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Football Fantasy! NFL Week 1 picks & storylines from the land of make-believe

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Introducing the new way to choose a side in all the weekend’s non-Seahawks pro football happenings

NFL: Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Note: If you came here looking for fantasy football recommendations, I apologize. I don’t have anything for you. This season, Football Fantasy here at Field Gulls will offer a recurring daydream in the format of considering the weekly football schedule from a perspective of entertaining narratives and wished-for results in the non-Seattle Seahawks landscape. Unlike Seahawks Semantics which arrives when the playoff chase is in full sprint, we won’t only examine the games for how they benefit Seattle in the standings—although rivalries matter—but with a spirit of shifting allegiances to fun players and anarchical dynamics like I described last week. Here, we welcome storylines and silliness to topple other interests from week to week as we deliver the lowdown on the rest of the league from the land of make believe.

Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots

There’s a part of me hoping to see the Seahawks match up with none more than Tom Brady and the Patriots in another Super Bowl clash in February, both to avenge the catastrophic ending to XLIX and block New England from becoming the first defending champs to win back-to-back titles since 2004. For that scenario to play, the Patriots will have to win some games of course—but that’s still no excuse to soil yourself by actually desiring New England victory. Bill Belichick and company get plenty of flourless cupcakes to fill up their win column this year already, and I’m not fool enough to believe an early loss to the Chiefs could derail the Pats’ whole season. But it will still be enjoyable to watch them fall on their face and become the first Super Bowl winner to lose the season-opening Thursday kickoff playing at home (the Baltimore Ravens inauspiciously lost to the Denver Broncos on the road in 2013).

My choice: Chiefs

Sharp pick: Kansas City (+9)

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills

The Bills and Jets being in the same division while choosing the same year to try and forfeit the whole season is like when you attempt to open a tube of party cups from the bottom that’s so poorly sealed all the cups come falling out the other end. Fortunately, just like both these franchises, landing in the dirt has no effect on plastic so you can just pick the cups right up as if no one was watching. No one will watch this football game either.

My choice: Bills

Sharp pick: New York (+8.5)

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns

A year removed from its own diversionary campaign toward the number one pick, plucky Cleveland actually might try to win some in 2017. Myles Garrett’s late ankle injury takes some of the prospective juice out of this contest, which will nonetheless resemble an orange and banana smoothie. The Steelers’ defense improved a lot late in 2016 and should be an exciting, organic boost to Pittsburgh’s high-rolling offense. Someday, they may even be side worth wanting to win.

My choice: Browns

Sharp pick: Cleveland (+9)

Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans

Incredibly, these two teams don’t meet on a Thursday night at any time in 2017—that’s usually the landing spot for uninspiring AFC South affairs. Houston is busy rebuilding from Hurricane Harvey, which places sentiment with the home team even as Irma may be scraping up the east coast of Florida by game time. Everyone is going to hate me for saying so, but why does J.J. Watt get credit for raising $30 million in relief donations when he only put $100,000 of his own money in? Not that he did anything wrong exactly, it just seems like mistaking him for the benefactor when he is really more a funnel for care and money that was likely to be handed over anyhow.

My choice: Texans

Sharp pick: Houston (-5)

Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions

Two of the worst coaches in the league that get the most credit for mild success are Jim Caldwell and Bruce Arians, both of whom rode interim fame into overextended welcomes at later jobs. Both considered offensive geniuses; neither find ways to win when not being subsidized by stingy defense. Arians rules with inflated emotion; Caldwell with such calm one suspects the uncanny valley he inhabits may be leaking carbon monoxide. Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson were both All-Pro receivers trapped in bad organizations. Only Fitzgerald remains; still not enough for me to like the Cardinals.

My choice: Lions

Sharp pick: Detroit (+2)

Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears

You have to feel bad for the Bears. They move on from Brandon Marshall counting on the emergence of Alshon Jeffery, then give up on Jeffery thanks to the development of Cameron Meredith only for Meredith to go down with an ACL injury already in preseason. Now Chicago is depending on Kevin White, who hasn’t been healthy in two years as a pro, to provide targets for the team’s placeholder and developmental quarterbacks. You can also feel bad for the Falcons. With Julio Jones, Taylor Gabriel and Mohamed Sanu, their receiver situation is straight. They still gave up a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl.

