NFL Picks Week 1: Let the futility begin!

FESCHUK/REID: Onward to a fresh season of prognostic wizardry…

Scott Reid: To the delight of tens, we’re back!  (Ok, maybe just ten – but the part about being back is indisputable). Back with cogent analysis. Skillful breakdowns. Fearless predictions. And the best one-on-one chemistry since Booth and Bones (obviously, I’m Booth). Indeed, here at Macleans.ca we are celebrated as a more erudite, slightly less homoerotic version of the Wells-Coyne online coupling. All that plus endless references to boobies, poutine, zombies and under-appreciated television stars. Let’s start this week with Dirk Benedict – who didn’t so much as get a cameo in either the Galactica re-boot or the new A-Team movie. Which, incidentally, was freakin brilliant – at least two and a half times better than The Losers.

I’ve been asked many times this summer for my take on Brett Favre’s entirely un-shocking retirement/unretirement, Cincy’s signing of TO, Revis’ holdout and what Conservative MP – and all-round terrific guy – Dean Del Mastro might look like half-naked, caked in dried mud from the Dead Sea and hanging off of an impossibly handsome blond man. I can profess expertise on only one of these important matters:

But enough about large men, let’s get to the football. And given it’s the start of the season, we should naturally skip straight to February 2011 with our guaranteed-to-be-correct Super Bowl predictions. I am certain the Lombardi trophy will remain in NFC hands this year with the Green Bay Packers prevailing over the Indianapolis Colts. Yes, Peyton Manning, it’s a good thing you got that one Super Bowl because you’re slowly turning into Jim Kelly. Hey Fatchuk – weren’t you a Bills fan once?

Scott Feschuk: It’s photographs like the one you just posted that lend greater tragedy to the fact that Paul Martin was swept from power in 2006 – just when his Liberal government was on the verge of a bold infrastructure program to install an emergency eye wash station in every Canadian home. Think of the trauma that could have been averted just now, not to mention us having to waste the cringing that we were saving up to use when poor Sam Bradford has his tibia shattered this weekend.

I feel I must make amends to readers by including a photograph that is more pleasing to the eye.

But you’re right about one thing: by popular demand (hi Dad!), we are back and committed to being better than ever. You’ve had a good run, nature and society – but our next 20 Sundays are the exclusive property of the National Football League. Two hours of pre-game. Ten hours of game. Followed by, in Reid’s case, 90 minutes of girlish sulking about why Mark Sanchez never responds to his tweets.

As for a Super Bowl prediction, I was tempted to defer to your selection of the Packers, until I remembered that you’re the guy who in past seasons has picked the Rams (final record: 2-14) and the Seahawks (an impressive 3-13) to hoist the Lombardi. I don’t know how, but by choosing Green Bay you’ve pretty much doomed them to a season in which Aaron Rodgers develops Steve Sax syndrome and the linebacking corps renounces physical violence, preferring instead to try to reason with the ball carrier.

My Super Bowl prediction: the Baltimore Ravens over the Atlanta Falcons, who went only 9-7 last season but whose seven losses came to teams with a combined 61-35 record (they lost twice to the Saints).

Onward to a fresh season of prognostic wizardry…

Minnesota (plus 5) at New Orleans, Thursday

Reid: I’m sorry to be the first to say it but Favre is over. That ankle is no damn good. All his receivers are injured or migraine-y. And Father Time tucks Deanna’s husband into bed each night with a big spoonful of Buckley’s “You’re-Finally-Over-the-Hill” mixture. Add to that a super-dumb effort by the Vikes to suggest that New Orleans didn’t deserve to win last year’s NFC Championship (err, except they DID win it) that will backfire into motivating a still awesomely-balanced football team and you’re looking at an ass-pounding. Expect the Saints to come marching in. And Reggie, you might want to take a colour photocopy of that Heisman fast so you can remember what it looked like. Pick: New Orleans.

