Not a Wrestling Column. Welcome Back, Football: NFL Week 1 Picks

NFL Picks

We are not gamblers. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. Some of these choices have actual thought put into them. More of these choices were made with gut, intuition, and a little thing called grit.

Employ these recommendations at your own peril. Gambling is ungentlemanly.

[Home team in caps. All lines per consensus.]

Green Bay (-7) vs. CHICAGO

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Derek: *Puts on suit to deflect thrown debris* Hi, everyone! I have something to say, and you’re probably not going to like it. I maybe, kind of, think the Packers are overrated. *Dodges debris*

Yes, I know — every single NFL preview you read in the past month has the Packers in the NFC Championship, at least. But the Packers, in my view, have a series of problems that everyone is ignoring. To wit:

  1. The offensive line already has injury problems, and it’s not even Week 1. I might say this isn’t a big deal because Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the league, but no one is mentioning his injury problems in the last two seasons. He missed several games in 2013 and hobbled around with calf problems at the end of 2014. He hasn’t shown enough recent durability for the o-line problems to be ignored.
  2. The Packers’ success is dependent upon Aaron Rodgers. Everyone who picked the Packers to go deep in the playoffs or win the Super Bowl would switch their prediction with a quickness if something happened to Rodgers. With Rodgers’ and the o-lines’ injury problems, it’s not far-fetched to say Rodgers could miss time.
  3. Jordy Nelson is out for the year, and Randall Cobb is banged up. He might play this weekend, but it’s my understanding that his injury is easily re-aggravated. He’s not in the clear. That’s not to say he’ll definitely miss time or play poorly, but it’s a red flag. And what about Eddie Lacy? The only reason he fell to the Packers at the 61st pick is because of injury concerns. He seems overdue for the foot problems that scared off several other teams.
  4. As a Seahawks fan, I am well aware of what folks are saying about how the Seahawks may react to the Super Bowl loss. Some have opined that the Seahawks will fail this year because they won’t be able to come back from such a crushing loss. Fair enough. But what about the Packers? They had a pretty crushing loss too, but that’s not a big deal for some reason. I see NFL previews that have the Seahawks as a wild card because they can’t psychologically come back from the Super Bowl loss, then put the Packers as Super Bowl champions. That doesn’t make any sense to me.

All that said, I’m picking the Packers to win and cover. They’re a super talented team, and if all goes well, the Super Bowl is their ceiling. There are just way too many red flags, and they already have a ton of injury problems before the first game.

I’m looking forward to having this page linked to me 100 times after the Packers win it all.

Will: A blanket statement that will inform most of my picks this week, and likely this season: I don’t know anything. Stupid bullcrap like having a job and paying bills have taken up the hours that were once spent sifting through Madden rosters and figuring out who all the best backup right guards in the league were. I don’t know the league as well as I used to, and thus my picks will be guided less by analysis and more by pure gut feeling.

What does my gut tell me about this game? That it will be a bit like the Pats-Steelers game Thursday night. Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have a Gronk like Tom Brady does, but I’m not sure that he’ll need one. I expect him to toy with the Bears defense and have Soldier Field booing before halftime. Packers cover.

HOUSTON (-1) vs. Kansas City

Derek: This season was my first watching Hard Knocks, and it was awesome! I might move the Texans to my third favorite team after the Seahawks and Panthers. What a buncha characters.


There’s some sneaky Game of the Week potential here. The Texans’ D is getting a ton of hype, and the Chiefs aren’t far removed from being competitive. I’ll take the Texans, though. They’re at home, and I think they’re better overall.

Will: Brian Hoyer is starting for Houston. Brian Hoyer started last year for the Browns. Good things tend to happen to players once they are liberated from Cleveland; both Dion Lewis and Jabaal Sheard did well in their Patriot debuts. By that logic alone, I like Houston to take this one.

