After months of waiting, the NFL’s centennial year is about to commence. There is nothing quite like the excitement of Week 1 football. Not just because the sport we all love is officially back, but many questions that had been lingering over the offseason will soon be answered. One slate of games isn’t going to confirm anything yet, but it’s still a wonderful thing to have football back.
With that being said, let’s predict some games! Every week I will be giving my expert (not really) analysis and picks against the spread for every NFL game for the week. The lines will be coming courtesy of ESPN spread consensus picks off of their schedule. So without any further ado, let’s try and not get embarrassed!
(Betting lines last updated September #3rd)
GREEN BAY PACKERS vs. CHICAGO BEARS (-3.0)
What better way for the #100th season of football to kick off then to have not only two of the league’s first franchises but also two of the sport’s biggest rivals face off. Week 1 of 2018 saw Aaron Rodgers come back from what had appeared to be a gruesome-looking injury and shock the Bears. Hopefully, no such scare happens this year and we get ourselves an awesome showdown. While I do expect the Packers to bounce back this year and win the division, going to Chicago in primetime against the best defense in the NFL isn’t exactly a walk in the park. It should be a close game, with maybe a turnover or two being the deciding factor.
THE PICK: Bears (-3.0)
TENNESSEE TITANS vs. CLEVELAND BROWNS (-5.5)
The new-look Browns are going to be one of the most fascinating teams to watch this season. With a star-studded roster with very little flaws, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Cleveland end their playoff drought. Tennessee isn’t the sexiest team in the world, but they have an excellent front-seven led by Jurrell Casey that should attack the Browns’ offensive line (the team’s biggest weakness by far). The key for the Browns will be using the short-passing game to get the ball out of Baker Mayfield’s hands quickly and hope OBJ can take a 5-yard slant to the house.
THE PICK: Browns (-5.5)
BALTIMORE RAVENS (-6.5) vs. MIAMI DOLPHINS
The Dolphins made headlines over the holiday weekend by trading away franchise cornerstone tackle Laremy Tunsil. While Miami received an absolute king’s ransom of picks, they easily have the worst offensive line in the league and have set up both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen to fail. I’m not super high on Baltimore this season, but their defensive line should eat Miami alive. Don’t be surprised also if Lamar Jackson has a field day against this ghastly defense.
THE PICK: Ravens (-6.5)
ATLANTA FALCONS vs. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (-3.5)
One of the low-key best games for this Sunday afternoon, this will be a battle of two immensely talented teams who both surprisingly missed the post-season last year. While I would personally give a slight edge to the Viking’s defense overall, their secondary is currently banged up and I’m still not sold on their offensive line (rookie center Garrett Bradbury looks like a stud though). The confines of the dome at U.S. Bank Stadium help out Matt Ryan on the road, and I can see this game being a barn-burner from the get-go.
THE PICK: Falcons (+3.5)
BUFFALO BILLS vs. NEW YORK JETS (-3.0)
The AFC East is still the Patriots to lose, but both of these teams should have wild-card aspirations. The Bills have a great coach in Sean McDermott and one of the most underrated defenses in the sport, but their offense is anemic, to say the least. The Jets are banking on the continued development of Sam Darnold and for their bevy of new additions to make noise for them this season. This will be one of the more tepid games of the weekend, but I do predict Le’Veon Bell putting on a show and displaying he still has a claim to being one of the league’s best running backs.
THE PICK: Jets (-3.0)
WASHINGTON REDSKINS vs. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (-9.5)
Many sports analysts are forecasting the Redskins to be one of the leagues worst teams this season, but I don’t really see it being THAT bad. They have a stellar defense that should keep them in some games. Their offense also has potential once Dwayne Haskins steps in for Case Keenum, but this is looking like Jay Gruden’s last season at the helm. As for the Eagles, they have the best roster in the NFL in my opinion and Carson Wentz should put together an MVP-level year. Divisional games are always hard to predict, however, and the Redskins defense is too underrated for me to not see this game being closer than nearly ten points. Eagles will most likely win, but it may not be as easy as you think.
THE PICK: Redskins (+9.5)
LOS ANGELES RAMS (-3.0) vs. CAROLINA PANTHERS
The L.A. Rams are coming off a Super Bowl appearance where, for the first time in Sean McVay’s short career, he looked like a lost puppy out there. The Rams still have an elite group of skill position players, but I worry a lot about their offensive line sans Andrew Whitworth (who almost retired this offseason). With Carolina, you have one of the best looking defenses on paper including free-agent addition Gerald McCoy and stud rookie Brian Burns. I worry about Cam Newton’s shoulder injury going forward, but having this much speed on your offense should offset that concern for now. A somewhat confident underdog pick here in the Panthers.
THE PICK: Panthers (+3.0)
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-4.0) vs. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Okay okay, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. While I do expect the Jags’ defense to get back closer to its 2017 level and win the AFC South, this line is wayyyyy to short against the unit that is the Chiefs’ offense, even on the road. Mahomes. McCoy. Williams. Hill. Watkins. Hardman. Kelce. You there, Jacksonville? Besides the offensive firepower, I really think the Chiefs did a nice job upgrading what had been an atrocious defense with the likes of Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu. This is one of my more confident picks this week.
