Score predictions and analysis for all 16 week one matchups
We did it. After months of off-season tropes and headlines saying so and so is in the best shape of their life and that just about every player and team in the league is ready to turn the corner, we have made it to the eve of the NFL season. What better way to celebrate than to preview and predict each week one game?
If I predict your team to lose, never fear, because my predictions are almost never right. If I predict your team to win, I apologize for giving them the kiss of death. Reminder: if I’m wrong and you want to rub it in my face, my e-mail address is on our website.
Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The defending champion Buccaneers welcome the Hard Knocks darling Cowboys to town in a spicy, Thursday night matchup to open the season. Reports say Dallas’ $160 million dollar man Dak Prescott is all-systems-go. After missing 11 games last season and not taking a snap in the preseason, we may see some rust.
I think the Bucs defense keeps the mega-talented Dallas offense at bay, while Tom Brady and the vaunted passing attack picks up where they left off after last year’s Super Bowl run.
Score – Bucs: 32, Cowboys: 23
Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts
This Colts’s roster nearly took down the 13-win Buffalo Bills on the road in the playoffs last season with Philip Rivers at the helm. If Carson Wentz can return to form after an abysmal 2020 season, Indy’s ceiling is through the roof.
However, picking against Russell Wilson never tends to be a good idea. D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett should fly around the Lucas Oil Stadium turf. With so many questions left to be answered for the Colts, Seattle starts the season 1-0.
Score Seahawks: 29, Colts: 23
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans
Is anyone outside of Jaguar and Texan fans interested in watching this game? Heck, are the fans of the teams even interested in watching? First overall pick Trevor Lawrence offers some intrigue, but both these teams seem destined for double digit loss seasons once again.
Could Tyrod Taylor ball out and Houston play inspired after they were laughed at all off-season? Perhaps, but it seems unlikely. I’m picking the Jags to win in Urban Meyer’s NFL debut only because I don’t know if I could sleep for the next week having picked the Texans.
Score – Jaguars: 17, Texans: 13
Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons
The battle of the birds. How will first-year head coach Arthur Smith and the Falcons offense look in the post-Julio Jones era? If Smith could make Ryan Tannehill, a top-10 quarterback, giving him Matt Ryan, Calvin Ridley and fourth overall pick Kyle Pitts, should at least mean Atlanta will score points.
On the flipside, how high should expectations be for Jalen Hurts and rookie head coach Nick Sirianni in Philadelphia? Hurts started just four games in 2020, and while he flashed some talent, we still don’t know if he’s the answer for quarterback. I’m taking the dirty birds to win a sloppy one.
Score – Falcons: 30, Eagles: 26
Los Angeles Chargers at Washington Redskins
Another fun cross-conference matchup between two teams with realistic playoff hopes. Second-year quarterback Justin Hebert seems primed to enter the NFL’s Elite in year two, and who knows maybe this is the year the Chargers finally stay healthy and unlock the full potential of their roster.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Washington’s strong front seven look to beat up and win a poor division to make the playoff for the second straight year. I am expecting a relatively low scoring, ugly affair that comes down to the final minute. Derwin James secures the game-winning interception for the Bolts.
Score – Chargers: 20, Redskins: 14
Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills
What do we make of the Steelers this year? They won 12 games in 2020, have an elite defense and a head coach that has yet to have a losing season. However, Ben Roethlisberger looked old near the end of last year and the issues on the offense line still haven’t been fixed.
On the flipside, the Bills looked primed for another deep playoff run. If Josh Allen doesn’t take a step back after his MVP-caliber season, Buffalo should roll to another double digit plus win season, starting in week one.
Score – Bills: 34, Steelers: 21
San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions
Will the Lions be able to bite enough kneecaps to steal a week one upset? Unlikely, but it will be interesting to see how Jared Goff looks during life after Sean McVay.
If the 49ers can stay relatively healthy this season they could be legit Super Bowl contenders coming out of the NFC, but that is a massive “if”. Another looming topic around the Niners is when Trey Lance is going to be handed the keys. Sure, the expectations are Kyle Shanahan will use Lance on a few plays or drives each week, but how long before Lance replaces Jimmy Garoppolo for good? It won’t be week two after Garoppolo leads San Francisco to a week one win.
Score – 49ers: 27, Lions: 16
Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals
The Vikings defense may quietly go from one of the NFL’s worst to the NFL’s best this season if they can stay relatively healthy. The defensive line and defensive back groups both consist of nearly all new and improved starters. Their offensive depth at seemingly every position may be an issue, but a top-10 finish should be within reach.
