The best time of the year has finally arrived. The leaves are falling, the air is getting colder, we have to wake up Green Day at the end of the month and, most importantly, the NFL season is back. The action starts tomorrow on Thursday Night with Kansas City facing Houston, but that’s just the start to a huge Week One.
*Bold indicates winner, first team listed is the home team
Kansas City Chiefs vs Houston Texans
Keeping with the tradition of the Super Bowl winner starting the season with a Thursday Night Game, the Chiefs will take the field looking to pick up where they left off in February. For Houston, they’re looking to start a new offensive era, as the team dealt away franchise cornerstone Deandre Hopkins in the off-season. While Houston was able to “reload” on offense by adding Randall Cobb, Brandin Cooks and David Johnson, their defense still looks, on paper, like a bottom-tier defense. That doesn’t bode well when you look at how explosive their opponent is. Houston’s firepower might be able to keep this game close for a half, but Kansas City will pull away in the second half.
Buffalo Bills vs New York Jets
For the first time in 20 years, the AFC East is wide open. With Tom Brady and others leaving New England, there has never been a better time for a new team to take the throne. All signs point to this being the Buffalo Bills. Sean McDermott has instilled a winning and team-first culture since taking over and this is the year that it will have to come together. Josh Allen will look to take his next step as a quarterback as he will finally have a go-to weapon in Steffon Diggs, who the team traded for in the off-season. The Bills defense will continue to be towards the top of the league, led by star cornerback Tre’Davious White. For the Jets, however, they still float in uncertainty. Sam Darnold hasn’t been able to find his footing since being drafted in 2018, but it’s hardly his fault. Outside of Le’Veon Bell, he hasn’t had much to work with on offense. On top of that, the incompetence of Adam Gase, the head coach, caused the team to trade their best player, Jamal Adams, in the off-season. The Bills are just simply tiers better than the Jets and that will show with the Bills picking up a win.
Minnesota Vikings vs Green Bay Packers
Green Bay is on a collision course with a recession this season. While the Packers posted a 13-3 record last season, a lot can change in one year. Aaron Rodgers is only aging and the team chose to draft backups at the running back and quarterback spots instead of getting Rodgers more firepower on offense. While their defense should continue to perform as they did in 2019, the lack of help for Rodgers throws question marks onto the team. The Vikings, while they did trade away Diggs, will have Dalvin Cook back from injury and drafted Justin Jefferson to replace Diggs on offense. Perhaps the biggest move, however, was the addition of Yannick Ngakoue, who will be paired alongside Danielle Hunter, creating one of, if not the best, pass rusher duos in the league. Even with a new report stating that Hunter’s status for Sunday is doubtful, The Vikings will warp this game to fit their play-style (long drives, run-heavy, play-action, etc) and the Packers won’t be able to get ahead. The Vikings will get their quest for an NFC North title started off on the right foot.
Washington Football Team vs Philadelphia Eagles
There isn’t much to say about this one. While the Eagles are already dealing with injury problems, they’re still a better team than Washington. Washington has started their rebuild and that will be modeled by their play this year. Ron Rivera is starting from scratch in Washington, as seen by the release of players like Darius Guice and Adrian Peterson. Washington will be spending the season trying to evaluate their talent while the Eagles will be trying to win consecutive division titles. The Eagles win this one big led by Carson Wentz and Miles Sanders.
Baltimore Ravens vs Cleveland Browns
This will one of the more interesting games in week one. The Ravens and Browns are both coming off disappointing seasons, although they were different types of disappointment. The Ravens off-season was highlighted by the release of Earl Thomas, who after one season with the team and MANY incidents, was dismissed. The Browns off-season was highlighted by a new coach and the addition of Jack Conklin to shore up the offensive line. These two teams, as is common in the whole AFC North, play each other close and hard just about every time they face. While the Browns have all the talent in the world, the Ravens have more preexisting stability as they haven’t changed much about their time. In an off-season that was plagued with change because of COVID-19, that factors greatly into the result. The Ravens edge out a physical one here against the Browns.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs Indianapolis Colts
Similar to Washington versus Philadelphia, there isn’t much to say here. Jacksonville had a fire sale on all their talent this off-season, fully dedicating themselves to the tank. The Colts, on the other hand, signed Phillip Rivers to a one-year deal to seemingly go all in for the AFC South this season. The Colts are a way better football team than the Jaguars and that’ll show pretty quickly here. The Colts win this one big.
Carolina Panthers vs Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders…that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, huh? The team has finished their move from Oakland to Las Vegas, even though they’re starting the season on the road. The Raiders have room for improvement from last season, but I wouldn’t say they’re ready to make a playoff run yet. The team, though, is still better than the Carolina Panthers, who don’t really seem to have a plan. They signed Teddy Bridgewater in the off-season, but with how many holes exist on this team, he isn’t enough to fix their issues. I think Gruden will have his team amped up for week one while the Panthers will struggle from the weird off-season/training camp. I expect Las Vegas to pull a win out in this one.
Detroit Lions vs Chicago Bears
The biggest headline going into this one was the QB battle transpiring in Chicago. The team traded for Nick Foles to battle with Mitch Trubisky, who has been underwhelming, to say the least. However, the Bears named Mitch Trubisky the starter for week one, which raises the debate of did Trubisky greatly improve or did Foles regress. Either way, the Bears still have to account for Matthew Stafford, who is back from injury. Stafford will have newly-signed Adrian Peterson alongside Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., and TJ Hockenson. I see Stafford having a huge day and leading the Lions to an opening week victory.
