It's time for what's now become an ESPN tradition and that's the Opening Monday Night doubleheader. Tonight's games are New England-Miami (7 ET), followed by Oakland-Denver (10:15 ET). The Notebook, undeterred by a lousy effort picking games this last weekend (Penn State over Alabama, really?…The Rams over the Eagles?), weighs in on tonight's matchups. Included is the Projected Vegas Score (PVS), the combination of the pointspread and over/under, tweaked to make it a legit football score…
PVS: New England 27 Miami 20
It's a good test for both the Patriots receivers' corps and the Dolphins' secondary. New England has a ton of weapons for Tom Brady to target–from holdovers Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Danny Woodhead, and then added free agent Chad Ochocinco. But none of them are stretch the field types. Miami has a quality corner in Vontae Davis, and his opposite number Sean Smith has a chance to be very good as well. Furthermore, the Fish can bring some heat with linebackers Karlos Dansby and Cameron Wake and force Brady to get rid of the ball quickly. The possibility exists for Miami to blitz without risking getting burned deep. The argument against that theory is that even without a deep threat, Brady is so good and has so many short to mid-range options, that it simply doesn't matter. He'll find the open guy. While respecting the former argument, I buy into the latter one and look for the Patriot offense to again put points on the board.
Stepping over to the defensive side of the ball, New England has gone to a four-man front to take advantage of the talents of veteran pickups Albert Haynesworth inside, and Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter outside. The defensive backfield, save for corner Devin McCourty is a concern, but is there anyone out there who really thinks Chad Henne is going to step up and exploit that? Miami lacks the offensive line to get a ground game going and without controlling tempo they can't control the Patriots. New England gets the season off on the right foot tonight.
PVS: Denver 22 Oakland 19
John Fox in Denver makes his home debut, while counterpart Hue Jackson is coaching his first NFL regular season game. Both coaches have a lot of work ahead of them, something that will be apparent in this ugly opener. The downside to the Monday Night doubleheader is that one of the games has to be out west, and unless you want to put on San Diego every year, there's not much in the way of good NFL football on the West Coast right now.
The player I'm most interested in watching for this one is rookie Bronco linebacker Von Miller. He was the second pick overall in the draft and has a big act to follow after first pick Cam Newton lit it up yesterday in Arizona. I think Miller will be Defensive Rookie of the Year and expect a strong opening night as he helps neutralize Darren McFadden. The Raiders are also down a couple targets with speedy wideout Louis Murphy and tight end Kevin Boss not expected to play. Oakland will be in this game because they'll stop Knowshon Moreno on the ground and get some pressure on Kyle Orton. But they will ultimately get beat because Orton will still make some big plays against a bad secondary, and Miller, along with defensive end Elvis Dumervil will come up big against the Oakland offense.
Check back later tonight as the Notebook looks into the September woes of the Red Sox and Notre Dame football.
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