NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 1

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Green Bay @ Chicago (-3½)

The Bears came within a width of a goal post of advancing to the NFC championship game, but alas, Cody Parkey's game-winning field goal attempt banged the left upright, falling helplessly to the field.

"Speaking of 'upright,'" Matt Nagy said, "have you seen former White Sox slugger Frank Thomas' commercials for Nugenix? Does that stuff really work? I hear the only thing stiff in those ads is the acting.

"Now, if I really wanted to discuss 'sacks and sausage,' I would tune into an episode of 'Bill Swerski's Super Fans' with special guest Khalil Mack. Khalil is probably the key to our season. He's the unofficial leader of our defense. That's the good news. The bad news? The official leader of our defense is Chuck Pagano."

Mike McCarthy is gone as head coach in Green Bay, replaced by former Tennessee offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur.

"I never was a big fan of Mike's," Aaron Rodgers said. "Heck, by the end, we weren't even speaking. So, in that respect, he was 'like family.'

"That being said, Mike and I will always be on the same page. That 'page' is the one that lists 'NFL coaches and players whose reputations were built on one Super Bowl-winning season.'

"But I'm very optimistic about the season. You could call me a 'glass half-full' guy, in my outlook and in my beer-chugging capabilities. The only things I 'slam' are my coaches."

Bears win, 27-24.

Tennessee @ Cleveland (-5½)

After a solid second half of the 2018 season, coupled with the trade for Odell Beckham, Jr., excitement in Cleveland is at a fever pitch.

"Odell obviously makes us a better team," Baker Mayfield said. "I don't think anyone would argue the fact that OBJ is better than 'No BJ.' Even Charles Barkley would have to agree. Odell is an amazing athlete, and is known for making incredible one-handed catches. Other things he can do with one hand: single-handedly wreck a team's morale.

"As for me, I expect to be on the field for every single one of our offensive plays. My coaches and teammates are well aware of my dedication. You won't be able to drag me off the field. In my book, that's called 'resisting a rest.'"

The Titans missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record last year, but Mike Vrabel expects his team to contend for the AFC South crown.

"Let's face it," Vrabel said. "Anybody can win the AFC South. Andrew Luck's sudden retirement really altered the landscape of the division. In addition, Marcus Mariota is now, without a doubt, the third-best quarterback in the division."

The Browns jump to a quick 10-0 lead, and the Cleveland defense takes over from there.

Browns win, 24-13.

Baltimore @ Miami (+7)

The Ravens traded Joe Flacco to the Broncos in February, and John Harbaugh gave full control of the Baltimore offense to Lamar Jackson.

"You could say Lamar 'ran' Joe out of Baltimore," John Harbaugh said. "And that's not that surprising, because Lamar is fast. He once ran the 40 in 4.3 seconds. On the other hand, Flacco's '40' time is approximately five years. That's the amount of time until he turns 40, and also how long it takes him to run the 40.

"On defense, we've added Earl Thomas to an already strong defensive unit. Earl is a natural leader. He's the centerpiece of our defense. If the Ravens defense was a hand, Earl would be the middle finger."

Defensive guru Brian Flores was hired as Miami's head coach in February after 15 seasons in the Patriots organization.

"I plan to establish a winning culture here in Miami," Flores said. "And it's already started. We've already clinched home-field advantage for Super Bowl LIV.

"It's imperative that we protect Ryan Fitzpatrick. Luckily, we have an offensive line that many are describing as 'to die for.' They have more 'protection' issues than Antonio Cromartie. And if Ryan falters, Josh Rosen is waiting in the wings. Josh is one of the league's most unique quarterbacks, mainly because he's been in the NFL only two years, and already he's a 'journeyman' QB."

Prior to the game, Harbaugh arranges for some Ravens legends to motivate his squad with pre-game speeches. Ray Rice advises the team to "elevate" their game, while Ray Lewis mists the 53-man roster with deer antler spray, urging them to 'recover' the magic of their Super Bowl years. Finally, Tony Siragusa, dressed as Edgar Allan Poe, recounts the Ravens Super Bowl XXXV-winning season in a poem called "XXXL on XXXV."

