It is finally here! Week 1 of the 2016 NFL Season. We have been patiently awaiting its arrival like we were another Frank Ocean album. Only difference here is that there is no chance the beginning of the season could be a hoax at first. We’ve got an immediate Super Bowl rematch which is always fun, a potential Super Bowl preview in the desert, two rookie quarterbacks starting in the NFC East, a throwback game (which will be described below) and a boatload of other exciting games to be played. Who will win them all? Check out these picks below!
Thursday, September 7th, 8:30 e.t.
Carolina Panthers @ Denver Broncos
Obviously this is a rematch of Super Bowl 50. That was a game dominated by Denver’s defense. A quick highlight of that contest can be seen below.
How will this match up go? Chances are Cam Newton and company will extract some revenge. Trevor Seimien gets the nod and will have to stare down the barrel of the gun towards a defense that may be a shadow of what it was last year, but is still good enough to get the job done. Sans Josh Norman, the Panthers should have their way as long as they can slow Denver’s running game. Just stick Kawaan Short in a rocking chair and have him guard the middle; Caronlina will be fine.
Carolina 29, Denver 14
Sunday September 11th, 1:00 e.t.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta will be parting ways with the Georgia dome this year. Sure, the four dollar beers will be greatly missed, but on the bright side the new stadium is looking like it has the chance to be pretty awesome, kind of like the team that will nest there. The Falcons might not be kicking through glass like Stone Cold Steve Austin these days, but they have some talent to build around, especially on offense in Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman. Of course, Tampa knows about young budding talent. Look no further than their quarterback Jameis Winston who is, by the way, undefeated against the dirty birds. 2016 brings a lot of great promise towards Tampa Bay, but unfortunately this game will not. As tempting as it is to swing with the Bucs here, rolling with the Falcons at home seems to be a safer bet. Unfortunately picking Week 1 games is sort of like sitting at a high stakes poker table with scared money; you’re really afraid to take risks. Atlanta should put these guys away with a solid offensive performance from Matty Ice as they try to rise up (get it?) to supremacy again.
Atlanta 28, Tampa Bay 20
Chicago Bears @ Houston Texans
Brock Osweiler gets a crack at Chicago to open the season; a team that he defeated in his first ever start in Week 11 last year. Denver’s defense had a strong showing in that game while the offense wasn’t too special outside of one nice drive and a big play to Demaryius Thomas. But that was last year. This year, the Texans have a potential to be a very good offensive team as long as they stay out of their own way. Jay Cutler can tell you all about that. Here’s a guy with some serious arm talent who is very prone to making mistakes. That’s not a favorable combination when facing a ball-hawking Houston secondary. Also, Chicago really struggled to score points in the preseason. This trend could continue as they try to find an identity on offense.
Houston 21, Chicago 13
Cleveland Browns @ Philadelphia Eagles
Carson Wentz is making his first career start, and it could not have come against a better team in Cleveland. That said, it won’t be him who wins this game for Philly, it’ll be the Eagles defense which has the potential to be a top five unit under Jim Schwartz. Robert Griffin III knows all about playing the birds and has had some mixed success in the past. However, on Sunday he could be staring at the skies of Philadelphia quite a bit as it is likely he will be on his back for a majority of the game. Wentz shall see plenty of pressure in his own right as he struggles when the heat is applied. The Browns will surely take advantage of this. It should be a defensive game, and the Eagles definitely have the better defense in this one.
Philadelphia 20, Cleveland 10
Minnesota Vikings @ Tennessee Titans
Forrest Gump would be proud of this contest since we should see each team keep running the ball repeatedly throughout. You’re grandaddy might begin reminiscing on the good ole days where offenses would just pound away at other hoping to knock each other’s teeth out. Vikings/Titans should be the modern day football equivalent of a Foreman/Ali fight since they will both pound away at each other with their bulky and physically gifted running backs. The Vikes will weep at the loss of their young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, but have former Eagle Sam Bradford to fall back on. That said, Bradford has had a small amount of time to acclimate himself with the Minnesota wide receivers and unless he can learn the playbook through osmosis, he will have a very limited amount of plays at his disposal. Meanwhile, the Titans have the rocks in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry to smash through the Viking defense. Picking the Music City men may be unpopular, but it’s happening. We don’t write these things to make friends.
