A Man for All (NFL) Seasons
Reporters hang on his every word, and every screen pass, even the forced ones. He could disarm you with his looks or his arm. He can call his plays in French, and then repeat the same play in Russian when over center.
He is, the most interesting man in Minnesota, even in those well-worn Wrangler jeans. He doesn’t always play football, or stay retired. But when he does, he prefers the Jets, then again, sometimes it’s the Vikings.
Stay thirsty and angry, my cheese-head friends. Brett Favre won’t be quarterbacking the Vikings for more than one season. But I can see him as a Dos Equis pitch man for many years to come.
If you love him, it’s difficult to understand how he could be so wishy-washy with his decision to retire and un-retire. But either way it’s hard to hate him. He just wants to play football and can’t give it up.
But while Brett may be the most interesting story leading into the regular season, there are plenty of other players and teams worth talking about. This week we kick off with all those other intriguing match-ups and storylines.
This week the NFL is playing for keeps and so is your bankroll.
Thursday, Sept. 10
Titans +5 at Steelers: Both teams appear to be as strong as they have been in recent years – two great coaches, two great cultures and two great quarterbacks. Big Ben is receiving a little bit more of the publicity during the preseason. Kerry Collins played solidly, every bit as good as Big Ben during the exhibition games. Big Ben may have more outside influences on his game than Kerry Collins here. Every team is out to get the Super Bowl champs the entire season and it starts here. TITANS.
Sunday, Sept. 13
Dolphins +4 at Falcons: Atlanta has been hyped as much as any team with the addition of Tony Gonzalez and the maturation of Matt Ryan and Michael Turner. No one is really talking about the Fish and they had quite a run last season. The Falcons defense showed enough weakness last season that I’m uncomfortable laying 4, especially against a formidable opponent in week 1. Miami’s defense keeps this game extremely close. DOLPHINS.
Chiefs +9 at Ravens: Matt Cassel was a fantastic QB at New England last season. I don’t think they’ll be using the word fantastic to describe him this year. Todd Haley and Scott Pioli will develop a new and improved culture in Kansas City, but not overnight. RAVENS.
Eagles -1 at Panthers: The Eagles were a one point dog most of the preseason. However, Michael Vick has chased the dogs away and Philly is now a one point fave. I’m giving a slight edge to McNabb over Delhomme. The Eagles secondary has a big edge over Carolina’s cover men. I also love the addition of Jason Peters on Philly’s offensive line. EAGLES.
Broncos +3 at Bengals: Josh has rewritten Murphy’s Law. It’s now McDaniels’ Law. Anything that could have gone wrong, has gone wrong for Denver during the off season. From the Jay Cutler trade, to Kyle Orton’s left-handed pass and sliced finger, to the suspension of Brandon Marshall, it’s all gone haywire in Denver. Carson Palmer should be ready to go and I look for Chris Henry or Ochocinco to light it up. Jay Cutler’s 25 TD passes and 4,000 passing yards have been blown away to the windy city. BENGALS.
Vikings +4 at Browns: Vikes might be a tad over hyped with all the Favre hoopla. How can Childress not have a divided locker room? I’m not sure he was wise picking Brett up at the airport. Did he give the most interesting man in the world a big hug and kiss inside the limo? Browns might be under hyped with a better than average draft and starters picked up from trading the Sanchez pick to the Jets. BROWNS.
Jets +4½ at Texans: Matt Shaub was down the past couple weeks with a sprained ankle but should be ready to go at home versus the Jets’ savior, Mark Sanchez. Again, I think the Jets are a little over publicized with Sanchez. If you see a trend this week for Denny The Dog, it’s probably betting against the over hyped teams. Texans have more weapons than New York and a rookie generally needs more ammo than a seasoned veteran. TEXANS.
Jags +7 at Colts: Jags were extremely competitive with Indy last season, even with an injury plagued offensive line. The protection will be improved for David Garrard. That means I’m backing the dog. JAGS.
Lions +13 at Saints: Drew Brees is off to a fast start. So is the defense which was non-existent last season. But that was the preseason, this is the regular season. Too many points for a dog lover to give away. LIONS.
Cowboys -5 at Bucs: The Bucs have settled on Byron Leftwich. The decision leaves me a little unsettled. I’m going to wait one week or so before I jump on the Byron bandwagon. COWBOYS.
49ers +6½ at Cards: Niners will be tough nuts to crack after surviving Mike Singletary’s "nutcracker drills." I need to see how the Cards will operate with Todd Haley gone and Kurt Warner another year older. NINERS.
Skins +6½ at Giants: I’m going out on a limb here and hoping for an improved offensive game plan and production from Jason Campbell and the underachieving Skins’ offense. I also wouldn’t mind an immediate impact from Albert Haynesworth. SKINS.
Rams +7½ at Seahawks: I think the Seahawks will be head and shoulders above last season with Matt Hasselbeck healthy. But I’m not sure they’ll have enough running game to breeze through a cover here against a more disciplined team than last season’s Rams club. RAMS.
Bears +4 at Packers: I’m betting with the public here. Pack opened and stayed a long time at 3 but has recently been bet up one big point. Cutler will make the Bears so much better. But Aaron Rogers looks like he’s ready for the playoffs. Packers’ fans hoping he hasn’t peaked too early. PACKERS.
Monday, Sept. 14
Bills +11 at Patriots: Tom Brady is back and that spells bad news for the rest of the league. I’m not sure if T.O. was a good move for Buffalo. It might have been a better move for anyone playing the Bills. PATS.
Chargers -9½ at Raiders: Everyone is telling me that Tom Cable has added some punch to the Raiders on both sides of the ball. Based on the uppercut to his own assistant, I will wait a week or two before believing what I’m told. Chargers look very solid. I’m with the public again here as this line has been bet up from 7 to the current number. CHARGERS.
Titans, Niners, Cowboys.
Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Dennis Ball