Week one is here, and football is now really, really back. We have a full slate of games that actually matter, this isn’t your 5-0 Browns Eagles preseason bout. It being week one, this means we have no teams on bye, so a full course meal of a 16 game slate is in order.
Here are my rankings of the best games of the week, as well as my predictions for each.
1. Chiefs @ Chargers
A clash of what I believe to be the best two teams in the AFC West comes early this year. I’m really high on the Chargers this year, so much so that I have them in the Super Bowl representing the AFC. Losing to a rookie QB on a team whose defense is in flux at home week one would dampen my spirits, give me the Chargers by double digits
Chargers 31, Chiefs 20
2. 49ers @ Vikings
There’s a chance this one is a snoozer, but the intrigue alone makes this the second best game of the week. It’s Jimmy G’s first season under center, and the roster has improved in the second year of the Lynch/Shanahan era. In Minnesota, we have the beginning of the Cousins era. A loss to the 49ers would be a rough start to a season for Minnesota that has Super Bowl aspirations, the Vikings have the edge in this one due to home field and a below-average 49ers defense.
Vikings 38, 49ers 17
3. Jaguars @ Giants
It’s the Tom Coughlin revenge game, and the Jaguars are looking to build on their season last year when they made it all the way to the AFC Championship game. The Giants on the other hand are getting a fresh start with new head coach Pat Shurmur. All eyes will be on Saquon, but the Jags have the advantage in this one as their defense will shutdown anything Eli attempts to do.
Jaguars, 17, Giants 15
4. Falcons @ Eagles
The NFL Kickoff game will have Nick Foles, not Carson Wentz as the Eagles starting QB. The Eagles are also dealing with injuries to Alshon Jeffery and Mack Hollins. I like the Falcons in a revenge game this year as they lost in Philly in the divisional round.
Falcons 27, Eagles 23
5. Bears @ Packers
This game has become infinitely more interesting due to the Khalil Mack trade. How much he actually plays is still in question, but there’s still plenty of intrigue on the Bears side with Nagy and Trubisky. The home-field advantage and Aaron Rodgers help the Pack take care of business.
Packers 40, Bears 20
6. Texans @ Patriots
The Texans gave the Pats a run for their money last year in Foxboro, can they do the same to open up the season? All eyes will be on Deshaun Watson as he recovers from an ACL tear that ended his promising rookie campaign. The Patriots have roster holes, but AFC opponents don’t win in Gillette.
Patriots 27, Texans 16
7. Steelers @ Browns
Any game featuring the Browns may be way further down this list as the season goes on, but for now they have an intriguing story line and may be competitive. In their advantage is they’re at home and the Steelers are without Le’Veon Bell. I think they put up a fight, but an experienced QB/Coach combo in Rothlisberger and Tomlin give Pittsburgh the upper hand.
Steelers 21, Browns 14
8. Rams @ Raiders
The late Monday nighter features two California teams and a whole lot of intrigue. What will the Raiders look like under Jon Gruden, who has napalmed his entire roster within 8 months of being head coach? Can the Rams pick up where they left off a season ago? If the Rams go up early, things could get ugly, and the fans will turn against the team that’s abandoning them. I hate the Raiders and also dislike the Rams, but I have to give this one to McVay.
Rams 27, Raiders 13
9. Bengals @ Colts
These are two teams who aren’t popular playoff picks in the AFC, but could be frisky and compete late in the year. It’s the long awaited return of Andrew Luck as well. I like the Colts to win this one at home week one.
Colts 29, Bengals 23
10. Jets @ Lions
Sam Darnold is the only rookie quarterback slated to start week one, and he has to do it under the bright lights of Ford Field in prime time. Matt Patricia is also making his head coaching debut and is facing uncertainty in Detroit due to a poor preseason showing. The home-field advantage and Patricia’s familiarity with the Jets pushes me to give the Lions the edge in this one.
Lions 27, Jets 25
11. Cowboys @ Panthers
This match-up would be higher on most people’s lists, but I am not at all high on the Cowboys or Panthers this season. I am lower on the Cowboys however, and anticipate them having a hard time moving the ball as well as preventing Cam Newton from running all over them.
Panthers 27, Cowboys 10
12. Seahawks @ Broncos
Paxton Lynch has been cut and now it’s the debut of Case Keenum in Mile High. The pair of Broncos edge rushers Bradley Chubb and Von Miller will look to take advantage of an improved, yet still unsteady Seahawks o-line. Russell Wilson is the best player on the field in this one, giving the Seahawks a slight edge in this Super Bowl rematch.
Seahawks 22, Broncos 18
13. Titans @ Dolphins
The Dolphins have probably received the least amount of media coverage and attention this off-season, and rightfully so. All the watchable players (Jarvis Landry, Ndamukong Suh) got jettisoned back in March. On the positive end for them, I’ll be excited to track Minkah Fitzpatrick and Xavien Howard in the secondary this season. As for the Titans, I am not a huge believer but the new uniforms are pretty cool. The Titans win in unconvincing fashion.
Titans 23, Dolphins 20
14. Redskins @ Cardinals
The Redskins travel west to face the Cardinals, who have named Sam Bradford the starter for week 1. The offensive line is a major concern in Arizona, and the offense will largely rely on David Johnson to be a hero. The Redskins are better than anyone is giving them credit for, and I think they will go in and smack the Cards.
Redskins 31, Cardinals 17
15. Buccaneers @ Saints
The Saints have the fortune of playing the Buccaneers without Jameis Winston. This is still a divisional game so anything is possible, but I don’t think the Yucks stand much of a chance. Ryan Fitzpatrick just finds his way into the starting lineup, eh?
Saints 31, Buccaneers 14
16. Bills @ Ravens
Here it is, the worst game of the week. Nathan Peterman v. Joe Flacco has to be one of the least sexy QB match-ups I’ve seen in a while. The Bills will not win this game, the Ravens are my survival pick of the week.
Ravens 22, Bills 9