Joe Manniello's Week 1 NFL picks

By Joe Manniello

The world feels as if it’s changing by the day, but one thing remains the same: The NFL is as unpredictable as ever. Week 1 is especially tough, with new faces in new places and so much unknown. My best advice: Pick. Your. Spots. There’s nothing wrong with even sitting out the first week and letting us get all the games wrong.

Underdogs bark the loudest in the first month-plus, so keep that in mind. Vegas knows what it’s doing, but even the books need an adjustment period. Expect a lot of close finishes.

My most confident picks against the spread are the Packers, Seahawks and Jets. Stay away from Jaguars-Texans.

1 P.M. GAMES

JETS AT CAROLINA

Carolina by 4.5; O/U: 44.5

When I first saw that the Jets were going to open at Carolina and face Sam Darnold, I thought: 1. Well played, schedule makers; 2. I can’t wait to take the Panthers. Now? Give me the Jets all day. Their ceiling is probably 7-8 wins, but they are going to lead the league in "being in every game." This is too many points. Robert Saleh was the perfect hire at the perfect time, and fans will not only see his attacking 4-3 defense show up right away but also a much-needed enthusiasm that’s been lacking. It’s the Jets, so don’t be surprised if Darnold hits fellow former Jet Robby Anderson for a long TD pass, but in the end, this will be a one-score game approaching 4 p.m. Hey, Zach Wilson, 20-17 with 2:00 left, you ready?

The pick: Jets

PHILADELPHIA AT ATLANTA

Atlanta by by 3; O/U: 48.5

The battle of the birds features two new head coaches. With so much unknown, taking the points is the safe play. Would it really surprise you if Jalen Hurts and the Eagles won?

The pick: Philadelphia

L.A. CHARGERS AT WASHINGTON

Los Angeles by 1; O/U: 44.5

Justin Herbert and the Chargers were not as mediocre as their 7-9 record last year suggested, having been done in by questionable coaching decisions in close games. Enter Brandon Staley, the former Rams defensive coordinator who could make an immediate impact. Give me young Herbert over the ageless Ryan Fitzpatrick in a nail-biter.

The pick: Chargers

ARIZONA AT TENNESSEE

Tennessee by 3; O/U: 52.5

This is probably the toughest game to pick. Both teams have playmakers, so the over might be the way to go. But we pick every game against the spread. Considering the Titans had some COVID-19 issues on top of injury concerns, let’s go with the visitors.

The pick: Arizona

PITTSBURGH AT BUFFALO

Buffalo by 6.5; O/U: 48.5

What’s up with this line? Sure, Buffalo is a Super Bowl contender and should be favored, but by this much? Pittsburgh isn’t an easy out, and after the messy way in which its season ended in a home playoff loss to the Browns (48-37 after trailing 28-0), expect a strong effort out of the gate.

The pick: Pittsburgh

SAN FRANCISCO AT DETROIT

San Francisco by 7.5; O/U: 44.5

When I watched new Lions coach Dan Campbell’s cringeworthy introductory news conference (check it out if you haven’t seen it; on second thought, don’t), my initial reaction was: I can’t wait to pick against this team every week. The big spread for a road team did give me pause, but the 49ers have too much talent for this to be close.

The pick: San Francisco

JACKSONVILLE AT HOUSTON

Jacksonville by 3; O/U: 45.5

Like the Lions, the Texans are a team I look forward to picking against most weeks. Just not here. Let’s see former Saturday stars Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence win on Sunday before backing them, especially as road favorites in Week 1. Tyrod Taylor isn’t Deshaun Watson, but he’s a solid pro.

The pick: Houston

SEATTLE AT INDIANAPOLIS

Seattle by 3; O/U: 50.5

In an ever-changing NFL, one of the few constants is Russell Wilson, who seems to get better every season. The Colts are dealing with COVID-19 issues and even if Carson Wentz plays, it could be a bumpy debut in Indy.

The pick: Seattle

MINNESOTA AT CINCINNATI

Minnesota by 3; O/U: 47.5

The Vikings tend to play down to their opponents, but that shouldn’t be the case in Week 1. Still, Joe Burrow and the Bengals were feisty underdogs in his starts before he got hurt. This could come down to a late field goal.

The pick: Cincinnati

4 P.M. GAMES

GAME OF THE WEEK

CLEVELAND AT KANSAS CITY

Kansas City by 5.5; O/U: 54.5

One theory for Week 1 is to back a team whose finale last season was so bad, they’ve been counting down the days to the opener. No one had a worst last game than Kansas City, a 31-9 dismantling in the Super Bowl that’s still hard to believe. While I like Patrick Mahomes and all his weapons to get the win, the cover is a different story. Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb and a strong defense will be in this game at the end, much like they were in last year’s playoff loss at Arrowhead.

The pick: Cleveland

DENVER AT GIANTS

Denver by 3; O/U: 41.5

Denver a road favorite in Week 1? I was all set to take the Giants ... and then I read receiver Kenny Golladay’s quotes about the offense needing time to figure things out. Golladay, the team’s big offseason signing, and first-round pick Kadarius Toney have been hamstrung by injuries. Saquon Barkley hasn’t played in a long time. Then there’s the offensive line, which may be in over its head against Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. The odds don’t appear to be in Daniel Jones’ favor in what feels like a 16-13, hardly-see-it-on-RedZone type of game.

The pick: Denver

MIAMI AT NEW ENGLAND

New England by 3; O/U: 43.5

It’s Tua Tagovailoa vs. Mac Jones in the Alabama Bowl. All that’s missing is Nick Saban back on the Dolphins sideline. Rookie quarterbacks are 6-0 in their first starts under Bill Belichick. Also, it’s not very often you get to back Belichick in the first game after his team missed the playoffs the previous year. "Not very often" in this case means 12 years!

The pick: New England

LOCK OF THE WEEK

GREEN BAY AT NEW ORLEANS (in Jacksonville)

Green Bay by 3.5; O/U: 49.5

Remember when it sounded as if Aaron Rodgers returning to Green Bay was in jeopardy? Expect him to have all the answers in this one. Even if this game was in New Orleans — it was moved to Jacksonville after Hurricane Ida — Green Bay would’ve been the easy pick (Rodgers led a 37-30 win there last season). The Saints players have a lot of other things on their mind, naturally, and let’s see how Jameis Winston fares replacing Drew Brees.

The pick: Green Bay

SUNDAY NIGHT

CHICAGO AT L.A. RAMS

Los Angeles by 7.5; O/U: 46.5

I’m all in on the all-in Rams, my pick to win the Super Bowl. Matthew Stafford should thrive in Sean McVay’s offense. Aaron Donald & Co. will make Andy Dalton (6-17 in prime time) wish the Bears went with rookie Justin Fields (don’t worry, they will soon enough).

The pick: Rams

MONDAY NIGHT

BALTIMORE AT LAS VEGAS

Baltimore by 4.5; O/U: 50.5

I like the idea of backing Lamar Jackson in Week 1. Why? Imagine being a defender, having all this time away from real game action and then expecting to keep up with the elusive QB. But the loss of J.K. Dobbins, plus the Raiders playing in front of home fans in Vegas for the first time, makes this a closer call.

The pick: Las Vegas


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