NFL Week 1 picks and odds: Expert predictions for Cowboys vs. Bucs, Vikings vs. Packers and every game – The Athletic

NFL Week 1 is here, and it features 10 teams that are underdogs at home which leads to plenty of interesting analysis and picks in the first week of the NFL season. After an offseason of free agency, superstar quarterback trades and the draft, we’re finally ready to see how these teams are constructed and how they’ll perform on the field.

Like last season, we’ve assembled a team of 10 NFL writers to make their picks for every game of the NFL regular season. It isn’t an easy task in a league where upsets are common, and teams change week to week depending on the injury report.

If you’re looking to tail someone who was successful, Tashan Reed went 189-95 picking straight up for a win percentage of 66.5 including the playoffs. That ranked No. 7 overall on Pickwatch’s leaderboard among NFL expert pickers. We’ll update the standings every week so you can tail the most successful pickers.

All odds are from BetMGM. Click here for live odds. Picks are straight up, not against the spread. 

Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Rams on Thursday

After winning a Super Bowl in their home stadium, the Rams are looking to keep the party going Thursday when they’ll kick off the NFL’s 2022 season back in Los Angeles. The Rams have the task of taking on the Buffalo Bills — arguably the best overall team in the league — on Thursday. The Bills are favored by about a field goal.

It’ll be a battle of elite offenses against elite defenses, as the Bills were third in the league in points per game (28.4), trailing only the Cowboys and Buccaneers). The Rams, in turn, were eighth in the league (27.1).

The Rams will look for Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp to replicate their historic success from a season ago. But Stafford has another weapon joining him in veteran wide receiver Allen Robinson, who has lacked a truly good quarterback throughout his NFL career. It’ll be tough sledding for LA against a Buffalo defense that allowed the fewest yards per game and points per game last season.

While the Bills did lose Levi Wallace, Star Lotulelei, Mario Addison, and Jerry Hughes from their defense, they added Von Miller, Shaq Lawson, Tim Settle, and rookie corner Kaiir Elam to help a secondary that is already dealing with injuries.

The offense is led by MVP favorite Josh Allen should give the Rams’ elite defense — led by Aaron Donald and new addition Bobby Wagner — a challenge.

Expert Straight Up Pick
Zach Berman
Tashan Reed
Nick Kosmider
Michael-Shawn Dugar
Mark Kaboly
Josh Kendall
Larry Holder
Jay Morrison
Ben Standig
Austin Mock

The Falcons and Saints both turned the page this offseason and say goodbye to franchise cornerstones, with the Saints having to replace long-time coach Sean Payton and the Falcons officially saying goodbye to their franchise quarterback in Matt Ryan. Despite both teams going through major changes, the Saints are still viewed as the superior roster and open as more than five point favorites.

Sunday’s game kicks off at 1 p.m. ET on FOX.

The big story for the Saints this season will be the health of starting quarterback Jameis Winston and he he does with a new head coach. Before Winston’s season-ending injury a year ago he was on track to have a career year, tossing 14 touchdowns to only three interceptions as the Saints were off to a 5-2 start. But when he went down in Week 8 the Saints season fell apart with a five-game losing streak that pretty much knocked them out of playoff contention.

That was not the only injury that impacted the Saints’ season as they had to start 58 different players over the course of the year. That was a problem.

Their offseason additions included an upgrade at backup quarterback in Andy Dalton, as well as signing a pair of former LSU standouts in Jarvis Landry and Tyran Mathieu.

The Falcons, meanwhile, overhauled significant portions of their defense and rolling with the new quarterback duo of Marcus Mariota and rookie Desmond Ridder. They will be throwing to second-year standout tight end Kyle Pitts and a new-look receiver group that will be highlighted by first-round pick Drake London who the team hopes will be ready for Week 1 after a preseason injury.