Feschuk: Brad Childress is yet further proof of the dismaying fact that a thick sexy moustache will only get you so far. Just ask Tom Selleck or Rosie O’Donnell. Thanks to Favre, the coach has no authority, gets no respect and has to remember to hang dry – not tumble dry – Brett’s Wranglers. Everything went right for the Vikings last season – when one thing goes wrong this season, watch the whole thing collapse in a messy pile of recriminations, sucky-fits and hilarious interceptions. Pick: New Orleans.


Detroit (plus 6.5) at Chicago

Feschuk: The Lions might not completely suck! There hasn’t been this much excitement in Detroit since the city had an economy. The receivers are solid, the quarterback is gaining experience and the general manager isn’t Matt Millen. What’s not to like? Plus, there’s Ndamukong Suh, who – during a single play in the pre-season – managed to beat a double team, then facemask Jake Delhomme, grab him in a headlock and bodyslam him to the turf.

I like the rookie’s composure: he’s saving the eye-gougings and ritual beheadings for when things really count. Meanwhile, in Chicago, they’ve combined a sulky and interception-prone quarterback with an under-talented, undersized corps of receivers (Devin Hester is a No. 1 receiver the same way Justin Long is a leading man and RC is a cola) and a hot-headed offensive co-ordinator who devises incredibly complex schemes. What could possibly go wrong? Pick: Detroit.

Reid: You’re forgetting the thoroughly blow-dried effect of Mike Martz. If anyone can cash in the gunslinging, pass-happy loaf of banana bread known as Jay Cutler, surely it’s the man who gets mistaken at the supermarket for Marlon Brando’s Jor El. Why, Martz hasn’t had such a choice opportunity to strut his stuff since he was named offensive coordinator of the… Lions? I see much pain ahead for the Bears. But frankly, that’s what you get for picking a coach named Lovie. Pick: Detroit.


Carolina (plus 7) at New York Giants

Reid: The Carolina Panthers start the 2010 season without Jake Delhomme. So instantly people will be wondering where will all their interceptions come from this season? Don’t fret. Matt Moore may be young and possessed of a 60%-plus completion rate in his eight starts but he’ll surely find a way to fill the turnover void that Delhomme leaves behind. Some people think the Panthers will surprise this year. Of course, some people think that Paris Hilton really was holding that blow for a friend. I’m no fan of this year’s Giants – Eli is a weenie. But they’ll handle Carolina at home with ease. Pick: New York Giants.

Feschuk: You know what I love about training camp? Check out this actual list of headline links from the beginning of the pre-season:

  • 49ers: New attitude permeates
  • Lions: Stafford learning from mistakes
  • Dolphins: Don’t underestimate Miami
  • Panthers: Solid to the core
  • Bengals: Expectations are high
  • Jaguars: Thinking big in 2010

Got that? Every team is going to be great in 2010! Even the lousy ones! I’m telling you: we haven’t seen this much unwarranted optimism since various people married Charlie Sheen. Pick: Carolina.


Denver (plus 2.5) at Jacksonville

Feschuk: I enjoyed the moment in June when Josh McDaniels made the point of announcing that Kyle Orton would be his starting quarterback. Dude, your other QBs are Brady Quinn and Tim Tebow. That’s kind of like Ryan Reynolds announcing he’s going to be having sex with Scarlett Johansson instead of Snooki or that roll of Charmin toilet paper over there. Not really necessary. That said, the Broncos O-line has been hit with so many injuries that they’re actually plugging in a guy who’s been cut by four different teams. I’m not saying Orton is in going to get murderized, but the Denver trainer has bookmarked several sites on how to reinsert a man’s spleen. Pick: Jacksonville.

Reid: What is Pat Bowlen thinking? Handing the Broncos over to McDaniels is like flipping the keys to your 1963 Aston Martin DB5 to Ronnie Milsap. First he drove out Cutler. Then he drove out Brandon Marshall. Now you get the feeling he’s itching to actually start Tebow – and that dude’s not even a real quarterback! He’s just a walking Bible verse. The Broncos are turning into a bad joke. I haven’t seen anything this wrong since Feschuk played Mimi in the Opera Lyra production of RENT. Pick: Jacksonville.


