Finally, real football is back. Week one of the 2011 NFL season begins on Thursday night when the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers welcome the Super Bowl XLIV champion New Orleans Saints to Lambeau Field. It's a matchup that should wet the appetite of Washington Redskins fans before Sunday's showdown with the New York Giants. It's also a great opportunity to make some picks. Using the spreads listed on the SB Nation NFL odds page, we're going to pick every single game of the first week of the NFL season. Warning: mild to moderate homerism applies.
New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers (-4.5): I'm conflicted here. You see, few are noticing just how much the Saints upgraded this summer. Darren Sproles is a huge upgrade over Reggie Bush, Mark Ingram will make a difference and the late addition of Aubrayo Franklin helps solidify the nose tackle position. This is probably a better team on paper than the one who won the Super Bowl in 2009. That said, the Packers are getting their rings, and we all know that's like playing the computer on superstar mode in Madden. Packers.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (-2): In general, I'm down on teams who have offensive line issues, and the Ravens have some major offensive line issues. Whenever you're signing a guy who was cut for weighing 400 pounds or so to be your left tackle, you're desperate as hell. In general, I'm down on the Ravens, who will miss Todd Heap and Willis McGahee this year. The Steelers, meanwhile, are still the Steelers. Steelers.
Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears (+3): Football Outsiders suggests that had the Bears played a normal schedule last year, they would have finished with the point differential of an eight-win team. They ended up winning 12 games and making the NFC title game instead, but watching them last year, you could see where Football Outsiders was coming from. Throw in the new kickoff rules negating the Devin Hester advantage, and the Bears are in trouble. Falcons.
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (-9): So Don Banks thinks the Texans are under more pressure to win than any team at any point in NFL history, huh? Time for Arian Foster and company to make love to pressure. Texans.
Tennessee Titans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (-3): Your projected quarterback starters: Matt Hasselbeck and Luke McCown. Can we just have Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew play from the Wildcat the whole game? Fantasy owners would rejoice. Titans.
Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas City Chiefs (-7): The Chiefs are the most obvious pick in years to fall off a cliff this year, especially once Jamaal Charles finally snaps at Todd Haley for making him split carries with Thomas Jones. Could they really fall at home to Buffalo, though? Whatever. Screw it. Bills.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. St. Louis Rams (+5.5): Time to put my hater cap on and begin my yearlong quest to wish for the Eagles to fail. Even Michael Jordan had Charles Barkley throwing elbows to make life easier for him on the original Dream Team. This Dream Team doesn't have anyone who can pass block. Also, I know that, on paper, Sam Bradford and St. Louis' gang of no-name wide receivers (and Mike Sims-Walker) is no match for the Eagles' great secondary, but isn't Steven Jackson against the Eagles' front seven just as much of a mismatch? Rams.
Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals (-7): Really now, should the Cardinals be a seven-point favorite against anybody? I mean, Carolina was pretty stupid to bring all those guys back last year, but they aren't 2-14 bad either? I'm looking forward to the legend of Cam Newton peaking in his very first NFL game. Panthers.
Minnesota Vikings at San Diego Chargers (-9): It's not November or December, so this line is absurdly high. I'm looking forward to Donovan McNabb being universally praised for handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson 30 times. Vikings.
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers (-6): The 49ers were victimized by a tough early schedule last year, which put them winless. Imagine if their schedule is flipped last year, with all the early divisional games at the beginning and the tougher games at the end? Things might be different. With all this said, this pick is more about the ineptitude of the Seahawks than anything. 49ers.
New York Giants at Washington Redskins (+3): Justin Tuck told Redskins media members that the Giants "have your number." I'm guessing they need it to see if any of them can play on their defense this year. HOMER PICK ALERT. Redskins.
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins (+7): Something really doesn't add up in New England this year. Far be it for me to question Bill Belichick, but he's relying a lot on Chad Ochocino to fix his slowly-declining skills. Also, what was up with cutting Brandon Merriweather and Brandon Tate? I'm sure they'll be good, but let's not take Miami for granted at home in September. Dolphins, to cover.
For more on the beginning of the 2011 NFL season, visit SB Nation's NFL preview section.