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September 06, 2018

Week 1 NFL picks

For the gambling degenerates, here are my Week 1 NFL picks. To note, the team logos indicate who I think will win the game, not cover the spread. At the end of the picks, I'll note a few teams that I like based on the spread.

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Falcons at Eagles (-1)Carson Wentz, Nigel Bradham, Alshon Jeffery, and a handful of other Eagles contributors are all out, while the Falcons come into this game very healthy. That’s kind of a big deal, and in my view, the Falcons are the better team as a result.

Still, what can’t be ignored is the Eagles’ dominance at home under Doug Pederson. In 2017, they went a perfect 9-0, if you exclude the meaningless Week 17 game in which the Eagles’ JV team almost beat the Cowboys’ varsity team. They outscored their opponents 282-124 (point differential of +158) at home. In 2016, even the 7-9 Eagles managed to go 6-2 at home, including a win against the Super Bowl-bound Falcons. They outscored their opponents 194-124 (+70) in those games.

The Linc is going to be absolutely lit, as the kids would say. The Eagles eke one out against a very good Falcons team, with the defense leading the charge.


Steelers (-4) at Browns: Some general life advice: Don't be reckless with other people's hearts, don't put up with people who are reckless with yours, and don't pick the Browns to win a football game until they actually, you know, show that they can win one.


49ers at Vikings (-6.5): I'm looking forward to watching the Vikings play their first game against a team with a really strong pass rush. In Washington, Kirk Cousins played behind a much better offensive line than the one he's playing behind in Minny, and I'm curious how he'll handle it. The Niners are an ascending team, but they don't have the pass rush to exploit the Vikings' Achilles heel, in my opinion, so I like this matchup for the Vikes.


Bengals at Colts (-3): If you're interested, you can see all 32 of Andrew Luck's preseason pass attempts here, here, and here. It's a lot of short passes, and if we're being honest, it's pretty underwhelming. Frank Reich should be able to maximize what he can get out of a clearly less than 100 percent Luck, but ultimately, the Colts' supporting roster around him is garbage, and they're not going to win many games. But they'll probably win this one against the equally bad Bengals, who have the most inexperienced roster in the NFL.


Bills at Ravens (-7.5): I think the sense is that the Ravens are a fading franchise, but they actually had a point differential in 2017 of +92, which was fourth in the AFC. They're going to be playoff contenders, and should make easy work of the Nathan Peterman-led Bills.


Jaguars (-3) at Giants: The Jaguars have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, while the Giants have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. That is a bad matchup for the Giants. #Analysis. This is one of those games where Ben McAdoo's quick-hitter offense would have actually made some sense, but he's gone. We'll get a good look Week 1 at just how improved the Giants' offense is against a very, very good defense. 


Buccaneers at Saints (-9.5): The Buccaneers are a disaster, and this will be their first loss of many before a lot of people are fired at the end of the season.


Texans at Patriots (-6.5): This is an interesting line. In years past, when the Pats were thought of as a dominant juggernaut, this line would be much higher. It's not the same team, though I'm not about to start picking against them just yet.


Titans (-1.5) at Dolphins: The Titans are a good bet to be a 2017 playoff team that doesn't return to the playoffs in 2018, but they get a Week 1 cupcake in the Dolphins.


Chiefs at Chargers (-3.5): I picked the Chargers to be the No. 2 seed in the AFC this year, and I get squeamish looking at a game like this, which is testing my conviction. With zero confidence whatsoever, I'll stand by my preseason predictions and go with the Bolts against the very formidable (in the regular season, anyway) Chiefs.


Seahawks at Broncos (-3): Success can come and go quickly in the NFL, as evidenced by this Week 1 matchup between two teams that both appeared in two Super Bowls in the last five years, winning one each. Now, one of them is quarterbacked by Case Keenum, and the other just lost half of it's juggernaut defense. This is simpleton thinking here, but give me the team with Russell Wilson at QB over the one with Keenum.


Cowboys at Panthers (-2.5): The Cowboys have arguably the worst WR-TE group in the NFL. So, there's that, plus the fact that Dak Prescott regressed in his second year in the NFL, and what you have is an offense that scares precisely nobody in the passing game.

Even before Prescott's struggles, and before Dez Bryant and Jason Witten became ex-Cowboys, Jason Garrett was always going to run his offense through running back Ezekiel Elliott, as he wished to do in 2017 before Zeke was suspended. In 2018, with Zeke back, the Cowboys are going to be perhaps the most predictable offense in the league. They are unquestionably going to see packed boxes all season long, and they're going to have to keep running it into the line of scrimmage anyway.

That's not likely to be very effective against the Panthers, the third-ranked run defense in the NFL a season ago, especially with All-Pro center Travis Frederick out.


Redskins at Cardinals (-1): Every year I write why each of the four teams in the NFC East will be a dumpster fire that season. It's supposed to a funny look at all four teams in the division, but with legitimate reasons why/how their seasons can fall apart. A side effect of going through that exercise for me personally is that I get a chance to look at each team from the perspective of laying out how many obstacles each team has to overcome, and how daunting they will be. Sometimes it's not what I expect.

For example, to my surprise a year ago, I had a lot of trouble coming up with 10 good reasons why the Eagles would be bad in 2017, despite most viewing them as an average team. They didn't have many obvious holes, and as it turned out, they were in fact the best team in football.

This year, while it was easy to come up with 10 major flaws for the Cowboys and I could have done 15 for the Giants, it was legitimately hard coming up with 10 for the Redskins. They have far fewer holes than people think. It's a good roster that simply lacks star power. In my opinion, they are the second-best team in the NFC East, and it surprises me that the Cardinals are favored in this game.


Bears at Packers (-7.5): In 19 career games against the Bears, Aaron Rodgers is 15-4 with a 107.4 QB rating. This Bears team will be better than in recent years, but I tend to ride one team's ownership of another until that changes.


Jets at Lions (-6.5): It's so hard to pick between two teams with crappy offensive lines, because they tend to be sloppy and unpredictable games. I'll take the Lions to win, I guess, but I like the Jets getting 6.5 points because sloppy football tends to be an equalizer.


Rams (-4.5) at Raiders: I'd like to watch this game, but for some asinine reason the NFL is having this one start at freaking 10:15 p.m. Also, get off my lawn. The Raiders have the potential of being an absolute disaster this season, so the ascending Rams are a pretty easy pick.

• Picks against the spread: Eagles (-1), Jaguars (-3), Panthers (-2.5), Redskins (+1), Jets (+6.5).

• Survivor pick (We'll do this until I get one wrong): Don't try to be a hero Week 1. Just take the Saints.

• 2018 season, straight up 0-0 (.000)
• 2018 season, ATS: 0-0-0 (.000)
• 2017 season, straight up: 181-86 (0.678)
• 2017 season, ATS: 36-32-2 (0.529)
• 2016 season, straight up: 171-94-2 (0.644)
• 2016 season, ATS:  41-34 (0.547)
• 2015 season, straight up: 163-93 (0.637)
• 2015 season, ATS: 46-30-2 (0.605)

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