NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 1

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Dallas @ Tampa Bay (-7½)

The Cowboys look to build on a 2020 season derailed by Dak Prescott's broken ankle, which he suffered in Week 5 of 2020.

"Dak is anxious to get back on the field after going through the aftermath of that gruesome injury," Jerry Jones said. "Now, for the rest of his career, he's probably going to have pain in that ankle. But being diagnosed with 'permanent limp' is certainly not the end of the world, unless your urologist made the diagnosis. I've been there, and I'm still there.

"Anyway, with Dak on the field, our offense rates an A-plus. Much like what occurred last season, if Dak happens to get injured, we're 'F'd.'

"We're certainly excited to play the defending Super Bowl champs. It may be the only time you'll hear 'Cowboys' and 'Super Bowl' used in the same sentence."

The Bucs begin defense of their championship led by Tom Brady, beginning his 22nd season in the NFL.

"To put it into perspective how long I've been in the league," Brady said, "the Cowboys last won a Super Bowl five years before I entered the league. And they won that Super Bowl over a team quarterbacked by Neil O'Donnell, so should it really even count? Sure I'm old, but they suck.

"If we can repeat as Super Bowl champion, that would give me eight in my career. To quote my teammate Jason Pierre-Paul, 'I'm running out of fingers.'"

Brady passes for 3 touchdowns, the Bucs defense forces 3 turnovers, and Tampa rolls to a 35-24 win.

Pittsburgh @ Buffalo (-6½)

The Steelers ended their 2020 season with a humiliating 48-37 loss at home to the Browns in the wild card round.

"It still stings," Ben Roethlisberger said. "And take it from me, this time, penicillin won't make it stop.

"You may have heard that I arrived at training camp a different person. Most Steelers fans were disappointed when they realized this different person wasn't a different quarterback.

"What I mean by 'different person' is that I showed up to camp trimmer than ever. I'm focused heavily on my diet and working out. I was so obsessed with checking my weight on the scale, I actually locked myself in the bathroom."

The Bills playoff run ended at Kansas City in the AFC title game. Josh Allen and company are looking to take the next step in 2021.

"Sure," Allen said, "we had a great year. And I truly believe if we had beaten the Chiefs, we would have been on the verge of making history, with this franchise's fifth Super Bowl loss.

"Whatever happens, it will have to be a team effort. And that means getting your COVID vaccination. Hopefully, Cole Beasley will get his. I'll even go so far as to offer Cole $5,000 dollars to get his vaccination. Sure, he may be averse to anything 5G, but it's worth a try. I don't know what's harder — talking sense into Cole's head, or talking a shot into his arm."

Allen tosses 3 touchdowns, including one to Beasley, who celebrates by coughing on the football and then tossing it into the stands.

Buffalo wins, 28-24.

NY Jets @ Carolina (-4½)

The Panthers start the season with a healthy Christian McCaffrey and a new quarterback in Sam Darnold, obtained from the Jets in an April trade.

"Sam is just looking for a fresh start," Matt Rhule said. "And what better place than Charlotte to do that, where he can follow in the footsteps of the likes of Jake Delhomme, Matt Moore, Jimmy Clausen, Derek Anderson, and Cam Newton. Of those, Newton left the biggest footsteps. And you know what they say about guys with big footsteps — their dads made colleges pay them for their sons to go to school there."

Robert Saleh was hired in January, succeeding Adam Gase, who was fired after two years at the helm. Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson is tasked with rejuvenating the Jets offensive attack.

"First of all," Saleh said, "I'm no Adam Gase. That's exactly what I said in my first interview with the Jets. Mere seconds later, I was hired.

"One thing I bring to the table that Gase didn't is qualifications. I earned this job based on my own merits, and not because I carried Peyton Manning's jock strap for four seasons. Don't get me wrong, Manning's jock strap is Hall Of Fame-worthy, and should be carried with honor, but it shouldn't appear on anyone's resume."

Panthers win, 29-19.

Jacksonville @ Houston (+2½)

The Jaguars selected Trevor Lawrence with the first pick in April's NFL Draft. Lawrence only lost two games as a starter at Clemson, and only two in high school. Former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is now calling the shots, and will look to return the Jags to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

"It's too bad Ravishing Rick Rude wasn't alive to welcome Trevor to Jacksonville," Meyer said, "because Trevor's certainly in for a 'Rude Awakening.'

"I'm looking forward to coaching in the NFL. Our offense is going to play to Trevor's strength, which is misdirection. That pleases me, because I perform best when people are looking the other way, too.

"We expect Trevor to take this team to new heights. But sadly, he'll have to do it without Tim Tebow, who was cut in mid-August. As far as making the team, ironically, Tebow didn't have a prayer."

