NFL Pick’em: Week One
Welcome back to another NFL season! While many are dusting off their jerseys and lucky hats, we never stopped! After a season where I won the Gridiron Experts Staff Pick ‘Em contest, I’ll be providing my picks every week for you, our readers. Last year, I went 64.5% straight up, and 55.4% against the spread… so I’m hoping to replicate that success this year. Each week, I’ll give you my picks for the game, and a short write-up centered around the key reason why I’m making the pick that I am. You can also click over to see all our Free NFL picks for Week one with the staff.
Without further ado, let’s get into my picks for this week:
Green Bay @ Chicago (-3.5)
Aaron Rodgers & Co. will be traveling to Chicago for this NFC North matchup. The Packers’ ever-prolific offense, featuring Davante Adams and Aaron Jones, will have their work cut out for them when they face the league’s best defense. Khalil Mack and this Bears squad will aim to shut down Rodgers and begin the season on top of the division. I’m excited to see rookie RB David Montgomery deployed in this one, complemented by a healthy Allen Robinson & gadget RB Tarik Cohen. These teams split their 2 matchups last year, but the Bears were able to hold the Packers to 24 points or less both times. To me, this game comes down to whether the Bears can score 24 points at home… and I think they can. Bears 25-22.
LA Rams (-2.5) @ Carolina
Fresh off an NFC Championship, the Rams are back, and you can bet that Sean McVay has a bad taste in his mouth from the offensive display the world saw in the Super Bowl. Jared Goff returns to run the offense, fresh off a huge contract extension. Goff will have options aplenty with RB Todd Gurley and WRs Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods. They’ll clash with the Panthers and their franchise QB, Cam Newton. Newton, who missed the end of last season due to injury, will be surrounded by tons of youth. While Carolina has one of the game’s best RBs in Christian McCaffrey, their receivers will be in featured roles for the first time in their careers… and they’ll have to produce immediately. While DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel are extremely talented, they’ll have to prove their playmaking ability from the get-go, or this game could get out of hand fast with the Rams’ prolific offense. With the game’s best defensive player, Aaron Donald, rushing Newton all day, and an elite set of DBs, I’m just not sure that the Panthers’ offense can keep up with the Rams. I like them to win on the road and cover the spread. Rams 29-22.
Tennessee @ Cleveland (-5.5)
Fun Fact: Did you know the Titans have finished 9-7 in each of the last 3 seasons? Not bad for a small-market team whose QB can’t stay healthy. Cleveland is certainly everyone’s preseason darling with the addition of WR Odell Beckham, the return of QB Baker Mayfield, and the breakout of RB Nick Chubb. There’s a lot of firepower there. I think the expectations are sky-high for the Browns, and that they’re going to feel the pressure in this Week 1 game. Tennessee returns a vastly improved defense and elite secondary which includes one of the game’s best in Kevin Byard. Along with Kenny Vaccaro, Malcolm Butler, Adoree’ Jackson and Logan Ryan, the Titans’ secondary is certainly formidable. They’re going to have to limit Odell Beckham if they want a chance here, and I think that they can do it with a little safety help from Mr. Byard. Marcus Mariota will need to stay healthy this year, and the team will need to ride RB Derrick Henry. I think Arthur Smith’s offense will be centered around the tractor-sized back, and that the Titans can control the clock here. Call me crazy, but I feel the upset coming. Titans 24-23.
Kansas City (-3.5) at Jacksonville
The Chiefs and QB Patrick Mahomes return after a fantastic season where they came ever so close to an AFC Championship. The gunslinging QB is undoubtedly ready to replicate his success from last year and will be tested immediately with this Jaguars defense. Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye are two of the game’s best and will match up on the outside with Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins. The gamechanger in this one could be TE Travis Kelce, who can be unstoppable once he gets fed. New QB Nick Foles will have to be able to match the high powered KC offense, and I’m just not so sure he has the weapons to do so. While veterans Dede Westbrook and Leonard Fournette are back for another season, no other names on this Jaguars offense scare me even slightly. I like the Chiefs to win and cover comfortably. Chiefs 30-20.
Baltimore (-6.5) at Miami
While huge favorites on the road are often scary to pick, I don’t fear the Dolphins in this one. The ageless Ryan Fitzpatrick will take the helm for Miami, and do the best he can to break through this Ravens defense. Unfortunately, “The Beard” lacks major playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. While Kenyan Drake has flashed in the past, he’s been a bit banged up and hasn’t truly broken out yet. Kalen Ballage could be a nice change of pace option, but I don’t think he has game-breaking potential. WRs DeVante Parker & Albert Wilson are both quality players, but I’m not so sure that they can take the top off this Ravens defense. Given that, I have concerns that the Dolphins can produce on the offensive side of the ball against a quality defense. Expect the Ravens to deploy a heavy dose of newly acquired Mark Ingram and Lamar Jackson on the ground to slowly wear down Miami and take this game on the road. Ravens 24-13.
