NFL Football: Week One Edition

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Hey do you see that up there? Right up there, next to my name? See how it says September 5, 2019? You know what that means, don’t you? That’s right gang. It’s That Time of Year! Whoops! How did that get there? I was going for Andy Williams. SweetJesus, one would think it would be impossible to out-cornball Andy fucking Williams, but here we are. Boy is my face red. Oh well, no changing it now, I’m on deadline.

Actually, if I’m being 100% honest, I have a soft spot for the Vinnie Vincent Invasion. Not the unlistenable music, mind you. However, their drummer Bobby Rock (who is not Bob Rock) is a big animal rights guy, and a year or two ago he signed a book for a friend of mine who was a HUGE Vinnie Vincent fan back in high school. That friend was in some pretty rotten circumstances at the time, and Mr. Rock put a nice inscription and everything. So come to think of it, I’m glad I messed up the outbound link. I’m proud to call myself a fan of (the personality and at least one aspect of the politics of one guy who used to be in) the Vinnie Vincent Invasion. I’m not linking to Boyz Are Gonna Rock though. That would for sure get me fired.

So yes! Where were we? Ahh, of course. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. No more preseason nonsense. No more having to hear square coworkers talk about their stupid fantasy drafts. Even Hard Knocks is over, though HBO book ended the last episode with long spots for Belichick and Sabian: The Art of Coaching. Good Lord. Who knows how many hours of footage of those two guys, sitting in a room and trying not to look pissed off that they aren’t by themselves in a darkened room somewhere else, watching film over and over again like it was Ice Station Zebra.

And why are we just now finding out about this? Bill Belichick and Nick Saban were just sitting in a presumably unguarded or minimally guarded room? For hours on end? Not necessarily paying close attention to non-football concerns like security details? I mean, not that I would wish harm on anyone, but where the hell were you, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea? Howsabout you, rightwing militia wingnuts? Two high-profile American citizens, both multimillionaires many times over, both 67 years of age, and not one bad guy around the world has the balls to make a move? Here you had the first kidnapping since… dunno…let’s say Sinatra Jr., where most Americans would go “ehh let’s see how this goes for a bit maybe?” and kind of secretly root for you but NOOO. Too busy firing rockets at innocent fish and taking over Parks Department sheds I guess. Pathetic!

So with a new season – including a very alive and well Bill Belichick on the Pats’ sideline, God be praised – comes new opportunity. Those of you who were here last year know that we took home a booby prize at season’s end, finishing with a winning record, but one win shy of the 52.5% we needed for textbook profitability. Obviously, I’d love to top that this year, and I’m certainly going to try, but for the new people, or as a refresher, I need to restate our rules real quick:

Don’t bet what you can’t afford to lose. This is supposed to be fun, and will ideally be profitable, but it’s not much of a living. If you want to gamble for a living, there are other columns by better writers on this very site that can teach you the ins and outs of poker. Football is a skill, but wagering on football is a chance, because every human being, including world class professional athletes, is fallible. So by all means, have fun with it. Turn your nestegg into two nesteggs. But for the love of God, pay your rent and feed your kids before you go investing on whatever the hell you think Matthew Stafford is capable on a given Sunday.

Don’t bet with your heart. You can love a team all you want, but it will never love you back. This isn’t The Sandlot. Heroes only get remembered until the day they leave town. No one is due, no one is clutch, and no player owes you anything. By all means, have a favorite team. You can even root for your favorite player. But don’t conflate that with your money. Tom Brady doesn’t write his fucking name for less than $1000, he’s damn sure not gonna give your engagement ring money back.

Nobody knows anything. Not TV analysts, not handicappers, not the keyboard warriors, and certainly not the touts. There are good books about the strategy of betting, and you should absolutely do as much research as time permits. I am personally a fan of both the Football Outsiders Almanac and PFF Foreca$t, but those are cheap / free forms of entertainment, not mathematical formulae. Never pay anybody for football picks. Unless they are on the field, they don’t know anything you couldn’t easily learn with your own two eyes and a WiFi connection. You have to keep reading me, though. How else would you know that the drummer for Vinnie Vincent Invasion is an animal rights activist? HEY LOOK FOOTBALL!

