With more than half of the US states allowing legalized sports betting this NFL season, it’s time to get back to the weekly NFL picks here at FullPressCoverage.com. “Handicapping Hal” here, and I’ll be making the picks each week, picking the MoneyLine as well against the spread (using the Draftkings SportsBook Point Spreads).
The 2022 NFL season provided twists and turns. Detroit and Jacksonville were both initially thought a year or two away from being competitive. Everyone had the Seahawks down and the Broncos up after the Russell Wilson trade. No one saw the Colts collapsing as epically as they did last season. Ditto for the Cardinals.
Sure, everyone knew the Chiefs, Bills and Bengals would be Super Bowl contenders, but who outside of the greater Miami area believed in Tua (when healthy)? Green Bay falling apart even with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback? Minnesota winning 13 games (and one-and-done in the playoffs)?
Now it’s 2023 and Buffalo may be taking a step back, and Miami and the Jets are stepping up in the AFC East. The AFC West is still loaded, but the AFC North may be the best division in football. The NFC East remains strong, with Dallas, the Giants, and the NFC Champion Eagles fighting it out. Seattle and San Francisco should be a fun fight out west.
Enough preamble. Let’s get to the 2023 NFL Season! The season kicks off on Thursday night!
Thursday Night Football | Sept. 7
Detroit Lions at Kansas City (-6.5)
NBC | 8:20 p.m. ET
The 2023 NFL season kicks off with a great game as Patrick Mahomes and the World Champion Kansas City Chiefs host the explosive Detroit Lions. Both teams have question marks on defense, especially with Chris Jones holding out for the Chiefs. Without Jones, the secondary has a lot of pressure to perform (without a consistent pass rush to help).
Both teams are offensive juggernauts. Andy Reid and Mahomes were simply fine without Tyreek Hill last season and incorporated impressive rookie Rashee Rice into the mix. Detroit imported former Bears running back David Montgomery and drafted dual-threat running back Jahmyr Gibbs to be their Alvin Kamara.
Expect a lot of back and forth on offense. The Lions will hang with the Chiefs throughout the game, but can you pick Mahomes to lose at home? Nope. KC to win, but the Lions cover.
Exact Score: KC 37 – DET 34 (OT)
Versus the Spread: Detroit
Sunday, Sept. 10 | Week 1
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-3.5)
FOX | 1 p.m. ET
The Falcons are the hot pick in the NFC South this season, headlined by their trinity of touchdown makers Bijan Robinson, Drake London and Kyle Pitts. The only downside? Desmond Ridder is the quarterback of the offense (Oh, and the defense is a little sus–new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen has his work cut out for him).
Carolina has a strong defense (provided star edge rusher Brian Burns ends his hold-in and plays) and the question marks are on offense. First-overall pick Bryce Young won’t have the explosive weapons he had at Alabama, but steady veterans Miles Sanders and Adam Thielen should help bail him out of trouble.
Carolina’s defense will be too much for the inexperienced Falcons on Sunday. Defense travels and the Panthers should win outright and cover in Atlanta.
Exact Score: CAR 22 – ATL 17
Versus the Spread: Carolina
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings (-6)
CBS | 1 p.m. ET
Going from the greatest football player in NFL history, Tom Brady, to Baker Mayfield as your quarterback doesn’t inspire confidence. The wheels came off with Brady behind center and no help from the running backs and receivers other than Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. The offense will be much worse in 2023.
Fortunately, the defense should keep them close in most games. However, this game sees Justin Jefferson with first-round draft pick Jordan Addison joining him to key the offensive attack for the Vikings. There’s no Dalvin Cook this year, but his yards per attempt and role as a receiver dropped significantly last year as another running back declined precipitously once hitting the magic 1,000 rushing attempts.
Tampa’s defense will keep it close but expect Kirk Cousins to find Jefferson and Addison enough to make it comfortable as Minnesota wins outright and covers the spread.
Exact Score: TB 13 – MIN 23
Versus the Spread: Minnesota
Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5) at Cleveland Browns
CBS | 1 p.m. ET
The Bengals were again a top team in the AFC last season and fell short of reaching the Super Bowl in consecutive seasons due to a failed two-minute drive in the AFC Championship Game, followed by a special teams breakdown and unnecessary penalty to get the Chiefs in position to win.
The Bengals return their high-powered offense and may have solved their offensive line problems finally with Orlando Brown Jr. at left tackle and Jonah Williams flipped to the right side. The secondary remains the big question on defense with an influx of youth in the secondary via the draft this year and second-year cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt expected to make an impact.
