NFL Picks – Week 1

 

Why wait?!?  Seriously, I’m looking at the lines and I don’t want to wait any longer to make these picks.  Sure, more injuries could and will occur.  But they could happen to your advantage just as easily as your disadvantage.  For some reason the last few years, I do really well early in the season with my NFL picks.  Last season I was pretty hot all year, 62% during the regular season, and as far as against the spread I was pretty hot in the playoffs too (however I idiodically also picked the over/under in the playoffs which drug me down).  So here we go, week 1 picks.  I suggest to bet these now because come game day, these lines won’t be nearly as generous.  7 picks to start this season as opposed to the norm of 5.

 

Baltimore at Denver

Baltimore +8.5

I swear I read this line wrong.  First of all, there aren’t many blowouts at the start of the season.  You may get one or two week 1.  This is the defending champs, with pretty much the same parts on offense, and an improved defense.  Denver will win the game here I’m pretty sure, but there is no way they win it by more than a TD.  This line should be Denver by 3.5, I can’t for the life of me understand why it’s at 8.5 and oh yeah…the Broncos likely won’t have Von Miller!  Pretty vital piece to their puzzle.  Take the 8.5 and run.

 

Cincinnati at Chicago

Cincinnati +3.5

I can’t help but remember getting burned bad by picking against the Bears week 1 at home the last few years.  Detroit in 2010 in the infamous “Calvin Johnson TD continuation”, then they blew out the Falcons in 2011, and last year they dominated the Colts.  I’m pretty sure I picked against the Bears in 2 of those games, and likely all 3 (unsure about 2011 vs the Falcons).  But I’m doing it again I guess now that Marc Tressman is the head coach.  I think the Bears offense is going to be amazing this season with a great offensive mind having all that talent at his disposal, but that defense isn’t what it was.  The Bengals have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball and I can’t help but believe they keep this one within a field goal, if not walk out with a win.

 

Kansas City at Jacksonville

Kansas City -3.5

Hey my first favorite of the season!  As you will find out in the next few weeks, I am a big believer in the Chiefs this season.  Mind you, I was last year and got humiliated.  But this season, Andy Reid is a game changer, and Alex Smith will be a massive upgrade over Matt Cassel.  This team has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, but they haven’t had the right people running the show…now they do.  Meanwhile the Jags are such a mess.  They’ll play hard in week 1 I’m sure, but this is more so about how I believe the Chiefs are going to surprise a lot of people this season and challenge for a playoff spot.  Might not get in, but they’ll be in the hunt right down to the wire.

 

Miami at Cleveland

Cleveland outright (+1.5)

I think this is the first time I’ve ever said to take a team outright, at least for the official pick.  Like the Chiefs, I’m a big believer in what the Browns could do this season.  They have put together something pretty nice in Cleveland, and while I’m still not a big Brandon Weeden guy, I do think that with Norv Turner where he should be as an OC, he can coach up Weeden enough to give them solid QB play.  Richardson is a beast when he’s healthy, and that defense could be among the league’s elite this season…they’re simply LOADED with talent on that side of the ball.  Tough game for a young Miami team to start with and I think the Browns take it at home.

 

Seattle at Carolina

Carolina +3

I’m not a believer in the Seahawks.  Now, I’m not a believer in Cam Newton either, but I’m even less of a believer in the Seahawks.  East coast game which is never kind to the Seahawks (even though I believe they beat the Panthers last season in Charlotte), and this line to me suggests that Vegas wants you to take the Seahawks.  The lines aren’t designed to say what they believe will happen in the game, they’re designed to get betters on both sides and sometimes they’ll bait betters into taking what appears to be an easy bet.  The Seahawks are expected to be among the league elite this season, while the Panthers are somewhat of an after thought coming into this season.  Don’t buy it.  This is a TOUGH way for the Seahawks to start and I like the Panthers to at least keep this one really tight if not win it outright.

 

Tampa Bay at NY Jets

Tampa Bay -2.5

Take this and RUN!!!  This is easy money.  The Jets are SUCH a mess and the Bucs could easily be a playoff team in the much deeper NFC.  I won’t waste much time breaking down this one, but I don’t see any area where the Jets have the advantage on the Bucs.  I really believe the Bucs don’t just win this game, but they blow out the Jets.

