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Pigskin Pick'Em: The Sultan of Sides is back with gusto!

Posted: September 3, 2014 - 7:38pm

Blue forty-two, red sixty-six, razor, razor, hut-hut, HIKE!

Thank God it’s football season! The Sultan of Sides is back, after a summer of golfing, to once again make your NFL Sundays as profitable as a Bernie Madoff hedge fund. We finished last season a whopping 36 games over .500 against the spread. The 139-103-14 mark is a Las Vegas bookies worst nightmare. The dazzling display of prognostication didn’t stop there, and I quote, “I’m all in folks. The job, the girlfriend, the dog, even the golf clubs. The Seattle Seahawks are going to win it all”. That’s an excerpt from last season’s opening column that turned out quite well. The only thing I got wrong was the girlfriend. Over the summer she earned more playing time and a spot in the starting lineup. She’s now the fiancé. Life isn’t bad.

Despite all the successes in the past year, this is my promise to you, the loyal Clarion faithful. I will not lean on past brilliance. I will forge ahead, eager to improve upon an already stellar record. I will provide you with valuable insight into each and every NFL matchup all season long. That insight may or may not be influenced by alcohol. Irrelevant! This column is about winning, and winning big!

Same format as last year, my picks are in all-caps. For some of you less in-the-know football fans out there, just because I pick a team to cover the spread doesn’t mean I think they’ll win the game. Please don’t come to the golf course and harass me about why I think the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to beat the Denver Broncos. I don’t. I just don’t think they’ll lose by 30. Good luck! It’s going to be a great season. You may have noticed, no Super Bowl prediction this year, no need to jinx a good thing!

Green Bay Packers @
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS -6

The Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks kick-off the NFL season by hosting the Green Bay Packers on Thursday Night Football. Russell Wilson, entering his third year under center, engineered scoring drives on 11 of 13 preseason possessions. That’s good. Seattle’s defense gets all the attention, but the Seattle offense, with a healthy Percy Harvin, will be the difference in this early season matchup of NFC contenders. Seahawks win 31-20

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS @ Atlanta Falcons +3

The Saints go marching into Atlanta to face the Falcons in a pivotal early season NFC South showdown. Both teams have aspirations of winning the division, a victory in week one could loom large at the end of the season. Matt Ryan and the Falcons had their wings clipped a year ago after a rash of injuries all but robbed the team of their competitive spirit. The Falcons are improved, but not enough to top a confident Saints team led by Drew Brees and an explosive offensive attack. Saints win 35-24

Minnesota Vikings @
ST. LOUIS RAMS -3.5

The Vikings will be a trendy side in this contest in response to the Rams losing starting quarterback Sam Bradford during the preseason to a knee injury. With veteran Shaun Hill taking snaps the Rams can start planning for who they want to draft with the next year’s top pick. That’s been the narrative, but that’s overlooking a key factor, Sam Bradford was a terrible! Shaun Hill isn’t a star, but don’t expect the Rams to just fold up shop minus Bradford. Rams win 24-17

CLEVELAND BROWNS @ Pittsburgh Steelers -7

Brian Hoyer has been through a lot in his career. Drafted by the Patriots, Hoyer had no shot at playing behind the legendary Tom Brady. He moved to Arizona, where old people and quarterbacks go to die, and lasted a single season before landing in Cleveland with the Browns, arguably the worst franchise in professional sports. With Cleveland, Hoyer plays reasonably well and leads the team to wins in both his starts before suffering a season ending knee injury. The Browns respond by drafting Johnny-Mania the following spring. Remarkably, Hoyer survived all the hoopla and won the starting job. If nothing else I’m rooting for the guy. Browns win 17-16

Jacksonville Jaguars @ PHILLY EAGLES -10.5

The Jacksonville Jaguars will be competitive at some point this season, right around the time they give up on the Chad Henne experience, and tab super-rookie Blake Bortles as the starting quarterback. Until then, facing a Chip Kelly orchestrated offense in the city of brotherly harm is a recipe for disaster. Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy and the rest of the Philadelphia Eagles to get off to a flying start with an easy opening week foray against the Jungle-Kittens. Eagles win 38-14

Oakland Raiders @
NEW YORK JETS -5.5

Are the Raiders no longer rudderless? Oakland is trotting out a rookie quarterback, Derek Carr, to face a strong New York Jets defense in the season opener. Carr looked spectacular in the final preseason game, shredding my beloved Seattle Seahawks, to earn the starting nod, but he won’t be facing the fourth string this Sunday. Loudmouth Rex Ryan and the Jets are talking a big game again this year. Can the Jets finally live up to their hype with the truly awful Geno Smith throwing passes? For one week they can. Jets win 23-17