The Browns remain solid on both sides of the ball and need quarterback Deshawn Watson to finally shake off the rust behind a solid offensive line and a premier running back in Nick Chubb. The playmakers at wide receiver include an aging Amari Cooper and Jets washout Elijah Moore along with the inconsistent Donovan Peoples-Jones and underperforming (everywhere except his bank account) tight end David Njoku.
I need to see this offense in Cleveland be good enough to score points in the passing game before I believe they have enough to be a contender. Despite Cincinnati’s question marks on defense, I expect the offense to find a way and win a close game and just barely cover the spread against the Browns.
Exact Score: CIN 27 – CLE 24
Versus the Spread: Cincinnati
Jacksonville Jaguars (-5) at Indianapolis Colts
FOX | 1 p.m. ET
Jacksonville enters 2023 with something not seen in Duval County since before the 2018 season: expectations. The Jaguars won the AFC South and defeated the Chargers in the playoffs before holding their own against the eventual NFL champion Chiefs in the Divisional round. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence is a legitimate budding superstar and adds a potential number one wide receiver in Calvin Ridley.
The Colts have low expectations unless their goal is to secure the top pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. A developmental quarterback with just thirteen career starts in college (Anthony Richardson), one established NFL receiver (Michael Pittman), and their best offensive player on the PUP list and having already requested a trade (Jonathan Taylor).
The only caveat for picking this game is it is week one (weird things usually happen) and a divisional rival (weird things usually happen). Even so, this should be an easy win for the Jaguars outright and covering a spread that is about six points lower than expected.
Exact Score: JAX 27 – IND 16
Versus the Spread: Jacksonville
San Francisco 49ers (-2.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers
FOX | 1 p.m. ET
This may be the most anticipated game of the week for me–San Francisco’s offensive firepower matched up against what could be the best defense in the NFL. The Steelers brought in Markus Golden (three times double-digit sacks) and rookie Nick Herbig (the 2023 NFL Draft’s biggest steal in the fourth round) as backups behind TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith. Add in Larry Ogunjobi and the ageless Cameron Heyward and an excellent defense will get even better in 2023.
San Francisco imported Javon Hargrave and Clellin Ferrel into an already dominant front on defense. On offense, Brock Purdy is healthy and so are Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Christian McCaffery. Trent Williams leads an evolving offensive line that is working up to being a dominant unit.
This is a “flip a coin” kind of game for me. The 49ers are favorites on the road and the swirling winds of Heinz Stadium could make a tough first week of work for newcomer kicker Jake Moody. I have Pittsburgh pulling out the win in overtime outright and covering the spread.
Exact Score: SF 21 – PIT 24 (OT)
Versus the Spread: Pittsburgh
Tennessee Titans at New Orleans Saints (-3)
CBS | 1 p.m. ET
A lot of NFL analysts are down on the Tennessee Titans, and for good reason, after a 7-3 start snowballed into a 7-10 finish and losing to Jacksonville in a “winner take all” finale. Without Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, a one-dimensional offense got even more predictable (no-dimensional offense?). With DeAndre Hopkins joining impressive second-year receiver Treylon Burks, the Titans should be back on track.
The Saints were one of the most disappointing teams in 2022 and imported quarterback David Carr to reignite a stagnant offense. Chris Olave is a stud at wide receiver, but what does Michael Thomas still have in the tank? Jamaal Williams will try to hold things together at running back with Alvin Kamara suspended.
Both teams are solid on defense, so this game screams to bet the under. I give the edge to coaching as it is evenly matched otherwise, with New Orleans getting three points as the home team. I fully expect Tennessee to cover the spread and even win outright on Sunday.
Exact Score: TEN 22 – NO 19
Versus the Spread: Tennessee
Arizona Cardinals at Washington Commanders (-7)
FOX | 1 p.m. ET
Here is a battle of teams with low expectations. The Commanders (seriously, the new ownership hasn’t changed it to the Red Wolves yet?) think they’re a contender but they are not even close to the Giants, Cowboys, and Eagles in the NFC East. Sam Howell is not going to be the answer at quarterback and head coach Ron Rivera appeared overmatched numerous times the past three seasons and is on a noticeably short leash with new ownership in place.
The Cardinals are just terrible, don’t have quarterback Kyler Murray, and appear to be in full tank mode after releasing their only competent quarterback (Colt McCoy). Even with Murray, they would lack playmakers and have glaring holes on the offensive line (Hjalte Froholdt as a starting guard?). Is there anyone on the defense capable of rushing the quarterback? Also, the secondary is paper-thin.
