Hard to pick teams who will win at start of NFL season
This is my most dreaded prognostication time of the NFL season — Week 1.
Not being a student of the game and not studying every personnel move of every team to see if they’ve improved or gotten worse, I end up picking based on last year’s assumptions.
It’s also one reason I gave up on fantasy football years ago — it’s just too much work, most of it unproductive anyway.
Judging any team based on its preseason performance only makes things worse, but I’ve pretty successfully ignored that, too.
The league decided Wednesday to postpone the Miami Dolphins’ game against Tampa Bay to Week 11 because of Category 5 Hurricane Irma bearing down on south Florida.
It just so happened that both teams have their byes in the same mid-November week.
So we only have 15 games in what would normally be a full week of all 32 league teams playing:
Today, 8:30 p.m.
Kansas City at New England — Undefendable New England tight end Rob Gronkowski was healthy enough to play in the preseason. That’s got to be worth close to a touchdown, especially in prime time, until he gets hurts for an extended period again. Patriots, 31-24.
Sunday, 1 p.m.
New York Jets at Buffalo — There’s three real reclamation projects in the league this season, I hear. One of them is the Jets. So because they’re not the Jets, take the Bills, 19-10.
Atlanta at Chicago — The Bears are close enough to being a reclamation project, especially against Atlanta’s vaunted offense. Falcons, 33-23.
Baltimore at Cincinnati — Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is supposedly ready to play after missing the entire preseason. Does that mean he’ll be 100 percent? I’m thinking not. Bengals, 24-16.
Pittsburgh at Cleveland — Reclamation project No. 2: the Browns. So because they’re not Cleveland, take the Steelers, 30-17.
Arizona at Detroit — The obvious choice is the Lions at home, but Arizona has had their number for quite awhile, and besides, I don’t think Detroit was anything greater than its last-minute comebacks last season.
The law of averages says they won’t pull off anywhere near eight of these rabbits out of the hat this season. Cardinals, 23-20.
Jacksonville at Houston — Here’s to being inspired to lift spirits in the Texas flood plain. And besides, Houston is the superior team. Texans, 24-14.
Oakland at Tennessee — Two up-and-comers, but Oakland is a lot further along in the process. Raiders, 38-31.
Philadelphia at Washington — The NFC East is the hardest division to pick. I’ll go against the Redskins or whatever we really should call them, since they had the 29th-ranked defense last year even with Josh Norman patrolling the secondary. Eagles, 30-23.
Sunday, 4 p.m.
Indianapolis at Los Angeles Rams — We finally reach reclamation project No. 3: the Colts without QB Andrew Luck. I’m certainly not high on this L.A. team, either, but Rams, 24-16.
Seattle at Green Bay — Sorry, not pickin’ against the Pack at home. At least not yet. Packers, 34-28.
Carolina at San Francisco — The 49ers have their coaching carousel with a different coach each of the last three years, including Kyle Shanahan in his first game as the sideline boss this weekend. Even if he’s successful in turning this team around, they should need at least one week to adjust. Panthers, 31-23.
Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
New York Giants at Dallas — The impossible-to-pick NFC East matchup No. 2. I was going to take the Giants until I saw that even with Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension upheld, he gets to play in this game. So he could carry the ball 55 times and spend the next month and a half recovering. Cowboys, 24-17.
Monday, 7 p.m.
New Orleans at Minnesota — The Vikings will know more about the tendencies of their former star running back, Adrian Peterson, than he’ll know about his entire former team’s tendencies.
Added in to the Saints going three straight years without a winning record even with the home-field advantage the Super Dome provides, I normally don’t touch them on the road. Vikings, 41-30.
Monday, 10:15 p.m.
Los Angeles Chargers at Denver — Another team much better at home, but its Denver actually at home. Broncos, 21-10.
Last season: Regular season, 161-93-2, 63 percent; Playoffs, 9-2, 82 percent.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.
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