After several months of dormancy, we are back to writing about the NFL and our prognostication!
This will be Year 2 for the Super Contest and I won't be going solo. My brother Hatim and our friend Kevin will be joining the team. Our picks represent a blend of statistical analysis, historical data, intuition, and a combined 90 years of NFL viewing experience.
Here are our Super Five Picks for Week 1.
LA Rams - 4
San Francisco +5.5
LA Chargers +3
Here are our reasons.
Atlanta needs to win by at least a TD in Chicago to cover. Given how weak the Chicago defense was last year and how prolific the Falcons offense was in 2016, we think these trends continue. The GE model has the Falcons winning by nearly 12 points. The Bears didn't do much to address their lack of talent on both sides of the ball during the most recent offseason. The Falcons should produce at a very high level with almost everyone returning from last year. PREDICTION: Chicago 17 - Atlanta 30
Houston is at home and will be playing with a lot of emotion after Hurricane Harvey. Just look at how well the Houston Astros have played since last week. Yes, that is a different sport but you can't count out the emotional factor in sports, especially with JJ Watt's return. Houston's defense was already very good last year without Watt. Imagine how much better they will be this season. Jacksonville could be a team on the rise but they are still young and very mistake prone. The GE model has the Texans beating the Jaguars by more than 12 points (largest spread for this week based on our model) so expect Houston to win big. PREDICTION: Jacksonville 14 - Houston 28
The Rams favored by 4 seems suspect. They were awful last year. The GE model in fact favors Indy by 2 points but doesn't adjust for the loss of Andrew Luck. Also, there is a new sheriff in town for the Rams with 31 year old head coach Sean McVay (I have former students older than him!). He has quite a pedigree with grandfather John McVay playing an instrumental role in building the 49ers dynasty during the 80's and 90's. The younger McVay himself groomed Kirk Cousins into the Pro Bowl level QB he is today. Adding a new WR in Sammy Watkins definitely helps. The defense is still very good even if Aaron Donald won't play due to a contract holdout. One thing that should mitigate Donald's absence is the addition of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Most of the defenses he has coached have ranked in the top five in several key categories with his most recent success being the Super Bowl 50 Champions: Denver Broncos. On the other side of the ball, the hope is that Jared Goff will grow in Year 2 and that Todd Gurley will see more open running lanes instead of the stacked boxes of last season. The Colts are downright terrible without Andrew Luck and the defense is nothing special. They will be even worse without Vontae Davis. Rams should win by a TD. PREDICTION: Indianapolis 20 - LA Rams 27
OK, no more chalk. Taking a home dog with the 49ers. The Panthers are favored by 5.5 points. The GE model has the Panthers winning but by just 5 points. Not the best value here but the 49ers tend to do well during Week 1 of the NFL season. In fact they have won their last 6 season openers and 7 of the last 8. This has been against good competition like the Packers and Seahawks and during some seasons when the 49ers were not very good. With a new QB and coaching staff in place, there is a sense of optimism in Silicon Valley besides multi-billion dollar profits from the world's richest companies. The Panthers look to erase the memories of their Super Bowl hangover from last season and hope that new RB Christian McCaffrey will make the offense more multi-dimensional. No doubt McCaffrey is a stud athlete and should do well at the NFL level. The question one has to ponder, however, is how would McCaffrey fare against his own defense at Stanford last season or Alabama's championship front seven? Our guess is not very good. It so happens the 49ers two first round picks from the most recent NFL draft are Solomon Thomas and Ruben Foster who each respectively spearheaded Stanford's and Alabama's stout run defenses last year. Should the 49ers run defense hold its own, the Panthers offense becomes one-dimensional making this a closer game and the 49ers covering the spread at home. PREDICTION: Carolina 24 - San Francisco 20
Lastly, we end our Big Five Bets selection with one of the Monday Night games. The new LA Chargers (still sounds weird saying that!) travel to Denver for the later Monday Night affair. One has to think the Broncos defense will step up by asserting its will against a divisional rival on national TV. While this rivalry has been hotly contested for quite a long time, the Chargers go into this game at full strength on both sides of the ball. In some ways, this season's Chargers have some parallels to last year's Falcons. Both have veteran QBs who are comfortable in the pocket, quality running backs in Melvin Gordon and Derek Watt (JJ Watt's younger brother who happens to be an excellent blocker), and a plethora of talented wide receivers and tight ends. On the defense, Joey Bosa enters Year 2 and already shined as a rookie. While the Denver defense, especially the pass rush, should be very good, one has to wonder how the loss of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will impact the defensive play calling. The Denver offense lacks punch and the new coaching staff is just too green. The GE model has the Broncos winning this game by more than 5 points but we feel the Chargers will leave Mile High with a victory and surprise the national TV audience, much how the Chiefs surprised us two nights ago. PREDICTION: San Diego 23 - Denver 20
Well there we have it for our Super Five Picks!
Here are predictions for the remaining games. Teams covering the spread are in asterisks and the over/under point total predictions are in parentheses. Road teams are listed first and home teams second.
*NY Jets 17 - Buffalo 24 (OVER)
*Baltimore 21 - Cincinnati 20 (UNDER)
*Pittsburgh 30 - Cleveland 20 (OVER)
*Arizona 26 - Detroit 21 (UNDER)
Oakland 24 - *Tennessee 28 (OVER)
Philadelphia 21 - *Washington 24 (UNDER)
*Seattle 23 - Green Bay 20 (UNDER)
*NY Giants 23 - Dallas 20 (UNDER)
New Orleans 22 - *Minnesota 28 (OVER)
Good luck and we hope this analysis makes this a profitable weekend for you!