Finally, football is back! It's been way too long. The first week of the season is always the hardest to handicap to me. There is no tape on anyone. There is only preseason, offseason acquisitions and mostly misconceptions. To quote the late, great Denny Green some teams are what you think they are, the cream always rises (Spoiler: Packers, Patriots, Cardinals, Seahawks will be good teams. The 49ers don't have enough talent!), but for many teams we'll see what the season brings. That's the joy of football. The first week is like throwing darts at the dartboard, so here goes nothing.
Last season's record against the spread:
Carolina Panthers (-3) at Denver Broncos
I'm not going to put my trust in Trevor Siemian his first NFL start in prime time against a defense like the Panthers. I think the Panthers offense will also be better the year.
Pick: Panthers (Final score: Broncos 21, Panthers 20. Jesse is 1-0)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3) at Atlanta Falcons
Falcons are good at home
Minnesota Vikings (-2) at Tennessee Titans
I think the Vikings will be able to run on the Titans and the Vikings defense will create problems for Tennessee.
Cleveland Browns (+4) at Philadelphia Eagles
Who knows what to expect from the Browns? No one is expecting anything from them and their roster turnover is really extraordinary, but I'm also not any bullish on the Eagles. I think the Eagles have a good defensive line, but really lack play makers on offense. A rookie quarterback (Carson Wentz) making his first start in the NFL no matter how talented is a risky proposition.
Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5) at New York Jets
Bengals should have a bad taste in their mouth from the way last season ended and the Jets could be an ascending team. These are two very well-rounded and talented teams with average NFL quarterbacking, I think the Jets might have the best defensive line in the league and with Sanu and Jones gone they might also have more offensive weapons than the Bengals I'll take the home team
Pick: Jets with the mild upset.
Oakland Raiders (+1) at New Orleans Saints
Is this the year the Raiders finally turn the corner? They are brimming with young talent and traveling to New Orleans in Week 1 and upsetting the Saints could be a big statement for a young team. The problem is the Saints are tough at home. I think both teams have suspect secondaries, and I'll take the more polished quarterback.
San Diego Chargers (+6.5) at Kansas City Chiefs
6.5 points is too much to give a quarterback like Philip Rivers.
Buffalo Bills (+3) at Baltimore Ravens
The Bills are reeling. Suspensions, bad injuries, being the Bills. The Ravens seem poised for a bounce back year.
Chicago Bears (+6.5) at Houston Texans
I don't think the Texans are that much more talented than the Bears. People like to pick on Jay Cutler and he provides plenty to pick at, but he's a quality quarterback capable of huge games.
Green Bay Packers (-5.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Packers are better, but the Jaguars have a lot to prove. The Packers win, but the Jaguars back door cover.
Miami Dolphins (+10.5) at Seattle Seahawks
Seattle is a prohibitive favorite here, but first week of the season I'm just not ready to give such big point spreads until I see what teams actually are this year.
New York Giants (-1) at Dallas Cowboys
As a Giants fan expecting the worst I can find a million scenarios why the Giants will lose this game, but they shouldn't. They are getting a wounded team missing it's franchise quarterback and being replaced by a fourth-round pick making his first start in his career. Yes, he has looked great all preseason, but the Giants should match up well with the Cowboys.
The Cowboys strength is a road-grading offensive line, which the Giants should be able to counter with Snacks, Hankins, and a downhill run stuffing back 7. The Giants also should be able to double team Dez and make Terrance Williams beat them.
On offense the Giants should have enough weapons for an overmatched Cowboys defense missing key players along the defensive line.
The Giants also start Eli Manning, who has been very good vs Dallas in his career. They are also entering the season as one of the league's healthiest teams.
The Giants do have some things to overcome. It is Ben Mcadoo's first NFL game. The Cowboys do have a great offensive line, and the Giants offensive line could be an issue (but should be neutralized by how short-changed the Cowboys defensive line is entering this game)
This is a game the Giants should win, and they should win comfortably.
Will they? We'll find out.
Pick: Logic says Giants should win comfortably.
Detroit Lions (+3.5) at Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck should be much better this year than last year, and I'm not sure yet what to expect from the Lions.
New England Patriots (+6) at Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are a very good team, and the Patriots are super consistent. This point spread feels too high, but the Patriots should be over-matched here. We'll see what Belichick can cook up, but the talented Cardinals vs a Tom Brady-less Patriots team should equal big victory for the Cardinals
I think the Steelers are a very dangerous team this year. I'm waiting to see what the Redskins are. With a year of tape on quarterback Kirk Cousins will he still be as successful?
Los Angeles Rams (+2.5) at San Francisco 49ers
I think the 49ers put forward their best effort in this game as the league's most maligned team. I don't think they'll carry this momentum all year, but expect a good showing in Week 1.