Atlanta @ Minnesota (-3.5)
I will say, I like both of these teams. Matt Ryan returns to a multitude of options including one of the game’s best WRs in Julio Jones. A healthy Devonta Freeman in the backfield will add even more juice to an already potent offense, along with the breakout WR Calvin Ridley. Minnesota is nothing to scoff at on offense either, with one of the best WR tandems in the game of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. When you add the electric (and healthy) Dalvin Cook into the mix, this team will be able to put up points in bunches. To me, this game comes down to one or two big defensive stops, and I think that the Minnesota defense is more suited to make that happen at home. Vikings 26-23.
Buffalo @ NY Jets (-2.5)
As another season begins, so does another race for 2nd place in the AFC East. Sam Darnold returns this year with some new toys in RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Jamison Crowder. With Robby Anderson seemingly ready to go, the New York offense could be sneaky-good this year if Darnold continues to develop. The Bills return QB Josh Allen as well and he also has some new weapons with WRs John Brown & Cole Beasley. With LeSean McCoy’s departure, the Bills also sport a new starting backfield with veteran Frank Gore & the young Devin Singletary. I expect both sides to be a little rusty, and that they won’t exactly “click” just yet. AFC East matchups like this could go either way, and historically have been close. With that said, I think the Jets have just a bit more juice on offense and can hold off the Bills in a close one at home. Jets 20-19.
Washington @ Philadelphia (-8.5)
The Redskins come into the season with a ton of question marks and loads of inexperience. Case Keenum will head the offense which returns RB Adrian Peterson. However, Peterson will supposedly take the back seat to RB Derrius Guice who missed all of last season with an injury. While Guice’s debut will be exciting, the WR corps in Washington certainly isn’t. They’ll trot out Paul Richardson, Terry McLaurin, and slot WR Trey Quinn. Not exactly ideal. Unfortunately, squaring off against the Eagles in Week 1 won’t help matters. Carson Wentz & Co. return for another season with high hopes, loads of experience, and a strong starting group on both sides of the ball. Look out for rookie RB Miles Sanders and the returning hero DeSean Jackson to excel in this game. I expect the Eagles to show out, and for this to be a very easy win & cover. Eagles 30-17. (LOCK OF THE WEEK)
Indianapolis @ LA Chargers (-6.5)
Well, this game is shaping up to be quite different than it was two weeks ago. With the departure of Andrew Luck, the Colts’ offense is far less formidable than it was before. However, Jacoby Brissett has proven to be a quality option in the past. He will have a few weapons to work with as well, with the return of TY Hilton, Marlon Mack, and TEs Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle. However, I just think tat their opponent has a bit more talent on both sides of the ball. Even without Melvin Gordon, who is in the midst of a holdout, the Chargers have one of the game’s best in Keenan Allen at WR. Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson are quality replacements for Gordon in the backfield, and a fully healthy Hunter Henry provides yet another strong option at TE. On the defensive side, the Chargers have one of the game’s best rushers in Joey Bosa. Along with Melvin Ingram, and one of the game’s best secondaries, the Chargers should be able to neutralize Brissett and any threat he poses. I think the Chargers are one of the best teams in football and will take care of business, winning and covering the spread at home. Chargers 26-17.
Cincinnati at Seattle (-9.5)
It’s never easy to play a game in Seattle, and this game is no different. The Bengals come off of a mediocre year but return some offensive talent. RB Joe Mixon was among the league leaders in rushing yards, and WR Tyler Boyd enjoyed a breakout campaign. However, Cincinnati will start the season without their star, AJ Green. With the notoriously average Andy Dalton at the helm, this offense will never blow you away but should be able to hang in games paced by Mixon and Boyd primarily. Seattle, on the other hand, is paced by veteran QB Russell Wilson. Wilson will really only have his primary target from last year, Tyler Lockett to throw to. Otherwise, his receiving corps is young and inexperienced. Wilson will have the potent tandem of Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny in the backfield, though. I expect Seattle to control the clock and lean on their superior defense to shut down the Bengals in an easy win/cover at home. Seahawks 28-17.
Detroit (-2.5) at Arizona
All eyes will be on first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury in this one. Many are excited to see how Kingsbury’s prolific offensive attack will fare in the NFL. Along with Kingsbury comes rookie QB Kyler Murray who will take the helm of this offense. Murray will have one of the league’s best RBs behind him in David Johnson, and a veteran presence in Larry Fitzgerald on the outside. Christian Kirk provides yet another quality option for the young QB. The Lions will be led by QB Matt Stafford yet again this year and will feature young RB Kerryon Johnson in the backfield. With Kenny Golladay on the outside and Marvin Jones as well, Stafford surely has plenty of options through the air. It’ll be interesting to see how talented rookie TE TJ Hockenson is used, as he could certainly break out at any moment. For now, call me an optimistic believer in Kingsbury’s offense. I like the home dog here. Cardinals 24-23.
