After tying for the No. 1 record (185-82) for the 2017 season, my NFL game picks are back and better than ever, as this year, I will also have against-the-spread picks listed at the bottom of the article. And while they are free for now, it could eventually be another premium feature of Fantasy Consigliere.
ATL @ PHI | THU 8:20 PM ET | NBC
Lincoln Financial Field will be rocking tonight in a playoff rematch between the Eagles and Falcons, and simply raising the first Super Bowl banner in franchise history should give Philly a huge boost, as the atmosphere in the stadium will make things difficult on Matt Ryan all game. In January, Jim Schwartz’s defense held Atlanta to just ten points, including none in the second half of a 15-10 victory, and the defense arguably got even better up front in the offseason. However, the Falcons also got better on both sides of the ball, and rookie wideout Calvin Ridley adds a dimension to the offense that the Eagles didn’t have to worry about in last season’s Divisional Round; plus, they could also struggle to contain Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in the receiving game with top cover linebacker Nigel Bradham suspended. Led by a white-hot Nick Foles, Philadelphia obviously won it all last year with key players out, but I’m going with Atlanta in a close game since the defending champs are missing Carson Wentz, Alshon Jeffery, and Bradham against an elite NFC opponent that’s had months to prepare an offensive gameplan.
Winner: Atlanta Falcons
BUF @ BAL | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Everyone who read my NFL Draft content knows that I think Josh Allen is going to be a superstar, and it could come a lot sooner than people expect. That said, Buffalo made the right move going with Nathan Peterson to start the year because a) he earned it after a strong preseason, and b) Allen starting his career @ BAL, v LAC, and @ MIN could be a confidence drainer for a rookie that already has a lot of vocal detractors. On Sunday, the Ravens won’t have cornerback Jimmy Smith (suspension), but they are still loaded at the position with Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, and Tavon Young. Baltimore’s opportunistic defense will try to rattle Peterman early, and it won’t matter if he, Allen, or Jim Kelly in his prime was under center if the Bills block on the interior like the did in August. Sean McDermott’s defense will have to keep a driven Joe Flacco and new-look Ravens offense in check to have a chance on the road.
Winner: Baltimore Ravens
JAX @ NYG | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
With All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey and All-Pro receiver Odell Beckham Jr. set to do battle this weekend, it wouldn’t be surprising to see anything from an all-out fist fight on the field, to a temper tantrum on the sideline, to crying on the bench—all of which have unbelievably happened to the emotional stars. OBJ even went full Andy Bernard before, and Ramsey’s comments to GQ over the summer will put a huge target on his back all season long, starting this week. New York’s success could come down to whether or not the rebuilt offensive line can open holes for Saquon Barkley in his NFL debut, but they will also have an improved defense with the switch to a 3-4 under coordinator James Bettcher. I don’t know who will win the individual matchup between Beckham and Ramsey, but I do like the Giants as a home underdog.
Winner: New York Giants
TB @ NO | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
Teams haven’t even stepped on the field yet (and there are surprise contenders every year), but I think the Buccaneers are the “favorite” for the No. 1 overall pick in 2019, which could lead to the end of Jameis Winston’s time in Tampa Bay—and perhaps the NFL in general thanks to his off-field transgressions. For now, Ryan Fitzpatrick will try to keep the ship afloat with Winston suspended, and he has all the ammunition he needs to put up points and potentially keep the job all season. This week, though, New Orleans is a tough matchup in the Superdome, and their 31-24 loss to Tampa Bay on New Year’s Eve should keep them from sleepwalking to an upset this week. It’s worth noting that in two meetings last year, the Saints held the Bucs to a combined 23 points over seven quarters before allowing 18 points in the final 15 minutes of the regular season, and I expect the former is a better indicator for this weekend.
Winner: New Orleans Saints
HOU @ NE | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
In New England’s 36-33 shootout victory last year, Tom Brady picked apart Houston’s full-strength defense for 378 yards and five scores, including the game-winning touchdown strike with 23 seconds left in the game. Deshaun Watson also held his own in just his second career start with 301 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions, which was very impressive considering the success Bill Belichick has historically had against rookie signal-callers. A year later, we could get another high-scoring affair in Foxborough, but Belichick—and all defensive coaches around the league—should be more prepared for Watson after an entire offseason to study Watson and Bill O’Brien’s dynamic offense. That’s not to say Watson isn’t the real deal (I think he is), but going toe-to-toe with Brady on his home field might not be as close this time around, especially if the Patriots carry their defensive improvements into the regular season. Super Bowl LII was probably the first and last time that I pick against the legendary head coach and quarterback combination.