Tennessee 27, Minnesota 17
Buffalo Bills @ Baltimore Ravens
Otherwise known as the Tyrod Taylor bowl, the Virginia Tech player will return to face his former team, this time with the keys to the car in hand. Will Buffalo be able to run over the Ravens in Baltimore? Most people would nod their heads yes to this, but that would just make too much sense. Watch, this is going to be the game where Joe Flacco comes out and throws the ball 45 times for 330 yards and a couple of scores. Steve Smith is healthy and ready to break some ankles, perhaps not only figuratively. Ben Watson is gonezo, but Maxx Williams will step up and contribute to the offense. The Bills may struggle on the road in a place where a lot of teams have over a majority of the past decade.
Baltimore 26, Buffalo 22
Cincinnati Bengals @ New York Jets
The Bengals limp into this game hampered with injuries yet are still favored to win this game, if Vegas is to be trusted. After having the season of his life, the Jets were smart to finally get Ryan Fitzpatrick back on the team. He went a long time without signing, but luckily for Gang Green he did, otherwise they would be in some serious trouble at running back. The Bengals don’t have all of the big name talent as they have had in years past, but still have plenty of offensive firepower to be a good team. Kicking the door down against the Jets is what will probably take place on Sunday. This is a pick based purely on the thought that Cincy has a better team than New York does at this point in time. If not, it’d be easy to say that the Jets’ defense swarms and gives headaches to Andy Dalton all afternoon. But, let’s not get too crazy now.
Cincinnati 24, New York 17
San Diego Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs
The San Diego Philip Rivers will head to Arrowhead to clash with the Chiefs on Sunday and may not enjoy their stay all too much. Kansas City had their way with the bolts last year and held them to just six points in two games. Philip Rivers will be asked to carry the team this season since it does not have a ton of big name talent to lean on. Although, they do quietly have a bunch of scrappy gamers that may not be good enough to win a ton of games but do have the ability to make some teams mad this year. Anyways, the Chiefs defense looks even better than it did a year ago, and they weren’t too shabby in 2015. Alex Smith takes care of the rock as if it were a newborn baby, so relying on him to turn it over isn’t something you’d want to bring to the bank. Kansas City will be jumping at the return of Jamaal Charles, who should be eased back into action in this game. There’s no need for him to run his legs off, but fifteen carries doesn’t seem too ridiculous. The Chiefs will handle the Chargers as they compete for the top spot in the AFC West.
Kansas City 31, San Diego 14
Green Bay Packers @ Jacksonville Jaguars
It’s funny how many things change over a year. At the beginning of last season, we were questioning whether or not the Jaguars had enough players to even be a competitive team, now we are touting them as one of the more talented and electric offenses in the league. Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are a dynamic duo at wide receiver and they got big Blake Bortles tossing them the ball. The ole gunslinger himself likes to copy off of Brett Farve’s tests when it comes to heaving the ball. Farve once chilled with Green Bay’s quarterback Aaron Rodgers many moons ago. Now Rodgers has taken over in Green Bay and has become what all other teams in the league wants their quarterbacks to be: the very best. He gets Jordy Nelson back this year, and that’s kind of like cork in the bat to an offense that already had the potential to be very good. The offensive line could be a bit problematic, but it shouldn’t prove too much of a burden this week. The Packers should roll out of Jacksonville with a win in what may be the weekend’s highest scoring game. They are going to eat the Jags alive in the middle of the field with slants, drags, and tight end posts.
Green Bay 41, Jacksonville 27
Oakland Raiders @ New Orleans Saints
You thought you knew all about these Raiders last year? They’re kind of like that ex you had that you never appreciated at the time, but now wish you had back because they look so much better these days. You gave up on them, don’t lie. But they are itching to get into the playoffs this year behind Derek Carr and company. Their first challenge will be against the Saints, who, would be like a current significant other with whom you are getting fed up with and want to break things off with. This game would serve as a last ditch effort on their part to win you back because Drew Brees is going to go off. Five touchdowns for the man will get us all thinking about the times back in 2009-2013 where New Orleans was a world beater. It doesn’t help either that the Raiders are on the road in an eastern time zone, even though it is the first game of the season, their internal clocks could be all out of whack.
New Orleans 38, Oakland 29
Sunday, September 11th, 4:05 e.t.
Miami Dolphins @ Seattle Seahawks
The Dolphins throw Arian Foster into the flames immediately as he will quickly be tested against the Legion of Boom. A lot of people are trying to find ways to write this defense off but they are still one of the best in the league. They are also playing at home where opposing team’s dreams and ear drums go to die. Don’t expect a Miami win this time like we all got back in 2011. The Dolphins are in some trouble flying practically all the way across the world for this game. They would have to control the clock for close to two thirds of the contest and that could be difficult if drives are not being put together consistently.
Seattle 33, Miami 10
Sunday September 11th, 4:25 e.t.
