At long last, the 2021 NFL season has arrived. Full stadiums. A return to (semi) normalcy. On Thursday night the timeless Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers rallied to defeat Jerry Jones’ Dallas Cowboys featuring the brilliant return of quarterback Dak Prescott.
Other games on Sunday include plenty of sizzle with the old gunslinger Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers facing off against the young gunslinger Josh Allen and the Bills. Staying on that old vs new theme, the Football Team matches the beard and magic of Ryan Fitzpatrick against last year’s rookie sensation Justin Herbert.
There’s the Alabama quarterback battle in Foxboro with Mac and the Patriots on the attack against Tua’s Dolphins. Another Alabama quarterback, Jalen Hurts, leads the Eagles into Atlanta to face the Falcons.
Green Bay against New Orleans and Cleveland against Kansas City are two match-ups of heavyweights that could be postseason previews. Teddy Bridgewater is back with Denver and a ferocious defense takes on Daniel Jones and the Giants. Add in the Sam Darnold grudge-match with Carolina hosting the Jets and Darnold’s replacement, second overall pick Zach Wilson.
Speaking of rookie quarterbacks, how about number one overall pick Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars taking on the new-look Houston Texans? Julio Jones is in Tennessee and takes on the high-octane Arizona Cardinals and dynamic quarterback Kyler Murray. Carson Wentz at his new digs in Indianapolis hosts Russell Wilson and the Seahawks.
On Monday night, a banged-up Baltimore Ravens team may trot out “the running backs of 2015” to take on the Las Vegas Raiders in the first game played in front of fans in Vegas.
So many great match-ups in week one in the NFL! I say, less talk, more picks!
Fantasy Football: Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Atlanta Falcons
Eagles vs. Falcons date and time: Sunday, September 12 at 1 p.m. ET
Eagles vs. Falcons spread: Falcons -3.5
The Eagles finished last in the NFC East last season and the Falcons finished last in the NFC South. Both teams made dramatic changes, but both are still in the middle of a rebuild. Neither is expected to sniff the playoffs in 2021.
In this match-up, even without Julio Jones anymore, the Falcons should have enough to get it done.
Prediction: Philadelphia 17 – Atlanta 24
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Buffalo Bills
Steelers vs. Bills date and time: Sunday, September 12 at 1 p.m. ET
Steelers vs. Bills spread: Bills -6.5
Two division leaders face-off in week one as the Steelers visit the Bills. Buffalo has shoulda-been MVP Josh Allen but the Steelers offense added Najee Harris and Ben Roethlisberger is slimmed down and looks like a man on a mission in 2021.
There’s always an upset special each and every week in the NFL, and this match-up is it for week one.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 27 – Buffalo 24
Minnesota Vikings vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Vikings vs. Bengals date and time: Sunday, September 12 at 1 p.m. ET
Vikings vs. Bengals spread: Vikings -3
Cincinnati has struggled with five straight losing seasons and last year saw number one overall pick Joe Burrow get knocked out for the year against Washington in week 11. He’s back but faces a tough test with a Vikings team who are looking to rebound after a tough 2020 season.
Dalvin Cook drives the Minnesota offense and should drive them to an easy win over the Bengals.
Prediction: Minnesota 27 – Cincinnati 14
San Francisco 49ers vs. Detroit Lions
49ers vs. Lions date and time: Sunday, September 12 at 1 p.m. ET
49ers vs. Lions spread: 49ers -7.5
The 49ers showed off their potential to scare NFL defenses flipping from rookie Trey Lance to Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback. The Lions have brought in Dan Campbell to change the culture and start yet another rebuild in the Motor City.
The 49ers are a legitimate contender in the NFC in 2021 and should cover the spread easily on Sunday.
Prediction: San Francisco 31 – Detroit 10
Arizona Cardinals vs. Tennessee Titans
Cardinals vs. Titans date and time: Sunday, September 12 at 1 p.m. ET
Cardinals vs. Titans spread: Titans -3 (Cardinals vs. Titans over-under: 52)
I added the over/under spread to this match-up because these two teams both have the same things in common: explosive offenses and suspect defenses. The Titans added Julio Jones to an offense built around Derrick Henry. The Cardinals already have DeAndre Hopkins and added A.J. Green to their potent offense.
My advice, bet the over!
Ep 100: Divisional Round Preview: Who Is Headed To Championship Sunday?
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Prediction: Arizona 37 – Tennessee 34
Seattle Seahawks vs. Indianapolis Colts
Seahawks vs. Colts date and time: Sunday, September 12 at 1 p.m. ET
Seahawks vs. Colts spread: Seahawks -2.5
Russell Wilson once more has the weight of the city of Seattle on his shoulders. He leads the Seahawks into Indianapolis to face the Colts and likely Carson Wentz at quarterback. Wentz is supposed to be rejuvenated playing for former offensive coordinator Frank Reich. Missing most of training camp and the preseason does not help.
The Seahawks know how to win on the road.