David Culley takes over as head coach in Houston after Bill O'Brien's seven-year tenure.

"That's right," Culley said. "I'm the David Culley. I'm more than just a Bill O'Brien. There are probably thousands of Bill O'Brien's. And none of those should be coaching in the NFL, so all is right in the world.

"Fans call O'Brien's time here the 'Reign of Error.' I'm here to turn this franchise around, preferably not 360 degrees. But it won't be easy. This team is in turmoil, mainly because of the DeShaun Watson situation.

"DeShaun went through a lot this offseason. And his troubles show no sign of ending. It's been an ordeal, but he's handled it in a professional manner. And, he's finding out a lot of things about himself, one being that he's Bill Cosby's favorite quarterback."

Jaguars win, 23-17.

Arizona @ Tennessee (-3)

The Titans went big in the offseason, orchestrating a trade with the Falcons in June to acquire Julio Jones.

"What an awesome receiving duo we have in Julio and A.J. Brown," Ryan Tannehill said. "If we can get 17 games from both Julio and A.J., it will be a miracle. If we can get 17 games between them, it will still be a miracle, albeit a smaller one.

"Of course, our offense will run through Derrick Henry. He's averaged 340 carries over the last two years, and it's a formula that's worked for us. Suffice it to say we're going to run our offense, and Derrick, into the ground."

The Cardinals started the 2020 season 5-2, but wilted in the second half of the season, finishing 8-8.

"With respect to our head coach," Kyler Murray said, "some would call that 'falling off of a Kliff.' I'll go out on a limb and say there's no way we'll finish 8-8 this season. Not necessarily because we'll be better, but because it's statistically impossible in a 17-game season.

"We picked up veterans A.J. Green and J.J. Watt in the offseason. They both bring years of experience to our club. I think they're going to do a lot for this team, not the least of which is raising the average age of this team by several years."

Titans win, 29-27.

L.A. Chargers @ Washington (+1½)

Washington won the NFC East in 2020, and the 'Skins signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to bring a measure of stability to a shaky quarterback situation.

"This is Ryan's ninth team," Ron Rivera said. "And he's produced wherever he's been. Ryan's practically the 'Antonio Cromartie of Quarterbacks,' because he'll do it anywhere.

"Make no mistake, though, the strength of this team is defense. Chase Young is on the verge of superstardom. He's like the Daniel Snyder of defensive linemen, because he makes the workplace environment unbearable for offensive linemen."

The Chargers look to ride the talents of second-year quarterback and 2020 Offensive Rookie Of The Year Justin Herbert in their quest to challenge the Chiefs in the AFC West. New head coach Brandon Staley takes over for Anthony Lynn, who was fired after two years with the Chargers.

"Justin has the keys to the offense," Staley said. "He had them last year, but not only was Anthony Lynn the head coach, he was also the governor.

"I formerly served as defensive coordinator for the Rams, so when I accepted the head coaching job for the Chargers, I basically just had to move across the hall at SoFi Stadium. Despite a huge increase in salary, it was nothing more than a 'lateral' move."

Washington wins, 27-24.

Philadelphia @ Atlanta (-3½)

The Eagles moved on from Carson Wentz, trading him to the Colts in February for a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional second-rounder in 2022.

"Thanks go out to the Colts," Nick Sirianni said. "They really took a load off of us. And we returned the favor, by giving them a load of peanuts.

"This is Jalen Hurts' team now. Don't read too much into the Deshaun Watson trade rumors. Sure, the fact that we even entertained a possible trade probably didn't sit too well with Jalen. But trust me, we smoothed things over with Jalen. So the only thing getting massaged around here is Jalen's ego."

The Falcons traded Julio Jones to the Titans in June. Former Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith was hired in January, replacing Dan Quinn, who was fired at the end of the 2020 season.

"This team has seen a lot of change," Smith said. "But one thing that remains constant is the presence of Matt Ryan. Matt still has the desire, the will, the drive, and the fortitude, and many other characteristics you'd use to describe an aging quarterback with a wet noodle for an arm.

"With Julio gone, we expect Calvin Ridley to be Matt's go-to receiver. And rookie tight end Kyle Pitts is going to be a force. He's drawn comparisons to Rob Gronkowski. Now, let's not get ahead of ourselves, like we did when we drafted Pitts fourth in the draft; Kyle is no 'Baby Gronk.' Until he earns those comparisons, let's just call him 'Maybe Gronk.'"

Falcons win, 27-21.

Seattle @ Indianapolis (+2½)

The Seahawks offseason was defined by the contentious relationship between Russell Wilson and management. All seems well now that Wilson has been appeased.

"There's no room for another disgruntled player on this team," Pete Carroll said. "At least not with Jamal Adams on the roster. But Jamal's happy now, because he just became the highest-paid safety in the league. We put our money where his mouth was. Now, if he would just shut up. Maybe this honorary degree from 'STF University' will help.

"As for Russell, he's satisfied with the changes we made. We upgraded the offensive line, and Russell is thrilled with it. He can say now, without being sarcastic, that his offensive line is 'to die for.'"

The Colts traded for Carson Wentz in February, but a foot injury in late July led to surgery. However, Wentz is expected to be ready to go in Week 1.

"Doctors actually had to remove a bone from Carson's foot," Frank Reich said. "The surgery went well, but Carson will probably have to manage a decent amount of pain this season with medication. But he couldn't be in a better place, because Jim Irsay is the owner.

"We made Darius Leonard the highest-paid inside linebacker in the NFL. He's our leader on defense, and the guy that isn't afraid to tell his teammates that they screwed up. Heck, he's already set up an appointment with Carson."

Seahawks win, 26-23.

Minnesota @ Cincinnati (+3½)

While the Vikings potent offense remains very much intact, the team made several moves to improve a defense that ranked 27th in the league.

"Indeed," Zimmer said, "our defense was ineffective at best. And I'm 65 years old, so when I say a 'D' was ineffective, I know what I'm talking about.

"We really need Dalvin Cook to have the kind of year he had last year if we're gonna have any shot of making the playoffs. And speaking of 'shots,' Kirk Cousins still hasn't had the COVID-19 vaccine. And just when I thought Kirk couldn't be a worse quarterback. I'm not sure what's stopping him, which is also a phrase I use when Kirk has trouble solving even the simplest of defenses."

July brought news that Joe Burrow had completely recovered from major knee injuries suffered in Week 11 of 2020 and will be ready to go.

"Joe put in the work to get himself ready for the season," Zac Taylor said. "Unlike most Bengals who've ever been in rehab, Joe took his seriously.

"We're projected to finish last in the AFC North, which, I'm sad to say, seems generous. Honestly, I don't know where we'll be come January. All I know is I'll have my head held high, when I walk out of my exit interview."

Bengals win, 23-20.

San Francisco @ Detroit (+7½)

An injury-plagued season left the 49ers in last place in the NFC West with a 6-10 record, just one year after advancing to the Super Bowl.

"We've chosen to erase the memory of 2020 and all those injuries from our minds," Kyle Shanahan said. "We call that an 'unhealthy scratch.'

"Coaching is in my DNA. My father Mike led the Broncos to two Super Bowl wins in the late 1990's. He passed a lot of his traits down to me; fortunately, his creepy smile wasn't one of them.

"Defensively, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. I think Nick Bosa can answer most of those. His girlfriend can answer other questions, like 'How do magnets work?'"

A blockbuster trade in March sent Matthew Stafford to the Rams in exchange for Jared Goff.

"Jared just needed a change of scenery," Dan Campbell said, "and moving from Los Angeles to Detroit is indeed that. Jared's a California native, so he had to say goodbye to a lot of family and friends, and his tan.

"I hired Anthony Lynn to be our offensive coordinator. Anyone will tell you that when you combine the talents of Dan Campbell and Anthony Lynn, you have the makings of an unemployment line."

49ers win, 33-20.

Cleveland @ Kansas City (-6)

Patrick Mahomes' turf toe injury is healed, and the Chiefs look to reach their third consecutive Super Bowl.

"My toe's never felt better," Mahomes said. "Super Bowl LVI is in Inglewood, California on February 13th, and this little piggy's going to 'mark it' on his calendar.

"Losing to the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl has weighed heavily on me all off-season. But I've been able to put that behind me and focus on the future. I actually no longer have any memory of that loss. I've learned that to be a great quarterback in this league, you've got to know when to destroy evidence."

The Browns advanced to the divisional round last year before falling to the Chiefs. Baker Mayfield and company see an opportunity to make a statement in the rematch.

"Anything less than a Super Bowl victory will be a disappointment," Mayfield said. "Luckily, the city of Cleveland has been preparing for a lifetime for that very possibility.

"I'm excited to see our defense with Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney on the same defensive front. Myles is on the A-list of defensive ends; Jadeveon is on the 'D,' 'P', and 'Q' list of defensive ends.'"

Chiefs win, 33-24.

Miami @ New England (-3)

The Patriots drafted Alabama quarterback Mac Jones with the 15th pick in the 2021 draft. In late August, Jones was named the starter; Newton was released.

"There was a lot Mac could have learned from Cam," Bill Belichick said. "We're just thankful he didn't.

"We have to be way better on offense this season if we're going to compete with the Bills. Our offense sucked last year. I've all but dared them to be better. So, once again, they've been 'offensively challenged.'"

The Dolphins nearly made the playoffs last year, but lost their final game to finish 10-6.

"This may sound crazy," Brain Flores said, "but our goal is to emulate the 1972 Dolphins, by playing 17 games and calling it a season.

"We've added some new weapons for Tua Tagovailoa on offense. Like, for example, Will Fuller V. The 'V' indicates how many games he'll play this year."

Patriots win, 20-15.

Denver @ NY Giants (+2½)

The Broncos hope the talents of a strong defense can carry a team that lacks consistency on offense. Denver finished 5-11 last year, dead-last in the AFC West. Teddy Bridgewater was named the starter as quarterback in late August.

"Drew Lock and Teddy had a spirited battle in camp for the starting quarterback job," Vic Fangio said. "It was very competitive. It had everything you could ask for in a quarterback competition, except a third option.

"Ultimately, I thought Teddy gave us the best chance to win. Whether that means winning games or winning a lottery pick remains to be seen."

Much of the Giants fortunes hinge on the health of Saquon Barkley, who missed nearly all of 2020 after a torn ACL suffered in Week 2.

"Saquon is such an incredible athlete," Daniel Jones said. "If he doesn't get injured, I honestly think he could be the league MVP. But 'let's not get carried away.' And that's also what I told Saquon."

"We're confident we can win the NFC East. Maybe 'win' is not the word I should be using there. Let's try this: We think we can suck less than the other three teams in the division."

Broncos win, 24-14.

Green Bay @ New Orleans (+3)

The Saints begin life without Drew Brees against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

"Our quarterback situation was one of the biggest questions in the history of New Orleans sports," Sean Payton said. "And right on brand, I can't say I ever gave an honest answer about it. That's a 'Bounty-gate joke,' and 'there's more where that came from,' which is what we told bounty winners back in the day.

"I named Jameis Winston our starter at quarterback, and much like testifying before NFL investigators, I did that with a great deal of reluctance.

"Michael Thomas pretty much ghosted us during the offseason. We didn't know where he was. We couldn't reach him by phone. Maybe he should change his Twitter handle to 'Can'tFindMike.'"

After an offseason of uncertainty, Aaron Rodgers decided to return to Green Bay after agreeing to a reworked contract.

"Some say Aaron came back with his tail between his legs," Matt Lafleur said. "Indeed, there was something between his legs, and it certainly wasn't his balls. It's clear Aaron plays hardball about as well as he chugs beer.

"But that's why Aaron is Aaron — he can burn defensive backs just as well as he burns bridges. All I know is in the immediate future, Aaron is our quarterback. After that, who knows? He may be a Packer. He may not be. For all I know, a year from now, he could be promoting copper-covered garbage and/or exposing his genitals."

Packers win, 32-23.

Chicago @ L.A. Rams (-7)

The Bears moved on from Mitch Trubisky and drafted Justin Fields with the 11th pick in the NFL draft.

"We're excited about Justin's potential," Matt Nagy said. "Now, would we have taken him ahead of Patrick Mahomes had they been in the same draft? Probably, because we're stupid.

"Andy Dalton will start against the Rams. But I foresee Justin taking over the starting position soon, maybe even Sunday. If Justin eventually falters, we have Andy as an insurance policy. And like all insurance policies, we hope to hell it's one we don't have to use."

The Matthew Stafford era begins for the Rams, months after the Rams swapped Jared Goff for Stafford.

"After 12 years in Detroit," Sean McVay said, "Matthew apparently needed Thanksgiving off. And conveniently, that should coincide with his scheduled yearly back surgery."

Rams win 24-17.

Baltimore @ Las Vegas (+4)

The highlight of the Raiders 2020 season was a 40-32 win on the road against the Chiefs in Week 5. Las Vegas finished 8-8, well behind the 14-2 Chiefs.

"We have the potential to be a great team," Jon Gruden said. "There's only one thing stopping us from being that great team, and that's coaching.

"I'm smack dab in the middle of a $100 million contract. Most common people don't realize just how much money that is. Simply put, it's the amount of money someone would have to pay you to have Mark Davis' hair style."

After divisional round playoff eliminations in the last two years, the Ravens are feeling the pressure to make a deeper playoff run.

"We just need to take a long, hard look in the mirror," John Harbaugh said. "And if you look long and hard enough, combined with just the right amount of performance-enhancing psychedelics, that 0-2 divisional round record starts to look 2-0.

"Now, I'm not encouraging the use of performance-enhancing anything. But if I was, I'd refer you to Ray Lewis, or a deer with antlers."

Raiders win, 29-27.

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