The NFL is finally back and with it comes the opportunity to prove your knowledge by making your picks for each game. Some people make a living off doing just that. Me, on the other hand, I just make a fool of myself. I always think that I have the guaranteed correct picks each week, yet that never actually happens. Picking games is tough no matter how much time and effort you put into but that is not going to stop me from trying.
Each and every week I am going to make my picks for all the games from Thursday Night Football (now on Amazon) to Monday Night Football (which will finally have a good announcing duo). I will be making my straight-up pick for each game along with my pick against the spread (indicated by the line in parentheses).
Buffalo Bills (-2.5) over Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are beginning their quest for a Super Bowl repeat with a real challenge. The Bills are currently the favorite to win the Super Bowl this year and rightfully so because they are absolutely stacked. This game will feature two elite cornerback-wide receiver matchups with Cooper Kupp taking on Tre’Davious White and Stefon Diggs going up against Jalen Ramsey. Even with the stud defenders on each team, there will likely be a ton of points in this game since both sides feature plenty of offensive weapons throughout the depth chart. I predict the Bills come out on top in this one. I think Josh Allen is coming to come out hot and trying to avenge their loss to the Chiefs in the playoffs last year while the Rams may be a bit too complacent after winning it all.
Cincinnati Bengals (-6.5) over Pittsburgh Steelers
Speaking of the Rams’ Super Bowl win, the losers of that matchup have a much more manageable task ahead of them in week one. The Bengals will get their season underway with a game against the Steelers and their very good defense. It will be a great test for the new-look Cincinnati offensive line as they go up against TJ Watt and Cameron Heyward, two of the best front-seven defenders in the league. If the line does hold up, it will be a good sign for Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and the rest of the Bengals’ offense. Cincinnati shouldn’t have too much trouble holding the Pittsburgh offense in check (unless Mitch Trubisky comes out and just plays incredibly) so a win by at least seven points should be easily attainable for the Bengals.
Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5) over Detroit Lions
I am a fan of Hard Knocks this season with the Lions but I still don’t get how the betting market has so much faith in them. They are still a team led by Jared Goff and feature a defense that has no recognizable players outside rookie Aidan Hutchinson. The Eagles, on the other hand, are a playoff team from 2021 that only got better since their season ended. The additions of AJ Brown, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, James Bradberry, Jordan Davis, and Nakobe Dean are going to much this team much more formidable than they were a year ago. Even if Philly wasn’t a better squad than last year, a win over the Lions wouldn’t be too difficult. The Eagles’ defense, which could be one of the better units in the league, is going to stifle Goff while Jalen Hurts and the offense are going to shred the Detroit defense. This game is going to be an easy win for the Eagles and they will definitely cover the 3.5-point spread.
Indianapolis Colts (-7.5) over Houston Texans
This is another game that seems to be giving more credit than deserved to a bad team. I went through every team this offseason and previewed them (shameless plug to check out the previews on my blog if you haven’t) and I came away with the conclusion that the Texans have a very bad roster. The talent deficit in this game is going to be pretty big so I don’t care that this game is being played in Houston, the Colts are going to win big. Jonathan Taylor, Quenton Nelson, Shaquille Leonard, and DeForest Buckner are all at the top of their game at their respective positions and will pose major problems for an inferior Texans team. This will be the perfect game for Matt Ryan to ease into his new team as he leads the Colts to a fairly unexciting (unless you’re a Colts fan) win over a divisional foe.
New Orleans Saints (-5.5) over Atlanta Falcons
Smart move by the NFL to stick a lot of the really bad teams this year into the early window of games where they will be covered up by more games featuring better teams. The Falcons are another team that figures to struggle a lot in 2022, with the potential to have the worst record in the league. Kyle Pitts is an exciting young player but the fact that he will be catching passes from Marcus Mariota (at least to start the season) really dampens the entertainment value of the burgeoning star. The Saints are entering into uncharted waters without Sean Payton as their head coach but this is still a roster that has plenty of talent, certainly enough to beat the Falcons. If Jameis Winston and the offense look great out of the gate then this will be an easy win for New Orleans but even if they struggle, which is entirely possible, the Saints’ defense will be good enough to ensure that they win by at least six points.