 

NY Giants at Dallas

NY Giants +2.5

Its in Dallas so I guess I understand why the Cowboys are the favorites.  But the Giants will remember last years opener where the Cowboys got the best of them on a national stage.  Now I haven’t been a Cowboys apologist, but I have liked them better than most the last few years and do again this season.  But I have the G men winning the NFC East and I believe they’ll be a much better team this season than they were last when they missed the playoffs.  Better coach, better QB, Papa John’s…sorry, pick the Giants getting the points.  But if you want Papa John’s I’m told they make great pizza.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

 

They need Drury, not Briere

 

Here we go again, ANOTHER Sam Gagner post.  Maybe the single most talked about athlete on this site.  Its not just me, all the other bloggers on here post about him too….

 

So Sam signed his new deal with the Oilers back in July just before they went to arbitration.  If you check this site daily (man alive I hope you don’t because I had not done anything in weeks seeing as how its the dead time of year in sports) then you might have seen where I wrote a piece on Sam the day he signed his deal.  It would have went up at 7 AM MST, and Sam signed roughly right before that I believe.  So it was all for nothing.  But I love writing stuff on the Oil because it gets the most response so here is another, and this time its more about taking the Edmonton media to task.

 

First of all I can’t stress enough that I like Sam Gagner.  It is impossible not to like Gagner.  He is a great kid, hard working, lots of heart in his game, lots of balls, he is just a damn likeable player.  So this isn’t a crusade against him that I have, its just calling it the way it is.  The best way to view sports is by removing the emotion.  Once you can learn to do that then things can become a lot more clear.  I’m still learning how to do this.  NFL I have it down, MLB I’m pretty good, NBA I’m pretty good, NHL….I still have the Oilers.

 

It is funny that both the Oilers and Gagner’s camp going into arbitration were using Kris Versteeg as a comparable.  I actually had been using that comparison for about a year and a lot of fans I said that to thought I was nuts.  But that is who he plays like, and Versteeg is just a nice 2nd line winger.  I don’t know how many times I have said Sam needs to be on the wing, not in the middle.  He doesn’t have elite speed and definitely doesn’t have the size to matchup against the better center’s in this league.  Especially in the West where size is basically king.

 

BUT….Sam is staying in the middle weather I like it or not.  Taylor Hall said in an interview with Bob Stauffer about 10 days ago that he is willing to play the middle until Nugent-Hopkins is ready to go, but that long term he prefers to stay on the wing.  VERY disappointing news to my ears.  I really believe Hall would thrive play center in this league, and it would make the Oilers better if he was in the middle and Gagner was on the wing just because Hall has more size and much more speed to handle the responsibilities.

 

But I digress, Gagner is the 2nd line center so the focus needs to be on him becoming the 2nd line center the Oilers need.  Most people don’t think it matters.  They think if you’re a 2nd line center than that’s fine.  Just get guys to fill the slots on the roster no matter how they play.  If Hopkins is a 1st line C, Gagner is a 2nd line C, Gordon is a 3rd line C and Lander is a 4th line C then the Oilers are set, no issue.  This is chess, not checkers (ohhhhhh baby I’ve been waiting to work that line in!!)  Nugent-Hopkins is only 20 years old this season, he desperately needs 2 way support down the middle, especially now with Horcoff gone.  Say what you want about Horcoff, but this team heavily relied on him and while I’m a huge Boyd Gordon guy I don’t know if he can replace what Horcoff brought to the table.

 

And once again I’m getting off the topic at hand.  Many of the media in Edmonton are saying something along these lines: “IF Gagner can become a consistent 50 point producer then he is a good 2nd line center”.  Actually, they would spell center the Canadian way and be better Canadian’s than I am eh?  But that’s what most of them say when speaking of Gagner.  That is so not the case.  The problem with Gagner is that he has never learned to play center.  He has finally improved his points per game (although still his career high is 49 points which happened in his rookie season), but he really hasn’t improved his play in the middle.  There is a difference between being a scorer and being a center.

 

Steven Stamkos is a perfect example of this.  Stamkos has tore up the NHL since his 2nd season in the league (albiet in the absolute worst division and weaker conference).  But he’s never been at 50% in the dot (although this year he came close) and he’s far from a guy who knows his way around his own zone so it can be tough for a coach to get him on the ice.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I wouldn’t take Stamkos on my team.  But if Tampa wants to start getting in the playoffs and becoming a legit threat, then he needs to learn how to play center.  And its ironic that he plays for Tampa, where his GM is Steve Yzerman.  Scotty Bowman struggled for years to get Yzerman to buy into being a center not just a scorer.  But once he did, the Wings started rattling off Cups.  3 in 6 years to be exact.

