NFL Week 3 Picks: Which Early Standout Teams are Legit?

Last week was a much easier week to predict than Week 1. I went 14-2 in pick’em, bringing my overall record to 20-12 (21-12 including TNF). This was partially due to more imbalanced match-ups, and partially due to things we noticed in Week 1. This week will probably be somewhere in between the first two, as some early trends will be broken, and others will continue. This week will have some more competitive games than last week as well. We’ve seen some of the usual teams start off strong, and some surprise teams as well. A lot of them face off this week. Keep reading to find out which strong starts I have continuing, which teams I have winning, and for an additional surprise at the end of the post.

Lock of the Week

I think we’re all praying for QB Tyrod Taylor to recover from his punctured lung. While Taylor is recovering, I expect QB Justin Herbert to continue to succeed considering his good surroundings. Meanwhile, the Panthers offense will struggle mightily against a strong Chargers D. They’ll really be missing RB Christian McCaffrey by the end of this one.

Upset of the Week

I think Eagles TEs Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert will have a big game here. But QB Carson Wentz is missing multiple WRs, and his TE duo won’t produce enough for Philly’s first win of the season. Maybe 24 points would be enough if the Eagles were playing better defense. However, I expect the Eagles to struggle in stopping young QB Joe Burrow, RB Joe Mixon, and Cincy’s improving group of receivers. CB Darius Slay should shut down WR A.J. Green, but it’ll take more than that to stop Burrow and his offense.

The Other Games

TNF (on Social Media)
I’m expecting some Fitzmagic against this depleted Jaguars D in an offensive shootout. QB Gardner Minshew and the Jags will make it close, but it will be tough without WR D.J. Chark. Miami’s secondary should succeed at slowing down Minshew’s other receivers.
Vegas did a surprisingly good job on defense against the Saints Monday Night. QB Cam Newton has more left in the tank than Drew Brees though. I think he’ll lead the Pats to victory as the Raiders offense struggles with WR Henry Ruggs III out and offensive standouts Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller below 100%.
The Bills are missing a couple offensive pieces in RB Zack Moss and TE Dawson Knox. I still think they pick up the victory in a close one. Expect QB Josh Allen to post another strong game against a top heavy Rams defense. Sure, DT Aaron Donald can apply pressure at the line of scrimmage. Sure, CB Jalen Ramsey can lock down WR Stefon Diggs. That won’t be enough to stop Allen’s Bills.
I think Washington’s offense will put up more than they did in Arizona. The defense will limit the Browns backfield duo and QB Baker Mayfield. However, I think the Browns will come out on top despite a fight from Washington. RB Nick Chubb will be too much for even this improving front seven to stop, and WR Odell Beckham Jr. will make the most of the targets he gets.
No team has figured out this Steelers defense yet, and I don’t expect Houston to be the team that does. Maybe they would’ve been able to win with WR DeAndre Hopkins, but instead they have RB David Johnson who should easily be shut down by Pittsburgh’s relentless front seven. Meanwhile, the trio of QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB James Conner, and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster will thrive against a flawed Texans defense.
The Vikings may have started 0-2. But I think they’ll stop QB Ryan Tannehill and the Titans without WR A.J. Brown playing. Meanwhile, I have QB Kirk Cousins and his receivers bouncing back against an injury-riddled Tennessee secondary.
This Niners offense is not the same without TE George Kittle. They may have been able to beat the Jets, but I think the Giants provide a little bit more of a challenge. QB Daniel Jones and his receivers will be able to put up more points than the Jets did due to the absence of DE Nick Bosa among other Niners defensive players.
This Falcons offense has been a dominant force the first two weeks. But it seems the Bears D is closer to 2018 form than 2019 form. With WR Julio Jones once again banged up, I think the Bears will slow down Atlanta enough to allow for a QB Mitch Trubisky victory. Chicago’s star WR,Allen Robinson and Trubisky’s backfield should succeed against a flawed Falcons D that let up 40 points to Dallas in a choke last week.
The Niners beat the Jets without TE George Kittle and after losing many other players mid-game. I’d be shocked if the Jets beat Indy at Lucas Oil Stadium with fans in attendance. The Jets are missing all 3 starting WRs, so QB Sam Darnold will probably have a rough game and the Jets D won’t do much better.
This Buccaneers team hasn’t quite lived up to expectations. However, for the first time this year, WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are both 100%. That should allow QB Tom Brady to lead Tampa to victory, especially since the Broncos are now missing QB Drew Lock and WR Courtland Sutton among others.
Yeah, we might have Brees vs. Rodgers and Mahomes vs. Jackson in the prime time slots. But I think this will be the week’s most exciting game. The Seahawks are letting QB Russell Wilson cook, and Wilson and his receivers should thrive here. However, Dallas will make it close as the Seattle secondary will struggle against a their WR trio. This will be a pass heavy offensive shootout that all NFL fans can enjoy.
I’m expecting a huge game from QB Kyler Murray against one of the weaker defenses in the league. I think Murray will toss 2 TDs and run one in himself as well. It’ll be hard for QB Matthew Stafford to keep up, even if WR Kenny Golladay comes back.
You might think this would be an exciting game as it’s a battle of QBs Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. But each of them will likely be without their top receiving option. I think Brees will struggle once again without WR Michael Thomas, but end up winning as QB Aaron Rodgers receives a wake up call from a strong Saints D.
Both these teams have gotten off to strong starts as usual, and this should be a very close game. The Ravens D should be able to slow down QB Patrick Mahomes a bit. Meanwhile, I think Jackson and his RBs will be too dynamic for this Chiefs D to stop. As long as Jackson can mix some good passing in there, which I think he can, the Ravens can win this.

