Week 1 NFL Predictions

It’s finally here! Week 1 is upon us and it’s time to make predictions. Let’s get started!

Falcons vs Eagles

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Photo Cred: thefalcoholic.com

On Thursday Night Football, the Eagles will host the Falcons in a divisional round matchup from a year ago. Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles will get the start as quarterback Carson Wentz still hasn’t been cleared for contact. That could prove to be fatal in a matchup against one of the best teams in the NFL. Foles was extremely rusty in the preseason after injuring his shoulder, and it’s important to remember that he struggled in the regular season last year as well. Atlanta also held the Eagles to just 15 points in that divisional round matchup, even though they lost, so they clearly know how to contain Foles. Philadelphia will also be without receiver Alshon Jeffrey due to injury and linebacker Nigel Bradham due to suspension, which hurts the Eagles. The Falcons are just better in every way right now with so much instability for the Eagles and should take advantage and make a statement with a victory in Philly.                                                     Prediction: Falcons 24 Eagles 13

Bills at Ravens

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Photo Cred: marylandsportsblog.com

It’s going to be a long day for Nathan Peterman. The second-year quarterback, who infamously threw 5 picks in one half in his debut, will start for the Bills on Sunday in Baltimore. He’ll go up against a Ravens defense that ranked Top 10 vs the pass and has a dynamic pass rush led by Turrell Suggs. Yikes. Plus, Peterman doesn’t have much as a supporting cast, as the Bills have arguably the worst receiving corps on the offensive line to go along with the worst starting quarterback. That’s not a good combination when trying to score on the Ravens’ defense. It doesn’t get much better on the defensive side, as running back Alex Collins should have a field day on Buffalo’s defense, which ranked just 28th vs the run a year ago, especially if rookie linebacker Tremaine Edmunds struggles to adjust to the NFL (his shaky preseason suggests he will).                                            Prediction: Bills 10 Ravens 23 

Bengals at Colts

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Photo Cred: cincinnati.com

Welcome back Andrew Luck! The 28-year-old signal caller will be back under center in a regular season game for the first time since the 2016 season. While having Luck back is an obvious positive for the Colts over the course of the season, he may hold them back in Week 1. Luck looked a little rusty in the preseason, which is expected for someone who hasn’t played in an over a year. Some question if Luck will ever be the same, but one thing is almost for certain, he won’t be in his usual Pro Bowl form for week one. This is a bad matchup for Luck, as a stout Bengals pass rush that has Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Carl Lawson, and Jordan Willis on the defensive front could cause problems for a shaky Colts’ offensive line. That means it may take well into the second half for Luck to fully get comfortable and by then it’ll be too late. It also doesn’t help that Luck is in a brand new offensive scheme, with new head coach Frank Reich calling the plays for Indianapolis this season. That means Luck will try to get comfortable to playing in a meaningful football game while being hit constantly and with every other player trying to adjust to a new offensive scheme, not a good combination to say the least. The Colts also have issues at every facet defensively and have struggled to adjust to new defensive coordinator’s Matt Eberflus’ new 4-3 scheme that has caused many players of the 2017 defense to be released or have their positions changed. In fact, they have five defensive players in their rookie or sophomore season, meaning they probably won’t be a very disciplined defense. Wide receiver AJ Green should have a field day with no true #1 or #2 corner on this roster while running back Joe Mixon should run all over this weak run defense. Prediction: Bengals 24 Colts 3