Ravens win, 30-9.

Atlanta @ Minnesota (-4½)

Atlanta's 2018 season ended with a losing record for the first time since 2014's 6-10 campaign. Questions on defense remain, but a talented offense will once again be anchored by Matt Ryan and superstar wide receiver Julio Jones.

"As wide receivers go," Ryan said, "Julio is a 'monster.' That's why we call him 'Flank-enstein.' Julio actually once had bolts in his neck, but he lost them in a lake. Or maybe those were earrings on his ears. I don't know. At my age, my memory fails me on occasion. But it sure as hell won't let me forget Super Bowl LIV.

"Julio earlier this year stated a goal of 3,000 yards receiving. I commend Julio for his ambition, but let's face it, that's an asinine goal. He might reach 3,000 yards, but only when pigs fly, or when hell freezes over, or when Chick-fil-A serves food on a Sunday."

The Vikings' disappointing 2018 campaign ending with an 8-7-1 record, and they failed to make the playoffs after advancing to the NFC championship the previous year.

"That's a significant dip in performance," Mike Zimmer said. "And speaking of 'dip,' I like to hide my chewing tobacco in places no one would suspect. In fact, I got caught on camera pulling a chew from a sunflower seed bag. That was embarrassing. But I've vowed not to get caught again. That's why I now keep my stash in my custom-made 'Whizzinator.' I like to tell the ladies I'm 'packing.'

"But getting back to the playoffs will be difficult. Nobody ever said 'It'll be easy,' except for me when Blair Walsh lined up for 27-yard field goal attempt in January of 2016."

The Vikings commit to the run on offense, and stopping Jones on defense, and come away with a convincing 28-25 victory.

Buffalo @ N.Y. Jets (-3)

The Jets made a splash in free agency when they signed Le'Veon Bell to a four-year, $52.5 million contract in March. New head coach Adam Gase plans to make Bell the centerpiece of an offense helmed by second-year quarterback Sam Darnold. "Le'Veon is a free spirit," Gase said. "So I plan to turn him loose. I just have one demand: that he be a better running back than rapper, jewelry owner, or financial decision-maker.

"I'd just like to tell the New York media and fans that this year, I plan to be forthcoming, honest, and readily accessible. In fact, I'd like to title my press conferences 'Openly Gase With Coach Adam.'"

The Bills and head coach Sean McDermott hope to improve on last season's 6-10 record. The defense, strong last year, will remain formidable; second-year quarterback Josh Allen will lead the offense.

"Josh is a talented passer," McDermott said, "but he can really make a difference as a runner. Last year, he led the team in both passing and running. That, without a doubt, is the second-most famous 'double' in the history of the Bills."

Bills win, 20-16.

Washington @ Philadelphia (-9½)

A healthy Carson Wentz has the Eagles thinking Super Bowl again, and the burden is completely on Wentz due to the departure of backup quarterback Nick Foles.

"It's been too long since this city's had its poles greased," Doug Pederson said. "Nothing would satisfy this city more than seeing an Eagles fan climb a greased pole in early February to celebrate a Super Bowl, except seeing that same fan pelted in the noggin with a full bottle a Yuengling. That could only be topped by then seeing that same fan, while being arrested, punch a police horse.

"We're thrilled to have DeSean Jackson back with us. I had a brief conversation with him in the offseason. I said, 'Return, man.' Not long after that, we signed DeSean."

The Redskins acquired Case Keenum in a trade with the Broncos in March to fill the void at quarterback left by Alex Smith's injury. Keenum will need a performance similar to his 2017 year if the 'Skins hope to be a factor in the NFC East.

"We're not asking Case to win games for us," Jay Gruden said. "We're just asking him not to lose games for us. In other words, if we go 0-0-16, then he'll have done his job.