So that’s all for my NFL picks this week. However, as a Boston sports fan, I won’t be watching Packers at Saints on Sunday Night. Instead, I’ll be watching Game 6 of Celtics-Heat, a must-win for Boston. I’ve included my prediction for that game below:

The Heat are a very deep team and should put up a good fight in this one as long as C Bam Adebayo bounces back from his rough Game 5 performance. Whether it’s PG Goran Dragic, SG Duncan Robinson, or Tyler “Game 4” Herro (pun intended), the Heat have had standout performances around Jimmy Butler and Adebayo throughout the series.

However, I think the Celtics will come out on top here. They outplayed Miami’s zone defense in the 2nd half of Game 5, and with the momentum in their favor, I think they’ll keep it up and force Game 7. I’m expecting another big game from breakout star Jayson Tatum, and the other players around him will have their moments in this one as well. The team’s chemistry was faltering early in this series as Boston struggled to get in the paint and get good shots up. But the chemistry is definitely stronger than it was with Kyrie Irving in town, as the Celtics have worked together as a team to win 2 of the last 3 in this series.

I’m looking forward to this huge Sunday in the sports world. We have a full slate of NFL games including the Pats game and the Celtics finish the day off at 7:30. Are you guys ready for 9 straight hours of sports tomorrow? I know I am.

NFL Week 2 Picks: Is There a Home Field Advantage this year?

Last week, I did go 6-3 in fantasy leagues. But I also went just 6-10 in picking NFL games. This was partially due to the fact that I doubted Washington and Jacksonville after considering picking them earlier in the week. It was also due to the fact that I picked 11 of 16 home teams to win. I’m beginning to doubt that there’s a home field advantage at all this year, at least in the games with no fans. This week, I’ve picked 7 of 16 road teams to win, picking some upsets along the way. I picked 6 of the 12 road teams at games without fans. Keep reading to see my picks below.

Lock of the Week

The Ravens are one of two road teams that I could see posting dominant performances and blowing out their opponents. QB Lamar Jackson’s dual threat ability is a lot for any defense to handle. This Texans front seven was dominant a few years back, but it’s not what it used to be. I see Jackson finishing with three total TD, rushing for one and tossing two. Meanwhile, Baltimore’s strong defense should be able to lock down QB Deshaun Watson’s receivers, making it difficult for Houston to even put up a fight.

Upset of the Week

I don’t think the Jaguars will end up contending this year. But they clearly aren’t tanking for Trevor, and I think they’re capable of winning a second straight game over a Titans team that’s missing #1 WR A.J. Brown. With Brown injured, young CB C.J. Henderson can cover WR Corey Davis. I think the Titans will start strong with RB Derrick Henry posting big numbers against a flawed Jags front seven. But Henry can only take this team so far, and I think QB Gardner Minshew will post an impressive game of his own as he leads Jacksonville to a comeback win.