Expert Straight Up Pick
Zach Berman
Tashan Reed
Nick Kosmider
Michael-Shawn Dugar
Mark Kaboly
Josh Kendall
Larry Holder
Jay Morrison
Ben Standig
Austin Mock
41.5
-120

Sunday’s matchup between Cleveland and Carolina will be a battle between two teams looking to turn the page on a forgettable 2021 season. Baker Mayfield will try to lead his Panthers, which are very small favorites, past the Browns, which drafted him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft.

As luck would have it for Mayfield, he gets the chance to immediately try and muster up a memorable revenge game against the team which pushed him to the side in favor of Deshaun Watson. The hope, for Carolina, is that Mayfield will be better than any of the several quarterbacks it used a season ago en route to a 5-12 record and one of the worst passing offenses (190.5 ypg) in the league

Under Mayfield last year, the Browns’ passing attack wasn’t much better than Carolina’s (195.3 ypg). Watson is suspended for 11 games, so now it’s up to journeyman backup QB Jacoby Brissett to hold down the fort for the time being. The Browns will likely depend heavily on their defense, but with former Pro Bowlers Nick Chubb and Amari Cooper, can Cleveland’s offense do enough to fight for a trip back to the playoffs?

The Browns and Panthers will faceoff at 1 p.m. Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

Expert Straight Up Pick
Zach Berman
Tashan Reed
Nick Kosmider
Michael-Shawn Dugar
Mark Kaboly
Josh Kendall
Larry Holder
Jay Morrison
Ben Standig
Austin Mock

San Francisco and Chicago will take the same field on Sunday for the second time in less than a year. Like the previous matchup, the Bears will open as the home underdog.

With the Matt Nagy era in the past, the Bears will officially begin the Matt Eberflus era on Sunday afternoon. Chicago had one of the least productive offenses in the NFL a season ago. Eberflus will be counting on second-year quarterback Justin Fields to change that in 2022. Fields threw for fewer than 200 yards in the last meeting against the Niners but did rack up 103 yards on the ground in a 33-22 loss. How he performs against this tough San Francisco defense will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game.

The 49ers were a win away from claiming an NFC championship and advancing to a third Super Bowl matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals. They’ll look pretty similar to their 2021 team except now second-year quarterback Trey Lance will be the main man under center. Can the former No. 3 overall pick have a smooth transition into QB1? Or will it take time?

Chicago-San Francisco will take place at 1 p.m. Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago with FOX providing the coverage.

Expert Straight Up Pick
Zach Berman
Tashan Reed
Nick Kosmider
Michael-Shawn Dugar
Mark Kaboly
Josh Kendall
Larry Holder
Jay Morrison
Ben Standig
Austin Mock
-275

For the first time since 2010, the Steelers will have a Week 1 starting quarterback not named Ben Roethlisberger as they travel to Cincinnati.

The Steelers will start Mitch Trubisky at quarterback and enter as a touchdown underdog and with the longest odds to win the AFC North at +900.

Joe Burrow and the Bengals will look to quiet the doubters about their 2021 postseason run, but we should note that Burrow is returning from an appendectomy and missed the entire preseason. Which, well, shouldn’t matter at all.

The Bengals are returning most of their team from 2021 and beefed up their O-line – ranked 20th at PFF last year – with the additions of La’el Collins, Alex Cappa, and Ted Karras.

For the Steelers, they have some young pieces to get excited about outside of the quarterbacks, namely second-year running back Najee Harris and receivers Chase Claypool and rookie George Pickens.

Teams can move the ball against the Bengals, as they ranked 18th in the league last year in yards allowed per game.

But with the Steelers doing their best POD “Youth of a (Steelers Nation)” rendition this year, will the inexperienced offense be able to click on all cylinders in Week 1?