CINCINNATI BENGALS @ Baltimore Ravens -1.5

For most of my young adult life the Cincinnati Bengals wallowed in misery while the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers battled year after year for the NFC North crown. All that has changed. Suddenly in 2014 the Bengals are the top dog (uhh, cat?) in the division. Baltimore won the Super Bowl just two seasons ago but the Ravens struggled mightily last year and missed the playoffs. Baltimore should be better this time around but this Sunday Sylvester finally catches Tweety Bird. Bengals win 27-24

Buffalo Bills @
CHICAGO BEARS -7

The Chicago Bears will score a ton of points this year. The Bears will also give up a ton of points this year. Chicago enters the year as a wild card. If the Bears can get any production out their defense this could be a playoff team, but that defense, wow, they looked like they were still hibernating this preseason. Fortunately for Bears faithful the Buffalo Bills come to town for the opener. The Bills are led by an impeccably awful quarterback, EJ Manuel. The glory days of Jim Kelly and Thurmond Thomas circling the wagons are a fading memory. That’s to say, these aren’t your fathers Bills. Bears win 35-17

Washington Redskins @ HOUSTON TEXANS -2.5

Do I have to pick a winner in this matchup of pillow-fighters? I don’t trust either of these teams to be competitive this season. The Washington Redskins enter as slight dog riding the remnants of Robert Griffin hysteria, but how far can that carry a team on Sunday? Are we going to overlook the notion that RG3 might not be good at throwing passes to his own team? Houston has more than a problem on their hands with a first year coach and a Harvard grad at quarterback. Harvard is great at producing NASA talent and human calculators, but NFL quarterbacks? No thanks. When in doubt favor the home side. Texans win 20-17

TENNESSEE TITANS @ Kansas City Chiefs -4

The Tennessee Titans won’t win many football games but I’m tabbing them as a sneaky good, bad football team this season. You know, the kind of team that plays well for 3 ½ quarters before finding incredibly creative ways to lose in the end. The Kansas City Chiefs are a tough read. The team stormed out of the gate a year ago before fading badly down the stretch. The Chiefs just gave an expensive extension to quarterback Alex Smith ensuring their average relevance for the next four seasons. Chiefs win 23-20

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS @ Miami Dolphins +5

This Patriots team more closely resembles the championship teams from the early Brady-Belichick era led by strong defenses and rushing attacks. All-world tight end Rob Gronkowski sounds like he’s ready to play which will benefit the passing game greatly, but does it even matter against the fighting fish? Can somebody please pull the plug on the Ryan Tannehill experiment? He’s not good at football, and you need a good quarterback to win in the modern NFL. Larry Csonka is rolling over in his grave. Patriots win 31-14

Carolina Panthers @ TAMPA BAY BUCS -2.5

I saw a stat on ESPN the other night that can’t possibly be true. Not a single wide receiver on the Carolina Panthers roster has ever caught a pass from Cam Newton in a regular season game. Wow, way to surround your franchise quarterback with playmakers, Carolina! Newton enters this contest with fractured ribs, which doesn’t help you throw a football better. I don’t trust the Bucs offense with Josh McCown under center, but I’m not sure Carolina can score a point in this contest. Bucs win 17-7

San Francisco 49ers @ DALLAS COWBOYS +5

The San Francisco 49ers have been downright offensive on offense this preseason, surprising considering the additions at wide receiver and a healthy Michael Crabtree. Will Colin Kaepernick ever evolve into more than a running quarterback? The defense will have problems of their own minus Aldon Smith (suspension), NaVarro Bowman (injury) and Glenn Dorsey (injury). I’m not convinced Dallas has the talent to take advantage of a 49ers team struggling to find a rhythm, but I’ll back the Fighting Jerry’s with the points at home. 49ers win 24-21

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS @ Denver Broncos -7.5

Andrew Luck squares off against Peyton Manning in a thrilling battle of horse mascots when the Indianapolis Colts face the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football. I have a vested interest in supporting Luck and the Colts (he’s my fantasy quarterback) but the visiting side is a strong play for very real reasons. The Broncos benefitted from a weak schedule a season ago. The team won’t be afforded the same luxury this season. Minus Knowshon Moreno, Eric Decker, and Wes Welker, the offense could come out the gates slower than expected. Broncos win 27-24

New York Giants @
DETROIT LIONS -5

Is this the year the Lions finally turn all that talent into victories on the football field? It seems like Detroit has been a trendy “breakout” team every preseason since Matthew Stafford came to town, but all the hype hasn’t come to fruition. The New York Giants are awful. This is the year coach Tom Coughlin is fired and/or resigns. The Giants offensive line is suspect and Eli Manning produces more turnovers than a bakery under pressure. Lions win 30-13

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS @ Arizona Cardinals -3.5

Everyone seems to like the Cardinals this year, but I expect the desert bats to take a step backwards this season. Arizona’s success was spurred by a very aggressive front seven, but the Cardinals will be without Karlos Dansby, Darnell Dockett, and Daryl Washington. That’s a lot of talent off the field with a high-powered San Diego Chargers offense coming into town. Look for Philip Rivers and company to pull off the mild upset. Chargers win 27-20

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