The Other Games

TNF (On Twitter)
QB Baker Mayfield has let the Browns down so far this year. QB Joe Burrow should post a strong game, showing off a strong connection with slot WR Tyler Boyd and utilizing his RB, Joe Mixon. But I think the RB duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt can lead the Browns here.
Even with the Dolphins welcoming fans, I have the Bills winning this with ease. CBs Byron Jones and Xavien Howard might lock down QB Josh Allen’s receivers. But I think the Bills will go run heavy here, as Allen and RBs Devin Singletary and Zack Moss plow through an improving, but still weak Dolphins front seven. Miami will struggle to fight back against one of the league’s most well-rounded defenses.
Both of these offenses are missing a lot. The Jets will be without RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Jamison Crowder. The Niners are missing their top two receivers and TE George Kittle. But I think the Niners run game should be able to beat out this Jets defense.
We all saw what this Pittsburgh front seven did to RB Saquon Barkley. Just imagine what they can do to stop RB Melvin Gordon and put the pressure on another second year QB, Drew Lock.
The Colts are one team that I think can benefit from the home field advantage. Fans will be in attendance here, and I think QB Philip Rivers and his receivers will get it going at Lucas Oil Stadium to edge out the Vikings.
Expect both QBs to air it out here in a high scoring game. But I think it’ll be RB Ezekiel Elliott that makes the difference for Dallas, dominating against the Falcons D and allowing the Cowboys to get out to a comfortable lead.
The Eagles may have added CB Darius Slay, but this secondary will still struggle against QB Jared Goff’s deep arsenal of weapons. The TE duo of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert can make this close. However, they can’t make up for Philly’s blatant defensive flaws.
QB Mitch Trubisky actually posted a strong game against the Lions D. I don’t expect the same here, but I think defense can win the Bears their second game in a row. They might not be able to shut down RB Saquon Barkley to the extent the Steelers did, but they can put pressure on QB Daniel Jones and prevent Barkley from the big plays he’s famous for.
If WR Kenny Golladay was playing, this would be a back and forth offensive shootout. But with Golladay out, expect Green Bay to get out to a comfortable lead and utilize a strong backfield against one of the worst front sevens in the NFL. I also expect QB Aaron Rodgers and WR Davante Adams to post another big game.
QB Tom Brady and this offense may have been limited by a strong Saints D. But against an easier opponent, I expect Brady and the Bucs to show us what they’re truly capable of. I have Brady bouncing back for 4 TDs as he utilizes a strong trio of tight ends. It will be too much for even a revitalized Panthers offense to compete with.
The Cardinals defense isn’t perfect, but I think edge rusher Chandler Jones will apply pressure on QB Dwayne Haskins and CB Patrick Peterson will win a match-up with WR Terry McLaurin. Washington’s defense will prevent the Cardinals from bringing this game out of their reach, but fall short in the end.
QB Tyrod Taylor has a good arsenal of weapons, and I think that will allow the Chargers to make this close. The Chargers secondary is also very good, but not good enough to stop both WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce.
These offenses are actually pretty similar now that QB Cam Newton took over. Newton and QB Russell Wilson are both mobile QBs, and will both run a good balance of pass plays and run plays. I think this will be very close. But even with no fans, I have Wilson and the Seahawks coming out on top at CenturyLink.
WR Michael Thomas is expected to miss this game. But I think the Saints can win without him, allowing the RB duo of Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray to lead the offense while WR Emmanuel Sanders takes on a good portion of Thomas’ normal workload. Even without Thomas, this Saints offense is too strong for this inexperienced Raiders D to handle.

That’s all for this week’s picks. Stay tuned for more NFL coverage soon.

Thoughts on Pats-Dolphins and Week 1 NFL Takeaways: Newton impresses in debut

Week 1 was full of surprises. Of the 16 games this week, I only predicted 6 of them correctly. There were a number of breakout players as well.

The Patriots kicked off their season by taking down the Dolphins 21-11. Now, I thought the Pats would get out to a bigger lead in this one. However, QB Cam Newton was impressive. He is still running the ball like he did in his prime, and he appeared competent in the pocket as well. He is still a capable mobile QB and I’m glad the Pats brought him on board. The Dolphins struggled early, and they lost WR DeVante Parker to a hamstring ailment. With CB Stephon Gilmore turning focus to WR Preston Williams and TE Mike Gesicki drawing defensive attention as well, it was RB Myles Gaskin who was QB Ryan Fitzpatrick’s secret weapon. The Dolphins backfield was expected to be a duo of between the tackles RB Jordan Howard and versatile change of pace RB Matt Breida.

Breida did not live up to expectations in his Miami debut, and Howard struggled against the Pats D. It was Gaskin who impressed on all 3 downs. From here, the Dolphins are expected to run a 3 way committee, but I expect Gaskin, a capable every down RB to lead this committee.

Newton’s strong debut could be telling about what we should expect for the Patriots season. Gaskin’s involvement has fantasy football relevance. I have provided a real life and fantasy takeaway for each of the other games below. Keep reading to find out what they are.

Houston Texans @ Kansas City Chiefs


Actual Score: 34-20 Chiefs

Real NFL Takeaway: The Texans will regret the DeAndre Hopkins trade: WR Will Fuller V showed promise, and RB David Johnson looked good. But nonetheless QB Deshaun Watson struggled without his star WR.

Fantasy Takeaway: WR Sammy Watkins is still fantasy relevant: Watkins dropped more points than any other Chiefs WR or TE. I expect him to slot in as the #3 target behind WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce. Watkins looked far better than young WR Mecole Hardman despite failing to meet expectations in previous years.

New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills


Actual Score: 27-17 Bills

Real NFL Takeaway: The Bills will be even better this year with WR Stefon Diggs in the mix: The Bills nearly dethroned the Pats last year. This year, QB Josh Allen looks better and it helps that he has Diggs to rely on. This team could make a serious playoff run.

Fantasy Takeaway: Diggs might not be the clear top target right away: Diggs came to Buffalo thinking he’d be the true #1 receiver for the first time in his career. However, Allen still targeted WR John Brown frequently. It may take time for Diggs to develop chemistry and earn the #1 role.

Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens


Actual Score: 38-6 Ravens

Real NFL Takeaway: The Browns still have a long way to go before competing with the Ravens: Don’t get me wrong, I think QB Baker Mayfield and his offense are capable of a bounce back. Just don’t think they’ll be competing for the division title anytime soon.