NY Giants @ Dallas (-6.5)
Dallas has had a good week. They finally locked up their star RB Ezekiel Elliott, who will supposedly get 20-25 reps in this Week 1 matchup. Dallas emerges as one of the favorites in the NFC East this year. QB Dak Prescott returns with Amari Cooper leading the WR corps for Dallas in what will certainly be a potent offense. Eli Manning is back for another year, along with star RB Saquon Barkley. Unfortunately, there aren’t many more weapons for Big Blue given the departure of Odell Beckham and the suspension of Golden Tate III. Sterling Shepard will have to step up to provide additional options for New York, which will certainly need to throw the ball when trailing in games this season. I’ll take Dallas to win and cover this one comfortably at home. Cowboys 28-18.
San Francisco @ Tampa Bay (-1.5)
Bruce Arians will take control of the Bucs this year and many have high hopes for his offense. Jameis Winston will have great receiving options with Chris Godwin and Mike Evans on the outside, and he should certainly get the opportunity to throw the ball a ton if he’s protected sufficiently. San Francisco returns QB Jimmy Garoppolo, who missed all of last year due to injury. Jimmy G will stop into an offense with a talented, yet inexperienced group of players. In the backfield, Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman will split duties with Breida getting the first crack at carries. The wide receivers are also quite crowded, and someone will have to break out and become Jimmy G’s go-to target outside of the dominant George Kittle. Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis will sit atop the depth chart to start, but Deebo Samuel will certainly have a shot to contribute. I think that the San Fran defense will be the difference here and should force Winston to turn the ball over. I’ll take the 49ers to take the road upset in this one. 49ers 24-22.
Pittsburgh @ New England (-5.5)
The Super Bowl Champions will face off against the new-look Steelers here in Week 1. The Steelers have two noticeable voids in their offense with the departures of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. Accordingly, James Conner & JuJu Smith-Schuster will need to step up and excel to keep the historically prolific Pittsburgh offense potent. Donte Moncrief and James Washington will battle for the WR2 reps, and that will certainly be something to watch, as there are plenty of targets to go around with the departure of Bell and Brown. Tom Brady is back again at age 42, and he can still play. While he’ll be without TE Rob Gronkowski, who retired earlier this offseason, Brady will still have WR Julian Edelman, and a dynamic backfield to keep the dynasty moving forward. These teams have done battle repeatedly over the years, and its always been close. I can’t bet against New England at home when they’re raising a banner. Patriots 30-23.
Houston @ New Orleans (-6.5)
The Texans find themselves as the consensus favorite to win the AFC South with the retirement of Andrew Luck. However, they’re slated for a tough Week 1 matchup with the Saints. New Orleans’ last game was a heartbreaking loss to the Rams in the NFC Championship, compounded by a “Pass Interference Call That Wasn’t.” Sean Payton and his squad will be back with a vengeance, and they certainly have an offense that can match up with any team in the league. Veteran Drew Brees has some amazing options in Michael Thomas and RB Alvin Kamara, two of the league’s best. With the additions of Latavius Murray and Jared Cook, the Saints are shaping up to be equally as dangerous, if not more dangerous this season. The Texans are led by QB DeShaun Watson, who has another of the league’s best WRs in DeAndre Hopkins to throw to. Although Houston lost RB Lamar Miller this preseason, they will lean on Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde to pick up the slack. This could be a high-scoring affair, but both teams have studs on the defensive side of the ball as well. All-World pass rusher JJ Watt paces Houston, while New Orleans sports the young duo of Marshon Lattimore and DeMario Davis. I think New Orleans has just a few more playmakers than Houston, and I like them to take this game & cover at home. Saints 35-27.
Denver @ Oakland (-0.5)
This is probably the least exciting game on the Week 1 slate in my eyes. However, Raiders coach Jon Gruden is worth the price of admission. Gruden will have to make this offense work after star WR Antonio Brown was released Saturday morning. In Brown’s absence, Derek Carr will lean on rookie RB Josh Jacobs, veteran WR Tyrell Williams, TE Darren Waller, and possibly rookie WR Hunter Renfrow. Needless to say, this offense isn’t nearly as fearsome without AB. For Denver, Joe Flacco takes the reins of this offense with a duo of talented backs behind him. Phillip Lindsay & Royce Freeman will battle for touches and will have to be the focal point of this offense if Denver wants to compete this year. Otherwise, no one scares me on this offense. However, the Broncos still have the incredible Von Miller as a bright point on the defensive side, and the young Bradley Chubb making a name for himself. With that said, I think that the Raiders are rattled with the departure of Brown and that Denver’s defense will exploit their flaws. I’ll take Denver here. Broncos 20-17.
Enjoy the games! Until next week…