Buccaneers at Saints

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Photo Cred: Nola.Com

Upset Alert! A 9.5 point favorite, the Saints need to be worried as this has all the makings of a trap game. On paper, it may seem like an explosive Saints offense should destroy Tampa’s lackluster defense, but that is not the case. With running back Mark Ingram suspended for the first four games, the Saints won’t have as much success running the ball as they did in 2017 when they ranked 5th in the league in rushing. Head coach Sean Payton has insisted that running back Alvin Kamara won’t take on a large role and it may take a week or two for new running back Mike Gillisille to adjust to the Saints’ offense, as he was signed a week ago and therefore didn’t play in any preseason games as a member of the Saints nor did he get any training camp time. It would be ridiculous to believe that he can step in right away and be the same player Ingram is, which means the offense may be too one dimensional favoring the pass. Quarterback Drew Brees is now 39 years old and showed signs of regression last year so he may not be able to be relied upon the way he could’ve in his prime. On defense, New Orleans still doesn’t have much of a pass rush outside of defensive end Cameron Jordan and their slow linebackers may have trouble guarding Tampa’s elite tight end duo of OJ Howard and Cameron Brate. Expect Tampa Bay to be victorious in a very close affair. Prediction: Bucs 23 Saints 20

Texans at Patriots

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Photo Cred: bostonglobe.com

In what is probably the game of the week, the matchup between the Texans and Patriots has an incredible amount of intriguing storylines. For Houston, quarterback Deshaun Watson, defensive end JJ Watt, and linebacker Whitney Mercilus all return from season-ending injuries they suffered a year ago. For New England, they lost a lot of pieces this offseason so both Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady will be challenged to lead a lackluster group to another winning season. With all the injuries and new faces, this game is definitely the toughest to pick. However, the Texans look to have the edge. Watson can’t be expected to return to form right away, but he doesn’t have to. New England’s defense was one of the worst a year ago and now is without cornerback Malcolm Butler, who signed with the Titans in the offseason. On the other hand, Houston’s offense is stacked with arguably a top three receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, an excellent deep threat in receiver Will Fuller, and a solid running back in Lamar Miller. While the Patriots have questions on the offensive line, the Texans will have three excellent pass rushers in Jadeveon Clowney, Watt, and Mercilus. New England also has only three receivers who actually were part of their team during training camp in Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordelle Patterson, and it can’t be expected that any of them can get any separation before the Texans pass rush gets to Brady. Watson being rusty and Brady being Brady will make it close, but expect the Texans to come out of New England with a big victory. Prediction: Texans 20 Patriots 17

49ers at Vikings

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Photo Cred: 49erswebzone.com

If not for the matchup between the Texans and Patriots, this matchup between the 49ers and Vikings would be the most intriguing and hardest to pick. The reason being that both teams have lots of uncertainty, with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo getting ready to start his first full season as a starting quarterback while the Vikings have a new quarterback in Kirk Cousins and a new play caller in offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. I was actually leaning towards the 49ers in this matchup, but then running back Jerrick McKinnon tore his ACL. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan admitted that the injury forces him to change his game plan a lot, which could cause some trouble offensively. They are forced to rely on running backs Alfred Morris and Matt Breida, which could cause them to be one dimensional towards the pass. That won’t work against the Vikings’ amazing secondary. On defense, the 49ers are without two of their three starting linebackers (Reuben Foster and Malcolm Smith), which prove to be fatal while matching up against Minnesota’s 1-2 punch of running backs, Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray. It may take time for Cousins and DeFilippo to adjust to their new team, but they’ll still be able to prevail against the broken down Niners. Prediction: 49ers 13 Vikings 27

Titans at Dolphins

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Photo Cred: sun-sentinel.com

Although it may not seem like it, this matchup between the Titans and Dolphins is actually a very interesting one. For the Titans, it’s the first game for new head coach Mike Vrabel. With the splashy additions of cornerback Malcolm Butler and running back Dion Lewis, along with receiver Corey Davis finally being healthy, expectations are high for him in his first season. They are also high on offensive Matt LaFleur, who is in charge of developing quarterback Marcus Mariota, running back Derrick Henry and Davis on the way to making the Titans offense a feared unit. For the Dolphins, they’re going through an identity change of cutting ties with receiver Jarvis Landry, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and center Mike Pouncey. They also have quarterback Ryan Tannehill back after he missed the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL he suffered in 2016, so there is a lot of uncertainty for the Miami. Tennesee is simply the better team and should dominate this football game. Miami’s defensive line looks weak after losing Suh, and Henry should run all over them. The Titans will also be able to exploit Miami’s subpar linebacking core by utilizing Lewis out of the backfield and tight end Delanie Walker. On the other side of the ball, Tennesee’s impressive secondary should shut down Miami’s passing game, while their strong front seven should completely take away Miami’s poor running game. Expect this game to be a complete blowout.                                   Prediction: Titans 20 Dolphins 0