Miami (minus 3) at Buffalo

Reid: What could be sadder than the Bills? A little boy with a missing puppy? Roger Clemens without a warm blanket of self-delusion? Scott Feschuk standing over a spilled lava cake? The Bills are so sad that their entire season is already tied to the performance of a rookie running back. Two problems with that philosophy: First, Spiller probably won’t be THAT good. Second, running backs just don’t make that big a difference in the NFL – or did the Titans make the playoffs last year? I have a friend who wants to bet thousands of dollars on this game because he thinks the line is so crazy. But he can’t find a bookie to take the action (yes, I did say “bookie” – it’s true, my circle of friends is eerily similar to Jim Rockford’s). This is the first of many unpleasant losses for the 2010 Bills. Pick: Miami.

Feschuk: Your whole analysis is flawed by factual inaccuracy: for instance, you don’t have any friends, let alone one with thousands of dollars (I know his eyes seem to lock onto yours with a laser-like intensity pregnant with meaning and desire –  but Jon Hamm is inside the TV box, Reid, and not actually in your rec room with you.) Besides, I don’t like you getting down on my Bills. That flock of vultures circling persistently over Ralph Wilson Stadium could be there for any reason. Pick: Miami.


Cleveland (plus 3) at Tampa Bay

Feschuk: Given that his quarterback is still recovering from a broken thumb, Raheem Morris has indicated that his team’s best chance of winning its opener will be to control the clock and keep the ball on the ground. Its second best chance of winning: just keep hurling those virgins into that volcano until some deity or other finally notices. Across southwest Florida, Bucs fans are rallying behind the team’s inspirational new slogan. The 2010 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Why couldn’t the lockout have been this year? Pick: Cleveland.

Reid: What a perfectly silly waste of virgins. Especially when the other team is starting Jake Delhomme at quarterback. Just tape your defense’s hands palm-side up and wait til the ball lands on you. Count me among the few but soon-to-be-proud fans of Josh Freeman. He’s the sleeper young QB in the game today. As long as Tampa stops Cribbs, they win this game. Pick: Tampa Bay.


Atlanta (minus 2.5) at Pittsburgh

Reid: How bad is the blood between Tomlin and Big Ben when the coach won’t even concede that Ben will be the starting QB when his suspension is served? Wait. Before you answer, also consider this question: Which season of Little House on the Prairie was the best? (Hint: It was pretty awesome when Charles and the townsfolk made their way back to Walnut Grove – with city boy Albert in tow).  My point is that the answer doesn’t matter. This team is in disarray and when coaches and star players collide, trouble follows (footnote: Washington).  Atlanta has a good young team and will win their division. Ryan is the real deal. Roddy White is the second best receiver in football, behind Andre Johnson. And their D is improving – particularly in the secondary. I didn’t even get to Turner. Whatever a Dixon is, it will be hurting sumpin awful come Sunday. Pick: Atlanta.

Feschuk: Pittsburgh lost five straight when it mattered most last season, including games to Cleveland, K.C. and Oakland. And now their offence is in the hands of caretaker QB Dennis Dixon, who has thrown 27 passes in his NFL career. Naturally, Peter King of Sports Illustrated has picked them to win the Super Bowl. Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me: Peter King is apparently a halfwit. Pick: Atlanta.


Cincinnati (plus 4.5) at New England

Feschuk: The NFL off-season is so long that you have enough time to talk yourself into pretty much anything, such as the Raiders as a sleeper pick to make the playoffs or the Patriots thriving in the post-season with Justin Bieber as their quarterback.

Some people have even gone so far as to buy into Carson Palmer as an elite QB. But does he have the right stuff? It was Fox’s Tony Siragusa who observed during the pre-season that “Carson’s balls are a little elevated” – which, according to WebMD, can be corrected through laparoscopic surgery. What’s more relevant here is that his passes are often too high.  That, and the fact he’ll be throwing to two loud-mouthed, me-first receivers (T.O. and Ocho) who have already scored their own TV show, which I believe is called Which One of Us Will Become a Team Cancer First? Pick: New England.

Reid: I had elevated balls back in ’03. But I sat in the tub for a couple days and they went right back to normal – well, normal for me. The apparent enthusiasm for the Bengals this year is one of those bizarre, irrational events that defies conventional analysis. Like the Wildcat formation or Glenn Beck. I’m not convinced the New England defense will stand up to the NFL’s best this year but tricking the Bengals shouldn’t be too hard. Just tell Ochocinco that TO tweeted that his ass is getting fat and watch them squabble among themselves. Palmer? He’s not been the same since he injured his knee. And he’s been a bit of a pussy since he saw Paranormal Activity. Pick: New England.


Oakland (plus 6.5) at Tennessee

Reid: Thanks to JaMarcus Russell I now know all about the dangers of “Purple Drank” – a potent blend of codeine, booze, Coca-Cola and Jolly Ranchers candy that may have played an instrumental role in his two big problems of the past few years: Being fat and being ungood. (The less inner-city of you may think I’m bullshitting – but this is for real). It’s been an eye-opener for me. And I’ve sworn off all cocktails with codeine or candy, just as a lifestyle precaution. Meanwhile Al Davis continues to enjoy fine health as long as he eats his three squares a day –- along with the still-beating heart of a virgin at every full moon. All this helps explain why the Raiders will pass the Broncos in the AFC West and push the Chargers for the division title. (No, I’m not back on the Jolly Ranchers – I mean it).  Tennessee takes a step back this year. Raiders take a leap forward. Pick: Oakland.

Feschuk: I love the NFL. Only in the NFL could a team that won five games last year, and scored almost 200 fewer points than it allowed, be cited by so many “experts” as a potential division winner because they added a quarterback who wasn’t good enough to cut it last season with 4-12 team. If only they’d replaced their secondary with cardboard cutouts of Darth Vader, they could have been getting Super Bowl buzz. Pick: Tennessee.


Indianapolis (minus 2.5) at Houston

Feschuk: I’m bored with the Colts. They’re boring. You bore me, Indianapolis. Your city is boring. Your coach is boring. Your former coach is judgmental, but in a boring way. Your record over the last seven years is boring: 14-2, 12-4, 14-2, 12-4,13-3, 12-4, 14-2.  Peyton Manning is so effortless and methodical that even he is boring. But the Texans! The Texans are sooooo sexy because every year they look like they’re going to be awesome and every year they let us down. Americans are fascinated by and weirdly attracted to those who constantly underachieve. How else do you explain why people keep making movies with Nicole Kidman and sandwiches with whole wheat bread? Pick: Houston.

Reid: If underachieving made people sexy, I’d have to change my name to Kim Novak. But I agree with you. The Colts are boring. Cheering for them is like cheering for NCIS: Los Angeles. And the Texans are fun. But Schaub to Johnson can’t do it all week in and week out. The Colts and their bloodless efficiency will snuff the fun right out of Houston. Pick: Indianapolis.


Green Bay (minus 3) at Philadelphia

Reid: Kevin Kolb put up scary-good numbers as a backup to Donovan McNabb. So how in the name of Frank Reich can he possibly fail as the new starting QB in Philly? Errr, let me rephrase that.  The only thing uglier than the pre-season performance of Old ‘Corn On The’ are Heidi Montag’s enormous new fake bosoms. But unlike Kolb, Heidi’s giga-breasts are at least good for something (reportedly, they were used to finally cap the BP oil leak).  Green Bay has it all going – think of Aaron Rodgers as the perfectly apportioned Halle Berry to Kolb’s Speidi nightmare. All star quarterback. Top notch O-line. The best D in the league. If this team doesn’t make the Super Bowl, then I don’t know a thing about huge fake breasts. Pick: Green Bay.