Fantasy Takeaway: Nick Chubb is not getting any more work than Kareem Hunt: I was expecting Chubb to pick up a majority of carries while Hunt focused on third down. Chubb and Hunt split pretty evenly, so that’s not a good sign for Chubb’s fantasy value.

Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars


Actual Score: 27-20 Jaguars

Real NFL Takeaway: The Jaguars aren’t tanking for Trevor Lawrence: Okay, maybe GM David Caldwell was hoping to tank. Not on QB Gardner Minshew’s watch though.

Fantasy Takeaway: Minshew won’t just be throwing to WR D.J. Chark all game: Last year, Chark was by far Minshew’s favorite target. This year, he’s spreading the ball out more, relying on WRs Laviska Shenault Jr. and Keelan Cole as well. Chark owners should be cautious to start him this week.

Las Vegas Raiders @ Carolina Panthers


Actual Score: 34-30 Raiders

Real NFL Takeaway: The Raiders offense could be very good if they center it around Josh Jacobs: Sure, it was against Carolina. But Jacobs neared 100 rushing yards, had 46 receiving yards, and scored 3 TD. If the Raiders continue to center this offense around him they could make some noise.

Fantasy Takeaway: WRs Robby Anderson and Curtis Samuel could cut into WR D.J. Moore’s workload: Everyone was deeming Moore to be a consistent fantasy option. But the Panthers have more weapons this year and that could affect Moore’s fantasy value. He’s a little riskier than we thought.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Washington


Actual Score: 27-17 Washington

Real NFL Takeaway: Washington’s defense can help them win some games: Washington’s offense might very well be the league’s worst. But after giving up 17 points the defense stood strong to allow Washington to battle their way back. Rookie DE Chase Young led the defense, with 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

Fantasy Takeaway: TE Dallas Goedert could be as good as, or better than Zach Ertz: As an Ertz owner, I’m not hitting the panic button yet. But Ertz isn’t the only Eagles TE that will produce good numbers for fantasy. If one of these guys gets hurt, the other could put up numbers we haven’t seen from a TE in a long time.

Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions


Note: This prediction was made before the Kenny Golladay injury occurred

Actual Score: 27-23 Bears

Real NFL Takeaway: Mitch Trubisky isn’t perfect, but could be a serviceable starting QB: Trubisky still looked rusty in this game. But the Bears won nonetheless, and unless Trubisky’s mistakes cost the Bears big time, I expect him to keep the starting job.

Fantasy Takeaway: RB Adrian Peterson will have a significant role on early downs: This backfield is a fantasy nightmare right now. Peterson is getting the bulk of carries, Swift is getting goal line work and some receptions, and Kerryon Johnson is in the mix too. Especially considering they will be playing from behind a lot, I’m leaving Lions RBs on my bench for now.

Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings


Actual Score: 43-34 Packers

Real NFL Takeaway: Aaron Rodgers might just be good enough to carry this Packers offense: Rodgers lacked weapons last year, and people assumed his struggles were due to age. His WR corps isn’t much better this year, but he just dropped 43 points against the Vikings. Rodgers is still good and can win games despite lackluster receiving options outside of Davante Adams.

Fantasy Takeaway: RB Dalvin Cook’s role could be different without Kevin Stefanski: Cook still dropped 20+ fantasy points, but most of those came from goal line work. He’s not getting the same target share he received with Stefanski, and QB Kirk Cousins is throwing the ball more in general. I don’t know if Cook will be the top 5 fantasy option he was last year, though I still think he’s a solid RB1.

Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons


Actual Score: 38-25 Seahawks

Real NFL Takeaway: The Falcons could struggle despite the strong offense: QB Matt Ryan and his elite WR duo of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley were dominant in this game. But the Falcons also gave up 38 points. This offense looks strong but offense isn’t everything, and the Falcons could be in for a rough year if they don’t build around it.

Fantasy Takeaway: WR Calvin Ridley is the real deal and can succeed alongside Julio Jones: While Jones led the Falcons with 157 yards, Ridley had a 100 yard game of his own and scored 2 TD, for a total of more than 30 fantasy points. I’m one of many who has targeted Ridley and called him the next Chris Godwin. So far, Ridley is living up to the hype.

Los Angeles Chargers @ Cincinnati Bengals


Actual Score: 16-13 Chargers

Real NFL Takeaway: Both these teams will need to rely on their defense: Both these offenses are undergoing a transitional period and there were some growing pains. In the mean time, defense will be what wins both these teams football games.

Fantasy Takeaway: Austin Ekeler might not have the same passing down role he had with QB Philip Rivers: In Indianapolis, we saw Rivers throw to RBs Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines frequently. Back in LA, Austin Ekeler struggled from a fantasy perspective after catching just one pass. It’s possible Ekeler’s 2019 role had more to do with Rivers than raw talent.

Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers


Actual Score: 24-20 Cardinals

Real NFL Takeaway: The Cardinals have improved significantly: Sure, the 49ers seem to have a bit of a Super Bowl hangover. But it appears QB Kyler Murray is ready to take the next step with WR DeAndre Hopkins in the mix. Watch for these Cardinals to post an impressive season.

