NFL picks, predictions for Week 1: Steelers upset Bills; Buccaneers, Rams, Ravens roll in prime time

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What will be the biggest overreaction after Week 1 of the NFL season? 

That’s the question we’re trying to figure out beforehand, and we started with last year’s participants in championship weekend to find a preemptive answer. 

Defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay plays in the Thursday Night Football opener against Dallas. The Cowboys get Dak Prescott back. Green Bay, after an offseason full of drama with Aaron Rodgers, opens the season at New Orleans with new starting quarterback Jameis Winston. 

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In the AFC, Kansas City and Cleveland meet in a rematch of last year’s AFC Divisional playoff thriller. Buffalo meets Pittsburgh in the final game from last year’s final four. SN’s Bill Bender picked one upset out of those four games. Can you trust him? Bender finished 129-75 (.632) in straight-up picks in the regular season after taking over this weekly feature in 2020. 

With that in mind, below are our picks and predictions for Week 1: 

(Game odds courtesy of FanDuel)

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NFL POWER RANKINGS:
Bills, 49ers, Steelers rising; Cowboys, Dolphins fall after preseason

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NFL picks, predictions for Week 1

  • Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-7.5) 

Thursday, 8:20 p.m., NBC 

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Tom Brady played in the NFL kickoff game four times in New England, and the Pats had a 3-1 record in those games. The Buccaneers have almost their entire core back from last year, and that pass rush will keep Prescott off balance in the first half. Dallas rallies to make it interesting, and the defending Super Bowl champ typically wins here. It’s a big spread, and we still think the Cowboys sneak in a back-door cover. 

Pick: Buccaneers 31, Cowboys 24

  • Jacksonville Jaguars (-2.5) at Houston Texans 

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS 

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Urban Meyer makes his debut with Jacksonville, and No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence will get his first start. Tyrod Taylor will start for Houston given the uncertainty around Deshaun Watson. As grim as the outlook is for the Texans, they still swept the Jaguars last season. They win here, too. 

Pick: Texans 22, Jaguars 19 

  • Los Angeles Chargers (-1) at Washington Football Team

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS 

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Chargers head coach Brandon Staley makes his debut, and Justin Herbert is expected to build on last year’s rookie season. Speaking of which, Washington’s Chase Young will be disrupting the Chargers’ offense. Five of Washington’s seven wins were in the underdog role last season. We like them to steal one at home. 

Pick: Washington 27, Chargers 24

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  • Seattle Seahawks (-2.5) at Indianapolis Colts 

Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX 

The Colts have issues at quarterback. If Carson Wentz (foot) cannot play, then Jacob Eason will make his first NFL start. Seattle allowed just 3.9 yards per carry last season, so whoever is at quarterback will be pressed to match plays with Russell Wilson. The Seahawks start off the season in style under new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron. 

Pick: Seahawks 30, Colts 20 

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  • New York Jets at Carolina Panthers (-5) 

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS 

The Sam Darnold Bowl is here. The perception is first-round pick Zach Wilson will have more success in New York with first-year coach Robert Saleh, and Darnold is tasked with rejuvenating a Carolina offense that returns Christian McCaffrey. Robby Anderson, former Jets, receiver, finds the end zone against his former team, too. 

Pick: Panthers 26, Jets 19 

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  • Minnesota Vikings (-3) at Cincinnati Bengals 

Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX

Mike Zimmer is a former Bengals defensive coordinator, and Minnesota went 3-1 in its last four of the AFC North. Joe Burrow is back for the Bengals, and No. 1 pick Ja’Marr Chase struggled with drops in the preseason. The Vikings need to be better against the run this season, and they will be better in this spot. Burrow will watch another former LSU  teammate, Justin Jefferson, and Dalvin Cook get Minnesota out to a first-half lead it won’t give up. Patrick Peterson also makes a difference in his Vikings’ debut. 

Pick: Vikings 31, Bengals 21 

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  • Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans (-3) 

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS 

This should be a fun shootout. Tennessee ranked fourth in the NFL in scoring offense last season, and the Titans added Julio Jones to an offense that features Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown.. Arizona continues to evolve around third-year quarterback Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green. It’s a back-and-forth game that fantasy owners will point to as the reason they won in Week 1. 