Winner: New England Patriots
SF @ MIN | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
Will the undefeated record of Jimmy Garoppolo finally fall this weekend? Going into Minnesota is perhaps the worst possible matchup to start the year, and I’m not sure San Francisco has the offensive personnel to consistently move the ball against a star-studded defense. The Vikings have seemed to allow the occasional deep ball, though, so perhaps Marquise Goodwin can get behind the defense or stretch the field enough for Pierre Garcon and George Kittle to do damage over the middle. On the other side of the ball, Richard Sherman will be tested early and often by Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, and the running back duo of Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray are looking to make their claim as the best backfield duo in the league with Reuben Foster—arguably the best player the 49ers have—suspended (who isn’t suspended this week?). Overall, I think this will be a great game, but Mike Zimmer’s squad should come out on top if they can protect Kirk Cousins.
Winner: Minnesota Vikings
TEN @ MIA | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
I seem to be alone, but I actually like the moves Miami made this offseason by bringing in veterans Danny Amendola, Josh Sitton, and Frank Gore to bolster a franchise that’s looking to both add talent and create a winning culture. Remember, just two years ago the Dolphins were in the postseason, and they think they could get there again with Ryan Tannehill healthy. However, the biggest weakness (run defense) for Miami happens to play to the strength of Tennessee with Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis, and it could be a long day if the Titans establish the run early to set up play-action passes for Marcus Mariota. Plus, the Dolphins don’t have the size at receiver with DeVante Parker (finger) out to take advantage of Malcolm Butler and Adoree’ Jackson on the outside. Look for Mike Vrabel to pickup a win to start his head-coaching career.
Winner: Tennessee Titans
CIN @ IND | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Marvin Lewis is still in Cincinnati despite zero playoff wins in 15 seasons, but there’s something to be said about the loyalty of the franchise by sticking with him if they feel he’s the right man for the job. For this week, the Bengals offense is set up for success against one of the worst defenses in the league (on paper at least), and Andy Dalton should be confident after a really solid preseason. Simply put, I just don’t think Indy has the players to contain A.J. Green, Joe Mixon, and others, so Andrew Luck might need to put up points this week and push the ball downfield, which we haven’t seen since the 2016 season. This is probably the game I’m struggling with the most for Week 1, but the slight uncertainty about Luck not being quite himself gives the edge to Cincinnati.
Winner: Cincinnati Bengals
PIT @ CLE | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Well, the Le’Veon Bell situation went south in a hurry, and I’m not sure we will see one of the league’s best offensive weapons before the middle of November, which is when he will need to report in order to be eligible for free agency after the season. Fortunately for Pittsburgh, 2017 third-round pick James Conner looks ready to carry the load, and the team certainly isn’t lacking playmakers with Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and James Washington at receiver. Cleveland gave them a battle last year in the season opener, and a Hard Knocks bump seems to have people jumping on the bandwagon; but while the Browns have talent, they had talent in 2016 and 2017, too, and they went 1-31. I expect a game since Cleveland added some impact talent, but the Steelers sound like they want to prove they don’t need Le’Veon to be successful.
Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers
KC @ LAC | SUN 4:05 PM ET | CBS
The Chiefs really have the Chargers’ number over the past few years, as they’ve won all eight of their meetings since 2014. Over that span, Philip Rivers has struggled mightily with 239 yards per game and a 6:13 touchdown-interception ratio, including three turnovers in both losses last season. However, if Eric Berry (heel) is inactive, this could be a prime opportunity for Los Angeles to break out of their slump, as Kansas City’s defense—in all aspects—looks mediocre at best, and that’s probably being generous. This could be the first of many shootouts for the Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes (AKA “Showtime”) under center, but they better hope LA doesn’t jump out to a lead to allow Joey Bosa (who is questionable with a foot injury) and Melvin Ingram to get after the quarterback.
Winner: Los Angeles Chargers
SEA @ DEN | SUN 4:25 PM ET | FOX
Along with Falcons-Eagles and Bengals-Colts, Seattle traveling to Denver for a Super Bowl XLVIII rematch is the game I’m least confident about on the Week 1 slate. The Seahawks think they can have a quick rebuild with Russell Wilson leading the way, but they didn’t do much to address the offensive line in the offseason, and the group will be tested on Sunday against Von Miller and fifth-overall pick Bradley Chubb. The Broncos, on the other hand, could have traded up for Sam Darnold or taken Josh Allen/Josh Rosen if they wanted, but Case Keenum is clearly their guy at quarterback, and he has a bunch of weapons and what projects to be a strong running game supporting him, which was also the case in Minnesota. Nevertheless, I’m taking the team with the clear edge at quarterback and head coach.
