The NFL gets underway tonight as the Vikings travel to New Orleans to take on the Super Bowl-winning Saints in a rematch of last season's NFC Championship Game.
Last season, I picked every NFL game against the spread, and my final record was 137-122-8. I guess that's not too bad, especially since that was the first time I actually did that before. Anyway, I'm going to be posting my picks again this season and keeping track of how I do. It's not the most exciting thing to post, but it's pretty fun -- and frustrating too. Sometimes I'll look closer at a game or at least give some sort of rationale for my picks, and other times I'll just quickly post them. Either way, I'll have them posted every week in one or two posts.
Vikings (+6) over SAINTS
I think this is going to be Brett Favre's last season -- and not because I listen to anything he says about his retirement. When Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams announced that he was going to do everything in his power to blitz Favre and make him uncomfortable, he provided a template for the rest of the league on how to defend the Vikings. Even if his defense couldn't prevent the Vikings from scoring every drive, Williams made a concerted effort to blitz Favre from all angles -- and when the Vikings defensive players got there, they hit Favre, and hit him hard. He's still dealing with an injured ankle that he suffered in that NFC Championship Game.
Favre is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play, but he turns 41 in October. At some point, he's going to stop bouncing up from hits and brushing minor injuries off so quickly. Basically, if the Vikings don't do everything in their power to protect Favre this season, they're in big trouble. Like many have already said, they've shown their hand about what they think about any other quarterback other than Favre starting on their roster -- they obviously have no confidence in Tarvaris Jackson. I think Favre is going to take a pounding this season, and afterwards he'll decide that maybe staying home and playing two-hand touch football with his Wrangler-wearing buddies is a lot more fun and less demanding at this stage of his career.
These teams are still two of the best in the NFC, and either could get to the Super Bowl this season. The Saints are very close to being the same team as last season -- same with the Vikings. The Saints deserve to be favorites -- not only did they win the Super Bowl, but they're also at home -- but the Vikings are still very close talent-wise. Teams are also usually rusty from the preseason in their first game, and I don't think this game will be any different.
If I had to pick a winner, I'd say the Saints, but I think it'll be a close game.