After one week, the NFL is living up to the hype as the premier spot for sports entertainment. Week 1 featured comebacks, overtime games, and blowouts. There were standout performances and unexpected duds.
Week 2 could very well feature much of the same as it kicks off on Thursday night with an NFC East divisional matchup between two 0-1 teams in the Giants and Redskins. Sunday’s games feature the surprising Bengals, who visit Chicago, the Seahawks welcome the underwhelming Titans, and Kansas City travels to Baltimore. The week concludes with an NFC North battle between another pair of winless teams as Green Bay hosts Detroit.
Time to make some picks.
My season picks record: 10-6
New York Giants (0-1) at Washington (0-1) – Thursday
A short week is the last thing New York needs as every day off helps running back Saquon Barkley get healthier. The normally explosive back is easing his way back to a regular load, evident in the G-men’s loss to Denver. He finished with 26 yards on 10 carries and a single yard on his only catch.
The Redskins’ defense looks ok, but its offense could use a lot of work. Is Taylor Heinicke the answer at QB? He performed well in replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick – it seems the magic may have run out – with 122 yards and a touchdown on 11-of-15 passing.
Washington should take advantage of New York’s injury concerns.
Pick: Redskins 23, Giants 17
Tennessee (0-1) at Seattle (1-0)
After a dominant season from running back Derrick Henry (2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2020), the Alabama product netted a mere 58 yards on 17 totes. The Titans were embarrassed in their matchup with Arizona as their two stud receivers – AJ Brown and Julio Jones – were held to a combined 78 yards on seven receptions.
The Seahawks’ new offensive scheme under new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron seems to be working. Russell Wilson was an efficient 18-of-23 for 254 yards and four touchdowns. The rush game gained 140 yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry.
Tennessee’s vaunted offense should rebound, but Seattle’s clicking O will continue to prevail.
Pick: Seahawks 30, Titans 27
Cincinnati (1-0) at Chicago (0-1)
The Bengals were one of the bigger surprises of Week 1 as they downed Minnesota, a team many thought was on the rise. Joe Mixon (127 yards, 1 TD) and rookie Ja’Marr Chase (5 catches, 101 yards, 1 TD) outplayed Vikings stars Dalvin Cook (61 yards, 1TD) and Justin Jefferson (5 receptions, 71 yards).
The Bears’ loss to the Rams wasn’t a surprise, but being blown out wasn’t necessarily expected. David Montgomery showed up with 108 yards and a score on just 16 carries. However, counting on Andy Dalton to throw 38 times isn’t going to cut it. Time to hand Justin Fields the reins.
If Fields starts – or replaces Dalton early – Chicago has a chance, but count on Cincy to go to 2-0.
Pick: Bengals 24, Bears 20
Houston (1-0) at Cleveland (0-1)
Another surprise from Week 1 – the Texans. Led by Tyrod Taylor during Deshaun Watson’s absence, Houston not only defeated Jacksonville, it downright bashed the Jags. Brandin Cooks netted a game-high 132 yards on just five catches while Mark Ingram II ran for 85 yards and a touchdown.
The Browns did everything last week against Kansas City. They jumped out to a double-digit lead, led the vast majority of the game, and lost that lead, as well as the game, in the fourth quarter. Nick Chubb found pay dirt twice to go along with his 83 yards on just 15 carries.
Expect Cleveland to hold its lead against Houston.
Pick: Browns 31, Texans 24
Los Angeles Rams (1-0) at Indianapolis (0-1)
Matthew Stafford cut up a supposed strong Chicago secondary for 321 yards and three scores while hitting on 20 of 26 passes in his debut with the Rams. His favorite receiver was Cooper Kupp, connecting seven times for 108 yards and a TD.
New Colts QB Carson Wentz’s stat line didn’t look too bad, as he completed 25 of 38 passes for 251 yards and a pair of touchdowns. However, his QBR – not to be confused with a quarterback rating as it is an overall scoring method based on a QB’s performance on a scale from 0 to 100 – speaks otherwise. With an absolutely average signal-caller rates at 50, Wentz finished with a 27.5.
Stafford looks comfortable with his new offense; Wentz looks… less so.
