Four factors point to Bills win

Entering his final season as coach of the Seattle Seahawks, Mike Holmgren is hoping to go out on a high. What he’s more concerned about at the moment is how his team handles going into Buffalo.

The Bills are 1-point favorites over the Seahawks as Week 1 of the NFL regular season hits with an avalanche of games today.

Buffalo has a sturdy defense and a steady running back in Marshawn Lynch. Seattle has what is perceived to be the better team, but it also has injury concerns and question marks.

Sportsmemo.com handicapper Ted Sevransky said “four significant edges” are leading him to side with the Bills.

“First is the time-zone issue,” Sevransky said. “The Seahawks haven’t just been bad traveling east under Holmgren for early starting games — they’ve been horrible, repeatedly. Their first trip east last year was a 21-0 loss at Pittsburgh, and 2-9-1 record against the spread in their last 12 tries on the road in the Eastern time zone speaks volumes.”

The second issue, Sevransky said, is special teams.

“Holmgren is not a coach who emphasizes special teams play. The Bills, on the other hand, have the best special teams in the NFL by a wide margin,” he said. “Look for Buffalo to win the field-position battle.

“The third edge won’t be apparent to anyone but us. I do my own version of schedule analysis every year, breaking down each team’s slate from the previous season based on my power ratings for the opponent they faced on the week that they faced them.

“Seattle went 10-6 last season, while Buffalo went 7-9. People think of the Seahawks as the superior team. In fact, the opposite is true. Based on my numbers, Seattle faced the weakest schedule in the NFL last year, while the Bills faced the toughest schedule in the league.”

Finally, Sevransky cites “cluster injury problems on offense” for Seattle, including quarterback Matt Hasselbeck’s bad back and a decimated receiving corps.

Sevransky analyzes the rest of today’s Week 1 schedule:

Cincinnati (-11/2) at Baltimore: There’s absolutely no comparison between these teams. The Ravens went 5-11 last year and might be significantly worse this season. Baltimore will start rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, its top draft choice out of Delaware. Flacco did not win the job in training camp and was expected to spend at least one full season on the bench, learning the nuances of the position. It would be one thing if Flacco was working behind a stellar offensive line, with ample time to throw and a strong running game supporting him.

Once again, that is not the case.

The Bengals won both meetings between these teams last year, and they are the better team again. Take the Bengals.

N.Y. Jets (-3) at Miami: The Jets went into the offseason looking to improve their offensive line, defensive line and quarterback. Mission accomplished. And who knows how to attack Chad Pennington’s weaknesses better than Jets coach Eric Mangini. Take the Jets.

Kansas City at New England (-16): This one is simple. The Patriots closed the last regular season with a 1-5 ATS mark and were favored by double digits in every game. In the preseason, the Patriots went 0-4 ATS, failing to sniff a point-spread cover in any of their four games. We’re talking about a team that is vastly overvalued by the betting marketplace and in the midst of a 1-12 ATS slide.

Tom Brady didn’t take a snap in the preseason, and he didn’t even rejoin practice until Wednesday. There are rumors swirling that Brady’s injury is more serious than the team has indicated.

The Chiefs might be one of the NFL’s worst teams, but let’s not forget that coach Herm Edwards penchant for playing conservative football, keeping the games close. Take the Chiefs.

Houston at Pittsburgh (-61/2): The Steelers went 15-1-1 over the total at Heinz Field in the 2005 and 2006 seasons. Last year, they went 5-4 to the over at home, giving them a three-year run of 20-5-1 over the total at home. Pittsburgh’s offense produced 21 or more points in every home game last year but one. The Steelers are poised to score points in bunches.

The Texans offense had a phenomenal preseason, and quarterback Matt Schaub is an emerging star. He has an offense loaded with big-play receivers. Look over the total (43).

Jacksonville (-3) at Tennessee: Jaguars quarterback David Garrard put up a 102.2 passer rating in his first year as the starter in 2007. He’ll be hard pressed to approach that number here against Tennessee’s strong defense. But the Titans offense wasn’t able to get anything going at all in the preseason. Go under the total (37).

Detroit (-3) at Atlanta: The Lions are 8-48 straight up on the road over the past seven seasons, including a “perfect” 0-3 mark as road favorites. The Lions certainly aren’t a team that most bettors are interested in putting their money on as a road favorite in Week 1, giving us the value we need to pull the trigger on Detroit, which is a confident team following its 4-0 preseason.

Remember, the Lions started the 2007 campaign with a 6-2 mark — including road wins at Oakland and Chicago — before their season collapsed. The Falcons are coming off a dismal 4-12 season and breaking in a new coach with a rookie quarterback in Matt Ryan making his NFL debut. Take the Lions.

Tampa Bay at New Orleans (-3): The Saints under coach Sean Payton have been abysmal in this role — 3-10 as a home favorite over the past two years, including 0-4 against their NFC South Division foes. Tampa Bay isn’t a sexy pick this year, but it does have the better defense. Take the Buccaneers.

St. Louis at Philadelphia (-71/2): The number that stands out to me for St. Louis is 0-10. That’s coach Scott Linehan’s straight-up record against opponents with winning records during his two years with the Rams, since upsetting Denver in his first game on the job. I wouldn’t expect much better from Linehan and the Rams this season.

The Rams match up poorly against the Eagles. St. Louis is weak defensively, particularly among its back seven. The Rams offensive line is, once again, an injury-plagued disaster area. We can project real problems for St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger, who will be throwing under pressure against an improved Eagles secondary thanks to the addition of Asante Samuel. Look for the Eagles to take care of business.

Dallas (-6) at Cleveland: On paper, the Cowboys are the NFC’s best team by a relatively wide margin. Nine of the Browns’ 10 wins last year came against teams at .500 or worse, and their 30th-ranked defense doesn’t look much better this season. Take the Cowboys.

Carolina at San Diego (-9): The Panthers have hit 67 percent as road underdogs in six years under coach John Fox, but they won’t have their only playmaker, wide receiver Steve Smith, in the lineup. San Diego started 1-3 under coach Norv Turner last year, scoring just 17 points per game. Take this under the total (411/2).

Arizona (-3) at San Francisco: For the umpteenth consecutive year, Arizona appears poised for a breakout season. Meanwhile, the 49ers are learning a completely new offense under coordinator Mike Martz with second-tier quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan leading the way. Take the Cardinals.

Chicago at Indianapolis (-10): The Bears offense is as weak as any in the league, and their defense ranked 28th in the NFL last year and looked even worse in the preseason. Quarterback Peyton Manning appears healthy enough to support the favorite here, so take the Colts.

Compiled by Review-Journal sportswriter Matt Youmans.

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