Sep. 13, 2018
NFL Week 1 Preview and Predictions
32 teams start each season with the same goal in mind: get to the Super Bowl. This week starts the long journey to Atlanta. And the best part is, it's the first week. So everyone believes their team is going all the way.
Week 1 Headlines
Khalil Mack Traded: The Oakland Raiders have opted to trade star pass rusher Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears. The Bears get Mack, a 2020 second-round pick and a conditional 2020 fifth round pick. The Raiders get A 2019 first-round pick, a 2020 first-round pick, a 2020 third-round pick, and a 2019 sixth-round pick from the Bears.
Le’Veon’s Holdout: Pittsburgh Steeles running back Le’Veon Bell will continue his holdout and will miss the team’s first game against the Cleveland Browns.
Thomas Reports: Seahawks safety Earl Thomas has opted to conclude his holdout and report to the team in time for the regular season.
A lawsuit in Oakland: The city of Oakland has filed a lawsuit against the future Las Vegas Raiders. The city is seeking millions of dollars in damages for the team’s relocation. Oakland Councilman Noel Gallo is predicting a payout of $500 million. If successful, the lawsuit would force the Raiders out of Oakland at the end of the season. That’s a year earlier than expected as the Raiders await the completion of their new stadium in Las Vegas.
Fantasy Football Start Em/Sit Em
Starting Quarterbacks: Philip Rivers, Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff, and Cam Newton.
Sitting Quarterbacks: Jimmy Garropolo, Derek Carr, Patrick Mahomes, Eli Manning, and Matt Ryan.
Starting Running Backs: Royce Freeman, Joe Mixon, James Connor, Alex Collins, and Peyton Barber.
Sitting Running Backs: Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Williams, Chris Carson, Matt Brieda, and LeSean McCoy.
Starting Wide Receivers: Chris Hogan, Golden Tate, Cooper Kupp, Larry Fitzgerald, and Juju Smith-Schuster
Sitting Wide Receivers: Amari Cooper, Sammy Watkins, Jordy Nelson, Mike Evans, and Pierre Garcon.
Starting Tight Ends: Kyle Rudolph, Vance McDonald, Jack Doyle, Delanie Walker, and Antonio Gates
Sitting Tight Ends: Jared Cook, George Kittle, Cameron Brate, Evan Engram, and Austin Hooper.
Starting Defense/Special Teams: Rams, Chargers, Saints, and Ravens
Sitting Defense/Special Teams: Bears, Texans, Patriots, Chiefs, and Cardinals
Pickup of the Week: James Connor
Eagles vs. Falcons: Kicking off the season is a rematch of an NFC Divisional playoff game. The Falcons will be paying a visit to the reigning champions; the Eagles. Celebration games such as these are high emotion games, and then to go in one of two ways. First, the champions feed off of the crowd and use that energy to beat their opponent. Second, the celebration proves to be a drain from the champions and the road team is able to sneak out of town with a victory. Nick Foles and the Eagles didn’t have a good preseason, and I believe that will carry over into the first game. However, the Eagles defense will be feeding off of the crazed Philly crowd. That momentum will be just enough to carry the Eagles to a victory.
Prediction: Eagles win 23-17
Colts vs. Bengals: People will be tuning in to see the return of Andrew Luck to an NFL field. It’s great that Luck has made it to the regular season, but he hasn’t exactly looked like the old Andrew Luck that could carry the Colts in spite of themselves. Perhaps he will have to make an adjustment to life post shoulder injury. We’ll see how that turns out. As for the Bengals, there’s no question the offensive talent is there. Plus, they made moves to improve the offensive line. But as long as their coach remains the same, one has to wonder how far they will go. As for this game, I think the Bengals will be able to move the ball easier on the Colts defense. They’ll win a close game to start the season.
