NFL Game Picks Week 1
NFL football is officially back. After another offseason that felt like forever, we are only a day away from the first week of the NFL.
After many moves and roster changes by various teams in the NFL, each organization is eager to start the season with a clean slate.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) vs. Dallas Cowboys (0-0)
The Thursday-night opener features the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers to face off against the highly explosive offense of the Dallas Cowboys.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter the season months after a dominant 31-9 Super Bowl victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. Nearly retaining every significant piece of that 2020 championship team, the Buccaneers are not showing any signs of slowing down.
The Dallas Cowboys finally added some defensive help to their roster by drafting linebacker Micah Parsons from Penn State with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Starting Quarterback Dak Prescott is back after suffering a right ankle fracture against the Giants on Oct. 11, 2020. Unfortunately for Dallas, it is not going to be at full power Week 1. All-Pro right guard Zack Martin is confirmed to miss week one after testing positive for COVID-19.
The Cowboys will not be able to withstand the constant pressure from the Tampa Bay defense without Zack Martin. Expect Brady to pick apart the weak Cowboys secondary.
Prediction: Buccaneers 35, Cowboys 17
Detroit Lions (0-0) vs. San Francisco 49ers (0-0)
Detroit is moving on from head coach Matt Patricia and found its replacement in the intense Dan Campbell. Campbell’s kneecap-biting Lions enter the 2021 season with arguably the worst roster in the NFL. Starting quarterback Jared Goff is a downgrade from Matt Stafford.
The San Francisco 49ers fall from grace was very unfortunate. The 49ers went from Super Bowl contenders in the 2019 NFL season, to the most injured starting lineup in the NFL last season. Fortunately for San Francisco, all its weapons are back and hungry to contend in the elite NFC West.
Detroit is an inferior team on all sides of the football, expect a bloodbath from San Francisco as its elite pass rush and secondary potentially keeps the Lions scoreless.
Prediction: 49ers 31, Lions 3
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0) vs. Houston Texans (0-0)
Jacksonville has completely revamped the look of its organization. The Jags used the first-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on generational-talent Trevor Lawrence. Newly acquired head coach Urban Meyer is looking to translate his college success to the NFL. With Lawrence at the helm of this young team, he may have the keys to do so.
Houston is in absolute organizational chaos. After deciding that former head coach Bill O’Brien had too much control of the team, Houston decided to completely scrap its entire roster and replace O’Brien with David Culley. The only bright spot on the roster, Deshaun Watson, has been struggling with various sexual assault allegations. As a response to Watson’s allegations the Texans named Tyrod Taylor as their starting quarterback.
This game will come down to how Lawrence performs at the NFL level. There should be little to no struggle for Lawrence because the Houston team is so void of talent.
Prediction: Jaguars 24, Texans 13
Los Angeles Chargers (0-0) vs. Washington Football Team (0-0)
Los Angeles has a gem of a quarterback in Justin Herbert. The reigning Rookie of the Year had a whopping 4,336 passing yards and finished the season with 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also finished the season with a 98.3 passer rating. Los Angeles finally learned its lesson and devoted this past offseason to protecting its new young star with new offensive line additions. Expect a year two explosion from Herbert and the Chargers offense.
Washington ended its 2020 season in the Wildcard round against the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. With an impressive 2020 performance from its defense, Washington looks for a quick solution at quarterback by signing seasoned-veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.
It is a classic clash between a strong offense and a strong defense. The Chargers defense should be stronger with the return of star safety Derwin James. It will be a hard-fought battle, but as long as Herbert can control the offense efficiently against Washington, the Chargers should be able to outscore Washington by a slight margin.
Prediction: Chargers 17, Football Team 14
New York Jets (0-0) vs. Carolina Panthers (0-0)
The New York Jets finished the 2020 season as the second-worst team in the NFL. With an ever-improving offensive line, rookie quarterback Zach Wilson comes into a decent situation. Newly acquired head coach Robert Saleh is hoping he can invigorate the youngest roster in the NFL to fight tooth and nail. Other offensive additions include the signing of wide receiver Corey Davis and the sensational rookie receiver Elijah Moore. All their newly acquired pieces looked impressive in the preseason as gang green hopes they will continue to impress in the regular season.
The Carolina Panthers 2020 season derailed after losing the generational running back Christian McCaffrey. McCaffery makes his return, running alongside the former Jet quarterback Sam Darnold. Darnold’s stint with the New York Jets was cut short due to the lack of a real opportunity. Head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady hope to reap the untapped potential that Darnold still has.
This game on paper seems very one-sided, McCaffery’s return should seal a victory for the Carolina Panthers, but it’s not that simple. New York actually has numerous mismatches against Carolina. These include its interior pass rush against the less-than-average Panther offensive line. Rookie corner Jaycee Horn has to be able to prove himself by efficiently covering Corey Davis who is a proven wide receiver at the NFL level. The Jets zone rushing scheme could also pose a problem for Carolina's weak rushing defense. The Jets will win on both sides of the trenches. Darnold will be under pressure constantly and the Jets will pound on their weak run defense on third downs.