"Hopefully, our running game will be the catalyst for a strong season. Adrian Peterson is in the 13th season of an already legendary career. Adrian will go down as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. You could say he's 'left a mark' on this game, but he'd probably prefer you choose different wording.

"Anything short of the playoffs could spell the end of my tenure. I know my job is on the line. There's 'red skin' all right. It's on my behind, because that seat is hot."

Eagles win, 26-14.

L.A. Rams @ Carolina (+2½)

The Rams offense produced a mere three points in their 13-3 Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, and head coach Sean McVay knows it's up to his offensive knowledge to take the Rams all the way. "I'm known as an offensive wizard," McVay said, "so it's up to me to innovate. I plan to add some gadget plays to our already potent offense. So, if you ask what I have up my wizard sleeve, there's plenty.

"Todd Gurley has an arthritic left knee, so we plan on being careful and not overworking him. So, don't be surprised if you hear me utter the words 'bring out the gimp' when I feel like Todd needs rest."

Cam Newton played much of last season with an injured shoulder that severely limited his effectiveness. Surgery corrected the issue, and the Panthers are expected to challenge for the NFC South title.

"We're not exactly sure how Cam injured his shoulder," Ron Rivera said. "We are certain than he didn't hurt it trying to recover his own fumble.

"But Cam feels a lot better now. Now, he's not completely healed, but he does feel pretty good. So, while he may not feel like a million bucks, his father Cecil can assure you he feels like $200,000 bucks."

Rams win, 27-20.

Kansas City @ Jacksonville (+4)

The Chiefs fell just a bit short of a Super Bowl berth, losing 37-31 to the visiting Patriots in overtime in the AFC championship.

"As the score would indicate," Andy Reid said, "we just couldn't stop the Patriots offense. Heck, just look at the case of Tyreek Hill not getting a suspension — we had some players with better 'defense teams.'

"But we're glad Tyreek is here for the start of the season. He may be the fastest player in the league. Opposing defensive backs are a lot like his family — they should be afraid of him."

The Jaguars regressed considerably after 2017's trip to the AFC championship game, finishing last in the AFC South, but with the arrival of Nick Foles, vast improvement is expected.

"Foles is a proven winner," Doug Marrone said. "After all, he's got a Super Bowl ring on his finger. Now, he doesn't wear it to practice, but all his teammates know he has it. Leadership is when you gather your new teammates, demand their attention, and say, 'Smell my finger.'

"Now, it wouldn't be Jacksonville without talking about our outspoken cornerback Jalen Ramsey. As you probably know, Jalen arrived at training camp in an armored vehicle. I guess that's nice. But for my sake, I would rather Jalen be in a soundproof vehicle rather than a bulletproof one."

Ramsey gets under Hill's skin with a pretty spot-on impersonation of an NFL investigator, as well as incessant chatter about parenting advice.

Jaguars win, 24-23.

Indianapolis @ L.A. Chargers (-6½)

The Chargers reached the divisional round last year, where they were soundly vanquished by the Patriots. 37-year-old Phillip Rivers knows his chances of winning a Super Bowl are waning.

"If I never win a Super Bowl," Rivers said, "I'm okay with that. Let's face it, the most important ring on my finger is my wedding band. Family is followed very closely by God on my list of priorities. If I had a motto, it would be 'Family First, God Second, and Shamelessly Trash-Talking My Opponents Third.'

"We'll have to get by without Melvin Gordon. He's holding out for a new contract. It appears the organization is calling his bluff. By allowing his holdout to continue, the Chargers organization is basically telling Melvin, 'You can't run, but you can walk.'

The Colts organization was thrown for a loop in late August when Andrew Luck abruptly announced his retirement.

"Andrew was dealing with a lower leg injury," Frank Reich said," in addition to the effects of other injuries he's suffered throughout his career. I'm no doctor, but if I was, I'd probably have an unethical relationship with Jim Irsay."