Fantasy Takeaway: Larry Fitzgerald could very well be Arizona’s #2 WR: Fitzgerald has been in the league almost as long as I’ve been alive. But he could still be fantasy relevant. He’s no longer the top target here, but it appears the Cardinals are favoring their veteran WR over young Christian Kirk.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints


Actual Score: 34-23 Saints

Real NFL Takeaway: Even with all the weapons, QB Tom Brady is not quite what he was during his prime: Look, this is a very strong Saints squad, and I have confidence Brady can bounce back and lead the Bucs to a wild card. But prime Brady would’ve at least made this one competitive. Brady started to show signs of age in his last two years in New England. I still think Brady is a capable starter, but you can’t expect elite production at 43 years old.

Fantasy Takeaway: RB Leonard Fournette has to earn a bigger role, and it hasn’t happened yet: RB Ronald Jones II was the starter against New Orleans, and while Fournette struggled in limited reps against the Saints D, RoJo posted a nice performance. Fournette will need to bounce back against Carolina and outperform Jones to earn the lead role.

Dallas Cowboys @ Los Angeles Rams


Actual Score: 20-17 Rams

Real NFL Takeaway: The Cowboys are still flawed and the Rams might have what it takes to bounce back: I think the Cowboys looked good and should have won this game. But the Rams looked better on defense around DT Aaron Donald and CB Jalen Ramsey. QB Jared Goff’s receivers outperformed the Cowboys secondary. It didn’t help matters that TE Blake Jarwin and LB Leighton Vander Esch suffered serious injuries during the game.

Fantasy Takeaway: Malcolm Brown will at least start the season leading the Rams 3-way RB committee: RB Cam Akers struggled in his debut, and Brown looked like the best RB here. He will serve as the committee’s leader until Akers or Darrell Henderson emerges. Look to grab him off waivers this week.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ New York Giants


Actual Score: 26-16 Steelers

Real NFL Takeaway: The Steelers front seven is on another level of greatness: We all know RB Saquon Barkley is talented. Well, this front seven held him to 6 yards on 15 carries.

Fantasy Takeaway: RB James Conner cannot be trusted to stay healthy: Some people started Conner saying a healthy Conner would dominate. Well, he’s not healthy anymore. He went down with an ankle injury early in the game and RB Benny Snell Jr. looked good in Conner’s absence. I’m starting to wonder if Conner will get his starting job back this time around.

Tennessee Titans @ Denver Broncos


Note: This prediction was made before the Courtland Sutton injury occurred

Actual Score: 16-14 Titans

Real NFL Takeaway: The Titans could be legitimate Super Bowl contenders: If Stephen Gostkowski didn’t miss so many field goals, the Titans would have won this easily. The offense looked as good as it was down the stretch last year, and this defense could be very good with edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney in the mix.

Fantasy Takeaway: WR Corey Davis never lost the job as the #1 WR: Sure, A.J. Brown was impressive down the stretch last year. But this game proved that WR Corey Davis is still fantasy relevant and it’s possible he’ll still be the #1 WR for the Titans. I like Brown as well; his playmaking ability and potential for red zone usage intrigue me.

Stay tuned for Week 2 coverage on this website and my social media in the next several days.

2020 NFL Week 1 Picks: Lots of Close Games in Competitive Season

The NFL off-season has been one of the craziest ever. Tom Brady left Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Instead he went to Tampa, building his own offense. This caused the biggest off-season QB carousel in a long time. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the NFL Draft virtual and canceled the NFL preseason. But despite the pandemic and all the unusual events, football is coming back. With or without fans attending the game, this NFL season will go on, and so will my weekly NFL pick’em posts. Each week, I’ll have my NFL picks on this website as well as some fantasy content on my fantasy football Instagram account, @bsmfantasyfootball. I think this could be one of the most competitive seasons in a while, and that will mean a lot of close games. Keep reading to see my predictions of them all. I’ll say one thing, we could see multiple games go to overtime this week alone.

Lock of the Week

As I said, there should be a lot of close games this week. This is not one of them. I expect the Bills to have a lot of success running the ball. The combo of Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, and running QB Josh Allen will just be too much for a Jets front seven that will be without LB C.J. Mosley. Allen will also rely on his new star WR Stefon Diggs in this one. QB Sam Darnold will struggle, as a strong Bills defense shuts down his banged up arsenal of weapons.

Upset of the Week

I think the 49ers are the better team here. But WRs Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are recovering from injuries, leaving QB Jimmy Garoppolo with solely star TE George Kittle to rely on. The Cardinals defense will focus in on Kittle, making it difficult for Garoppolo’s offense to function. QB Kyler Murray won’t be that much better against a strong San Francisco D. But with WR DeAndre Hopkins in the mix, I think Arizona will put up enough points to pull off the upset this time around. The Niners will have a chance at revenge later this season after Garoppolo’s receivers heal up.

