NFL Game Picks: Week 1
Houston Texans vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The last time these two faced each other, Deshaun Watson and the Texans blew a 24-point lead in the AFC divisional round. Patrick Mahomes put up 51 points to beat the Texans 51-31. The Chiefs offense has only seemed to get better since that game, maintaining many of the same weapons Mahomes won a ring with last year. This offense also might have the next breakout rookie running back in Clyde Edwards-Helaire from LSU. Bill O’Brien’s squad, on the other hand, lost its best offensive weapon in DeAndre Hopkins. In return, the Texans added David Johnson, who many think hit his peak back in Arizona. The Texans are an average team, and their star player in Deshaun Watson should be enough to keep them in this game for three quarters. But Mahomes and Kansas City should be able to pull away late for a Week 1 win.
Prediction: Chiefs 34, Texans 17
Seattle Seahawks vs. Atlanta Falcons
In a matchup for the birds, Dan Quinn, the once-defensive coordinator in Seattle, leads his Falcons into battle against his old team. These Seahawks have title aspirations and will need to go through much better teams than the Falcons to reach the promised land. Russell Wilson and his dangerous group of weapons should cause trouble for a young Falcons defense. The Falcons have been a disappointment the last two years, going 7-9 in both campaigns. New additions Todd Gurley and Hayden Hurst should help the offense by taking some attention away from Julio Jones, and the defense has some quality pieces with the likes of Grady Jarrett and Keanu Neal, but the Falcons will still struggle to be consistent this year. If all goes according to plan, the Seahawks should be able to take the road victory.
Prediction: Seahawks 27, Falcons 14
New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills
Sam Darnold’s 2019 season started him off with a rough case of mono. This year isn’t much easier, as he heads to Buffalo in Week 1 to play one of the hottest emerging teams in the NFL. The Jets’ offensive line, featuring rookie Mekhi Becton, is going to have to hold up for the Jets to have any chance in this game. If New York’s offense can’t move the ball early, it may fall too far behind to come back against a dangerous team like Buffalo. The Bills, meanwhile, gave Josh Allen a new toy with wideout Stefon Diggs. The unpredictability of the Bills offense should give a Jets defense now missing C.J. Mosley and Jamal Adams trouble all day, leading to a big win.
Prediction: Bills 33, Jets 16
Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions
The Bears’ quarterback battle was their offseason headline. Mitchell Trubisky just barely won the job with Nick Foles breathing down his neck. As the starter, the pressure is on for him, beginning Sunday. Chicago needs to be able to score versus a young Lions defense in order to take some of the workload off the defense. Khalil Mack and company won’t be able to do it all this year, and if Trubisky has trouble early, expect him out of the starting gig. The Lions get a healthy Matthew Stafford back to reunite with a solid group of weapons. Expect Kenny Golladay in particular to dominate, as he averaged over a 100 yards last year in games against the Bears and scored twice with Stafford out. Matt Patricia’s team will start the year off on the right foot with a close win over Chicago.
Prediction: Lions 23, Bears 21
Miami Dolphins vs. New England Patriots
The Cam Newton era in New England starts on Sunday when the Patriots take on the Dolphins. The Patriots defense lost a few big names in the offseason, and that’ll definitely hurt. But the offense still features much of the supporting cast that Brady once won a ring with. It will be interesting to see what Josh McDaniels can do with a quarterback who is capable of putting his head down and running for 10 or 15 yards. Brian Flores’ Dolphins are still maturing, and it is hard to imagine Ryan Fitzpatrick being too successful going up against a Belichick defense. If Newton can stay upright and take care of the football, New England’s experience should ride him out to a win.
