We are just hours away from the start of a brand-new NFL season. Each week, I will publish my picks against the spread for every game. The point spreads I will use are from rtsports.com. The minus sign denotes who is favored and by how much. My picks are in bold. Underdogs I like to pull upsets out right and win the game will have an asterisk next to them. Any changes I make between time of publishing and game time will be published on my social media accounts, and likely those of The Game Haus. The first week is always very difficult pick games in, but here it goes.
Panthers (-3) at Broncos *- In the interest of full disclosure, it is very difficult for me to pick against the Broncos. It will happen, but not here. I expect Denver to come out firing in defense of their Super Bowl title. Carolina’s front seven is essentially the same as last year. Denver had success in the Super Bowl by going right at them, expect nothing different from C.J. Anderson and company in this game. Even with a few faces from last year gone, the Broncos defense will be incredibly difficult for every opponent to deal with.
Cam Newton may have difficulty getting over the mental hurdle that the Super Bowl drubbing undoubtedly created. New Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian has a very simple role for now. Get the ball to the playmakers around you and do not make the big mistake. I expect a very physical football game between two fairly evenly matched teams. When in doubt, take the home team. Den 20 Car 17
Bills at Ravens (-3) – In my view, no team had a better off-season than the Ravens. Everyone is healthy and they added a couple really nice pieces in free agency without breaking the bank. In contrast, the Bills but did little to improve their roster. They were the definition of average last year. Granted, dual threat quarterback Tyrod Taylor was surprisingly effective and will keep them in most games this year. Their lack of defense and pass rush is astounding for a Rex Ryan coached football team. His brilliant defensive mind is not enough, the players have to be there, and right now they just aren’t. Bal 31 Buf 24
Bears * at Texans (-6) – This is a game I am anxious to see. I am the only one on planet Earth who thinks the Bears are going to be good this year. I really like that offense and John Fox will really start to make that defense better in year two.
I am also in the minority that thinks Houston will take a major step back this year. Lamar Miller has never been the bell cow running back in his career. Why the Texans think he is going to succeed in that role now is a mystery to me. Also, remember one thing about their new quarterback Brock Osweiler. If he was anything special, John Elway would have never let him leave Denver. Two of my biggest off season predictions are on display in this one for better or worse. Chi 24 Hou 21
Bengals (-2) at Jets- This game is one of the toughest to call in the opening week. These teams are built very similarly. Solid quarterbacks, preview the skill position players, and well above average defenses. I think Ryan Fitzpatrick played well above his capabilities last year. Sometimes that happens. I just like the Bengals a little bit more on both sides of the ball. However, they will miss tight end Tyler Eifert dearly as he recovers from injury. Cin 23 Nyj 17
Browns* at Eagles (-4) – This line is baffling to me. In fairness, that probably means Vegas is right and I am wrong. How the Eagles can be favored over anyone is a mystery to me, even if it is the Browns. I just cannot pick a team that is starting a rookie quarterback that prior to Philadelphia’s organizational 180 earlier this week was not going to see the field at all this year. Cle 27 Phi 20
Packers (-4.5) at Jaguars – Jacksonville is really coming on strong led by young quarterback Blake Bortles and a slew of other young talent on offense. This is a tall order for the first week though. I have to go with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers here. I know what I’m getting from them. Jacksonville looks pretty good on paper, but I have to see them before putting any faith in that franchise. GB 31 Jac 20
Vikings (-2) at *Titans- Here is another line that boggles my mind. The Vikings are trying to give quarterback Sam Bradford a crash course in their offense so he can start this game. He was just acquired via trade a few days ago. Tennessee is a really nice job adding talent to the offense in support of second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota this offseason. I say they start on a winning note. It will be a long year for the Vikings, as I thought they were a six win team with Teddy Bridgewater. Without him, they could be picking first in the 2017 draft. Ten 21 Min 10
Raiders at Saints (-1) – Much like Jacksonville, the Raiders are a trendy pick to surprise this year. Taking on Drew Brees and the Saints in New Orleans is an interesting first test. I will take Brees to outduel youngster Derek Carr in an entertaining shootout. Nor 38 Oak 35
Chargers at Chiefs (-7) – It is tough not to go with the underdog getting this many points in a rivalry game, but Kansas City is pretty good and very well coached. Andy Reid is money when given more than a few days to prepare. The season opener is one of few instances where he has that. San Diego is lacking direction and does not have much outside of Philip Rivers. KC 24 SD 13
Bucs * at Falcons (-3) – The Falcons are basically the same team as they were last year. They were wildly inconsistent. Tampa got better and better under quarterback James Winston. Expect both trends to continue in 2016. TB 31 Atl 28
Dolphins at Seahawks (-10.5) – What a tough draw new head coach Adam Gase and the Dolphins in the opener. Seattle is the vastly superior team and Miami is traveling across country. This will get ugly. Sea 24 Mia 6
Lions at Colts (-3) – Both teams were tough to figure out last year. With Andrew Luck healthy and the Lions ability to replace the now retired Calvin Johnson unknown, Indy is the safe bet here. Ind 23 Det 16
Giants at Cowboys (PK) – Dak Prescott looked great in the preseason, which we are no longer in. However, there is enough talent around him for the Cowboys to stay in it while Romo recovers. The Giants burned me so many times last year by losing late leads. They did not change much on defense. Thus, I expect more of the same this year. In pick ‘em games, always take the home team. Dal 28 Nyg 27
Patriots at Cardinals (-6) – I almost went with the outright upset here. As good as Arizona is, Bill Belichick has had pretty much all off season to figure out how to be competitive with Jimmy Garoppolo for four games. He has something up his sleeve. This will be a tight game and the only one the Pats lose without Tom Brady. Ari 24 NE 23
MNF- Steelers* at Redskins (-3) – I do not buy either of these teams this year. However, no one would argue Big Ben is the better quarterback here. If the better quarterback is getting points in a game between two fairly evenly matched teams, I will take it almost every single time. Pit 28 Was 21
MNF- Rams (-2.5) at 49ers*- As insane as Chip Kelly is, he tends to make offenses better, at least in the short term. Blaine Gabbert was serviceable when given the starting quarterback job during the season last year. Kelly will build on that. The Rams defense is solid, but unless they can duplicate Todd Gurley 10 more times, the offense will be a tough watch. Look for the 49ers to score just enough to pull the small upset. SF 14 LA 10.
Enjoy the football smorgasbord everyone! I know I will. I will keep track of my record throughout the season.