The Other Games

Thursday Night Football
I expect the Chiefs to come out on top in the end here. QB Patrick Mahomes’ offense is a dominant force and I doubt this weakening Texans D will be able to keep up. However, the Texans will make it close, as the duo of WR Brandin Cooks and WR Will Fuller should be able to outplay Kansas City’s secondary. I think they might even force OT.
I think QB Cam Newton will rely on pass catching RB James White and slot WR Julian Edelman to beat out an improved, but still below average Dolphins defense. On the other hand, WR DeVante Parker and TE Mike Gesicki are no match for Stephon Gilmore and Devin McCourty.
The Browns have a good front seven, but it won’t be enough to stop dual threat QB Lamar Jackson. I expect Kevin Stefanski to completely modify the Browns offense and that will allow them to make this competitive. However, in Baltimore I see them falling short.
QB Gardner Minshew II is lacking surroundings. I expect WR D.J. Chark to have a good game thanks to their chemistry, but it’ll be tough against this improved Colts D. The Colts also have an improved run game behind an elite o-line that should dominate against a crumbling Jaguars defense.
The Raiders do have an improving offense centered around RB Josh Jacobs and TE Darren Waller, and they will make it close against an unproven Panthers defense. But I expect RB Christian McCaffrey to run all over the Raiders D in this one.
Washington’s defense is looking better than it has in a while, with a front seven led by rookie Chase Young and veteran Ryan Kerrigan, plus a secondary that includes CB Kendall Fuller and S Landon Collins. They will hold the Eagles to just 1 TD, but fall short due to anemic offense.
The Vikings D is looking strong after adding DE Yannick Ngakoue, so I expect a strong Week 1 performance against Green Bay. RB Dalvin Cook will lead Minnesota to victory, but it will be close with natural slot WRs Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson rotating outside.
The Lions won’t put up too many points as I expect the Bears D to improve upon last year. But the Bears QB troubles will cause them to fall short. I think QB Mitch Trubisky will have some success with RB Tarik Cohen and WR Allen Robinson, but be too inconsistent to finish the job. I have Detroit taking it in OT.
This is definitely going to be a close one. But on the road, I have the Seahawks falling short. QB Matt Ryan will lean on his strong WR duo and RB Todd Gurley to lead Atlanta to victory in overtime.
The Chargers secondary is looking strong, but the loss of S Derwin James hurts. I think QB Joe Burrow will capitalize on his connection with WR Tyler Boyd and find ways to beat out this strong Chargers D, pulling off the upset in his debut. The Chargers offense will show flashes of a strong performance but struggle overall with Tyrod Taylor at QB.
QBs Tom Brady and Drew Brees face off twice this year. In this one, I’m expecting the Saints to squeeze by for a victory in a back and forth offensive shootout. WRs Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, and Chris Godwin will all get the chance to stand out here.
Sunday Night Football
I’m expecting an OT thriller in the first edition of SNF this year. QB Jared Goff will be under center in a pass heavy offense that outplays the Cowboys secondary and makes this one close. But QB Dak Prescott will rely on what’s arguably the best WR trio in the league alongside RB Ezekiel Elliott as he leads the Cowboys to last minute victory.
Monday Night Football
This could be tough for the Giants as Pittsburgh has one of the best defenses in the league. But the Giants defense has also improved, and I expect them to slow down RB James Conner and make things difficult for QB Ben Roethlisberger in his return. This could go either way, but I have New York pulling off an upset in overtime.
Monday Night Football
I think the Broncos will shut down QB Ryan Tannehill and make it hard for the Titans offense to put up much. But RB Derrick Henry will just be too much for Denver, allowing the Titans to stay in this game. Denver’s offense will take time to click after all the new additions, but I think RB Melvin Gordon and rookie WR Jerry Jeudy will make a difference as the Broncos narrowly get by here.

Which teams do you have winning this week? Comment with your thoughts.

NFL 2020 Predictions: How the Brady-Belichick Split Shakes up the League

Football is back in less than one week. This off-season was highlighted by the split of star QB Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, who together made the Patriots into a dynasty that lasted almost 20 years and won six rings. Brady heads to Tampa Bay and will be surrounded by the best supporting cast he’s had in his career. Belichick will stay in New England, looking to maintain greatness even without Brady. Brady will be replaced, at least for now by ex-Panthers QB and former NFL MVP Cam Newton. Belichick has said he understands why Newton has been such a highly-touted player throughout his career and named him the Week 1 starter for the Patriots.

Today, I’ll be revealing my record predictions for each team as well as my playoff bracket. The Brady-Belichick split will have a big impact on the landscape of the league, so keep reading to find out why.

The Patriots won’t quite be the AFC East powerhouse they were with Brady. But I still expect a productive season and playoff berth. The defense lost some veteran play makers, including every starting LB from last year, but Belichick hopes to rebuild it stronger. The offense will center around Newton as well as versatile RB James White, slot WR Julian Edelman, and promising second year WR N’Keal Harry.

The Bills will give them a good challenge for the division title with WR Stefon Diggs making this offense significantly better. He might very well be the piece the Bills were missing that prevented them from taking the division last year. But to make a deep playoff run, they’ll need QB Josh Allen to step up, utilizing Diggs’ talent.

