Well Thursday didn’t go as planned as the Falcons had plenty of head scratching moments and play calls. The Eagles helped them keep in the game as well, so it was a solid bet until late. Well, it is week one. No more pre-season half speed, half of the playbook, these games mean something and teams will play at their hardest to get the ever coveted wins. On to Sunday’s games to make up for Thursday….
Buffalo at Baltimore, 1:00p, CBS (Ravens -8, O/U: 40)
There isn’t much to say about this dud of a game that hasn’t been written about all off season long. The Bills were reluctant to start their 2018 #1 pick right out of the gate and backed up with that talk by signing AJ McCarron, then after trading him to Oakland, pegging Nate Peterman their starter. The big question is with another rookie 1st rounder Lamar Jackson on the heels of Joe Flacco, will he step up to his Super Bowl caliber play or show that he’s now just washed up? Ravens defense is stingy still given all of the changes through the years. Peterman looked better in the pre-season than he did last year however, the Ravens eat up quarterbacks that are not really experienced. I know it’s a lot of points to give for a team that historically doesn’t score a bunch but take the Ravens -8 in the under, Ravens 27-17.
Cincinnati at Indianapolis, 1:00p, CBS (Colts -2, O/U: 48)
Andrew Luck is FINALLY back! It’s been a year and a half and with a somewhat career scare with his shoulder and watching his team suffer a 4-12 season, Luck gives his team a huge confidence boost being in the lineup and since he had last played, he went from having just one decent receiver, and old work horse running back, 2 threatening tight ends and an offensive line that allowed the second most sacks (by 1) but then led the league with 52 the year after. This year they went out and signed Eric Ebron to replace Dwayne Allen, who left 2 seasons ago as well as using some early draft picks to revamp the offensive line to better protect Luck and offer some better blocking for the running game. Luck has only had 1 pre-season and some off-season workouts to knock off the rust, so it’ll be interesting to see how he starts off the season.
For Cincy, not much has changed……for years. Yeah they have Mixon in his 2nd year, AJ still prowling in the deep, and Eifert has given consistency at TE but they will forever be regular season hero’s and post season zeros. Luck’s magic sparks a little fire in his team, take the Colts to cover in the under, Colts 24-20.
Houston at New England, 1:00p, CBS (Patriots -6.5, O/U: 50)
This should be one of the more interesting matchups of the week. Young vs Old, Promise vs Proven Greatness, Watson Vs Brady. We haven’t seen Watson since his string of a handful of games last year where people were throwing his name into the MVP race. Yeah, he played well……for 6 games. Those games included New England’s defense, which early in the season, are typically giving up tons of yards and points, mediocre defenses from both Tennessee, Seattle and Kansas City, and the bad news Browns defense, which wasn’t stellar last year either.
Patriots are not a great team early on in the season. Go for the upset in Watson’s return, Texans to win in the under, Texans 24-21.
Jacksonville at N.Y. Giants, 1:00p, FOX (Giants +3, O/U: 42)
In Jacksonville, it looks like it will be another injury plagued season for their receiving corps. Marqis Lee Has suffered an apparent major knee injury. Last year they lost Robinson to a season long injury. If anyone needs the talented receiving corps on the field, it’s Blake Bortles.
It’s sure to be a battle of the star runners though in Fournette and Barkley. Barkley will see his first true test against one of the best defense in the league. Eli sure needs relief with a running game that has been non-existent in the last few seasons.
The Jags aren’t historically great on the road and with OBJ back in the lineup, Eli goes from a low 4 to a high 7. Add Barkley and you have a completely different looking team. Take the Giants to win and in the under, Giants 17-14.
Pittsburgh at Cleveland, 1:00p, CBS (Browns +4, O/U: 40.5)
No bell for real this time. Bell has decided to sit out for more money than to sign the franchise tag and play with his teammates. This means second year man and local boy, James Connor is up. The Steelers went out and drafted Washington adding to the outside threats.
The Browns with the first overall pick went with Baker Mayfield and later in the first, snagged Denzel Ward at corner. They also added some depth to the O-line, running backs and receivers in which they got a steal in my mind in the fourth round with Antonio Callaway, who will see significant time in the opener.
They say there’s a Hard Knocks effect where the team usually looks better than it really is but if you look at the roster improvements and the chip on the shoulder to win A GAME, there’s real motivation to knock off a your main rival. You better screen shot this, take the Browns to win in upset fashion and in the under, Browns 20-17.
