Game Time: NFL 2010 -- A Journey In Wagering

The first week of the NFL season is always one of the busiest for me. I've never been an accountant, nor will I ever be an accountant, but I would imagine that the first week of college and NFL football together is how the week of April 15 feels for someone in accounting -- only far less boring and with a lot more alcohol.

Also, there is an underlying goal of trying to somehow turn the season into financial gain. Wagering is the tax refund, people and I am here to help. I want you to set aside $100 -- I'm about to help you turn it into literally..more...hundreds of dollars. Yeah, you're gonna be rich.

You will get my commitment that these plays are all thoroughly researched. Why? Because I had three fantasy drafts this week and I hate my team in all three leagues, so I have zero chance of getting any fantasy scratch.

I won't bore you with the minutiae of all three leagues (like scoring system and who I got as my backup tight end), but because I know some of you might be curious, here's the thumbnail sketch:

1. One league I'm in is run by my 12-year-old son with a bunch of his buddies -- ten-team league, and I think the only one I'll beat is my 12-year-old daughter who picked her last seven players based on how cute they were. No joke, she Google-imaged every single one of her picks.

This is how you wind up with David Anderson and Danny Amendola on the same fantasy team.

2. The second league is my 1560 league run by our boss John Granato. Honestly, the draft is really just a backdrop for Granato and Chad Clay to tell everyone what pussies they are for not drinking. I hate my team so much in this league that I used two of my last four picks on Brett Favre and Roy Williams to see if I could hate my team any more. I couldn't.

3. And my third league is one that I've been in with Lance Zierlein for 14 years now. This league we actually disperse players via auction (far superior method than conventional drafting) and this year was a landmark in that it was the first time in seven years that we didn't have a divorce during the offseason. Seriously. Seven straight years we've had someone's marriage go up in flames. This will get its own 30 for 30 someday.

So with my fantasy ineptitude documented, let's get all of us paid, shall we? A few general prop bets, a few Texans wagers, then some predictions. LESH GO!

1. FIRST COACH FIRED -- TOM CABLE, OAKLAND (15/2) Bet $10 to win $75. Checklist for this bet -- good value (15/2 is nice, check!); coach has been living on borrowed time (check!); owner is either functionally dead or insane (check! check!); Jason Campbell is your quarterback (check!). The only thing saving Cable is the fear that he will break someone's jaw if he gets fired. (For the record, the others on the board were Eric Mangini (2/1), Lovie Smith (5/2), John Fox (4/1), Jack Del Rio (5/1), and Tom Coughlin (10/1).)

2. SAM BRADFORD OVER 2,500 YARDS PASSING (+100) Bet $10 to win $10. Put it this way, Matt Stafford threw for nearly 2,300 yards last season in ten games and I think the buzz on Bradford's readiness exceeds Stafford's from last year. Bradford has been solid in the preseason. He not only will start the season but there is zero threat of his losing the job.

Ray Rice is ready to pay off
3. RAY RICE LEADING LEAGUE IN RUSHING (12/1) Bet $10 to win $120.

Heading into his third season (about the time marquee running backs hit their stride), Rice averaged a whopping 5.3 yards per carry last year, finished the season strong (his three best games all came in December or in the playoffs), and has a quarterback who is just good enough to keep eight guys out of the box and just shaky enough to not get the keys fully handed to him. He finished sixth last season, so Rice is lurking. I love the value on Ray Rice.

4. BRENT CELEK LEADS NFL TIGHT ENDS IN RECEIVING YARDS (15/1) Bet $10 to win $150. Celek is a hot name who worked his way into a crowded Philly mix last season. At 15/1, I love the fact that Celek has a first-time, full-time starter at quarterback in Kevin Kolb. Two words -- safety valve.

5. ANDRE JOHNSON LEADS NFL IN RECEIVING YARDS (5/1) Bet $10 to win $50. if Andre stays healthy, this is the biggest lock you'll get on the board at 5/1 or better value. Easily. That said, a good hedge will be...

6. MATT SCHAUB UNDER 4,500 YARDS PASSING (+100) Bet $10 to win $10. There have only been 19 individual seasons in the history of the league with over 4,500 yards passing (one of which was Schaub last season). That was done in the shadows of one of the worst running games in the league. If you believe that Gary Kubiak is committed to fixing the run game, and that it is at least partially fixed with the emergence of Arian Foster, then Schaub will probably be under 4,500 yards. (Not to mention the odds that the gods even things out and injure Schaub this season after giving him all 16 games last year.) Why is this a hedge on the Andre bet? Because there's no way Matt Schaub goes over 4,500 yards passing without at least 1,500 yards from Dre. Want a second hedge?....

7. ARIAN FOSTER OVER 7 TOUCHDOWNS (+100) Bet $10 to win $10. Foster will be the goal-line back for the Texans and the clear-cut number one guy in the run game. Maybe I know too much, but this number feels really low.

8. TEXANS LEAD NFL IN SCORING (25/1) Bet $10 to win $250. I gave this one out in my Texans preview from last week. I don't know if the Texans will get there on this one, but at 25/1, with all those weapons, it's stupid not to fire a ten-spot on this.

9. TEXANS MAKE PLAYOFFS (+135) Bet $10 to win $13.50
10. REDSKINS MAKE PLAYOFFS (+225) Bet $10 to win $22.50

I'm already on record that the Texans will be 10-6 this season, a pick admittedly part blind faith, part homeostasis, with a sprinkle of myopia. The Redskins are an attrition play -- the NFC East will be tough, but flawed. The Cowboys have been a mess in the preseason (and Wade Phillips is involved); the Eagles are breaking in a new quarterback, and the Giants are a team on the downturn. With a new coach and a legit quarterback, a 9-7 or 10-6 Redskins season is very, very doable. At +225, I'll give it a whirl.

So if you're adding it up, these picks will allow you to turn $100 into $711. Thank me later.

For the record, the rest of my NFL predictions:

AFC EAST - New England 11-5, Miami Dolphins 10-6, New York Jets 8-8, Buffalo 4-12 AFC NORTH - Baltimore 12-4, Pittsburgh 9-7, Cincinnati 7-9, Cleveland 3-13 AFC SOUTH - Indianapolis 13-3, Houston 10-6, Tennessee 8-8, Jacksonville 6-10 AFC WEST - San Diego 11-5, Kansas City 8-8, Oakland 7-9, Denver 4-12

NFC EAST - Philadelphia 11-5, Washington 10-6, Dallas 7-9, New York Giants 6-10
NFC NORTH - Green Bay 13-3, Minnesota 9-7, Detroit 7-9, Chicago 5-11
NFC SOUTH - Atlanta 12-4, New Orleans 10-6, Carolina 5-11, Tampa Bay 3-13
NFC WEST - San Francisco 10-6, St. Louis 7-9, Arizona 5-11, Seattle 5-11

Wild Card - Houston over San Diego, New England over Miami
Divisional Playoffs - Indianapolis over Houston, Baltimore over New England
AFC Championship - Indianapolis over Baltimore

Wild Card - New Orleans over San Francisco, Washington over Philadelphia
Divisional Playoffs - Green Bay over Washington, New Orleans over Atlanta
NFC Championship - Green Bay over New Orleans

SUPER BOWL - Green Bay 31, Indianapolis 27

Enjoy the first games of the NFL season, and college ball too, with our Voice Deal of the Day, our newest way to save you cash. Today's deal is a coupon for a $30 gift card to Coaches Sports Bar for only $15. Valid at all three Coaches locations, expires December 9.

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