Here are my NFL Week 1 Picks

(169-86-1 in 2013, 170-85-1 in 2014, 163-93 in 2015, 156-98-2 in 2016)

Bye teams: Dolphins, Buccaneers


KC @ NE – And here we go, another NFL season is under way, with the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots kicking things off, as much as it annoys us all to have that happen yet again.  Setting aside how improbable it was that the Pats somehow came back against the Falcons in the big game, it’s astounding that the same team can be the top team to beat year in and year out.  We’re supposed to have parity, the salary cap provides for that, yet think about the past 15 years for the Patriots and for the Browns.  Brady & Bellichick are just too good, and if it’s possible, I think NE will be even better this season than they were last season.  They should win this home opener with ease, though I’m sure the Chiefs would like to object to that if they could.  KC had a good year in 2016, looked solid, but failed to put up points in a weird playoff game against the Steelers.  They’ll bounce back, they’ll be a strong team all season, but they aren’t on the Patriots’ level, and I don’t think this game will be that close.  NE has the better defense and offense, will look to jump out front early, and I doubt will ever look back.


NYJ @ Buf – Passing up (or down) the Browns as the worst team in the league is quiet the feat, but the Jets were apparently up for the challenge.  It wasn’t long ago that Fitzmagic was throwing dimes to Decker in the back of the end zone and New York was a formidable team, but those days now seem long behind them.  Fitz, Decker, & Marshall are gone, Forte has been replaced, but the talent level has not been revamped.  The Jets have been drafting well, but they don’t have an answer at quarterback and they simply don’t seem to know which end is which.  They ought to have the first pick next year, and that path should start this week.  The Bills are by no means a juggernaut, and they won’t even get close to the Patriots for the division, but they could conceivably be #2 with Cutler running things in Miami.  Tyrod is talented enough, Shady has enough in the tank, but don’t imagine all this adds up to the playoffs.  It should add up to a Week 1 win at home though, where I think this team comes out on fire and ready to knock off a beatable division foe.


Phi @ Was – I was prepared to say that his could be one of the closer contests of the week, since the first two we’ve talked about shouldn’t be quite as even, but then I looked ahead and I realized that we’re going to see some pretty competitive football in Week 1.  This game should be among then, but it won’t be alone, which is music to my ears as a fan of the NFL in general and not just of one team (not saying I don’t bleed Bronco blue, of course).  And this is an important game, a tough divisional matchup between two teams that are going to need every win they can get if they’re to have a chance at the postseason.  The Eagles need to take a step in the right direction behind Carson Wentz, and getting Alshon Jeffrey for him to throw the ball to was the perfect way to do that.  Philly should be solid but not excellent, and the same can probably be predicted for Washington’s year.  They and Kirk Cousins just don’t impress me, haven’t shown us that they can be more than mediocre, and until they do I can’t get excited about this team’s prospects.  I do think they can win here at home though, in what should be a good game.


Oak @ Ten – Another even matchup between two teams that are on the cusp of great things.  Carr and the Raiders have an awesome offensive line, an excellent passing game, added Marshawn Lynch, and should be pretty unstoppable on that side of the ball.  If their defense can be half as steady and if Carr can stay healthy, Oakland could go deep in the playoffs.  But almost exactly that same thing can be said about the Titans.  Mariota is improving, they add Decker, Walker is a stud tight end, and they have a two-headed running attack that should drive opponents’ defenses crazy.  I think Tennessee wins the AFC South, especially with Luck banged up and the Colts not sure when he’ll be back, and Oakland has a great chance of the winning the AFC West, although it’s a much tougher division.  Who wins this game will depend on which defense actually steps up, creates a key turnover, hands the ball to their offense, thus winning the game.  I give the edge to the Titans, being at home and having the better defense. This is going to be an ultra-entertaining game to watch.


