Siding with wrong coaches costly in NFL’s opening week

Sometimes you get so caught up in all the minutia when studying a football matchup that the obvious flies right over your head like a Mark Sanchez pass.

To wit, check out the NFL coaches who sit at 1-0 after the season’s first week: Bill Belichick, Mike Shanahan, Jeff Fisher, Mike Tomlin, Sean Payton, Mike McCarthy, John Harbaugh, Ken Whisenhunt and Tom Coughlin—all proven winners (only McCarthy and Harbaugh haven’t been to a Super Bowl, but both have made multiple playoff appearances).

Now get a load of some of the coaches who reside at the bottom of the standings: Norv Turner, Chan Gailey, Marvin Lewis, Wade Phillips, Tom Cable, Josh McDaniels, Mike Singletary, Eric Mangini and Steve Spagnuolo.

So what did I do in Week 1? I advised you to play the Cowboys (Phillips) over the Redskins (Shanahan), and the Bengals (Lewis) over the Patriots (Belichick), part of a 4-6 effort that cost me $567, dropping my bankroll to $4,293. It’s a good thing I wasn’t around to handicap the Civil War: I would’ve told you to bet the (actual) farm on the South!

On to this week’s picks …

$220 (to win $200) on JAGUARS (+8) over Chargers: At least I was wise enough to go against Turner and my Chargers in Week 1, who lost outright in Kansas City. That’s the third straight Week 1 noncover for the Bolts. And you know the old adage that says teams make their biggest improvement from Week 1 to Week 2? Not so with Turner. Since arriving in San Diego in 2007, his teams are 0-3 straight-up (SU) and against the spread (ATS) in Game 2. It gets worse: From Week 1 through Week 5, the supremely talented Chargers are 6-10 SU and 5-11 ATS under Turner. I’m convinced that if you put Norv in charge of Microsoft, Bill Gates would be on food stamps within a month.

$110 (to win $100) on PACKERS (-13½) vs. Bills: Let’s see: Gailey vs. McCarthy. Trent Edwards (led team to 10 points in home loss vs. Dolphins) vs. Aaron Rodgers (led team to 27 points in road win vs. Eagles). Buffalo hitting the road vs. the Packers’ home opener at Lambeau Field. If that’s not enough, the home team is 8-0 SU and 7-1 ATS in the last eight head-to-head meetings (five regular season, three preseason). Average margin of victory in those eight games: 15.5 points, with the Packers scoring four straight double-digit wins at Lambeau.

$110 (to win $100) on BOWLING GREEN (+2½) vs. Marshall: Never underestimate the power of the “letdown.” Last week, facing No. 23 West Virginia at home, Marshall collapsed like Amy Winehouse after happy hour, blowing a 21-6 lead with less than six minutes to play and losing 24-21 in overtime. With a chance to force a second overtime, Marshall missed a field goal by six inches, making it the ultimate kick to the crotch—and making a play against the Thundering Herd this week a must. Bowling Green is also 0-2 after road losses at Troy (30-27) and Tulsa (33-20), but it covered in both defeats and is 6-0-1 ATS in its last seven.

$110 (to win $100) on DUKE (+23½) vs. Alabama: The Crimson Tide must be feeling pretty good after blowing out San Jose State and Penn State by a combined 72-6 margin the last two weeks, which makes now the perfect time to fade the nation’s top-ranked team. Not only is this Alabama’s first road game, it’s a big “sandwich” situation (coming off the win over Penn State with an SEC battle at Arkansas on deck). Duke (34, 41 and 48 points its last three games) will be the first team this season to challenge Alabama’s young defense. And while the Crimson Tide have cashed in four straight games dating to last year, they’ve had just one five-game ATS winning streak since the start of the 1995 season.

>BEST OF THE REST: Patriots -1 at Jets ($55); Steelers-Titans UNDER 38 points ($44); Virginia Tech -17½ vs. East Carolina ($44); Georgia -2½ vs. Arkansas ($33); Air Force +17½ vs. Oklahoma ($33).

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Going for Broke

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By Matt Jacob

To say that my opening-week performance in college football was a little disappointing is akin to saying Elton John is a little flamboyant or Mel Gibson is a little off his rocker. I can see the e-mails flooding into the editor now: Who is responsible for hiring this clown? For the love of God, bring in the monkey! My response? Those weren’t my picks, folks. Nope, I let a friend borrow my computer and unbeknownst to me, he did last week’s column. (Hey, if Paris Hilton can play the “It wasn’t mine!” card …)