Jaguars at Giants

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Photo Cred: patriotswire.usatoday.com

Speaking of uncertainty, the Giants have plenty of that. New York has a new play-caller in new head coach Pat Shurmur, a new defensive coordinator James Bettcher, a new running back in second overall pick Saquon Barkley, an improved offensive line, and a new look defense. The difference between this uncertainty and say, Miami’s uncertainty is that it is incredibly positive. New York’s offense looks like a top-five unit as Barkley,  receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterlin Shepard, and tight end Evan Engram give Manning a lot of playmakers to make his job significantly easier. Shurmer took Case Keenum to the NFC Championship Game and turned him into an MVP candidate, so he should easily be able to work with so much talent. Yes, Jacksonville has a tremendous defense, but their weak at middle linebacker and not particularly strong at safety, which could cause mismatches for Barkley and Engram that New York will exploit. Bettcher is also one of the game’s best defensive minds and even though the Giants aren’t especially strong defensively, they should be able to stop a lackluster Jaguars offense led by a subpar quarterback in Blake Bortles. Prediction: Jaguars 16 Giants 27

Steelers at Browns

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Photo Cred: cover32.com

It’s laughable that people seriously think the Browns are going to be the Steelers. Yes, they’re without running back Le’Veon Bell who continues to hold out due contract disputes, but they have actually been a better offensive team, as they’ve scored 31.9 points per game. Running back James Conner looked great in the preseason and should be able to fill the void left by Bell. Even if he doesn’t, it won’t matter. With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, arguably the best receiver in Antonio Brown, and two up and coming receivers (Juju Smith Schuster, James Washinton), the Steelers have an excellent passing offense that is undoubtedly the league’s best. Cleveland has a lot of new faces on offense, but they are starting undrafted Desmond Harrison at left tackle. That could be trouble considering the Steelers led the league in sacks last year. This game will be influenced greatly due to extremely poor weather conditions, so expect this game to be low scoring and to have no field goals. Prediction: Steelers 14 Browns 7

Chiefs at Chargers

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Photo Cred: boltbeat.com

The Patrick Mahomes era has begun. After trading quarterback Alex Smith, the Chiefs will be led by 2017 10th overall pick Patrick Mahomes. There’s no question he has a lot of weapons, with 2017 rushing yards leader Kareem Hunt, arguably the best tight end in Travis Kelce, and a dynamic deep threat receiving duo of Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins. However, this matchup against the Chargers will be a tough test for him and the Chiefs offense. Even without defensive end Joey Bosa, the Chargers have excellent pass rushing depth and arguably the league’s best secondary. On offense, Los Angeles has a dynamic offense led by quarterback Phillip Rivers, running back Melvin Gordon, and an excellent receiving corps. Meanwhile, Kansas City had one of the league’s worst pass defenses last season and traded cornerback Marcus Peters, their number one corner. They’ve failed to replace him, and their defense as a whole looks like one of the league’s worst. Expect the Chargers offense to dominate while the defense is able to slow down the Chiefs offense just enough to win a very important divisional game.                                  Prediction: Chiefs 20 Chargers 34

Redskins at Cardinals

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Photo Cred: redskins.com

In an interesting matchup, the Redskins (Alex Smith) and the Cardinals (Sam Bradford) each will introduce new signal callers. Neither team looks like a playoff team, so this game is evenly matched. Therefore, it seems smart to take the home team in this one, as Bradford has a little more help than Smith with running back David Johnson. This should be an incredibly close game, but Arizona should come out victorious.                                      Prediction: Redskins 20 Cardinals 24

Cowboys at Panthers

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Photo Cred: sportsbookreview.com