The Dolphins did bulk up a bit this off-season and draft their QB of the future in Tua Tagovailoa, but improvement will take time. I expect them to show flashes but still struggle. Meanwhile, the Jets are lacking at WR, and RB Le’Veon Bell is not quite what he used to be as he struggles in Adam Gase’s system. They also traded away star S Jamal Adams and LB C.J. Mosley opted out. I’m projecting disaster in New York, as it will be very hard for QB Sam Darnold to put up a good year with lackluster surroundings.

Lamar Jackson led the Ravens to a 14-2 season last year. The team only added this off-season and they have a very easy schedule, so I see them repeating their regular season success. This division will be competitive though.

I expect the Browns to improve with ex-Minnesota OC Kevin Stefanski taking over at head coach. The Steelers should see offensive improvement with QB Ben Roethlisberger back, and their defense appears to be elite. The Bengals were terrible last year, but they’ll be a lot better after improving the defense and bringing in their next franchise QB, Joe Burrow.

I think the tough division will prevent Pittsburgh from making the playoffs and prevent Cleveland from a better record. But the Ravens will be unfazed as their dominance continues.

The Titans went on an insane late season run last year, led by bounce back QB Ryan Tannehill and breakout RB Derrick Henry. If Tannehill and Henry’s success continue, I expect the Titans to dominate. This division should be easy for them to win nonetheless.

They’ll outperform Houston, whose offense will take a step back without star WR DeAndre Hopkins and whose defense is among the league’s worst. They should also outperform Indy, an average team in need of a bounce back from aging QB Philip Rivers.

The Jaguars appear to be tanking for QB Trevor Lawrence, as they cut RB Leonard Fournette and traded away multiple defensive stars. QB Gardner Minshew II is good, but he’ll struggle with Fournette gone and the defense left looking much, much weaker than it did in 2017.

This is another very competitive division. I expect more of the same from the Chiefs, who look to defend their title. I also expect Denver and the Chargers to improve.

The Broncos revitalized the offense over the last three years, and capped it off this year by adding RB Melvin Gordon and drafting WRs Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler. Their defense also looks very strong. Meanwhile, the Chargers have a QB dilemma, but whoever is starting has RB Austin Ekeler, WRs Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, and TE Hunter Henry to rely on. The defense is also star studded between DE Joey Bosa and CBs Casey Hayward and Chris Harris Jr.

As they move to Vegas, the Raiders are the odd team out here. Their offense looks promising with young RB Josh Jacobs (who I see breaking out) and TE Darren Waller. But the defense looks weaker than it was last year, and the Chargers and Broncos should both take a leap this year, making it difficult for the Raiders to win games. I think they’ll ultimately land Trevor Lawrence and build up the team around him, which would create an intense divisional rivalry with the Chiefs.

The Cowboys are finally free from lackluster head coach Jason Garrett. With Mike McCarthy here, I expect the offense to reach its full potential. I have QB Dak Prescott throwing for 5000 yards with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb becoming the first same team 1000 yard receiving trio since 2008. The defense also looks better and should do well enough that the high-powered offense can lead the Cowboys to win the division.

The Eagles tried their best to address the issues holding them back in 2019. But two of their top three WRs are hurt, and LB is still a huge need on defense. It’ll be hard to beat out the Cowboys with those concerns lingering.

The Giants should also show some promise this year. The offense looks to be above average now that they’ve built around QB Daniel Jones and RB Saquon Barkley. They’ll lead the team close to .500 despite defensive concerns.

Washington needs to keep fixing their cultural issues before they can focus on winning games. The defense looks pretty good but young QB Dwayne Haskins is unproven, and his only reliable weapon is a fellow Ohio State alumni in WR Terry McLaurin.

This division is definitely the league’s weakest. I expect one playoff team from this division that gets a 4 seed and goes one and done.

I have the Vikings narrowly winning it. The defense is looking elite with DE Yannick Ngakoue on board, and the offense should be good if RB Dalvin Cook plays like he did last year.

The Packers may have gone 13-3 last year, but they severely overperformed. This year, they have a tougher schedule and should see regression from QB Aaron Rodgers and RB Aaron Jones. Rodgers doesn’t have much help aside from WR Davante Adams and the defense is nowhere near Minnesota level.

The Bears have a top defense, but the offense is a concern. I don’t trust Nick Foles or Mitch Trubisky at QB, even though their surroundings are okay. The defense and the favorable system for the QBs should be enough for a decent season, but not a playoff berth.

The Lions are still in need of serious defensive improvement. But QB Matthew Stafford and his receivers will win this team some games.

This division will be close. All four of these teams are unproven but have potential. I feel the Vikings have the least amount of question marks.

The Saints and Bucs might be two of the most stacked teams in the league. I can’t name a single flaw with this Saints roster, and it’ll be led by the star offensive trio of QB Drew Brees, RB Alvin Kamara, and WR Michael Thomas. The Buccaneers brought in QB Tom Brady, and he has the best supporting cast of his career. He’ll have the star WR duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin plus a stacked TE room that includes Rob Gronkowski. The RB corps includes Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II, while veteran RB LeSean McCoy is there for depth. The Bucs also have one of the best front sevens in the league, including LBs Lavonte David and Shaq Barrett as well as veteran d-linemen Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh.