Prediction: Patriots 26, Dolphins 20
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington
The Eagles are on a six-game winning streak against Washington entering Sunday, and it does not appear like that streak will be snapped. Carson Wentz should have no problem handling Washington’s weak secondary, especially with targets like Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and first-round draft pick Jalen Reagor. What Wentz and the Birds need is someone new this season to stay healthy all year and make plays. Whether that is someone like Reagor or lead back Miles Sanders is yet to be seen. Ron Rivera’s squad, on the other hand, has some solid young pieces. The defensive line should be Washington’s strong suit, and that may help it in this game against a banged-up Eagles offensive line. If the Eagles can contain Chase Young and this new revamped front seven, they should make it a long day for Washington’s secondary. Second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins is going to need to find some offensive contributors other than Terry McLaurin, who should be shadowed by Darius Slay most of the game. Washington and Haskins will struggle to keep up with Wentz and the Philly offense. If Washington falls behind early, it could get out of hand.
Prediction: Eagles 28, Washington 17
Las Vegas Raiders vs. Carolina Panthers
Jon Gruden did relatively well last season with a new squad that was changing cities. The Raiders showed a lot of promise and the ability to make big plays on offense. This season, they should have even more explosiveness in Derek Carr’s offense with the additions of wideouts Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards. If that means more one-on-one looks for tight end Darren Waller and less stacked boxes for Josh Jacobs, this offense should have no problem scoring. Matt Rhule and Teddy Bridgewater very well may stumble out of the gates without a preseason. Carolina’s chance to win this game relies on a couple huge plays from Christian McCaffrey. If Las Vegas can contain the former Stanford back, it will be hard for the Panthers offense to rely on pushing the ball down the field with Bridgewater. Expect continuity to play a role in this one and Gruden’s team to win in Week 1.
Prediction: Las Vegas 27, Carolina 13
Indianapolis Colts vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Philip Rivers gets a gift with his first start in a Colts uniform coming against the Jaguars. Finally, he will have a chance to play in a much weaker division compared to the loaded AFC West he was playing in for over a decade. Rivers will have one of the best offensive lines in football blocking for him and should be able to rely on his run game of Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor to get the offense down the field. If the Colts can get the run game going, Rivers can use play action, which he excels at, to fake out defenders and hit on big chunk plays. It certainly seems like the Jaguars are going to struggle this season, as they have lost most of their star power. The losses of Leonard Fournette and Yannick Ngakoue should put this team in the Trevor Lawrence lottery. A loss to the Colts in Week 1 is expected at this point and maybe the best move in the long run.
Prediction: Colts 28, Jaguars 10
Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens
The Browns may have been the biggest disappointment of the 2019 season. The weapons that Baker Mayfield had at his disposal led to the assumption that he would be a Pro Bowl quarterback. That was not the case, as Mayfield was constantly under pressure on his dropbacks, resulting in some serious struggles. The new and improved offensive line featuring Jedrick Wills and Jack Conklin should help with that. The Browns also fired head coach Freddie Kitchens and hired former Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski. If he can get Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt involved, it may allow the field to open up for Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry to make some big-time plays. The Ravens, meanwhile, have the reigning MVP and one of the most unstoppable forces in the game on their team in rising star Lamar Jackson. If the Browns have trouble wrapping him up on the run, this game will not end well for Cleveland. The amount of different things that head coach John Harbaugh was able to do with the offense last season to produce points is scary. The Browns beat the Ravens early on last season 40-15, but that would be the last thing to expect in this matchup.
Prediction: Ravens 32, Browns 27
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The Joe Burrow hype train is now boarding. There is an abundance of fans that think what Burrow did at LSU will transfer to the NFL right away. That will probably not be the case, as the Bengals have one of the worst offensive lines in football that everyone seems to be forgetting about. The Heisman trophy winner will be given one of his biggest tests all season Week 1, as Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram come to town. They’ll likely have their way with Burrow’s protective forces. Cincinnati and head coach Zac Taylor just need to hope that Burrow can stay upright for 60 minutes. But expecting the Bengals to win this Week 1 game is foolish. The Chargers are a veteran team led by Tyrod Taylor, and they are going to know how to expose a young team like the Bengals.