San Francisco at Minnesota, 1:00p, FOX (Vikings -7, O/U: 45.5)
The Jimmy G era in San Fran is upon it’s first full season. The weapons are there for him to be successful and one of those weapons is Shanahan’s offensive mind. They strengthened up the offensive line in the draft and added depth to the already deadly receivers. Garcon, Goodwin, Pettis, Celek and Kittle give Garapolo more than enough options given the unproven running game now turned upside down after losing Mckinnon to a bad knee injury.
Minnesota had an unbelievable run with Case Keenum last year but now will have a new thrower of the pigskin under center, Kirk Cousins. Cousins never had the weapons that the Vikes have and with his consistent play under center, it’ll be interesting to see what he can do with Diggs, Thielen, Treadwell, Rudolph and Cook out of the backfield. The offensive line was huge for then rookie, Dalvin Cook, who emerged as another running back surprise and shared some of the spotlight with the successes that two other rookies had in Hunt and Kamara, last year. Defense has virtually gone unchanged from last year and should be at the top of the league all season, which makes this a really good test for the Garapolo/Shanahan tag team coming into Minnesota.
Take the Vikings to win and cover in the over, Vikings 31-20.
Tampa Bay at New Orleans, 1:00p, FOX (Saints -10, O/U: 49.5)
Tampa can’t seem to get it right, every year. They have some holes and needs to fill on offense still, as most teams do, however, when you spend a first round pick on a quarterback, you expect results EVENTUALLY! The weapons for a quarterback to be successful are there but for some reason, Winston still hasn’t grown professionally and personally. I’m shocked that this incident wasn’t enough for Tampa to look at him and just say “no thanks…no more” and get rid of him. Now they have to use Fitzpatrick to fill in for the first three games of the season, who has his physical deficiencies in the throwing game but is accurate on short passes and knows his abilities.
New Orleans opened up last year deep at the running back spot with AP and Ingram looking to split time however, AP never got going and rookie Alvin Kamara chipped away time from AP who then was traded to the Cardinals after a few games. Kamara was a highlight reel in his rookie season while Ingram returned back to the hype that surrounded him when he was drafted, hitting double digits in rushing touchdowns.
Take the Saints to cover and win in the under, Saints 31-17.
Tennessee at Miami, 1:00p, FOX (Dolphins +1, O/U: 45)
I’m not a fan of these two teams. Mariota hasn’t been spectacular since being drafted and Tannehill hasn’t proven he’s worth his contract. Both guys have talent around them but can’t elevate and play stellar ball. Both guys also have injury issues most notably with Tannehill coming back for his first action since December 2016 from a torn ACL, which he had reinjured last summer to keep him out longer and brought Jay Cutler out of retirement for another horrible season.
This one will be more of a defensive struggle than anything and may be close as well. Take the home dogs, Dolphins to win in the under, Dolphins 20-17.
Kansas City at L.A. Chargers, 4:05p, CBS (Chargers -3, O/U: 49)
The Chiefs were one of those teams that scored big in last years draft with a surprise star in the backfield , Kareem Hunt. Spencer Ware was slotted as the starter last year before being lost for the year before the season started which catapulted Hunt to starter and then, well, the rest was history, literally. Alex Smith was traded out and Sammy Watkins was brought in, Mahomes gets the nod and however much the defense needed some pieces added, they still caused 26 turnovers for the leagues 2nd best margin (-15).
The Chargers, even since their Marty Shottenheimer days, have always been a pretty good team that didn’t do anything. Again, another team that has weapons surrounding their quarterback but struggle to either get in to the playoffs or go deep in to the playoffs. Their defense needed some pieces in the secondary and I believe they addressed that from what I saw in the pre-season. Rivers bounced back from a career high 21 picks and then last year only throwing 10 with 4,515 yards and 28 TD’s. Gordon had his first 1,000 yard rushing year and Allen had his first full season in a few years, staying injury free for most of it,
This is a tough pick because I’m not high on Mahomes but The Chargers were not good at home last year (being as they were playing in a soccer stadium that held about 20 thousand people). Take the Chiefs to win and cover in the over, Chiefs 28-24.
