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Early NFL picks, predictions for Week 1: Chiefs roll on Texans; Saints ruin Tom Brady’s Buccaneers debut

Early NFL picks, predictions for Week 1: Chiefs roll on Texans; Saints ruin Tom Brady's Buccaneers debut

The 2020 NFL season will kick off in one month with its Thursday night opener featuring the Chiefs and Texans. That means there’s no better time than the present to make picks and predictions for all the games of Week 1.

As teams prepare for the action in training camp without any preseason games, the point spreads for the initial matchups that count are surprising in many cases. There is some uncertainty about teams that underwent a lot of offseason changes, making some established powers stronger favorites.

Let’s dive right in to navigate those odds and hopefully lean toward the better bets as Sporting News launches its professional pigskin prognostications for another fun year. For now, the spreads come from Vegas Insider’s consensus sportsbook odds:

MORE: Get the latest NFL Week 1 odds & betting advice from Sports Insider

NFL picks against the spread for Week 1

  • Game of the Week: Buccaneers at Saints (-4, 49.5 o/u)

Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

Drew Brees and Tom Brady meet right away as new NFC South rivals after interesting offseasons for both venerable future Hall of Fame all-time greats. Brees might be starting his last season and wants to prove he still has it as a leader and passer after an injury-marred 2019. Brady will have a chip on his shoulder in trying to show New England made a mistake in letting him get to Tampa Bay. That should lead to a high-scoring duel as expected in the Superdome with both QBs deploying their myriad weapons for big plays. The Saints have the comfort of home, a tough place for visitors even without fans. They also are a little more established as a division power with the more reliable all-around defense.

Pick: Saints win 34-27 and cover the spread.

  • Game of Midweek: Texans at Chiefs (-10, 55 o/u)

Thursday 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC

The first game of the season is the AFC game of the week. With Houston losing DeAndre Hopkins offensively and having a few more defensive issues, it is expected to slide from true AFC title contention this season, especially after two other teams in the division, Indianapolis and Tennessee, went further in the playoffs the past two years. Kansas City avoided a free-agent exodus and took care of both Patrick Mahomes and Chris Jones. There will be extra energy in Arrowhead (even without the typical crowd noise) with the Chiefs feted as Super Bowl champions and eager to repeat as considerable favorites to do so. There will be no big comeback necessary this time as Mahomes picks up where he left off and puts Deshaun Watson in futile catchup mode.

Pick: Chiefs win 42-24 and cover the spread.

  • Lock of the Week: Eagles (-6, 45 0o/u) over Washington

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, Fox

This was an easy standout. Philadelphia isn’t getting enough love after further upgrading its defense with Javon Hargrave and Darius Slay and looking to be more explosive shape offensively around Carson Wentz. Meanwhile, Ron Rivera is trying to clean up a mess as the new coach of the Washington Football Team. The Ohio State first-round combination of Dwayne Haskins and Chase Young should show promise as the season progresses, but for now, this is a rebuilding team getting used to new offensive and defensive schemes. The short division road trip hasn’t been a problem for the Eagles in the past and they are Super Bowl contenders in contrast to Washington being in play for the league’s worst record.

Pick: Eagles win 31-14 and cover the spread.

  • Upset of the Week: Bengals over Chargers (-3.5, 44 o/u)

Sunday 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS

Joe Burrow isn’t used to losing or playing poorly. He also will be ready to go in Week 1 as Cincinnati’s unquestioned starter and can immediately bring his new offense to life with a better line, healthier receiving corps and deep backfield. This is a long road trip for AFC’s L.A. team post-Hard Knocks and its first game in a long time without  Philip Rivers will have mixed results with Tyrod Taylor and the defense. Burrow provides a hint of what’s to come by helping the Bengals steal this one late.

Pick: Bengals win 23-20.

Bill Belichick

  • Dolphins at Patriots (-6.5, 43.5 o/u)

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Dolphins should be sticking with Ryan Fitzpatrick with Tua Tagovailoa on track to start for them soon. The Patriots should see Cam Newton in their lineup, but there’s also a fair chance it could be Jarrett Stidham. With some QB unknowns, the running games, defenses and coaching will need to be the deciding factors. Bill Belichick has lost a lot, both in free agency to Miami and to opt outs. His protege, Brian Flores, has more optimism for Year 2. New England is in better position to grind this out while the visitors are breaking in a lot of new players and also have a new offensive scheme. Slow and steady does it for the Patriots in their first game in a long time without Brady

Pick: Patriots win 23-17 but fail to cover the spread.

  • Packers at Vikings (-3.5, 46.5 o/u)

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, Fox

The Packers won the division with a strong first season with Matt LaFleur. The Vikings weren’t far behind, as they also embraced a more quarterback-supportive approach with their running game and defense. Both ended up losing to the NFC champion 49ers in the playoffs. The Packers didn’t upgrade at wide receiver and the Vikings traded Stefon Diggs. Minnesota should remember being swept by Green Bay last season, including a home loss in September. Even with considerable change, the Vikings are a bit tighter defensively than the Packers and will dig deep with ball control to take the early division lead.

Pick: Vikings win 20-17 but fail to cover the spread.

  • Colts (-7, 46 o/u) at Jaguars

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Colts got Rivers to replace Jacoby Brissett in an attempt to better replace Andrew Luck passing-wise. But they are still a strong run-heavy team now with special rookie back Jonathan Taylor in the mix behind a mighty line. Another rookie, Michael Pittman Jr., is a key boost to the receiving corps. Indianapolis also is stronger in the defensive front seven with DeForest Buckner as the anchor. Jacksonville is rolling with more of Gardner Minshew, but the offense is in flux around him and the defense continues to lose more luster.