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GREEN BAY PACKERS +3 v. CHICAGO BEARS

Slow down, now. I like this pick, and I’m making this bet, but this is hardly some Million Star Lock of the Millenium or anything of the sort. We face this dilemma every year, where the league wants to open the season with a bang so we wind up with a matchup of contenders and a tight line, made even tighter by the casuals who pop in to bet the line into a razor blade by kickoff. But those of us with this hobby, this calling if you prefer, we feel as though we are more involved than some guy who’s just a fan. This game is more important for us, something we are owed after patiently waiting for 188 days after the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history. Hence forcing us to pick the de facto winner for the NFC North in the face of 1000 off season questions before a down is played.

I can’t even sneak out of a back door. On the occasional opening night I’ve gotten away with dodging a tight line by betting the total score, or nailing the favorite on the money line with whatever college game is meekly offered up as counter programming. But honestly 46.5 seems close to right and the NCAAF matchup pits Western Colorado U against Idaho State, both of which sound like fake schools made up for trademark purposes and tossed into a crap movie script involving someone having sex with baked goods at a pivotal moment.

I made my case against the bears – or more specifically, against Matt nagy – last week. I was even light on Mitch Trubisky, whose advanced stats indicate that he is among the most propped-up QBs in the league thanks to the talent around him. Here he gets another dance with Aaron Rodgers, who stroked Mike McCarthy out of town and will now serve as his own unofficial OC for a team rebuilt to his specifications.

It’s the oldest rivalry in football for a reason, and I think it will stay close through three quarters at the least. But the Packers upgrades just skew a shade or two higher than the bears, who spent all of their off season psyching out would-be kickers. We’re all watching anyhow, may as well take the points.

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BUFFALO BILLS v. NEW YORK JETS -3

As part of my contract renewal negotiations, I was going to insist that my goofball wife get to pick her cursed favorite team against the spread every week of the season. If I’m being honest, though, it was just dirty nepotism designed to drag an unearned paycheck into the house despite her obvious lack of qualifications, essentially making her the Jared Kushner of Ruthless Reviews.

That said, as many of you know, I have to watch most Jets games anyhow, and this one doesn’t look half bad. My analysis would center around Josh Allen not making enough progress over his first season to indicate that he was capable of a big leap forward during the offseason, especially since he gets to jump right into deep water in the form of a Gregg Williams defense. Mrs. Duquesne’s position is a bit more nuanced. She says that Bills fans won’t stop diving through folding tables, and backyard wrestling is a pursuit of Juggalos and the mentally infirm, sometimes both.

Am I right? Is she? It doesn’t matter so long as the hometown team covers, and I think that’s pretty safe to say.

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SAN FRANCISCO -1 v. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

I was surprised when this opened at only -2.5, and have been rubbing my hands like bad guys do in the movies all week as it trickled down to -1. I’m assuming that the line is hitched to the game these two teams played last November, where even a limping Tampa team embarrassed the 49ers 27-9. But I also think that’s myopic given how much of an upgrade Jimmy Garropolo was over Nick Harmony Corruption Bullens, who was responsible for the nine-point offense in the first place.

Nick Bosa and Kwon Alexander have a lot to prove this year, for different reasons, and this game against this O line gives them the opportunity to plant a flag of sorts. We discussed the Tampa secondary during the preseason, and I think both Dante Pettis and Deebo Samuel match up well enough to either rack up yards or pull guys off of Breida and Coleman. Are there injuries in Santa Clara? Sure, but nothing substantial enough to make me scared of the week one Bucs.

And here we go, gang. If you’re new, stick with me, I always do my best. I literally make every bet in the column, so you know nothing here is a con. We won;t win them all, but if thing break right, we will win more than we lose, hopefully alienating only a minority of the readership. You might think that would make me nervous, but you don’t have to read a bunch of missives from Trump-humping Cowboys fans every Monday morning. Speaking of which! I only do this once annually, because I am not a shill, but the email is @ArtistsFirstLLC and the email is threehundredonedegrees at yahoo dot com. Keep it civil and I’ll return the favor. And for now let’s all wish each other –

Good luck!

About J.J. Duquesne

J.J. is an attorney in New York City. He loves NFL Football...a LOT.