Are you ready for some football? It’s time for the 2016-17 season to kickoff. Who will meet in Super Bowl 51 in Houston, Texas this year? The long, winding road to find out that answer begins on Thursday night in Denver where the Broncos will host the Panthers in a rematch of Super Bowl 50.
Carolina Panthers (0-0) @ Denver Broncos (0-0)
Game Pick: Panthers – Expect a similar style of game to that was played in Super Bowl 50 between these two clubs. The only difference this time around is that the Panthers will come out on top. New Broncos QB Trevor Siemian was competent during the pre-season, but the regular season is a whole different animal. And so is the Panthers defense. Sure they lost top CB Josh Norman, but the dominant Carolina front seven helps to cover up that potential weakness. Denver’s defense will keep the game tight and low scoring, but the revenge factor and QB Cam Newton will make the difference in a three point game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) @ Atlanta Falcons (0-0)
Game Pick: Buccaneers – If this game was in Tampa, it would be a lot more difficult to predict. The Buccaneers seem to fare better on the road, and throw in the fact they’re an underdog against an overrated Falcons team and you have the recipe for a minor upset. The Falcons have a descending quarterback in Matt Ryan and WR Juilo Jones. What else do they have? Apart from CB Desmond Trufant, there isn’t very much to get excited about. The Bucs may not be getting the respect the deserve right now, but if QB Jameis Winston an company can get an opening win in week one on the road, that might begin to change.
Buffalo Bills (0-0) @ Baltimore Ravens (0-0)
Game Pick: Ravens – The Ravens were a shell of themselves last year, playing with a severely undermanned roster that was ravaged by injuries. They are as healthy as they can be right now, and while the likes of WR Steve Smith and OLB Terrell Suggs may not ever get back to the level they were at before they got hurt, they are the right side this week. QB Tyrod Taylor would love to prove his former team wrong for letting him go, but Buffalo’s defense has taken a beating this off-season. Rex Ryan will have them ready to go, but it’s not going to be enough this week.
Chicago Bears (0-0) @ Houston Texans (0-0)
Game Pick: Texans – DE J.J Watt may not be at his best coming off of off-season back surgery, but any chance the Bears might have had of winning this game vanished when Watt was declared fit and ready to play. That all being said, Chicago’s defense should be vastly improved from last year and they might be able to keep QB Brock Osweiler, WR DeAndre Hopkins and the Texans new stable of offensive weapons from making this game the blowout that many prognosticators think it might be. Houston wins, but it’s going to be close.
Green Bay Packers (0-0) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0)
Game Pick: Packers – The Jaguars are going to get a big test at home to open the season against the Packers. They are definitely a team on the rise and appear to be on the verge of finally making that leap from pretender to contender. But unfortunately for them, that leap will have to at least wait until next week. WR Jordy Nelson’s return to health along with a more fit Eddie Lacy is going to make this Green Bay team hard to slow down offensively. The Jags have a lot of new toys on defense, but it isn’t going to be enough to slow down the Packers in this game.
San Diego Chargers (0-0) @ Kansas City Chiefs (0-0)
Game Pick: Chiefs – The AFC West is arguably the toughest division in the league, but the consensus seems to be that the Chiefs are the team to beat and it’s easy to see why. They are the most stable of the four teams and have few weaknesses. However they will be without RB Jamaal Charles and OLB Justin Houston this week, and the Chargers managed to make it through the pre-season relatively unscathed. The Chiefs embarrassed San Diego in both games between the two clubs last year. The Chargers won’t forget that and aren’t going to be a pushover this season if they can stay healthy. The Chiefs will have to scratch and claw their way to a win this week. It won’t be easy.
Oakland Raiders (0-0) @ New Orleans Saints (0-0)
Game Pick: Raiders – You want points? This game will likely not disappoint in that regard. And that is because this Saints defense looks like it might be as porous as it was last season. The Raiders have a good offensive line and a lot of weapons at QB David Carr’s disposal. Look for WR Amari Cooper in-particular to have a really big day. New Orleans won’t struggle to put up points of their own, but LT Terron Armstead not completely healthy, the Saints offensive line is looking shaky. That is going to set the stage for Khalil Mack and the Raiders defense to make enough plays to help the Raiders to win a shootout.
Cincinnati Bengals (0-0) @ New York Jets (0-0)
Game Pick: Bengals – This appears to be one of the most evenly matched games of the week, but the Bengals appear to be catching the Jets at the right time. The Jets biggest strength won’t be as big a strength this week because of the one game suspension DT Sheldon Richardson has to serve. DT Steve McLendon is serviceable, but a downgrade from free agent departure Damon Harrison. That means the Bengals should be able to move the ball on the ground with RB’s Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard. Combine that with an above average Cincinnati defense and the Bengals should be able to eke out a victory on the road to start the year.
