Sam Farmer's Week 1 NFL picks

By Sam Farmer

The 2021 NFL season kicked off Thursday with the Super Bowl defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeating the Dallas Cowboys, 31-29, in Tampa, Fla. The Los Angeles Times' NFL writer, Sam Farmer, examines the rest of this week's matchups and predicts a winner. (His Thursday night prediction was Buccaneers 38, Cowboys 27.)

— Farmer's record last season: 174-81-1 (.682). Using point spreads with the scores Farmer predicted, the record against the spread last season would have been 131-119-6 (.524).

Team records are from last season. Times are Pacific. Lines according to FanDuel (O/U = over/under):

Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) at Buffalo Bills (13-3)

Sunday, 10 a.m.

Line: Bills by 6 1/2. O/U: 48 1/2.

Steelers are rolling out a new offense — do they build new offenses in Pittsburgh? — and have a revamped line. Buffalo picks up where it left off last season and that could be scary good.

Prediction: Bills 34, Steelers 27

New York Jets (2-14) at Carolina Panthers (5-11)

Sunday, 10 a.m.

Line: Panthers by 5. O/U: 45.

Sam Darnold faces old team right away, and has a better skill cast than he ever had in New York. Better offensive line, too. Panthers aren't terrific but good enough to spoil Zach Wilson's debut.

Prediction: Panthers 30, Jets 20

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15) at Houston Texans (4-12)

Sunday, 10 a.m.

Line: Jaguars by 2 1/2. O/U: 44 1/2.

The Texans are going to run it on some people, and Tyrod Taylor can do a respectable job. But Houston's defense is terrible. Trevor Lawrence gets off to a good start as does Marvin Jones Jr.

Prediction: Jaguars 28, Texans 20

Arizona Cardinals (8-8) at Tennessee Titans (11-5)

Sunday, 10 a.m.

Line: Titans by 3. O/U: 52 1/2.

Bad matchup for Cardinals. The Titans will run it down their throat with Derrick Henry, then play-action off that to A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. Arizona's defense is supposed to be better. We'll see.

Prediction: Titans 38, Cardinals 31

Los Angeles Chargers (7-9) at Washington Football Team (7-9)

Sunday, 10 a.m.

Line: Chargers by 1. O/U: 44 1/2.

Ryan Fitzpatrick rarely has a good defense backing him but has one now. Justin Herbert is phenomenal, but Chargers are going cross-country and might need time to adjust to Brandon Staley's D.

Prediction: Washington 27, Chargers 23

Minnesota Vikings (7-9) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1)

Sunday, 10 a.m.

Line: Vikings by 3. O/U: 48.

We'll find out soon how Joe Burrow looks on that reconstructed knee. He has some good options, but that offensive line is bad. Big game for Vikings back Dalvin Cook, a fantasy-football beast.

Prediction: Vikings 24, Bengals 20

San Francisco 49ers (6-10) at Detroit Lions (5-11)

Sunday, 10 a.m.

Line: 49ers by 7 1/2. O/U: 45.

The Motor City would go wild for a win. Not going to happen. The 49ers will trample the Lions with Raheem Mostert and Trey Sermon, and it's going to be tough for Jared Goff vs. that (healthy) defense.

Prediction: 49ers 31, Lions 17

Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1) at Atlanta Falcons (4-12)

Sunday, 10 a.m.

Line: Falcons by 3 1/2. O/U: 48 1/2.

These teams are bad. This comes down to who's the better quarterback, and that's Matt Ryan over Jalen Hurts. Plus, the Falcons are at home. Mike Davis has a good day running for Atlanta.

Prediction: Falcons 24, Eagles 20

Seattle Seahawks (12-4) at Indianapolis Colts (11-5)

Sunday, 10 a.m.

Line: Seahawks by 2 1/2. O/U: 49 1/2.

The Colts don't have receiver T.Y. Hilton, and their best offensive lineman, guard Quenton Nelson, is coming off foot surgery. Great defense, though. Russell Wilson gets it done for the visitors.

Prediction: Seahawks 28, Colts 24

Cleveland Browns (11-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (14-2)

Sunday, 1:25 p.m.

Line: Chiefs by 6 1/2. O/U: 54 1/2.

No scarier QB than Patrick Mahomes. But with Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney coming off the edges, and the Browns' ability to run the ball on Kansas City ... this could be Week 1 stunner.

Prediction: Browns 28, Chiefs 27

Miami Dolphins (10-6) at New England Patriots (7-9)

Sunday, 1:25 p.m.

Line: Patriots by 3. O/U: 43 1/2.

Hard to read how good Tua Tagovailoa will be, but he executes RPO slant as well as anyone and has ideal target in rookie Jaylen Waddle. Mac Jones will look promising for Patriots but is short on help.

Prediction: Dolphins 24, Patriots 17

Green Bay Packers (13-3) at New Orleans Saints (12-4)

Sunday, 1:25 p.m.

Line: Packers by 4. O/U: 50.

The Packers are going to build an early lead and Jameis Winston is going to be chasing. Stage is set for the new Saints QB to throw for 350 yards and three touchdowns ... with four interceptions.

Prediction: Packers 34, Saints 21

Denver Broncos (5-11) at New York Giants (6-10)

Sunday, 1:25 p.m.

Line: Broncos by 2 1/2. O/U: 41 1/2.

Will be interesting to see how Saquon Barkley looks, but he's playing behind a bad offensive line. Teddy Bridgewater has poise and weapons, and that Denver defense could be a good one.

Prediction: Broncos 23, Giants 20

Chicago Bears (8-8) at Los Angeles Rams (10-6)

Sunday, 5:20 p.m.

Line: Rams by 7 1/2. O/U: 46.

Rams are preparing for either Bears quarterback, but that's not going to be the difference. Matthew Stafford makes debut against a familiar opponent and makes good use of his receiving weapons.

Prediction: Rams 34, Bears 21

Baltimore Ravens (11-5) at Las Vegas Raiders (8-8)

Monday, 5:15 p.m.

Line: Ravens by 4 1/2. O/U: 51.

Raiders have gotten a little better on defense, although a little better isn't going to be enough against Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards, who are going to put up big ground numbers to control it.

Prediction: Ravens 31, Raiders 24


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