This is the moment we've been waiting for. No more preszn, no more speculation, just football. Now, I will preface this by saying week 1 is always the hardest (for me) to make arguments for my picks. Every year, we see teams fall off from the previous season, such as the Raiders who went from 12-4 to 6-10 or the Giants who went from 11-5 to 3-13. Along with the duds, we see teams become powerhouses that were overlooked heading into the year, like the Rams and Jags, who both improved their win totals by 7 a piece. This isn't an excuse for my picks, I'm just saying for week 1, my analysis won't be as strong as it is in the coming weeks because as of right now, I have nothing to really base my picks off of. With that being said, lets get right into it, with the first game of the 2018 NFL SZN, your Super Bowl Champs vs the Dirty Birds.
CURRENT PICK RECORD: 0-0-0
Falcons at Eagles (-2.5)
Pick: Falcons +2.5
We hear it every year about the Super Bowl hangover, and I believe this will happen once again. Sure, Nick Foles won the Super Bowl MVP, but he has looked terrible in the preseason and had shoulder issues just a few weeks back. Alshon is out, and Ajayi is banged up, who are two of their better offensive weapons. They're left with Agholor, Ertz, Goedart, Sproles, and Clement (and whatever they get out of Ajayi), which by no means is a bad assortment of weapons, but isn't what we remember seeing from the team that beat the Pats in the Super Bowl.
Defensively, they're still one of the strongest in the league with an elite front line, allowing the 4th least points/game in 2017 (18.2). Despite this, they are without Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham (suspended week 1), 2 of their better linebackers last year.
Atlanta enters the season as PFF's 3rd best o-line, so they'll be able to handle the Eagles' pass rush as well as anybody else in the NFL. They also have a multitude of healthy weapons on offense headed by former MVP Matt Ryan who should have a bounce-back szn after posting his 2nd lowest TD% since his rookie year. Julio disappointed with 3 TDs last szn and could show out week 1, posting 9/101 (16 targets) against the Eagles in their playoff loss.
Their defense is also no slouch, allowing the 6th least points/game (19.1) last szn. They retained a lot of their playmakers, but did lose Adrian Clayborn (PFF's 11th best pass-rusher) and Dontari Poe. Even with these losses, I think they'll be able to edge out the Eagles, as they are playing without a few key playmakers as well.
All in all, I'm confident in the Falcons gettin that Philly ass week 1 and showing the world who the real birds are.
Bengals at Colts (-3)
Pick: Bengals +3
Andrew Luck is back, but not better than ever, sadly. He played decently well in the preszn but didn't look like the same animal he was before his shoulder injury, not to mention, he doesn't have much to work with in terms of the receiving game. Sure, they upgraded their o-line, but PFF still ranks them in the bottom half (17th) of the league. They're also dealing with injuries in the running game, leaving them with rookies Jordan Wilkins and Nyhiem Hines, as well as journeyman Christine Michael. Heading into 2018, I think the Colts will have a better offense than last szn, but won't return to their 2016 form (the last time Luck was healthy).
Along with their offense, I'm not too confident on the other side of the ball. They gave up the 3rd most points/game (25.2) last szn and are still a relatively young unit. I expect them to improve with Malik Hooker having a year of experience under his belt and drafting Darius Leonard, but won't be anywhere near elite.
As for the Bengals, they also improved their line, but what sets them apart from the Colts on offense is their multitude of weapons. They have Mixon and Bernard out of the backfield, as well as A.J. Green, John Ross, and Tyler Eifert in the passing game. Facing the Colts, Dalton should eat and put his weapons to use.
Also, their defense is decent, allowing the 17th most PPG in 2017 (21.8) and signed the NFL's tackle leader, linebacker Preston Brown, formerly of the Bills, this offseason. They did lose Safety George Iloka and are playing without Vontaze Burfict for the first 4 weeks, but will still (likely) outperform the defensive unit in Indianapolis.
The Bengals are getting 3 points, and with Luck returning to his first regular szn game in almost 2 years, I'd take the Bengals to win outright as Luck is eased back into action.
Bills at Ravens (-7)
Pick: Ravens -7
The Ravens need to win by at least a touchdown to cover, which I'm fairly confident can happen. The Bills have no weapons on offense outside of LeSean McCoy, who could see some success, as Baltimore ranked middle of the pack in rush yards/game allowed (111.2) last szn. The problem is, their o-line is in shambles after losing Richie Incognito and Cordy Glenn, and have nothing else that'll scare the Ravens. When your #1 WR is Kelvin Benjamin, and your 2nd option is Charles Clay, you can afford to stack the box, and if Shady has to face 8 defenders running at his chest while being protected by 5 blind mice, I don't feel confident McCoy can put the team on his back.
