The 2023 NFL season has finally arrived. With it comes The Big Lead's weekly picks and predictions column from your favorite bloggers around, Kyle Koster and Liam McKeone. This year, though, we're going to switch up the formula a bit. After we went 124-137 last season in our second year of picking and predicting, we're going to narrow our focus and choose our six favorite bets ATS each week. Fewer games to focus on means our winning percentage will skyrocket. Right? Right.
Without further ado, here are our best picks and predictions for Week 1 of the NFL season (odds via ESPN.com).
EAGLES (-4) over PATRIOTS
The defending NFC champions will be in Foxborough in the late-afternoon slate to kick off another season of Super Bowl contention. And Philly has an ideal matchup, too. The Patriots have an actual offensive coordinator this year and buffed up an already-impressive defense through the draft, so they won't be the easy pickings for good teams they were last year. But the offensive line is a problem, despite what Bill Belichick thinks. Both of New England's starting guards didn't practice all summer and two of the three top options to start at right tackle are on the IR already.
The Eagles lost Javon Hargrave over the offseason but replaced him with Jalen Carter and added Nolan Smith to a defensive line that recorded an astounding 70 sacks last season. They're bound for a bit of regression but they should absolutely feast against this Patriots group. There will be no Week 1 upset here. Philly will pick up where they left off last season and the Pats should probably feel grateful if Mac Jones makes it out alive. Eagles 31, Patriots 17
BROWNS (+2.5) over BENGALS
Not rocket science here. Joe Burrow's status is up in the air as this posts. Trevor Siemian and/or
Jake Browning on the road does not feel like an optimistic sentence. Deshaun Watson has yet to showcase the form that made him one of the best quarterbacks in the league before his extended break but a more traditional offseason process should do wonders. Nick Chubb is a formidable back and this one feels like there several ways the Browns could find themselves up with a significant halftime lead against a legitimately wounded team.
Probably the first real regret pick of the year yet one we simply must make. Browns 25, Bengals 17
STEELERS (+2.5) over 49ERS
The 49ers certainly earned the respect of Las Vegas by battling through two starting QB injuries to win games in great quantity before failing to overcome Brock Purdy's elbow issue deep in the postseason. But this feels like a bit of a trap for a Week 1 matchup. The Steelers always play well in Pittsburgh; Mike Tomlin takes great pride in defending their home turf and he will have his team ready to go for the season opener. Unlike most of last year, all the key players on both sides of the ball are healthy. It remains to be seen if the Steelers are actually good but they are rarely easy to beat at home early in the year.
The biggest thing, though, is that San Francisco will almost definitely be without their best player as Nick Bosa's contract dispute remains ongoing. They could still squeak out with a win but their margin for error feels a lot slimmer when Bosa isn't there to wreck the plans of the offense. This line also shows a lot of faith in Purdy to immediately play well after that elbow injury. A lot could easily go wrong for San Fran, so we're riding with the home side in a last-second victory. Steelers 23, 49ers 20
LIONS (+6.5) over CHIEFS
We rode Dan Campbell's caffeine and chaw-driven bust to great financial profit last season. For the first time in, like, four decades there is reason for optimism. So much ink was spilled on the Lions' comeup that a backlash arose. Weird times, man. We will be holding the line until further notice. Even against Patrick Mahomes in an opener that feels destined to feature five touchdown passes, including four to Travis Kelce.
Because Jared Goff was sneakily one of the most productive quarterbacks in the NFL over the second half of the season. Because Aidan Hutchinson will be even better. Because a formidable offensive line will help the game move by quickly. And because we're suckers, mostly. Chiefs 31, Lions 28
PACKERS (+1) over BEARS
The Bears are really going to be Week 1 favorites after earning the first overall pick in last year's draft? Really? Vegas must love the concept of Justin Fields and hate the idea of Jordan Love. In all seriousness you can see why this is the number. The game is in Chicago, Love is an unknown quantity, and the Bears simply have to be a bit better than last year. A lot of variables are in play so the line will lean towards homefield advantage.
But the Packers should win this one. They brought back just about every significant contributor from a decent defense last year and they handled Fields pretty well in two games last season. In a Week 1 matchup we can feel comfortable betting on Matt LeFleur to scheme up easy yards in bunches and a few scores regardless of how well Love plays. Aaron Rodgers might no longer be around but the Pack are still going to trounce their divisional rivals to open the season. Packers 37, Bears 21
BILLS (-2.5) over JETS
The New York Jets won the offseason. They may win more often than not in the real season. But they will not win the postseason. All the segments and podcasts and hype will soon give way to actual on-field results. And it will be abundantly clear that the Bills remain the best team in the division. Aaron Rodgers may actually be helming the third-best unit. Yes, Gang Green has a formidable defense and the crowd will be flying high. Last we checked, though, Josh Allen will still be under center for the Bills. With Stefon Diggs, content or otherwise, split out wide.
The Bills are a bit of an old story and new things are shiny. Yet as proof of concept, one of these teams has answers in droves and the other is riddled with question marks. Bills 27, Jets 20