Prediction: Jets 21, Panthers 10
Cleveland Browns (0-0) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (0-0)
Cleveland is coming off an impressive 11-5 season that ended in the Divisional round from a 22-17 loss to Kansas City. Cleveland believes it has the coach and talent on both sides of the football to put together a push for the Super Bowl. The fate of Cleveland’s season lands on the shoulders of quarterback Baker Mayfield, who needs to prove he can play at an elite level consistently.
Kansas City, on the other hand, is still recovering from the embarrassing 31-9 loss to Tampa Bay in Super Bowl LV. Mahomes hopes to continue his dominance in the NFL by securing the No. 1 seed in AFC for a fourth consecutive season. Expect the Chiefs to be a top contender in the NFL once again.
Kansas City will win this game in a déjà vu fashion as Baker Mayfield and the Browns still need a few more weeks to figure themselves out.
Prediction: Chiefs 35, Browns 28
Denver Broncos (0-0) vs. New York Giants (0-0)
Denver is loaded with defensive talent. Von Miller, rookie Patrick Surtain II, Ronald Darby and Justin Simmons over the top at safety is a formidable defense for sure. Linebacker Bradly Chubb has been detained on a warrant over traffic offenses so he will not be playing week one. The offense, on the other hand, has much to be desired. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will have to work miracles with sub-par weapons if the offense wants to play at the same level as the defense.
The New York Giants decided now is the time to strike in their weak division. GM Dave Gettleman has loaded every resource he could into giving his third-year quarterback an abundance of weapons on offense. The Giants defense is coming off an impressive 2020 season with numerous breakout players playing hard for Joe Judge. If Daniel Jones can show he can produce with these newfound weapons the Giants can quickly become a division favorite by the middle of the season.
If the Giants offensive line can keep Jones upright, there’s no excuse for the Giants to not outscore the lackluster Denver offense.
Prediction: Giants 23, Broncos 20
Los Angeles Rams (0-0) vs. Chicago Bears (0-0)
The Rams have finally freed themselves from Jared Goff. Sean McVay realized he needs a quarterback who can do more than just distribute the ball at an average level. Matt Stafford should be able to make all the plays, and more, in the Rams’ offensive system. The Rams’ defense, led by Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, will be a top-five defense in the NFL.
The Chicago Bears could potentially be in the twilight of the Matt Nagy regime. This is a prove-it year for the head coach who started his tenure with the Bears with an impressive 12-4 season. Nagy, along with McVay, believes it was the poor quarterback play holding back his team, so the Bears drafted Justin Fields in the first round. However, the Bears made a questionable decision giving the starting nod to veteran Andy Dalton.
This game will be a battle between two similarly built teams with two elite defenses. The Rams should take this one with ease with both their superior offense and defense.
Prediction: Rams 31, Bears 11
Indianapolis Colts (0-0) vs. Seattle Seahawks (0-0)
The Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl window seems to be fading, and with all of their draft capital spent the team has seemingly rotted another year without making any improvements. Russell Wilson is one more year older and the offense and defense are exactly the same. Expect Seattle to be a good team but not a great team.
The Colts had an impressive 2020 season with Philip Rivers under center. Their offensive line is among the best in the NFL. This team can punish opposing defenses with the run and with the air. The Colts defense is also a formidable unit. Expect the Indianapolis Colts to win the AFC South.
This should be a close game between two very good teams. The Colts will squeeze out a win with their superior run game.
Prediction: Colts 28, Seahawks 20
Philadelphia Eagles (0-0) vs. Atlanta Falcons (0-0)
The Eagles are in the running for one of the worst teams in the NFL. After the firing of head coach Doug Peterson, the stability of the Eagles franchise couldn’t be lower. Quarterback Jalen Hurts will suffer from the lack of talent surrounding him.
The Atlanta Falcons are running out of time with Matt Ryan. After trading away Julio Jones, the Falcons will have to find a way to fill the massive void of offensive talent. Luckily for Atlanta, it found its guy in Kyle Pitts, a tight end with world-class speed and hands. The Falcons offense should be locked and loaded but that defense leaves more to be desired.
The Falcons offense will torch Philadelphia’s abysmal secondary for a lot of points. Fantasy owners with players on the Falcons will be very happy this week.
Prediction: Falcons 43, Eagles 12
Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) vs. Buffalo Bills (0-0)
Pittsburgh had an electric 12-0 start to the 2020 season. This was quickly dismantled once the competition started to increase toward the end of the season. Pittsburgh retains most of its pieces but must worry about an aging Ben Roethlisberger. The defense should play at a high level once again.
