Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
Mike Asti: While this historic rivalry has more often favored Green Bay during the Aaron Rodgers era, Chicago is entering the 2019 season as the best team in the NFC North. The defending division champion Bears have a defense led by Pro Bowl linebacker Khalil Mack that is built to deal with Rodgers. As long as quarterback Mitchell Trubisky continues his progression and doesn’t make any backbreaking mistakes, the Bears should be able to pull off the win.
Bears 26, Packers 20
Parker Hurley: Packers
Ron Lippock: Bears
Alan Saunders: Packers
Los Angeles Rams at Carolina Panthers
Hurley: Super Bowl hangover? The Rams head to the East Coast to take on a Panthers team that was 6-2 before an injury to Cam Newton derailed their season. The Panthers added to their offensive line and have a strong ground attack that could be tough for the Rams, who lost Ndamakong Suh, and Mark Barron. Look for the Panthers to start off with a home upset of the defending NFC West champs.
Panthers 28, Rams 24
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles
Saunders: Not everything is all right with the Eagles, but there is too much offensive talent between Carson Wentz, Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Darren Sproles, Nelson Agholor, DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery to fail to overcome a very average Washington defense. Staying away from turnovers will be key. The Skins were tied for sixth in turnover percentage a year ago.
Eagles 30, Redskins 13
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets
Hurley: In a rivalry between two up-and-coming AFC quarterbacks, the Bills did more this offseason to put there’s in position to win than the Jets did. The Jets are changing their defensive scheme and have injuries at all levels of their defense. With a revamped offensive line, and skill plays, look for Josh Allen and the Bills to put up some offense in an AFC East win.
Bills 24, Jets 20
Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings
Saunders: These teams are fairly evenly matched, with Vegas liking the Vikings by four at home, and to win one-half more game over the course of the season. But Matt Ryan is the better quarterback and it’s Week 1 and I’ve already taken too many favorites.
Falcons 27, Vikings 24
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins
Lippock: Too litle big play potential on offense and two few disruptors on defense for this Miami team. Fitzpatrick is a hit or miss quarterback who isn’t afraid to try to make the Ravens pay for being overly aggressive on defense, but he’s doesn’t have the weapons to succeed in doing so. The only way Miami can beat this Ravens team is by forcing turnovers and keeping the score low. But they just don’t have the playmakers on defense to accomplish this either. Miami is vanilla as they get as a team – these are the kinds of teams an aggressive Baltimore defense feasts on.
Ravens 30, Dolphins 10
Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars
Saunders: The Jaguars are a tough first-week opponent, and they may make this one closer than some may think, but Kansas City is still one of the best teams in the AFC.
Chiefs 24, Jaguars 20
Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns
Asti: Even though those picking Cleveland to win the Super Bowl are going a bit overboard, the Browns should be good. This roster should get Cleveland to the playoffs, something that hasn’t even been a possibility in years. Cleveland’s secondary and big play ability with Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr. should be enough against an average Titans team. Expect the Cleveland defense to force a couple turnovers and the Baker to OBJ connection to start out strong, especially thanks to their offensive line providing protection and winning the line battle. While this doesn’t mean I’m in any way buying all the Browns hype, Cleveland is the better team in this matchup.
Browns 30, Titans 16
Lippock: This is a good matchup between two teams trying to prove they can take big steps this season. For the Titans to win, their front 5 on defense has to be far superior to the Browns’ offensive line. It’s a home game for a revved up Browns team. If the Titans can survive the early part of the game and not get behind too much too early, they can pull of a mild upset here. It’s just very hard to feel good about the Titans quarterback situation. I think this will be a close game, but Cleveland’s offense will set a pace that Mariotta and company can’t match.
Browns 27, Titans 20
Indianapolis Colts at San Diego Chargers
Saunders: Even when Colts were supposed to be good with Andrew Luck, this was going to be a tough game. Jacoby Brissett is not Andrew Luck.
Chargers 17, Colts 6
Cincinnati Bengals at Seattle Seahawks
Lippock: The Bengals open with a West coast trip to Seattle, and both teams enter the game missing key players on offense. The difference is the Seahawks have a better defense and a quarterback that can help create big plays with his scrambling ability. This game will come down to a couple big Wilson plays and the defense forcing some key turnovers.
Seahawks 23, Bengals 17
San Francisco 49ers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Hurley: Bruce Arians is back and ready to sling the football down the field. Luckily for him, he gets a 49ers defense that was one of the worst in the NFL last season. They are still shuffling at all spots besides Richard Sherman, and their big offseason additions, Nick Bosa, and Kwon Alexander are coming off of injuries. With Jimmy Garoppolo shaking off rust as well, the 49ers may start slow while the Bucs come out firing at home to get Arians his first home win.
Bucanneers 31, 49ers 21
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals
Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots
Asti: This Steelers defense is better prepared to face Tom Brady and the Patriots than past years. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin even said as much during his weekly press conference on Tuesday. If Pittsburgh’s pass rush can get to Brady enough, it will actually assist an improved secondary. However, the returning Josh Gordon will also prove to be a type of big play receiver that can take the top of the defense, which is something Brady hasn’t really had since Randy Moss. New England owns the edge in big plays and gets by the Steelers to begin their title defense.
Patriots 23, Steelers 20
Lippock: Some are looking at this as a high-scoring affair, but I don’t think that happens. Pittsburgh’s offense is going to be more methodical — more “take-what-they-give” in 2019 — with Ben being more picky about his deep shots. And New England’s defense is superb – having held the high-flying Rams to 3 points in the Super Bowl. The Patriots are also going to run more power sets on offense to test the smaller, faster Steelers defense and to keep them on their heels. I think this starts off like two heavyweights testing each other early, with each looking for the right opening to knock the other out. The newness of this Steelers defense may keep New England on their heels just enough, and the offense will need some plays for role players like McDonald and Washington to put them over the top in a close one.
Steelers 20, Patriots 17
Hurley: The Patriots are a team that finishes stronger than they start. That can be highlighted by losses to the Lions and Jaguars in the first four weeks last season en route to a Super Bowl. The season prior they lost to Kansas City at home in Week 1. The team just lost their center, has a left tackle making his first career start off of an injury, and does not have a tight end.
Meanwhile, the Steelers have been counting down to Week 1 since trading up for Devin Bush. The Steelers beat New England last season in Pittsburgh and may be the more prepared team in Week 1. Do not expect Tom Brady and Pats to fade away, but look for the Steelers to have a shot to win it in the last seconds.
Steelers 24, Patriots 23
Saunders: The Patriots are the better team. The Steelers can win this game. That’s the way it worked in 2018, when New England won the Super Bowl. In fact, Pittsburgh is the last team to beat the Pats. But that was at Heinz Field. Gilette Stadium has been unkind to the Steelers over the years. Is this the breakthrough? It feels awfully close, but I’ll fall back to the better team winning a tight one.
Patriots 27, Steelers 24 (OT)
Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints
Asti: Houston could not possibly have a worse matchup to start their season. JJ Watt and company will have one of their toughest tests all year in week 1 against the Saints. Drew Brees knows how to pick apart a defense as well as any quarterback. Brees’ quick release will help nullify the Texans pass rush. Watt will do damage as always, but the Saints offensive weapons will win the one-on-one battles. This could all result in a big game for Brees and the Saints offense.
Saints 34, Texans 23
Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders
Saunders: A home loss to the rival Broncos while Antonio Brown rips his GM from his couch on Instagram would be a fitting finale to Hard Knocks.
Broncos 13, Raiders 10