Baltimore Ravens (-7.5) over New York Jets
These two teams are in very different places at the moment. The Ravens are trying to negotiate a contract discussion with former MVP Lamar Jackson while the Jets have to start former Raven Joe Flacco because Zach Wilson got injured in the preseason. So spare me all of the “Flacco revenge game” narratives because he and the Jets stand absolutely no chance in this game. Baltimore was one of the unluckiest teams in the entire league last year due to injury but they are healthy at the moment so they should dominate New York. The Ravens’ upgraded secondary should make life very difficult for Flacco despite the talent he has at receiver. It may be a rough debut for Jets’ rookies such as Breece Hall and Garrett Wilson but don’t worry guys the future is bright (just get out of New York quickly). This is going is almost going to be as easy for the Ravens to win as it was for me to pick the Ravens to win.
New England Patriots (+3.5) over Miami Dolphins
This matchup may be one of the most entertaining contests of the entire day, and not just because it could genuinely go either way. This is going to be a huge moment for Tua Tagovailoa to prove himself in this league. Bill Belichick is going to make Tagovailoa’s life extremely difficult in that matchup because that is what Belichick does. If the young quarterback can successfully handle the defense that New England throws at him then it will go a long way toward him establishing his place in the league. Unfortunately, I expect him to struggle in this game, especially as he adjusts to a new offensive system and develops chemistry with new receiver Tyreek Hill. If Mac Jones can muster up enough offense then the Patriots may end up winning this game. But either way, I see this matchup being a close fight between two division rivals so New England will definitely cover as 3.5-point underdogs.
Cleveland Browns (+1.5) over Carolina Panthers
Baker Mayfield is going to be fired up for this game against the team that gave up on him and shipped him to Carolina over the offseason. But that also means that the Browns will know what they are up against in Mayfield and should be able to do enough on defense to throw him off his game. There may not be too many passes in this game (which is a win for the fans because who wants to watch Mayfield and Jacoby Brissett drop back 60-plus times) as both teams should lean on the ground game. The Panthers and Browns both have elite running backs in Christian McCaffrey and Nick Chubb, respectively, so expect a ton of touches for both guys. In the end, I am leaning with the Browns even though they are the underdogs because they have the better talent in the trenches (*cough cough* Myles Garrett *cough cough*) and the better coach.
San Francisco 49ers (-6.5) over Chicago Bears
This is easily going to be a win for the Niners, and probably a double-digit one. The Bears are not really on the level of most of the other NFL teams this year, especially a prospective playoff team like the 49ers. Nick Bosa and the rest of the d-line are going to wreak havoc on Chicago’s offense and make Justin Fields’ day miserable. But this game is going to be worth watching because of Trey Lance. San Francisco’s second-year quarterback will make his first start as the established starter so there will be a ton of intrigue in how he does. Kyle Shanahan may not want to show too much of plans with Lance at quarterback because they should be able to handle the Bears easily but the flashes that the team does demonstrate will be good enough to give fans hope for what the offense will look like going forward.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+2.5) over Washington Commanders
If there was an actual Jaguars bandwagon I would be riding shotgun because I absolutely love this team this year. I am a huge believer in the positive impact that not being coached by Urban Meyer will have on this team and it will be evident when the Jaguars pull off the upset over the Commanders in week one. Washington will almost certainly start the season out slow with Carson Wentz on his third team in as many years. Wentz also doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence and with a defense that is equally as questionable, all signs point toward a win for Jacksonville. Look for Trevor Lawrence to look much better in an offense designed by Doug Pederson and for the young, talented players such as Travis Etienne and Travon Walker to demonstrate their ability in a big win to open up the season.
Los Angeles Chargers (-3.5) over Las Vegas Raiders
Both of these teams figure to be in the mix for the wild card and maybe even the AFC West championship this year but the Chargers will gain the early upper hand with a win over Vegas. Los Angeles has some very high expectations placed on them this year but they can meet those expectations, and even exceed them, if Justin Herbert continues to impress in this league. I just don’t think the Raiders will have an answer for Herbert, Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, and Mike Williams on defense (but to be fair, a lot of teams won’t either). And on the other side of the ball, good luck blocking Khalil Mack and Joey Bose with an offensive line featuring Kolton Miller as the best player. Even though Las Vegas’s offense should be pretty good this year with the addition of Davante Adams, I don’t foresee the team getting off to a good start in week one.