This is the type of game where Red Zone viewers don’t even realize the game is going on as Scott Hanson won’t have to flip over to show many scores or big plays. Since it could easily go either way, let’s give Arizona their one win for the season in week one and call this my upset special as they win outright and cover the spread easily on the road.
Exact Score: AZ 15 – WAS 13 (Upset Special)
Versus the Spread: Arizona
Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens (-10)
CBS | 1 p.m. ET
The Houston Texans figure to be a vastly improved team compared to the unit that was 3-13-1 last season. A new quarterback in C.J. Stroud. Top pass-rushing defensive end Will Anderson added to the defense. Several veteran free agents signed to play on defense with a core of promising youngsters.
The offense still lacks playmaking wide receivers and is still Dameon Pierce or bust. Stroud will need time to acclimate to the NFL, but getting a couple of decent pass catchers beyond the husk of Robert Woods would have helped him along.
The Ravens’ defense remains top-notch (it was third in the NFL in points allowed in 2022) and the offense is designed to beef up the playmakers around former MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Ravens imported mercenary wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., Nelson Agholor and used a first-round draft pick on the dynamic Zay Flowers.
The Texans will get better, but not in week one. The Ravens should sound a warning to the rest of the AFC that they’re opening the offense up and ready to make some noise in the passing game. This is my lock of the week, as Baltimore wins and covers the big point spread without any difficulty.
Exact Score: HOU 13 – BAL 38 (Lock of the Week)
Versus the Spread: Baltimore
Philadelphia Eagles (-4) at New England Patriots
CBS | 4:25 p.m. ET
The national broadcast in the second broadcast window pits the Super Bowl representative from the NFC against a team that, prior to 2020, was well-known as a regular Super Bowl contender. The Patriots hit rock-bottom on offense last year, which is saying a lot considering Cam Newton was forced into the Tom Brady offense in 2020 like a square peg into a triangle hole.
The Patriots bring back a strong defense and actually have a real offensive coordinator this season, which should bode well for their chances. Unfortunately, they could be the most improved team and still finish with a worse record than last season due to playing in the most stacked division and having the most difficult schedule in the entire NFL based on projected won-loss record.
The Eagles are still the Eagles, returning Jalen Hurts, A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith on offense and importing even more Georgia Bulldogs to supplement an already absurdly talented defensive unit. The Eagles were great last season and should be considered a legitimate threat to return to the Super Bowl again in 2023.
The Patriots should play well and keep this game close, but the Eagles simply have too much talent on both sides of the ball to lose. It’s the Eagles winning and covering the spread on Sunday afternoon.
Exact Score: PHI 28 – NE 21
Versus the Spread: Philadelphia
Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos (-4)
CBS | 4:25 p.m. ET
Lofty expectations for both teams in 2022 led to both squads finishing with disappointing records battling to stay out of the basement of the AFC West. No player had more hype than Russell Wilson arriving in Denver, but the former Seahawks quarterback looked lost without Pete Carroll and cost head coach Nathaniel Hackett his job as Sean Peyton was hired to revive Wilson and the Broncos.
In Las Vegas, the arrival of Davante Adams had head coach Josh McDaniels thinking playoffs, but the drop off on defense and step back by Derek Carr at quarterback led to the Raiders importing Jimmy Garoppolo. With Darren Waller shipped out, the pressure is on Jakobi Meyers and Hunter Renfrow to pick up the slack. Josh Jacobs must get up to speed in a hurry after holding out.
Picking against Denver at home used to be a sucker’s bet, but those days are long in the rear-view. Las Vegas looks just a tick better than Denver, just like last season. I have the underdog Raiders to win outright on the road in week one.
Exact Score: LV 22 – DEN 15
Versus the Spread: Las Vegas
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Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers (-3)
CBS | 4:25 p.m. ET
These are the two most difficult teams to understand heading into the 2023 season.
The Miami Dolphins have a quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa who looked to be ascending to a top-five quarterback before concussions ruined his and Miami’s season. They boast two of the fastest and most dynamic wide receivers, many talented individual players on defense and added Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator.
The Chargers have Justin Herbert as their quarterback, kept Austin Eckler at running back for this season, have a gaggle of productive wide receivers (in fact, first round draft pick Quentin Johnston may struggle to get playing time), and, like Miami have numerous potential Pro Bowl caliber players across the defense.