Winner: Seattle Seahawks
DAL @ CAR | SUN 4:25 PM ET | FOX
Fans can usually expect a competitive contest for “America’s Game of the Week”, and there’s no reason to believe that won’t be the case when the Cowboys travel to Carolina for the season opener. Dallas could have a difficult time establishing the run with All-Pro center Travis Frederick out against one of the league’s best defensive fronts, so this could be an opportunity for Dak Prescott to attack a shaky secondary through the air. I think the Panthers might have made the most underrated move of the offseason by getting Norv Turner, though, and Christian McCaffrey should shine as a workhorse in the backfield, including this week against a defense that will struggle to contain him both on the ground and as a receiver.
Winner: Carolina Panthers
WAS @ ARI | SUN 4: 25 PM ET | FOX
I’m high on both the Redskins and Cardinals this year because they acquired the best two quarterback options on the market—Alex Smith and Sam Bradford, respectively—in my opinion. Arizona forced 16 turnovers in their first three preseason games (i.e. when the starters played some) last month, so it will be fun to watch a chess match between the risk-averse Smith and Steve Wilks’ playmaking defense. With the pinpoint, quick-thinking Bradford at the controls on the other side of the field, this should be a really crisp, well-played matchup between two teams that could both surprise as contenders. I expect big games out of both David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald to help the Cardinals start the year with a victory
Winner: Arizona Cardinals
CHI @ GB | SUN 8:20 PM ET | NBC
I’m not sure if a team has ever added two impact linebackers in a single offseason like Chicago has, as Khalil Mack is on his way to becoming a Hall of Famer, while Roquan Smith was one of my favorite players in the draft and has the makings of a future All-Pro. Even before trading for Mack, I thought the Bears would have one of the league’s top defenses, so they could be flat-out scary. That said, we didn’t see much of the first-team offense last month, so it might take a little bit to click heading into Lambeau Field for a primetime clash with the Packers. The rookie cornerback duo of Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson could be enough to boost the Green Bay back into the NFC’s elite, so Mitchell Trubisky needs to be careful with the ball on Sunday night. There will almost certainly be an upset this week, and it could be Bears-Packers, but I’m going with Aaron Rodgers at home.
Winner: Green Bay Packers
NYJ @ DET | MON 7:10 PM ET | ESPN
Detroit might be the biggest unknown in the league right now, as Matt Patricia’s squad looked a bit lost in preseason action, which could be a sign of things to come or mean absolutely nothing since it was just the preseason. I’m betting on the latter, and we should find out soon with a rookie quarterback—the youngest to start in the modern era—coming to Ford Field, as the Lions could be in trouble if Sam Darnold lights them up in his debut. That probably won’t be the case with the USC product expected to play conservatively, but he might need to rip it to keep up with Matthew Stafford’s arm and a dangerous trio of wide receivers for Detroit. Whether or not Kerryon Johnson is featured (I hope he is as a football fan), the Lions should be able to get a win on Monday Night Football.
Winner: Detroit Lions
LAR @ OAK | MON 10:20 PM ET | ESPN
No one is giving Jon Gruden a chance against his former pupil’s team (or in general, really), but don’t be shocked if the teacher has a few tricks up his sleeve to close out Week 1. As I’ve said before, Gruden has been biding his time for a decade, and he’s coaching again to win football games, not to be anyone’s friend or appease the media. A hot start by Derek Carr and the Oakland offense could be enough to cause the Rams to lose their cool (remember when Aaron Donald got ejected in Week 1 of the 2016 season against Chip Kelly’s 49ers?), and a loss in general could bring upon comparisons to the 2011 dream team in Philadelphia. All that said, I think Sean McVay and Wade Phillips can keep everyone together through potential trials and tribulations, and the Rams should win a close one—hopefully before 2 AM ET—behind their star duo of Jared Goff and Todd Gurley.
Winner: Los Angeles Rams
Falcons (+1) @ Eagles
Bills @ Ravens (-7.5)
Jaguars @ Giants (+3)
Buccaneers @ Saints (-9.5)
Texans @ Patriots (-6)
49ers @ Vikings (-6.5)
Titans (-1.5) @ Dolphins
Bengals (+3) @ Colts
Steelers (-4) @ Browns
Chiefs @ Chargers (-3)
Seahawks (+2.5) @ Broncos
Cowboys @ Panthers (-3)
Redskins @ Cardinals (-1.5)
Bears (+7.5) @ Packers
Jets (+6.5) @ Lions
Rams @ Raiders (+4)
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