Expert Straight Up Pick
Zach Berman
Tashan Reed
Nick Kosmider
Michael-Shawn Dugar
Mark Kaboly
Josh Kendall
Larry Holder
Jay Morrison
Ben Standig
Austin Mock

After backing into the playoffs a year ago, the Philadelphia Eagles may have made themselves one of the favorites in the NFC East with a strong offseason that saw them significantly bolster their defense and add A.J. Brown at wide receiver. They open their season on the road at Detroit where they are more than a field goal favorite.

Kickoff from Ford Field will be at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

The Eagles made some major additions on defense with the drafting of Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean, as well as the acquisitions of Haason Reddick, James Bradberry, and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. But one of the most significant additions might have been giving quarterback Jalen Hurts a true No. 1 target at wide receiver in Brown.

The playoffs should be the minimum expectation for the Eagles.

The Lions, meanwhile, are probably staring down the barrel of another long season. They have won just 11 games over the past three years and still have some major question marks all over the roster, including at the most significant position: Quarterback. Jared Goff is probably not the long-term answer, and they have absolutely nobody behind him.

Lions coach Dan Campbell is going to squeeze every ounce of talent that he can out of this roster, but this is not going to be a quick turnaround. The one bright spot the Lions do have is No. 2 overall pick (and University of Michigan product) Aidan Hutchinson causing havoc along the defensive line.

Expert Straight Up Pick
Zach Berman
Tashan Reed
Nick Kosmider
Michael-Shawn Dugar
Mark Kaboly
Josh Kendall
Larry Holder
Jay Morrison
Ben Standig
Austin Mock

When the Colts travel to Houston in Week 1, they’ll be the heaviest-favored road team on the schedule. At just shy of a 10-point favorite, there’s no value in taking the Colts (-375) straight up, but there are still interesting players to watch in this AFC South matchup.

The Colts brought in Matt Ryan to replace Carson Wentz this offseason in the hopes that he has one last run to the Super Bowl in him.

Matty Ice’s presence makes the Colts the favorite to take home the division title (-140) ahead of the Tennessee Titans (+180). Having a serviceable quarterback under center will allow Jonathan Taylor to defend his rushing title a bit easier this year.

The Colts also fine-tuned their middle-of-the-pack defense from a year ago, bringing in Stephon Gilmore and Yannick Ngakoue.

They’ll look to improve their second-worst pressure rate (18.1%) on the Texans and Davis Mills. Mills was serviceable last year, but doesn’t exactly strike fear in the competition with his 35.5 QBR during his rookie season.

The Texans did bring in A.J. Cann in hopes of improving their offensive line, which ranked as the fourth-worst unit in 2021, per PFF.

While this game shouldn’t be particularly close, we will get a look at rookie running back Dameon Pierce, the four-year Florida product who won the starting job (sorry for those who wanted a Marlon Mack revenge game) and first-round pick Derek Stingley Jr. at corner the Texans.

Expert Straight Up Pick
Zach Berman
Tashan Reed
Nick Kosmider
Michael-Shawn Dugar
Mark Kaboly
Josh Kendall
Larry Holder
Jay Morrison
Ben Standig
Austin Mock
46.5
-185

Even when the New England Patriots were at the height of their power, the yearly trip to Miami seemed to be a house of horrors for them. The Patriots are a long way from that dynasty level, and they open the season as roughly a field goal underdog on the road against the Dolphins.

Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday from Hard Rock Stadium.

Even though it did not result in a playoff berth in either season, the Dolphins are coming off back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 20 years and should have some real expectations surrounding the team coming into the 2022 season. Especially after adding one of the league’s elite deep threats in wide receiver Tyreek Hill to give quarterback Tua Tagovailoa another weapon in the passing game. Hill is one of the league’s most explosive players on offense, and alongside second-year player, Jaylen Waddle should help give the Dolphins quite a 1-2 punch.

The Dolphins have made the playoffs just twice since the 2002 season, but there should be a window for them this season even in a highly competitive AFC. Part of the reason that window has opened a little is the step back New England has taken in the post-Tom Brady era.