My choice: Bears

Sharp pick: Atlanta (-7)

Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans

Last week I spent 2,500 words arguing why it’s fun to cheer for the Raiders and I’m already going against it. All glory to Marshawn Lynch, but I really want Tennessee to be good this year. That will require strides from its defense, projected as one of the league’s worst by DVOA with a lot of veteran castoffs like Sylvester Williams and Johnathan Cyprien, but allows plenty room for cohesion with the young talent like Kevin Dodd and Adoreé Jackson. As shootouts lead to fireworks and fuckups, should be a fun group.

My choice: Titans

Sharp pick: Oakland (+2.5)

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals

In classic cartoon fashion, Baltimore tied a rope around its own foot while trying to bind a bundle of flowers for its roster quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Ryan Mallett rather than court a competent signal caller like Colin Kaepernick instead. Now Flacco believes the answer is to add Acme to injury by literally dropping an anvil on his team’s head: Back at practice this week Flacco suggests the way to win in Cincinnati is to give himself amnesia.

My choice: Bengals

Sharp pick: Cincinnati (-3)

Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins

I say the Redskins have the long-term edge in this battle of miserably overhyped quarterbacks … because at least Washington has a chance to get away from its disaster artist after the 2017 season. It probably won’t, but at least it’s also five years removed from throwing away tons of draft capital to sink its future at the position. I rarely get into Twitter disputes, but my bugaboo this offseason has been Eagles fans insisting there’s a lens to look Carson Wentz’s 2016 that makes him look like a franchise QB.

Howie Roseman might believe Wentz has a future, but Ron Howard gave me two key words of insight. (He doesn’t.)

My choice: Eagles

Sharp pick: Washington (+1)

Indianapolis Colts at Los Angeles Rams

My goodness can’t we just vault Lamar Jackson into the pros already? Not that either of these teams are smart enough to realize he’s better than their existing quarterbacks.

My choice: Rams

Sharp pick: Los Angeles (-3.5)

Carolina Panthers at San Francisco 49ers

I don’t see a lot of point in trying to pound 49ers fans flatter than a hammered placer deposit when they’re unlikely to win more than four games in 2017 anyway. But the evil part of me wants Kyle Shanahan to fail disreputably and abort his narrative as some kind of hipster football genius, then salt the fields around his family’s property so no more Shanahans ever grow into NFL jobs again. Not trying to be a dick about it.

My choice: Panthers

Sharp pick: Carolina (-5.5)

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys

After nearly 25 years I’ve come around a little bit on Cowboys fans. Although it didn’t seem possible at first, they had their egos bruised so many times that I can almost watch a kind of pathetic lovability develop as they seesaw back and forth between outrageous overachieving and evacuation-scale disappointment. I’ll never love watching these two teams obnoxiously hog the primetime slot on opening weekend though.

My choice: Giants

Sharp pick: New York (+4)

New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings

I’d like to see Mike Zimmer convince Sam Bradford to try on his eyepatch for a week, just to see if the resulting depth perception impairment might cause Bradford to throw a ball past the first down marker.

My choice: Saints

Sharp pick: Minnesota (-3.5)

Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos

The last time the Chargers were based in L.A. they swept the Broncos in 1960, including a 23-19 win at what was then called Bears Stadium—for the Denver Bears of baseball’s old Western League. The 3-1 Broncos won just one more game for the remainder of the AFL season, and didn’t have a winning record until 1973. The Chargers played in five of the first six AFL title games, winning one championship. Los Angeles will revisit its roots glory with some nighttime football Monday, trying to start another new era for the Chargers. Might as well give them our blessing.

My choice: Chargers

Sharp pick: Los Angeles (+3.5)

What outcomes will you fantasize about this NFL opening weekend?