Saturday, September 12, 2020
NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 1
Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.
Seattle @ Atlanta (+1½)
The Falcons closed 2019 with six wins in their last eight games after a disastrous 1-7 start. The finish likely saved the job of head coach Dan Quinn.
"I appreciate Arthur Blank sticking with me," Dan Quinn said. "And so do the fans in the city of Atlanta. All around town, there are signs with my image with the words 'Stuck With You.'
"Matt Ryan is our leader, and our season hinges on his performance. Matt hasn't slowed down in his old age. That's because he was already too slow to slow down anymore. He's 35-years-old. He can still do what he did when he was 25, it just hurts a little more the next day. Now, we call Ryan 'Matty Icy-Hot.'"
The Seahawks fell in last year's divisional round, but are looking for more in 2020. To beef up their defense, Seattle gave up two first-round picks to acquire Jamal Adams from the Jets in late July.
"Ask anybody," Pete Carroll said. "Particularly, anybody associated with the USC Trojans, and they'll tell you Pete Carroll-coached teams are not afraid to spend to get the players they want.
"I explained to Jamal that there's no 'I' in 'TEAM.' He explained to me that there are many 'F's' in 'Get me the 'F' outta here.'
"Now, as long as we have Russell Wilson, we can win any game. With Russ, our potential is unlimited. In fact, we sometimes call Russell 'Mr. Unlimited.' Then we laugh at him. But he doesn't know it. Patrick Mahomes has made Kansas City the home of the behind-the-back pass; Seattle's now the home of the behind-the-back laugh."
Seahawks win, 27-21.
NY Jets @ Buffalo (-6)
The Jets struggled early last season before winning six of their last eight games to finish third in the AFC East.
"We finished 7-9 last season," Adam Gase said. "That's surprisingly decent when you consider that Sam Darnold had mono, C.J. Mosely and Avery Williamson missed considerable time to injuries, and I was the coach.
"But let's address the 'elephant in the room.' You may think I'm using that phrase figuratively to mean the Jamal Adams situation. But this is the New York Jets; there is literally an elephant in the room! Why? I have no clue, which is also my coaching philosophy. And guess what? 'Bo Knows,' and 'Dumbo Knows' ... that this team is F'd."
The Bills finished 10-6 last season, second in the AFC East to the Patriots, and lost in the wildcard round to the Texans. Many consider the Bills the favorites in the division.
"We're headed in the opposite direction of the Jets," Josh Allen said. "And that's no surprise. After all, we have a coach who's not a beady-eyed idiot, an owner who's not out there pimpin' golf courses for the President, and a quarterback who's not afraid to whip out the old 'over the head lateral after a long scramble in the fourth quarter of a playoff game' play. That quarterback is me, and while my arm isn't the most accurate, I'm definitely not afraid to throw caution to the wind.
"The Patriots have had a stranglehold on this division for what seems like forever. We aim to put an end to that; therefore, our motto for this season is 'Stop Choking.'"
Allen rushes for a score and passes for another, and the Bills defense forces 3 turnovers.
Bills win, 27-13.
Chicago @ Detroit (-1½)
The Bears finished a respectable 8-8 in the NFC North last year, good for third in the division.
"We were a better team than that record indicates," Matt Nagy said. "Patrick Mahomes is a better quarterback than our scouting indicated. I guess that's why we selected Mitch Trubisky eight spots ahead of Mahomes in the 2017 draft. Trust me, if we had that to do over, we probably would have picked Deshaun Watson.
"Mitch struggled with accuracy last year. He completed only 62.2% of his passes last season. That means 37.8% of his passes fell incomplete. Of that 37.8%, 11.5% of those landed in Lake Michigan.
"We picked up Nick Foles in a trade with the Jaguars. Really, Nick is here as an insurance policy. And that makes sense, because Nick looks like an insurance salesman."
The Lions fortunes are resting on the leadership and health of Matthew Stafford, entering his 12th season in Detroit.
"We expect Matt to put this team on his back," Matt Patricia said, "and, by extension, we expect surgeons to put more screws and rods in Matt's back.
"I sincerely believe we can win the division. But we're gonna need a lot of things to go our way. Like a massive COVID-19 outbreak that affects each and every player on the Packers, Vikings, and Bears squads. Even with that, we'll still need a lot of luck, plus some favorable calls from the officials. And we'll probably need to win a few tiebreakers. I like where we are right now, which is tied for first in the division."