Prediction: Bengals win 28-20
Ravens vs. Bills: Buffalo’s playoff appearance last season was made at the expense of the Ravens. Nathan Peterman will be the starter going into this game. The last time we saw him starting a game was when the Chargers intercepted him five times in 30 minutes. It was the worst quarterback performance of all time. So the Bills will once again be relying on LeSean McCoy to carry the load on offense. The Ravens are hoping Joe Flacco can get himself and the Ravens offense back on track. He has the weapons to do so this year. And the Bills offense shouldn’t be that hard to outscore in Week 1. The Ravens defense should feast on Peterman en route to a victory.
Prediction: Ravens win 24-13
Saints vs. Buccaneers: The Buccaneers will have a tough run of games to start the season, and they’ll be playing without Jameis Winston. That automatically limits their offense against these elite teams. The Saints are one of the best teams in the NFC entering the season. They should have no trouble beating the Bucs on Sunday.
Prediction: Saints win 35-13
Patriots vs. Texans: After being obliterated by a plague of injuries, the Texans are finally healthy again. Deshaun Watson, J.J. Watt, and Whitney Mercilus are all healthy to start the season. If the Texans can stay healthy, they could make noise in the AFC. Up first, is a road trip to play the Patriots. While the Patriots look weaker than the last two teams that went to the Super Bowl, they’re still dangerous because of their execution. They will go longer without making backbreaking mistakes. And that will carry them to a narrow victory.
Prediction: Patriots win 30-27
Vikings vs. 49ers: Everyone’s favorite dark horse team will get tested out of the gate. The Niners have high expectations for the 2018 season. Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo have yet to lose a game together, the defense is improved, and confidence is high. But the Vikings are a team to be feared. Kirk Cousins solidifies an already stacked offense and the defense should still be among the best in the league. Plus, the Niners will be short their best No. 1 running back. This is a case of being in the right place at the wrong time. The Vikings will overwhelm the Niners on both sides of the ball.
Prediction: Vikings win 27-16
Dolphins vs. Titans: No one is particularly high on either team entering the season. The Dolphins cut ties their big name players in favor of a ‘culture change’. That basically codes for fewer personalities and more company men. The Titans are coming off of a playoff berth, and they’ve added a few Patriots to their roster. One interesting fact about the Titans last year is that they were outscored by their opponents a year ago, but still made the playoffs. They mastered the art of winning ugly. And I believe that’s what this game will be. Sloppy, below average execution, and the Titans somehow picking up the win.
Prediction: Titans win 17-13
Jaguars vs. Giants: For the Giants, this game will be like looking into a mirror of their past. Tom Coughlin has built a team just like those old Giants Super Bowl teams. Power running, physical defense, and a quarterback whose job is to not crash the car. And that mentality and style of play took the Jaguars to the brink of the Super Bowl. The Giants opted to retool around a core that was killed by injuries a season ago. They’ve made changes on the o-line and have a new running back to carry the ball. In this game, the Jaguars will look to dictate the pace with their running game and slow down the Giants with their defense. Jalen Ramsey and Odell Beckham Jr. will be fun to watch as well. But the Jaguars will outlast New York so long as Blake Bortles doesn’t throw the ball away.
Prediction: Jaguars win 20-17
Browns vs. Steelers: The Steelers have won six straight games against the Browns, but Cleveland is the more stable team at the moment. The Le’Veon Bell situation has officially reached distraction. The Steelers o-line has thrown Bell under the bus with their commentary. That’s on top of news that Bell won’t even play on Sunday. The Browns, on the other hand, are greatly improved from the winless team a year ago. They have weapons on offense and confidence in their improvement. So will the Browns pull off the upset to start the season? No. They’ll be up for most of the game until the Steelers pull it together just in time to steal a win.
Prediction: Steelers win 24-21
Chargers vs. Chiefs: Hype for the Los Angeles Chargers has steadily increased as the season drew closer. Many have them pegged as the most talented team in the league. Philip Rivers leads a balanced offense that can attack teams in many ways. Joey Bosa leads a fast and stacked defensive unit. The Chiefs will begin the Patrick Mahomes era, and their young quarterback will be under fire from the first whistle. The Chargers pass rush will be after him all day. Plus, Eric Berry might not be available for this game. I’ll pick the Chargers to roll in this one.