Pick: Rams 29, Colts 20
Buffalo (0-1) at Miami (1-0)
The Bills. A team on the rise behind an up-and-coming quarterback. The team that could dethrone the powerful Chiefs. A team destined to win a Super Bowl in the next few years… Oh, that team lost a home game to Pittsburgh last week. Josh Allen threw 51 times (270 yards), which, if you know football, does not a balanced offense make. Buffalo allowed a blocked punt to be returned for a touchdown.
It was close, but the Dolphins held off New England using a bend-don’t-break mentality on defense. Despite finishing with only 17 points (zero on the fourth) and being out-gained 393 total yards to 259, Miami limited the Patriots to just three fourth-quarter points to win 17-16.
While the Phins have the better record, expect Buffalo to rebound nicely.
Pick: Bills 34, Dolphins 23
New England (0-1) at New York Jets (0-1)
As mentioned above, the Patriots fell just short in Miami. Rookie QB Mac Jones had a solid debut, connecting on 29 of 39 throws for 281 yards and a touchdown while only taking one sack. Damien Harris finished with 100 yards on 23 totes.
New York couldn’t beat its former quarterback (Sam Darnold), but No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson showed promise. He only completed 20 of his 37 throws but finished with 258 yards and a pair of touchdowns and a pick. His line didn’t do much good as Wilson took six sacks for 51 yards. Newcomer Corey Davis had a stellar Jets debut with two scores and 97 yards on five receptions.
Jones gets his first win over Wilson in a battle of rookie signal callers.
Pick: Patriots 24, Jets 16
San Francisco (1-0) at Philadelphia (1-0)
Jimmy Garoppolo is doing his best to keep his starting role over No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance as the incumbent QB, threw for 314 yards and a score on 17-for-25 passing. Eli Mitchell surprised with 104 yards and a TD on the ground while Deebo Samuel hauled in nine catches for 189 yards, including a 79-yard trip to pay dirt.
The Eagles impressed in Week 1 with a blowout win over Atlanta. Jalen Hurts tossed three touchdown passes and finished with 264 yards. He also added 62 yards rushing in seven attempts. Rookie wideout DeVonta Smith had six catches for 71 yards and a score.
San Francisco shouldn’t overlook Philly, but it might, which will result in a close win by the home team.
Pick: Eagles 33, 49ers 31
Las Vegas (1-0) at Pittsburgh (1-0)
The Raiders escaped Week 1’s craziest game with an overtime win over the favored Ravens. David Carr scorched Baltimore for 435 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception. Tight end Darren Waller finished with 10 catches for 105 yards and a score.
Despite Ben Roethlisberger’s less-than-stellar performance against the Bills, the Steelers QB only completed 18 of his 32 pass attempts for 188 yards and one touchdown. As mentioned earlier, the Pittsburgh special teams sparked the team’s win with a blocked punt that was returned nine yards into the end zone by Ulysees Gilbert III.
Vegas’ Monday night luck runs out in this one as it faces a stout defense and Big Ben plays better.
Pick: Steelers 27, Raiders 20
New Orleans (1-0) at Carolina (0-1)
Perhaps the biggest surprise of Week 1, the Saints obliterated Green Bay with Jameis Winston under center. Winston finished with a mere 148 yards but found his receivers at opportune times, resulting in five touchdown strikes with zero picks. Two of those went to Juwan Johnson, who had three catches for a total of 21 yards.
Brand new Panthers QB Sam Darnold got his revenge over the Jets, winning over the team that drafted him No. 3 overall in 2018. Darnold finished with 279 yards and a touchdown. He used star running back Christian McCaffrey early and often as C-Mac had 98 yards on 21 rushes to go with 89 yards on nine receptions.
If Winston can continue to take care of the football, New Orleans wins the divisional showdown.
Pick: Saints 26, Panthers 23
Denver (1-0) at Jacksonville (0-1)
The Broncos are yet another team with a new signal caller in Teddy Bridgewater, and all he did was deliver Denver its first September win in three seasons. Steady Teddy totaled 264 yards and two touchdowns through the air, finishing with a QBR of 95.7, the highest from Week 1. Melvin Gordon broke through for a 70-yard scoring run en route to 101 yards on 11 carries.
It was an overall embarrassment for Jacksonville as it lost to Houston, a team many believed could go winless in 2021. No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence finished with a lot of yards (332) and three touchdowns, but it took him 51 throws to get there, completing 28. He also threw three interceptions.
Denver’s defense looked as good as advertised, and its offense performed better than expected. Not a good combination for the Jags.
