my Eagles would be up against.

Before halftime my brother posed the following question: “Does this say more about the superiority of either team’s offense or the lousiness of the defenses?” My response: The offenses are that good. Plus, you can’t truly judge a defense until October. Some other thoughts: Sean Payton got his signals mixed. He should have run the ball on 4th and inches from the six early in the 4th quarter and threw it on the final play of the game from the one. Mark Ingram was a sitting duck on that final play. I can’t remember the last time a goal line plunge failed so miserably. Back to the failed 4th down conversion early in the 4th quarter: Why give up so much to draft Ingram and then leave him on the sideline in a moment you specifically drafted him to address? It didn’t make sense. How about the quarterbacks, though? It’s going to take a mammoth effort from the rest of the NFC to keep these two teams from meeting again in late January. As I mentioned before, I won’t judge the defenses yet, even though they were horrible, but containing Rodgers or Brees looks like quite a task. And how about the kickoff returns? Just when we thought the NFL party-poopers were ruining the game, we got treated to two fantastic returns. One by the always electrifying Darren Sproles (who was outstanding), the other, a 108 yard beauty by Green Bay rookie, Randall Cobb. All in all, it was a good night, no, a great night. Thank you, and God Bless America… Oh, sorry, thought I was the President again. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -5

(I texted this pick to my brother at 7:35PM ET. If you don’t believe me, email me [ryan@4thanddone.com] and I’ll send you his number.)

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Falcons at Bears
Lance Briggs intends on wearing red, white and blue despite probable fines from the No Fun League. I say good for him. On the 10th anniversary of the worst thing to ever happen in my lifetime, a player should be permitted to honor his country, the heroes of that fateful day, and those who serve to prevent another day like it, without harassment from the uniform police. Sunday is about remembering what happened 10 years ago, honoring those who lost or surrendered their lives, and cherishing that which we take for granted every day. As a country, we suck right now. But I was never prouder to be an American than the days, weeks, and months following that horrifying attack. BEARS If I were Charles Barkley; Bears +2.5

Bengals at Browns
Are you drinking anything right now? If so, finish before continuing. I wouldn’t want you to ruin your computer. We good? Good. Here it is… There’s a very real chance either the Bengals or Browns are at the top of the AFC North heading into October. (Deep Breaths. You can do it.) I’m not offering that either of them is any good, but their respective schedules are ultra-friendly while Baltimore and Pittsburgh face each other and at least one other legitimate playoff contender. So, take your pick; Cincinnati’s defense or Colt McCoy’s arm? I’ll take Cincy’s D along with rookie QB Andy Dalton. A red headed NFL star is intriguing. (FYI: this line jumped from 3 to 6.5. Apparently, I’m the only one who likes Cincannit’s defense.) BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals +6.5

Bills at Chiefs
I’m not expecting much from the Chiefs in 2011. I’m expecting even less from the Bills until they draft Andrew Luck. CHIEFS If I were Charles Barkley; Chiefs -6

Eagles at Rams
I still can’t believe the overwhelming opinion that the Eagles are in trouble here. No offense to the Rams, but seriously? St. Louis made several moderate improvements to its roster throughout the offseason. The Eagles, on the other hand, completely overhauled their secondary by adding two Pro-Bowlers, and revamped the defensive line with yet another Pro-Bowler as well. Oh by the way, the Eagles went 10-6 last year in the NFC East and start Michael Vick at quarterback. The Rams went 7-9 in the Pee-Wee division, missed the playoffs, and would struggle to have one of their receivers crack the Eagles’ top four. Am I missing something here? While I understand the Eagles are flawed, I think the backlash toward Philadelphia has become irrational. Oh, look at this… I’m getting another standing ovation. Thank you, thank you. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles -4.5

Lions at Buccaneers
I love it when people tell me to watch out for the Lions as if they’ve uncovered a secret no one else in the world could possible know. I have a TV. I watch ESPN. I’m well aware that everyone and their mother are drooling over the Lions this year. I, however, am not one of them. I’ve said it a million times before; you can’t win in today’s NFL without a good secondary. Until Calvin Johnson moves to safety, Detroit falls into that category. Regardless, I like the Lions to parlay their preseason momentum into a win. LIONS If I were Charles Barkley; Lions +1.5

Titans at Jaguars
I still haven’t made sense of the whole “kicking David Garrard off the team at the last second” ordeal. But I do know this: Whenever “starting quarterback” and “McKown” are used in the same sentence, bad things are in store for you and your football team. At least we now know we’ll get to see Blaine Gabbert at some point this season. Also, assuming McKown really does stink, the AFC South is entirely Houston’s to lose. There’s no rational explanation for the Texans finishing anywhere but first in a division that starts Matt Hasselbeck, Kerry Collins, and McKown at quarterback. None. I’m getting a headache imagining the Texans at 7-9, and still refusing to fire Gary Kubiak. TITANS If I were Charles Barkley; Titans +2