New England did make the playoffs a year ago, but expectations seem to be as low as they have been for this team in the entirety of the Bill Belichick era. Especially after a brutal preseason showing by the offense.

Mac Jones did enough as a rookie to help get the Patriots to make the postseason, but they were severely outclassed on the road in Buffalo and highlighted just how far they are from a championship-caliber team. They are going to need Jones to take a big step forward in year two, especially as he works with one of the league’s thinnest wide receiver cores.

No matter how good the Patriots have been over the years, and no matter how bad the Dolphins have been, Miami always seemed capable of stunning the Patriots at least once a year. Now the Dolphins enter this matchup as the favorite.

Expert Straight Up Pick
Zach Berman
Tashan Reed
Nick Kosmider
Michael-Shawn Dugar
Mark Kaboly
Josh Kendall
Larry Holder
Jay Morrison
Ben Standig
Austin Mock

When the Ravens and Jets take the field to face one another on Sunday, it’ll be for the first time since 2019. Lamar Jackson threw for five touchdowns in the 42-21 win over New York, and the spread suggests that, three years later, Baltimore shouldn’t have any issue with the Jets.

Heading into Week 1 of this season, Baltimore is in much better shape. The 2021 season was an injury-riddled one for the Ravens, starting with running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards being ruled out for the season and ending with quarterback Lamar Jackson injured as well. Now with better health, expect John Harbaugh to have his team looking like the run-heavy version of itself we’d seen in recent years.

Speaking of health, Zach Wilson will not start for the Jets. The second-year quarterback had arthroscopic surgery on a knee he injured during the preseason, and it’ll be Joe Flacco taking the field against his former team.

Sunday’s game between Baltimore and New York will take place at 1 p.m. Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Expert Straight Up Pick
Zach Berman
Tashan Reed
Nick Kosmider
Michael-Shawn Dugar
Mark Kaboly
Josh Kendall
Larry Holder
Jay Morrison
Ben Standig
Austin Mock
-140

Trevor Lawrence is looking to put 2021 behind him. Urban Meyer is gone, and the trademarked flow is still here, so that’s two wins for Lawrence and the Jaguars as they look to make some noise with their second winning season since 2017. Winning isn’t a word that the Commanders are used to, either, which makes for an … interesting Week 1 matchup where Washington is favored by about a field goal at home.

The total is set at 43.5 – one of the lowest marks for the Week 1 slate. And it makes sense, as we have a last-ranked Jaguars offense from a year ago (14.9 points per game) and a Washington team that is turning to – *checks QB carousel notes* – Carson Wentz under center.

The Commanders are at +8000 to win the NFC, and the Jags are +15000 to win the AFC – but there are intriguing players to watch in this matchup.

We talked about Lawrence, who will look to take a step forward under new coach Doug Pederson, who got the most out of Wentz during their time together in Philadelphia. But for me, the player to watch is the newly-signed receiver, Christian Kirk.

Last year, Marvin Jones had the third-most targets for any slot receiver. Kirk looks to take over the slot position in the Jags’ offense and should be peppered with targets early and often starting in Week 1. Washington allowed 254.9 yards through the air per game last season on average, the fourth-worst mark in the league.

Expert Straight Up Pick
Zach Berman
Tashan Reed
Nick Kosmider
Michael-Shawn Dugar
Mark Kaboly
Josh Kendall
Larry Holder
Jay Morrison
Ben Standig
Austin Mock
43.5
-250

The Giants and Titans are two teams without much buzz surrounding them ahead of Week 1. Regardless of what’s expected from these two teams this season, there’s a clear favorite on Sunday afternoon, as seen in the spread. The Titans are favored by nearly a touchdown.

Last season’s AFC regular-season champion Tennessee Titans are back, but different. Julio Jones and A.J. Brown have gone to other teams. The team’s top pass-rusher Harold Landry is gone with an ACL injury. Derrick Henry is still around, albeit off of a foot injury, and it looks like he’ll have to shoulder the load for Tennessee to make noise in 2022. Is his body still equipped to do so?