Detroit Lions @ Indianapolis Colts
Matthew Stafford versus Andrew Luck II. The first bout was a memorable one for Mr. Luck as he threw a game winning touchdown pass as time expired to Donnie Avery for the win. This game probably won’t be that dramatic, but it could have its fair share of twists and turns. The question is, how good will the Lions be this season? They have always been thought of as an offensive team, but this year they may not have that luxury. Let’s face it, their running game is this:
It remains to be seen what Marvin Jones can bring to this Detroit offense opposite of Golden Tate, but expect there to be growing pains. Andrew Luck is going to have a huge bounceback year and it starts at home against the Lions.
Indianapolis 30, Detroit 15
New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys
Dak Prescott is the second of only two rookie quarterbacks to start this season but unlike Carson Wentz, he also has a rookie running back in the backfield. Granted, Ezekiel Elliot is already being hyped as the rookie of the year without having played a single down yet, but a lot of it has to do with the strength of Dallas’s offensive line. They’re good, really good. Because of that, it is tough to pick against the Cowboys here. But it’s going to happen anyways. The Giants secondary is much improved over a season ago, and they had their way last year with Dallas. A first year QB without any experience is bound to make a mistake or two in this contest. Sure, he lit it up in the preseason but as we all know the regular season is an entirely different animal. Not to mention, the Giants have an offense fully capable of putting up points in a hurry. In a shootout, Eli Manning is to be trusted more than a rook.
New York 35, Dallas 31
Sunday, September 11th, 8:30 e.t.
New England Patriots @ Arizona Cardinals
If Tom Brady were allowed to play in this game, it could be praised as one of the most intriguing matchups of the entire season. As it is, we get to see Jimmy Garoppolo make his first start in the NFL against a really good defense and an offense to match it. Most people will write this game off as a win for Arizona since the Pats don’t have #12 under center, but we know better than this. New England should have another decent defense this season and their tight ends could be the best individual group in the sport. The Cards may have trouble guarding both Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett as they create an abundance of matchup problems. With the strength of their defense and a little timely offense, watch the Patriots pull a bit of an upset on the road on Sunday night.
*UPDATE 9/10* Having no Tom Brady is one thing, but now that New England is without Gronk as well, it will be tough sledding of the Pats on the road against one of the best teams in football. The original prediction called for an upset, but playing it safe now is definitely the move. The Patriots won’t have the horses to run with the Cardinals in Glendale.
Arizona 31, New England 23
Monday, September 12th, 7:10 e.t.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Washington Redskins
The Redskins were 6-2 at home last season, and a lot of it had to do with how well their quarterback Kirk Cousins played. Will they be able to pick up a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Landover? Unlikely. However, watching Josh Norman run with Antonio Brown could be one of the most eye-popping battles of the week. Of course, Norman will probably be playing one side of the field like he’s used to whereas Brown will be moving all about in formations, so we might only get to see those two square off on about half of the snaps. With an offense capable of lunging into the stratosphere, it is going to be tough to go against the black and yellow in week one. Many people thing Washington was a one year wonder. That may not be the case entirely, but don’t be surprised if they fall back just a little bit this season.
Pittsburgh 39, Washington 23
Monday, September 12th, 10:20 e.t.
Los Angeles Rams @ San Francisco 49ers
I almost wrote the St. Louis Rams just now. But anyways, the Niners are going to throw Blaine Gabbert out there under center to help them with their quarterback situation. That’s kind of like pouring whiskey onto an open cut in hopes of healing the wound, isn’t it? Carlos Hyde should definitely benefit from running in Chip Kelly’s scheme as he more closely resembles LeSean McCoy than DeMarco Murray ever did. If he weren’t running into the teeth of the Ram’s defense and right at one of the best defensive lines in football, it would be tempting to pick the Niners despite their woeful signal-caller paradigm. Defensively, the 49ers may struggle if the offense goes three and out a lot. They figure to if their talent level is any indication. The Rams should find success pounding Todd Gurley in the middle of the field and Case Keenum is slightly better than Blaine Gabbert. Where else can you see a matchup of a Case versus a Blaine? Only on Monday Night Football!
St. Louis 22, San Francisco 9
Week 1 Bonus Predictions
Sure Bet of the Week: Seattle over Miami
Upset of the Week:
New England over Arizona Tennessee over Minnesota
Offensive Player of the Week: Drew Brees, QB Saints
Defensive Player of the Week: Janoris Jenkins, CB Giants
Rookie of the Week: Kyle Fuller, WR Texans
Best Quarterback: Brees
Best Running Back: Todd Gurley