Greg Cote's Week 1 NFL picks
In Miami, the Dolphins were still in the Shula/Marino era. The Heat hadn’t had winning season yet. The Marlins and Panthers hockey didn’t exist. Canes football was at its peak of power. I had a lot more hair. It was 1991. That’s when we began this venture of NFL picks in the Miami Herald. Well, time flew by like a Patrick Mahomes spiral and now we begin our 31st season of prognostication. Imagine that. (“Aawwk!” notes the Upset Bird. “I’ve been around the whole time. Even though most of my Corvus corax brethren are long dead.”) We take our picks seriously but have fun doing them. So welcome back and enjoy the ride! [Note: Thursday night pick was Buccaneers (-8; over/under 51 1/2) over Cowboys, 34-16.].
Final 2020: 166-89-1, .651 overall; 130-120-6, .520 vs. spread.
Final 2019: 169-86-1, .663 overall; 129-120-7, .518 vs. spread.
Final 2018: 179-75-2, .705 overall; 145-104-7, .582 vs. spread.
GREG COTE’S NFL WEEK 1 PICKS
GAME OF THE WEEK
BROWNS (0-0) at CHIEFS (0-0)
Line: KC by 6.
Cote’s pick: KC 27-23.
TV: 4:25 p.m.
Cleveland aims to announce itself as leading AFC power shift at Kansas City’s expense . Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes aim to say, “Uh uh. Still our time.” Made easy work for Game of the Week committee, especially after last year’s playoff meeting, a 22-17 Chiefs escape that Cleveland felt it shoulda won. Mahomes faces retooled Browns secondary, and does so behind a (hopefully) improved line from one that got embarrassed in Super Bowl. KC enters on 15-2 run at home, with six straight season-opening wins, and Reid 8-0 vs. Browns. CLE’s best upset hope is Myles Garrett and that rush doing to Mahomes what Bucs did. Not betting on that, although Browns-plus-6, like bananas foster on menu, is too tempting to pass up.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
JAGUARS (0-0) at TEXANS (0-0)
Line: JAC by 3.
Cote’s pick: HOU 19-17.
TV: 1 p.m.
“AAAWWWK!” heralds the Upset Bird. “We’re baawwk! Can’t keep a good crow down. Houstaaawwwk!” This might be most intriguing matchup of awful teams in history. Houston might be worst team in league. Certainly it’s one in most disarray after offseason mired in Deshaun Watson disgruntlement/legal mess. That’s why the star QB is sitting, likely for season, while Tyrod Taylor starts. As downgrades go, that’s like you expecting Shakespeare to teach your writing class and I show up. Jacksonville? It has No. 1 overall pick in Trevor Lawrence and new star coach in Urban Meyer. Jags are still really bad, though. My hunch on home-dog upset relies on Texans’ pride to prove themselves an actual NFL team, and Lawrence discovering that even lousy NFL teams are a huge step up from ACC. “Summoning rough start for Trevor,” says U-Bird, “and for Urban Maaawwwk!”
THE REST OF WEEK 1:
@Falcons (0-0, -3) over Eagles (0-0), 27-20: Bird Bowl pits two of league’s seven new head coaches in Nick Sirianni and Arthur Smith. We know about Matt Ryan. Don’t know yet if Jalen Hurts will be the answer Carson Wentz wasn’t. I wonder about ATL’s defense, but Philly was 1-7 on road last year so lean home dome for pick.
@Bills (0-0, -6 1/2) over Steelers (0-0), 24-21: Buffs have ton o’ hype as alleged Super Bowl contender, feeding narrative of rising Josh Allen vs. fading Big Ben. Nope, too easy. Both teams made playoffs last year. Don’t write off Steelers, especially if first-round RB Najee Harris hits big behind retooled O-line. Pitt’s D is good and will pressure Allen and keep it close — more so with top sacker T.J.. Watt ending his holdout Thursday and agreeing to a contract extension. Pitt outright wouldn’t shock; we’ll settle for cover.
Vikings (0-0, -3) over @Bengals (0-0), 23-18: Cincy tempts as one of eight (!) home ‘dogs on Kickoff Weekend, with outright upset in play. But Joe Burrow, coming back from knee surgery, took only three snaps in preseason and might need time for offense to find its sync. Watch veteran Kirk Cousins prey on Bengals’ weak linebacking.