Jax @ Hou – Speaking of solid games between solid teams, this isn’t one of those.  The Jags are in a rebuilding phase, I guess you could say, and perhaps the same is true for the Texans.  Jacksonville can’t seem to get out of their own way, stumbling through draft choices and starting players like perhaps someone doesn’t know what they are doing.  This defense should be better, this offense should be talented, and yet it seems like everything this team touches turns to crap.  Will the same happen to Fournette?  It’s hard to say.  He’s so talented, he could step right up and help the team, but it’s hard for me to imagine something going right for them.  The Texans are the far superior club, though they have their own problems, mainly quarterback.  They spend a ton of money on Brock, let him go, draft Watson, but decide not to play him right away.  I think we’ll see him eventually, but not yet, and meanwhile the defense better keep them competitive in games.  But I think they can, Houston’s D is that good, and they might just be able to keep this team relevant until a savior comes.


Ari @ Det – I’m looking forward to a shootout from this game, and I don’t think I’ll be disappointed.  Well, perhaps not exactly a shootout, since Palmer’s arm isn’t what it used to be.  More like, on Arizona’s end, a game stuffed full of David Johnson in every way imaginable, the superstar back touching the ball more than all the refs combined.  Johnson will carry this team the entire season, they will be as good as he allows them to be, and the offense will run completely through him.  I’m not completely casting out Palmer or the defense, but I think we know where their focus lies.  If teams can somehow take Johnson out of the equation for a couple quarters, they stand a chance of beating the Cards, especially if they have weapons of their own.  For the Lions, that weapon is Matthew Stafford.  The guy just got paid, he set a record, and now fans will look for him to show that he’s worth the money.  I think he is, I think this offense can do great things, and I think they can get off on the right foot with a home win against a beatable Arizona team.  But, again, we should see a close contest, just another stellar matchup in Week 1.


Atl @ Chi – Uh oh, a game that shouldn’t even be close, which is a rarity this week.  The Falcons will most certainly have the Super Bowl hangover this year; I don’t think it’s a myth, I think it’s a cold hard fact.  The teams that lose the big game have down years the following season, that’s just how it goes, and I think Atlanta, which isn’t a juggernaut team like New England or Green Bay, will be even more susceptible to a slip of the grip.  There’s no questioning their offense, it’s one of the best in the league, with Matty Ice, Julio, Freeman, and Coleman.  But I just have a bad feeling that they’re in for a let down of sorts this year, and I don’t think they make it back to the Championship.  I do, however, think they are more than capable of handling the bumbling Bears, even away from dome sweet home.  Glennon takes the reins of a Chicago team that has more problems than it has answers.  I don’t expect those problems to be solved, I don’t expect Chicago to compete, and I think we’ll see an all-new staff next season.  Hotlanta should come into town and take care of business to open their 2017 run.


Bal @ Cin – A great rivalry and what should be another great game.  These two teams are evenly matched, always fight each other for a playoff spot, and should both be laying it all on the field Week 1, because they know how tough it’ll be to beat Pittsburgh for the division.  If they have their sights set on a Wild Card spot, even that will be hard to come by, with Tennessee, Kansas City, Oakland, Denver, Indy, & Houston fighting for the same thing.  So, which team has the advantage, and who will come out on top?  Baltimore has plateaued over the past few seasons, not improving, slowly declining perhaps, they’ve just lost whatever juice they had a few years back when they were a team to beat.  Cinci has stayed consistent, they’re always in the middle, and their ownership doesn’t seem to care that a Super Bowl is never really a real option.  I do think that the Bengals have a nice defense, that they got much faster on offense in the offseason, and that they have weapons to play with in this opening game.  I don’t know, they could even get on top early and never look back, but we’ll see.  And we’ll probably have a close game on our hands.


