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Sam Farmer's NFL picks: Week 1

Trend is tough on Browns

September 05, 2008|Sam Farmer

The Browns are yet again opening the season in Cleveland.

For once, they're hoping to feel at home.

Every season since they were reborn as an expansion team in 1999, the Browns have played host to their opener. They have lost eight of those nine games.

Even last season, when the Browns went 7-1 at home, it was their opener that they lost.

Bucking that trend will be especially difficult Sunday, when Cleveland plays host to Dallas, a fashionable Super Bowl pick. Thirteen Cowboys made the Pro Bowl last season; every one of them remains on the roster.

The Browns, who have five prime-time games this season, are out to prove their 10-6 record last season was no fluke. Their offense is their strength, but the No. 1 unit notched just nine plays together in games this summer.

"I think we're going have to play one of our best games ever," Browns Coach Romeo Crennel said.

And, if history is an accurate guide, an opener in Cleveland is neither the time nor the place for that. Pick: Dallas.

Seattle at Buffalo: The Seahawks are a better offense without Shaun Alexander, but that might not be immediately apparent without Matt Hasselbeck's two favorite targets: Deion Branch and Bobby Engram, who are injured. Still, as long as they can contain Marshawn Lynch, Seattle should be OK. Pick: Seattle.

Houston at Pittsburgh: The Texans, who had a hard time protecting Matt Schaub last season, are starting a rookie left tackle. Then again, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked more than any AFC quarterback last season. This game is a defensive end's dream. Pick: Pittsburgh.

Tampa Bay at New Orleans: This is one of the most evenly matched division games in football. The Saints get the edge because they're at home, and they're starting to assemble a defense to match their high-octane offense.

Pick: New Orleans.

Detroit at Atlanta: Detroit's offense should be a little more balanced this season, but the Lions are still going to rack up a lot of receiving yards. They definitely have the receivers for it. Should be a good watch-and-learn lesson for Falcons rookie Matt Ryan. Pick: Detroit.

St. Louis at Philadelphia: Philadelphia could use better receivers, but Donovan McNabb still should be able to punch holes in a flimsy St. Louis secondary. Steven Jackson's 27-day contract holdout really hurts the Rams. Pick: Philadelphia.

Jacksonville at Tennessee: The Jaguars and Titans aren't going to set any scoring records in this one. Jacksonville, which lacks a big-play receiver, will play keep-away from one of the more underrated defenses in football. Pick: Jacksonville.

New York Jets at Miami: Chad Pennington will manage a game better than any recent Dolphins quarterback. That won't be enough, though, to derail Brett Favre's debut with the Jets. Pick: New York.

Cincinnati at Baltimore: Carson Palmer has won six of his eight starts against Baltimore, and those came against Ravens teams whose quarterback at least had some experience. Baltimore rookie Joe Flacco is in a tough spot. Pick: Cincinnati.

Kansas City at New England: All the pressure is on New England in this one. The Patriots have been in that spot many times. The rebuilding Chiefs might hang close for a half, but it won't be the second half. Pick: New England.

Arizona at San Francisco: With the onetime "quarterbacks of the future," Matt Leinart and Alex Smith, watching from the sidelines, it's Kurt Warner vs. J.T. O'Sullivan. Experience wins.

Pick: Arizona.

Carolina at San Diego: Even if they hadn't suspended star Steve Smith, the Panthers would be hard pressed to pull off an upset in San Diego. The Chargers have too much offensive firepower.

Pick: San Diego.

Chicago at Indianapolis: Injuries on the offensive line have left Indianapolis with patchwork protection for Peyton Manning. The Colts quarterback is good enough, though, to figure out what works against the Bears.

Pick: Indianapolis.

Minnesota at Green Bay: The Aaron Rodgers era begins with a bitter divisional rivalry. The Packers have beaten Minnesota four times in a row, and almost always play tough at Lambeau Field. But the Vikings are vastly improved on defense, and that will be the difference. Pick: Minnesota.

Denver at Oakland: The Broncos ranked 30th against the run last season. They might be improved in that department, but Raiders rookie Darren McFadden will be a rude awakening for them. Pick: Oakland.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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