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NFL Week One Predictions: Who Gets off to a Hot Start and Why

NFL Week One Predictions: Who Gets off to a Hot Start and Why

The Game: Falcons @ Eagles

The Pick: Falcons

The Score: 24-16

Here’s Why: The first game of the 2018 – 2019 NFL season marks a rematch from last year’s NFC divisional round. Unlike that matchup, however, which the eagles stole in 15-10 fashion, most have Philadelphia, as defending Super Bowl champs, picked to win. Given that Carson Wentz’ status is still very much up in the air, and Nick Foles has failed to inspire much confidence during preseason action, it seems ill-advised to expect any extraordinary play from under center. In fact, whoever does start will play alongside a weakened supporting cast now that Alshon Jeffery has been ruled out. Starting slot receiver Nelson Agholor is no lock to suit up either, potentially leaving 32-year-old Mike Wallace and Shelton Gibson, who tallied two catches for eleven yards in 2017, as primary targets outside. Falcons win this one by a wider margin than the scoreboard suggests.

The Game: Bengals @ Colts

The Pick: Colts

The Score: 24-21

Here’s Why: Andrew Luck is back at QB, positioning a talent-depleted Colts roster to at least push for wild-card consideration. Bereft of a formidable rushing attack or defense, Indy will be no powerhouse this year, but they have enough to take care of the hapless Bengals. Luck and TY Hilton connect for a pair of TDs and the Colts start off the new year with a winning record.  

The Game: Bills @ Ravens

The Pick: Ravens

The Score: 20-6

Here’s Why: In a matchup that will likely feature Joe Flacco vs Nathan Peterman, don’t expect much offense. Both the Ravens and Bills are fringe playoff teams, but the Ravens’ defense is clearly the better of the two, forcing a Josh Allen debut late in the 4th quarter. Flacco plays a mediocre game, failing to calm the Lamar Jackson hype. LeSean McCoy shows the first signs of decline and the Ravens secure a home win.

The Game: Buccaneers @ Saints

The Pick: Saints

The Score: 42-10

Here’s Why: Even without Mark Ingram II, the Saints offense certainly boasts enough firepower to post a six-touchdown performance against a middle-of-the-pack Bucs defense. 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara builds off his 14-touchdown breakout season, tallying one rushing TD and two more through the air. Michael Thomas falls just short of 200 yards receiving, and Marshon Lattimore grabs a pair of INTs. Whether they are willing to admit it or not, Tampa Bay is in full-rebuild mode. They lose this one handily en route to a 4-12 season.

The Game: Texans @ Patriots

The Pick: Patriots

The Score: 37-31 (OT)

Here’s Why: Last September, the Texans came to Foxborough and pushed the Patriots into one of the season’s best games. An 11th-hour strike from Brady to Cooks gave New England a narrow victory. This contest figures to be another thriller. The Pats always seem to start off slow, losing twice last year before October 2nd. Also, after watching last week’s preseason bout against Cam Newton and the Panthers, it’s clear New England still cannot contain mobile quarterbacks, so Deshaun Watson and Deandre Hopkins shouldn’t struggle to reach 30 points. On the offensive side, Julian Edelman’s absence won’t help things. As I predicted they would earlier this summer, the Patriots are missing Brandin Cooks badly. Their offense lacks any ability to stretch the field, and Brady’s number one target on the outside is Chris Hogan, a lacrosse player by trade. Behind Hogan, Brady will be throwing to Cordarrelle Patterson and Phillip Dorsett. Beyond those three (Hogan, Patterson, and Dorsett), New England owns 0 wide receivers that have played a regular season NFL snap. They have Brady and Gronk, and, at least against a poor Texans secondary, that is enough. Brady hits Dorsett for 6 in OT, and New England survives Houston.

The Game: 49ers @ Vikings

The Pick: Vikings

The Score: 31-16

Here’s Why: Jimmy Garoppolo finally meets his match. The tenacious Vikings defense makes him uncomfortable from the first series, forcing him into two costly picks. Quite simply, the 49ers roster lacks the talent to compete with the Vikings, who I’ve picked to win the NFC North despite Aaron Rodgers’ return. Make no mistake about it, the 49ers have a bright future, but they get a wake-up call in Minnesota.

The Game: Titans @ Dolphins

The Pick: Titans

The Score: 28-13

Here’s Why: In the 2018 offseason, the Dolphins lost arguably their most talented player on each side of the ball in Jarvis Landry and Ndamukong Suh. Ryan Tannehill hasn’t seen regular-season action since 2016, so rust will play some role in a sloppy performance by the Texas A&M product. The Titans, meanwhile, got better on both offense and defense, adding exciting RB Dion Lewis and 2016 All-Pro corner Malcolm Butler from the Patriots. While Mariota has a forgettable 2017 season, I think he’s more than capable of a rebound year. The Titans leave Miami with an early season road win.   

The Game: Jaguars @ Giants

The Pick: Giants

The Score: 20-17

Here’s Why: In 2017, the Giants and Jaguars experienced vastly different seasons. Jacksonville recorded a 10-6 record, reaching the AFC title game and coming within a few plays of making the Super Bowl. New York, meanwhile, endured a 3-13 season, finishing last in the NFC East and picking 2nd overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. However, with All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr back in the lineup and Saquon Barkley, the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson, in the backfield alongside Eli Manning, the Giants will be able to challenge Jacksonville’s talent-rich defense, at least to the tune of 20 points. While quarterback Blake Bortles showed substantial improvement during the Jags’ playoff run, an elite Giants’ secondary will lock down a passing attack that now lacks even Marqise Lee. Fresh off signing his new contract, Beckham Jr will get the best of Jalen Ramsey, reeling in two TDs and 120 yards worth of receptions.