Steelers at Ravens
No way, no way, no way. This is by far the NFL’s biggest mistake since suspending Terrelle Pryor and therefore not giving Al Davis the opportunity to start him this weekend. Why on earth is the most intense, violent, and entertaining rivalry in football clashing in September, on the first weekend of the season, nonetheless? This is a cold weather game. If the thermometer on game day doesn’t read below 40 degrees, somebody screwed up. This needs to be an official rule. NFL, “You should pass this right away.” Thankfully, the Eagles play at the same time, so I won’t have to watch an empty version of such a wonderful rivalry. You shouldn’t watch, either. Would you turn on Man on Fire if Denzel Washington were chasing down criminals who stole his pet frog instead of his beloved Pita? No, no you wouldn’t. STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Steelers +1.5

Colts at Texans
(Despondently shaking my head and pouring out some chocolate milk for all you Colt fans.) TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Colts +9

Game to Watch: Eagles at Rams
Game on Call: Steelers at Ravens

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Giants at Redskins
This should give us a pretty good idea of what we can expect from the Giants in 2011. Eli Manning’s miserable preseason was only “out-horribled” by the Giants’ unfortunate rash of injuries. If Manning struggles, the Giants are finished. Although the defense will be solid despite all the injuries, they’re not good enough to overcome a bad, or even average, offense. The Redskins, while not very good, could steal a victory if the Giants aren’t sharp. I think the Giants need a week one victory more than any other team in the NFL. Going against Rex Grossman, I like their chances. GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants -3

Seahawks at 49ers
What an awful afternoon schedule, especially for the first week of the season. If Alex Smith can’t outplay Tarvaris Jackson on Sunday, he should probably start looking for another field of work for fall 2012. 49ERS If I were Charles Barkley; 49ers -5.5

Vikings at Chargers
Last time Donovan McNabb played in San Diego, he threw for 450 yards and two touchdowns. It will take a similar effort to keep pace with Philip Rivers and the Chargers on Sunday. If Minnesota has a shot at upsetting the heavily favored Chargers, it’s by pounding San Diego with a heavy dosage of Adrian Peterson. The Charger defense, while talented, isn’t very big. A battering ram like Peterson should wear them down. A successful running game would also likely keep the game close in the 4th quarter. Thus, putting the Vikings and Peterson in good shape to steal a win. It also doesn’t hurt that San Diego is notoriously awful in September. Though, after last season’s horrible start, I expect the Chargers to begin the season more focused than we’ve seen in the past. Unlucky, Minnesota, just unlucky. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers -8.5

Panthers at Cardinals
I’ll be trying something new this season called “Spotlight Game.” Each week I’ll pick one game to analyze at some point later in the week. This is my choice for week one. I know, it may not look like an appealing game, but I’m very interested to see both Kevin Kolb and Cam Newton in their first start with their new team. In fact, I’m probably more excited about this game than the other four late games. And yes, I fully expect to be bored to tears midway through the 2nd quarter after the Panthers go three-and-out for the sixth consecutive possession with the Cardinals nursing a 3-0 lead. Oh well. CARDINALS If I were Charles Barkley; Cardinals -7

Game to Watch: Giants at Redskins
Game on Call: Uhh, Panthers at Cardinals? (Slim pickings with the late afternoon slate.)

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Cowboys at Jets
With the obvious exception of my Eagles, this is the game I’m most excited to watch, and for many reasons. First, the Cowboys are probably the Eagles greatest threat in the NFC East. While I’m already pretty certain Dallas is the real deal, a close game against the Jets, in New York, will confirm my fears. Second, the Jets defense brings back very fond memories of the Eagle defenses of the early 90’s. It’s probably simply the combination of green and Ryan family dynamic than it is about style or scheme, but it’s a good time, nonetheless. Third, I’m old school. The Jets may be the only team still employing the traditional NFL strategy of combining a tough defense with a physical ground game to wear down opponents and grind out wins. So far, it’s hard to argue with the results. Finally, the whole 9/11 component will add a special atmosphere to what already promises to be a great game. New York. Football. Sunday Night. Nothing could be more American. JETS If I were Charles Barkley; Cowboys +5

Monday Night (7:00 & 10:00PM ET)

Patriots at Dolphins
Can’t say I’m overly excited for this one. Sure, watching Tom Brady carve up defenses is usually a good time, but he often stinks in Miami for reasons unbeknownst to me. Could someone also please explain why the Dolphins continually end up on Monday Night Football despite not doing anything remotely exciting in the past decade? I guess they invented the NFL Wildcat, but that was cool for what, two weeks? PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Patriots -7

Raiders at Broncos
Excluding myself, how many people east of Denver will actually pay attention to this game? That’s what I thought. Here’s how to change that. Give each franchise an extra million or so in exchange for starting Tim Tebow and Terrelle Pryor and playing both for at least the first half. Who wouldn’t watch that? College football fans would go nuts. The state of Florida may even declare Tuesday a state holiday. Oh, this is special… another standing ovation. You’re too kind. BRONCOS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos -3

*****

If I were Charles Barkley
Last Season: 116 – 135 – 5
Season:    0 – 0 – 0

2 Comments

  1. Big Guy

    Did you hear my clapping and standing ovation at the end of this post? It was awe-inspiring.
    Great start to a new NFL season and reading the prognostications from a guy with way too much time on his hands!

  2. Too much time or not enough sleep.
    Maybe a little of both.

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