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Well, I didn’t exactly start the picks competition how I wanted to on Thursday, but I don’t feel bad about the process of my pick and I think it is going to take some time to dial in given the absence of pre-season games to work from. We also don’t know how the absence of crowds will affect home field advantage so I might play some hunches a little more at the start of the year, but it is a long season.

I am going to try to break up this picks column in a new way this season to take some of the leg work out of the post and so hopefully get into coaching tape more regularly, assuming that life settles down. The blog still feels weird without trivia because of why I have had to move things round and I think that sense of loss is going to be there for a while, but it will also be nice to get back into something like our normal in-season routine.

At this stage, with no pre-season almost every game is intriguing because we have even less idea of how teams really are so let’s get down to some picks.

Early Games:

My favourite of the early contests to watch is probably the Packers at the Vikings as that is a big divisional game and I want to see how the Vikings re-tooled defence looks and if there is any progression in the Packers offence. The consensus number for this game has the Vikings at -2.5 that might lead you to take the Packers, but I have also seen a projection higher than the -3.5 the Vikings are laying and with them  at home I’m leaning to the Vikings, who have taken on an increased importance to me this season.

The other contests that catch the eye in this time slot are the Seahawks taking on the Falcons in Atlanta as the Falcons will be looking to pick up from their strong end to last season and the Seahawks are always competitive under Pete Carroll. I think everyone will be curious to see how Cam Newton looks as the Patriots host the Dolphins, but given this is a divisional game and the Pats lost more players to Covid-19 sit outs than any other team I think this one will be closer than seven. I could be wrong, but I have a lot of Brian Flores even though this is based on only one season as a head coach.

Finally, the Ravens are heavy favourites hosting the Browns, but with Kevin Stefanski taking over the Browns I think the offence could take a big step forward depending on how pre-season has gone. Certainly Baker Mayfield needs to regain some confidence as a starting QB in his third season, but with some improvement and a healthy Odell Beckham as well as Myles Garrett returning to the defence I like the Browns to keep this game closer than nine points. However, I do think the Ravens are going to be strong contenders this season as they look to not just get back to the play-offs, but win and go deep to better reflect their regular season form.

Other things of interest:

  • How Philip Rivers looks for the Colts and what state the Jaguars are in on the field. They will certainly be watching closely to see if Gardner Minshew is a franchise quarterback.
  • Can Josh Allen take a step forward for the Bills and what effect the addition of Stefon Digs will have on Allen’s passing. I really don’t know what to expect from the Jets, although they are another franchise trying to confirm what they have in their quarterback.
  • How will the Lions look with Matthew Stafford back from injury and will the Lions look more likely to be competitive division. I also wonder how Mitchell Trubisky will look and version of the Bears from the last two seasons will show up.
  • How will the reformed Panthers look as they host a Raiders side looking to get a winning season in Jon Gruden’s third season. More importantly for, can their defence improve on it’s thirty-first ranking by DVOA of the last two season.
  • What will the Washington Football Team look on the field after such a turbulent off-season as they host an Eagles side who will be hoping that they can’t be as injured as last season and that quarterback Carson Wentz not only plays a full season for a second year in a row but has the receivers to let them take the next step.

Seahawks @ Falcons (+1.5)

Gee’s Pick:       Falcons
Dan’s Pick:      Seahawks

Jets @ Bills (-6.5)

Gee’s Pick:       Bills
Dan’s Pick:      Bills

Bears @ Lions (-1.5)

Gee’s Pick:       Lions
Dan’s Pick:      Lions

Browns @ Ravens (-8.5)

Gee’s Pick:       Browns
Dan’s Pick:      Ravens

Packers @ Vikings (-3.5)

Gee’s Pick:       Vikings
Dan’s Pick:      Vikings

Colts @ Jaguars (+7.5)

Gee’s Pick:       Colts
Dan’s Pick:      Colts

Raiders @ Panthers (+1.5)

Gee’s Pick:       Raiders
Dan’s Pick:      Raiders

Dolphins @ Patriots (-6.5)

Gee’s Pick:       Dolphins
Dan’s Pick:      Dolphins

Eagles @ Washington (+6.5)

Gee’s Pick:       Eagles
Dan’s Pick:      Eagles

Late Games:

There are three intriguing games in the late slot, but the pick of them has to be the Buccaneers travelling to the Saints where the Bucs will be hoping that with Tom Brady the offence will be productive and the defence pays to a similar level as they did last season. I think that Brady will help the Bucs take a step forward, but there have been signs of slippage and as good as his skills players look, the Saints have been all in for three seasons already and have one of the deepest rosters in the league. I could be very wrong, and this will definitely be one of the games I watch this week, but like the Saints’ continuity to win out in this one.