The Game: Steelers @ Browns

The Pick: Steelers

The Score: 21-20

Here’s Why: The Steelers have won each of their past three matchups against the Browns, but Pittsburgh’s average margin of victory is just 3.3 points (essentially one field goal). While the Steelers should win, the game will be closer than most expect. On the offensive side, Ben Roethlisberger sustained a concussion in practice just two weeks ago. Taking into consideration Roethlisberger’s considerable injury history, one has to wonder how much longer he can sustain his typical quality of play. At 36 years old, a drop off could come at any given week, including the opener in Cleveland. In addition, Le’Veon Bell, who skipped all of the team’s offseason programs, should deal with some rust. On defense, the Steelers inspire as little confidence as ever, so the Browns’ outstanding receiver corps will certainly have its chances. Steelers crawl out of FirstEnergy Stadium with a win.  

The Game: Chiefs @ Chargers

The Pick: Chargers

The Score: 37-16

Here’s Why: Former first-round wide receiver Mike Williams seems to have hit his stride just in time for the new year, adding another dimension to an already loaded LA offense. The Chiefs added Sammy Watkins on offense, but inexplicably traded rising star Marcus Peters. Without much talent at corner, the Chiefs will fail miserably to slow down the Chargers’ Keenan Allen-led passing attack. On defense, pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram will make things very uncomfortable for Patrick Mahomes in his first meaningful NFL start. The Chargers win in blowout fashion.

The Game: Cowboys @ Panthers

The Pick: Panthers

The Score: 28-27

Here’s Why: Though many seem to believe that this year’s Cowboys defense will be an improvement over last year’s, I don’t see (outside of Demarcus Lawrence) enough star power to make it a notable unit. Sean Lee comes to mind, but he’s seldom healthy. I see sophomore runner Christian McCaffrey having a big game, alongside rookie wide receiver DJ Moore. On the other side of the ball, I think Dallas’ receiving corps will exceed expectations against a poor Panthers secondary, but Ezekiel Elliott should struggle to run the ball against Carolina’s formidable front seven.  

The Game: Redskins @ Cardinals

The Pick: Cardinals  

The Score: 23-20

Here’s Why: Last year, neither the Cardinals nor the Redskins recorded memorable seasons. Both teams finished in the bottom half of their respective divisions and failed to qualify for the playoffs. However, each roster experienced tremendous turnover this offseason. The Redskins said goodbye to quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency but acquired Chiefs signal caller Alex Smith for corner Kendall Fuller and a 3rd round pick. Washington also managed to get their hands on Seahawks receiver Paul Richardson, who, though not well-known, has shown flashes of excellent play. The Cards, meanwhile, selected Josh Rosen and Christian Kirk in the 2018 NFL Draft. Both project to play huge roles in the team’s rebuild. Finally, Arizona will welcome back outstanding running back David Johnson. In week one, I see each of the newcomers offering immediate contributions, and a late touchdown reception by David Johnson saves the Cardinals from a home opener loss.

The Game: Seahawks @ Broncos

The Pick: Seahawks

The Score: 17-16

Here’s Why: Come September 9th, Seattle will fly to Denver without Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, or Michael Bennett. Only Earl Thomas remains of the once terror-striking legion of boom. Even so, Russell Wilson, coming off a 2017 campaign that merited MVP consideration, will be just enough to get the job done against a Broncos team that has placed it’s 2018 playoff hopes in Case Keenum’s hands. Seattle takes this Super Bowl 48 matchup by a narrow margin up at Mile High.  

The Game: Bears @ Packers

The Pick: Packers

The Score: 34-13

Here’s Why: After locking up Aaron Rodgers with a 4-year $134 million deal, the Packers will turn their attention ahead to their week one tilt against the Bears at Lambeau Field. Without Rodgers for most of last season, Green Bay struggled mightily. Now that he is back, however, the Packers should make quick work of Chicago, especially at home.

The Game: Jets @ Lions

The Pick: Lions

The Score: 27-17

Here’s Why: After shipping QB Teddy Bridgewater to New Orleans for a 3rd round pick, the Jets announced Wednesday that rookie Sam Darnold will be their week one starter. At just 21 years of age, Darnold will be the youngest QB to start a team’s season opener in NFL history. With that in mind, I expect him to struggle. While Darnold has shown promise this preseason, a respectable Lions defense, playing in front of their home crowd, will limit the developing prospect to 17 points, forcing two turnovers in the process. Marvin Jones and Golden Tate each snag a touchdown and the Lions take this one 27-17.   

The Game: Rams @ Raiders

The Pick: Rams

The Score: 52-17

Here’s Why: Adding four All-Pro caliber players in Brandin Cooks, Marcus Peters, Ndamukong Suh, and Aqib Talib, the Rams have placed themselves in firm title contention. While Defensive Player of the Year candidate Aaron Donald seems poised to continue his holdout into the regular season, LA has more than enough talent to stifle the Raiders’ offense and post a 50-point game against one of the league’s worst defenses. Without Khalil Mack, Jon Gruden falls short in his first game back on the sidelines. Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks each notch a pair of touchdowns, propelling the Rams to a week one rout.    

 

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