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NFL Week 1 picks: Brady's Bucs play a thriller vs. Brees, Saints; Jets, Giants cover

Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during

Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during training camp at Raymond James Stadium on September 3, 2020 in Tampa. Credit: Getty Images/Douglas P. DeFelice

Week 1 is always the most difficult to predict NFL games. Week 1 in 2020? Nearly impossible. The pandemic completely altered the offseason and canceled the preseason, meaning there’s even more unknown than usual. My best advice is to pick your spots. Find one or two games, and that’s it. Let us pick all 16 games.

Underdogs often bark loudest early in the season when point spreads aren’t as spot-on, so keep an eye on that. There are a handful of favorable matchups and spreads this week, but it’s mostly a lot of stay-away games (Las Vegas at Carolina tops the list). My three most confident picks against the spread are Arizona, Baltimore and Miami.

GAME OF THE WEEK

TAMPA BAY AT NEW ORLEANS

TV: Ch. 5, 4:25 p.m.

New Orleans by 3.5; O/U: 48

One of the biggest questions for this unprecedented season will be if home-field advantage will be a thing of the past. The Superdome is the perfect example: Not having that super loud crowd to feed off will be something Drew Brees and the Saints will miss, while Tom Brady and the Bucs won’t have to block out that noise if there’s a game-deciding drive. I think that’s the exact kind of finish we’ll get, too. Brady, even with his six Super Bowl rings, has a chip on his shoulder after how things ended in New England. Surrounded by Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and his old buddy Rob Gronkowski, he should put up better numbers in Bruce Arians’ offense. This feels like a down-to-the-wire, live-up-to-the-hype kind of game, with Brady and Brees creating a new NFC South rivalry. That extra half-point, plus those empty seats, favor the underdog Bucs.

The pick: Tampa Bay

JETS AT BUFFALO

TV: Ch. 2, 1 p.m.

Buffalo by 6.5; O/U: 39.5

The Jets improved the offensive line, so that should be a big boost to Sam Darnold. But who will he be throwing to? I’m hesitant in backing the Jets, but this feels like a couple too many points to lay with an inconsistent Josh Allen. If Le’Veon Bell gets 25 total touches, this could be close like last year’s opener: 17-16 Buffalo after the Jets led 16-0.  

The pick: Jets

MONDAY

PITTSBURGH AT GIANTS

TV: Ch. 11, ESPN, 7:10 p.m.

Pittsburgh by 6; O/U: 46

We’ll finally get to see if Joe Judge’s super attention-to-detail style will pay off for the Giants. With Ben Roethlisberger missing nearly all of last season, this could be a good spot for Big Blue to ‘Steel’ one. Big Ben’s timing surely will be off, and Judge’s players seem to have bought into his approach (see: hosing him in the mud). If Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley can help create at least 17 points, a cover is likely.  

The pick: Giants

SUNDAY’S 1 P.M. GAMES

MIAMI AT NEW ENGLAND

New England by 6.5; O/U: 42

Miami helped end the Tom Brady Era in New England, beating the AFC East champs in Week 17 to deny it a first-round bye. The Pats had to play the next week against the Titans and yada yada yada now Brady is in Tampa. It’s Cam Newton’s show now, and Ryan “is he ever going to retire?” Fitzpatrick might feel more comfortable in this one. Brian Flores’ bunch doesn’t quit, and the Fish won’t be intimidated after last season’s confidence-building win.

The pick: Miami

PHILADELPHIA AT WASHINGTON

Philadelphia by 5.5; O/U: 42.5

Even getting nearly a touchdown at home in Week 1 isn’t enough to take Washington. Philadelphia has won six in a row in this rivalry, and five of those would’ve covered this spread.

The pick: Philadelphia

GREEN BAY AT MINNESOTA

Minnesota by 2.5; O/U: 45

The Vikings had won six in a row at home to start last season before a 23-10 loss to the Packers on MNF.  Getting points with Aaron Rodgers is usually an automatic play, but Minnesota has too many playmakers on both sides to lay another dud against a rival.

The pick: Minnesota

CLEVELAND AT BALTIMORE

Baltimore by 7; O/U: 48

Imagine not playing a real-speed game for all of 2020 and then when you finally do, it’s against Lamar Jackson. Good luck, guys. The reigning MVP should be raring to go after last season’s early playoff exit. Before that home loss to Tennessee, the only other time Baltimore lost in its building was Week 4 against Cleveland. Jackson & Co. make up for that in a big way.

