Eric Walden's NFL Four Downs: Looking good going headless in Week 1
So you're such an NFL addict that you tried to get DirecTV's Sunday Ticket package, only to be told that your neighbor's treeline would block the signal. Before you go all Harvey Updyke on his foliage, perhaps I may persuade you to settle for the network options â¦
First down Washington at New Orleans
11 a.m., TV • Ch. 13
The skinny • Let's clear up one big misconception from the outset: Coach Mike Shanahan may indeed be a beautiful, beautiful man, but his team is not getting a national TV appearance because of his lovely mug. This game sees the light of day because of the quarterback matchup. In the black and gold corner, you have Drew Brees, who threw for an NFL-record 5,476 yards and 46 TDs last year. And in the burgandy and yellow corner, you have Robert Griffin III Heisman Trophy winner, socks aficionado, and slight upgrade over the much-feared tag team of Beck and Grossman.
The line • Saints by 71/2.
The pick • Saints. Buoyed by the return of one Bounty-gate player, and spurred on by the first-ever third-string head coach, Brees shows the rookie how it's done.
New England at Tennessee
11 a.m., TV • Ch. 2
The skinny • Just in case the established-star-QB-vs.-young-gun theme of the other game in this timeslot doesn't do it for you, we've got Patriots vs. Titans, which features â¦ well, an established star QB vs. a young gun. Crap. But these are AFC teams, so it's totally different. Totally. OK, I'll concede that with the Patriots, it's pretty much always the same. The peripheral players and details may change, but you know you're basically getting something good, if not especially innovative. It's like AC/DC tunes they all sound like the same song, but it's a kick-ass song. Or maybe It's like any "new" song by The Killers: Oh, yet another soaring tale of unrequited love and heartache in the heartland? Really? Who saw that coming?! I would argue Tom Brady is the Brandon Flowers of the NFL, except for there being an actual Brandon Flowers in the NFL. He's probably got first dibs.
The line • Patriots by 5.
The pick • Patriots. Somebody told me that you had a boyfriend who looks liked a girlfriend that I'd rather have as my quarterback than the accuracy-challenged Jake Locker.Third down
San Francisco at Green Bay
2:25 p.m., TV • Ch. 13
The skinny • You can't ask for more than a potential NFC Championship preview in a Week 1 showdown. Well, you could, but that just makes you look selfish. So tone it down and remember that Santa Claus is watching. Now then, let's digress from this tangent, shall we? There's plenty to like here. Reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers' explosive GB offense challenging an SF defense so airtight that Perry Mason ought to be the team mascot. Even the teams' flaws are intriguing. Who breaks first: a Niners offense so anemic that it talked itself into signing hasn't-been-good-since-'09 Randy Moss or a Packers defense that was a bigger bomb than "John Carter" at the box office?
The line • Packers by 41/2.
The pick • Packers. Jim Harbaugh claims Alex Smith has mastered his offense. In a related story, Jordan Wynn has the strongest, sturdiest shoulders of any human ever. I think I'll go with the team I know is good for at least three touchdowns a game.
Pittsburgh at Denver
6:20 p.m., TV • Ch. 5
The skinny • Former BYU quarterback Jim McMahon used to pull some double-duty as the team's punter. He would later write of an errant long snap: "The ball sailed over my head and I turned and chased after it the ball, not my head." Sadly, this is the image many will have of oft-surgically-repaired Peyton Manning playing his first game back vs. a fearsome Steelers defense absorbing a vicious hit from Troy Polamalu and scampering off in search of his cranium. This would surely redefine "Must-see TV," but I personally do not think it will happen. Instead, I am eager to witness a Denver quarterback whose throws do not resemble a random fourth-grader at recess.
The line • Broncos by 11/2.
The pick • Broncos. With Rashard Mendenhall out, Pittsburgh's timing for going back to the old ground-and-pound offense seems especially ill-conceived.
â¦ and nine to go
Indianapolis at Chicago, 11 a.m. • Everyone likes Andrew Luck. No one likes Jay Cutler. But no one believes Luck will beat Cutler.
Jacksonville at Minnesota, 11 a.m. • Can't wait to see the running back battle between Rashad Jennings and Toby Gerhart.
Miami at Houston, 11 a.m. • All Fins fans are asking of Ryan Tannehill is to resemble Dan Marino. No pressure or anything.
Atlanta at Kansas City, 11 a.m. • Chiefs could be missing six defensive starters. Chiefs could have 'em all and it wouldn't matter.
Buffalo at N.Y. Jets, 11 a.m. • If Mario Williams breaks Mark Sanchez in half, we can skip ahead to where Tim Tebow takes over.
St. Louis at Detroit, 11 a.m. • Rams fans, don't despair if your CBs look like garbage. No one else can cover Calvin Johnson either.
Philadelphia at Cleveland, 11 a.m. • In loving memory of Art Modell, these Browns will make everyone wish they'd move away, too.
Seattle at Arizona, 2:25 p.m. • The old clichÃ© "If you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterbacks" is most true when your two quarterbacks are John Skelton and Kevin Kolb.
Carolina at Tampa Bay, 2:25 p.m. • Unless Cam Newton has a Josh Freeman-like regression, this one's probably not that close.