In the best game of the late games, the Cowboys travel to Carolina in what should be a low scoring affair. Even though Dallas has an elite running game with running back  Ezekial Elliot and a usually strong offensive line, the offensive line has been hit with the injury bug, so Carolina’s dominant front seven should stop them. That puts pressure on quarterback Dak Prescott to lead the offense to throw the air and with no much of a receiving corps, that likely won’t happen. On the other side of the ball, Dallas has a solid defense and should be able to stop Carolina’s subpar passing attack. However, running back Christian McCaffrey looks to be the X-Factor in this game and he should take advantage of an otherwise slow linebacking core and poor safety tandem. The one touchdown he’ll score will prove to be the main difference in what will be an extremely close game. Prediction: Cowboys 9 Panthers 13

Seahawks at Broncos

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Photo Cred: seahawks.com

In a rematch of Super Bowl 48. neither the Seahawks nor Broncos are close to the teams they were when they met up in that Super Bowl. Seattle has a new look defense as they’ve cut ties with everyone on their infamous “Legion of Boom” defense besides safety Earl Thomas. Denver, on the other hand, is still trying to replace Peyton Manning and is now trying to do so with quarterback Case Keenum. Denver still has a dynamic pass rush led by Von Miller, and they added to that by drafting edge rusher Bradley Chubb with the 5th overall pick in this year’s draft. The two of them should do so damage against Seattle’s atrocious offensive line. Quarterback Russell Wilson also doesn’t have much help, with uncertainty at running back, wide receiver, and no capable receiving threat at tight end. Denver’s offense has just enough with rookie running back Royce Freeman and a solid receiving corps, and don’t have to worry about their weak offensive line, as Seattle’s pass rush is nearly not existent. Prediction: Broncos 26 Seahawks 20

Bears at Packers (SNF)

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Photo Cred: chicago.suntimes.com

Sunday Night Football! What better way to start Sunday Night Football than with one of the best rivalries in football, the Bears and Packers. Unlike in year’s past, this game should be extremely close. Chicago has a revamped offense with new head coach Matt Nagy, receiver Allen Robinson, and tight end Trey Burton. On the other side of the ball, they had the 8th ranked defense and added arguably the best defensive player in edge rusher Khalil Mack. The critical factor of this game is clock management, which the Bears will dominate. With a two-headed rushing attack of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, the Bears should dominate the trenches against Green Bay’s lackluster front seven. That’ll keep Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers off the field, and there’s no guarantee he’ll dominate when on the field. Mack and edge rusher Leonard Floyd should absolutely destroy Green Bay’s offensive line that gave up the 5th most sacks a season ago, and Green Bay’s rushing attack is nearly not existent and will struggle against the Bears’ excellent front seven. A Chicago win in Lambeau would be considered an upset by almost everyone, but the reality is that the Bears may actually be the better team.                  Prediction: Bears 31 Packers 17

Jets at Lions (MNF)

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Photo Cred: elitesportsny.com

It’s officially the Sam Darnold era in New York, as the first round rookie quarterback will start on Monday Night in Detroit. However, that doesn’t mean the Jets are ready to contend this season. While Darnold may be the future, playing in a loud stadium in Detroit on Monday Night Football may be too daunting of a task. New York’s defense is improving, but it still lacks a pass rush. With all time to throw, expect Lions quarterback Matt Stafford to throw for well over 300 yards against a young Jets secondary.                        Prediction: Jets 13 Lions 30

Rams at Raiders

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Photo Cred: cover32.com

Welcome back, Jon Gruden! No pressure for the Raiders head coach. You have to live up to a $100 million contract, just traded away your team’s best player, and now have to stop this Rams superteam. There’s no other way to put it but by saying the Rams are just simply better than the Raiders. Their elite passing attack should destroy Oakland’s lackluster secondary, while also running all over the old Raiders defense with running back Todd Gurley. On defense, the Rams elite secondary should complete shut down Derek Carr and the Raiders passing game with no receiving threats outside of Amari Cooper. They also probably will have a hard time establishing the run game, as the Rams have arguably the best defensive line in the NFL. Expect this one to be an absolute blowout. Prediction: Rams 38 Raiders 10

 

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