It’s my pleasure to be making forecasts for meaningful NFL games once again! This 2019 preseason seemed to slog on longer than most. Our reward is a Week 1 with several intriguing games and storylines. It also features several home underdogs in what is typically one of the toughest weekends to predict.
Last year’s forecast: 162-93 straight up (I count ties as losses)
All lines are from BetOnline as of 8 a.m. ET on Sept. 4
Green Bay at Chicago (-3): The Matt LaFleur era for the Packers opens in Chicago against the reigning NFC North champs. It’s also a new era for the Bears defense, with coordinator Vic Fangio now in Denver and two key members of last year’s great secondary elsewhere. One of them, Adrian Amos, is in Green Bay, and I can see him ruining the evening for the Soldier Field faithful. I’m not a fan of teams opening with division games, and I suspect Bears won’t be either after dropping a tough NFC North game at home to start the year.
Packers 23, Bears 21
Atlanta at Minnesota (-3.5): Two teams I have emerging from 2018 playoff outsiders to 2019 division champs. One of them kicks off that quest on the right foot inside the beautiful home of the Vikings. I like the home team and Dalvin Cook to provide a balanced offensive attack that can overcome Atlanta...as long as it doesn’t become a field goal contest.
Vikings 28, Falcons 24
Indianapolis at LA Chargers (-6.5): The post-Luck era gets a rough first assignment as the Colts travel across the country to open against a Chargers team which hasn’t suffered too many of its inevitable crippling injuries yet, with apologies to Derwin James. The Colts are still good, but the (relatively) healthy Chargers are better at home.
Chargers 30, Colts 24
Pittsburgh at New England (-6): Flashback to 2015, when the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots hosted the Steelers in Week 1. Rob Gronkowski scored 3 TDs as New England held off Antonio Brown’s 133 yards and the Steelers, 28-21. Gronk is likely somewhere naked, oiled up and flexing in front of a mirror...and he’s the more reliable and mentally stable of the stars of that game who won’t be in Foxboro for this marquee matchup. Strange times we live in, folks. Different cast, same movie.
Patriots 28, Steelers 21
Baltimore at Miami (+7): Hurricane Dorian mercifully spared the Miami area, and that’s something the locals can be thankful for on this kickoff weekend. They’ll need to take solace in something. It sure as heck won’t be these Dolphins…
Ravens 31, Dolphins 9
LA Rams at Carolina (+3): I’m generally lower than most pundits on the Panthers this season, but I do like the way they match up on paper with the Rams. I think KK Short, Gerald McCoy and the Carolina front will win battles against the visiting interior offensive line, and the playmaking secondary will take advantage. I smell a pick-6 for Donte Jackson to lead the upset win.
Panthers 20, Rams 17
Kansas City at Jacksonville (+3.5): Every year there’s one Week 1 shocker. Why not Jacksonville, where the defense has playmakers at all three levels? The Jaguars pull off the shocker, and not the kind the inimitable Steel Panther sings about…
Jaguars 33, Chiefs 28
Tennessee at Cleveland (-5.5): True story--my lovely wife and I moved away from our longtime home in Cleveland exactly 20 years ago this weekend. That happened to coincide with the return of the Browns to the playing field after a painful 4-year hiatus. This is the best Browns team since we moved from Northeast Ohio and they’ll start it off right. Tennessee is really going to miss LT Taylor Lewan as it kicks off what could be a Defensive Player of the Year campaign for Myles Garrett.
Browns 27, Titans 14
Buffalo at New York Jets (-3): When a home team is favored by 3 points, it means nobody really knows who is going to win. Given the second-year QBs at the helm of the teams here, there are just too many possible outcomes. Should be a spirited battle for the two teams vying for second place in the AFC East.
Jets 19, Bills 17
Washington at Philadelphia (-10): The NFC East runs through Philadelphia in 2019, and it begins by the Eagles running through the visitors from Washington. Don’t overthink this one.
Eagles 36, Washington 12
Cincinnati at Seattle (-9.5): Andy Dalton, meet Jadeveon Clowney. It will not be your pleasure to make his acquaintance in his new city. The Seahawks are this week’s survivor fantasy game pick.
Seahawks 24, Bengals 13
Detroit at Arizona (+2.5): A rookie coach who couldn’t win in college with the likes of NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes will try to do it in the NFL with Kyler Murray, who played just one year in college and will be the smallest starting QB in recent memory. Facing Matt Patricia’s “multiple” defense with the visiting Lions could be the first of many hard lessons for Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray as the Cardinals attempt to rise from the ashes of last season’s debacle.
Lions 22, Cardinals 15
New York Giants at Dallas (-7.5): Ezekiel Elliott spent the summer in Cabo while seeking a new contract. Jerry Jones talked out of both sides of his blunt mouth in the negotiations before ultimately caving into himself and showing Elliott the money. It’s a very strange ship Jones is sailing in Dallas, one which will get discussed in this week’s $.10 column, coming at you Monday morning. As is typically the case when the Giants and Cowboys play, the actual outcome of the football game takes a back seat to the vacuous drama surrounding these NFC East foes.
Cowboys 16, Giants 10
San Francisco at Tampa Bay (pick ‘em): Because somebody has to win. Probably.
Buccaneers 38, 49ers 33
Houston at New Orleans (-7): One of the more interesting things I learned when I moved to Houston in 2010 was the preponderance of Saints fans who live in southeast Texas. Many were Katrina transplants, but there is a distinct and thriving population of Cajun culture in Houston. It makes this a more heated rivalry for the folks back in Texas than outsiders might think. The ones wearing black and gold will have a lot of bragging rights at the Twin Peaks in Webster, my personal watering hole of choice to catch Monday Night Football during my years in Houston.
Saints 28, Texans 24
Denver at Oakland (+1): Antonio Brown almost certainly won’t play in this one for the Raiders after getting into a row with celebrity GM Mike Mayock. As my colleague, John Sigler of Saints Wire tweeted, how crazy is it that Vontaze Burfict is the voice of reason in a locker room dispute? Yeah, that’s not going to end well for Oakland. This game won’t either.
Broncos 22, Raiders 12