The only concern I have is how well the Baltimore offense will perform. Sure, I don't think the Bills will put up anywhere near the 20-point mark, but I'm not confident the Ravens has the firepower to do that either. They picked up a bunch of weapons in the offseason (Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead), but their entire WR core is in a new situation playing with Joe Flacco behind center. With that being said, I still think Alex Collins will perform against a team who let up the 4th most rushing yards/game (126.4) just a season ago. Even if the WRs here struggle week 1, I don't see how the Bills can cover a 7-point spread against a top-tier defense with serviceable offensive playmakers.
Buccaneers at Saints (-9.5)
Pick: Saints -9.5
The only reason my confidence is so low is because I'm not sure the Saints really give a fuck about this game. First off, Fitzpatrick is starting. Secondly, Mark Ingram is out. What concerns me is they'll take their foot off the gas, rest Alvin Kamara once they get comfortable, and only win by a TD. The Bucs still have great offensive weapons, so they have potential to keep up, even with Fitzmagic throwing 28 picks. Then again, the Saints might go savage mode and show Tampa who daddy is and blow them out of the water. If there's one thing I know about Sean Payton, it's that he wants to be known as daddy. Joking aside, I don't think they'll sink down to Tampa's level, as they want to build momentum as a Super Bowl contender. Also, Brees is in a dome, and if you know Drew, you know he loves playing at home. The AC will be cranking, and so will the Saints players' wives after their 40 point blowout of the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Texans at Patriots (-6)
Pick: Texans +6
The only reason my confidence is so low is because the Texans are playing a Pats team that just lost the super bowl, and they're the damn Patriots. No matter how many pieces they lose, they'll still find a random guy off a practice squad in Canada's 4th football league to play the slot for them and post a 85/1000/6 line by the end of the year. If we do compare their squad to last year, though, they did lose a ton of pieces.
Brandin Cooks, GONE. Dion Lewis, GONE. Nate Solder, GONE. Malcolm Butler, GONE. Rex Burkhead's knee, partially GONE. Julian Edelman, SUSPENDED. Not to mention, their 2 first rounders aren't playing week 1. I don't think this will be a blowout, far from it, but the Texans have JJ Watt and Mercilus returning to join Jadeveon Clowney in their fearsome pass rush. Their secondary is worrisome, and could be exploited, but I'm not concerned about the Texans keeping up.
Last year, Deshaun Watson threw for 300 yards and 2 TDs against the Pats and kept the game within 3. He is likely to regress, but so may the Pats with their lost weapons. They still have DHop and Will Fuller, as well as Lamar Miller out of the backfield. I think the Texans will once again keep this game within a TD, and if things break right, could come away with a Dub.
49ers at Vikings (-6)
Pick: Vikings -6
The Vikings have one of the best defenses in the NFL paired with probably the best WR Duo, a great RB, a stud TE, and a more than capable Quarterback with an improving o-line. I honestly see very few weaknesses with this team, which is why I think they'll cover the spread.
As for the 49ers, they have Jimmy G, who has started 6 games in his career, a sprinter as their WR1, a RB committee who will have to step up in Jerick Mckinnon's absence (Mckinnon hadn't proved anything but they're going to have to change roles as Jerick had pass-catching and running ability, while the remaining 2 can't claim both skills combined at Mckinnon's level), and a bottom half defense. To keep this game within 6, they're going to need to be extremely efficient on offense against a top 3 defense in the league as well as stop an offense with playmakers at every position. I just don't see the 49ers being able to keep it close, especially while traveling to Minnesota. Expect the Vikings to role play as Jimmy G and the 49ers as Kiara Mia, SKOL clapping those San Fran cheeks.
Titans (-1.5) at Dolphins
Pick: Titans -1.5
This is the LOCK OF THE MF CENTURY. You're meaning to tell me the Titans are only giving 1.5 points to a deceased Dolphins team? They are listing 63 year old Frank Gore as a co-starter and you want me to believe they'll keep this game close? Am I missing something?
The Titans brought in Rams' OC Matt Lefleur, and with Dion Lewis, Derrick Henry, Corey Davis, Delaie Walker, and Rishard Matthews, headed by a dynamic Marcus Mariota, they should be one of the most improved offenses in 2018. They have a great o-line (5th by PFF) and even their defense has improved, drafting Alabama product Rashaan Evans and bringing in Malcolm Butler.
The Dolphins don't even look like they want to win, having an offense headed by Ryan Tannehill with his best weapon being Kenny Stills. Hell, they want 5'1 Albert Wilson playing on the outside. I just don't know what's going on here. If you don't pick the Titans, you're either wild or know something everybody else doesn't. Honestly, you may know more than Adam Gase at this point.
