NFL Game Picks: Week 1
After seven long months, pro football is finally back in action, and with the 100th anniversary of the National Football League taking place in 2019, the celebration should be bigger and better than ever. The NFL will be commemorating its century of existence all season long with weekly matchups highlighting landmark moments in league history, so football fans should be in store for some real gems this season. Let’s start things off right by previewing and predicting the slate of games in Week 1.
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
The NFL’s 100th season kicks off in a big way with a Thursday night showdown showcasing the oldest rivalry in the NFL: the Green Bay Packers vs. the Chicago Bears. In recent history, the Packers have owned this matchup, but the all-time total is much closer: Green Bay leads 97-95-6. With Chicago’s top-ranked defense ready to feast on an offense led by a first-year head coach, that all-time score should become even closer. Just don’t forget about Aaron Rodgers. He’s been known to perform a miracle or two.
Prediction: Chicago 27, Green Bay 21
Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings
It’s safe to say that 2018 was a disappointment for these teams. After a successful 2017 campaign in which both made the playoffs, the Falcons and Vikings fell off a cliff in 2018, each failing to reach the postseason. With hefty divisional competitors like the Packers, Bears, Saints and Panthers also hunting for playoff spots, both Atlanta and Minnesota really need this victory to start 2019 on the right foot. Only one can get it though, and the edge goes to the team with the more experienced offense: the Falcons.
Prediction: Atlanta 25, Minnesota 19
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets
It may be the battle of New York-based AFC East teams, but it’s also the battle of sophomore quarterbacks. Both Buffalo’s Josh Allen and New York’s Sam Darnold showed promise in their rookie campaigns. Now is the time for these signal callers to take the next step. It’s going to be an uphill battle all season long for the Bills and Jets, especially with New England still crowned atop the division, but a win in Week 1 would be a great way to jump into the conversation immediately. The home team gets the slight advantage in this one.
Prediction: NY Jets 19, Buffalo 16
Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns
It’s been a while since there’s been this much hype in Cleveland. For the first time in a long time, the Browns are favored to win the AFC North, and with exciting playmakers like Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr. and Myles Garrett leading the charge, it’s easy to see why. Still, there’s a lot of work to be done, and that starts in Week 1 with a scrappy Titans team that just narrowly missed last year’s playoffs. Under the leadership of Mayfield and his camaraderie with new head coach Freddie Kitchens, the Browns win their first Week 1 game since 2004.
Prediction: Cleveland 27, Tennessee 14
Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars
There’s an interesting storyline underneath the surface of this one. Kansas City head coach Andy Reid faces Jacksonville quarterback Nick Foles, and neither one of them is donning the midnight green and silver. Reid is the reason Foles is still in the NFL today, as he convinced the young QB out of retirement back when Foles was on the Chiefs. With a Super Bowl title and a starting gig now under his belt, Reid’s aspirations for Foles have come true. What’s up next for Foles? A daunting task: out-dueling Patrick Mahomes. That’s just unlikely to happen.
Prediction: Kansas City 34, Jacksonville 20
Los Angeles Rams at Carolina Panthers
The Rams spent a lot of money last offseason in hopes of snatching a Super Bowl, and they came one game shy of reaching that goal. Fortunately for Los Angeles, most of the core players that made up that Super Bowl run are back: Jared Goff, Brandin Cooks, Todd Gurley, Andrew Whitworth and of course the NFL’s best defender, Aaron Donald. Another swing at the Lombardi starts against a Carolina team that collapsed last year after Cam Newton got banged up. He’s healthy now, but it’s going to be tough to outperform a fearsome Rams squad. LA takes it.
Prediction: LA Rams 31, Carolina 18
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins
It’s not looking pretty for Miami. With star left tackle Laremy Tunsil being sent to Houston, it seems like the Dolphins have entered full rebuild mode, which is about as bad as the situation can be for a young quarterback like Josh Rosen. He’ll get to sit and watch behind Ryan Fitzpatrick for a while, but remember, “Fitzmagic” is only temporary. Rosen will be starting in due time. Don’t think “Fitzmagic” is going to come through in Week 1, either. This Baltimore defense has reloaded, and it’s primed to reach its former glory once again.
Prediction: Baltimore 26, Miami 10
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles
The Redskins are going to have to do their best to keep this season from falling apart early. With an injury-prone offensive line, a non-existent receiving threat and a middling starting QB in Case Keenum, Washington is likely going to have to rely on its middle-of-the-pack defense a lot in 2019. Philadelphia is certainly no easy test, as a superior defense, a vastly superior offense and a vicious opposing crowd make for a difficult Week 1 matchup. Philadelphia starts 2019 with a win: the first of many… if Carson Wentz can stay healthy.