Pit @ Cle – The other two teams in the AFC North face off as well, but this matchup might not be as balanced.  The Steelers and their killer Bs (Ben, Bell, Brown) give opponents fits with their ability to score at will.  It’s not like Pittsburgh is an air-it-out team, they still play hard-nosed football and can pound the ball.  It’s just that they seem to be able to turn it on when it matters most and win games by outscoring whatever the other team can manage.  And Big Ben, he’s still a beast, although he’s getting a little older and has mentioned that his retirement might be looming.  He’s not Manning or Brady, who rarely gets hit and relies on accurate decision-making, he’s a gunslinger who can escape any pocket by out-muscleing defense ends.  Anyway, I like the Steelers in this game and this season.  The Browns on the other hand, suck.  They are a cursed franchise it seems, can’t do anything right, and shouldn’t win much this year.  I know they’re at home, they have some rookies who they are excited about, but I don’t think it will matter much; they’ll be back at the top of the Draft next season, ready to mess up again.


Ind @ LAR – The biggest story line surrounding this game is that Andrew Luck will not play in it.  He’s hurt, might not be back with the team for a few weeks, and that puts their whole season in jeopardy.  When will he return, how long will it take him to shake off the rust, what spot will they be in at that point?  I actually drafted Luck on my fantasy team, but only because I think he has upside when he does finally come back to play.  Maybe the Colts win some games late in the season, maybe they stumble into the playoffs, but I kind of doubt it, and I don’t think they win many games period with Tolzein under center.  The Rams aren’t much better off, they are completely unproven, and all they can do is hope that Goff & Gurley bounce back from a disappointing 2016.  There’s potential there, these kids are talented, but that’s not even the question really; every player who gets drafted is super-talented.  It’s about making the transition to becoming a professional player, to rising above the other stars to shine even brighter.  I’m not sure LA is a team of players who can do that, but I think they can at least win this game.


Sea @ GB – I’m not sure how this isn’t a primetime game, with these two teams facing off, defense vs offense, both with their sights set on becoming the Champion of the league.  Seattle has a defense that just keeps getting better, and now they’ve added DT Richardson from the Jets, so I don’t know who is going to be able to score on them.  Well, maybe the Packers, but we’ll get to that.  The Seahawks should have an excellent season, they should cruise to a division win, I’m just not sure they can survive this opening game in Lambeau.  Really, the Packers and the Patriots might be the only teams that can actually beat Seattle, and they’d probably have to be at home to do it.  The Pack can score so easily, and Rodgers will probably pass for 40+ TDs this year, since they’ve surrounded him with a ton of talent that should be too much for opposing defenses to handle.  Nelson, Adams, Cobb, Bennett, Montgomery; it’s just a matter of choosing who to throw to.  This game is one of those classic matchups, strength vs strength, so it’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top, but I’m putting my money on the home offense.


Car @ SF – Here we go, my first upset pick of the week.  I hate to pick on the Panthers, I have friends who are Carolina fans, I just think they might have some bad luck early on.  First, Cam is supposed to be fine, but he has been injured, and there’s always a bit of rust to kick off.  Next, McCaffrey is a stud, but rookies fumble, and I can picture a key drop of the ball that leads to a 49ers score.  And lastly, I just don’t trust Ron Riviera to utilize this offense in the way it should be utilized.  I think Carolina comes out a bit flat; if they were playing at home or if their opponent was a pushover, I’d go with them anyway.  But I think San Fran might just be better than we expect this season.  I like what John Lynch has done, I like Kyle Shanahan as the head coach, I think Hoyer can be a solid, stop-gap QB, and I can’t imagine that this team will tank this year.  Not like they’re a shoe-in for the playoffs, I just wouldn’t dismiss them, especially in an emotional home opener like this.  I think any mediocre team coming in to the bay would have their hands full this weekend, so I’ll go with the Niners, why not.


