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NFL Betting Week 1 – Mike Neri Sports

NFL Week 1 Notes
by Mike Neri

All the attention this weekend as the NFL commences its first full weekend seems to be on offense. WR Terrell Owens has moved on to Buffalo to take part in the new no-huddle Bills attack. They will face the Patriots and returning QB Tom Brady, who led a record-setting air attack two years ago when healthy with WRs Randy Moss and Wes Welker.

After sleep-walking through preseason, everyone expects to see QB Kurt Warner (4,583 yds, 30 TDs, 14 INTs in 2008) and the Arizona Cardinals come out firing behind WR Larry Fitzgerald (1,431 yds), Anquan Boldin (1,038) and WR Steve Breaston (1,006). And, of course, Peyton Manning again will be running the Indy offense, while Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck looks healthy after an injury-marred 2008 campaign.

But less attention has been focused on some teams that look to have truly awful offenses. Take Tampa Bay. They collapsed in December, losing four straight to miss the playoffs after a 9-3 beginning. An overhaul is in place.

Since winning the Super Bowl, former head coach Jon Gruden was 45-51 overall, 0-2 in the playoffs and 10-18 in December and January. The Buccaneers have new looks everywhere, starting with Head Coach Raheem Morris. They let QB Jeff Garcia walk, so they have very little QB experience with rookie QB Josh Freeman and Byron Leftwich.

Imagine that: 29-year old Byron Leftwich couldn’t hold onto a backup QB job with the Jaguars and Steelers, and now is the STARTER in Tampa! His last two years (with Atlanta and Pittsburgh) Leftwich totaled 3 TDs and 2 picks.

Oh, and last week the Bucs fired offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski and replaced him with quarterbacks coach Greg Olson. Pencil this team in as the worst offensively for 2009. They play the Cowboys this weekend, and Dallas is 3-1 ATS the last 4 with Tampa Bay.

The Jets are another team with question marks on offense. After having two veteran QBs the last two years (Chad Pennington, Brett Favre), NY is rolling the dice with rookie QB Mark Sanchez. Rookie QBs in the NFL, even ones that go on to be great, usually have a very tough time in Year 1. Remember when the Bengals sat Carson Palmer for a full year to watch the offense under Jon Kitna? The Jets aren’t taking that approach. He will take his lumps, especially in the AFC East with defenses like the Dolphins, Bills and Patriots twice a year.

The Denver Broncos? Ouch. Take your pick with QBs Kyle Orton, Chris Simms and rookie Tom Brandstater. None are average or better NFL QBs. By the way, unless Brandon Marshall comes back quickly, the top three Denver receivers are Eddie Royal, Brandon Stokley and Jabar Gaffney. Good luck, whoever is behind center!

The Chiefs? The book is still out on QB Matt Cassell, but the kid is playing behind a below-average offensive line and doesn’t have many targets to throw to, especially after dumping TE Tony Gonzalez in the offseason. The backups are Tyler Thigpen and Brodie Croyle and their new-look offense scored 10, 13, 10 and 9 points in preseason.

One final point: Forget about all this talk about the Wildcat offense. It is a gimmick that took some teams by surprise in 2008, but defensive coordinators will have no trouble shutting it down this season. After Miami amassed 119 yards and four touchdowns on six Wildcat plays in its 2008 Week 3 debut against the Patriots, it managed just 25 yards on eight plays in a 20-point loss in the Week 12 rematch. The Jets were marginally effective when RB Smith ran the formation last season, as well. Let the games begin!

by Mike Neri