Prediction: Philadelphia 27, Washington 13
Cincinnati Bengals at Seattle Seahawks
It just doesn’t get any easier for Cincinnati. The Bengals already seem like the odd man out in a very talented AFC North, and a Week 1 date with Seattle isn’t too favorable. First-year head coach Zac Taylor has his work cut out for him, especially as an offensive-minded coach now leading a team that finished 32nd in defense in 2018. Contrast that with a Seattle squad that has only missed the postseason twice in head coach Pete Carroll’s 10-year stint and you’ve got trouble. It’s going to take a miracle for the Bengals to emerge from Seattle victorious.
Prediction: Seattle 35, Cincinnati 17
Indianapolis Colts at Los Angeles Chargers
What was once a very exciting Week 1 matchup now looks rather lopsided. News of Andrew Luck’s retirement sent shockwaves throughout the NFL, and it’s especially true here. A Colts team led by Luck would likely be able to keep pace with one of the NFL’s most talented rosters in Los Angeles, but a squad commanded by Jacoby Brissett is going to have a difficult time doing so. Then again, Brissett has everything he needs to succeed: a strong offensive line, a couple of weapons, and an offensive-minded coach. Can he pull off the upset? It’s possible, just not very likely.
Prediction: LA Chargers 33, Indianapolis 20
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
It’s the fifth straight year that these two teams will meet each other within the first two weeks of the season, and the stakes are high. New York has a lot to prove after a 5-11 campaign in 2018. Eli Manning is still suiting up in the starting role, but if he proves that he just doesn’t have it anymore, rookie Daniel Jones may take to the field sooner rather than later. The Cowboys finally got a deal done with Ezekiel Elliott, so it looks like he should be ready in time for Week 1. In all likelihood, Elliott’s presence on the ground will power Dallas to a home victory.
Prediction: Dallas 20, NY Giants 17
Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals
For the second time in three years, the Lions and Cardinals will square off in Week 1. The pressure is on for Lions head coach Matt Patricia, who didn’t do much to turn around the fortunes of his team in his first season. Arizona has a challenge to overcome too; first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury and rookie quarterback Kyler Murray will be making their NFL debuts. Though the Lions don’t seem to be a playoff contender this year, the defense is nothing to sneeze at. Recent additions in Trey Flowers and Mike Daniels should pounce on the weak Arizona offensive line, giving the rookie Murray fits all day.
Prediction: Detroit 23, Arizona 13
San Francisco 49ers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Both of these teams need a lot of refining. San Francisco has the basics: young talent on the defensive line in DeForest Buckner and Nick Bosa, as well as a handful of breakout candidates on offense like Dante Pettis, but we have yet to see Jimmy Garoppolo live up to the potential that the 49ers were hoping for. Tampa Bay has work to do under new coach Bruce Arians as well, and Jameis Winston could be on the chopping block if his performance doesn’t meet expectations. Flip a coin for this one. It really could go either way.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 18, San Francisco 16
Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots
The Sunday Night Football spectacle never disappoints, and this shouldn’t be the game to break the trend. The Steelers-Patriots rivalry has quickly become one of the best in the NFL, but both teams will be dealing with a major departure. Pittsburgh’s former No. 1 target Antonio Brown is now in Oakland, and New England’s top receiving threat Rob Gronkowski has been retired since March. But there’s still a surplus of star power to go around. Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Julian Edelman, Ju-Ju Smith Schuster, James Conner… the list goes on. This Sunday Night showdown should live up to its lofty expectations, regardless of who comes out on top.
Prediction: New England 29, Pittsburgh 26
Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints
The Texans might be in trouble. Still GM-less, Houston made some bizarre last-minute trades, including a disastrous deal that shipped Jadeveon Clowney to Seattle and a somewhat lofty price paid for Miami left tackle Laremy Tunsil. Sure, the addition of Tunsil gives Deshaun Watson some much-needed protection, but one man does not make a good offensive line. Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport should still be able to apply plenty of edge pressure. Throw in a Saints offense that has basically zero weaknesses and you’ve got what could be a lopsided outcome in NOLA.
Prediction: New Orleans 37, Houston 20
Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders
Oakland may be the team to watch this season. That’s not because the Raiders’ roster is especially talented. It’s because of the list of high-profile, high-drama names that make up the team. Jon Gruden’s squad includes Antonio Brown, Vontaze Burfict and Richie Incognito, a trio of controversy that should help make the Raiders’ final season in Oakland an interesting one, for better or for worse. Denver has its own story to watch with Joe Flacco suiting up in the blue and orange, but that’s just not nearly as interesting. There’s a reason Oakland was picked for Hard Knocks. As for the game itself, there isn’t a foreseeable edge for either team right now, so the tie goes to the home squad.
Prediction: Oakland 20, Denver 17
DJ Bauer is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.