It's pretty hard for me to dream up a less engaging slate of Monday Night Football than Pats/Bills and Chargers/Raiders. However, in honor of the AFL's 50th anniversary season and our first Monday night games of 2009, here are my calls for the first game:
Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots.
Over/Under: 47 1/2
Line: Patriots by 10 1/2
Did the Bills seriously cut Jason Peters this offseason? Did they seriously just cut his supposed replacement, Langston Walker? Are they seriously starting two rookie interior linemen? Did they seriously just fire their offensive coordinator less than 2 weeks ago? And did they seriously do all that knowing they would have to face the Patriots in Week 1? ON THE ROAD?!
Listen, a part of me really likes the Bills. Over the last few years, they're a team that has fought hard, been tough and scrappy, and always come up just a play or two short of national relevance. But this offseason of buffoonery will absolutely destroy them tonight. Bill Belichick is one of the greatest defensive coaches of the last 30 years, and the Bills are serving this game to him on a platter. Despite losing Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour, and Tedy Bruschi this summer, Belichick has to be salivating about this game. Trent Edwards to TO and Lee Evans, while not exactly Kelly to Reed, could be a good passing attack. Marshawn Lynch, when not suspended, is a very good running back, and Fred Jackson is a perfectly capable backup. But that offensive line is in for a massacre tonight, as ol' Bill will dial up all kinds of pressure to push through and disrupt Buffalo's rhythm. This is David and Goliath in the trenches of this game, and David simply doesn't stand a chance.
All that, and I haven't even mentioned the Patriots offense, which should be just as good as the record-breaking 2007 group. Tom Brady looked fine in the preseason. He's been listed on injury reports as "Probably (shoulder)" for, what, the last 5 years? He's fine, and has the receivers to go crazy out there. Fred Taylor, a personal favorite, adds some much-needed legitimacy to the running game. The only questions I have for this phase of the game, again, are all directed at Buffalo. Can the Bills dial up any real amount of pressure to knock Brady out of his groove? Is Aaron Maybin, after a lengthy rookie holdout, going to make an impact in this very important game? And can the Bills' defense as a whole, which I actually kind of like, really handle this kind of a challenge? Sorry, Buffalo, I love you but the Pats are just too good.
For the picks, I'm tempted to take the over, if only because the Patriots could put up 48 points on their own if they hit the ground running. Throw in a couple of Buffalo scores, and I can see this game beating the over/under. In the end, New England is just too much for a Buffalo Bills team in major offensive disarray, and the Pats win this one in a blowout.
I'll take the Patriots more than covering the spread in a huge home win.