Feschuk: Golly. I haven’t been this turned on by something related to football since I sensed the raw sexual chemistry between Phyllis George and Irv Cross. Pick: Green Bay.


Arizona (minus 4) at St. Louis

Feschuk: How lousy must the NFC West be for the Cardinals to still be getting some love as a potential division winner? They lost their No. 2 receiver, which means Larry Fitzgerald is going to be triple teamed more often than Sasha Grey. And Derek Anderson was named the starting quarterback because Kurt Warner retired, and Matt Leinart was released, and Jeff George was busy playing canasta with Warren Moon, and Johnny Unitas was still dead, and Ryan Leaf couldn’t get out of his shift at the car wash. Meanwhile, the Rams have handed the reins of the franchise to Sam Bradford, who will start at QB in his first game as a professional because A.J. (No Can) Feeley (His Injured Thumb). Pick: Arizona.

Reid: Wouldn’t it be nice to fail like Matt Leinart? Sure, he’s been publicly humiliated and deemed close to an all-time bust. But he’s still a multi-millionaire, has a job in the NFL and is so good looking that when he walks by store-window mannequins, they sigh with jealousy. Who knows? Maybe he’ll never catch on in pro football. But that’s true for the rest of us every day. He gets EVERYTHING else in life that we don’t. Goddamn, I’m starting to hate that colossal loser for being so much more of a winner than me. Don’t be surprised if Sam Bradford plays well this season. Not well enough for St. Louis to win more than four games. And certainly not well enough to reprise their 2008 Super Bowl-winning season (an event that occurred exclusively on this blog). But better than your average bear. Pick: St. Louis.


San Francisco (minus 3) at Seattle

Reid: Let’s get one thing perfectly clear: Pete Carroll knew nothing of Reggie Bush’s troubles or anything else untoward with respect to his players at USC. Don’t all 18 year olds drive Porsche convertibles and have a stylish Tumi-bag full of cash in case they want to pick something up at the tuck shop after practice?  Carroll has escaped to Seattle where he hopes to put the unpleasant questions behind him. In front of him, however, stands a really bad football team. Mike Singletary has never been accused of cutting corners to win football games. He does it the old fashioned way: He brutalizes his players with inspirational speeches and bug-shit crazy eyes that burn through your chest cavity until you do what he wants. My Niners are going to win the NFC West cold and make a solid playoff run this season. Expectations couldn’t be lower for my man Alex Smith – and that’s just where he and I like them. He’s the Freddie Prinze Jr. of the NFL – a man long overdue for a comeback. (When will they make a new Scooby movie, anyway?).  This won’t be close. Pick: San Francisco.

Feschuk: I caught their exhibition game v. the Vikings on TV and, well, enduring the Seahawks offence is like watching an old person trying to use one of those self-serve checkout scanners at the grocery store. Poor Matt Hasselbeck – he had one decent receiver to throw to and then his GM goes and cuts T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The top WR on the Seattle depth chart is now Mike Williams, whose career highlights consist of a) being drafted in the first round by Detroit in 2005, and b) successfully wearing pants for all 30 games in which he played before being drummed out of the league in 2007. To add insult to injury for Hasselbeck, his backup Charlie Whitehurst has just a stunning head of hair.

Life? UNFAIR. Pick: San Francisco.


Dallas (minus 3.5) at Washington

Feschuk: The season hasn’t even started and already Mike Shanahan’s facial muscles are tensed so tight that they’re about to explode through his skin and strangle Albert Haynesworth. And yet where’s Dan Snyder in all this? He hasn’t even chimed in by saying something stupid or signing the ghost of Lyle Azado to a $100-million contract. I’m shocked. This is shocking. How shocking is this? Imagine discovering that Jerry Jones’s face is suddenly loose enough to form an expression. Yes, it’s that shocking. On the other sideline, it took Wade Phillips all training camp but he finally figured out how to get his headset tuned to XM Radio’s 1950s channel. It’s go time. Pick: Washington.