Also, Vince Wilfork in overalls >>>

NEW YORK JETS (-3) vs. Cleveland

Derek: Fitzpatrick! McCown! Set your DVRs, folks!

I don’t know if anyone is going to score any points in this one. As someone who has Duke Johnson on three fantasy teams and the Browns’ defense on four, I’m rooting for Cleveland here. But the Jets are at home, and they have a great defensive coach who’s going to get the most out of them, so I think I’m going to …

… oh, wait, the Jets had a great defensive coach last year, too! And they were terrible! Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t bad, but the coaches considered him a step down from Geno Smith. That’s saying something. I’ll go with Cleveland.

Will: There was never any chance I would take the Jets here, but I’m actually semi-confident in the Browns even though their offense has all the teeth of a blue whale. The Jets offense may well be just as bad, and I like the Browns D to put a hurting on Ryan Fitzpatrick. I have beautiful, beautiful visions of Danny Shelton collapsing the pocket as the rest of the pass rushers swarm around the Harvard man. The final score might be 7-3, but that’s enough for a Browns cover.

Indianapolis (-2.5) vs. BUFFALO

Derek: I don’t have much of a read on this one. I’m of the mind that the Colts are going to be really good this year, and the offense could be record-setting. But this is a bad matchup. The Bills are good enough on defense to make fools of people at home. I’m just going to take the points.

Will: I’ve arbitrarily just decided that I’m backing all of the top quarterbacks in Week 1. It worked with Brady and the Patriots, I hope it will work with Rodgers and the Packers, and I double-hope it will work with Luck and the Colts. I like the Bills, and think they could be quite frisky, but not enough to beat Indy. Colts take it.

Miami (-3.5) vs. WASHINGTON

Derek: Poor Washington. Not good times over there. This isn’t exactly a hot take, but I don’t think the Redskins are going to be very good this year. And I really like the Dolphins! I’ll take Miami.

Will: This feels like a year from hell for Washington. I suppose the last couple years have already been like that, but I like this year to be extra hellish. Do they really want to run back the whole Kirk Cousins-Colt McCoy thing? How uncomfortable is it in the QB meeting room with Robert Griffin sitting right there? Yeah, I’ll take the Dolphins.

Carolina (-3) vs. JACKSONVILLE

Derek: The Battle of 1995 Expansion Teams! No love lost there. Who could forget those classic battles between Kerry Collins and Mark Brunell? Fred Taylor and Tim Biakabutuka? Kevin Greene and Whoever Played Linebacker For The Jaguars In The 90’s? Ah, the memories.

I’m a Gus Bradley believer, and the Panthers are starting the likes of Michael Oher and Philly Brown. They’re coming off a playoff run, but they won the worst division in the league and picked up a home victory against Ryan Lindley’s Cardinals. Honestly, I kind of think the Jags should be favored in this one, so I’m going to take them.

Will: It feels like just yesterday I was bitterly playing Madden ’97, a game that had these two teams but not my beloved Brownies. Childhood was tough, man. I legit cannot name three Jaguars beyond T.J. Yeldon, and I only know him because he’s a fantasy opponent this week. Cam Newton has to be worth three points by himself. I guess. Whatever. Panthers.

Seattle (-4) vs. ST. LOUIS

Peter Haley/The Olympian

Peter Haley/The Olympian

Derek: I’m absolutely terrified, because the Rams’ defensive line is awesome and the Seahawks’ offensive line might be the worst it’s been since 2009. Russell Wilson has had an extraordinary run of good health, and I fear it could come to an end in this one.

That said, the Seahawks have overcome shoddy offensive line play before. Russell Okung and Max Unger both missed time in the past two seasons, and the Seahawks were still successful despite Wilson having 0.5 seconds to throw. While I don’t trust the Seahawks o-line against the Rams’ d-line, I trust the Rams’ offense against the Seahawks’ defense even less. Surely the Nick Foles/Benny Cunningham duo will not be too much to overcome. Tyler Lockett could be the deciding factor in this one. Seahawks win 14-9 in a game that has no special teams trickery. The Curse of Torry Holt continues.

