Week 1 � Early Leans
After cashing at a 64% clip last year, I�ve gotten off to a great start this preseason. Entering Friday�s action, I�ve gone 8-1 with my sides. As Coca Cola used to say though, �you can�t beat the real thing.� Despite my preseason dominance, I yearn for the beginning of the regular season. Unable to contain myself any longer, I thought that I'd share a few of my early leans for Week 1. Keep in mind that these are only very early opinions and are subject to change, due to line moves and/or injuries . Also, I�ve intentionally left out the two BIG plays which I have had circled since the schedule was released. Still, it�s never too early to start thinking and talking about Week 1!
1) Washington Redskins @ New York Giants -3.5
You'd probably guess otherwise, but since the beginning of the Millennium, betting on the Super Bowl Champs ATS in the first game the following season has been like a broken bank machine! I knew they'd been a big winner but checked in with Ben Burns to get the actual numbers. According to Burns, one of the sharpest football minds anywhere and also one of my personal friends, defending Super Bowl Champions are 7-0 SU and 6-0-1 ATS the past seven years, in Week 1 of the regular season. I learned the hard way as Ben and I had a friendly wager on last year's opener between the Colts and the Saints. I had the Saints. The Colts won by about 50 points! Anyway, I digress...
If the Giants play anything like they did in their second pre-season tilt vs. the Browns (a 37-34 thriller, featuring a number of spectacular plays in which Manning looked 'red hot'), not only should they cover their opener at home vs. the Redskins, but they're setting themselves up for another deep run into the playoffs (despite losing Strahan and Shockey).
The Redskins may be 3-0 in the preseason, but they still have a number of questions to answer on both sides of the ball.
One bright spot has been the play of Hawaii QB Colt Brennan who has been instrumental in the Redskins success thus far; but head coach Jim Zorn has shot down any idea's that the rookie will be starting any time soon: "I just don't want to splash the water on him yet, you know what I mean?" Zorn said.
So the Redskins will stick with Jason Campbell who has looked very uncomfortable in Zorn's new offense: "He still hesitated a couple of times," Zorn said. "The rhythm was a little off, and I think he fought through it."
On opening night, my early lean is for the Giants to win by at least a TD in front of the hometown crowd and the entire nation!
2) New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins +3
Brett Favre will underachieve in New York! If you read my article last week then you know how I feel the veteran QB and the Jets are going to do this season. That said, an opening game against last seasons worst team would seemingly be a golden opportunity for 'Broadway Favre' and New York to get off on the proverbial 'right foot'.
However, the Dolphins have a new head coach in Bill Parcell's, and with newly acquired QB Chad Pennington (who would love nothing more than to stick it to the J-E-T-S), throwing to Tedd Ginn Jr. and handing off to Ronnie Brown, the Fish will no doubt get a few more notches in the win column this season.
Although there are a lot of new faces for the Dolphins, they should demonstrate immediate improvement in special teams, commit fewer penalties, and turn the ball over less. They should also be better at stopping the run and running the ball in 2008.
Both teams were horrible last year, and both are starting a lot of new personnel; but in my opinion Miami is perfectly set up to play the roll of spoiler as the home dog in Week 1. Opinion becomes stronger if line climbs to +3.5 or +4.
3) Dallas Cowboys @ Cleveland Browns +3.5
I have never been convinced that Tony Romo is everything he's cracked up to be, and although on paper he has the better team surrounding him, I look for the Brown's to give the public darling Cowboys a run for their money in Week 1.
Brady Quinn replaced Derek Anderson in the second quarter of the Browns' loss to the Giants last week and performed well, leading Cleveland to a pair of touchdown drives that helped get them back in the game. Anderson suffered a concussion, and ready or not, Quinn has been thrust into the starters roll. In many ways Anderson and Quinn have similar styles of play, and I think Romeo Crennel can insert either into this offense and get the same result. Early lean to taking the points.
"Player X wants to beat team Y" and "This is his Superbowl" are foolish ways to cap games, especially in week 1. You really think Chad Pennington is going into this game with the mentality that this game will be the highlight of his season? Furthermore, do you really think that there aren't 53 guys on the other sideline that want to win just as badly? Because if there aren't, those guys shouldn't be in the league. Motivation and "revenge" will only get you so far - you still have to play the game. And from that standpoint, the Dolphins don't look like they are going to match up very well with the Jets.
Tony Sparano is the head coach of the Dolphins. Bill Parcells is just a scout now with no clout ;). Chad Pennington might not be upset, but he still wants to beat the Jets! - that's for damn sure. This is his Super Bowl. and in closing - J.T. O'Sullivan sucks.
Couldn't disagree more on the Jets-Dolphins. While Pennington would seemingly love to "stick it" to his old team, Chad apparently harbors no ill feelings towards his former team and understands that it was a business decision. Regardless of that, who better than Eric Mangini would know how to game plan for Pennington and attack his numerous weaknesses with what is looking to be a much improved defense from both a pass rushing and run stopping standpoint. The Dolphins may be able to run the ball a bit on the Jets, as Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams both have a good history against them, but this Jets team realizes it doesn't have much to fear in the passing game.
Defensively, the Dolphins are completely rebuilding and have lost their veteran leaders Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor. They don't have much by way of playmaking defenders and I see the Jets having few problems moving the ball on them all day and racking up some points. This improved Jets offensive line will control the line of scrimmage all day. The Dolphins may very well pull a cover out of their asses - but I'll certainly be betting the other way. No way they win this game. Oh, and Bill Parcells is not the Dolphins head coach.
The Dolphins do have a new head coach, but I believe his name is Sparano, not Parcells.