Prediction: Chargers win 34-17
Panthers vs. Cowboys: Dak Prescott will have a lot to prove this season. When Ezekiel Elliot’s suspension finally kicked in, the Cowboys quarterback had some troubles. With Zeke on the active roster, the offense begins and ends with him. So look for opposing teams to stack the box and dare Dak to beat them. The Panthers will be at home with a five-game winning streak that carries over from last season. The Cowboys offense will have their hands full stopping Christian McCaffrey and Cam Newton. And I expect D.J. Moore to get off to a fast start in his rookie campaign. The Dallas defense will be the difference between a win and a loss. And this game will be the latter for the Cowboys.
Prediction: Panthers win 27-17
Cardinals vs. Redskins: Neither team has realistic aspirations for a Super Bowl. The Cardinals will start the season with oft-injured quarterback Sam Bradford while Josh Rosen looks on. The Cardinals are the safe bet in this game since David Johnson will be back on the field for Arizona. Johnson was an all-pro in 2016, and will likely be the main focus on offense. The Redskins are one of those weird treadmill teams. Theoretically, they could make the playoffs with the right bounces. They could also miss the playoffs spectacularly if things go wrong. Alex Smith is a steady quarterback, but also one that comes with an inherent ceiling. For this game, I’ll pick the Redskins to narrowly win because they’re a little better than Arizona overall.
Prediction: Redskins win 28-21
Broncos vs. Seahawks: It seems like just yesterday the Legion of Boom destroyed the Broncos en route to their franchise’s first Super Bowl. Now, the Legion of Boom is dead. Only Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner remain from a once historically great defense. The offense will be Russell Wilson or bust one again since Seahawks management neglected the offensive line. And that’s bad news against a defense like Denver’s. Denver wants nothing more than to attack the quarterback. So I hope Wilson has his track shoes ready. The Denver offense will be led by Case Keenum. Expect Royce Freeman to get a lot of carries in this game to set up a rather simple passing game. The Seahawks will be game, but I don’t like the prospects of them facing the Broncos pass rush.
Prediction: Broncos win 21-20
Packers vs. Bears: If there’s one pastime that Aaron Rodgers loves more than football, it’s hunting and skinning Bears. Chicago has been run out of Lambeau in three of their last four games there. One thing the Bears have in their favor is their defense. The acquisition of Khalil Mack should improve their pass rush and pressure the Packers in some situations. This game will also be a test for the Packers defense and the Bears offense. Optimism is high for both units; so we’ll see how things go to start the season. As for the game, Rodgers specializes in making throws that shouldn’t be possible. So even if the Bears defense applies pressure, he’ll still put the ball on the money. And as usual, he’ll send the Bears packing with a loss.
Prediction: Packers win 27-23
Lions vs. Jets: Sam Darnold will be the only rookie quarterback to start this season, and it will be on the Monday night stage. Despite the high praise on Darnold, we all have to remember that he’s still a rookie. He has talent at the skill positions, and the Jets will likely stick to the ground game to alleviate the pressure. But eventually, the rookie will slip up. The Lions defense isn’t the best, but it won’t have to be. Plus, their pass-happy offense will likely put them out of range late in the game.
Prediction: Lions win 28-14
Raiders vs. Rams: Closing out Week 1 will be between teams headed in opposite directions. The Rams are the champions of the offseason and resident ‘super team’ of the NFL. They’ve spent a lot of money and loaded up on talent on both sides of the ball. Things are trending in the right direction for them on paper. The Raiders on the other hadn’t have had a strange offseason. They brought back Jon Gruden to the tune of $10 million a year for 10 years, they brought in some ragtag veterans, and they traded their best player. In a lot of ways, Gruden’s claim to throw the game back to 1998 has been accurate for the Raiders roster. The veteran aspect and the way their offense is set up looks familiar to observers of those old Raiders teams. But that doesn’t matter this week since the Rams are the far superior team. The Raiders smash-mouth approach will run into a Suh and Donald brick wall. Passes will be defended by their old adversaries Talib and Peters. And the Raiders defense don’t have anyone that can stop the Rams offense.
Prediction: Rams win 35-12