Dallas at Carolina, 4:25p, FOX (Panthers -3, O/U: 42)
The Cowboys come in to the season with some notable players from the last decade plus, missing, Dez and Witten. Two key targets that Dak had used to get his career started. His backfield buddy Zeke will be there with him along with some returning outside guys in Beasley and Williams but every other receiver is relatively new (Hurns, Austin, Thompson and Gallup through the draft). The Witten successors aren’t as promising as Witten was but their serviceable and that O-Line virtually remains the same with the addition for Connor Williams at LG. Defensive squad virtually unchanged except for the return of Randy Gregory and a bunch of 2018 draftees to fill in some needed depth.
The Panthers return nearly every starter from last year while adding some more weapons to the outside of their offense in DJ Moore, and surprisingly did well without Kelvin Benjamin, trading him away to the Bills. Olsen is back, someone who Newton sorely missed. The thing that scares me about the Panthers is how consistently inconsistent they’ve been from year to year, including Cam Newton. They’ve snaked through losing and winning season each of the last 6 seasons.
Dallas won’t be able to keep up offensively but expect a close one. Take the Panthers to cover and win in the under, Panthers 24-17.
Seattle at Denver, 4:25p, FOX (Broncos -3, O/U: 42)
Talk about a tale of two teams. These two have fallen far from their once prominent spot at the top of the football world with their super bowl wins, but now find themselves rebuilding. The Seahawks barely finished with a winning record at 9-7 while the Broncos hit near rock bottom at 5-11. So much talent on both sides but it was age that caught up to the Hawks and a bad quarterback situation that caught the Broncs and GM John Elway napping.
Broncos went out and fixed their QB situation by getting Case Keenum, although it may be a short-term pickup but they better figure out what they’re going to do going forward since Case is no guarantee and they sent Paxton packing. Both teams will have rookies in starting slot for the game, including the remarkable Shaq Griffin who had his left hand amputated as a young child.
Take the Broncos to win and cover in the under, Broncos 20-14.
Washington at Arizona, 4:25p, FOX (Cardinals -1.5, O/U: 43.5)
Out goes Cousins, in comes Smith. You can only franchise tag a guy so many times before he says no and hits the trade wire. Surprising to also see AP on this team, given that he was a free agent into week 3 of the pre-season before Derrius Guice Blew a wheel for the season. The Redskins used a ton of draft picks to fill gaps in their depth chart but also gained some solid players who could see some significant time in the season opener.
The Cardinals out and tried to get their future franchise QB in Josh Rosen. In my eyes, he’s going to be the best that comes out of their draft. If there’s a team that you should be excited for down the road it’s the Cardinals. David Johnson is still young, JJ Nelson is hitting his prime and Christian Kirk should turn into a nice replacement to Larry Fitzgerald once he decides to retire. The real question is how long with Sam Bradford last as the starter?
Take the Redskins to win and cover in the under, Redskins 24-17.
Chicago at Green Bay, 8:20p, MNBC (Packers -7, O/U: 47)
Battle of the two teams vying for the services of Khalil Mack. Well, that’s one thing the Bears can hold over the Packers head, other than this, however, they don’t have much to talk trash about. They’re inferior at almost every position. The one thing that is hard to do, is go into Green Bay and win with Aaron Rodgers playing. The Bears were so bad, they wouldn’t let Trubisky use the expanded version of the playbook for much of their season and still finished behind the Packers who were 7-9 mostly without the services of Rodgers.
The Bears are inferior to the Packers at every position. They spent the off season trying to improve the receiving corps that Trubisky has to throw to. My issue is with Trubisky, I just don’t think he’s the guy they need to take them to the next level. The guy didn’t even get to work with the full playbook. They’re hoping that bringing in Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton will help elevate his game.
For the Packers, out goes Jordy Nelson and in comes Jimmy Graham. Rodgers is back and healthy and they have some new draft picks to add to the depth at receiver and corner, which was very much so needed. Not only did they get Jimmy G and draft themselves a bunch of help all over the roster, they ponied up on Rodgers’ contract and made him one of the richest players in the NFL. When Rodgers is in the lineup, this team has super bowl potential no matter the roster around him but it should be exciting to see him go up against Mack.
Take the Packers to win and cover in the over, Packers 31-21.
Colin Cowherd’s Blazin 5 Picks:
- Buffalo at Baltimore – Baltimore (-7)
- San Francisco at Minnesota – Minnesota (-6)
- Houston at New England – Houston (+6.5)
- Jacksonville at NY Giants – NY Giants (+6)
- NY Jets at Detroit – NY Jets (+6.5)
There you have it. My Sunday picks are locked in with a few shockers. It certainly should be an entertaining week with plenty to look out for to set up week two picks. Happy football day and good luck!