I guess by now you know the rules of this thing. I don't pick a big-spread game--I'm not trying to fatten up on puppies--unless 1) it's a Monday-nighter or 2) I'm going for the upset. Well, I'm leading off with the game between Washington and Chicago, with the Redskins a serious favorite, so what does that tell you? You're right, they're not playing on Monday night, so I must like the Bears.
I can hear the folks in the Windy City laughing their fool heads off. Isn't this the guy who predicted a 3-13 record for our Bears? You're right, and I've been hearing it from the Chicago fans who got hold of my phone number. "Don't you know we've got a defense now, you dumb.... "
But here's the thing. I picked the Skins to go 4-12, and I've gotten even more calls from Washington (probably because it's CIA country, hence the leak).
A low-scoring contest is predicted, but in games in which both sides have dominant defenses, turnovers usually run high. Turnovers mean points, and I think that's what we're going to see on the scoreboard: turnover-induced numbers.
Bears rookie quarterback Kyle Orton is a mystery, which might not be all that bad. Washington's offense is known and unimpressive. And I've got a question for the superinfo people at STATS, Inc. Four quarterbacks who started at least one game for Chicago last year--Grossman, Krenzel, Quinn and Hutchinson--are missing from the Bears' roster on Week 1. Has that ever happened to an NFL team before? Anyway, the Chicago defense will do more damage to the Washington offense than vice versa, hence this big upset.
Upset No. 2: The Jets will beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead. This guy I know, Stevie Numbers, is tapping on the window. He wants to tell me that Kansas City has won 12 of its last 16 home openers. Right--and lost four of the last five. Leave me alone with this historical stuff. You know what roulette players say: The wheel has no memory.
I'm sorry, but the circulation problems in Trent Green's leg bother me. Oh, he'll play, or the folks in Vegas would have removed this game from the board, but I don't know how well or for how long.
I'm on the upset wagon and I can't get off--No. 3 will be the Cowboys to beat the Chargers in San Diego. With assistant Hudson Houck gone, the Chargers' offensive line is not as good as last year's, and Bill Parcells has been building a pass rush in Dallas all off-season.
Atlanta seems like an easy pick over Philadelphia in the Monday-nighter: home folks screaming, TO goading them to a fever pitch and so forth. It's too easy, which always makes me nervous. Philly's secondary will control Michael Vick, just as it did last year, and the Eagles will take it. The Bills will win big over Houston, which won't control the rush, and the Lions will whip Green Bay, which doesn't have the great O-line anymore. Remember what the Giants did to Kurt Warner in '03 at the Meadowlands? Harried him into a fumbling jag, then into the hospital with a concussion. Different uniform--it was St. Louis when that happened, now it's Arizona--but I'll go with the Giants again. And the Jaguars over Seattle. Finally, the Colts' Peyton Manning, who had a great game against the Ravens in December, will squeak one out in Baltimore. --Paul Zimmerman
Last season: 78-48
Dr. Z writes for the web every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at SI.com/nfl.
DARRON CUMMINGS/AP (ORTON)
The Bears are chancing it with rookie Orton at QB, but their improved defense should be able to handle the Skins.
COKE WHITWORTH/AP (OWENS)
Owens is sure to catch plenty of flak from Falcons fans, but as long as he's catching passes, too, the Eagles will fly.