By BARRY WILNER, AP Pro Football Writer
New England wasn’t the only entity with a strong performance in the postseason last winter. Pro Picks did well enough to finish four games over break-even against the spread for the entire season.
As this season gets started in Foxborough on Thursday night, questions marks surface everywhere. There’s Ezekiel Elliott’s availability, short term and beyond, though he will play Sunday. There’s the malaise that often plagues Super Bowl-losing teams that the Falcons must fight.
How much does Adrian Peterson have to offer the Saints (we think plenty)? Can Tom Coughlin, from the front office rather than the sideline, make much difference in Jacksonville?
And what in the name of Weeb Ewbank are the Jets doing?
More certainty comes out of Massachusetts, where some folks are expecting the Patriots to challenge the team’s 2007 edition that swept through the regular season and AFC playoffs before losing in the Super Bowl to the Giants. High expectations, for sure, but Pro Picks has learned that betting against Tom Brady and Co. is ill-advised.
Especially coming off another title.
“I mean, this team has thought about the 2017 season,” Brady says. “That (championship) was great. We celebrated and had a great time, but I mean, this team has to earn its own. Everything we get we’re going to have to earn.
“Every team starts at the same place. It’s a challenging season. … It’s going to take a lot of good football to get where we need to be.”
The Patriots, ranked first (naturally) in the AP Pro32 poll for the opening week, are 8-point favorites to get 2017 off to a rocking start. They figure to roll past the No. 7 Chiefs, although look for Kansas City to get better as the schedule progresses if it stays healthy.
KNOCKOUT LEAGUE TIP
Anyone who gets eliminated in the first week of these things should skip the rest of the NFL season altogether. Of course, if we are wrong about DENVER, we will ignore that admonishment.
No. 14 Arizona (minus 1 1-2) at No. 19 Detroit
We must be missing something here because we think Lions should be favored.
BEST BET and UPSET SPECIAL: LIONS, 26-21
No. 5 Atlanta (minus 7) at No. 29 Chicago
No matter how much Super Bowl hangover Falcons have, they should handle dreadful Bears.
No. 2 Seattle (plus 3) at No. 3 Green Bay
Look for these two to meet up in January, too.
No. 27 Jacksonville (plus 5 1-2) at No. 11 Houston
No. 6 Oakland (plus 2) at No. 10 Tennessee
We like both teams to make the postseason.
No. 9 New York Giants (plus 3 1-2) at No. 8 Dallas
Zeke will play, OBJ might not. We still like the Giants.
No. 23 New Orleans (plus 3 1-2) at No. 15 Minnesota, Monday night
Welcome back, Adrian. Now run wild.
No 17 Philadelphia (pick-em) at No. 21 Washington
Eagles could be surprise team this season, though they appear a year away from contention.
No. 22 Baltimore (plus 3) at No. 20 Cincinnati
Few teams were damaged in preseason like the Ravens.
No. 4 Pittsburgh (minus 9) at No. 31 Cleveland
Browns are better than in 2016. So are Steelers, on a different level.
No. 25 Indianapolis (plus 3) at No. 30 Los Angeles Rams
Colts are plain out of Luck.
No. 13 Carolina (minus 5 1-2) at No. 26 San Francisco
Panthers have a lot to prove, can’t stumble here.
No. 24 Los Angeles Chargers (plus 3 1-2) at No. 18 Denver, Monday night
Chargers have better QB and RB. Beyond that, a mismatch.
No. 32 New York Jets (plus 7 1-2) at No. 28 Buffalo
Jets might just cover because Bills have weak offense aside from LeSean McCoy. Nah.
Season Totals: Against spread (130-126-8). Straight up: (166-99-2)
Best Bet: 12-7 against spread, 14-5 straight up.
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