Chargers win, 26-23.

Cincinnati @ Seattle (-9)

The Bengals finally fired Marvin Lewis and snatched up Los Angeles Rams quarterback coach Zac Taylor in February.

"I certainly have big shoes to fill," Taylor said. "And you know what they say about head coaches with winless playoff records who have big shoes — it's all about 'da feet.'

"But don't expect a miracle turnaround. The NFL is currently in an era of impatience, in which head coaches often get fired after one year. Apparently, that's not the case in Cincinnati. You can say 'Just win, baby," but I hear 'Just whenever, baby.'"

Russell Wilson is once again expected to lead the Seahawks with his lethal mix of efficient passing and elusive running.

"We made Russell the highest-paid NFL quarterback back in April," Pete Carroll said. "Oddly enough, it didn't receive nearly the amount of attention as when I made Reggie Bush the highest-paid college running back."

Seattle wins, 31-24.

N.Y. Giants @ Dallas (-7)

The Cowboys hope to build on last season's success, which saw them fall in the divisional round to the Rams.

"Scott Linehan is out as offensive coordinator," Jason Garrett said. "Kellen Moore is our new OC, and we expect new and exciting things from our offense. Our new offense will have more wrinkles than Jerry Jones' shriveled scrotum.

"Jason Witten is back with us, and we couldn't be happier, but nowhere near as happy as Monday Night Football viewers. Jason may be a 'Captain' on the football field, but in the MNF booth, his nickname was 'Captioned.'"

The Giants traded Odell Beckham, Jr. to the Browns in March, vastly changing the team dynamic. New York also drafted rookie quarterback Daniel Jones to hopefully be Eli Manning's eventual replacement.

"Odell's still bitter about being traded," Manning said. "One thing's for sure. You don't have to play in New York to be a 'Giant a-hole.'

"I think Daniel has a bright future here. But I won't go down without a fight, unless I'm facing an impending sack. Then I drop like a rag doll."

Cowboys win, 27-23.

Detroit @ Arizona (-2)

New head coach Kliff Kingsbury made Kyler Murray the No. 1 pick in April's draft.

"I'm not sure the Cardinals interviewed anyone else but me for the job," Kingsbury said. "They read my resume, all five words of it, which were 'coached Patrick Mahomes in college,' and said, 'You're our guy.' Keep in mind, I have zero NFL coaching experience. Thankfully, there's a resume service perfect for my needs. It's called 'Zip Recruiter.'

"Defensively, former Raven Terrell Suggs bring much-needed experience on that side of the ball. Suggs is the headmaster of 'Ball So Hard University,' which, incidentally, has more academic credibility than the University of Phoenix."

Matt Patricia begins his second season as head coach in Detroit, and is intent on seeing improvement after a forgettable 6-10 season in 2018.

"We're gonna shock some people this year," Patricia said, "but only if we show up at their surprise birthday parties.

"We're counting on Matthew Stafford to carry the team this year. I think he's more than capable. Matthew may be the greatest quarterback never to have won an NFC North crown. And probably never will. At least we have something in common."

Cardinals win, 22-19.

San Francisco @ Tampa Bay (-1)

San Francisco's 2018 fortunes were derailed by a Week 3 season-ending knee injury to Jimmy Garoppolo.

"Jimmy has a lot to prove," Kyle Shanahan said. "Given a healthy 2019 season, I think he'll show everyone why Tom Brady felt threatened by him. Brady may be 42-years-old, but he's really just a baby at heart."

The Bucs lured Bruce Arians out of retirement in January after firing Dirk Koetter. He inherits a team with a solid offensive foundation and a defense that ranked among the league's worst last season.

"I like the core of this team," Arians said. "Koetter really put together a solid squad. He laid so much groundwork, the team ended up in the basement.

"I really think I can make Jameis Winston great. He has loads of untapped potential. I'm not sure he even realizes that. Sometimes, I feel like jumping atop a table and screaming it to him."

