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NFL Week 1 Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

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Welcome to the Look Ahead, the only place on the internet picking NFL games a week ahead of schedule. While the rest of the world ponders formality of the third and final preseason weekend, we're here to offer quick thoughts and minimal analysis on the games coming after that. Next week we will dive into Week 2. Always ahead of the game here.

NFL Predictions Week 1

COWBOYS (+7.5) over Buccaneers

Tom Brady enters the season with 44 years of life experience and lingering hangover from his seventh Super Bowl victory. One of these numbers will continue to go up. The other will stay static and remain the second-most impressive championship career over the past 65 years, trailing only Bill Russell. Eventually the winning has to stop and a regression has to start. Why not right off the bat against a Cowboys side hungry to change the conversation and prove worthy of competing with the big boys? Expect a game for 50 minutes before Brady and an even more explosive offense wakes up in time to erase a sluggish start. Buccaneers 27, Cowboys 24

FALCONS (-3.5) over Eagles

The preseason is a glorified dress rehearsal with goals divergent from winning but getting shellacked by five touchdowns is not a great early return on the Nick Sirianni era. Jalen Hurts appears back on track to line up under center, robbing us of late-stage Joe Flacco. Whether that makes much a difference to the outcome remains to be seen. Philly fans can probably brace themselves for some long afternoons of lackluster offensive play, beginning in Week 1. Matt Ryan and the Falcons have been sneakily laying under the radar and just might emerge as serious playoff contender with hot start. Falcons 34, Eagles 17

STEELERS (+7) over Bills

Ben Roethlisberger has recommitted to his body and looks more like the guy who won two Super Bowls than the one that wilted down the stretch last season. This will be the one year in his career Eric Ebron puts it all together and Najee Harris will be an immediate impact player. And while Buffalo will compete for the AFC crown yet again, this is a great Opening Day value in the free points department. Bills 20, Steelers 17

BENGALS (+3.5) over Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings are a very specific brand of dysfunction and the genuine dislike Mike Zimmer has for his unvaccinated players is both quite admirable and sobering. There's a zero percent chance they get through the year without falling apart in spectacular public fashion. Joe Burrow comes out of the gates looking dramatically more productive and the cats purr in Week 1's biggest laugher. Bengals 38, Vikings 7

LIONS (+7.5) over 49ers

It won't be long now before Trey Lance is one of the most feared quarterbacks in the league. But he's not there yet, meaning Dan Campbell's hometown introduction isn't as bleak as it could have been. Expect the Motor City maniac to throw in an entire kitchen's sink of gadget plays and special teams hijinks to bring this one down to the wire, only to lose in the same predictable fashion all his predecessors mastered. 49ers 30, Lions 27

TITANS (-3) over Cardinals

Here's a hot take. Derrick Henry is going to break the NFL's single-season rushing mark this year and Mike Vrabel is going to legitimately worry about losing a prized appendage. Tennessee flirts with a 50-burger and unveils the NFL's most prolific scoring offense early and often. Hammer the over. Titans 48, Cardinals 38

SEAHAWKS (-1) over Colts

Pete Carroll is addicted to weird scores. Seahawks 19, Colts 18

WASHINGTON (+1.0) over CHARGERS

Justin Herbert was the rookie story of the year in 2020. His second act should only be an improvement after the Chargers (finally) invested in some offensive line help and his receiving corps is back mostly intact. It just won’t be enough against the best front four in football courtesy of the Football Team. New Washington starter Ryan Fitzpatrick will do just enough with the weapons at hand to squeak out a debut victory. Washington 17, Chargers 13

PANTHERS (-4.5) over JETS 

We won’t have to wait long for a Sam Darnold Revenge Game. He’ll be energized and revitalized by Matt Rhule and the opportunity to show his old team up in Week 1. Christian McCaffrey will dazzle in his first game in 10 months. Coupled with Zach Wilson’s limited practice time and Robert Saleh’s first-ever game as head coach, the Panthers will give everyone a reason to hype them up. Panthers 30, Jets 14 

TEXANS (+3.0) over JAGUARS 

Trevor Lawrence could not have asked for an easier start to his NFL career. We still have no clue who will be starting at QB for Houston and their roster is the weakest in the NFL. But Urban Meyer still has a lot to learn about the pro game and losing Travis Etienne will hurt his schemes more than we realize. Assuming Tyrod Taylor gets the nod for Houston, he’ll do just enough to keep his team in what will surely be a game ugly as sin while Lawrence earns his first professional victory. Jaguars 18, Texans 16 

BROWNS (+6.0) over CHIEFS 

This will be the Super Bowl for the early-season Browns. They want to show they belong on lists of contenders, and Baker Mayfield will do just that. A stronger grasp of Kevin Stefanski’s offense will mean a big day for Cleveland’s offense and a defense loaded with depth will put up a surprisingly good fight against KC. But Patrick Mahomes is still Patrick Mahomes, and he’s been stewing over an actual Super Bowl loss for eight months. Cleveland will keep it close, but the Chiefs will roll to another Week 1 victory under Andy Reid. Chiefs 32, Browns 27 

PACKERS (-3.0) over SAINTS

Aaron Rodgers will ball the hell out in Week 1. Coming off an MVP season and an offseason dispute with the front office, he will be out to make everyone remember why he’s so damn good and why Green Bay should be loathe to ever lose him. The line is surprisingly favorable to the Saints but will undoubtedly change once Sean Payton officially declares a starting quarterback. It won’t matter. Green Bay will dominate and put themselves ahead of the Super Bowl contender pack in the early goings of the season. Packers 38, Saints 20 

GIANTS (+1.5) over BRONCOS 

This one will be a tough watch for a 4:25 p.m. ET timeslot on kickoff weekend, but ratings, people, ratings. The Broncos’ defense, adding a fresh Von Miller and some talented draft picks, will make this a very difficult day for Daniel Jones. But Denver’s pass game is so inept regardless of who is under center that the run game will determine who wins the day. For our money, we’ll take Saquon Barkely back in action over Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams. Giants 17, Broncos 9 

DOLPHINS (+2.5) over PATRIOTS

New England is probably starting Cam Newton again this year and while it's impossible to be worse than he was last year, it's hard to imagine he can revert back to a level conducive to winning football games. Tua Tagovailoa, meanwhile, has looked awfully sharp so far this summer. The Patriots have a stiff defense but Tua will break out and lead his Dolphins to a win while Bill Belichick gazes longingly at Mac Jones. Dolphins 21, Patriots 17

RAMS (-7.5) over BEARS 

Andy Dalton will start for Chicago for the first SNF game of the season. NBC must be thrilled. It will take all of one game for the calls for Justin Fields to start while Matthew Stafford absolutely dominates in his first game under Sean McVay. It will be a firestorm of deep plays and touchdowns against a Bears defense that, while talented, lacks the same quality of depth and excellence in the secondary. This one will be over by halftime, and the Fields watch will begin across the Windy City. Rams 40, Bears 17

RAIDERS (+4.0) over RAVENS 

This is the year Jon Gruden’s whole schtick has to start working. And it will. In Week 1, at least. A diverse and talented offense will chop up the Baltimore defense that always takes a little time to get going under John Harbaugh while the defense will do enough to limit Lamar Jackson’s big play ability. In what will surely be a rocking stadium for the Las Vegas football debut with fans, the Raiders will not disappoint. Raiders 31, Ravens 28

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