The offseason was mostly a blur for me because my son, potential Lions fan and future gambler, was born soon after the Super Bowl. It honestly still feels like Spring to me, which, I know, is an awesome way to start an article that exudes some level of expertise in the area of picking Fall football games against the spread.
Why should I read your thoughts on these games if you don't even know what's going on?
Hang on. I know some things. There were moves made. There was a draft and people arbitrarily graded it. There was some controversy. There were OTAs. There was some more controversy probably. There was training camp. There were training camp injuries and reports of Dad bods. There were some cuts. There were a couple games. And then, like every August in the NFL, there was chaos. Nothing like a good tizzy to get the NFL back on the minds of billions of people, as if it wasn't already.
The cause of it?
Backup quarterback Jake Rudock was waived.
The real big story: A different backup quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, was seen sitting down during the National anthem, caught in the act — or omission — the third time he did it during the preseason. Ordinarily, you see a dude or anyone in the stadium sitting during the national anthem, it's likely no big deal. Maybe they have bad knees. Maybe they just got some bad news. Maybe they're ashamed of their erection. Whatever.
When I stand for the anthem, I don't do it simply because the PA guy told me to and I don't peek around to see how everybody else is doing it. You mind your own business. Kind of how it is or should be when you urinate in a public bathroom. But hey, somebody in uniform who is paid millions of dollars to play — or in Kaepernick's case, watch — a game in the organization that rakes in money off the military men and women who fight for the flag the League honors before every game, that person sits down, and it becomes a story with lots and lots of legs and wildly polarizing opinions. In England, it's very rude to point things out. In America, you would be remiss if you didn't.
The good thing about this is that it nudged a lot of people down a seldom trodden path of thought and discourse on important societal issues. You can question Kaepernick's method, like Jerry Rice did. You can question whether or not you think Kaepernick's an idiot or whether his intentions were pure. You can draw your own judgments. You can even be flippant and crack lame jokes and get taken too seriously. You can really wonder or do anything you want within the laws if you wish, just as Kaepernick has every right to sit during the anthem and get a standing desk to put his clipboard on during the games if his employer allows it. What you cannot do, however, is deny facts. There are real issues in America that too many people are ignoring. Kaepernick has rightly shed light on some of those issues, and the Lions backup quarterback is not a real issue.
Another undeniable fact? The once very successful quarterback under Jim Harbaugh turned backup has the the No. 1 jersey in the NFL... Again, I'm talking about Kaepernick, you guys. You have to let it go. I'm not talking about circumcising mosquitoes, although I'm sure Rudock jersey sales in Detroit are doing well.
Now let's back up the Brinks and cut some skin on these games:
Panthers (-3) over BRONCOS
It's the Super Bowl sequel, Superman Returns. Hopefully it doesn't suck. The Panthers are 27-3 in their last 30 games as favorites and nearly as good against the spread in those games. The "Super Bowl hangover" is probably a myth, but better believe the Broncos will be a little worse this year without Peyton Manning — as bad as he was at times last year — and a few different names on defense. Kelvin Benjamin is back for the Panthers and I expect his team to get their ringless revenge.
FALCONS (-3) over Buccaneers
After seven mostly successful seasons with the Falcons, once fired but now hired Mike Smith is the defensive coordinator under one of his former assistants for the Buccaneers. Smith returns to the Georgia Dome in the stadium's last home opener before the Falcons move into a new stadium next season. If you don't think emotions will get in the way of schemes and timeouts will be misused, you're kidding yourself. I've heard from trusted Falcons fans that Matt Ryan looks scared for his life in the pocket — must be from hanging out with Matthew Stafford all offseason, amirite? — but I still think the Falcons will take it to their old boss.
TITANS (+2) over Vikings
The game of running backs, but everyone's focused on the quarterback situation in Minnesota. The Vikings made a seemingly desperate move to acquire a backup quarterback, trading a first rounder for the man with small shoulder pads, Sam Bradford. The Rudock-for-backup fans love this move if they're Vikings fans, because every team needs a backup worth pulling for if your season goes up in flames. In all seriousness, not the worst trade, and it might even help them win an extra game or two this year, but it's not going to help them cover the Week 1 spread on the road. The story of this game will be Adrian Peterson and how he handles carrying the offensive burden while Shaun Hill and/or Sam Bradford get their happy little feet wet. On the other side, it's going to be interesting to see how Mike Mularkey distributes carries to what could be a devastating 1-2 punch in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, Marcus Mariota's new best friends. I don't want to call a winner in this one, but I feel like it's going to be close and low scoring.
Chargers (+7) over CHIEFS
A lot of spread here for a divisional matchup in Week 1, so I'm going with my guy, seven-time Dad Philip Rivers to keep things close. The Chargers have upgraded their team on both sides of the ball and I expect Melvin Gordon to have a rebound sophomore season to open up the passing lanes for Phil. Jamaal Charles is unlikely to play for the Chiefs, who are 1-3 in their last four home openers. Let's just forget that the win was against the Chargers in 2010... by seven. Push it real good! (P.S. I'm shocked Joey Bosa is hurt.)
SAINTS (-1) over Raiders
I kind of love the Raiders' upside, but that's kind of like drinking the Lions Kool-Aid year to year. The Raiders are stacked with names that excite, but will they put it together? You don't make or miss the playoffs in Week 1. The freshly-inked Drew Brees gets it done in the Saints' home opener.
JETS (+2.5) over Bengals
Are you kidding? Pick against the Jets at home on 9/11 and risk being ridiculed by my compatriots? I'm not doing it. "That doesn't have to do with football and technically they play in New Jersey," you might say. Fine, sit down during the national anthem if you want, but I stand and on this day I stand with the team with New York in its name. God Bless America and God Bless the Goddamn Jets. I also think for football reasons the Jets will catch the Bengals off guard in their first game since dropping to 0-7 in the playoffs under Marvin Lewis. (How has he not been fired???) The Bengals will be missing Vontaze Burfict and Tyler Eifert, and Andy Dalton is still working out some kinks while possibly starting to look over his shoulder or at least wonder if the Bengals will keep him through 2018. Yeah, there's a lot of talk about the backup quarterback in Cincinnati, too, or so I hear from time to time from three of my friends who are Bengals fans.
Browns (+4) over EAGLES
When I first heard the Eagles traded Sam Bradford, I momentarily forgot they drafted Carson Wentz and thought maybe their 48-year-old coach Doug Pederson was coming out of retirement to be Philly's own Jackie Moon. Interestingly, Wentz was thought not good enough for the Browns — or not as good as the guy they'd ultimately acquire via trade — and so he's with the Eagles instead of the Browns. Not sure if that creates a chip on his shoulder to prove they made a mistake or he gift baskets a few interceptions to thank them. I think he'll have mixed feelings throughout the game and this will be a game that ends with a three-point margin.
Packers (-4.5) over JAGUARS
This is the lock of the week for most handicappers, getting 90-percent or more of the money in Vegas books, and exactly why it scares me. I can see the Packers losing this game and talk radio immediately blaming Jordan Rodgers as a distraction and not whatever caused Josh Sitton to be released and an otherwise leaky offensive line. The Jaguars are quietly building a respectable team on paper, but it's still Packers-Jaguars in Week 1, so I have to go with the numbers here.
Bills (+3) over RAVENS
The Ravens lost big free agent Benjamin Watson to a season-ending injury against the Lions and have two rookies starting on the offensive line. The Bills may not be able to exploit that much with a weak defensive line, but they do have safety Aaron Williams returning. The last time an Aaron Williams returned, it resulted in 7 Days in Hell. Great doc. I'd also like to think this is the beginning of the downfall of John Harbaugh in Baltimore, which will only lead him back home to Michigan to take over for Jim Caldwell. Caldwell will retire on top after winning the Super Bowl this season, of course.
TEXANS (-6.5) over Bears
I feel like this is going to be one of those complete meltdown years for the Bears and we should love it. Brock Osweiler will light up his former coach's weak secondary and the Texans will coast.
Dolphins (+10.5) over SEAHAWKS
Long #businesstrip for the Dolphins, who have a plethora of running backs, a promising quarterback and Suh. I don't think the Seahawks have a Week 1 letdown in them this year like they did last year, but I like the extra half point here. Dolphins keep it close.
Giants (pk) over COWBOYS
The Cowboys are the glitz and glamour, America's team, the team with a shiny new running back and quarterback leading billionaire Jerry Jones' team into Week 1 of a new NFL season on 9/11 vs. the G-Men of New York. People forget the Cowboys finished last season 4-12 without Tony Romo. And the Giants weren't much better, finishing 1-6 in their last seven games and ending the season only a couple games better than Dallas. In the offseason, the Cowboys added a couple big names on offense and the Giants had a $100 million makeover on the defensive side of the ball. Balanced out, and if the last eight games between these two teams are any indication, the game will be fairly even — the average margin of victory over that span is just over five points.
Lions (+4) over COLTS
It wouldn't be Week 1 without some Lions Kool-Aid and a shocking Colts home loss. Ignoring the dress rehearsal, because Golden Tate told me to, the Lions should pick up right where they left off last season and turn some heads this year. I'm drunk, I guess, so just stick with me and hold my hair back if I start puking... yeah, I know I’m bald. Meanwhile, the Colts are beat up, especially in the secondary, which Stafford will pick apart. Barring a major injury, which should always go without saying, I think the Lions win.
CARDINALS (-6) over Patriots
Jimmy Garoppolo gets the start for the Patriots, the first time someone not named Tom Brady — suspension, probable — will start a regular season game for the Patriots in the history of the last eight years. More backup quarterback talk!
Steelers (-3) over REDSKINS
Mike Tomlin said it's less about the players that play — like Le'Veon Bell, out — and more about doing you. I like that. Do you? I really want Kirk Cousins to do well, but I want the Redskins to fail so miserably overall. This is the first of two mostly unexciting Monday Night Football games. Needle doesn't move much for me.
RAMS (-2.5) over 49ers
The game I'd be more interested in watching is this late game. Unfortunately, old turds who pass out on their couch in their work socks with half a glass of whiskey sure to go to waste on the coffee table beside them — like me — will only get to see backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick sit or kneel during the national anthem and that's about it. For as bad as these teams will likely be this season, there are a number of intriguing narratives in this one, like it being the first game back in LA and Chip Kelly's first game as head coach of the 49ers. (I'm going to miss that tobacco-spitting sweat box of a man Jim Tomsula, though). Oh yeah, the football game... Rams win.
ALL-TIME RECORD: 676-581
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