Stan Hey: 6-5 against

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The Independent Online

It is Labor Day on Monday, the last holiday before America goes back to work. But any gloom will surely be lifted by the start of the great sporting pageant, the National Football League.

The big story in the build-up to the new season has been the fabled quarterback Brett Favre's change of heart about retirement. The Green Bay Packers rejected his return, then blocked a move to the Minnesota Vikings before trading him to the lowly New York Jets. Other famous quarterbacks have also been making news – the Indianapolis Colts' Peyton Manning and the New England Patriots' Tom Brady have missed pre-season games with injury.

The main element of an NFL bet is assessing a team's QB, because he is vital in terms of possession and morale. The Giants' Eli Manning suddenly blossomed last season, so who might do so this year?

Favre will entertain but comic-book heroics are needed to revive the Jets. Brady has been the dominant QB for five seasons, leading the Patriots to an unbeaten 16-0 regular season match record last year. So a £20 "saver" at 7-2 (generally) on the Pats is first.

Second up is my annual bet on the Pittsburgh Steelers (£10 each-way, 33-1 Skybet). Third pick are the Jacksonville Jaguars (£10 ew at 14-1), whose QB David Garrard continues to improve.

In the NFC, it's one wild punt on the Arizona Cardinals (£5 ew, 80-1 Totesport) who have a good coach (ex-Steelers!) and whose veteran QB, Kurt Warner, might have one last hurrah left.

* Duke of Marmalade obliged in the big race at Newmarket last Saturday (£15 won), but Meydan City didn't at Goodwood (£20 lost). Ana Ivanovic, not right after injury, went out in the second round of the women's singles at the US Open. But she loves her R&B apparently – Ana, pet, I've got 40 years of soul on vinyl if you're passing.