The wait is finally over. When kickoff arrives in New England on September 07, it will have been 214 days since the New England Patriots made history and overcame a 28-2 deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in the first overtime game in Super Bowl history. The Patriots will begin their journey to repeat and win their third Super Bowl in four years, something that was last done when the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl in the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons. Their first challenge will be a home game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
I think the thing I like about the NFL over all the other sports is the unpredictability of the NFL season. In the NBA, we knew that Golden State and Cleveland were going to play in the NBA Finals last year in September and while there are Cinderella stories in other sports, I do not think there is a sport that is as wide open as the NFL. Nobody thought the Atlanta Falcons would have a historic offense and would destroy teams like Seattle and Green Bay in the NFC playoffs. Nobody thought that the Dallas Cowboys would have the top seed in the NFC. There is just something special about the unpredictability of the NFL season.
Without further delay, here are my picks for Week 1. Each game I assign a number 1-15. The game I assign a 15 is the game that I most confident in the winner. The game I assign a one is the game that I am least confident in that week. At the end of the article, I will give you my recommendations for an eliminator pick and select a team to use this week. The next week I will give you the score that I compiled in the confidence picks. I will also keep a running tally of my record in both the eliminator pick and all of the games combined. I also will not pick the same team twice for the eliminator pick.
My record last week year was (162-92-2) and I was (15-2) with my eliminator picks. I do not pick games against the spread or project over and under totals. Our site is not a gambling site and we do not pretend to be a gambling site. I have had people who need to pick scores of games for their confidence picks, which I am happy to do. If the confidence numbers or picks do not help you enough, leave your questions in the comment section and I will answer them to the best of my ability.
Top 4 Games
In a previous publication of this article, I picked my Top 5 games, but due to Hurricane Irma, one of the games I picked, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Miami Dolphins was moved to Week 11. That is a huge blow to these teams, as they will now have to play 16 straight games, instead of having a bye week late in the season. Next week, I will have my Top 5 games of the week.
1) Kansas City Chiefs (0-0) at New England Patriots (0-0) – New England Patriots QB Tom Brady is about as unbeatable at home as any quarterback in the history of the NFL. In 118 games, Brady is (101-17) and he has 220 career touchdowns passes, just 59 interceptions and a QB rating of 98.1. To put into perspective how many home wins Brady has been able to win over the years, San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers has been a starter in the NFL since 2006 and he has won 97 games in all NFL stadiums.
I do not think Kansas City is going to be able to into New England and beat a Patriots team that was (14-2) and is probably better with the additions they made in free agency last year. This is a team that won 14 games last year, despite Brady being suspended for four games and TE Rob Gronkowski missing eight games. They were also able to trade for New Orleans Saints WR Brandin Cooks and signed Buffalo Bills CB Stephon Gilmore in free agency. I like the Patriots to open the season with a win. Winner: New England (11)
2) Oakland Raiders (0-0) at Tennessee Titans (0-0) – This is one of the games I am the most excited to watch, because of the difference in the two teams. The Titans are one of the best teams in the NFL at running the football, they were third in rushing yards gained and the Oakland Raiders were 23rd against the run. However, the Titans were just 30th against the pass last year and the Raiders ranked 13th in passing yards gained and that was with Raiders QB Derek Carr missing Week 17 last year.
I like the Titans in this game. The Raiders were just (4-2) last year when they failed to run for 100 yards in a game and they won those four games by a combined 14 points. The Tennessee Titans were second against the run last year and I think the Raiders are really going to struggle to run the ball in this game. The Titans were one of the most improved teams in the NFL last year and they improved this off-season. I think the Titans open the season with an impressive home win against the Raiders. Winner: Tennessee (4)
3) Seattle Seahawks (0-0) at Green Bay Packers (0-0) – This could be a preview of the NFC Championship Game, it was in the 2014 season and both teams played in the Divisional Round in 2015 and 2016. The Seahawks have been a dominant team since 2012, because of a defense that has finished in the Top-5 in both points allowed and yards allowed every year since 2012. The Packers have been a dominant team, thanks to an offense that has been mostly elite since QB Aaron Rodgers became the starter in 2008. They were fourth in points scored and eight in yards gained last year and Rodgers threw a league leading 40 touchdown passes and seven interceptions.