 

So what is this the 4th time I’ve gotten off topic and I still haven’t mentioned Drury or Briere?  The reason that is the title is because heading into the 07 offseason they were both UFA’s if you recall.  And all the experts were ranking Drury as the bigger fish to land than Briere, and me being young and dumb I thought they were idiots.  Briere was clearly the more flashy and talented of the 2 players, and he was 2 years younger.  So why was Drury SO special?  Because Drury knew how to play the middle and Briere scorer who happened to play the middle.

 

Now, Briere was in fact the better signing of the 2 as it turned out because Drury ran into injury problems and really slowed down after only a year or two in New York.  But that’s not the point.  The Flyers ended up putting Briere on the wing almost instantly and rarely used him at center when they had a fully healthy roster.  He is extremely clutch, but he’s one dimensional.  Drury was clutch too if you recall, and he could be used in any situation.  THIS is what the Oilers need Gagner to be.

 

The 50 point seasons will come, I have very little doubt of that.  My concern is the rest of his game.  Can he get over 50% in the dot (or even 48 for that matter)?  Can he become a better player from the top of the circles to the goal line in his own zone?  Can he start winning puck battles?  If he can become this type of player, then the Oilers can win with him as their 2nd line center.  If not, he’ll have value around the league, but he won’t have much to the Oilers because he just simply won’t fit.  He has to start at least showing signs of being this type of player this season.  If he doesn’t, then the Oilers brass will need to start thinking with their heads, not their hearts when it comes to Sam Gagner’s future with the club.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

 

Bruce Arthur is my friend

 

Everytime Bruce Arthur tweets, the sounds of great and charismatic Randy Newman run through my head.  “You’ve got a friend in me”.  No, this ain’t no Toy Story.  This is a story of 2 twitter greats, in the prime of their careets (see what I did there…pushed the words career and tweets together, probably saved a half a second on you reading all this had I not taken another 8-10 seconds to explain the word) having never met and yet have an unspoken bond…again never spoken because we’ve never met and even if we had he would have no clue who I was nor care afterwards.

 

But Bruce and I have spoken in a way.  Sometimes Bruce gets back to me when I mention him on twitter.  The first time he was mightily impressed with my twitter workings.  He started things with this:

 

@bruce_arthur28 Jun

For those who need jokes explained: Edmonton’s civic leaders. That’s the joke.

 

To which I responded with this little ditty:

 

@TJ_Soups28 Jun

@bruce_arthur hey council is in a rebuild. Gonna be bad for a few years but stockpile 1st overall picks

 

Bruce was a big fan of my work as you can see:

 

bruce_arthur28 Jun

@TJ_Soups hahahahahaha love that

 

I guess so!  Who wouldn’t?!  That line might rival any knock, knock joke ever created!  Sheer genius on my part I know but seriously guys I don’t want to brag about it, that’s just not my style….

 

So as you can see that was June 28th.  I thought for sure at that point Bruce would be following me, asking for my digits, inviting me to chill on his yacht (by the way does anyone know if Bruce has a yacht?  Kind of a deal breaker for me if he doesn’t have a yacht), asking me to fill in for him on the Reporters (I would say no though…get up early on a SUNDAY?!?!  Are you freakin kidding me?!?), generally just being best buds.

 

For some reason none of that happened.  I’m sure Bruce was just busy.  You know, its summer time.  Guys go on trips with the family, don’t have time to hang with their boys….I’m a dude, I get it.  Bro’s before ho’s is a nice slogan, but in the real world even best bud’s like Bruce and I have to look after the wives….well, he does.  I’m not married, nor do I have a girlfriend.  But hey, happy wife, happy life!

 

But yesterday Bruce and I did get a chance to chat.  It wasn’t for long, like I’ve been saying Bruce is such a busy guy that its tough for him to hang out even when things aren’t so hectic.  He has a lot on his plate.  But it was a good conversation, check it out:

 

@bruce_arthur6h

I’m the Wayne Gretzky of ignoring Paulina Gretzky’s engagement on Twitter

 

TJ_Soups5h

@bruce_arthur u promised Mess u wouldn’t tweet that

 

@bruce_arthur5h

@TJ_Soups haha

 

Not as many “ha’s”, but if I know Bruce…and I think I do since we’re pretty tight…he just didn’t want to make it seem like he was showing a bias towards me over his other followers.  Hahaha, that’s SO like Bruce!