Lions win, 23-20.
Green Bay @ Minnesota (-3)
The Vikes are looking for more after advancing to the divisional round last year before a loss to the 49ers sent them home. Mike Zimmer expects to continue with a run-heavy offense that facilitates the play-action passing of Kirk Cousins.
"I just signed a contract extension," Mike Zimmer said. "That means I'm gonna be around for a while. And so will my offensive philosophy, which is 'run first, run second, then answer questions about not winning the Super Bowl later.'
"Some say my offensive philosophy is extremely conservative. They say you can see it in my face. In other words, I'm so conservative, my face is in a permanent 'red state.'"
The Packers advanced to the NFC championship game, but a humiliating 37-20 loss to the 49ers was clear evidence that improvement is needed.
"We left Levi's Stadium with our tails between our legs," Matt LaFleur said, "and nothing else, because we were totally neutered, figuratively and surgically.
"With Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, we can win any game, except the one that gets you to the Super Bowl. Aaron is the single most-gifted quarterback in the NFC North. Now that he's not dating Danica Patrick anymore, he's even more of the single, most-gifted quarterback in the NFC North."
Packers win, 27-26.
Miami @ New England (-6½)
For the first time since the 2000 season, the Patriots will be without Tom Brady, who left for Tampa Bay.
"Tom left of his own accord," Bill Belichick said. "If I ever leave New England, it will be in a similar fashion, but in my own Accord, which is a 1993 Honda Accord.
"I'm confident Cam Newton can fill Brady's shoes. First, he'll have to remove the cement, because Tom may be the slowest quarterback in NFL history, in running and in complying with NFL investigators requests for his cell phone records.
"Cam has really been quick to acclimate to our offense. He was really eager to learn. You could say he was ready to 'dive right in,' which is totally unlike Cam according to any Panthers fan who watched Super Bowl 50 and understands the optics of at least attempting to recover your own fumble."
The Dolphins drafted Tua Tagovailoa with the 5th pick in April's NFL Draft. Tagovailoa will learn behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was named the started in early September.
"In addition to Tua," Brian Flores said, "we added 10 other draft picks. We had so many draft picks, we had to field a phone call from a confused Mike Ditka, who offered us Ricky Williams for those picks. We told Mike to go suck 46 Ds."
Patriots win, 23-20.
Philadelphia @ Washington (+6)
Much has changed in D.C. Ron Rivera is the new head coach, and the team is now temporarily known as the "Washington Football Team."
"The new name is going to take some getting used to," Rivera said. "But let's face it, 'Football Team' is not even the least creative team name in the NFL. That distinction belongs to the Houston Texans.
"I'm concerned about our offense, but rumor has it the 'harassing defense' is going to be a thing in D.C. this season. Unfortunately, that rumor came not from defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, but from Daniel Snyder, who must have been talking about his legal defense team."
The Eagles expect to challenge the Cowboys for the NFC East, but to do so, will need a healthy Carson Wentz.
"Carson did what we expect players to do in the offseason," Doug Pederson said, "and that's visit the gym, not a Holocoast museum.
"Is the term 'Redskins' offensive to Native Americans? Yes. Has Riley Cooper used that word at a casino? Probably. Did DeSean observe Yom Kippur because he thought it would make him 'fast-er.' Who knows?"
Eagles win, 24-21.
Las Vegas @ Carolina (+1)
The Raiders now call Las Vegas home, but they take the long, cross-country trip to face the Panthers in Charlotte.
"Hey," Jon Gruden said, "I can't wait to stand on the sidelines of an NFC South stadium. It's the only way I can feel relevant as a head coach.
"Our city may be different, but the Raider mystique is still evident. Of course, 'Raider mystique' doesn't mean what it used to. It used to stand for winning, with a generous mix of dirty hits, cocaine angst, stickum, and Al Davis' bravado and hair product. Oh yeah, and Super Bowls. Now, it's none of that. Now, the Raider mystique is Mark Davis' haircut, which looks like it was done by an armless, first-year barber school student, and a product on the field that's equally as amateurish."
The Panthers fired Ron Rivera in December, and then released quarterback Cam Newton in March. New head coach Matt Rhule knows his work is cut out for him if Carolina is to make a playoff run.
"I'm proud of what I accomplished at Baylor," Rhule said. "I almost made people forget about Art Briles. And isn't that what Baylor football is all about? Conveniently forgetting things?
"Now, people are concerned that Teddy Bridgewater may not be able to lead this team. One of those doubters actually wrote a gospel song about it called 'Troubled Over Teddy Bridgewater.' Personally, I'm totally confident in Teddy's ability. Trust me, he's gonna make people forget about Cam Newton. That should be easy, because this organization already has."
Panthers win, 24-20.
Indianapolis @ Jacksonville (+7)
The Colts signed free agent quarterback Philip Rivers in March, and Frank Reich is expecting Rivers' leadership and fiery competitiveness to put the Colts back in the playoffs.
"The acquisition of Phillip had an immediate impact on the city of Indianapolis," Frank Reich said. "Like, the city's population increased by 11.
"Now, we're not expecting Phillip to put up Peyton Manning-like numbers, unless you're talking about interceptions. Heck, we don't even need Phillip to pass; we just need him to run, his mouth, that is. Phillip has one of the best trash-talk games in the league. 'Rivers 3:16' says 'I just lipped your ass.'"
The Jaguars struggled to a 6-10 finish last season, but fun-loving quarterback returns to hopefully lead the Jags out of the AFC South cellar.
"I love the city of Jacksonville," Minshew said. "It's a cool city, and the nightlife here is underrated. It is indeed a 'hot spot,' just like the whole state of Florida. Let's give it up for all the Florida news publications. They have truly 'covered the spread' this year.
"Now that Tom Coughlin is gone as general manager, the mood in the building is vastly improved. You can sense it. And you can smell it. That is, you can not smell it, because it doesn't smell like old fart anymore."
Colts win, 29-19.
Cleveland @ Baltimore (-8½)
Baltimore's 14-2 season went down the drain in a 28-12 home loss to the Titans in the divisional round of the playoffs. It was the second year in a row in which Baltimore lost a home playoff game.
"One heartbreaking loss is tough to overcome," John Harbaugh said. "Much less two. Those are hard to get over. I don't think there's enough deer antler spray in the world to help us recover from those two losses. But if there were, Ray Lewis would have it. I hear Ray's even got an 'extra strength' product. Just say 'Make It Rein,' and Ray'll bring out the reindeer antler spray.
"Lamar Jackson gives us the ability to beat anyone, in the regular season. Our goal this season is to take that next step and win it all. I guess we'll have to do it without Earl Thomas, who was released for being a general a-hole. That was appropriate, because with his leadership ability and bad attitude, Earl's nickname was 'General A-Hole.'"
The Browns wilted under extreme expectations and finished 6-10 in the AFC North.
"The talent is there," Baker Mayfield said. "On one hand, we've got Odell Beckham, Jr. on offense; on the other hand, you've got Mason Rudolph's helmet. Of course, it's in the hand of our best defender, Myles Garrett.
"Freddie Kitchens is out as head coach, but he's still in our hearts, and still on the short list of the NFL's sloppiest-looking individuals.
"Kevin Stefanski? Now this guy looks sharp, and doesn't dress like he lives in the sporting goods section of a Wal-Mart. I trust him in running this team, and passing Hue Jackson in career Browns head coaching wins in early October."
Ravens win, 27-23.
L.A. Chargers @ Cincinnati (+3)
The Bengals drafted who they hope is their quarterback of the future when they selected Joe Burrow with the first pick in April's draft. Burrow will guide the offense of head coach Zac Taylor, in his second year as head coach.
"I'm incredibly confident that Joe is ready for NFL defenses," Taylor said. "Heck, if he can decipher that marble-mouthed gibberish that Cajun Orc Ed Orgeron calls 'English,' then he should be able to easily read a defense."
Change is afoot for the Chargers. Phillip Rivers is gone, Melvin Gordon is gone, and the Chargers will play in SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.
"Indifferent Chargers fans call that place 'SoWhat? Stadium," Anthony Lynn said. "But who needs fans when you didn't have fans in the first place? Not us.
"We feel confident we can compete in the AFC West. By 'compete,' I mean play eight games."
Bengals win, 23-19.
Tampa Bay @ New Orleans (-4)
The Saints last two seasons ended with heartrending defeats in the divisional round. Now, in what may be Drew Brees final season, anything short of a Super Bowl title will be considered disappointing.
"I would say it's 'Super Bowl or Bust,'" Sean Payton said. "But this is the 'Big Easy.' Have you partied on Bourbon Street before? You can have both, so our motto this year is 'Super Bowl and Bust.'
"This may be Drew's last hurrah, so we're going to give it our all to make sure he goes out on top. What could be better than Drew taking a knee on the final play of Super Bowl 55?"
Expectations are through the roof with the Bucs acquisitions of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Bruce Arians knows he has the pieces of the puzzle to take the Bucs all the way.
"I can sleep easy knowing Tom is my quarterback," Arian said. "I call that 'Un-INT-errupted' sleep. Do you know what the ultimate wake-up call is? Thirty interceptions. That's how many Jameis Winston threw last season.
"Brady and Gronk's leadership could be the factor that puts us over the top. Between them, they have 9 Super Bowl rings, one WWE 24-7 championship, 74 years of age, four legs, and three working elbows."
Bucs win, 24-21.
Arizona @ San Francisco (-7)
The 49ers saw a 20-10 third quarter lead in the Super Bowl turn into a 31-20 loss to the Chiefs. That's the motivation for 2020, winning the Super Bowl.
"Blowing that lead was devastating," Kyle Shanahan said. "But I won't let it define me. It may be too late, because blowing a lead in the Super Bowl is becoming known as 'Shanahan-ing.'
"We won't come up short again. Not with Jimmy Garappolo and George Kittle leading our offense. Jimmy may best be known for his five o'clock shadow. If you had to define a similar hour to best describe George, that hour would be 'Happy.'"
The Cardinals traded for DeAndre Hopkins in March, giving second-year quarterback Kyler Murray his most dynamic weapon.
"Of course," Kliff Kingsbury said, "we had to give up David Johnson to get Hopkins. That's a deal we were more than happy to make. Hopkins has missed just one game in his seven years; David injured his wrist waving goodbye."
San Francisco wins, 27-24.
Dallas @ L.A. Rams (+2½)
Jerry Jones welcomed Mike McCarthy to the Cowboy head coaching fraternity in January, and as always, expectations are high in Dallas.
"Jerry didn't hire me to win division titles," McCarthy said. "He hired me to win Super Bowls. So, recent history says we'll both fail at our jobs.
"Dak Prescott is playing under the franchise tag because the team couldn't sign him to a long-term deal. He'll make $31.4 million this season, and he'll make even more next season. That's called being 'worth your wait in gold.'"
The Rams finished 9-7 last season, missing the playoffs after advancing to the Super Bowl in 2018.
"We just have to be better," Sean McVay said. "And just saying 'Be better' doesn't mean it will happen. It takes a plan. And I have one. We're targeting improvement in three key areas: offense, defense, and coaching. We call it the '3-Point Plan.' We just hope it works better than it did in the Super Bowl against the Patriots."
Rams win, 30-27.
Pittsburgh @ NY Giants (+3½)
With an uncertain quarterback situation last year, the Steelers finished 8-8. A healthy Ben Roethlisberger is likely the key to the Steelers 2020 fortunes.
"Ben is healthy and ready to recapture the form that saw him throw for over 5,000 yards and 34 touchdowns," Mike Tomlin said. "He's ready to go from the outhouse to the penthouse, as opposed from the outhouse to the courthouse, which he did in 2010."
New Giants head coach Joe Judge expects Daniel Jones, with a year under his belt, to show improvement and limit turnovers.
"Ball security was a huge issue for Daniel last season," Judge said. "Luckily, none of his 18 fumbles were caused by a teammate's butt, so there's cause to celebrate.
"We have to be much better at home this season. We were 2-6 at MetLife Stadium last year. That's unacceptable. We want to make MetLife Stadium a place at which other players absolutely hate to play. And we want those other players to be our opponents, not New York Jets."
Steelers win, 27-13.
Tennessee @ Denver (-2)
The Broncos will have to immensely improve on last year's 7-9 if they have any hope of challenging the Chiefs in the AFC West. Much of the burden lies on quarterback Drew Lock.
"When I look at Drew," Vic Fangio said, "I think of Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning. To be more specific, I think of Tebow praying that Drew can be like Manning."
The Titans advanced to the AFC title game last year on the broad shoulders of Derrick Henry, who rushed for 346 yards and 2 TDs in three playoff games.
"Derrick is a horse," Mike Vrabel said. "And more than anything, our fortunes hang on his performance. So, you could say we're 'hung like a horse,' which, I'm told, is a pretty good situation."
Broncos win, 22-18.