Opening Lines: Week 1

The Patriots opened as 7-point favorites as they open the regular season at Miami on Monday Night Football.

The beginning of fall means a lot of things. Leaves turning. Hurricanes forming. School buses making us late for work. First-year college girls making the first of many bad decisions. The Red Sox and Yankees yawning at the rest of their division. And the Dolphins still mathematically alive for a playoff spot. (We’re talking early fall here; not mid-October.)

This spread says more about Miami’s problems than it says about New England’s strength. The Dolphin offense remains an unsettled mess. The key additions (Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas) have done nothing to inspire any confidence in the preseason. They’re still starting Chad Henne at QB, which is about as exciting as buying a new sweater-vest. And they didn’t do much to improve a defense that was mediocre in 2010. With a tougher schedule in 2011, it’s difficult to envision the Dolphins improving on last year’s 7-9 record.

While the Pats return most of their important pieces on offense, New England’s defense is a bit of a question mark with the switch to more four-man fronts. In theory, it should help the team get after the quarterback and play to the strengths of the linebacker corps, but we’ve yet to see this unit in action in a game that matters. While the defensive backfield should be a strength, they don’t have a corner that matches up well against Brandon Marshall. If the Dolphins manage to keep it close, it is almost certainly because their offense does just enough to take advantage of any hiccups by the defense.

The Dolphins always play the Patriots close in Miami, but based on the talent deficit between these two teams, it’s hard to imagine the Dolphins keeping it close.

I like the Patriots to cover the spread and win by double digits.

Other lines I like:

OVER (37.5) on Giants @ Redskins

This is my favorite line of the week. The Redskins did nothing to shore up a secondary that allowed the second-most passing yards last year, and playing cornerback for the Giants this preseason may have been more hazardous that wrestling a shark in the open ocean. These two teams will cover the over in the third quarter.

Giants (-3) @ Redskins

Does anyone really want to lay money that an offense highlighted by Rex Grossman and Tim Hightower can hang with anybody? Washington looks like a 4-win team this year, and those kinds of teams typically don’t hang with playoff contenders on a regular basis.

Falcons (-2) @ Bears

I know, I know. I’m betting against two home underdogs again. It’s a sickness. The Bears did almost nothing to improve in the offseason, while the Falcons appear to have taken several steps forward. This should be a close game one way or another, so I’d take the points.

2010 record ATS: 25-17-1

2011 record ATS: 2-2