The reigning AFC East champion Buffalo Bills have a phenomenal team. The Bills defense was a top-five unit last year and has only improved. Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs have become one of the best elite quarterback-wide receiver duos in the NFL.
Josh Allen and the Bills continue their dominance throughout the AFC and defeat the Steelers by over a two-score margin.
Prediction: Bills 34, Steelers 21
Minnesota Vikings (0-0) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (0-0)
Minnesota found a diamond in the rough with sensational receiving talent Justin Jefferson. The receiving duo of Adam Thielen and Jefferson is enough to dismantle most defenses in the NFL. Top that off with Dalvin Cook at running back and you have a menacing offense. Unfortunately, the defense is only an above-average unit and the offense is limited by the lack of playmaking ability of Kirk Cousins.
The Cincinnati Bengals season turned from good to awful after Joe Burrow went down with a season-ending injury. You’d think the organization would have learned its lesson and immediately would have spent assets to provide its young star with some help on the offensive line. The Bengals instead drafted Ja’Marr Chase, who is struggling with drops in the preseason.
The Vikings will beat down the Bengals, but Joe Burrow should put up some numbers as long as he has a clean pocket.
Prediction: Vikings 33, Bengals 25
Arizona Cardinals (0-0) vs. Tennessee Titans (0-0)
Arizona has a fine team. A lot of its talent is old, but it still has plenty of great players. The NFC West is such a difficult division, the Cardinals were in an arms race to acquire premier pass rusher JJ Watt. With Kyler Murray entering another year in the Kliff Kingsbury system, he should be able to improve if Kingsbury can prove himself to be an efficient play caller.
Tennessee is projected to have the most potent offense in the NFL. Good luck to opposing defenses to try to attempt to stop this team. The offensive line is capable, Derrick Henry rushed for 2,027 yards and receiver AJ Brown has 1,075 receiving yards. Then add Julio Jones into the mix, and this team is nearly unstoppable.
The revamped Cardinals defense won’t know what hit them when the Tennessee offense is unleashed upon them. Kyler’s only chance of victory is to somehow outscore the Titans. This game will be a thriller.
Prediction: Titans 44, Cardinals 39
Miami Dolphins (0-0) vs. New England Patriots (0-0)
Miami has a well-run team right now. Head coach Brian Flores has proven to be a capable play caller and his scheme works very well. The Miami secondary is very good and should rattle most teams they face. The elephant in the room on this team is Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa had a less-than-average performance his rookie season. He was inept, and he was sometimes replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Cam Newton experiment failed for New England. Watching as Tom Brady hoists the Lombardi Trophy on a different team rubbed Bill Belichick the wrong way. Coach Belichick’s response to this was to draft a pocket-passing quarterback to replace the void Brady left. Rookie Mac Jones has massive shoes to fill as he will forever be referred to in Brady’s shadow.
New England’s lack of receiving weapons will ultimately lead to a loss. Tagovailoa will win in an ugly Week 1 matchup.
Prediction: Dolphins 12, Patriots 9
Green Bay Packers (0-0) vs. New Orleans Saints (0-0)
Green Bay enters the season after an enormous amount of drama surrounding starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He made it clear he was not a fan of how the organization treated him. After desperate attempts to appease him, they were successful in being able to retain him for a “Last Dance”.
The New Orleans Saints on the other hand were not able to retain their future Hall of Fame quarterback. Drew Brees decided to retire after the 2020 season leaving Jameis Winston to fill the void. The weapons Winston has access to as well as Sean Payton’s system should allow for Winston to put up decent stats.
The Saints defense won’t be able to handle the barrage from Rodgers and Winston struggles early. Packers get a solid Week 1 victory.
Prediction: Packers 32, Saints 19
Baltimore Ravens (0-0) vs. Las Vegas Raiders (0-0)
Week 1 ends with a Monday night bout between two solid AFC teams. The sensational Lamar Jackson takes on Derek Carr and the Raiders.
Baltimore didn’t quite have the MVP season in 2020 from Jackson like it did in 2019, but Jackson is still the most versatile quarterback in the NFL. The Ravens high-flying offense will continue to bully the lesser teams in the NFL. The only problem is Baltimore didn’t address its lack of consistency in the postseason. Starting running back J.K. Dobbins suffered a knee injury so he will be replaced by Gus Edwards.
Las Vegas once again had an extremely inconsistent season by achieving great victories against the Chiefs and the Saints, but they fell short in multiple must win games including the Chargers in overtime, the Patriots and the Dolphins. Josh Jacobs will continue to have a dominant season as head coach Jon Gruden loves to run the football. There are still a lot of questions whether the Raiders passing game can get the job done with Henry Ruggs III out wide and Carr under center.
Baltimore will triumph as Lamar Jackson looks like a video game character scoring multiple rushing touchdowns.
Prediction: Ravens 30, Saints 21
Antonio Fondacaro is a first-year majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.