I like the Seahawks in this game. Green Bay has not been a team that races out of the gates in recent years. Last year, they started the season (4-6) before they won their last six regular season games and other than a (6-0) start in 2015, they have usually been a team that is .500 after the first four games of the year. Rodgers is (93-49) as a NFL starter, but he is just (19-11) in September, his only month where he wins less frequently is November, when he is (19-18). I think the Legion of Boom will be ready to play and the Seahawks win a close game in Green Bay behind QB Russell Wilson‘s clutch play. Winner: Seattle (5)
4) New York Giants (0-0) at Dallas Cowboys (0-0) – The Dallas Cowboys were one of the best stories in the NFL last year. They were led by rookie QB Dak Prescott and rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott on offense, but having two rookies did nothing to prevent them from winning a lot of games. Elliott finished the season with a league-leading 1,631 yards rushing and Prescott set a rookie record with a 104.9 QB rating. They won 13 games and earned the Top-Seed in the NFC, losing to Green Bay 34-31 in the NFC Divisional Round. The one team they were unable to beat last year was the New York Giants. They lost 20-19 at home in Week 1 and even when the Cowboys were on an 11-game winning streak, that streak was snapped by a 10-7 loss in New York.
The Giants defense had the recipe for stopping the Cowboys and that loss was with Elliott playing on offense. I think Dallas will reverse that trend this year for two reasons. One, with Elliott likely to be suspended for the next six games, he should see a 20-25 carry workload in this game and be able to help control the clock for the Cowboys. Second, with WR Odell Beckham Jr. battling an ankle injury and not practicing this week, it is likely he is on a snap count, a decoy or does not play. That could mean a lot of punts and help the Cowboys control the clock. The Giants are going to have a tough time winning on the road without their best offensive player. Due to all the uncertainty surrounding Beckham Jr., I would not put a ton of points on this pick. It could be a decoy and if he is healthier than what the Giants are disclosing, he could make a mess of a Dallas D that has a ton of new pieces on defense. Winner: Dallas Cowboys (2)
5) New York Jets (0-0) at Buffalo Bills (0-0) – This is a sneaky suicide pick for the opener, because I cannot think of another game I would use the Bills as an eliminator pick and the Jets are among the worst offenses in the last 20 years of NFL competition. I think they struggle to move the ball against the Bills D and Buffalo opens the 2017 season with a win. Winner: Buffalo (13)
6) Atlanta Falcons (0-0) at Chicago Bears (0-0) – The Falcons try to overcome a Super Bowl hangover in 2017 and the Chicago Bears are an excellent opponent to start the season with a bang. Look for QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones to pick up where they left off in 2016 against one of the worst rosters in the league. Winner: Atlanta (12)
7) Baltimore Ravens (0-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-0) – I think the Ravens have one of the best defenses in the NFL and their pass rush will cause a lot of problems for a bad Cincinnati offensive line, but I also think the Ravens have an inept offense that will not be able to move the ball against Cincinnati. I will take the Ravens to win a low-scoring game, their defense will be the best unit on the field. Winner: Baltimore (3)
8) Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) at Cleveland Browns (0-0) – Pittsburgh was not a very good road team, but QB Ben Roethlisberger is (21-2) in his career against the Browns. I think the Browns will be an improved team this year, but they do not have the offensive firepower to beat a team like Pittsburgh, whose defense is also on the ascent and should give the Browns offense fits that will be starting rookie QB DeShone Kizer. Winner: Pittsburgh (15)
9) Arizona Cardinals (0-0) at Detroit Lions (0-0) – This has a potential to be a very high scoring game, as Lions QB Matthew Stafford and Cardinals QB Carson Palmer are both capable of generating a ton of offense. I like the Cardinals D a little better and Cardinals RB David Johnson could be the difference maker in a game that figures to see a lot of points. The only thing that is giving me pause from putting a lot of points on Arizona is that I remember how bad they were on the road last year. Winner: Arizona (10)
10) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0) at Houston Texans (0-0) – I want to believe in the Jaguars and their defense will give Houston fits, but the Texans were (7-1) at home last year with a bad offense and no DE J.J. Watt. I do not think QB Tom Savage will score a ton of points against the Jaguars, but the Houston D will capitalize on a mistake prone Jaguars offense and win this game at home, provided they can play the game in Houston due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. Winner: Houston (8)