Of course, I am excited to see Josh Burrow to take the field, but I am realistic about what I can expect from the Bengals this season and so I’m looking for progress not the play-offs. The Chargers have already lost a huge impact player from their defence in Derwin James and getting this number of points at home I am leaning to the Bengals keeping the game to within four, if not winning the game if everything breaks right for them.

Finally, a divisional game between the Cardinals and 49ers is interesting with DeAndre Hopkins taking the field with Kyler Murray and we shall have to see if in his second year with the Cardinals whether head coach Kliff Kingsbury can lead them to a better record of 5-11. The 49ers will prove a tough test as they should be competitive again this season and I wonder how the offence will look given their injuries at receivers, which is why I have picked the Cardinals to keep the game closer than eight, but I could easily see me getting this one wrong.

Chargers @ Bengals (+3.5)

Gee’s Pick:       Bengals
Dan’s Pick:      Chargers

Buccaneers @ Saints (-3.5)

Gee’s Pick:       Saints
Dan’s Pick:      Saints

Cardinals @ 49ers (-7.5)

Gee’s Pick:       Cardinals
Dan’s Pick:      Cardinals

Sunday Night Football:

This could be a spectacular game as the LA Rams open their new stadium to a Cowboys team under their new coach Mike McCarthy. I think this has the potential to be an explosive game, and certainly all eyes will be on if Sean McVay can keep the Rams competitive after the overhaul of their roster and the change in defensive coordinator. I am really curious about how the Cowboys will look under McCarthy, and expect them to do well this season, but I’m getting an extra half point for the Rams at home than the consensus line and I’ve seen a projection of an even closer score so I’m going to grab the points.

Cowboys @ Rams (+2.5)

Gee’s Pick:       Rams
Dan’s Pick:      Cowboys

Monday Night Football:

Week one finishes with a pair of Monday night football games, but I am not sure how competitive they will be.

The Giants under new head coach Joe Judge are at the beginning of a big rebuild project and whilst I am curious to see how they look, I am looking for progress rather than a spectacular turn around. The Steelers had the third ranked defence by DVOA last season and a fit again Ben Roethlisberger has been getting good reviews in camp. It was an impressive feat for the Steelers to go 8-8 with the combination of Devlin Hodges and Mason Rudolph at quarterback and I expect the Steelers to be truly competitive this season with Roethlisberger back behind center.

The contest between the Broncos and Titans looks less enticing with Von Miller likely out for the season with his ankle injury. The Broncos’ franchise player is a big loss for the defence, and I can’t help but think that the Broncos will be happy if they can establish Drew Lock as their franchine quarterback. This line looks to have been set before the Miller injury news as the consensus has the Broncos getting three points. I worry about the home field advantage that the Broncos will retain as their stadium is at high altitude and this is particularly likely to be a problem with the lack of pre-season games to help with conditioning. However, the Titans have always be competitive under Mike Vrabel and I like getting points when I think the Titans are the better team and only have to win by a field goal to cover. I might regret this, but then that is my usual refrain making picks.

Steelers @ Giants (+3.5)

Gee’s Pick:       Steelers
Dan’s Pick:      Steelers

Titans @ Broncos (-2.5)

Gee’s Pick:       Titans
Dan’s Pick:      Titans

Well, that’s it for week one. I have no idea how these picks will go, but I’m excited to see more football and I’m already eyeing up what I’m going to be watching on coaching tape next week.

DVOA is Football Outsiders statistic for measuring a team’s success on every play versus the league average and you can read more about it and other football topics at https://footballoutsiders.com.