The NFL season starts with a rematch of the NFC Divisional Round playoffs from a year ago. Whether or not Carson Wentz is back at quarterback for the Eagles, the Falcons are still going to have a tough time slowing down the defending Super Bowl champs. Look for Falcons QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones to have a big day but in the end, the Eagles fly… Philadelphia 31, Atlanta 21.
The Browns have beaten the Steelers just four times since 2001, a span of 36 games. Last year’s games were close – 21-18 and 28-24 – but when Cleveland and Pittsburgh meet it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion. Plus, the Browns are coming off a 0-16 season… Pittsburgh 30, Cleveland 20.
The Bengals and Colts played last year and Cincinnati pulled out a 24-23 win. If Colts QB Andrew Luck is back in the lineup, Indy has a shot. The Bengals need to fix a suspect offensive line. With a little Luck… Indianapolis 24, Cincinnati 21.
The Titans and Dolphins have met in each of the past three seasons. Miami holds a 2-1 advantage. This will be the first game for Tennessee under new head coach Mike Vrabel. The Titans will play great defense and QB Marcus Mariota should be healthy as should WR Corey Davis. It’s hard to not pick Miami at home, but the Dolphins run game is awful and the defense needs vast improvements… Tennessee 29, Miami 17.
The Vikings and 49ers haven’t played since 2015 when San Francisco won 20-3. It was only the 49ers’ second win over Minnesota since 1999. Both teams have high hopes. It will be the first game for new Vikings QB Kirk Cousins. The Niners’ Jimmy Garoppolo will try and make it six wins in a row since becoming the team’s starting quarterback… Minnesota 17, San Francisco 16.
The Texans just need to stay healthy. Head coach Bill O’Brien welcomes back QB Deshaun Watson, DE J.J. Watt, and LB Whitney Mercilus from season-ending injuries last year. The Patriots will be without suspended WR Julian Edelman. Shouldn’t matter. The Texans have only beaten the Patriots once ever and that was back in 2010… New England 34, Houston 30.
The Bucs actually beat the Saints last season, but it was in the regular season’s final week when the division title was already decided. Head coach Dirk Koetter needs the Bucs to have some success. The problem is that the Bucs defense will likely still be awful. Take Drew Brees and the Saints backfield – Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara… New Orleans 35, Tampa Bay 24.
The Jaguars and Giants have only faced each other six times in NFL history. The Jags are coming off a season in which they made it to the AFC title game. The Giants? Well, they trudged through a 3-13 disappointment. No. 2 overall draft pick Saquon Barkley should energize the offense and the home team has won every single game in the series… NY Giants 23, Jacksonville 20.
Of the five times the Bills have played the Ravens in Baltimore, they have lost four times and their last victory was in 1999. Could rookie Josh Allen be the Day 1 starter for the Bills? The Ravens drafted two rookie tight ends. Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews could emerge as key members of the Baltimore offense. Playing in Baltimore is tough… Baltimore 20, Buffalo 17.
Patrick Mahomes will be the new starting quarterback in Kansas City, and Eric Bienemy is the new offensive coordinator. Running back Kareem Hunt and TE Travis Kelce are big-time weapons as-is the speedy Tyreek Hill. The Chargers could be the surprise of the NFL. Running back Melvin Gordon (1,105 yards) and WR Keenan Allen (1,393 receiving yards) return as does QB Philip Rivers (4,515 yards). The defense, which added S Derwin James in the draft, could the NFL’s best… LA Chargers 31, Kansas City 27.
The Seahawks have won three of the last four against Denver, which includes the 43-8 stomping in Super Bowl XLVIII. Denver’s last win was at home in 2010. The Broncos will have a new QB in Case Keenum and a defense built around LB Von Miller and rookie DE Bradley Chubb. The Seahawks need to find a running game and only S Earl Thomas remains from the Legion of Boom defensive backfield. Give Denver a slight home field advantage… Denver 24, Seattle 20.
Since the 1999 season, the Redskins have beaten the Cardinals 11 of 14 times including last year’s 20-15 victory. The Redskins will have a new quarterback in Alex Smith and a loaded backfield with Samaje Perine (603 yards in 2017) and second-round draft pick Derrius Guice. The Cardinals will have a new quarterback of their own in Sam Bradford. Washington’s track record in this series is just too much… Washington 28, Arizona 21.
Since 2005, the Cowboys and Panthers have met six times. Dallas has won five including all of the games played in Charlotte at Bank of America Stadium. Carolina went 6-2 at home last season. Dallas is recovering from a disappointing 9-7 season last year after winning the NFC East the previous year. The Cowboys have plenty of weapons – QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott to name a few. Carolina’s defense is the difference in this season opener… Carolina 20, Dallas 17.
Week 1’s Sunday night game is an NFC North showdown. The Packers have owned this series winning the last four straight and, since the 2009 season, 16 of the last 19 meetings. Chicago will have a new head coach in Matt Nagy, Kansas City’s former offensive coordinator. The problem is that the Bears defense is marginal and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers is back and healthy. Oh, and the game is at Lambeau Field… Green Bay 33, Chicago 17.
In the first of two opening week Monday night games, the Jets head to Ford Field in Detroit to take on the Lions. Josh McCown will start at quarterback for the Jets, but for how long? First-round pick Sam Darnold waits in the wings. The Lions have experience and have gone 9-7 in each of the past two seasons… Detroit 27, NY Jets 17.
The final game of Week 1 is a west coast matchup between the Rams and Raiders. The Rams will be looking to take the next step after winning the NFC West and then bowing out of the playoffs in the Wild Card round. The Rams have won three of the last four meetings with the Raiders. The last was in 2014, a 52-0 blowout back when the Rams were still in St. Louis. The game will mark the return of Jon Gruden to the head coaching ranks. It also marks the return of the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year (Todd Gurley of the Rams) and Defensive Player of the Year (Aaron Donald of the Rams). Advantage Rams… LA Rams 30, Oakland 23.
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2018 NFL Football Season