Cleveland Browns (0-0) @ Philadelphia Eagles (0-0)
Game Pick: Browns – The Browns aren’t going to win a whole lot of games this year, but this one appears to be one that they can win thanks to the Eagles decision to trade QB Sam Bradford. They will trot out rookie QB Carson Wentz, who has about a half of pre-season action under his belt. The Eagles defense will give the Browns trouble, there’s no doubt about that. But the Browns offense looked impressive in the pre-season. Bottom line, it’s too much to expect Wentz to win his first game with so few pre-season reps, even against the lowly Browns.
Minnesota Vikings (0-0) @ Tennessee Titans (0-0)
Game Pick: Vikings – Without QB Teddy Bridgewater, the Vikings aren’t nearly as formidable as they would be with him at the helm. Despite that, this team is still incredibly talented across the board. They have an elite defense with play makers at every level and they also have one of the best running backs in the league in Adrian Peterson for either Shaun Hill or Sam Bradford to hand off to. The Titans appear to be headed in the right direction. Their running tandem of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry will prove to be a stiff test for Minnesota. The Vikings though are going to show the rest of the league that they are still an upper echelon team, even without Bridgewater and should win relatively easily.
Miami Dolphins (0-0) @ Seattle Seahawks (0-0)
Game Pick: Seahawks – There is one potential edge the Dolphins may have this game, and it’s their defensive line against the Seahawks questionable offensive line. Other than that, there really isn’t much reason to think that Miami can march into Seattle and knock off the Seahawks at home. Even with that slight advantage Miami may have, expect QB Russell Wilson to be active in the pocket and create yards on his own and find open receivers downfield against a very suspect Dolphins secondary. Add in the fact the Dolphins offensive line will be missing C Mike Pouncey and things could get out of hand quickly. This is probably the easiest pick of the week.
New York Giants (0-0) @ Dallas Cowboys (0-0)
Game Pick: Cowboys – NFC East divisional games are incredibly difficult to prognosticate, and this one is no different. The real wild card is how will Cowboys QB Dak Prescott fare now that the games will count in the standings? He looked more than capable in the pre-season, but the regular season games are a big step up in competition. The Cowboys will likely rely heavily on first round pick RB Ezekiel Elliott to help ease the load on Prescott. For the Giants, it will likely be the Eli Manning and Odell Beckham show yet again. There should be a lot of fireworks in this one. Take the home team, but this game is essentially a pick’em.
Detroit Lions (0-0) @ Indianapolis Colts (0-0)
Game Pick: Lions – The perception of this game might be a little different than what will happen on Sunday. Yes, the Colts are getting QB Andrew Luck back, which will help them a ton. They’ll likely score a lot this week. But with the sorry state of the Colts secondary, there’s a better than average chance the Lions are going to score a lot more. Indianapolis is for sure going to be without CB Vonte Davis, and might be down CB Darius Butler as well. Sure QB Matt Stafford doesn’t have Calvin Johnson to throw to anymore. But in Marvin Jones, Golden Tate and Anquan Boldin, he has a reliable and somewhat underrated group of receivers to throw to. Take the Lions in a shootout.
New England Patriots (0-0) @ Arizona Cardinals (0-0)
Game Pick: Cardinals – QB Jimmy Garoppolo is going to be tested right out of the gate in Arizona, going up against a stout Cardinals defense. Patriots coach Bill Belichick will put him in the best possible position to succeed, but it’s still going to be a difficult task for Garoppolo in his first NFL start. The Cardinals are coming into this season with Super Bowl aspirations yet again. There are a few minor concerns with QB Carson Palmer, who might be starting to show his age a bit, but the bottom line is that without QB Tom Brady, it’s going to be a tall task for the Patriots to go into Arizona and beat the Cardinals. Expect a tight game though that should be decided by less than a touchdown.
Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) @ Washington Redskins (0-0)
Game Pick: Redskins – This could be one of the more entertaining games of the week between two teams with a lot of offensive firepower. The Steelers will be missing some of that firepower, namely RB Le’Veon Bell. But they still have WR Antonio Brown. Despite the fact he will likely be covered by CB Josh Norman, Brown will still find a way to make plays. QB Kirk Cousins is going to attack a suspect Steelers secondary relentlessly though, and as long as his offensive line holds up, he could have a field day. In a bit of an upset, Washington will find a way to win.
Los Angeles Rams (0-0) @ San Francisco 49ers (0-0)
Game Pick: 49ers – Remember what happened week one last season when the favored Vikings went into San Francisco and got smoked by the 49ers on Monday night? Well they might not smoke the Rams, but this could be one of likely very few opportunities San Francisco will have to win this year. New coach Chip Kelly will have his team fired up at home in this divisional match up. The Rams defense could give the 49ers fits, and presumably that could be enough to help the Rams and their Todd Gurley centric offense to a victory. Just call this one a hunch, the 49ers squeak one out in a low scoring affair.