 

I don’t know when the next time is that we’ll get to chat, but when we do I’m sure it will be just like old times!  BA setting them up, and Soups knocking them out!  Maybe Bruce will co-star with me in my sure fire smash hit TV show “Soups and Sand Wedges” that I’m looking to develop with the CW?  We’re like Lenny and Carl, Don and Roger, Walter and Jesse, A-rod and Tony, just 2 good friends looking to entertain our thousands of fans….although my fans don’t follow me on twitter, they’re more the “word of mouth” types, but I’m sure they love me just as much.

 

 

Do I REALLY need to tell you to follow me like I normally do at the end?  @TJ_Soups

Out with the Old, In with the Old

 

I don’t talk enough about baseball.  I think I start off every piece I do on ball saying that but its true.  I could have talked about Biogenisis but other than bashing A-fraud over and over and over and over and over and over and over and ov…you get it.  Other than doing that and also bashing Lyan Braun over and over and over and over and over and over and over and oh yeah I just did this schtick.  But you get the point, it just would have been a rant about how disgusting these *insert many expletives here* guys are.  Plus, I’m not that qualified to get into the nuts and bolts of it.  I’m probably not qualified to talk about most things I do, but I’m REALLY not qualified to discuss that.

 

So I’ll discuss the Dodgers and the Yankees.  Ohhhhh how I fondly remember the 81 World Series.  Fernando mania, Dave Winfield struggling to produce, the Dodgers coming back from down 2-0 to win the series, actually I was still a year away from being concieved but still I do know a bit about it.  Maybe Brucie was watching, if you follow me on twitter than you know how ridiculous my memory is!  But the point here is that those 2 teams met in 3 World Series in 5 years and are the 2 most storied organizations in baseball.

 

I don’t even know if any of you reading this know a world where the Dodgers are among the elite in baseball.  I know it is foreign territory to me even though I’m well aware of it.  Even when they won their last World Series in 88, they were a very good organization but no longer the power house of they had been basically forever!  But those days appear to be over with now.  The Dodgers look poised to take over the Yankees spot as the most dominant organization in the sport.

 

Meanwhile in the Bronx….things are just getting worse and worse and worse.  A-fraud is the biggest joke in sports (literally), Jeter is on his last legs, Rivera is retiring after this season, they have nobody in the minors who is close to Major League ready, and the Steinbrenner boys simply aren’t their dad.  It could be a long time before the Yanks are the Yanks that we’ve known for almost 20 years.  There was a time that this was the case before.  After the 81 World Series ironically enough, the Yankees were pretty much irrelevant until 1994.

 

The Yankees haven’t just won since that time, they’ve got all the headlines even if they hadn’t been winning.  They’ve had the owner, the stars, and the rings.  Now its the Dodgers who have the owner (Magic Johnson), the stars (Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw), and now they’re a team that looks poised to begin their ring collection.  They just had their 10 game winning streak snapped Sunday, also had rattled off 15 of 16 prior to that.  Who did they lose to prior to 15 of 16?  You guessed it, the NY Yankees.

 

It hasn’t been so amazing this season for LA.  They were basically right there with the Blue Jays, Angels and Nationals as the biggest disappointments in the Majors.  Don Mattingly was about to be fired.  But since Puig was called up it has simply been a completely different team.  Now, with their lineup of athletic mashers, and the power arms they have in the staff led by Clayton Kershaw, it would be tough to imagine them not at least coming out of the NL….although as we seen last year the Cardinals are NEVER an easy out, and the Reds are a team that posses the same strengths the Dodgers do and won’t be an easy out.

 

But even if they don’t get the job done this year, this organization is loaded with all the resources to run everyone’s show for a very long time, just like the Yankees did.  When the Yanks first got back to winning titles in 1996, they were the toast of baseball.  By 2002 they had become the evil empire.  I would suspect that is the same track the Dodgers are on.  But that’s cool with me.  You need historic teams like the Dodgers to be good in all sports.  Hockey is better when the original 6 teams are among the elite.  The NFL is better when the Cowboys, Packers, Steelers and Raiders are elite.  The NBA needs the Lakers and Celtics at the top.  And MLB needs the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox to be among the best in the sport.  Weather you love or hate these teams, everything is simply better when they’re in it.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups