Sunday, September 5, 2010

The regular season is upon us and here are my early picks for opening kickoff.   The following are the undervalued favorites for week 1 and I'll have the rest of my selections posted throughout the week.

Odds for these games could change, so be sure to check here for the latest.

  • Atlanta Falcons vs Pittsburgh Steelers - ATL -2.5, UNDER 38
ATL have some serious luck going for them to start the NFL season.   Usually opening on the road in PIT would be a recipe for disaster, but with Big Ben out the playing field has been leveled.    ATL will need to improve their pass rush from last year, but it won't hurt them that much in this game if they can't.  Ryan is entering his 3rd season and Turner is in a lot better shape and healthy.   ATL are also high on their new kicker and he will be tested in a stadium that is not usually kind to kickers.  

PIT's passing advantage is not only gone, it could be a significant liability in this game because Batch/Dixon will have to be concerned with CB Robinson, too.  PIT will primarily focus on the run and pound Mendenhall to keep pressure off the QB.  Polamalu is healthy which will add a huge boost to an already stout PIT D.  WR Wallace is ready to breakout, but he will have to wait until week 5 to really shine.

The weather should be a non-factor.  There is some slight reverse line movement, but not enough to make a significant difference.    This is a generous line to open the season which is why you can lay the points on this one.  Both teams will focus heavily on the run game and take their shots when they present themselves.      Prediction: Bank ATL -2.5 and UNDER 38.

  • San Francisco 49ers vs Seattle Seahawks - SF -2.5
The battle for best in the West begins in Seattle on Sunday.  If Hasselbeck can stay healthy he should be the best QB in the division, but that is a big IF.   The team finally has some stability within the organization, but the same can't be said for the roster.   They rank near the top of the list in roster turnover and Carroll will need more than a year to turn things around.  'Housh' is getting the boot and they brought in Stacy Andrews from PHI.   They need all the help they can get because this game will be lost on the OFF/DEF lines.

On the flip side, things are looking bright for the 49ers.  For the first time in a long time they have more than 12 months of stability at QB.  They have revamped some of the offensive line and Gore will be eager to shake off his injury prone stigma.  There will be mismatches all over the field that SF should be able to take advantage of.

The only real advantage SEA will have is their crowd, but that shouldn't be much of a factor by the 4th quarter.  The weather will also be a non-issue.  Prediction: Bank SF -2.5.

  • Indianapolis Colts vs Houston Texans - IND -2.5
This will be an early benchmark game for the Texans.  Coach Kubiak is under the spotlight this year and things don't start off easy for him.  He will shoulder a lot of pressure at home kicking off against their nemesis in the Colts.  Luckily for him Schaub and AJ make an unstoppable deadly duo.   However, he will need huge games from Ryans and Williams because the defense will be without Cushing and Robinson.   Foster will also need to prove he can handle the starting job.  They also have questions at kicker and if things come down to an important kick, the pressure could be a factor.

Meanwhile, Peyton will have a full arsenal of weapons at his disposal and his options are flat out scary.  At the same time, their defense should be improved as Coyer enters his 2nd year as defensive coordinator, Sanders is healthy, and added depth on the D-line. 

The public is betting heavily on the Colts and there's good reason for it.  HOU is on their way, but they are not quite there yet.  Much like the ATL/PIT game, there is slight reverse line movement, but it will be a non-factor as well.  The Colts will start their annual undefeated run for 2010 in Texas.   Prediction: Bank IND -2.5.