The 2021 NFL welcomed fans back to football with a hell of an opening game that saw the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold off the Dallas Cowboys, 31-29.
It’s nice to start the season off by getting the pick right, but it got a bit dicey there as Dallas covered as 8.5-point underdogs and even took the lead with about a minute-and-a-half left in the game. Tom Brady is as Tom Brady does and he led the Bucs on the drive for the game-winning field goal. There was a highly dubious non-call for pass interference, but there was still plenty for Dallas to leave the game with. Dak Prescott’s return from injury went about as well as the Cowboys and their fans could have hoped for, the hodge-podge offensive line mostly held up, and the young defense forced four turnovers. So, it’s on to the next one with confidence.
If you’re new to my football stuff, my girlfriend and I played in a friendly pick ’em game throughout last season. I finished with a record of 178-76-1 which I think is pretty damn good if I’m not being too modest and she finished 162-91-1 which is very respectable. We both chose the Bucs in the first game, but it’s time for me to take a look at the rest of the matchups in Week 1.
(+235) Pittsburgh Steelers @ (-290) Buffalo Bills (-6.5, o/u 48)
We get a good one to kick off the slate of morning games between two of the AFC’s best. These teams clashed late last season with the #2 seed in the AFC on the line and the Bills came out on top 26-15. I’m a Bills fan, so it’s tough to be completely objective, but I see a Buffalo team that has improved in every area and a Pittsburgh team that hasn’t. They are still led by Ben Roethlisberger at QB and Najee Harris was a nice draft pick, but the offensive line isn’t what it once was and neither is the defense. The Bills are on the rise and I’m rolling with them all the way.
Pick: Bills | Vs Spread: Bills -6.5 | Under: 48
(+175) New York Jets @ (-210) Carolina Panthers (-4, o/u 45)
Sam Darnold and Robby Anderson are reuinted in Carolina and they host their old squad as the new-look Jets come to town. Zach Wilson has shown the glimpses of greatness that led Tony Romo to compare him to Patrick Mahomes, but that’s a lot of pressure to put on New York’s first-year QB. Christian McCaffrey makes his return to the field and should give the Panthers the diversity and potency on offense to get the job done.
Pick: Panthers | Vs Spread: Panthers -4 | Over: 45
(-175) Jacksonville Jaguars @ (+150) Houston Texans (+3, o/u 45.5)
The general consensus has been that, without DeShaun Watson at QB, Houston is the worst team in the league. However, Jacksonville actually was the worst team in the league last season and adding #1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence at QB isn’t a guaranteed fix. They also lost fellow first-rounder Travis Etienne for the season, so the offense isn’t going to be too different just yet. Houston knows their situation and went deep at running back, adding Phillip Lindsay and Mark Ingram II to the backfield. Neither team has a great defense but Tyrod Taylor knows how to manage a game and still gives the Texans mobility at the QB position.
Pick: Texans | Vs Spread: Texans +3 | Over: 45.5
(+160) Arizona Cardinals @ (-140) Tennessee Titans (-3, o/u 53.5)
This one has the makings of a shootout all over it. The Cardinals were supposed to be a playoff team last year but faded hard down the stretch. They added J.J. Watt in free agency to help beef up the defense but also lost long-time secondary stalwart Patrick Peterson. On the other side of the ball, A.J. Green joined the squad after Larry FItzgerald’s departure so we’ll see what the 33-year-old has left after a rough end to his time in Cincinatti. The Titans also added a veteran receiver by the name of Julio Jones who’s coming off yet another injury riddled season. Bud Dupree and Janoris Jenkins joined Tennessee, so that should improve a pretty abysmal defense from last season. Derrick Henry still runs the show at Nissan Stadium and he’ll set the tone.