Jaguars (-3) at Giants
Pick: Giants +3
This is one of my least confident picks of the week. The Jags are coming off a 10-6 season where they established themselves as an elite defense with a strong running game. They invested in Andrew Norwell to help sure up their already decent o-line, so it would seem crazy to pick against them, especially against a Giants team that went 3-13 just a season ago.
The Giants, though, improved their o-line as well, along with getting OBJ back and drafting freak-athlete Saquon Barkley. I think their offense may give the Jags trouble as they have weapons at every level of the field (Engram and Shepard are also very good options in the offense). As far as defense, I think they under performed in last year's throw-away performance, going from allowing the 4th least points/game (18.9) in 2016 to the 5th most (24.2) last year. They still have elite defensive players in Damon Harrison and Landon Collins, and should give the Jags more trouble than they would have a season ago.
I think with the Giants defense improving, they can hold off Bortles and try to contain Fournette. If they hold off Fournette, which is no easy task, the Jags will have to rely on Bortles, which would be a major W for the G-Men. As for the Giants offense, with their multitude of weapons, I think they'll be able to challenge the Jags D, who have nowhere to go but down after being the best defensive unit in 2017, and keep this game within 3.
Steelers (-4) at Browns
Pick: Steelers -4
As of right now, it doesn't look like Lev Bell's playing, which is why my confidence is so low. If he suits up, I wouldn't have a doubt about this pick. Typically, the RB position isn't one that is of great value, but he provides so much more than between the tackles production as he's basically a wide receiver as well. The Steelers also have an above average defense and led the league in sacks last szn, facing a Browns team that has new weapons all over the field. As far as the offense goes, outside of Bell, they have the best WR in the league AND Antonio Brown with an elite offensive line. Joking aside, they're always at the top of the list in terms of points scored/game every year, and should do the same, especially against the Browns.
The Browns may have improved, but they're still the Browns; I won't believe it until I see it. Josh Gordon just rejoined the team, Tyrod, Jarvis, and Hyde are new additions, and they still have defensive concerns. I don't think they will repeat their 0-16 performance, but it may take time to gel. They're playing one of the most proven teams in the NFL, and I think the final score will prove that. I'll take the Steelers to cover.
Chiefs at Chargers (-3.5)
Pick: Chiefs +3.5
My confidence isn't this low because I'm a Chargers fan and want them to win, it's because of the unknown in Kansas City heading into 2018. On offense, they brought in Sammy Watkins and have Patrick Mahomes slinging the rock. Sure, the Chargers have an elite defense and pass rush, but their run-defense is among the worst in the league. With a great runner in Kareem Hunt, they'll be able to move the ball up the field and take the ball out of Mahomes' hands if he's struggling.
As for the Chargers, they're facing a porous Chiefs defense, and should have no problem putting up big numbers. My only concern is this may be a shootout. The Chiefs always prove to be a challenge for the Chargers and I'm just not sure they'll be able to win by more than a field goal. Los Angeles doesn't ever really have a 'home-field advantage' which doesn't help them at all, either.
It would make sense for the Chargers to win, as they have a far superior defense and a comparable offense, but their past of struggling against the Chiefs haunts me. I don't have any real argument here other than I just feel the Charger's won't be able to cover to begin the year, as they are avid bed-shitters early in the szn.
Cowboys at Panthers (-3)
Pick: Cowboys +3
The Cowboys have nothing proven on offense outside of Zeke and Dak (when Zeke's on the field). Their offensive line is banged up and they have a ton of new faces in the passing game. What makes me pick the Cowboys is their defense. With guys like Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Demarcus Lawrence, they should be able to play a possession-oriented brand of football, the same way they did in 2016 that led them to a 13-3 record. They aren't the same team they used to be, but with Zeke being one of the best pure runners in the league, paired with an up and coming defense, I think they'll be able to dominate possession.
As for the Panthers, they do have an elite run defense, but they aren't facing a slouch. For their offense, their o-line is in shambles, losing Andrew Norwell to the Jags in the offseason and the best offensive lineman left on their roster, Daryl Williams, tore his MCL earlier this year. With the Cowboys pash rush, I don't think Cam will have enough time to be effective in the pass game and will need to resort to dump-offs and scrambling. Because of this, I see a low-scoring game, one which the Cowboys can keep within 3.
Redskins at Cardinals (-1)
Pick: Redskins +1
This is basically a pickem', and the reason I like the Redskins is because I have a better idea of what I'm getting out of them. They have weapons all over their offense, ranging from Chris Thompson out of the backfield to their newly acquired field stretcher Paul Richardson. Their offensive line is healthy and among the best in the league, so they should do a decent job of keeping Chandler Jones away from Alex Smith, who's coming off a career year where he showed he still has juice left in the tank.