Atlanta Falcons vs Seattle Seahawks
Seattle traded for Jamal Adams in the off-season, but that didn’t help replace holes in their offensive and defensive lines. While Russell Wilson is one of the best QBs in the league, he can only do so much by himself. On the other hand, the Atlanta Falcons, with the addition of Todd Gurley, have one of the most loaded offenses in the league, even after losing Austin Hooper to the Browns in free agency. I expect this to be a shootout in which Matt Ryan and company come out on top in.
New England Patriots vs Miami Dolphins
To say the Patriots will look different is an understatement to say the least. The Patriots lost multiple players to free agency, namely Tom Brady. While they did replace him with Cam Newton, the team was plagued with players opting out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns. While they still have defensive pieces like Stephon Gilmore, that might not be enough for a Miami team that is properly rebuilding. The Dolphins used their draft capital and free agency to strategically work on weak spots for the team. Add that to the fact that Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is well known for lighting it up in the month of September, will be starting this game and it makes me pick Miami to win. I will think this will be a nail biter, but I have Miami edging it out.
Cincinnati Bengals vs Los Angeles Chargers
There isn’t much to say about this one. Despite Tyrod Taylor being the starting QB for the Chargers, he still has enough pieces around him to manage the game well enough to not lose it. The Chargers defense added Chris Harris Jr., who will go alongside King and Hayward in the secondary. Despite losing Derwin James, the Chargers will be okay for this game. The Bengals, even with the addition of Joe Burrow, are still a ways away from competing with the better teams of the AFC. The offensive line is a struggle point for the Bengals and when you look at the defensive line they’ll be going against, it doesn’t seem like good news. I think the Chargers soundly win this game.
San Francisco 49ers vs Arizona Cardinals
This is probably the biggest upset that I’m predicting for week one. The 49ers were just in the Super Bowl and didn’t lose much in the off-season. They traded away Deforest Buckner, however, they used the first round pick they got in the trade to draft his replacement. With that said, they’re still dealing with the same issues as last year: injuries at the WR position and lack of talent in the secondary. That doesn’t exactly bode well for them considering that the Cardinals, with the acquisition of Deandre Hopkins, have one of the best WR corps in the league with Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald and Hopkins. Add those three with second-year QB Kyler Murray and Kenyan Drake, who had a resurgence last season, and it has all the components of an upset. It seems that teams that lost the Super Bowl find themselves in a slump to start the next season and I don’t think that’s out of the picture here. I don’t think Arizona blows them out of the water. Instead, they’ll do just enough to get the win.
New Orleans Saints vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This was the hardest game to predict for week one. Tampa Bay made big moves this off-season in the form of adding Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Leonard Fournette. These weapons, along with OJ Howard, Chris Godwin, and Mike Evans makes this, arguably, the best offense in the NFL and the best offensive cast that Tom Brady has ever had. On the defensive side of things, their secondary is suspect, but they held the best run defense in the league last year and have a defensive line that consists of Vita Vea, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Shaquil Barrett, who led the NFL in sacks last year. This team is very well rounded, although the weird off-season might impact their chemistry. The Saints, on the other hand, return just about the same cast from last year. They have Drew Brees, who is making one last run, along with Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, who is nearing an extension with the team. On the defensive side of the ball, Cameron Jordan is showing no signs of slowing down. Even with that said, I think Brady and company will out-duel New Orleans in a shootout for the ages.
Los Angeles Rams vs Dallas Cowboys
I don’t think this game will be close or entertaining. The Rams are a shell of the team that found themselves in a Super Bowl just two years ago and I think it’ll show this game. Outside of Donald and Ramsey, the defense doesn’t offer much hope anywhere else. The offense is serviceable, depending on how the offensive line plays. Going against the Dallas front seven, though? I don’t think the Rams line will hold up. I think by the second half Dallas will take control of this one, giving Cowboys fans false hope that this year is finally “their year”.
New York Giants vs Pittsburgh Steelers
This game is going to get ugly very quickly. The Steelers will have Big Ben back after he got injured last season and missed the majority of the season. Despite the fact that they didn’t have Big Ben, the team was still fighting for a playoff spot the whole season. Now that Ben is back? It’s safe to say they’ll be back contending for their division. They’ll have Ben back for their offense and they’ll still carry one of, if not the best, defenses in the league. The Giants, though? They’re still in the middle of a painful rebuild. They have Darius Slayton, Daniel Jones, and Barkley, but that won’t be enough for this Pittsburgh defense. Pittsburgh will feast on the terrible offensive line that New York has and Ben will carve up the pitiful defense that New York has. Pittsburgh wins this one big time.
Denver Broncos vs Tennessee Titans
Before the news about Von Miller’s injury came out, this game was a coin toss when trying to decide a winner. The Broncos, while losing Chris Harris Jr. in the off-season, still have a nice safety duo and would’ve been able to line up a three-man front of Bradley Chubb, Jurrell Casey, and Von Miller. All three of those men would require more than single-attention and that really would’ve benefited them, as the Titans have a large question mark at right tackle, who would’ve been assigned Von Miller for the night. However, with Miller’s injury, this game is easier to call. The Titans have the most physical offense in the league, which is spearheaded by Derrick Henry, but also contains Corey Davis, Ryan Tannehill, AJ Brown, and Jonnu Smith, who all have a tendency to put a shoulder down and attempt to run through whatever gets in their way. Add to the fact that the Titans finalized a deal with Jadeveon Clowney, who will go alongside Jeffery Simmons, DaQuan Jones, and Harold Landry, and it doesn’t look good for Denver’s offensive line. Denver has a very quick team from their RB to TE to WR rooms, but that won’t mean much if second-year QB Drew Lock is running for his life the whole night. This game will be close headed into the fourth, but the Titans will end up pulling away at the end.