Sunday, September 9, 2007

Handicapper's Corner, Week 1

This is the inaugural edition of yet another regular House feature, wherein I give a pre-game breakdown of both the Chefs' and the Broncos' upcoming matchups (Unlike the actual handicapping done a post below, I don't bother with spreads--this is more, as my boss would say, meta) And, like our new interview segment--which I should mention is already the talk of daytime television--it has a lame, predictable title. I take full responsibility for naming it, as long as you take full responsibility for being the kind of asshole who complains about blog post titles. Anyway. To the breakdowns!

Broncos v. Bills, 11 a.m., Rich Stadium in Buffalo.

Really, what can I write that you haven't read about this game? The Broncos are bringing their new addition at running back, Travis Henry, back to play the team that drafted him. Jay Cutler is making his sixth NFL start, which by my addin' makes him not quite halfway through his rookie year and thus fills the seat of my pants with liquid brown worry. You might have heard that we changed defensive coordinators, that we're going for meat over agility. You might have caught a whisper that the pride of Thomas Jefferson high school, aka the most underrated tight end in the league, has signed up with his hometown squad and is ready to obliterate his career marks in every offensivew category. You might have, for the first time in a long time, picked up the words "Dre' Bly" essaying from the lips of a passing stranger.

But what does it all mean? the holy hell outta me.

I'm serious. Usually, I have a fairly good reading on the team heading into that first game. Or like to think I do, anyway. (I figured we'd lose to the Rams in the opener last year, because it was a morning dome game on the road, and I don't think this franchise has ever won one of those.) But this year, I shrug. So many factors, so much mystery. Here's my best guess: the Broncos go in running, running and running some more. The Bills were one of the worst run-stopping teams in the league last year, and when Henry played them in Buffalo with the Titans, he went for 135 yards.

The Bills are also without starting weakside linebacker Keith Ellison, and are subbing in his place the undersized but vigorous Coy Wire. Wire is one of those guys you want on your team...preferably running under kickoffs, not starting in your front seven. Especially since he normally plays safety.

When they throw, they'll be throwing at a D that lost its best corner (Nate Clements) to free agency and wasn't all that hot even when he was there. But--it''s the opening game, the fans are hyped up on Utica and hot wings, their team will be jacked, so I see the Bills defense stepping up some, at least when it comes to defending the pass. No matter, because if Henry has the kind of game I'm imagining, Cutler might post a 1953 stat line. You know, 5 for 7 or something.

Peter King, always trying to jinx the Rocky Mountain region's favorite squad, said Cutler would throw four touchdowns today. Note to Peter: shove a grande half-caf vanilla mocchiato with caramel and jimmies into your jowly piehole and shaddup.

Our defense is even more of a mystery. Self-consciously non-homeristic (ed. note: that's probably not a word) analyst Mark Schlereth made doomy noises about the great Lee Evans. Oh goodness, he said. Prepare for the great Lee Evans. Thing is, the last time Champ Bailey met up with Mr. Evans, Mr. Evans had two catches for 5 yards. Don't let the facts stand in the way of a good opinion, Mark--that's why they're paying you the middlin' bucks.

Still, I remain genuinely concerned about the play of the front seven. Buffalo has the makings of a talented offensive team. J.P. might finally be turning the corner. Their O-line is massive. Marshawn Lynch could be the real deal. Could be...but again, who knows? Let's strap those leather helmets on and play some goddamn football, already.

Broncos 33, Bills 30.

Kansas City at Houston, 11 a.m. real time, Reliant Stadium

This game is a little easier. Not that there isn't mystery--the Chefs' offense, the Texans' defense, the readiness of the inverted vagina symbol, the boggle that is Damon Huard--it's just easier to project.

I didn't watch one single episode of Hard Knocks. But everything I've read about it, everything I've read about that team, leads me to one inescapable conclusion:

The Kansas City Chiefs might be in for a really, really bad year.

There's simply no way Huard is going to maintain last year's torrid pace. LJ, although a hell of back, lost his second future HOFer in two years on the offensive line, and Chefs fans are legitimately jacked up about the return of Damion McIntosh. That's just sad. The wideouts are old or unproven. The defense could be better, but it will have to be the return of the '75 Rams (didn't see that coming, didja?) to make up for the ineptitude on the other side of the ball.

The Texans, on the other hand, are on the rise. Matt Schaub could be a heck of quarterback. Andre Johnson is already a star at wideout, and Kubiak looks to have found another in Jacoby Jones. The D has had a steady influx of first-round talent over the last few seasons, and simply can't be worse than it was last year (ed. note: that statement is not true). All of this adds up to...

Texans 23, Chiefs 20.

Be back next week with more gold, pure gold.