Prediction: Seattle 27 – Indianapolis 13
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Washington Football Team
Chargers vs. Washington date and time: Sunday, September 12 at 1 p.m. ET
Chargers vs. Washington spread: Chargers -1
Justin Herbert stepped in before week two and was one of the best offensive rookies last year. The Chargers also get superstar safety Derwin James back. Washington counters with a little “FitzMagic” with new quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and a front four among the most talented in the league.
The Chargers are on the upswing and should travel well this week.
Los Angeles 27 – Washington 24
New York Jets vs. Carolina Panthers
Jets vs. Panthers date and time: Sunday, September 12 at 1 p.m. ET
Jets vs. Panthers spread: Panthers -5
Revenge! Sam Darnold was jettisoned by the Jets prior to the draft and landed in Carolina. Offensive coordinator Joe Brady should be a huge help to Darnold after his time spent with Adam Gase in New York. Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson has all the tools but needs time and experience to thrive.
The Jets are pointed in the right direction, but will take their lumps this year starting in week one.
Prediction: New York 20 – Carolina 27
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Houston Texans
Jaguars vs. Texans date and time: Sunday, September 12 at 1 p.m. ET
Jaguars vs. Texans spread: Jaguars -3
Trevor Lawrence comes into 2021 with a ton of hype as the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. So far, it has all seemed justified. But now he has to perform when it counts. The Texans were the 2019 AFC South champions with Deshaun Watson and beat Buffalo in the wild card game and had the Chiefs on their heels up 24-0 in the divisional round. Now, Watson is only battling in court and the team has been completely torn down.
Lawrence should have an easy first game to his NFL career.
Prediction: Jacksonville 23 – Houston 13
Cleveland Browns vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Browns vs. Chiefs date and time: Sunday, September 12 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Browns vs. Chiefs spread: Chiefs -6
This is the heavyweight championship bout! Patrick Mahomes and the AFC Champions Chiefs vs Baker Mayfield and the most talented roster from 1 to 53 in the league. Buckle up, Arrowhead Stadium is going to full to the rafters and rocking.
This is going to come down to one play and probably whoever gets the ball last.
Prediction: Cleveland 33 – Kansas City 34
Miami Dolphins vs. New England Patriots
Dolphins vs. Patriots date and time: Sunday, September 12 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Dolphins vs. Patriots spread: Patriots -2.5
The big news in the NFL the past week has been Bill Belichick cutting Cam Newton and riding with rookie Mac Jones. Week one brings Belichick protegee Brian Flores who won ten games last season in Miami. The Dolphins have had injuries at wide receiver and free agent Will Fuller is suspended for week one.
The game is a coin flip, but with fans in the stands the edge goes to the home team. More math? How about Mac > Tua.
Prediction: Miami 24 – New England 31
Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints
Packers vs. Saints date and time: Sunday, September 12 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Packers vs. Saints spread: Packers -4
If Kansas City vs. Cleveland is this weeks’ Heavyweight match-up, Packers vs. Saints is the Light Heavyweight title bout. Angry Aaron Rodgers kicks off what could be his last year in Green Bay with a team built to win now. The Saints lost Drew Brees to retirement, but Jameis Winston is a former number one overall pick and talented.
Rodgers is one of the best in the business, Winston is still trying to make the team his.
Prediction: Green Bay 30 – New Orleans 20
Denver Broncos vs. New York Giants
Broncos vs. Giants date and time: Sunday, September 12 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Broncos vs. Giants spread: Broncos -2.5
The Broncos have made big improvements to their secondary and brought in Teddy Bridgewater to manage an offense with an improved offensive line and sill position players filled with potential. And they got Von Miller back. The Giants…still have Daniel Jones at quarterback (though the defense is the strength of the team..
Turnovers will be the big story. Unfortunately, the Giants will make them.
Prediction: Denver 26 – New York 10
Chicago Bears vs. Los Angeles Rams
Bears vs. Rams date and time: Sunday, September 12 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Bears vs. Rams spread: Rams -7.5
The Bears electrified the NFL Draft by moving up for dynamic quarterback Justin Fields. For some bizarre reason they’ll have washed-out retreat Andy Dalton starting at quarterback. Los Angeles dumped Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford at quarterback and still have a top defense. This could get ugly quick.
Every week there will be a lock of the week. This is that game this week.
Prediction: Chicago 3 – Los Angeles 34
Baltimore Ravens vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Ravens vs. Raiders date and time: Monday, September 13 at 8:15 p.m. ET
Ravens vs. Raiders spread: Ravens -4.5
For more than 50 years, there has been Monday Night Football. This season opens with the first game with fans in Las Vegas in NFL history. Unfortunately, the fans won’t be able to help the Raiders block for quarterback Derek Carr or try to tackle running quarterback Lamar Jackson and whatever running back is left standing.
Baltimore may not have many running backs and healthy receivers, but may not need them against a Las Vegas squad that looks weaker than a unit that finished 8-8 last year.
Prediction: Baltimore 30 – Las Vegas 13
Last week’s picks: N/A
Picks this year: Already 0-1 as I had Tampa Bay covering the touchdown plus spread against Dallas on Thursday.
–Hal Bent is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @halbent01
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