The Bengals are likely to be, well, the Bengals once again. Time will tell if Joe Burrow truly trusts his knee, but even if he does, the Bengals have not done enough to keep him upright consistently enough for them to compete in a brutal AFC North.
Score – Vikings: 31, Bengals: 20
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs
One of the juicier matchups in the opening slate of games: the Chiefs and Browns enter this season with legitimate Super Bowl hopes.
Patrick Mahomes should breeze to another MVP-like performance, while the Browns’s fate continues to hinge on if Baker Mayfield can make the leap and elevate instead of relying on his elite supporting cast. Browns keep it close, but Kansas City pulls away late.
Score – Chiefs: 34, Browns: 27
New York Jets at Carolina Panthers
The Sam Darnold revenge game. Sure, neither of these teams are likely to make the post-season, but this game isn’t without decent storylines. Will Zach Wilson outperform the man he was brought in to replace? Or perhaps Darnold will be the latest player to improve after moving on from Adam Gase.
I’ll take head coach Matt Rhule and what could be a sneaky good Panthers defense to win, but Wilson shows flashes of why he was the number two overall pick.
Score – Panthers: 23, Jets: 20
Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans
Offensive guru Arthur Smith is gone, so it will be interesting to see how this affects Ryan Tannehill’s career resurgence. Bringing Julio Jones will help solidify what’s been an elite offense the last two years, but the questions regarding the defensive line continue to linger in Tennessee.
Kliff Kingsbury and Cardinal’s general manager Steve Keim enter the season on the hot seat, desperately needing contributions from their veteran signings of A.J. Green and J.J. Watt as well as 2020 first-round pick Isaiah Simmons. However, a Josh Allen-type jump from Kyler Murray may be enough to cover some of their warts. I like Arizona to pull off the week one upset.
Score – Cardinals: 27, Titans: 24
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
This could be one of week one’s most important matchups. Not only are these two division rivals, if the Bills roll to another AFC East title, this game could decide which team secures a wild-card spot down the road in the loaded AFC.
If Mac Jones balls out and looks better than Tua Tagovailoa it might be a long week for Dolphins fans. I am not betting against Bill Belichick at home against a second-year quarterback.
Score – Patriots: 20, Dolphins: 13
Denver Broncos at New York Giants
If you enjoy defensive slugfests, this might be the game for you. The Giants defensive unit looked excellent for stretches last season, and while Teddy Bridgewater may not keep defensive coordinators up at night, the rest of the Broncos offensive personnel should.
Despite Saquon Barkley not yet being fully healthy, I expect Daniel Jones to make enough plays with his legs late to start the Giants season off on the right note.
Score – Giants: 20, Broncos: 19
Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints
Sure, the Saints will still be one of best-coached teams in football, and sure Jameis Winston may unlock a deep passing attack that was missing with Drew Brees, but Aaron Rodgers and the Packers remain one of the best teams in the NFC and should take care of business on the road.
Losing all-pro tackle David Bakhtiari hurts, but the Packers plug in and play offensive lineman just as good as any team in the league. Davante Adams and Aaron Jones have big days in route to a Green Bay win.
Score – Packers: 34, Saints: 24
Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are a brutal first matchup for rookie quarterback Justin Fields. If Fields can — *checks notes* — correction, Andy Dalton is starting this game over Fields. Let me restart. For some reason the Bears are not starting their rookie quarterback of the future in week one, opting to let Andy Dalton lead them towards defeat.
In all seriousness, the Rams roster is more talented than the Bears, and seeing how Mathew Stafford fairs with the best teams he’s had around him in his career will be one of the NFL’s top stories all season. Rams win big.
Score – Rams: 33, Bears: 17
Baltimore Ravens at Las Vegas Raiders:
Are Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden the right pair to lead the Raiders back into prominence? This year should be telling. Yes, the offensive should be able to score points again, but if Henry Ruggs doesn’t develop into the number one receiver he was drafted to be, he would be the latest in first round disappointments for Las Vegas, and whispers regarding Mayock’s job security as well as Gruden’s ability to develop talent will get louder and louder.
Baltimore and NFL fans want to see if Lamar Jackson can make that next step as an NFL passer. Yes, Lamar’s talent and confidence in himself have been, and will continue to be, enough to win the Ravens over 10 games (including this one) a year for the foreseeable future. However, if Jackson takes a lateral step in his development as a passer, fans may begin wonder if he’ll ever be able to go toe-to-toe with Mahomes and Allen in the postseason.
Score – Ravens: 32, Raiders: 22
There you have it. All 16 week one games previewed and picked. A friendly reminder to fans of teams that lose in week one: The Jacksonville Jaguars won week one last season. They finished 1-15. So remember, it’s a long season. So kick back, scream at your TV and enjoy the ride.