Pick: Colts win 27-17 and cover the spread.

  • Bears at Lions (-1, 44 o/u)

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, Fox

The Bears have a heated but uninspiring quarterback competition between Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles in training camp to be the Week 1 starter. The Lions should be getting Matthew Stafford back fully healthy from the back injury that removed the second half of his career-best season. They will have an improved running game with line upgrades and rookie D’Andre Swift to ease Stafford’s burden. Chicago has its defense but there’s not much else to trust as Detroit also should be a little better on that side than it was last season.

Pick: Lions win 20-17 and cover the spread.

Jon Gruden and Derek Carr

  • Raiders (-1, 47 o/u) at Panthers

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Viva the Las Vegas Raiders. They are excited about their new identity and finished the final season in Oakland on the brink of the playoffs. Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock have upgraded wide receiver and tight end for Derek Carr, and the defense has two major additions at linebacker in Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski. The new-look Panthers are a very team with Rivera, Newton, Luke Kuechly, Greg Olsen and others gone, now led by Matt Rhule and Teddy Bridgewater. This is a tricky opening trip for the Raiders, but they are the better overall team with more known quantities.

Pick: Raiders win 27-20 and cover the spread.

  • Jets at Bills (-6, 43.5 o/u)

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Jets keep doing weird things with Adam Gase in control. Their defense seems more depleted and their offense seems to have the same old questions, with Breshad Perriman replacing Robby Anderson and Frank Gore backing Le’Veon Bell. There has been little buzz about Sam Darnold. The Bills have heard plenty around Josh Allen, who now can also throw to Diggs. Their defense remains solid for Sean McDermott minus Star Lotulelei and Jordan Phillips. They are the returning playoff team. The Jets are the returning mess of a team.

Pick: Bills win 24-13 and cover the spread.

  • Browns at Ravens (-8.5, 48.5 o/u)

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Ravens got stronger offensively around Lamar Jackson with rookie back J.K. Dobbins and younger, speedier wide receivers. They will recover well from the loss of Marshal Yanda to keep putting up prolific run-heavy numbers. The Browns figure to be far more efficient, balanced and explosive for Baker Mayfield and have real rebound playoff promise under new coach Kevin Stefanski. Baltimore is bound to start faster out of the gate while Cleveland works on finding its more grounded footing.

Pick: Ravens win 34-24 and cover the spread.

  • Seahawks (-1, 49 o/u) at Falcons

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, Fox

The Seahawks, with their power running game loaded to set up Russell Wilson’s big-play passing game and a revamped secondary, have rediscovered their old Super Bowl identity under Pete Carroll on top of their consistent winning ways. They have no issues under Carroll on these kind of cross-country trips, especially in Week 1 with no games before it. Wilson should pick apart former Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s unit, leaving Matt Ryan under duress in a pass-happy scheme against a secondary ready to make big plays on the ball.

Pick: Seahawks win 27-20 and cover the spread.

Kyler Murray, Kliff Kingsbury

  • Cardinals at 49ers (-7.5, 46 o/u)

Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

The Cardinals have some great vibes with Kyler Murray getting help from Hopkins and Chander Jones getting help from Isaiah Simmons. Kliff Kingsbury is a young offensive-minded coach to watch the way Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan once were in the division. They gave the 49ers two close, high-scoring games last season. But San Francisco remains strong and won’t let down in its first game at home after losing the Super Bowl. The 49ers might not have a healthy Deebo Samuel to start and the defense will need to adjust without Buckner, but they can still get it done here with their running game and greater depth of playmakers on both sides.

Pick: 49ers win 27-24 but fail to cover the spread.

  • Cowboys (-2.5, 50 o/u) at Rams

Sunday 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC

The Cowboys won’t be traveling to Southern California to train in Oxnard ahead of this season so they will want to make amends for missing out on their L.A.-area fans. Dak Prescott doesn’t have his long-term contract, but he will still be focused and motivated to have another big year with an extra elite weapon in rookie wideout CeeDee Lamb. Mike McCarthy will leave a strong first impression with his offense and defense pumped for the new coach. McVay saw his team further gutted talent-wise and Prescott will easily outduel Jared Goff as Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey can do only so much against Dallas.

Pick: Cowboys win 31-24 and cover the spread.

  • Steelers (-3.5, 47.5 o/u) at Giants

Monday 7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

This is a rough season for the Giants schedule-wise. They face an elite defense at home right away in the Monday night opener and an offense that will go back to work with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger. Daniel Jones will take lumps against Pittsburgh’s pass rush after Saquon Barkley is contained, as T.J. Watt leads the charge against rookie tackle Andrew Thomas without Nate Solder to help. The Steelers also should wake up plenty in the passing game with Juju Smith-Schuster and Dionate Johnson.

Pick: Steelers win 24-14 and cover the spread.

  • Titans at Broncos (-2, 42 o/u)

Monday 10:10 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Titans had their chance at the Chiefs and getting to the Super Bowl instead of the eventual champions. They remain in their run-heavy identity to set up the downfield passing game, now with Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill both getting their lucrative long-term contracts. The Broncos, however, are a buzzworthy team because of Vic Fangio getting more out of Von Miller and the defense in Year 2 and Pat Shurmur ready to help Drew Lock make a big jump with Melvin Gordon, Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler all adding to the weaponry. Denver matches that early vibe while Tennessee starts experiencing the expected letdown.

Pick: Broncos win 23-20 and cover the spread.

About the author

Erin Clark

Erin Clark

Erin is a sports enthusiast who loves indulging in occasional football matches. She is a passionate journalist who flaunts a perfect hold over the English language. She currently caters her skills for the sports and health section of Report Door.

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