Tennessee Titans (-5.5) over New York Giants
This may be the one game where there is more intrigue surrounding the team that will almost certainly lose. The Giants are a very interesting team this year and seeing what Daniel Jones looks like in his first game under Brian Daboll will be must-see TV. But not all must-see TV is good TV. The Titans have one of the most stealthy-good defenses in the league and although they will be hurt by the loss of Harold Landry for the year, it shouldn’t hold them back against a team like the Giants. The Titans’ offense won’t be as exciting as their opponents’ unit but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Tennessee can be a bit boring on that side of the ball but it is a boring that works. With Derrick Henry back and healthy, the Titans will lean on the run in order to help out Ryan Tannehill and end up winning an uneventful matchup against the Giants (unless Jones does something crazy like trip while on a wide-open run to the endzone, but that would never happen).
Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5) over Arizona Cardinals
This game will be a good test for both teams because it will shed some light on where each squad stands. The Chiefs are recovering from some offseason losses (Tyreek Hill, Tyrann Mathieu, that game to the Bengals) so there is some uncertainty about what they will look like. If they can prove that they still belong in the top tier of teams by handling Arizona then it would give Kansas City fans a lot more confidence. The Cardinals are recovering from being the Cardinals and having a very interesting offseason that included a new contract for Kyler Murray that made headlines for some unusual reasons. They have a great opportunity to demonstrate that they are the same team that started out the season hot last year and not the one that got embarrassed in the playoffs. This game will come down to how well the Chiefs are operating because if they are firing on all cylinders, the Cardinals can’t compete with them. Arizona has enough talent to stick around if the Chiefs start out slow, but if that doesn’t happen it should be an easy Kansas City win.
Green Bay Packers (-1.5) over Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings have a real chance to give the Packers some competition in the race for the NFC North title but I don’t think that will be the case in week one. So much attention has been paid to the losses that the Packers have suffered on offense but the defense has been quietly improving during that same time. Green Bay is going to need the defense to be ready for this matchup because the Vikings have a ton of offensive firepower. Kirk Cousins may not be the most exciting quarterback in the league but he is still very good. And him running the Rams-style offense that Kevin O’Connell is bringing over in his first year as the coach can be dangerous. With weapons like Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, and Irv Smith on that offense, Cousins is really going to test the Packers’ defense. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense will be their usual productive self against a decent Vikings defense so it is going to come down to how well they can stop the Vikings from scoring. I’m a huge believer in the Green Bay defense this year so I think they get the job done to start the season and earn the win in a tough game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5) over Dallas Cowboys
Both of these teams come in with high hopes and big question marks so it should make for an entertaining contest. For the Bucs, it is all going to be about Tom Brady and how well he does after his brief retirement and unexplained absence from training camp. With an offensive line that has been decimated by retirement, free-agent departures, and injuries, Brady may actually be under pressure from opposing defenses for the first time since arriving in Tampa Bay. The way the Cowboys win this game is by capitalizing on that weakness with players such as Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence. If Dallas can get to Brady then they will have a chance to disrupt the offense and win the game. But in order to do that, the Cowboys will have to score some points of their own (unless they want to take a page out of the Iowa Hawkeyes’ playbook). And they have concerns of their own up front where the offensive line has only gotten more vulnerable with the recent injury of Tyron Smith. I think what ultimately decides this game is the play from the Bucs’ defense. It is going to be much easier for them to rattle Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ offense than it will be for the Cowboys’ defense to rattle Brady. Expect a game that may get ugly at times but for Brady to get the job done well enough to get the victory.
Denver Broncos over Seattle Seahawks (+6.5)
From a narrative standpoint, this may be the best game of week one. But it may be a different story on the field. I think the Seahawks will be much more fired up in Russell Wilson’s return to Seattle and will have enough juice to keep this game close, hence my pick of them on the spread. I don’t think they will be able to do enough to actually win though. Wilson should have little trouble driving the ball on the Seattle defense but may have some trouble adjusting to the new offense in his first game. The Seahawks could certainly struggle to put points on the board because that is life when Geno Smith is leading the offense. Although Smith will probably struggle (like he will in most games) I could see the ground game being effective behind the new, and hopefully improved, offensive line. This has all the makings of a close game with some stretches of poor play that ends with a late score from Denver to put them over the top.