Football season has finally arrived. I’m sure many of you have spent the start of this weekend watching high school and college games; I witnessed my high school’s team come back for a 23-14 victory on Friday night. That was all after Tampa Bay took down Dallas in a close season opener. Now, Sunday is here, and that means NFL action. In this article, I’ll be making my picks and score predictions for each game. I did this all through last season, when I finished with a 162-93-1 record. This year, there will be 272 games as opposed to 256, but I hope to still remain under 100 losses. Now let’s dive into this week’s games.
Lock of the Week
I’m a believer that Saints QB Jameis Winston can fix his interception issues after getting Lasik eye surgery. It could be a rough start for him without star WR Michael Thomas though. Winston could find himself short on receiving options these first few weeks, especially since training camp standout WR Marquez Callaway will have to face #1 corners. This week, I expect Packers CB Jaire Alexander to keep him locked down. RB Alvin Kamara should put up decent numbers, but that won’t be nearly enough to outperform QB Aaron Rodgers, WR Davante Adams, and the Packers offense in the first week of their ‘Last Dance’.
Upset of the Week
Generally, I think the 49ers have been overhyped this offseason. QB Jimmy Garoppolo has been mediocre at best when he’s even able to stay on the field. Even with a decent supporting cast, this offense will not thrive until they see reliable QB play, which I doubt will come in 2021 with young QB Trey Lance still developing. The Lions don’t exactly have an elite QB either, but I expect them to rely on check-downs and the run game. They should have a good level of success with this as the RB duo of D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams thrive behind this line and TE T.J. Hockenson contributes as both a receiver and blocker. This won’t exactly be a cake walk for Detroit, as their defense still needs a lot of work and could have trouble containing an elite TE like George Kittle. However, I think the Lions will pull off a last minute upset as their uniquely designed offense keeps up with San Francisco.
The Other Games
|The Steelers should be rather successful in stopping a below average Buffalo run game. On the other hand, it’ll be hard for any secondary, including Pittsburgh’s to keep up with QB Josh Allen and a deep group of WRs, including 2020 standout Stefon Diggs. Pittsburgh still has one of the league’s better WR trios plus an exciting rookie RB in Najee Harris, so they should be able to put up a fight. However, I expect Allen to outplay Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger and win it for the Bills.|
|It’s the Sam Darnold revenge game for Carolina: expect a big game from Darnold as he transitions from Adam Gase’s system to Joe Brady’s. I’m also looking for Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey to bounce back strong as ever against this Jets defense. QB Zach Wilson should put up some impressive numbers in his debut, but this Panthers offense will really show what they’re capable of in a high scoring win.|
|The Bengals may have upgraded their offense this offseason around a healthy Joe Burrow, but this defense could have a hard time containing RB Dalvin Cook and Minnesota’s strong duo of receivers (Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen). Expect a close high scoring game, as Cousins is able to just barely outplay Burrow in his first game back from his knee injury.|
|Don’t sleep on this Cardinals defense. Look for the pass rushing duo of Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt to keep Titans QB Ryan Tannehill under pressure. It’ll be this Cardinals defense that opens the door for QB Kyler Murray, WR DeAndre Hopkins, and the Cardinals to pull off an upset victory.|
|A new offensive coordinator and a banged up Colts secondary will be the perfect recipe for a big game out of Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. While QB Carson Wentz and his receivers should put up a respectable performance against a lackluster Seattle D, it won’t be enough to keep up with a cooking Russell Wilson.|
|It’s not like QB Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars are going to be elite from day one, but that doesn’t matter. Without QB Deshaun Watson, you can’t expect much at all from the Texans. They should put up a decent amount of points against this developing Jaguars D, but even an unpolished Lawrence should be able to outperform them with good skill players around him.|
|It’ll be exciting to see what QB Justin Herbert can do with this offense in year two. This won’t be a very good window into the season though, as Herbert opens the season against a relentless Washington defense. Meanwhile, I’m expecting RB Antonio Gibson to put up a huge game against a Chargers front seven that has lost some personnel in free agency.|
|Even without WR Julio Jones, this Falcons offense is going to have some big weeks, starting here in Week 1. I’m expecting TE Kyle Pitts to dazzle in his debut against an Eagles team that tends to struggle in covering tight ends. QB Jalen Hurts and the Eagles could make it close and make Falcons fans nervous about another choke. However, he doesn’t have nearly the kind of supporting cast that QB Matt Ryan has.|
|In a battle of two former Alabama QBs, I expect a lot of short passes. QB Mac Jones will utilize the tight end duo the Patriots built for him in free agency (Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith). Without WR Will Fuller, QB Tua Tagovailoa will have to rely more on throwing to his RB, Myles Gaskin and should give his tight ends, including Mike Gesicki, plenty of looks. I’m expecting a close game, but even former Alabama WR Devonta Smith feels that Mac is better than Tua. Look for Jones and the Patriots to edge out a victory at Gillette.|
|This one could be an AFC championship preview as two of league’s most star studded offenses face off. Look for WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry to put up strong performances against the young Chiefs corners. This won’t be enough to overcome the typical 300 yard, multi-TD performance by QB Patrick Mahomes. Things could turn out differently come January.|
|In the post-Manning era, both of these teams are led by their defenses. Look for Von Miller and the Broncos defense to put pressure on Giants QB Daniel Jones. Meanwhile, CB James Bradberry should be able to lockdown Broncos QB Teddy Bridgewater’s favorite target in Jerry Jeudy. I’m expecting it to come down to a Graham Gano game winner in a low scoring game.|
|The Rams and Bears still have two of the NFL’s best defenses. LA also upgraded their offense, bringing in longtime Lions QB Matthew Stafford. The Bears should be able to make this close, but look for Stafford to rely on his WR duo of Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp to lead the Rams to a prime time victory.|
|Baltimore has been hammered with injuries this preseason. Nonetheless, I see them running all over this Raiders defense. While QB Lamar Jackson will be lacking reliable weapons, he should be able to break off for big runs and dump it off frequently to his trusted TE Mark Andrews. This won’t be a blowout after all the key players Baltimore has lost, but it’s hard to see QB Derek Carr keeping up with Jackson. It may be a different story if Carr had better surroundings.|
Opening Night (Posted to Twitter Thursday Night)
That’s all for my picks this week. There’s lots of exciting action ahead today, and you’re not going to want to miss it. So feel free to comment with your thoughts, and then I hope you enjoy the first Football Sunday of 2021.