National Football League News
Inside Week 1 and Super Bowl Odds
By Jeff Frank Sep 7, 2007, 17:21 GMT
Philadelphia, PA - Week one of the NFL season has just begun with Indianapolis defeating New Orleans 41-10 on Thursday night Football, but the rest of the action will be coming hot and heavy this Sunday and Monday.
The defending champion Colts are co-third choice with the Saints at 8-1 to repeat with the Patriots the 2-1 favorite. San Diego is second choice at odds of 13-2. Can Indianapolis become the first team to win back-to-back titles since New England accomplished that feat in '03 and '04?
The odds say no, and I tend to agree. There's no doubt the offense will shine once again, but a defense that was below par statistically speaking (23rd in scoring and 21st in total defense) took a major hit in the off-season with the losses of Cato June, Jason David, Nick Harper and Mike Doss, not to mention the season-ending injury sustained by Anthony McFarland.
The Patriots are almost everyone's pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, and most preseason publications predict them to win the whole enchilada. Playing the chalk is not a great way to build up the bank account, so let's find a couple of live longshots.
There are two valid possibilities and both have had recent appearances in the big game. The Pittsburgh Steelers, in fact, took home the crown just two seasons ago, but had a slew of preseason problems last year. Ben Roethlisberger was not in top shape after his motorcycle accident and neither was Hines Ward. In addition, the hangover of winning the Super Bowl played a huge part in the early season demise, as the team lost six of its first eight games.
The defense still ranked in the top 10 in total yards allowed, and Pittsburgh was one of 12 teams to hold opponents under 20 points per game. Look for the Steelers to come out smoking with new head coach Mike Tomlin leading the charge. Remember, the team won Bill Cowher's first three games, while finishing 11-5 in 1992 after a 7-9 season the year before. Pittsburgh is the third choice (2-1) to win the AFC North and a generous 13-1 to win the AFC Championship Game. Best of all, the Steelers are 20-1 to be crowned champs of the entire league.
Another longshot with a strong chance for glory is the Carolina Panthers. Many predicted them to represent the NFC last season, but the club couldn't recover from losing its first two games. On the bright side, the Panthers won five of their six divisional contests and have a decent chance to do so again.
Like Pittsburgh, Carolina's defense was among the best in the game last season, ranking ninth in points allowed (19 per game) and seventh (second in the NFC) in yards allowed. The offense should be much improved as injuries to the offensive line halted what should have been a solid running attack last season. With a healthier unit, expect the Panthers offense to be just as effective as their defense, which will lead them to a divisional crown and a trip to the Super Bowl.
The Panthers are 2-1 to win the NFC South, and surprisingly, are the seventh choice (7-1) to take the conference. They are rated 14th of the 32 teams to win it all at 25-1 and are definitely worth the investment.
WEEK ONE PLAYS
The Jets host the Patriots out at the Meadowlands and surprisingly, New York held its own with New England last season defeating the Pats in Foxboro and staying within a touchdown for most of the first three quarters in the playoff contest.
Former Bears running back Thomas Jones, who strained his right calf muscle on August 12, is expected to play after taking part in workouts for the first time this past Monday. His return gives the Jets a balanced offense, which they'll need to defeat the Patriots.
On the other sidelines, New England may not have a healthy quarterback. Tom Brady missed half of practice on Thursday with an ailing right shoulder. In addition, the Pats won't be at 100% on defense either with Rodney Harrison suspended the first four games and Richard Seymour on the sidelines for six weeks. Also, cornerback Asante Samuel has practiced for less than a week after signing a new contract.
It might take Brady at least one game to get used to all his new receivers, especially Randy Moss, who has missed most of camp with nagging injuries, so look for New York to be able to stay close with the Super Bowl favorites and cover the spread.
Take the Jets plus the points.
Tampa Bay travels to Seattle to take on a Seahawks club that lost three of its last four regular season games. Seattle was one of the worst teams in the league last year against the spread at 6-9-1 and is just 1-6-1 ATS in its last eight games as favorites.
The Bucs will be much improved this season with Jeff Garcia at quarterback, which in turn will boost the running game. Carnell Williams was unable to duplicate his spectacular rookie campaign with the likes of Bruce Gradkowski, Tim Rattay and Chris Simms under center in '06, but look for a much-improved season for the former Auburn star in '07.
Tampa's defense is still strong and will not allow the Seahawks to get on track in the opener. The Bucs have a good shot to pull off the upset, but even if they don't, they will at least cover the huge number.
Take Tampa Bay plus the points.
For some reason the Raiders are favored over the Lions. I guess the public doesn't believe Jon Kitna, who claimed Detroit would win at least 10 games this season. If the Lions can't defeat Oakland, then getting to 10 victories will definitely be a stretch.
It's true the Raiders have a fine defense, but they will rue the day they passed on Calvin Johnson. Their choice, JaMarcus Russell has not even signed a contract so Oakland will be going with Josh McCown as its starting quarterback, according to a report in the Oakland Tribune.
I understand the Lions have been a pitiful road team with just three wins away from home the last two seasons, but they did knock off the Cowboys in Dallas the last game of the '06 season, 39-31. In addition, Detroit is 3-1 ATS in its last four games when getting two points or less with two outright victories.
Take Detroit to get the win.
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