Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints (-5)
Brett Favre is a year older, missed most of training camp for the second straight year, and has health concerns. The Vikings are without their leading receiver from 2009, Sidney Rice, for at least half the year. Add to that the loss of backup running back Chester Taylor, who was a major factor in picking up blitzes in third down situations, and it becomes apparent the team has regressed since last season. The Saints come into this game mainly at full strength, and should dominate the game from start to finish to begin their title defense.
Against the spread: Saints
Straight up: Saints
Carolina Panthers at New York Giants (-6.5)
Maybe a better topic of conversation, instead of which team will win the game, would be which team has the better Steve Smith at wide receiver. My vote goes to the Giants, who should "officially" open the New Meadowlands Stadium in victorious fashion.
Against the spread: Giants
Straight up: Giants
Miami Dolphins (-3) at Buffalo Bills
Last season, these two teams traded blowout wins in the opposing team's stadium. Since, the Dolphins have added wide receiver Brandon Marshall and gotten much younger on defense. The Bills dropped T.O. and added rookie rusher C.J. Spiller, but it won't be near enough.
Against the spread: Dolphins
Straight up: Dolphins
Atlanta Falcons (-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers
As easy as it is to root for him, it's tough to bet on Dennis Dixon leading the Steelers to very many victories in Big Ben's absence. Matt Ryan and Michael Turner are healthy in Atlanta and the team seems to be ready to be a force in the NFC again.
Against the spread: Falcons
Straight up: Falcons
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears (-6.5)
The Lions should be improved this year, but I'm not sure they have enough (or anything) on defense to avoid getting into shootouts each week. The Bears defense has a healthy Brian Urlacher returning and newly acquired Julius Peppers at defensive end. Of course, they still have interception machine Jay Cutler slinging the ball around, so I wouldn't be too excited if I were a Bears fan.
Against the spread: Lions
Straight up: Bears
Cincinatti Bengals at New England Patriots (-4.5)
On Thursday morning, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was involved in an auto accident that had hundreds of thousands of fantasy owners (including myself) and Pats fans holding their breath. Short of Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis driving his ride through the Patriot locker room before the game, this game - and season - will be all Patriots.
Against the spread: Patriots
Straight up: Patriots
Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3)
Buccaneers ownership has to be thanking the NFL for scheduling this doozy early in the year. Play this game in December and you'd have more fans show up for a Marlins game in August. The Browns, with Jake Delhomme at quarterback now and Eric Mangini coaching, have more experience on the field and on the sideline.
Against the spread: Browns
Straight up: Browns
Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars (-2.5)
I like Kyle Orton. Without Brandon Marshall this season, though, the Broncos offense is hard-pressed for weapons. The Jaguars don't exactly have an abundance of weapons, either, although Maurice Jones-Drew should count as at least three. A heavy dose of him should do the trick.
Against the spread: Jaguars
Straight up: Jaguars
Indianapolis Colts (-2) at Houston Texans
I'm shocked the Colts aren't favored by more. They simply own the Texans. Since the Texans franchise was formed in 2002, they are
1-15 against Indy. Naturally, I'll go against the trend and take Houston.
Against the spread: Texans
Straight up: Texans
Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans (-6)
The good: The Raiders finally have a real NFL quarterback running the show. The bad: It's Jason Campbell. Tennessee finished 8-2 last year after an 0-6 start. I'm expecting a pitcher's duel here. Final score: Titans 5, Raiders 4?
Against the spread: Raiders
Straight up: Titans
Green Bay Packers (-3) at Philadelphia Eagles
It's probably unfair to judge the Eagles by their preseason game against Kansas City. The thing is, I just can't get it out of my head. The Aaron Rodgers MVP campaign should get going quickly.
Against the spread: Packers
Straight up: Packers
San Francisco 49ers (-3) at Seattle Seahawks
It's anybody's guess as to which Matt Hasselbeck will show this year for the Seahawks. My money's on last year's Matt over the mid-2000s Matt. As for San Fran, I'd say head coach Mike Singletary is good for eight tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble.
Against the spread: 49ers
Straight up: 49ers
Arizona Cardinals (-4) at St. Louis Rams
Kurt Warner is gone, Larry Fitzgerald is hurt, and the defense is still average at best in Arizona. I smell upset, and a big first win for rookie Sam Bradford.
Against the spread: Rams
Straight up: Rams
Dallas Cowboys (-3.5) at Washington Redskins
I don't mean to alarm the folks at ESPN, but the Skins have more question marks than just big Albert Haynesworth. During training camp, you couldn't flip to the "world-wide leader" for more than thirty seconds without hearing an update on Haynesworth's condition. Hopefully, new coach Mike Shanahan realizes he has plenty of other things to address - like who's going to run the ball, who's going to catch the ball, and how in the world can he keep new quarterback Donovan McNabb healthy? Big-D will get a big win.
Against the spread: Cowboys
Straight up: Cowboys
Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets (-2.5)
You'd think, with all the hype (including from this blog), that these two teams would have finished 2009 with better records. Both finished 9-7 in the regular season and earned wild card playoff berths. During the offseason, though, some separation between the two was established. The Jets starred in a reality television show and let the league's best cornerback sit out all of training camp. The Ravens spent the past six months improving their team. Monday, their Super Bowl quest begins.
Against the spread: Ravens
Straight up: Ravens
San Diego Chargers (-4.5) at Kansas City Chiefs
The Chargers are without their top receiver - possibly for good - and their starting left tackle for this game. The Chiefs still have Matt Cassel and an unproven defense. Expect a raucous crowd in Kansas City to help bring back a little Arrowhead magic Monday night.
Against the spread: Chiefs
Straight up: Chiefs
Spreads used were the latest listed at sportsbook.com.