We’re back! Actual football games that count kick off Thursday night and roll into full force this weekend with Week 1 of the NFL schedule.
Week 1 is always full of unpredictable outcomes. Look no further than the 2020 season when the Jacksonville Jaguars triumphed over the heavily favored Indianapolis Colts in Week 1. The Jaguars would not win another game all season. Surprises like that drain many a survivor fantasy pool. Where will the fluky lightning strike this weekend?
For the season-long macro view on each conference, here are my 2022 official record projections:
Now onto the games…
All odds are from BetMGM as of 9 a.m. ET on September 8th
- Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Rams (+2.5): The defending Super Bowl champs open the season at home against the team many people are picking to earn that title next February. It’s a fantastic way to start the season. History says it’s tough to knock off the reigning champs at home in Week 1 but that it will be a close game. As someone with a degree in history, I’m going to apply the lesson here even though I do agree with the oddsmakers that the Bills are the stronger team.
Rams 23, Bills 21
- New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons (+5.5): The Dennis Allen era in New Orleans couldn’t ask for a better opponent to open up against, even on the road in the home of a bitter rival. The Falcons defense was bad last year and didn’t get better this offseason. You always have to be wary of the fluke Week 1 outcome, but this is a good opportunity to use the Saints in survivor fantasy pools.
Saints 30, Falcons 20
- Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets (+7): What looked like a nondescript game got a lot more intriguing now that Joe Flacco is starting for the Jets. For starters, he’s got a celebrated Ravens history. Secondly--and more importantly--Flacco is a big upgrade over second-year Zach Wilson, who remained an erratic cannon before going down with injury. The Jets defensive front is underrated, but this is a rough test right out of the gate for Robert Saleh’s unit.
Ravens 24, Jets 20
- New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins (-3.5): The Dolphins always bring the heat at home against the Patriots, winning seven of the last nine matchups in Miami. And that was with lesser squads in the home uniforms and better ones making the trip every year. It wouldn’t be out of character for Bill Belichick's team to rise up and prove doubters wrong, but at this point those doubters get the benefit of the doubt over The Hoodie.
Dolphins 19, Patriots 13
- Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers (-1.5): Baker Mayfield making his Carolina debut against the Browns?! Oh hell yeah, this is must-watch TV. The Browns couldn’t exile Mayfield fast enough and profess to a man they don’t miss him despite now being saddled with Jacoby Brissett as the starter until Deshaun Watson returns in December. Don’t forget how Mayfield treated ex-Browns coach Hue Jackson when he got a shot at redemption there a few years ago. First, Mayfield needs to survive Myles Garrett attacking his shaky offensive line, no easy task.
Browns 20, Panthers 17
- Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals (-6.5): Mitch Trubisky vs. Joe Burrow. The rest of the matchups could all swing Pittsburgh’s way and it would still be tough to pick against Burrow at home. The fact the Bengals are also better at most positional matchups cements it.
Bengals 26, Steelers 13
- San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears (+7): Upset alert? Maybe. Trey Lance vs. Justin Fields was a momentous debate entering the 2021 draft. Lance went earlier, but to this point Fields has shown more despite having considerably less around him. The Bears have a chance if their defense can get off the field with only surrendering a first down or two on each drive.
49ers 23, Bears 21
- Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions (+4): What was a rough Xs and Os matchup for the improved Lions has taken a significant turn for the worse with Detroit’s OL injuries. Starting RG Halapoulivaati Vaitai is on IR, his replacement Tommy Kraemer hasn’t practiced all week and Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow--the Lions’ best overall player--seems doubtful with a groin injury. This will be more competitive than last year’s 44-6 Philly rout, but it’s a brutal opening draw for Dan Campbell’s Lions to try and get their resurgence off the ground.
Eagles 31, Lions 15
- Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (+7): Fun fact! The Colts haven’t won in Week 1 since the 2013 season. Okay, that’s probably not much fun for residents of Central Indiana, but it shows how chaotic Week 1 can be. The Colts also haven’t lost at home to the Texans since 2018 and that seems like a more pertinent history to apply to this particular game.
Colts 27, Texans 21
- Jacksonville Jaguars at Washington Commanders (-2.5): Someone has to win, right? Right?!? Give the Jaguars the nod with the new coach bump. Commanders QB Carson Wentz could help old friend Doug Pederson out, too.
Jaguars 33, Commanders 30
- Kansas City Chiefs at Arizona Cardinals (+6): Are we to believe the Cardinals will revert back to typical Kliff Kingsbury form and look great early before collapsing spectacularly down the stretch? Or does last season’s precipitous plummet from 10-2 to 11-7 (counting the Wild card drubbing by the Rams) carry over in Arizona?
Chiefs 30, Cardinals 17
- Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers (-3.5): I don’t have a good feel for who is going to win this AFC West showdown, but I have a great feel that this should be a very exciting game. Carr vs. Herbert could produce over 800 combined offensive yards. I may or may not have placed a small amount of money on Justin Herbert as the MVP, and the road to collecting on that wager starts here.
Chargers 37, Raiders 31
- Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings (+1.5): Divisional road game against the only real threat to their NFC North supremacy, and the Packers get it at the best possible time--Week 1 with a rookie head coach and an unproven defense on the Minnesota side of the ledger. The Roman god of football, Testicles, is clearly a Packers fan.
Packers 36, Vikings 22
- New York Giants at Tennessee Titans (-5.5): Saquon Barkley is healthy and he’s a very legitimate problem for the Titans defense, which lost top pass rusher Harold Landry recently. If new head coach Brian Daboll gets anything out of WR Kenny Golladay, the Giants can pull this off. I don’t like the way the clouds are forming around Tennessee.
Giants 23, Titans 20
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys (+2.5): The entire Cowboys defensive gameplan is to force the opposing QB to make mistakes. That’s a poor plan when the opposing QB is Tom Brady. I believe Dak Prescott will put up a valiant fight but he doesn’t have the supporting cast to match what Brady can use. This game should be a fun nightcap for opening Sunday.
Buccaneers 27, Cowboys 26
- Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks (+6.5): We only get one Monday night game on opening weekend this year. That’s a disappointment after years of being spoiled by a MNF doubleheader. At least we get the spectacle of Russell Wilson playing in Seattle in a Broncos uniform. The novelty of that will likely cool after Denver’s fourth scoring drive, sometime in the middle of the second quarter.
Broncos 40, Seahawks 22
Alabama 41, Texas 12
Ohio State 59, Arkansas State 13
BYU 33, Baylor 30
Tennessee 34, Pittsburgh 24
Florida 39, Kentucky 33
USC 36, Stanford 28