Will: I’m focusing on your first paragraph and ignoring the second, as I’m choosing to believe that the first is rooted in fact and reason while the second is rooted in misguided subjectivity. I choose the Rams and the points.

ARIZONA (-2.5) vs. New Orleans

Derek: The Cardinals are a tough team to read. If Palmer and Ellington are back at full strength, and John Brown is everything as advertised, they would be a playoff front runner. None of those things are sure bets. Yet, I’m a cautious believer in the Cardinals. I think they cover.

Will: The Saints aren’t allowed to lose the first game after the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I’ve always lived by this rule. Saints go marching all over that Cardinal ass.

SAN DIEGO (-3) vs. Detroit

Derek: Errrr. These two are an enigma. I don’t feel strongly about either. I’ll take the points!

Will: same.

TAMPA BAY (-3) vs. Tennessee

Derek: The Bucs got the first pick last year because they underachieved. The Titans got the second pick because the best player on their team was either Delanie Walker or Jurrell Casey. I’ll take Tampa.

Will: Ugh this game is gross. It will be exciting to watch Jameis and Mariota debut, though I suspect that the Titans defense will give Jameis a case of the crab legs. See, this game is so bad that my bad jokes aren’t even logical bad jokes. Titans take it.

Cincinnati (-3) vs. OAKLAND

Derek: I maybe kind of think the Raiders won’t be a trainwreck this year. But you know who’s always a trainwreck? Andy Dalton. The Raiders cruelly give their fan base hope with a Week 1 win.

Will: I just laughed at this game and line for a good 5-10 seconds. “Andy Dalton playing the Raiders” is one of the low-key funniest sentences in football. Cincinnati should absolutely be good enough to beat Oakland by more than a field goal. They might be, too. Dalton tho? Raiders it is!

DENVER (-4.5) vs. Baltimore

Sports Illustrated

Sports Illustrated

Derek: I have zero confidence in predicting the Broncos’ season, because I have zero confidence in my ability to predict how Peyton Manning’s season will go. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and go with the home team.

Will: I’ll fall back on the back-the-best-QBs thing and take the Broncos. If Joe Flacco pulls it off, however, we might have to consider starting a conversation about whether or not he is truly an eli–gets caddle prodded

DALLAS (-6) vs. New York Giants

Derek: I think we may have ourselves a shootout, as you’ll see in this Sunday’s FanDueling column. The Cowboys were thisclose to going to the NFC Championship, but I don’t see them getting a ton of love in predictions. That there’s some DISRESPECK. The ‘Boys take this one.

Will: This is a fine, fine football game. I’ve always kind of enjoyed the NFC East. No real reason, except that those fans and teams all seem to hate each other something fierce. I’m on board with hate, and I’m also on board with Odell Beckham, Jr. doing something absurd. Giants to at least cover.

Philadelphia (-3) vs. ATLANTA

Derek: Another likely shootout. I know the Falcons will be prepared, because Dan Quinn was thinking about this game when he continuously let K.J. Wright cover Gronk by himself in the Super Bowl. That’s dedication! I’ll take the Falcons.

Will: I feel like I’ve read too many articles kissing Chip Kelly’s ass. That’s reason enough for me to take Atlanta.

Minnesota (-2.5) vs. SAN FRANCISCO

Derek: Hey, the 49ers are only 2.5 point underdogs against another NFL team! I’ll take the team they’re playing. Let’s also pour one out for all of the ACL’s that are going to be torn on that awful field.

Will: The Niners and Redskins should have their own playoffs this year to see which franchise is in a sorrier state of disrepair. I’m generally not one to throw stones — lol Browns, after all — but I may not pick San Francisco to win a game all year. Go Vikes!

(Why is this game on Monday night ugh that’s awful the NFL is the worst and I’m so glad it’s back.)

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