Reid: This just in: Dallas bites it. I know everyone’s horny for the Cowboys and acres of people pick them to go all the way. But there’s a flaw in that argument that I’ve already pointed out: Dallas bites it. Always have. Always will. Call me immature and lacking in arguments that can be demonstrated statistically but I tell you there is no way that Wade Phillips is going to lead a team to a Super Bowl victory. You need someone to lead you to Mongolian barbecue? Wade’s your man. To the shelf where you can find the store-bought butter tarts? I say again, count on Wade. But to historic and lasting football success? Not so much. Shanahan seems to sure enjoy pissing in everyone’s corn flakes just to show he’s in charge. But you’ve got to hand it to the guy – he’s pulling this clownshow together after years of failed attempts. McNabb is going to take this team places fast. Starting Sunday night. Pick: Washington.


Baltimore (plus 2.5) at New York Jets, Monday

Reid: I would be able to comment more intelligently on this game if it weren’t for the freaking CRTC. Thanks to Konrad-with-a-K, I have not been able to see Hard Knocks and, as such, I’m thoroughly uneducated about the true spirit of the New York Jets as witnessed by US television fans. But I do know three things about the Jets this season: I hate them, I hate their loud-mouth asshead coach and I hate their spoiled-brat-dilettante corner Moneybags Revis. Baltimore is everyone’s It-girl this off-season. And I do like Flacco and the offense. But sadly, I think the Raven’s D has lost a large step. However, as a point of principle, I’m betting on Baltimore to shut up Rex Ryan on MNF. I’m hoping they stuff his airhole with what’s left of Mark Sanchez’s torso after Ray Lewis mangles the NY QB. Pick: Baltimore.

Feschuk: Come on, Reid: How can you not love Rex Ryan? He’s just like you, except charming and successful. Frankly, I’m not even sure why they’re bothering to play this game – haven’t the Jets already won the Super Bowl? They sure have in Rex Ryan’s fantasy world. (Things that have also happened in Rex Ryan’s fantasy world: Tony Dungy has been eaten by lions; Snickers bars are now available in cologne form.) Pick: Baltimore.


San Diego (minus 4.5) at K.C., Monday

Feschuk: The spread has come down since it first was posted, as Vegas sharps have soured on the Chargers and come to view the Chiefs as a reclamation project poised for their big reveal. Some are even picking K.C. to win the division. But what’s really important here is that the f-ing NFL Network has hired f-ing Joe f-ing Thiesmann to be an analyst on its Thursday night games later in the year. At long last, we’ll once again have at our service an individual with the stones to tell us who he went out for dinner with the night before. We had dinner last night with coach Norv Turner. And he told us that this Chargers team is in every sense of the word a Chargers team, in that, technically speaking, team members are permitted by management to wear the uniform of San Diego Chargers. I just think that says it all! Pick: K.C.

Reid: I’m not saying you’re obsessed with Joe Theismann, but it is a bit odd the way you blame him for everything that goes wrong in the world. For example, I’m not convinced he’s responsible for every M. Night Shyamalan movie since Sixth Sense. Plus, I liked Unbreakable. You know what’s really funny about the NFL Network though? The way they have Trent Green and Kurt Warner on the same panel previewing the upcoming season. And guess what? Warner’s better at it! Well, no kidding. Can’t you just imagine Green sitting in studio saying ‘you stole my career once Bible boy – now stay outta my camera lane’.  It’s just a matter of time til they announce that Green’s torn his ACL and Warner will be taking over all his broadcasting responsibilities. Maybe they have a national football network in Kansas City that Green can go lead. Speaking of which, I think this Chiefs team is better. Just not that much better. Watch for Norv to try to piss away the lead late in the game. But I’m still guessing the Chargers will cover. Pick: San Diego.