From now until Feb. 1, every Sunday will feature football to fill the day. As for the other six days, we'll spend those predicting the outcome of every NFL game.
Picking NFL contests are just as much a tradition as watching the games themselves. After all, does a win really count for anything unless you correctly told your friends it would happen? Of course it doesn't.
Week 1 presents the toughest, most exciting challenge of the season. We haven't seen these specific teams play a meaningful game yet, and last year's results can only take us so far. Last year's opening week consisted of near upsets, as the Buffalo Bills came painfully shy of knocking off the New England Patriots while the Carolina Panthers gave the Seattle Seahawks a stark challenge.
Can any underdogs finish the job this week? Here are predictions for each NFL game, along with a breakdown of a couple of notable matchups.
|Green Bay||Seattle (-5)||8:30 p.m. (Thur.)||46||23-17 SEA|
|New Orleans (-2.5)||Atlanta||1 p.m.||51.5||32-24 NO|
|Cincinnati||Baltimore (Even)||1 p.m.||43||20-17 CIN|
|Buffalo||Chicago (-7)||1 p.m.||48.5||34-20 CHI|
|Washington||Houston (-2.5)||1 p.m.||45||27-23 HOU|
|Tennessee||Kansas City (-4)||1 p.m||43.5||23-20 TEN|
|New England (-4.5)||Miami||1 p.m.||47||28-21 NE|
|Oakland||NY Jets (-5)||1 p.m.||40||13-10 OAK|
|Jacksonville||Philadelphia (-11.5)||1 p.m.||53||38-24 PHI|
|Cleveland||Pittsburgh (-7)||1 p.m.||41||19-13 PIT|
|Minnesota||St. Louis (-4)||1 p.m.||43.5||21-20 STL|
|San Francisco (-4.5)||Dallas||4:25 p.m.||51||31-24 SF|
|Carolina||Tampa Bay (Even)||4:25 p.m.||39||16-13 TB|
|Indianapolis||Denver (-9)||8:30 p.m.||55||38-30 DEN|
|NY Giants||Detroit (-5)||7:10 p.m. (Mon.)||47||27-14 DET|
|San Diego||Arizona (-3)||10:20 p.m. (Mon.)||45||24-21 ARI|
spread, over-under via OddsSharks
All odds, updated as of Monday, Sept. 1 at 2:30 p.m., are courtesy of OddsShark.
San Francisco 49ers (-4.5) at Dallas Cowboys
Are the Dallas Cowboys receiving more respect than they deserve, or are people shying away from the San Francisco 49ers offense after a dreadful preseason?
Either way, the spread is far too low for a 12-4 team with the NFL's third-best point differential last season going against an 8-8 (plus-seven point differential) squad touting the league's worst defense. The 49ers are a far superior team that deserves more wiggle room in the odds.
While the reserves ended the preseason with 40 points against the Houston Texans, the first unit never scored a touchdown. Colin Kaepernick is wisely not wasting any time fretting over those results.
“I’ve never seen worrying help anyone’s problems, or help them get better,” he told ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez. “So I don’t worry.”
While they'll go to Dallas without the suspended Aldon Smith, trusted guard Alex Boone, whose absence caused peril in those practice games, will end his holdout and return to San Francisco, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
49ers holdout G Alex Boone is expected to report to San Francisco in next 24 hours with a reworked 2-year contract, per league sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 31, 2014
They'll get served the perfect remedy this season, a horrible Dallas defense that could get even worse after losing DeMarcus Ware. We could see a repeat of last season, where Kaepernick had everyone thinking he was the best quarterback of this generation after torching the Green Bay Packers for 412 passing yards and three touchdowns to start the year.
After that, he regressed to OK, which is good enough for the 49ers to win games. Meanwhile, nothing Tony Romo does in Scott Linehan's shiny new offense—and he'll do a lot—will deter his critics unless the defense holds its weight.
Prediction: 49ers 31, Cowboys 24
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Even)
The oddsmakers are having trouble deciphering a favorite here, as bettors are all over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers upsetting the defending NFC South champions.
Despite finishing 2013 at opposite ends of the spectrum, both sides are veering closer to each other with reversing fortunes. The Carolina Panthers, never blessed with wide receivers, lost veteran Steve Smith to the Baltimore Ravens.
Oh yeah, they're also uncertain about who will throw to their depleted wideout corps. Cam Newton is dealing with injured ribs, but per Fox Sports, the quarterback is confident he'll suit up this Sunday.
"There's no doubt in my mind."- Cam Newton on playing Week 1. http://t.co/VpqStzpQBB— FOX Sports NFL (@NFLonFOX) August 27, 2014
The Charlotte Observer's Jonathan Jones updated his progress on Monday afternoon.
Cam Newton threw 25 passed when team evaluated him this weekend. A little soreness but "not a lot", Rivera said— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) September 1, 2014
Even if Newton plays, this game holds upset potential. Tampa Bay sports a much-upgraded offense with quarterback signee Josh McCown, rookie wideout Mike Evans and the returning Doug Martin.
According to the Tampa Bay Times' Rick Stroud, new head coach Lovie Smith likes what he sees from Martin, who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury.
We went into the draft because we thought that was an area we needed a little bit of help. But I think from watching practice, you've seen Doug has caught the ball a lot better. As I've said all along, Doug is a good football player. It's just that toughness he's going to bring. The first thing for our tailbacks is they need to get positive yards and be able to make guys miss or run over guys in the open field.
Although the over-under line is the lowest of all the 16 games, it still feels too high. Carolina's defense ranked second behind Seattle last year, and Smith will bring an added defensive tenacity to Tampa Bay. Anything else is a considerable upgrade over a system that couldn't even figure out how to properly employ Darrelle Revis.
Given Newton's battered ribs, look for Smith and Co. to start a new era with an upset over Carolina.
Prediction: Buccaneers 16, Panthers 13