Pick: Titans | Vs Spread: Titans -3 | Over: 53.5
(+100) Los Angeles Chargers @ (-120) Washington Football Team (-1, o/u 44.5)
Second-year QB Justin Herbert is looking to make a the jump and lead his Chargers to the next stage in their progression. Washington is looking to take the next step as well and they already boast an upper echelon defense. Ryan Fitzpatrick gets one more shot at glory as Washington’s new QB and he’s got some nice weapons to use. He’s not the only one as the Chargers bring their own high-powered offense to town. Both teams can score but I always favor the better defense and that’s Washington.
Pick: Washington | Vs Spread: Washington -1 | Over: 44.5
(+155) Philadelphia Eagles @ (-180) Atlanta Falcons (-3.5, o/u 48.5)
The current Falcons project is coming to an end. Julio Jones got out of town while he still had some miles left, they brought in new head coach Arthur Smith, and Matt Ryan’s best days are behind him. The Eagles are also debuting their rookie head coach Nick Sirianni but he worked with Frank Reich who coached the Philly offense back when they won the Super Bowl. I know the Eags were pretty bad last year but so were the Falcons and I like the upside of the Eags way more. Plus, Atlanta burned me over and over again by blowing 4th quarter leads like it was going out of style.
Pick: Eagles | Vs. Spread: Eagles +3.5 | Over: 48.5
(-160) Seattle Seahawks @ (+140) Indianapolis Colts (+3, o/u 49)
For better or worse, the Carson Wentz era will get underway in Indianapolis on Sunday. T.Y. Hilton is out, so it’s going to be on the younger receiver corps to make it happen. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes is out and so is their new O-line acquisition, Eric Fisher. The Seahawks, on the other hand, don’t have anybody out and they have perennial MVP candidate Russell Wilson under center. Both teams were playoff squads last season, but the Colts have the bigger change to deal with. Seattle should have what they need to eek out a victory even though their defense leaves a lot to be desired.
Pick: Seahawks | Vs Spread: Seahawks -3 | Over: 49
(-160) Minnesota Vikings @ (+140) Cincinatti Bengals (+3, o/u 47)
The Vikings have yet to live up to their potential in the Kirk Cousins era but that’s not for a lack of trying. They get a favorable draw in their opener against a Bengals team that only mustered four wins last season. Joe Burrow is coming back off a season ending injury, so we’ll see what his level of comfort is like. Cincy will be without starting cornerback Trae Waynes so it’ll be a tall order to contain Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, plus Minny has the best player on the field in Dalvin Cook. This should be a fun one though.
Pick: Vikings | Vs Spread: Vikings -3 | Over: 47
(-420) San Francisco 49ers @ (+320) Detroit Lions (+8.5, o/u 46)
The Niners are a little dinged up with WR Jalen Hurd out and CB Emmanuel Moseley and DT Javon Kinlaw doubtful. Jimmy G is back though and he’s the starter, for now at least. San Francisco is still deep at running back and their defense was pretty stout even with all their injuries last season. Jared Goff gets the chance to prove he’s worth his enormous contract as the Detroit chapter of his career begins. The Lions lost their best receiver in the offseason so we’ll see how it goes.
Pick: 49ers | Vs Spread: Niners -8.5 | Under: 46
(+205) Cleveland Browns @ (-250) Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5, o/u 54.5)
Cleveland looks to avenge their divisional playoff loss as they head into Kansas City for their season-opener against the Chiefs. That was the last game the Browns played so they’ve had all off-season to dwell on it. They could have won that game with Mahomes out, but the former MVP will be back for this one. Odell Beckham Jr. is technically back but listed as questionable and Cleveland is far from 100% heading into this matchup. KC is a little banged up too but they still have their key skill players. It’s wishful thinking that the Browns are going to win this one on the road, but we’ll learn a lot about their philosophy either way.
Pick: Chiefs | Vs Spread: Browns +5.5 | Under: 54.5
(+150) Miami Dolphins @ (-175) New England Patriots (-3, o/u 43.5)
Miami had a good run to put together a 10-win season but that all crumbled in a must-win game where they got hammered by the Bills’ starters and reserves. Cam Newton is out of New England and rookie Mac Jones is in at QB, so it’s time to see if that was right decision. This is a tough game to pick for me but Belichick usually has a good scheme to deal with young QBs and I wasn’t super impressed by Tua last season. The Pats also went to town rebuilding in the offseason and they appear to be retooled for another run at the division crown.