Bucs win, 31-25.

Pittsburgh @ New England (-5½)

The Patriots start their quest for super Bowl No. 7 without the services of tight end Rob Gronkowski, who retired in March. "That's right," Tom Brady said, "Rob has left the NFL to pursue his dream of becoming a full-time buffoon. I wish him all the best.

"As for me, I'm the same Tom Brady, just one year older. And, I've bulked up a bit to help my body absorb the punishment that comes with the job. That was under the guidance of my glorified yoga instructor/spiritual advisor/chef/man whisperer/virtual fluffer Alex Guerrero. Now, I'm not talking about a lot of weight. It's only 6-8 pounds, or, as Patrick Chung likes to say, 'Three to four kilos.' At this moment, Patrick leads the team in time of possession."

The Steelers begin the season without Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, two-thirds of the "Killer B's."

"That's two-thirds of the Killer B's gone," Mike Tomlin said. "That still leaves us with one-third. That's simple math. That remaining one-third, Ben Roethlisberger, is also good at math, particularly division. Brown and Bell are superstars, but I think we'll be better without them. That's addition by subtraction. So, 'great riddance!'"

Patriots win, 27-24, in overtime.

Houston @ New Orleans (-7)

The Saints are still reeling from the pass interference non-call that essentially cost them the NFC championship, and also led to a rule change to allow challenges on pass interference calls.

"That was a tough one to swallow," Sean Payton said. "That's also what the official who didn't make the call said about his whistle. It felt like 'PI to the face.'

"Our infamous 'Bounty Scandal' led to a safer and less violent NFL. We like to think that the missed PI call will eventually lead to officials being held more accountable for their calls. Call us trendsetters. And, keeping with a trend, we just placed a bounty on that official's head."

The Texans made a flurry of moves in August, acquiring Duke Johnson from the Browns, offensive lineman Laramy Tunsil from Miami, and Carlos Hyde from Kansas City, while dealing away three-time Pro Bowler Jadeveon Clowney.

"We want to win now," Bill O'Brien said. "Some have criticized our trades, particularly the one that sent Clowney to the Seahawks, as one-sided. That's purely their opinion. We like to say our mindset is 'all of nothing.' Others claim our mindset is 'all for nothing.'

"Keep in mind, we don't even have a general manager. So, we're all kind of just winging it. Are we getting screwed over by some teams with uneven trades? Maybe. But at least we're dressing the part, because we just signed an endorsement deal with Nike to outfit the entire front office in 'fleece.'"

Saints win, 27-23.

Denver @ Oakland (-1)

The Raiders begin year two of the Jon Gruden era with the addition of superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown, acquired from the Steelers in a March trade. Brown's short time with the Raiders has been marked by a foot injury suffered in a cryotherapy session, and a saga involving his desire for his old helmet.

"We're not worried about A.B.," Jon Gruden said. "What concerns me is his impact on the rest of the players on our team. For their sake, they've all been vaccinated against 'locker room cancer.'

"And, just to make A.B.'s behavioral issues seem minor, we've got Richie Incognito anchoring our offensive line. That is, as soon as he serves his two-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Richie's my guy. Heck, I'd die for Richie. I just wouldn't want him at my funeral."

In January, the Broncos hired Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who is tasked by general manager John Elway with returning a mediocre Denver defense to the dominance that culminated in a Super Bowl 50 win.

"I welcome the challenge," Fangio said. "We're going to party like it's 2015. In my opinion, it should be easy. With an awesome defense, all you have to do is plug in a slow, white, immobile quarterback. And when I say 'plug in,' I mean it, because Flacco may just be a robot.

"Most importantly, none of our players have suffered frostbite in a French cryotherapy session. It's hard to believe, but Antonio Brown is now even more thin-sinned than he already was! What the heck is cryotherapy anyway? If you ask Jon Gruden, he'll tell you it's tearing up in front of your therapist."

Raiders win, 24-21.

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