Stand Pat

September 03, 2002 12:52 PM
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The time for tinkering has terminated. The hitting is about to become harder. The intensity level rises. Speed quickens. Yes, the start of the 2002 NFL regular season is at hand and it all gets underway this Thursday. The NFL breaks with tradition and begins its season with a midweek game featuring the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants. For the next 17 weeks 32 NFL teams will chase their dreams of appearing in, and winning, Super Bowl XXXVII next January in San Diego. In approaching the season focus more on where a team was towards the end of last season and whether or not they made improvements or suffered losses heading into this season. We’ll do our best to put you on more right sides than wrong sides during the season as we take a look at every game to be played. Here’s a look at all sixteen games to be played between Thursday and Monday as the 2002 season kicks off for real. 49ers (—3) at Giants (41½) : This unprecedented Thursday night opener features a contending 49ers team vs. a Giants’ team that had well publicized internal differences throughout the offseason and during training camp. San Francisco treated the preseason more as scrimmages than as games with an intent to win and the first string offense should be every bit as potent this season as it was in 2001. This line looks suspiciously low. GIANTS.

Eagles (+1) at Titans (37½): Both QBs, Philly’s Donovan McNab and the Titans’ Steve McNair, are amongst the most mobile and can make things happen. TITANS.

Jets (—3) at Bills (38): The Jets made the playoffs in Herman Edwards first season as coach in 2001 and seem poised to show continued improvement this season, especially on defense. Buffalo is a rebuilding. JETS.

Cards (+7) at Skins (44): Air Spurrier makes its regular season debut after a high scoring preseason. Redskins should score plenty of points. WASHINGTON.

Ravens (—2) at Panthers (34): Baltimore looks nothing like the team that won the Super Bowl two seasons ago, but Carolina is still in the rebuilding stage and progress has been slow. RAVENS.

Vikings (+4½) at Bears (41½): Both teams experienced major turnarounds last season with Chicago going from 5-11 to 13-3 and the NFC Central title while the Vikings fell from 11-5 to 5-11 and made a coaching change. Expect Minnesota to rebound. VIKINGS.

Chargers (+1½) at Bengals (38): Cincinnati needs to get at least average QB play, relying on Gus Frerotte to start the season. Both offenses have weaknesses sustaining drives and points should be at a premium. The play is on the UNDER.

Chiefs (+2½) at Browns (37): Kansas City has one of the top offenses in the league last season and the addition of WR Johnny Morton adds strength. TE Tony Gonzalez, considered by most the best in the game, has ended his lengthy holdout. A season ending injury to LB Jamir Miller will be felt severely. CHIEFS.

Falcons (+7) at Packers (42½): The quarterback of the future, Atlanta’s Michael Vick, matches arms with perhaps the best in the game today, Brett Favre. Figure a lot of scoring. OVER.

Colts (+3½) at Jaguars (44½): This will be a very interesting season for Indianapolis under new coach Tony Dungy. The Colts will be a dangerous team. COLTS.

Lions (+8) at Dolphins (36½): The Lions have a bright future with rookie QB Joey Harrington. Miami is a veteran team that beefed up the defense. MIAMI.

Rams (—3) at Broncos (51): Denver is in the rare role of a home underdog ”” a role faced only twice in the past six seasons. The Rams have been the best team in the NFL the past three years but have just one championship. BRONCOS.

Seahawks (+7) at Raiders (41): The Seahawks seem to be a team treading water, Oakland appears clearly at the end of their contending window with age likely to slow the team down as the normal amount of bumps and bruises accumulate. Right now they’re good. OAKLAND.

Saints (+7) at Bucs (37½): New Orleans was 7-5 and on course to make the Playoffs as a Wild Card before some very well publicized off the field problems. QB Aaron Brooks does have some capable weapons and the offense should be well above average this season. OVER.

Cowboys (—7) at Ravens (33½): Dallas is another trendy pick to go from pretender to contender in one season but it remains to be seen if QB Quincy Carter can become an on the field leader. The Dallas defense was solid last season. UNDER.

Steelers (—1) at Patriots (38): The first Monday night game is a rematch of last season’s AFC title game. The Steelers seek revenge. The Patriots are not getting proper respect. PATRIOTS.