The pick: Baltimore

SEATTLE AT ATLANTA

Seattle by 2.5; O/U: 49

At first glance, you immediately wanted to circle Seattle, right? I get it. But the Seahawks tend to start slow. Their last five openers: two wins by 1 and 2 points, and three losses by 3, 8 and 3. Still, Russell Wilson always seems to find a way to eke out tough road wins (Seattle was 7-1 away last season).  

The pick: Seattle

INDIANAPOLIS AT JACKSONVILLE

Indianapolis by 8; O/U: 45

Quick, name a Jaguar besides Gardner Minshew? Philip Rivers should have a field day in his Colts debut against a team that appears to have its eye on 2021 and is my top pick to land next year's top pick. 

The pick: Indianapolis

CHICAGO AT DETROIT

Detroit by 3; O/U: 42

If we were allowed a “bye” from picking one game, this would be my choice. When in doubt, pick Matthew Stafford over Mitchell Trubisky. Also, in a make-or-break year for Lions coach Matt Patricia, winning the home opener is a must.  

The pick: Detroit

LAS VEGAS AT CAROLINA

Las Vegas by 3; O/U: 47.5

No preseason could work to new Carolina coach Matt Rhule’s advantage. Maybe he could pull off a few trick plays in what might be a rare spot for Teddy Bridgewater and Carolina to pick up a win.

The pick: Carolina

4 P.M. GAMES

LOCK OF THE WEEK

ARIZONA AT SAN FRANCISCO

San Francisco by 7; O/U: 48

Arizona gave the Super Bowl runner-up all it could handle last season in 28-25 and 36-26 losses. The second final was a misleading score, as the 49ers scored on one of those last-second laterals gone wrong. With the Cardinals adding DeAndre Hopkins, Kyler Murray should take that next step in his sophomore season. San Francisco is still a Super Bowl contender but expect Murray’s legs and arm to keep this close.

The pick: Arizona

L.A. CHARGERS AT CINCINNATI

L.A. by 3; O/U: 42

Joe Burrow’s reward for being the No. 1 pick? Having to bolt every time Joey Bosa and Melvin Engram come charging after him in his NFL debut. Talk about hard knocks.

The pick: Los Angeles

SUNDAY NIGHT

DALLAS AT L.A. RAMS

Dallas by 2.5; O/U: 51.5

TV: Ch. 4, 8:20 p.m.

Mike McCarthy vs. Sean McVay might be the best coaching matchup of the week. While Jared Goff took a step back last season, Dak Prescott took a step up, and he figures to improve even more under McCarthy.  

The pick: Dallas

MONDAY NIGHT

TENNESSEE AT DENVER

TV: ESPN, 10:20 p.m.

Tennessee by 2.5; O/U: 41

Before last season’s pair of two-point home losses in September, Denver had won 13 straight at Mile High in the opening month. The altitude is always a factor. It beat Tennessee, 16-0, in Week 6, which turned out to be a turning point in the Titans’ season as Ryan Tannehill stepped in and wound up taking them to the AFC title game. This will be close, but Tannehill (9-4 as Titans starter, including playoffs) and Derrick Henry do enough to win.

The pick: Tennessee

STAFF PICKS

All picks against the spread

(best bets in bold)

JOE MANNIELLO

Jets Giants Miami Philadelphia

Minnesota Baltimore Seattle Indianapolis

Detroit Carolina Tampa Bay Arizona

L.A. Chargers Dallas Tennessee

BOB GLAUBER

Buffalo Giants Miami Washington

Minnesota Baltimore Seattle Jacksonville

Chicago Carolina Tampa Bay Arizona

Cincinnati L.A. Rams Denver

TOM ROCK

Buffalo Giants New England Philadelphia

Minnesota Baltimore Seattle Indianapolis

Detroit Carolina Tampa Bay Arizona

L.A. Chargers L.A. Rams Tennessee

AL IANNAZZONE

Buffalo Pittsburgh New England Philadelphia

Green Bay Baltimore Seattle Jacksonville

Detroit Carolina New Orleans San Francisco

L.A. Chargers L.A. Rams Tennessee

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