Home / frontnfl / 2023 NFL Game Picks: Week 1
Matt Starkey/Cleveland Browns

2023 NFL Game Picks: Week 1


Thursday, September 7 | 8:20 PM ET | NBC


The defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs will host an emerging Detroit team to open the 2023 season, and it sounds like they will be doing it without Travis Kelce (knee) in addition the holding-out Chris Jones—sapping some serious star power from Andy Reid’s squad. Fortunately for them, the offense has had months to prepare, and Patrick Mahomes being guided by the mind of Reid has resulted in unbelievable numbers in Week 1 with 37.8 points per game over the past five seasons (not to mention 42 points with Alex Smith at quarterback in 2017). But are the Lions ready to join the NFL’s elite? I feel a lot better about their chances with Ben Johnson still in Detroit as the league’s top offensive coordinator, and the mystery role for rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs might be heavy usage as a downfield receiver; basically, if you can get him running complex vertical routes on a linebacker or safety, it’ll be a complete mismatch. Mahomes and Reid are obviously a scary combination with or without maximum prep time, but Jared Goff can win shootouts, and I believe the Detroit running backs will be the difference.


Winner: Detroit Lions



Sunday, September 10 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


Carolina seemed to be a good landing spot for No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young with the offensive line being a projected strength, but the group was underwhelming in preseason action, so this weekend—versus an upgraded Atlanta pass rush—will be a quality measuring stick. Aside from adding Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree, Atlanta also has a new scheme under defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen, and a quartet of Campbell and Grady Jarrett on the inside with Dupree and Arnold Ebiketie on the edge can be very versatile and disruptive in passing situations. I don’t think size will be an issue for Young because of his instincts and intelligence, but the Falcons have big defenders and will bring pressure under Nielsen, increasing the importance of the Panthers being solid up front. On the other side of the ball, Bijan Robinson and Kyle Pitts should have standout performances to get Atlanta started with a home victory.


Winner: Atlanta Falcons



Sunday, September 10 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


The Ravens being without former All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey makes it slightly less daunting, but No. 2 overall pick C.J. Stroud still gets a tough draw for the opener by heading to Baltimore as a double-digit underdog. After superstar linebacker Roquan Smith was acquired last October, the Ravens allowed just 14.7 points per game over the final nine weeks—and their pass rush can be boosted by a new-look, spread attack on offense being more explosive and fast-paced while allowing Baltimore to play from ahead. Plus, Lamar Jackson has typically gone off in early in the year (28:7 touchdown-interception ratio in September), and for as great of a head coach as I believe DeMeco Ryans will be for Houston, they might not yet have the pieces at cornerback to contain Odell Beckham Jr., Rashod Bateman, Nelson Agholor, and rookie Zay Flowers. If Stroud isn’t sharp and/or the Texans don’t win in the trenches, it could be a long day.


Winner: Baltimore Ravens



Sunday, September 10 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


All the AFC North rivalries are intense, but Bengals-Browns has quietly harbored some animosity—perhaps due to Cleveland having the upper hand with a 5-1 record since Joe Burrow was drafted. One of the individual battles to watch is Ja’Marr Chase versus Denzel Ward (who needs to pass the concussion protocol), as the two have exchanged words in the past and will often match up against one another. Overall, though, the soft-spoken Nick Chubb is the reason for the Browns having so much success with 101.8 total yards per game and eight total touchdowns in nine career meetings, so Cleveland needs to play through their best player rather than trying to become a pass-heavy team in Deshaun Watson’s first full season with the franchise. Considering the possible rust for Burrow (who started slow last year after appendix surgery) and the edge in recent years for the Browns, I’ll take them at home.


Winner: Cleveland Browns



Sunday, September 10 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


They are on the road, but the Jaguars only being 4.5-point favorites is the most surprising line of the week with a clear talent advantage for them on both sides of the ball versus a young team with all but two players under 30 years old. Although I am very high on Anthony Richardson’s long-term outlook and the “unknown” factor about the offense probably plays a role in the line, Jacksonville can have an elite pass rush if Travon Walker breaks out across from Josh Allen—and pass protection could still be an issue for Indy. Also, I’m not sure about the bigger cornerback group for the Colts being able to contain Trevor Lawrence’s weapons, and the skill-position edge seems to be heavily in favor of the Jags. To pull off an upset, Indianapolis needs the offseason signing of Samson Ebukam to provide a further boost to a pass rush that already ranked tenth in the league in sacks last year under Gus Bradley.


Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars



Sunday, September 10 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


The first game for Kevin O’Connell as the Vikings head coach was a decisive victory over Green Bay largely due to Justin Jefferson simply being uncoverable (9/184/2 line), and another monster game could be in the cards if Carlton Davis III and Jamel Dean aren’t at their best for Tampa Bay’s defense. For the season, I’m optimistic about the Buccaneers bouncing back to have a top-tier unit under Todd Bowles, but the pass rush—which has already been brought up so much because of how important it is—needs youngsters such as Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Logan Hall, and rookie Calijah Kancey to step up starting this week versus an excellent offensive line for Minnesota. Either way, Baker Mayfield needs to play well early with Rachaad White, Chris Godwin, and Mike Evans being a very strong trio, and Godwin in particular could have a huge performance out of the slot to make it a close game.


Winner: Minnesota Vikings



Sunday, September 10 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


I mentioned it last month, but second-year cornerback Roger McCreary being listed as a backup (and since promoted to a co-starter with Sean Murphy-Bunting) was a head-scratching move by Tennessee, but the best game plan might be doubling Chris Olave with Kristian Fulton in primary coverage on him while allowing McCreary—who is physical and doesn’t back down—to take on Michael Thomas. The complementary options for New Orleans can also be a problem as new quarterback Derek Carr runs a balanced attack, so the Titans winning on the interior with Jeffery Simmons, Denico Autry, and Teair Tart to crash the pocket and knock Carr off his spot is crucial. Tennessee winning up front offensively isn’t as likely, and I’m a bit concerned about the kind of changes made with Andre Dillard at left tackle and Peter Skoronski at left guard forming a better pass-blocking duo than run-blocking duo for an offense that’s built around Derrick Henry. The Saints are a “sleeper” contender as favorites in the NFC South, and the Superdome should be rocking this weekend.


Winner: New Orleans Saints



Sunday, September 10 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


The underrated contender in the AFC for me has been Pittsburgh (our pick to win the AFC North), but their awesome preseason suddenly has them getting hype from some in the media ahead of Week 1. In general, making a case for the Steelers is easy with Mike Tomlin being a top-shelf head coach and the defense being a force when T.J. Watt is in the lineup, so the development of Kenny Pickett will determine the ceiling of the team in 2023. This week, opening up versus San Francisco will be a challenge with Nick Bosa set to play on the heels of a record-breaking extension, and right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor will probably need some help—perhaps in the form of rookie Darnell Washington, who is a devastating blocker at tight end. The 49ers are obviously in a similar position by needing to provide assistance to Colton McKivitz on the right side with Watt having game-wrecking ability, but I’d expect it to be handled a bit differently by getting the ball into the hands of Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, and the other playmakers. I’m going with the Steelers in a toss-up.


Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers



Sunday, September 10 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


I can’t get a feel on Arizona’s outlook this year, as the consensus is that they are “tanking,” and trading away Isaiah Simmons for a seventh-round pick feeds that narrative—even with the understanding he wasn’t going to be re-signed after the season. On the other hand, new head coach Jonathan Gannon seems sincere in wanting to compete, and it wouldn’t be a total shock if they clawed their way to at least a handful of wins by being chaotic on defense and eventually having Kyler Murray (knee) back on offense. I’d look for the Cardinals to feed James Conner and try hitting ball-hawking rookie cornerback Emmanuel Forbes with a double move to stun the Commanders in the first game of the Josh Harris era, but Washington’s wideouts might not be contained by an unproven cornerback group, and I can’t pick against what is sure to be a wild fanbase/atmosphere on Sunday.


Winner: Washington Commanders



Sunday, September 10 | 4:25 PM ET | FOX


Christian Watson (hamstring) and Romeo Doubs (hamstring) were both out of practice to begin the week (Doubs returned on Thursday), and them missing the opener would really limit the firepower for Jordan Love to begin 2023. If that ended up being the case, Green Bay might play through Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon like they’re trying to break a rushing record on Madden, and the duo combined for 237 yards in last September’s matchup versus Chicago (a 27-10 victory). Defensively, I’m excited about potential shadow coverage for Jaire Alexander versus D.J. Moore, as Chicago’s new receiver stung the Packers for 120 yards and 131 yards in two career meetings, so they’d be wise to take him away with Justin Fields hoping to start hot through the air. Run defense also needs to step up for the Packers, though, and they’ll be counting on Year 2 leaps from former Georgia stars Devonte Wyatt and Quay Walker. Assuming at least Doubs suits up, I’ll go with Green Bay for now.


Winner: Green Bay Packers



Sunday, September 10 | 4:25 PM ET | CBS


Legendary quarterback Peyton Manning gave some interesting insights about the Broncos on the Pat McAfee Show today, and it adds fuel to the belief that Russell Wilson—after slimming down this offseason—might be closer to the player we saw in Seattle. More positives for Denver include a surprise practice return for Jerry Jeudy (hamstring), and Sean Payton said that Javonte Williams is set to have a “big role” as the final step of what’s been a remarkable recovery from a torn ACL suffered last October (at one point, it seemed he might miss several games this season). Las Vegas is another team that might reach high expectations a year later than expected, especially if their impressive play in the trenches carries over from the summer; but Sunday should be a very close game, and the Broncos were much better at home (4-4) and the Raiders much worse on the road (2-7) last season.