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Pick: Titans 31, Cardinals 29

  • San Francisco 49ers (-7.5) at Detroit Lions 

Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX 

The Lions are heavy underdogs in Dan Campbell’s first game as head coach. Jared Goff is familiar with the 49ers, but he was 3-5 as a starter against them with the Rams. It will be more difficult in Detroit, and San Francisco returns most of its playmakers after an injury-riddled season. For now, Jimmy Garoppolo manages the offense. 

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Pick: 49ers 33, Lions 16

  • Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills (-6.5) 

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS 

The Steelers are being left for dead despite an offseason spent revamping the offensive line. First-round pick Najee Harris is the answer at running back, and Ben Roethlisberger thrives with that support. Stefon Diggs torched the Steelers for 10 catches for 130 yards in a SNF victory last year. Pittsburgh, with a healthy defense that returns Devin Bush and added Joe Schobert, returns the favor. The over-reaction to Week 1 will follow. Blitzburgh is back. 

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Pick: Steelers 27, Bills 24 

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  • Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons (-3.5) 

Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX

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It’s a battle of first-year coaches Arthur Smith and Nick Sirianni, so someone has to get their first win. Jalen Hurts earned the starting job, and he is looking to liven up an offense that averaged just 20.9 points per game last season. Matt Ryan lost Jones via trade, but it’s time to unleash rookie tight end Kyle Pitts. This will be an entertaining game in the fourth quarter, and it’s a coin flip. 

Pick: Eagles 24, Falcons 23

  • Denver Broncos (-2.5) at New York Giants 

Sunday, 4:25  p.m., FOX

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The Broncos have Teddy Bridgewater at starter, and rookie Javonte Williams could split time with Melvin Gordon III at tailback. Daniel Jones enters a pivotal year as the Giants’ starter, and it hinges on whether Saquon Barkley and Kenny Golladay can stay healthy. In the home opener, the Giants find a way to win ugly. 

Pick: Giants 24, Broncos 21 

  • Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5) 

Sunday, 4:25, CBS 

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It would not surprise us if the Browns win this game given how they played in last year’s AFC divisional playoff game. Baker Mayfield can hit play-action throws behind a strong running game that features Nick Chubb and former Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt. The Browns also upgraded their back seven in the offseason. Is it going to be enough to beat the Chiefs at home? Probably not this time considering Patrick Mahomes is 17-4 at home and has never lost to an AFC North opponent. But they’ll run this back in the postseason. 

Pick: Chiefs 31, Browns 28 

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  • Green Bay Packers (-4) at New Orleans Saints 

Sunday, 4:25 p.m., FOX 

Hurricane Ida forced this game to move to a neutral site in Jacksonville. The Packers beat the Saints on “Sunday Night Football” last year. Rodgers beat the Saints for the first time in the Superdome in that game, and Jameis Winston will have some success in the short passing game with Alvin Kamara. Can he keep up with Rodgers and an offense that returns all the right pieces? Not without Green Bay turnovers. 

Pick: Packers 34, Saints 26 

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  • Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-3) 

Sunday, 4:25 p.m., CBS

Alabama fans will be tuning in to this one with the quarterback matchup between Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones. It’s Nick Saban’s former NFL team against Saban’s mentor in Bill Belichick. For all the Alabama ties, look for Dolphins rookie Jaylen Waddle to make a splash with a few highlight-reel catches. We like Miami in a tight game. 

Pick: Dolphins 23, Patriots 20 

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  • Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams (-7.5) 

Sunday, 8:20 p.m., NBC 

Rams fans have the quarterback they want to see in Matthew Stafford, and he has years of experience against the Bears. If Los Angeles can get the running game early, then that will be more than enough for the defense to tee off on Andy Dalton. The “Sunday Night Football” spotlight will only increase the cat-calls for Justin Fields. 

Pick: Rams 27, Bears 17 

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  • Baltimore Ravens (-4.5) at Las Vegas Raiders 

Monday, 8:15 p.m. ESPN

The Raiders will be fired up to open Allegiant Stadium, and it’s a big spot for Jon Gruden in his fourth year of his second stint. Las Vegas was just 2-6 at home this season. Will fans make a difference against Baltimore? Lamar Jackson is 2-1 on “Monday Night Football,” and he has 7 TDs and no interruptions in those games. He’s happy to play spoiler here, too. 

Pick: Ravens 28, Raiders 24

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