As for Arizona, I think David Johnson will eat against a poor rush defense and Fitz will produce running routes out of the slot. What concerns me is their o-line problems, and with Ryan Kerrigan and Pernell Mcphee, I think the Redskins will take advantage of the Cardinals' weaknesses. In a pickem', I'll take the team whose offense I trust more, especially when their defenses are comparable. The Cardinals do have elite pieces in the secondary in Pat Pete, Tre Boston, and Antoine Bethea, but I think the multitude of weapons for Washington will allow them to overcome this, and ultimately win the game.
Seahawks at Broncos (-3)
Pick: Broncos -3
The Seahawks offensive line is a dumpster fire and their defense lost more pieces than a kid with a checkerboard. This is a problem for them, especially in week 1 where they face a pass-rush headed by Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. The Seahawks' best playmaker outside of RW is Doug Baldwin, who is admittedly playing at 80-85% matching up against one of, if not the best slot corners in the league in Chris Harris Jr.
The Broncos offense is also bound to improve from last season, replacing Trevor Siemian with Case Keenum, and surrounding him with DT, Emanuel Sanders, Royce Freeman, and Courtland Sutton. The Broncos have a middle of the pack o-line, so they have no real tangible weaknesses on offense. Pairing an offense that is, at worst, decent, with an elite defense, playing a declining Seahawks, I don't see a situation where Denver doesn't cover the spread, especially at home.
Bears at Packers (-7.5)
Pick: Packers -7.5
The Bears brought in a ton of new weapons on offense, as well as former Chiefs OC Matt Nagy. This past week, they brought in Khalil Mack to bolster their already solid defense, but I'm not sure that's enough to keep it within 7.5 of Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers is back, their o-line is healthy, and they have playmakers all over the field. Their only weak position is runningback, but they have 2 guys who can complement eachother very well out of the backfield.
The main knock on the Packers over the years has been their defense, but drafting 2 great Corners in Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson should sure up some of these concerns. Their run defense is better than their pass defense, and can even be considered elite with guys like Clay Matthews, Mike Daniels, and Muhammad Wilkerson. They won't be a defense that's gonna be stepped all over like they have been in the past, and with the league's best QB, they should be able to put up big numbers, even against a strong defense.
My only concern is that this is the 2nd biggest spread of the week, but it's the Packers and Aaron Rodgers vs the Bears and Mitchell Trubisky. Their only familiar face who's proven to be effective is Jordan Howard, but the Packers' d-line should bottle him up relatively well. Until the Bears show me something, I'll side with what I know, and that's ARod being the walking GOAT.
Jets at Lions (-6.5)
Pick: Jets +6.5
For some reason I LOVE this pick. The unknown with Sam Darnold intrigues me, and they sneakily have a decent WR core with Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, and Terrell Pryor. Their backfield even provides a nice complement of a power runner and a pass-catcher. On the other side of the ball, I expect the Jets to be an above average unit after bringing in Trumaine Johnson and Avery Williamson.
As for the Lions, I like their offense: solid o-line, great WR combination, and good runningbacks with solidified roles. Their defense is what concerns me. They ranked 20th in sacks last szn, which could bode well for Sam Darnold in his first NFL game. If Darnold gets comfortable, he could help propel the Jets in a game which could be a shootout.
In the end, think the Jets will lose, because, ya know, they're the Jets, but I see them keeping it close, within 6.5, and because of this, they're my pick.
Rams (-4.5) at Raiders
Pick: Rams -4.5
I believe the Raiders offense will be much improved from its 2017 form, but won't be enough to keep up with the Rams week 1. With Brandin Cooks, the Rams will be able to exploit the Raiders horrible defense, having serviceable options at every level of the field. Plus, they have an elite runningback in Todd Gurley who has the potential to take it to the house on any/every touch. Along with these offensive weapons, their defense brought in Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, and Ndamukong Suh to pair with guys who are already there, including one of, if not the best defensive player in the league, Aaron Donald.
As for the Raiders, their defense was atrocious heading into 2018, and are even worse with the loss of Khalil Mack. Their defense is in shambles, and I'm not sure the offense can keep up with the Rams. I like Cooper, and Jordy, but the Rams have 2 elite CBs who will cause them trouble. Outside of them, their only other weapons in the passing game are Jared Cook and newly signed Brandon Lafell, with little pass-catching help out of the backfield.
I don't see a scenario where the raiders keep this within 4.5, so I'm very confident in the Rams covering the spread.
*Like I said in the beginning, week 1 is hard to justify because we don't know exactly what to expect out of these teams. After this week, we'll have a better feel for how teams play and whether or not they will improve, decline, or perform similarly to how they did last szn.*
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