NFL Week 01 - Patriots vs. Raiders

Ah, football. I love football because it only happens one day per week (for the most part), because there is (at least) a week’s worth of hype for every game, and because anybody can win on any given Sunday. Parity is a beautiful thing. There are very few games that you can absolutely call beforehand. Even the lowliest of NFL clubs can rise up once in a while and shock you. Yes, watching football is probably shaving ten years off of my life, thanks to the way in which I react to even the most ridiculously insignificant plays, but, as Denis Leary once said, “Well it’s the ten worst years, isn’t it folks? It’s the ones at the end! It’s the wheelchair kidney dialysis fucking years. You can have those years! We don’t want ‘em!”

Patriots vs. Raiders

This Thursday, the Patriots open up the 2005 NFL Season at home against the Oakland Raiders. Though the Pats got the upper hand in the infamous “tuck rule” playoff game back in 2002 (which, I have written, was the beginning of my obsession with football), they have lost their last three regular season games against da Raidas. The Silver & Black’s defensive line simply frightens me, with QB-Killa Warren Sapp and former Patriot Bobby Hamilton supporting big old Ted Washington in the middle. Yes, Oakland ranked 22nd against the run last year, but everyone has their off years. I don’t expect this game to be a Corey Dillon extravaganza and neither should you.

And don’t even get me started on Oakland’s acquisition of Randy Moss. This game, my friends, is going to be a tough one.

But I’m still picking the Pats.

For starters, I see Asante Samuel making at least one pick off of a pass thrown in Moss’s direction. Samuel has impressed me since his first season in 03 and I think, now that he’s a starter, this is going to be his breakthrough year. Also, I think we’ll get great performances out of Ben Watson, Daniel Graham, and Christian Fauria. Facing Oakland’s formidable D-line, Brady’s going to need to get rid of the ball quickly and, so long as they stay healthy this year, we’ve got the best set of tight-ends that we’ve had in a good, long while.

With all the pageantry of the opening ceremonies, including a chance to see if Kayne West again reminds a national audience that Dubya doesn’t care about black people, plus a solid Oakland team coming to town, it should be an excellent evening of football come Thursday.

Around the League

The Patriots have a team as good as they had last season, if not better. I fully expect them to win most of their games and to make the playoffs easily. That’s why I’m adopting three teams this season so that I can broaden my horizons. They are, in no particular order, the Arizona Cardinals, the New Orleans Saints, and the Dallas Cowboys. And, no, I’m not adopting New Orleans because of the hurricane.

Denny Green’s second year in Arizona is going to be something to watch. I agree wholeheartedly with ESPN’s John Clayton, who writes that Arizona is gathering the right mix of talent and attitudes. Last year, ‘Zona became the 12th-best defense in football and there’s no reason to suspect a fall-off this time around. On offense you’ve got Kurt Warner, not one of my favorite guys, but a QB who’s due for a comeback season after a couple of sluggish years. It’s going to be interesting.

New Orleans went 8-8 last year and missed the playoffs by a thread. They’ve been knocking on the door for a while and I fully expected them to make great strides this year even before the hurricane. Now that they’re faced with playing a whole season away from home, whether that be in Texas or somewhere else, I think you’re going to see a galvanized team that is going to stick together and do anything to win. It’ll be a tough road, with Atlanta and Carolina in their division, and they certainly aren’t going to win the division, but they’ll make a run at a wildcard spot. You heard it here first.

As for Dallas, it’s all about my boy Drew. I want Bledsoe to have one last great season so bad that it hurts. Same with the Tuna. Bledsoe’s going to have two familiar faces at wideout—Peerless Price, who had an amazing season in 02 catching balls from Drew; and Terry Glenn, who came up big for Drew back in the Pats days—which should make his game a bit more potent and help him to stay off his back a bit more. He’s also got a good tight end in Jason Witten.

I’m thinking of adopting a fourth team, the Cleveland Browns, because of Romeo Crennel, but they’ve got to prove themselves to me first.

My Picks

For the third year running, I’ll be making my picks as part of ESPN.com’s Pigskin Pick’em. I’m playing under the name Little Bastads in “Patriots Champions Again” group, if you’d like to join me.

Thursday
Oakland at New England - New England

Sunday
New York Jets at Kansas City - New York Jets
Tampa Bay at Minnesota - Minnesota
Chicago at Washington - Washington
Denver at Miami - Denver
New Orleans at Carolina - Carolina
Seattle at Jacksonville - Jacksonville
Tennessee at Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh
Cincinnati at Cleveland - Cincinnati
Houston at Buffalo - Buffalo
Dallas at San Diego - San Diego
St. Louis at San Francisco - St. Louis
Arizona at New York Giants - Arizona
Green Bay at Detroit - Green Bay
Indianapolis at Baltimore - Baltimore

Monday
Philadelphia at Atlanta - Philadelphia

Superbowl Pick

Because it’s fashionable to do so, I’m making my Superbowl Pick right now, ahead of the season, before anyone in their right mind could have any idea how things are going to shake down. I don’t think the Patriots are going to make it this year. I want them to, but I don’t think they’re going to do it. I think it’s going to be Pittsburgh over Carolina.