Patriots and Giants draw Week 1 favorite tags

Last year's two Super Bowl participants get to open at home as favorites in Week 1 of the 2008 NFL season as Tom Brady and the Patriots host the Kansas City Chiefs while Eli Manning and the Giants entertain the Washington Redskins in the season's very first contest. Will it start a run for both New England and New York to meet up once again in Tampa for a rematch of Super Bowl XLII?

There are no do-overs in the NFL. If there were, itís very likely the New England Patriots would be the undefeated, defending Super Bowl champions.

The betting odds for 2008 agree. New England is once again the heavy favorite at 5-2 to win the title; the reigning New York Giants are sixth on the futures market at 12-1. And their respective odds for Week 1 of the regular season speak volumes for whatís in store this year.

Washington Redskins at New York Giants (-4Ĺ)
Thursday, Sep 4, 7:00 pm (ET)

The Giants were considered huge overachievers heading into the 2007 postseason at 10-6 straight up and against the spread. Quarterback Eli Manning had six touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in the second half of the regular season, before he lit up the Patriots for four majors in Week 17.

Just in time, as it turned out. Despite edging the competition by a combined 22 points on the season Ė thatís 8.6 pythagorean wins in stat-talk Ė New York went on the road and upset all four playoff opponents on the road and looked very impressive in doing so. Manningís totals in those four games: six TDs, one pick, one Super Bowl MVP.

Giants fans can expect some carryover into 2008. This team was learning the ropes in its first year under defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who spurned a head coaching offer from the Redskins to remain with New York. Manning is entering his fifth NFL season and should have some confidence in his abilities by now. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw returns as part of a committee after plowing for 4.3 yards per carry in the playoffs, and rookie tight end Kevin Boss played well enough (blocking included) to get Jeremy Shockey traded.

After failing to lure Spagnuolo to D.C., Redskins owner Dan Snyder named former QB Jim Zorn his head coach. This was a bit of a head-scratcher; Zorn had just been hired three weeks earlier as Washingtonís new offensive co-ordinator following the end of the Joe Gibbs-Al Saunders regime. Zorn takes over a team that made the playoffs at 9-7 (7-7-2 ATS) only after QB Todd Collins stepped in for the injured Jason Campbell (77.6 passer rating) and won the last four games of the regular season. Things could get mighty hairy for Washington supporters this season.

Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots (-15Ĺ)
Sunday, Sep 7, 1:00 pm (ET)

The Patriots may have been 18-0 heading into the Super Bowl, but they peaked in the middle of the season. New England started 8-0 ATS, four times covering spreads of more than two touchdowns. Thatís just not normal. As it turned out, the Pats went 2-6 ATS in the second half and dropped the cash in all three of their playoff games.

That slowdown hasnít stopped people from pounding New England this year. The Patriots opened as 14.5-point favorites versus the Chiefs and went as high as 16 points before falling back slightly. How much chalk is reasonable for the 2008 Patriots model? Itís nearly identical to last yearís, so double-digits at home against a team that went 4-12 (7-8-1 ATS) in 2007 is understandable.

But letís look again at the Chiefs. Just about everything that could go wrong for Kansas City, did. RB Larry Johnson (4.3 yards per carry in 2007) was a training camp holdout, got off to a slow start, and missed the second half of the season with a foot injury. Blue-chip QB prospect Brodie Croyle couldnít beat Damon Huard for the starting job, then neither man played well behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league. That line is new and improved for 2008, giving Croyle and the Chiefs a chance to stay upright this season.