11) Philadelphia Eagles (0-0) at Washington (0-0) -This is one of the more interesting games, because Eagles QB Carson Wentz should be improved in his second year, but he is going to have to generate a lot of offense to keep up with Washington QB Kirk Cousins. Washington was actually able to sweep the Eagles last year, but those wins were 27-20 and 27-22. The Eagles are one of the most improved teams in the league, with several big additions on both offense and defense. I like the Eagles to win a close road game in the opener. Winner: Philadelphia (7)
12) Indianapolis Colts (0-0) at Los Angeles Rams (0-0) -This game is hard to pick, because even if QB Andrew Luck plays in the game, he has not been playing in the preseason. My guess is he does not play, the feeling I have after listening to key members of the Colts organization speak is that this is a question of how many games he will miss, not if he will miss games. The Rams are one of the worst offenses in the league, so this may end up being the most unwatchable game of the weekend. I will go with the Rams, who are playing at home, but they may be without DT Aaron Donald, who has been holding out all preseason. This is just an awful game. Winner: Los Angeles Rams (1)
13) Carolina Panthers (0-0) at San Francisco 49ers (0-0) -This is another very good eliminator pick, the only downside is the game is on the road for Carolina. QB Cam Newton will be ready to play in this game and even though San Francisco should be better than last year, they probably have one of the least talented rosters in the NFL. Winner: Carolina (14)
14) New Orleans Saints (0-0) at Minnesota Vikings (0-0) -This a hard game to project, because the Saints are a Top-5 offense behind QB Drew Brees and the Vikings struggle to score points behind QB Sam Bradford. The issue is that Brees has to go against one of the best defenses in the NFL and Bradford goes against one of the worst defenses in the NFL. I think rookie Vikings RB Dalvin Cook will have a monster debut against the Saints D and the Vikings win a close game at home. Winner: Minnesota (6)
15) Los Angeles Chargers (0-0) at Denver Broncos (0-0) -The last game of the evening has the potential to be a good game. The Chargers split the season series with the Broncos last year and Chargers QB Philip Rivers will give them a chance to win. The Broncos are hard to beat in Denver with LB Von Miller leading one of the elite defenses in the NFL. The Chargers led the league in turnovers last year and I think the Broncos D will force them into too many mistakes and win the game. Winner: Denver (9)
Eliminator Pick: I think there are three directions that make sense in the opener. The first direction that makes sense is Buffalo hosting the New York Jets. The Jets offense is probably going to score less than 200 points this year and teams with QB Josh McCown are (6-42) over the last three years. Usually when (2-14) teams win, they steal a game at home later in the year and the Jets are a candidate to win two or less games this year. Also, you are probably not going to use Buffalo again this year, so it allows you to save your better teams for later in the year. The only problem is that QB Tyrod Taylor is in concussion protocol and if he cannot go, that means rookie QBNathan Peterman would be making his first start. That is a big risk, even against the New York Jets.
I think the second direction that makes sense is Carolina beating San Francisco. The 49ers have a new coaching staff, but they have a horrible roster led by QB Brian Hoyer on offense and Newton should generate a ton of points for the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers can be inconsistent and will be on the road, but this seems like a safe win. I would not use Carolina against anyone in the division, the only other weeks you will probably want to use them are against the New York Jets in Week 12 or Buffalo Bills in Week 2. The problem is San Fran looked great in Week 3 at Minnesota and Newton has not played much this preseason and is coming off a shoulder injury, so it is a risky eliminator pick.
That leaves the Pittsburgh Steelers, probably the biggest favorite in Week 1. Big Ben is (21-2) against Cleveland in his career, the Browns are coming off a (1-15) season and although everyone thinks they will be better this year, they probably are not going to beat Pittsburgh with a rookie quarterback making his first start. It also may not make sense to save them for the home game against Cleveland, that is in Week 17 and the Steelers may be resting starters for the playoffs. I think I will take a veteran team in Week 1 to win against a consistently bad team and see where the season goes from there. Eliminator Pick: Pittsburgh