49ers (0-0, -7 1/2) over @Lions (0-0), 30-16: Jimmy Garoppolo gets call while Frans wait for rookie Trey Lance to ripen. Meanwhile Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford is not an upgrade for Motown. But defense spells this result. Niners have good one. Detroit’s looks really bad. Lions’ new coach, manly Dan Campbell, wants to “bite the kneecaps” off opponents, but his team will be bitten more than it bites this year.
@Titans (0-0, -3) over Cardinals (0-0), 30-28: Ryan Tannehill has Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown, now adds Julio Jones. If he had a defense I’d feel better. Dual-threat Kyler Murray gives Cardbirds medium upset shot. Edge to Tanny’s weapons and home field, but hedge with ‘Zona cover.
@Colts (0-0, +2 1/2) over Seahawks (0-0), 24-20: Upset! Yes, I know: Indy has lost seven consecutive season openers. Seattle’s on 12-1 run in Eastern time zone. Nobody trusts Wentz. Got it. But I know this, too: Colts have won 17 of past 22 at home and have top-tier defense good enough to bedevil Russell Wilson, even with LT Duane Brown back.
@Washington (0-0, -1) over Chargers (0-0), 23-17: Year 2 of nickname-less ‘Washington Football Team’ begins happily in near pick-‘em game that swung from No Names getting one point to giving one. It’s Justin Herbert vs. Chase Young in duel of reigning rookies of year on O and D. Ryan Fitzpatrick is QB upgrade, but it’s Washers’ stout defense — especially up front — that shapes result.
@Panthers (0-0, -4) over Jets (0-0), 27-13: Atop marquee: Ex-Jet Sam Darnold vs. old team and its top pick Zach Wilson. Real matchup, though, is Darnold, with better weapons including fantasy god Christian McCaffery, vs. really bad Jets defense with worst cornerbacks in NFL. Cats’ D is mediocre, so Planes have shot, but only if Wilson without much help wows on road in rookie debut. Tall ask.
Dolphins (0-0, +3) over @Patriots (0-0), 23-20: Could have called this my Upset of the Week, except it doesn’t feel like one. Miami will be better than New England this season, and Sunday. Tua Tagovailoa will silence doubters starting in Week 1, and Brian Flores will prove he has learned well from his sensei, Bill Belichick, with defensive plan that makes it rough for rookie QB Mac Jones, New England’s first first-round QB since Drew Bledsoe in 1993. After lucking to ride Tom Brady so long, Belichick can’t possibly be that lucky again with Jones ... can he?
Packers (0-0, -4) over @Saints (0-0), 31-23: Game was moved to Jacksonville because of Hurricane Ida, erasing Saints’ home edge. Either way it’s still Aaron Rodgers vs. Jameis Winston to christen post-Brees era. My math here: Two stout defenses, two top running backs in Aaron Jones and Alvin Kamara, one Hall of Fame quarterback, and one QB who makes more turnovers than most bakeries.
Broncos (0-0, -3) over @Giants (0-0), 20-16: Big variable: Saquon Barkley. Will he play and if so how much? Biggies’ star RB is near end of recovery from last year’s torn ACL but still was limited in practice as recently as Wednesday. Without Barkley or with him limited, Daniel Jones suffers. Either way Denver’s defense is strong enough that most weeks Teddy Bridgewater won’t need to put up 30 to win.
@Rams (0-0, -7 1/2) over Bears (0-0), 27-13: Season’s first Sunday nighter looks like a rout. To think otherwise one must envision Andy Dalton beating Aaron Donald and NFL’s top defense. Dalton starting makes plain that rookie Justin Fields isn’t ready. Besides top defense, watch ex-Lion Matthew Stafford flourish in Rams offense, especially vs. former division rival he knows well.
Ravens (0-0, -4 1/2) over @Raiders (0-0), 30-17: Wake up Howard Cosell in gasbag heaven, it’s Monday Night Football! We end Week 1 parade of home ‘dogs with Baltimore on 12-3 run vs. Raiders including six of past eight on road. Even more impressive, Ravens have won five straight season openers by combined 177-26. Crows enter injury-wracked, including loss of RB J.K. Dobbins, but still see Lamar Jackson poised for big year. BAL’s blitz-heavy D will trouble Derek Carr.
[Note: Betting lines are courtesy Caesars Sportsbook as of midday Thursday] .