Pick: Broncos 31, Jaguars 17
Minnesota (0-1) at Arizona (1-0)
Dalvin Cook (61 yards, 1 TD) and Justin Jefferson (5 catches, 71 yards) underperformed in terms of their expectations after solid 2020 campaigns, leading to an upset loss to Cincinnati. Kirk Cousins tallied 351 yards and a pair of scores – both to Adam Thielen, who caught nine passes for 92 yards.
The Cardinals dominated the Titans in Week 1. Kyler Murray had five total TDs (four passing, one rushing). He finished with 289 yards through the air with one pick. Arizona’s defense totaled six sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception.
The Cards shut down one thought-to-be-potent offense, but they get another test in Week 2. Arizona’s D might not be able to shut down Minnesota but comes out on top in a close one.
Pick: Cardinals 28, Vikings 27
Atlanta (0-1) at Tampa Bay (1-0)
Matt Ryan’s performance was arguably the worst outside of anyone named Aaron Rodgers in Week 1. The former MVP finished with a pedestrian 164 yards through the air and didn’t once lead the Falcons on a touchdown drive.
The Buccaneers won a thriller against Dallas with a 36-yard field goal by Ryan Succop with two seconds remaining. Tom Brady had 379 yards, and four touchdown passes against a pair of picks. Antonio Brown (121), Chris Godwin (105), and Rob Gronkowski (90) all finished with at least 90 yards. Gronk caught two of Brady’s scores while Brown and Godwin had one apiece.
Atlanta’s offense should be better, but it won’t be good enough in Tampa.
Pick: Buccaneers 37, Falcons 16
Dallas (0-1) at Los Angeles Chargers (1-0)
As mentioned above, the Cowboys fell in the waning seconds of their game against Tampa Bay last week. Dak Prescott netted 403 yards, completing 42 of his 58 passing attempts, and had three touchdowns with one interception. Amari Cooper hauled in 13 catches for 139 yards and two scores, while Ceedee Lamb had 104 yards and a score on seven receptions.
Justin Herbert had 337 yards, a touchdown, and a pick in the Chargers’ win over Washington. Keenan Allen reached the century mark with 100 yards on nine catches. Mike Williams found the end zone once and finished with eight receptions for 82 yards.
This has shootout written all over it. Dallas has more firepower overall.
Pick: Cowboys 36, Chargers 33
Kansas City (1-0) at Baltimore (0-1)
Patrick Mahomes and Co. found themselves down by 12 points on multiple occasions against Cleveland in Week 1, as well as down nine in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs unsurprisingly came out on top by the end of the game thanks to a 75-yard catch and run from Tyreke Hill and an 8-yard strike from Mahomes to Travis Kelce that proved to be the game-winning score. Mahomes finished with 337 yards and three scores through the air. Hill hauled in 11 catches for 197 yards. Kelce ended up with six catches, on two of which he found the end zone and 76 yards.
The Ravens were on the losing side of the most bizarre ending to a game in Week 1. An overtime game that looked to be all but won by both sides at different times during the extra period. With its top two running backs out for the season, Baltimore still managed 189 rushing yards, including 86 from Lamar Jackson. The QB also had 235 air yards and a touchdown pass to Marquise Brown, who had six catches and 69 yards in all.
Kansas City escapes Baltimore with a hard-fought road victory.
Pick: Chiefs 31, Ravens 26
Detroit (0-1) at Green Bay (0-1) – Monday
Most of Jared Goff’s 338 passing yards came while playing catch up in the Lions’ loss to San Francisco. Ninety-seven of those yards went to tight end TJ Hockenson, who had one of his eight catches go for a touchdown. Goff finished with three scoring tosses and was picked off once.
And the award for the most putrid performance of Week 1 goes to Aaron Rodgers. The reigning MVP looked disinterested and unfazed by the embarrassment that was Green Bay’s 38-3 dismantling by New Orleans. Rodgers, who famously made his ill feelings toward the Packers organization well known over the offseason, had Week 1’s lowest QBR at 13.4, just below Trevor Lawrence’s 14.2. Aaron completed just 15 of his 28 throws for 133 yards and two interceptions. The 17-year veteran was replaced by second-year backup QB Jordan Love in the fourth quarter.
Rodgers made his point, but I’m banking on him to show why he should remain the priority in Green Bay.
Pick: Packers 35, Lions 20