2019 Week 1 NFL Picks

Instead of doing full write ups for each week 1 game, I’m going to have all of my week 1 picks here. If I were to do full write ups, a lot of the material would be redundant to my season previews, so I’ll keep it brief and link to my previews. From week 2 on, I will have full write ups as usual. 

For now, these are just my early thoughts, with a few picks locked in. I will have final updates, full score predictions, confidence rankings, and a Pick of the Week in the days leading up to the first Sunday of the season. 

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears (-3.5)

The Bears are favored by more than a field goal because they were the better team last season, but I could see that being flipped in 2019. The Bears had an easy schedule and no injuries last season and lost a pair of defensive starters this off-season. The Packers, meanwhile, should have a more productive passing game with a new offensive system in place and young receivers getting more experience. With a defense that was improved through free agency and what looks like a very promising running game, the Packers could be the most well rounded team in the league this season unless Aaron Rodgers continues to struggle by his standards. Even if the Bears are a tough opponent, I love getting more than a field goal with Green Bay here. 

Pick Against the spread (Locked): Green Bay +3.5

Confidence: High (Potential Pick of the Week)

Upset Pick: Green Bay +160

Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings (-4)

The Falcons went just 7-9 last season, but their defense was much better in the second half of the season when Deion Jones returned from injury and now they get safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen back as well. On offense, they get running back Devonta Freeman back and should be better on the offensive line. They could easily get back to the post-season and I have them a few spots better in my rankings than the Vikings, who still have offensive line problems and might not be as good on defense with Sheldon Richardson gone and several other key players getting up there in age. The Falcons have a good chance of winning this one outright even on the road, so getting 4 points with them is great value.

Pick Against the spread (Locked): Atlanta +4

Confidence: High (Potential Pick of the Week)

Upset Pick: Atlanta +170

Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles (-8)

This line is one of the highest of the week, but I don’t think it’s high enough, as this is a matchup between one of the worst and one of the best teams in the league. The Redskins will either be starting a rookie quarterback with just one year of college experience or veteran journeyman Case Keenum, with arguably the worst receiving corps in the league to throw to. Even with all of their quarterback moves this off-season, they will still really miss having a healthy Alex Smith. They weren’t bad defensively last season, but they weren’t good either, despite having next to no injuries, and they have big question marks at middle linebacker and safety after some off-season departures. The Eagles, meanwhile, should be much healthier this season, including Carson Wentz, who dealt with knee and back problems even when on the field last season. This line would be at least two touchdowns if these two teams were to meet in week 6, but I don’t think the public realizes how bad Washington is yet. 

Buffalo Bills at New York Jets (-3)

I have these two teams about even in my roster rankings, so this line seems about right. The Bills are a little bit better, especially with the Jets missing tight end Chris Herndon to suspension, but I don’t think I’d bet on this one.

Baltimore Ravens (-4.5) at Miami Dolphins

Miami is probably going to be the worst team in the league this year, but Baltimore is also likely to be much worse than last season. Their offensive efficiency actually dropped when they went from Joe Flacco to Lamar Jackson down the stretch last season and their 6-1 record in Jackson’s starts was largely the result of an easy schedule and a dominant defense. That defense lost several starters in free agency this off-season, most of whom were not replaced, which really hurts a team that wants to be run heavy and hide Jackson’s accuracy problems. Jackson will likely have to pass much more than he did last season, in part to avoid the injury risk of carrying the ball 15-20 times, and he has a very unproven receiving corps to throw to. I probably wouldn’t bet on Miami, but this line is a little too high and Baltimore should be a good team to pick against for at least the first month of the season.

Kansas City Chiefs (-3.5) @ Jacksonville Jaguars

For now, I am assuming Tyreek Hill will not be playing in this game, as he seems likely to be suspended for at least some period of time. Without Hill and already without Kareem Hunt, suddenly Pat Mahomes’ weapons are not nearly as impressive. Mahomes should still be one of the top quarterbacks in the league this season, but this could be one of his worst games of the season, on the road, against a tough defense, without his top receiver. Jacksonville still has problems on offense, but they upgrade at quarterback with Nick Foles and they have a healthy Leonard Fournette and a healthier offensive line. Against a Chiefs defense that looks likely to be one of the worst in the league again in 2019, I like getting more than a field goal with the Jaguars at home. 

Update: Tyreek Hill will not be suspended. I will update this pick near the start of the season once there is a new line.

Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns (-5.5)

This line is about right. I think I’d lean towards Tennessee because Marcus Mariota is healthy for now and the Browns could take a few weeks to find their stride, with all of their new off-season additions, but the Browns have a clear talent edge and could easily win by a touchdown or more at home.

Los Angeles Rams (-3) @ Carolina Panthers

The Panthers were 6-2 last season before Cam Newton got hurt and even when Newton was playing hurt many of their losses were close. The Panthers finished last season 12th in first down rate differential, 2nd best among non-playoff teams behind the Steelers, and Cam Newton should be healthy for week 1 after off-season surgery. They might not make the playoffs in the loaded NFC, but I like their chances of pulling the upset here at home week 1, as field goal underdogs. The Rams should still be good this season, but they lost a pair of offensive linemen in free agency and they still have question marks on defense around Aaron Donald.

Pick Against the spread (Locked): Carolina +3

Confidence: High (Potential Pick of the Week)

Upset Pick: Carolina +135

Cincinnati Bengals at Seattle Seahawks (-8)

The consensus seems to be that the Bengals will struggle this season, but I wouldn’t be so sure. Remember they were one of the better teams in the league last season before injuries struck, especially on offense when Andy Dalton, Tyler Eifert, and AJ Green were all healthy. They’re not necessarily a playoff team, but neither are the Seahawks and I have these two teams about even in my rankings, so we’re getting great value with the Bengals at +8. The Seahawks made the playoffs last season on the strength of a +15 turnover margin, but turnover margins are inconsistent on a year-to-year basis and the Seahawks continued shedding talent this off-season, with Frank Clark and Doug Baldwin no longer on the team. They have one of the weakest rosters in the league around quarterback Russell Wilson.

Pick Against the spread (Locked): Cincinnati +8

Confidence: High (Potential Pick of the Week)

Indianapolis Colts at Los Angeles Chargers (-3)

These should be two of the best teams in the AFC in 2019 and no one should be surprised if this ends up being an AFC Championship preview, but the Colts are the better of the two teams, even if only slightly, and the Chargers have never gotten much help from their home crowd in Los Angeles, so they shouldn’t be getting the full field goal here. I probably wouldn’t bet on the Colts, but they look like the right side.

San Francisco 49ers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Even)

This line is about right as this game is close to a toss up, but I have the 49ers projected to win just slightly, so they would be my pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Detroit Lions (-2.5) at Arizona Cardinals

This line seems about right, but I like the Lions for two reasons. For one, this will be the first NFL start for Kyler Murray, who was only a starter for about a year in college. Two, the Lions have dominated against non-playoff teams in recent years and that’s what I expect the Cardinals to ultimately end up being. In the past three seasons, the Lions are 22-9 against non-playoff teams and just 2-16 against playoff qualifiers. I like their chances of covering in a game in which they basically just need to win to cover.

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (-7.5)

The Cowboys haven’t been great at home as big favorites in recent years, but I don’t think this line is high enough, as the Cowboys are one of the better teams in the league, with the Giants are one of the worst. One thing to monitor with this game is that Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is still considered questionable for week 1 after off-season shoulder surgery. Missing him would be a big blow to the Cowboys’ chances of winning by more than a touchdown. 

Pittsburgh Steelers @ New England Patriots (-6)

I’ve gone back and forth on this one and probably will continue to do so over the next few weeks. On one hand, the Patriots have the talent advantage and have always played Pittsburgh very well. On the other hand, the Steelers beat the Patriots last year and this is probably a bigger game for them, as they’ll want a statement win to show they are still a threat, while the Patriots usually spend the first month of the season figuring things out.

Houston Texans @ New Orleans Saints (-6.5)

I have the Saints as the most talented team in the league, but they’ll likely be without Sheldon Rankins, who is still rehabbing from a torn Achilles he suffered in the playoffs last season, and fellow starting defensive tackle David Onyemata will also miss this game, due to a suspension. On top of that, they’ve traditionally started slow, going 2-12 ATS in the first 2 weeks of the season over the past 7 seasons. Remember last year when they lost at home to the Buccaneers? The Texans are a tougher opponent than Tampa Bay and steal a win here. At the same time, I don’t know if we’re getting enough line value at +6.5 to take the Texans with any confidence.

Denver Broncos @ Oakland Raiders (-2)

This line seems about right. I have the Raiders projected to win, but only by a slim margin. That slim margin is more likely to be a field goal than a single point though, so Oakland is probably the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

2018 Picks (59.74% ATS)