Pick: Patriots | Vs Spread: Patriots -3 | Under: 43.5
(-160) Denver Broncos @ (+140) New York Giants (+3, o/u 41.5)
If this game were in Denver I would understand the Broncos being favored, but on the road against a Giants team that’s getting Saquon Barkley back, added Kenny Golladay, and have a pretty good defense, it’s surprising. The Broncos do have some nice receiving weapons and a consistent ground game, and they also added Teddy Bridgewater as their QB but he’s fairly conservative. It’s make or break time for Daniel Jones and this is a game the Giants should win at home.
Pick: Giants | Vs Spread: Giants +3 | Over: 41.5
(-190) Green Bay Packers @ (+160) New Orleans Saints (+3.5, o/u 49.5)
This would have been a premier game had Drew Brees not retired and it still might have been if Michael Thomas were playing. For now it’s Jameis Winston at QB, Alvin Kamara in the backfield, and second-year Marquez Calloway filling in as the top WR. The Aaron Rodgers drama is over in Green Bay, at least for now, and they still have all the stuff that got them to the NFC title game last season. Green Bay should win and cover the small spread easily, but it’ll be interesting to see what the new Saints look like.
Pick: Packers | Vs Spread: Packers -3.5 | Under: 49.5
(+300) Chicago Bears @ (-380) Los Angeles Rams (-7.5, o/u 46.5)
The Rams are the second biggest favorites of the week and if you’ve sen the Bears during preseason you’ll know why. Andy Dalton isn’t going to last the season as Chicago’s starting QB and his exit may be expedited by the Rams defense that ranked 1st overall last season. Matthew Stafford takes over as the QB for Los Angeles and aims to show that he’s better than the dark ages in Detroit have allowed. He’s certainly an upgrade from Jared Goff and he’s got plenty of weaponry around him now. This is a bad matchup for the Bear and I expect the Rams to cruise.
Pick: Rams | Vs Spread: Rams -7.5 | Under: 46.5
(-200) Baltimore Ravens @ (+170) Las Vegas Raiders (+4, o/u 50.5)
Week 1 comes to a close with an odd feature game on Monday Night Football. The Ravens are just trying to make it through another week without losing anyone else to season-ending injuries. They just got done signing every available free-agent running back they could find and with Lamar Jackson under center, their run game isn’t completely dead. Losing Marcus Peters hurts the pass defense but the Raiders haven’t shown me they can exploit it, especially since they invested more in the RB position during the offseason. Baltimore still has the best player on the field and he’s going to touch the ball on (basically) every offensive snap.
Pick: Ravens | Vs Spread: Ravens -4 | Under: 50.5
I’ll get into the power rankings after Week 1, but here’s an overview of the picks:
|Bucs||Bucs -8.5||Under 51.5||Bucs|
|Bills||Bills -6.5||Under 48||Bills|
|Panthers||Panthers -4||Over 45||Panthers|
|Texans||Texans +3||Over 45.5||Jags|
|Titans||Titans -3||Over 53.5||Titans|
|Washington||Wash -1||Over 44.5||Chargers|
|Eags||Eags +3.5||Over 48.5||Falcons|
|Seahawks||Hawks -3||Over 49||Seahawks|
|Vikings||Vikings -3||Over 47||VIkings|
|49ers||Niners -8.5||Under 46||49ers|
|Chiefs||Browns +5.5||Under 54.5||Chiefs|
|Patriots||Pats -3||Under 43.5||Patriots|
|Giants||Giants +3||Over 41.5||Giants|
|Packers||Packers -3||Under 49.5||Packers|
|Rams||Rams -7.5||Under 46.5||Rams|
|Ravens||Ravens -4||Under 50.5||Ravens|
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