Rolfe Kicks Off NFL
After a 7-month break, the NFL is set to kick off the 2002 season. And as promised here last week, Rolfe is ready to provide you with his weekly picks. Without any further ado, here we go:
49ers (-3) over GIANTS-
Jets (-3) over BUFFALO-Drew Bledsoe is a huge upgrade over Rob Johnson and Alexander Van Pelt (wasn't he the former President who invented the telephone?) but the Bills are looking at a 7 win season at best. Meanwhile, Gang Green comes off a 4-0 preseason in which the offense looks like it could be the best in the AFC. Look for Vinny and the boys to tear up the overmatched Buffalo D in a cakewalk.
TITANS (-1) over Philly-While some expect Donovan McNabb to take the Eagles to the Super Bowl, remember that his RBs are Duce Staley and Dorsey Levens. Yuck. Meanwhile, a rehabbed Eddie George, a still-improving Steve McNair and a revamped pass defense give the Titans a good chance to win the AFC South. Give the home team the edge in what should be a tight game.
REDSKINS (-7) over Arizona-Has there ever been this much hype for a coach's debut than all the noise surrounding Steve Spurrier? After scoring approximately 2,000 points this preseason, can Danny Wuerffel and gang light up the scoreboard when it counts? Week 1 should be no problem for the Skins, as they face the Cards, who had the 28th ranked D last season. Question for the Cards- you do know Jake Plummer isn't the answer, don't you?
Ravens (-2) over CAROLINA-Without a doubt, the ugliest game of the week. While Baltimore has gutted most of the squad that won the Super Bowl 20 months ago (no Ray Lewis pun intended) they still have to be the pick against a team that is starting Rodney Peete. Is DirectTV even going to bother showing this one?
Vikings (+4.5) over CHICAGO-Da Bears were a surprise team last year, coming out of nowhere to win the NFC Central. But they still look weak offensively, whether it's Jim Miller or Chris Chandler calling the plays. The Vikes had a rough 2001 (5-11) after the passing away of popular Pro Bowl lineman Korey Stringer in the pre-season. New coach Joe Tice made steps to reach out to disgruntled star Randy Moss, and Daunte Culpepper looks to be 100% again. Look for the Purple to keep the game close, and maybe even pull out a victory.
Chargers (+2) over CINCINNATI-The Bolts came out of the gate with a 3-0 record last year, before their eventual free-fall, losing the last 9 games. New starter Drew Brees will have an advantage over last year's starter, Doug Flutie- he'll be able to see over the lineman in front of him. Meanwhile, the Bengals, weak in almost every position except RB and OL, drafted an offensive lineman with their 1st round pick. No wonder why the Bengals haven't been to the post-season in a decade.
Chiefs (+2.5) over CLEVELAND-At what point does a team that everyone says is underrated officially become overrated? Rolfe is not jumping on the Browns bandwagon, although it seems every NFL pronostigator has them as their sleeper team for 2002. Meanwhile, with Tony Gonzalez ending his holdout, the KC offense, which added Johnnie Morton this off-season, looks like one of the league's best.
PACKERS (-7) over Atlanta-The Falcons are another team who don't seem to know their draft from their elbow. After giving Warrick Dunn big money to be their #1 RB, they go out and draft T.J. Duckett, who plays.... yes, you guessed it, RB. For the Pack, Brett Favre and Ahman Green should light up Lambeau Field for a double-digit margin of victory.
Colts (-3.5) over JAX-Everyone knows the Colts story- great weapons on offense (Manning, James and Harrison are among the top 3 at their positions when healthy) but shaky on D. Can Coach Dungy change Indy's luck? This game should be no contest, as the Jaguars were ripped apart by the salary cap. Look for a long, painful year in sunny Jacksonville.
MIAMI (-8) over Detroit-The pickup of RB Ricky Williams has Fins fans thinking Super Bowl, but Rolfe sees the Dolphins repeating their recent formula. They'll start off hot, but then the undersized D will fade, and the Mammals will be bounced out of the playoffs early. (The combined score in their last 5-playoff losses? An ugly 164-16) Meanwhile, the Lions will challenge the Texans as the NFL's worst team.
DENVER (+3) over St. Louis-Mike Shanahan, natural grass, and assorted injuries should slow down Faulk, Warner and gang in what looks to be the best game on the schedule. Brian Griese has newly healthy WRs in Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey, and the return of TE Shannon Sharpe helps as well. Look for an exciting game that is decided by the foot of Jason Elam.
Seahawks (+7) over OAKLAND-Seattle has been moved to the NFC, so this is the only matchup of this season between these long-time AFC West rivals. Shaun Alexander ran all over the Raiders D last season; while on the other side of the field, Rich Gannon, Jerry Rice and Tim Brown seem even closer to retirement than Danny Glover's character in Lethal Weapon. The Raiders may win the game, but not by much.
TAMPA BAY (-6) over Saints-Normally Rolfe doesn't like to give this many points with the Bucs. But the offensive additions of Keenan McCardell, Ken Dilger, Mikey Pittman, Marco Battaglia and Joe Jurevicius to the Johnsons (Brad and Keyshawn) and the Rock Park Express (Mike Alstott) show that this is not the same team as years past.
Cowboys (-7.5) over HOUSTON-Gentlemen, do yourself a favor. Let the old lady watch her "Sex In the City" nonsense and go to bed early instead of tuning into this Sunday night matchup of below average teams from Texas. Just remind her next week of how nice you were, and she should let you watch the Jets-Pats, Rams-Giants, the "Sopranos" and Oakland-Pitt in relative peace. You're welcome.
Pittsburgh (-2) over NEW ENGLAND-Sure, the joint will be rocking as the defending champs open up their new stadium on Monday night. But crowd noise and memories can only take you so far. The Steelers still have their great D to go with the seeminlgy healthy Jerome "the Bus" Bettis, and should roll to victory in a low-scoring game over pretty boy Tom Brady and the Pats.
Questions? Comments? Recipes? Contact Rolfe at RockawayRolfe@yahoo.com