Winner: Denver Broncos



Sunday, September 10 | 4:25 PM ET | CBS


Dolphins-Chargers met last year on Sunday Night Football, and it was an intriguing matchup with Brandon Staley having a masterful game plan by limiting Tua Tagovailoa to ten-of-28 passing for 145 yards and one touchdown—which was a somewhat fluky score by Tyreek Hill with cornerback Michael Davis falling in coverage. Historically, Asante Samuel Jr. has matched up with Hill just about as well as anyone possibly can, so the adjustments made by Miami will be interesting. For the LA offense, it’s important to remember that Justin Herbert was not himself last year by playing with injured ribs, and the addition of offensive coordinator Kellen Moore should create plenty of downfield fireworks to Mike Williams and others. Miami not having Jalen Ramsey (knee) puts a lot of pressure on Eli Apple and/or rookie Cam Smith to play alongside Xavien Howard and Kader Kohou, so the Chargers have the advantage for the early-season rematch.


Winner: Los Angeles Chargers



Sunday, September 10 | 4:25 PM ET | CBS


Anyone still questioning Jalen Hurts as a top-level quarterback should listen to Bill Belichick’s comments about him this week, as the all-time great head coach called him “arguably the best player in the league” and said he’s at least in the top three. The progression of how doubters continue to view Hurts reminds me of Josh Allen with people hanging onto their incorrect draft evaluations, but Philly’s quarterback—who previously labeled himself as a “triple threat”—is pinpoint accurate and highly intelligent to pair with the rushing ability. I’d bet on Belichick coming out with a “mush rush” similar to what he did versus Kyler Murray back in 2020, but Hurts should have the answers for whatever is thrown at him, and his former Alabama teammate Mac Jones will be the one with a bigger challenge as New England’s shaky offensive line tries to keep him clean from a ferocious Eagles front.


Winner: Philadelphia Eagles



Sunday, September 10 | 4:25 PM ET | FOX


Seattle’s past two draft classes have been terrific, and it seems to be the kind of drafting hot streak that can push the team to the top of the conference for not only this season, but for years to come. The offense alone has added Kenneth Walker III, Zach Charbonnet, Kenny McIntosh, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jake Bobo, Charles Cross, and Abraham Lucas as players expected to start or contribute in 2023, and second-round rookie Derick Hall is someone I anticipate being a big-game pass rusher before long. The Rams are now in the retooling stage, but Sean McVay returning rather than taking a shot at broadcasting makes it more likely they can compete this year—with the status of Cooper Kupp (hamstring, out this week) being extremely important. Not having Kupp on Sunday will impact the chances of Los Angeles finding a way to win a potential shootout, but running back Kyren Williams is a player to watch this week and beyond.


Winner: Seattle Seahawks



Sunday, September 10 | 8:20 PM ET | NBC


Whether it’s been the opening night or Sunday night game, this is the fourth year in a row that “America’s Team” has been featured on NBC in Week 1, and we’re back to having a classic NFC East matchup on SNF with the division again looking like a powerhouse. The Giants keeping Saquon Barkley, trading for Darren Waller, and adding multiple starters in the draft has them in good position to build on being a surprise playoff team in 2022, but the Cowboys getting former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore was perhaps the most underrated move of the offseason; his presence should make Trevon Diggs even more dangerous, and the Cowboys could have a complete shutdown unit that also creates turnovers at a high rate. Daniel Jones is a no-doubt franchise quarterback that should live up to his contract, so be sure not to overreact to Dallas making things tough on him through the air in the opener. A downfield connection between Dak Prescott and Brandin Cooks hitting might be the difference.


Winner: Dallas Cowboys



Monday, September 11 | 8:15 PM ET | ESPN/ABC/ESPN2


The Bills and Jets split their two divisional matchups last season despite struggles at quarterback for New York—but Aaron Rodgers is now there to lead them, which has understandably sparked a team with Super Bowl aspirations. However, the media excitement about the Jets can be used as motivation for Buffalo, and anyone claiming the window is shut based on a disappointing playoff finish will be mistaken in my opinion; last regular season, the Bills lost three games by point totals of two, three, and three! I’m guessing Josh Allen and company are fine with everyone jumping off the bandwagon and might even prefer that to be the case, and the rookie duo of Dalton Kincaid and O’Cyrus Torrence should immediately make a difference on Monday night. Rodgers coming out sharp and Von Miller (knee) not being available makes it a tall task on the road, but I like Buffalo to win with Allen playing better than he did against the Jets last year.


Winner: Buffalo Bills