On The Mark by Mark Mayer | In every football column you read, the word finally comes up. You think the NFL would realize four preseason games are two too many.
Heck, teams are petrified of preseason. There’s always a laundry list of hurts – Shawne Merriman, Osi Umenyiora and Chad Johnson for starters. The Patriots and Colts are treating Tom Brady and Peyton Manning with kid gloves as they rehab.
So when choosing the best team in the NFL, it always comes down to attrition. Ask me after 17 weeks, because one thing is clear: A team’s roster now could look vastly different in late December.
For instance, when first looking at San Diego demolishing Dallas in the first preseason game, it appeared the Chargers were headed for the Super Bowl. Now Merriman is probably done and QB Philip Rivers was hobbling around against Seattle. If Rivers is still not over his knee injury, how do you think he’s going to get through the regular season?
Then there’s New England and Indianapolis. If Brady and Manning go down, there looks to be nothing in the QB tank for either team. And it took me five paragraphs and a sentence to mention Brett Favre for the first time.
So this season shapes up to be crazy in the won/lost column and frustrating to what really matters – winning against the spread.
Time to end the monologue and start finding ways to make money for you and I. Note: You won’t see 16 games in this column. No way I can feel good about all 16. And there will probably be less than 10 next week. Now if I can just see more of Leona Lewis...
Thursday, Sept. 4
Redskins +4 at Giants: The Giants are not among the top five contenders for the Super Bowl and they’re the champs! No Osi, but there’s Eli, Tuck and a lot of pride. GIANTS.
Sunday, Sept. 7
Lions -3 at Falcons: Rookie QB Matt Ryan won the starting job, and deservedly so. Detroit has looked great in preseason and has an arsenal of offensive weapons. Rookie RB Kevin Smith out of Central Florida, looks to be a great fit. WR Calvin Johnson should have a breakout year. Now, if Detroit can just win on the road! LIONS.
Texans +6½ at Steelers: Pittsburgh is probably chalking this one up, but Houston is a team on the rise. I bet Houston over 7½ wins so it’s time to back it up. TEXANS.
Bears +10 at Colts: Kyle Orton has run with the QB job and looks confident. Rookie RB Matt Forte from Tulane is going to help. Brian Urlacher is healthy and Peyton Manning is not. That’s way too many points, plus the Colts are still getting used to stately Lucas Oil Stadium. BEARS.
Panthers +9½ at Chargers: Watch Carolina this year. QB Jake Delhomme is healthy and the running game looks good with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. LT has been sitting out and Rivers is hobbling around. One good shot by Julius Peppers and he’s salt. PANTHERS.
Seahawks +1 at Bills: Buffalo isn’t the prettiest team to watch, but somehow the spreads get covered. Seattle benefits from playing at Buffalo in September, but it’s still that cross-country trip and 10 a.m. PT start. The Bills will find a way at a short price to get it done. BILLS.
Rams +7 at Eagles: RB Steven Jackson is back, but there’s got to be some rust. The Rams struggled scoring points in preseason against scrubs so what’s going to happen when it counts? I can see Philly getting out of the blocks fast with both McNabb and Westbrook healthy. Cal rookie WR DeSean Jackson looks like a second round steal. EAGLES.
Bengals -1½ at Ravens: The Bengals have no scruples, having re-signed problem-child Chris Henry as WR protection in case "Ocho Cinco" sinks. They have even released Rudi Johnson. QB Carson Palmer is regressing and understandably fed up with whole situation. The Ravens can win this one with multiple field goals and an angry Ray Lewis. RAVENS.
Chiefs +17 at Patriots (47): Kansas City looks to be anemic on offense. QB Brodie Croyle – are you kidding? Normally New England should be able to name the score, but I don’t expect Brady to bring his "A"-game yet. If that’s the case, the Patriots win with defense. UNDER.
Monday, Sept. 8
Vikings +3 at Packers: I’ll take Aaron Rodgers over Tarvaris Jackson. PACKERS.