The Giants are under new leadership. New coach Brian Daboll will aim to bring some of his offensive expertise from Buffalo to New York. Can he turn Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones and Kadarius Toney from the NFL’s second-lowest scoring team into one that is good enough to win games in 2022?

Titans-Giants will take place at 4:25 p.m. ET at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. FOX will provide the coverage.

Expert Straight Up Pick
Zach Berman
Tashan Reed
Nick Kosmider
Michael-Shawn Dugar
Mark Kaboly
Josh Kendall
Larry Holder
Jay Morrison
Ben Standig
Austin Mock

If you want one of the best individual quarterback matchups in Week 1, this is the game for you as Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs make a visit to Kyler Murray and the Cardinals. The Chiefs, coming off of a bitterly disappointing AFC Championship loss, figure to be in the running for the AFC crown once again and open as a pretty significant road favorite.

Kickoff is at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday on CBS.

The Chiefs roster underwent some significant changes during the offseason, parting ways with several veteran contributors including Tyreek Hill, Melvin Ingram, and Tyran Mathieu. Hill was traded after the two sides were unable to agree on a new contract extension, instead opting to cash in with a collection of draft picks and spread his potential salary out elsewhere throughout the roster.

The Chiefs overhauled the defense with first-round picks Trent McDuffie and George Karlaftis (both of whom are expected to start), and then redid their wide receiver room with bargain free agent signings Juju Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, as well as drafting Skyy Moore in the second round.

While losing Hill might be a big blow, the Chiefs offense should still be one of the league’s best with Mahomes and Travis Kelce still leading the way.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, have something to prove this season. Kliff Kingsbury’s team has faded down the stretch in each of his first three seasons, while Murray now has the pressure of being one of the league’s highest-paid quarterbacks and carrying the expectation of performing to that level. Being a middle-of-the-pack NFC team that always fizzles out in the second half is not going to be good enough for anybody here much longer.

Expert Straight Up Pick
Zach Berman
Tashan Reed
Nick Kosmider
Michael-Shawn Dugar
Mark Kaboly
Josh Kendall
Larry Holder
Jay Morrison
Ben Standig
Austin Mock
Zach Berman
52.5
-185

When was the last time a division was this stacked? We won’t have to waste any time to see the AFC West go to battle, with the Chargers coming in favored at home against Las Vegas. If you want some high-scoring football for Week 1, look no further, as the total is one of the highest.

We know what the Chargers can do offensively, as quarterback Justin Herbert backed up his rookie season with an elite-level sophomore effort. Having Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Austin Ekeler at his disposal helps him and the Chargers’ efforts, too.

On the other side, we have Derek Carr, and while Hunter Renfrow was fantastic last year, there’s nothing sneaky about how good Davante Adams is.

So the question is which defense can bend but not break?

While the Raiders had the better per-game defense last year, allowing 337.2 yards per game compared to the 360.1 by the Chargers, the Chargers addressed their defense in a big way, bringing in Khalil Mack, J.C. Jackson, and more to pair with Joey Bosa.

Expert Straight Up Pick
Zach Berman
Tashan Reed
Nick Kosmider
Michael-Shawn Dugar
Mark Kaboly
Josh Kendall
Larry Holder
Jay Morrison
Ben Standig
Austin Mock

After an offseason of drama, rumors, and speculation Aaron Rodgers ended up returning to the Green Bay Packers, and that alone is enough to keep them as the clear-cut favorites in a weak NFC North. Rodgers and the Packers are slim favorite (less than a field goal) going into their Week 1 game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Sunday’s game kicks off at 4:25 p.m. on FOX.

While the return of Rodgers was the biggest story for the Packers this offseason, it was not the only major story. They also traded superstar wide receiver Devante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders, creating quite a hole at wide receiver.