Both squads are an enigma wrapped in a riddle. For this game, I trust Herbert a pinch more than Tagovailoa, and that’s just enough for me to pick the Chargers to win and cover the spread.
Exact Score: MIA 27 – LAC 31
Versus the Spread: Los Angeles
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks (-5.5)
FOX | 4:25 p.m. ET
The Seahawks are heavy favorites at home and should be. The Rams are in the midst of a rebuild (or reload, since they’re counting on a core of Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald to shore up the young players around them. Strike one: Kupp injured his hamstring and is unlikely to play in week one and may go on injured reserve.
The Seahawks, through smart maneuvering, had two high first-round picks and cashed in with a starting cornerback (Devin Witherspoon) to pair with last year’s break-out rookie Riq Woolen and wide receiver Jaxson Smith-Njigba, who should fit in nicely with DK Metcalf and veteran Tyler Lockett.
Seattle looks improved on defense and still potent on offense. The Rams look like they’re going to fight to get USC quarterback Caleb Williams with the first overall pick. Seahawks win and cover easily at home.
Exact Score: LAR 10 – SEA 20
Versus the Spread: Seattle
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears (-1)
FOX | 4:25 p.m. ET
For the first time since 1991, the Packers will go into a season with a quarterback other than Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers. We were just saying goodbye to hair metal and embracing long greasy hair, ripped jeans and flannel (growing up on a farm, those magical years of the early nineties in high school were such a natural pairing with fashion that I never had before and never will again).
Reminiscing time over, the Packers’ defense let them down in 2022 despite a boatload of talent. I’m not taking a shot at Aaron Rodgers, but like the Belichick-Brady split in 2020, both sides needed to step away in this situation for the good of the individual and the team. It’s a fresh start with Jordan Love and despite growing pains, he should benefit from a strong offensive line, a great running back duo and a pair of solid young receivers.
For the Bears, no quarterback has a higher ceiling than Justin Fields–the problem has been that the floor remains low and there are massive growing pains. They imported a ton of help on offense for him with some exciting young players and a legitimate number one wide receiver (D.J. Moore). On defense, however, the Bears made a bunch of moves but still look extremely vulnerable.
Both teams are expected to improve, but Green Bay is far ahead of the Bears when examining the entire rosters. Expect Green Bay to win and cover on the road.
Exact Score: GB 24 – CHI 20
Versus the Spread: Green Bay
Sunday Night Football
Dallas Cowboys (-3.5) at New York Giants
NBC | 8:20 p.m. ET
The Dallas Cowboys have continued to frustrate their fans as they fall short of owner Jerry Jones’ desire to return to the Super Bowl. Last season, with a top five defense paired with a top five scoring offense, the Cowboys fell short once again in the playoffs, losing to the 49ers. This season, with a healthy Michael Gallup, Brandin Cooks added to the passing attack, the offensive line healthy and Tony Pollard as the unquestioned lead back, the Cowboys look ready to compete.
The Giants were a surprise team last season, winning nine games for head coach Brian Daboll. They’ve locked up quarterback Daniel Jones, have Saquon Barkley back for another season, added tight end Darren Waller and made some moves to upgrade at wide receiver. The defense had its struggles in 2022 and the team is leaning on a young secondary in 2023.
A divisional game in week one is always the hardest to predict. I see the Giants able to keep it close and win outright and covering the spread.
Exact Score: DAL 20 – NYG 23
Versus the Spread: New York
Monday Night Football | Sept. 11
Buffalo Bills (-2.5) at New York Jets
ESPN | 8:15 p.m. ET
The Jets have crowned themselves the AFC representatives for Super Bowl LVIII (58 if you hate Roman Numerals), but before getting that far ahead of themselves, they need to find a way to get past the three-time AFC East champion Buffalo Bills.
Buffalo is aging in the secondary, lost a key piece at linebacker and won’t have Von Miller back for a while on defense. However, they still have Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs on offense. The question on offense is do they have enough at running back and at the other wide receiver positions? If not, more pressure on rookie tight end/slot receiver Dalton Kincaid.
The Jets have Garrett Wilson on offense along with a gaggle of receivers who couldn’t get it done in Green Bay last season on offense with a dominant running game and better offensive line. Their defense is their strength, but they need the young pass rushers to mature, the starting linebackers to stay healthy for seventeen games, and the young cornerbacks to continue to make game-changing plays.
I expect a great game for the first Monday Night Football game of 2023, but the Bills should hold on after a late Jets charge to eke out a win, but New York will cover the spread.