The Falcons also look good, but it’ll be tough to make the playoffs in a division with these two powerhouses. The defense isn’t as good here, but QB Matt Ryan has RB Todd Gurley and an elite WR duo of seasoned veteran Julio Jones and rising star Calvin Ridley.

That’ll leave Carolina in the division’s basement. They still have RB Christian McCaffrey, but the rest of the offense comes into this year unproven. The defense is still looking weak as well, even after the Panthers spent every draft pick on it. I think they’ll be in the running for QB Justin Fields, especially if QB Teddy Bridgewater struggles.

Seattle looks to be all in for title contention this year. They brought back WR Josh Gordon recently and traded for ex-Jets S Jamal Adams. QB Russell Wilson has carried this team for years, but this year he has the surroundings he needs to make a big run.

I expect the Niners to take a step back after falling in the Super Bowl. They may have star TE George Kittle and a strong defense. But they are lacking at WR which could make things tough for Jimmy Garoppolo if Kittle is double-covered all the time. I think the defense also may have regressed from where it was last year.

Arizona could also make a play for the division title. QB Kyler Murray is looking to take the next step and that will be easier with RB Kenyan Drake back and WR DeAndre Hopkins on board. This offense looks very strong and the defense isn’t terrible either.

The Rams already started to regress last year, and I don’t see the trend reversing. The defense is lacking depth beyond DT Aaron Donald and CB Jalen Ramsey. QB Jared Goff is as inconsistent as it gets. The RB corps are unproven. The only thing the Rams do have going for them is the fact that they have Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Tyler Higbee as receiving options.

Playoff Predictions

There’s six teams that I could see contending for the Super Bowl. From the AFC, just the Chiefs and Ravens. From the NFC, the Saints and Buccaneers as well as the Cowboys and Seahawks. The Patriots, at least this year, are not on this list. I think they’ll post a good season but fall short of a Super Bowl run without Brady. However, Brady could make a run with amazing surroundings in Tampa. The only thing he’s missing is Belichick, and there was tension between the two in New England, at least over the last couple of years.

The Chiefs were already a good team before Mahomes came in. He made the team a title contender and they’ve continued to build around them. I see the Ravens giving them good competition as they have a better defense and the best run game in the NFL, but unless Lamar Jackson continues to improve as a passer, it’ll be hard for them to take down the Chiefs or win the title even if they do have a chance this year.

The NFC is filled with contenders. Brees has great surroundings and I could see him leading the Saints and winning his second ring. With a stacked offense, Brady could do the same despite the Bucs lacking a good secondary (as opposed to the Saints who are a very balanced team with little to no positional needs). I could see Russell Wilson leading a strong looking Seahawks squad to a title. Even the Cowboys could win it all if Mike McCarthy can successfully establish a winning culture and turn them from an underperforming disappointment into the championship-winning powerhouse they have the potential to be.

There are other teams that could win playoff games, but these are the 6 that I see having a legitimate chance to win a title. I expect the Chiefs to take the AFC, but the Ravens also have a shot.

In the NFC, the seeding works out so that all four of the top contenders will likely make the Divisional Round. I have the Saints edging out the competition there, as QB Drew Brees and the Saints passing attack will be too much for Tampa and Dallas. I have the star-studded Cowboys edging out Seattle. Russ may be better than Dak Prescott, but he can only take the Seahawks so far against a team with this much star power surrounding the QB.

That will make for a Chiefs-Saints Super Bowl, something that all NFL fans would be satisfied with simply due to the fact that it might be the most exciting Super Bowl we’ve had in years. It would be Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid trying to go back to back and establish the Chiefs as a dynasty, against veteran QB Drew Brees giving it one last try to win a second ring. A second ring would allow Brees to retire established as one of the best QBs ever alongside guys like Brady, Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, and Brett Favre.

I have the Saints taking down the Chiefs this time around. Even Mahomes will struggle to keep up with Brees and his stacked offense that includes an elite o-line, and four very capable receiving weapons: RB Alvin Kamara, WR Michael Thomas, WR Emmanuel Sanders, and TE Jared Cook. This offense can edge out Tampa. This offense can edge out a Mike McCarthy-led Cowboys squad. There’s no reason this offense can’t outperform Mahomes against an improving, but flawed Chiefs D.

As much as I would love to see Tom Brady lead the Bucs to a Super Bowl, or even Bill Belichick winning one with Cam Newton, I just don’t think there’s anyone that can consistently stop this stacked Saints squad this year. They’ve come out of the off-season with very good squads over the past couple years, but this year’s team is on another level. As long as Brees doesn’t fall off (and he hasn’t showed signs of it), the Saints should be in good position to win it all. Plus, a Chiefs-Saints Super Bowl would be very entertaining.

Comment with your thoughts on these predictions and with football back in a week, I’ll probably be writing about it more than any other sport.