They did bring in Sammy Watkins to fill some of that void, while also drafting two more wide receivers (Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs) in the second and fourth rounds. Still, the Packers did continue their recent trend of drafting on the defensive side of the ball by using their first two picks (both first-rounders) on Georgia teammates Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt.

The big hope for the Vikings this season might simply be the culture change that could come from replacing head coach Mike Zimmer with Kevin O’Connell. While Zimmer’s teams were mostly successful, his relationship with quarterback Kirk Cousins seemed tumultuous at best and the defense badly regressed despite Zimmer’s track record and reputation as a defensive coach.

The Vikings are shifting their defensive mindset a little bit with a shift to a base 3-4 alignment.

The brightest spot for the Vikings will still be wide receiver Justin Jefferson who is already one of the best receivers in the league and looks poised to truly break out in year three.

Expert Straight Up Pick
Zach Berman
Tashan Reed
Nick Kosmider
Michael-Shawn Dugar
Mark Kaboly
Josh Kendall
Larry Holder
Jay Morrison
Ben Standig
Austin Mock

Week 1 of NFL games means Sunday Night Football is back, and the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will get the first slot of the season. The two squads also opened the 2021 season against one another in a game Tampa Bay squeaked out by two points. A similar outcome is expected as the Buccaneers enter as slight favorites.

It’s been a strange off-season in Tampa Bay. Tom Brady retired, unretired and then left during the middle of training camp for personal reasons. Bruce Arians also retired, and so did Rob Gronkowski. And the offensive line is all sorts of injured. The regular season couldn’t possibly have come any quicker and now we’ll see what kind of magic Tom Brady and new head coach Todd Bowles can create.

The last time we saw the Cowboys was in a Wild Card loss to the San Francisco 49ers in which a weird ending caused some brief controversy. Eight months later, Dallas must turn the page and begin its pursuit of a deep playoff run. With Dak Prescott another year removed from injury, could this be the year the Cowboys make a run?

NBC’s Sunday Night Football game between the Bucs and Cowboys will take place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Coverage begins on NBC at 8:20 p.m. ET.

Expert Straight Up Pick
Zach Berman
Tashan Reed
Nick Kosmider
Michael-Shawn Dugar
Mark Kaboly
Josh Kendall
Larry Holder
Jay Morrison
Ben Standig
Austin Mock

You have to say this for the NFL schedule makers: They know what the heck they are doing. The first Monday night game features Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos going into Seattle (as a touchdown favorite) against the rebuilding Seahawks.

The intrigue here is obvious. After being the face of the Seahawks’ franchise for a decade and leading the team to its first-ever championship, Wilson was traded to the Broncos this offseason to start a new chapter in Seattle football.

And now Wilson’s very first game with his new team is back in the city he called home for so long.

Wilson’s arrival in Denver should solve what has been a consistent black hole for the team since Peyton Manning’s retirement and automatically make them contenders in what will be a wildly tight AFC West race. The Broncos already had a strong defense and a nice collection of skill position players, and now they have one of the league’s best quarterbacks that should help bring everything together.

Seattle, on the other hand, might be in for a long season. The Seahawks have been a constant contender over the past decade and one of the league’s steadiest teams. But that all came with Wilson at quarterback. Now he is gone, they were already coming off of a 7-10 season, and they are going to have to try and piece together a competitive roster around Drew Lock and Geno Smith at the league’s most important position. All while playing in the NFC West which is one of the NFL’s toughest divisions.

Pete Carroll does not want to adjust his expectations for the season, but he is going to have his work cut out for him this year.

Expert Straight Up Pick
Zach Berman
Tashan Reed
Nick Kosmider
Michael-Shawn Dugar
Mark Kaboly
Josh Kendall
Larry Holder
Jay Morrison
Ben Standig
Austin Mock

This content was originally published here.

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