THE PICK: Chiefs (-4.0)
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS vs. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-6.5)
With Andrew Luck now retired and despite Jacoby Brissett now at the helm with a new short-term deal for the Colts, many are expecting them to bottom out for a quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft. Not so fast though. Indianapolis still has an elite offensive line, a defense that has many pieces, and an excellent coach in Frank Reich. The Chargers have been snakebitten by not only injuries (Russell Okung and Derwin James) but their star running back Melvin Gordon holding out with the high probability of him being traded. I do expect Phillip Rivers to carry the Chargers to a W in this specific game, but I have faith in the Colts keeping it close in a somewhat neutral stadium.
THE PICK: Colts (+6.5)
CINCINNATI BENGALS vs. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (-9.5)
I hate picking these types of games. The Seahawks clearly have the better quarterback and offensive line. They have a better coach. They’re in their own stadium with one of the loudest fanbases in the sport. Should be an easy pick.
The Bengals also have a good running game and an underrated defensive line led by Geno Atkins. They could also take advantage of the banged-up Seahawks receiving core. I do expect Seattle to win this game somewhat easily, but this line is a just a smidge too big for me not to take the Bengals.
THE PICK: Bengals (+9.5)
NEW YORK GIANTS vs. DALLAS COWBOYS (-7.0)
The Giants and Cowboys have one of the most fierce rivalries in the NFL, but both teams are going in separate directions. Dallas has the roster to possibly contend deep into the post-season, while the Giants somehow became the Browns in the span of a year. Nevertheless, as I mentioned in the Redskins-Eagles section, these divisional games are tricky. Add the fact that Ezekiel Elliot may play limited snaps after his time away this offseason, this might not be exactly a walk in the park. For this game to be close, the G-Men will need to lean on Saquon taking over and Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard to take steps forward to compensate for the loss of Odell Beckham Jr. The Cowboys secondary should take advantage of the ducks being thrown from Eli for the majority of the game, so I’ll take Dallas and the points with moderate confidence.
THE PICK: Dallas (-7.0)
DETROIT LIONS (-2.5) vs. ARIZONA CARDINALS
I can somewhat see why this line is so close despite how putrid the Cardinals were last year. They’re home, they have the #1 pick at QB in Kyler Murray, and they have an exciting hot-shot new coach in Kliff Kingsbury. After that… yeah nothing really. Arizona does have some nice pieces on defense, but Detroit’s revamped offense led by Matt Stafford, stud sophomore Kerryon Johnson, and rookie sensation T.J. Hockenson is going to be a problem for teams this year. The Lions are also very good in the trenches, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and should have no problem with an Arizona o-line that made Josh Rosen running for his life last year.
THE PICK: Lions (-2.5)
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS vs. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (EVEN)
I’m actually very excited about this game, as we get to see two offensive masterminds at head coach try and finally get their teams to the playoffs. Jameis Winston and Bruce Arians seem like a match made in heaven for the Bucs, and Kyle Shanahan should get the most out of Jimmy G. At the end of the day, I think the more consistent weapons in the San Francisco backfield in addition to their stellar defensive line led by behemoth De’Forest Bucker and rookie Nick Bosa will give the Tampa Bay offense some jitters.
THE PICK: 49ers
PITTSBURGH STEELERS vs. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-5.5)
The Steelers and Patriots facing off in primetime? Sounds familiar, but usually not this early. These two iconic franchises have faced off at least once in the past five years, with the Pats holding a 4-1 advantage. The Steelers shockingly missed the playoffs last season, but I don’t expect that to happen again with their improved defense and lack of distraction from a certain wide receiver. New England, on the other hand, lost Gronk but still has the GOAT at coach and quarterback. Oh, and their schedule is an absolute joke. As for this game, I think these two teams are very evenly matched and a few possessions in the fourth quarter will decide the outcome. Nothing would surprise me, but if the game is close at the end, I am more confident in the Patriots composure and mental toughness to persevere.
THE PICK: Patriots (-5.5)
HOUSTON TEXANS vs. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-7.0)
For the majority of the offseason, it looked like the protection put forth for Deshaun Watson was inevitably going to put him in a body cast. That was the case until double agent head-coach/interim general manager Bill O’Brien acquired Laremy Tunsil for a package that any sane front office member would start having palpitations if their team gave up that much for one player. At least Watson has some protection now, I guess. As for the game, both teams offenses should put up a boatload of points despite each team possessing good overall defensive units. What I think this game will come down too is Alvin Kamara putting on a show and the Saints running game carrying this team. New Orleans is on a mission this season.
THE PICK: Saints (-7.0)
DENVER BRONCOS vs. OAKLAND RAIDERS (EVEN)
In all seriousness, there are some storylines to this game? Can Derek Carr bounce back with Antonio Brown now in tow? Will Vic Fangio carry his success from Chicago to the Mile High City? Can Jon Gruden rehab his image after a comeback season that made him look like the court jester of the NFL?
Both teams have low expectations, and if this game was in Denver, the Broncos would probably be giving at least two and a half. Even on the road, I entrust the pass rush duo of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb to eat against this offensive line (particularly human turnstile at left tackle Kolton Miller).
THE PICK: Broncos