Columns & Blogs

Tom Sorensen: Panthers win a close one over Bucs

Welcome back. You know how this works. I pick the winner of every NFL game played this season. (When there’s a Thursday game I make the pick Thursday on Twitter.)

I pick two games against the spread. One is the Upset of the Week. The other is the Lock of the Week. A Lock is a game whose outcome I virtually guarantee. I say virtually because sometimes the wrong team wins.

All those betting and tout services that promise a Lock also get it wrong. They just don’t admit it.

I’ll always tell you how I did because that’s how I was raised and because you’d find out anyway.

The last meaningful pro football game was played Feb. 2. That was more than seven months ago. That’s how long we needed to get past Seattle’s party-ruining 43-8 victory against Denver.

The first weekend of pro football feels like a holiday. Enjoy it. This week’s picks, with the home team in CAPS:

Upset of the Week: Carolina (+2) 19, TAMPA BAY 17

I make my picks and then look at the line. This was the only upset on my board so I have no choice but to go with it. Since we last saw the Buccaneers they hired a quality coach and a quality quarterback. They’ll be better.

The Panthers defense, meanwhile, will be as good as you expect, and the offense will offer a surprise. Maybe the surprise will be Jonathan Stewart playing a dominant game or Jerricho Cotchery, who was been stealthy since he arrived in Charlotte, making the winning catch. Somebody will emerge Sunday. Somebody has to. And that will be enough.

New Orleans 33, ATLANTA 31

I like Atlanta, the team not the city. But the Saints made the biggest off-season move in the NFC South when they signed Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd. If there’s a better team in the NFC than New Orleans I don’t see it.

BALTIMORE 23, Cincinnati 17

Baltimore receiver Steve Smith Sr. has at least one more Steve Smith season in him and he’ll begin to prove it Sunday.

PHILADELPHIA 29, Jacksonville 20

The Eagles are favored by 10 1/2, but I’m wary. After starting 0-8 last season the Jaguars won four of five. I’m curious about Year 2 of Philadelphia’s fast break offense. Will the league adjust or was head coach Chip Kelly just warming up?

San Francisco 33, DALLAS 27

What do you think the Cowboys need more – a defense or a general manager?

DENVER 34, Indianapolis 24

The Broncos’ offseason defensive acquisitions were impressive. Even if Peyton Manning fails to replicate 2013, the Broncos could be elite.

NEW YORK JETS 24, Oakland 20

The world is more interesting when the Silver and Black win. But the last time the Raiders won on the East Coast I think Richard Nixon was President. The only other regions in which the Raiders struggle are the North, South and West.

The rest:

HOUSTON 23, Washington 20

PITTSBURGH 23, Cleveland 13

ST. LOUIS 21, Minnesota 19

KANSAS CITY 24, Tennessee 16

New England 30, MIAMI 24

DETROIT 31, New York Giants 23

ARIZONA 27, San Diego 21

Lock of the Week: CHICAGO (-7) 35, Buffalo 24

You see some of the throws Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler makes and wonder why he’s not among the best. If he sustains his health, the Bears could be.