NYG @ Dal – Here we go, Sunday Night Football.  Games between these two teams are always entertaining, usually high-scoring, and mostly come down to the wire.  In Dallas, the big news is that Zeke will play, after failing to have his 6-game suspension overturned but being rewarded the opening game because the appeal wasn’t mediated quickly enough.  So, he plays one game, he takes the NFL to court, who knows where we go from here, but we’ll take it one matchup at a time.  Without him, the Cowboys will be alright, but they are definitely going to miss their star runner.  I predict that Dak will take a small step back this year, and that Witten will finally show his age.  I don’t think Dallas will suck, I just think they could regress a tad, and that they, Philly, & Washington will battle it out to see who can go a couple games over .500.  Meanwhile, I think the Giants are in the best spot to win the division.  Eli has the best trio of WRs in the league (Odell, Marshall, Shepard) and he’s supremely comfortable in his offense.  And, he’s finally got a running back in Perkins who can balance him out.  I believe in the GMen this year.


NO @ Min – It’s the Adrian Peterson Bowl, which really isn’t something we asked for.  This game is being hyped as APs return to Minnesota, and I bet he wants a little pay back.  That might mostly be media hype, but I do believe that sometimes players want to win more than other times, and I do think Peterson will play well vs his former team.  I have Mark Ingram on my fantasy team, and where than leaves him I don’t know, but we all know this is Drew Brees’ team first & foremost, so look for the offense to run through Drew.  Minnesota does have the defense to stop a team like New Orleans, and they are playing at home, which makes this game a tough one to pick.  For me, it comes down to Sam Bradford, who was never going to be the savior that some people imagined he could be.  He’s no good, this offense won’t be until he leaves, and that leaves only their defense to win games.  Against a high-powered offensive attack like the Saints, I think the Vikings fail to hold them back enough and/or fail to put up enough points to compete.  Monday Night in Minnesota; sounds like fun to me.


LAC @ Den – Last but not least, the late Monday game, Chargers vs Broncos.  It still feels weird referring to them as the Los Angeles Chargers, and I wonder how that change will affect their season, if a new location and new fan base will make things feel different enough to have an impact.  Also, I’m curious as to what kind of team LAC will be this year, how well Rivers will perform as he begins to age.  I don’t think the Broncos will have any trouble stopping the run or holding the wideouts in check, but I am worried about the Chargers pair of tight ends and how much they might destroy Denver over the middle.  That’s always been a weak spot; you’d think they’d fix that.  If LAC does score some points on this great defense, can the Broncos answer back, that’s the big question.  Siemian gets the nod, Anderson is healthy, this offense shouldn’t be terrible, all they really have to do is let McManus score FGs, get one TD themselves, and maybe have the defense get one as well.  If they can hold on to the ball, this Broncos team can go much farther than people expect, and I predict a big opening night win for my boys.


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QBs – Kirk Cousins vs the Eagles.  Marcus Mariota vs the Raiders.  Matthew Stafford vs the Cardinals.  Matt Ryan vs the Bears.  Jared Goff vs the Colts.  Eli Manning vs the Cowboys.

RBs – Mike Gillislee vs the Chiefs.  LeSean McCoy vs the Jets.  Lamar Miller vs the Jaguars.  David Johnson vs the Lions.  Devontae Freeman vs the Bears.  Todd Gurley vs the Colts.  Zeke Elliott vs the Giants.  Dalvin Cook vs the Saints.  CJ Anderson vs the Chargers.

WRs – Alshon Jeffrey vs the Redskins.  Eric Decker vs the Raiders.  Marvin Jones vs the Cardinals.  Julio Jones vs the Bears.  Antonio Brown vs the Browns.  Brandon Marshall vs the Cowboys.

TEs – Rob Gronkowski vs the Chiefs.  Delanie Walker vs the Raiders.  Tyler Eiffert vs the Ravens.  Martellus Bennett vs the Seahawks.  Greg Olsen vs the 49ers.  Coby Fleener vs the Vikings.  Hunter Henry vs the Broncos.

Ks – Ryan Succop vs the Raiders.  Phil Dawson vs the Lions.  Matt Bryant vs the Bears.  Justin Tucker vs the Bengals.  Mason Crosby vs the Seahawks.  Brandon McManus vs the Chargers.

DEFs – Houston vs the Jaguars.  Los Angeles Rams vs the Colts.