Prediction: Chargers 24, Bengals 10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints
What a matchup we have here! New Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady heads down to the Big Easy to take on Drew Brees in a battle that should be a great preview of who should win one of the best divisions in football. Brady and his new team led by head coach Bruce Arians is full of stars on the offensive side of the football. The defense has a solid pass rush combo in Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul. But, at the end of the day, the Bucs are an inexperienced team. They have not played together yet and will need some time to work out their kinks. Every Brady team goes through it’s little rough patch, and as such, expect a rough start for Tampa Bay and Tom Terrific. New Orleans brings back the same elite defense with Malcolm Jenkins returning to play safety. The offense should be explosive as ever with the return of Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara and addition of Emmanuel Sanders. Brees should take advantage of this opportunity to beat Brady and have his way with a young, inexperienced Tampa Bay secondary.
Prediction: Saints 26, Buccaneers 21
Arizona Cardinals vs. San Francisco 49ers
The Arizona Cardinals are one of the hottest teams in the league, and they have not even played a game yet. The expectations in the desert seem to be playoffs-or-bust. This may be a bit overwhelming for Kyler Murray, who is just coming into his second season. But the addition of DeAndre Hopkins should be lethal from day one. The Cardinals will compete in 2020, but these expectations for young players like Murray and first-round pick Isaiah Simmons to play like Pro Bowlers right out of the gate is unrealistic. Expect a wake-up call here for Kliff Kingsbury’s bunch. The 49ers have played Murray twice now and have some more tape on him. It will be difficult for the Cardinals to beat a team like the defending NFC champions. At the end of the day, Arizona still has holes on the roster, and a team like the 49ers will expose every one of those holes as best as they can.
Prediction: 49ers 27, Cardinals 23
Dallas Cowboys vs. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams were a bit of a disappointment last season, going 9-7 a year removed from a remarkable Super Bowl run. Sean McVay’s group from last season stayed mostly intact, and they will get their stud wideouts back and healthy for the start of this year. The Rams were just two or three plays from a playoff berth last season, and no one should expect this team to be any worse in 2020. The Rams also still have defenders Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald, arguably the best guys at their position in the sport. This pairing matches up well with a team like Dallas. Donald should help minimize Ezekiel Elliott’s production, and the trio of talented Dallas wideouts will line up and struggle against the likes of Ramsey. Expect the Rams to handle this new Mike McCarthy-led team on Sunday night and surprise many with a big win.
Prediction: Rams 25, Cowboys 19
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New York Giants
For the first time in over 15 seasons, this matchup won’t be played between Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, two of the top quarterbacks from the historic 2004 NFL Draft class, as Manning has retired. Daniel Jones instead will be tested on Monday Night Football versus one of the league's best defenses. Roethlisberger, meanwhile, has finally had an offseason full of training to come back from last year’s injury, and he’ll look to use his underrated arsenal of weapons to expose a young Giants secondary. The Giants are going to need to get some huge plays from Saquon Barkley to stay in this game and keep Tomlin’s defense on its toes. If the Giants can keep their defense off the field and stay close in time of possession, they will have a chance to steal a Week 1 victory. But the G-Men just need too many things to go right to grab a win. Still, expect this game to be closer than many think it will be.
Prediction: Steelers 21, Giants 16
Tennessee Titans vs. Denver Broncos
The last game of the week is an absolute showdown. The Titans seem to have found their coach in Mike Vrabel and their franchise playmaker in Derrick Henry, meaning there is optimism for the Titans to make a real run in 2020. They should start off on the right foot against a Von Miller-less Denver team on Monday night. General manager John Elway has given quarterback Drew Lock everything he possibly needs to succeed in the NFL. It is not on Lock to lift up the players around him like the elite quarterbacks of this league do. This Monday night matchup should be a great test of what Denver has in their future and if it is enough to eventually bring them back to the Super Bowl in the next few seasons.
Prediction: Titans 34, Broncos 31
Sam Kirk is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.