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NFL Week 1 picks: Giants win in Dallas, Jets fall at Buffalo; 49ers, Chargers pull off upsets

Dallas Cowboys linebacker James Morris is brought down

Dallas Cowboys linebacker James Morris is brought down by New York Giants free safety Landon Collins after a short run. Sept. 11, 2016. Credit: TNS / Ian McVea

Some things never change in the NFL. From head-scratching replays — let’s hope the league finally has figured out what a catch is this season — to coaches punting when they should go for it on fourth-and-short, expect more of the same. When it comes to Week 1, though, you never know what’s in store. It’s right up there with Week 17 as the most difficult weeks to break down.

Be on the lookout for home underdogs, especially early in the season. This week, five teams — the Redskins, Lions, Bears, Browns and 49ers — are getting points at home, so there could be some value there.

There’s one fewer game on the schedule, as the Bucs-Dolphins opener in Miami was postponed because of Hurricane Irma.

Of the remaining games, these are my most confident picks against the spread (ATS): 49ers, Titans, Chargers, Saints, Giants, Rams and Bengals. Ones that could be tricky and you may want to stay away from: Redskins-Eagles, Cardinals-Lions, Steelers-Browns, Bills-Jets and Seahawks-Packers.


Cowboys by 4; O/U: 47.5

TV: Ch. 4, 8:30 p.m.; Radio: WFAN (660, 101.9)

Whenever the Giants and Cowboys play, especially in prime time, we’re usually guaranteed some drama. There’s been plenty of it leading up to the game, centering around the availability of star players Ezekiel Elliott and Odell Beckham Jr. Despite the Dallas running back’s ban being upheld, he will suit up. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Cowboys will win, though. The Giants’ defense contained him last season and swept the series. Landon Collins, Jason Pierre-Paul and Damon Harrison will keep Elliott in check again, and Dak Prescott won’t do enough to outduel Eli Manning. New additions to the Giants’ passing game, Brandon Marshall and rookie tight end Evan Engram, could be poised for big debuts against a questionable secondary. The Giants opened last season with a tense one-point win in Dallas, and they’ll prevail again. Call it Giants 24, Cowboys 20.

The pick: Giants


Bills by 8.5; O/U: 40

TV: Ch. 2, 1 p.m.; Radio: ESPN (98.7)

Unless you’re in a weekly pool that requires you to pick every game, there are certain games you should avoid. This is one of them. Bills QB Tyrod Taylor is expected to start, a big boost for Buffalo. If not, it might have had to start a rookie named Peterman (insert Seinfeld joke here). As for the Jets, they’re starting 38-year-old Josh McCown. Without their best receiver, just exactly how are the Jets going to move the ball and score points this season? If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that one of my biggest preseason predictions was that the Jets would go 0-16. This is a mighty big line, but Buffalo will be more disciplined under new coach Sean McDermott, the anti-Rex Ryan, and the Bills’ defense could pitch a shutout. Lay the points . . . but only if you have to.

The pick: Bills



Eagles by 1; O/U: 48

TV: Ch. 5

Week 1 is always full of tough calls, and this matchup between equally-matched division rivals is at the top of the list. Flip a coin, anyone? Carson Wentz and the Eagles have gotten a lot of preseason hype, and that could be why they’re favored on the road. This is an odd spread, especially when the home team in an even matchup usually is a 3-point favorite. Another reason to lean Redskins: They started last season with back-to-back losses at home and will be extra-motivated to get off on the right foot.

The pick: Redskins


Cardinals by 2; O/U: 47.5

Another tough one. The Cardinals are my Super Bowl pick, but you can’t underestimate home teams early on. This has the feel of a back-and-forth game. The 1 p.m. start for Arizona could be an issue, but roll the dice with the Cards because of their big advantage in the running game and coaching matchup.

The pick: Cardinals


Falcons by 6; O/U: 49

After the biggest meltdown in Super Bowl history, no team is happier to start the new season than the Falcons. The belief here is that they’ll again be a legit contender. It’s a big number on the road, but the Falcons just have too many weapons on offense and defense to have any trouble here . . . even if they get ahead 28-3.

The pick: Falcons


Steelers by 9; O/U: 46.5

DeShone Kizer, the rookie out of Notre Dame, is the 27th starting quarterback for Cleveland since 1999. He will join a long list of Browns QBs to lose to Ben Roethlisberger, who is 21-2 against Cleveland in his career. Pittsburgh has won 12 of the last 14 meetings. The Browns — who got some bad news with top pick Myles Garrett’s injury — will be an improved team, and it wouldn’t be shocking if they covered this big number at home. Still, they went an NFL-worst 3-12-1 ATS last season and it’s hard to back them against a high-powered Steelers offense. Don’t be surprised to see new Steelers corner Joe Haden haunt his old team with a big interception or even a pick-6.

The pick: Steelers


Titans by 2.5; O/U: 50.5

One of the best matchups of Week 1 features two teams whose seasons essentially ended last Christmas Eve when Marcus Mariota and Derek Carr both broke their legs. The franchise QBs are back now and should produce one of the week’s most exciting games. Tennessee is the better all-around team, and Mariota and a strong team rushing attack will make enough plays to cover this number. Two big reasons to back Tennessee and not Oakland: 1) It’s a 1 p.m. start, so the Raiders essentially will be playing this game at 10 a.m. and 2) Oakland won at Tennessee last season — a big reason to think the home team will get payback in this one.

The pick: Titans


Texans by 6; O/U: 39.5

Houston might be the most-bet team of Week 1. Bettors will buy into the “Texans will win for a healing city” narrative. What J.J. Watt is doing for the city of Houston is incredible, and the Texans likely will win. But by how many points? Jacksonville lost to Houston, 21-20 and 24-21 last season. Blake Bortles never has beaten the Texans (0-6), but it’s not as if Tom Savage is scaring anyone. Jags keep it close enough to cover.

The pick: Jaguars



Bengals by 3; O/U: 42.5

The Bengals have won six of the last seven against their AFC North rivals. Joe Flacco missed all of camp and preseason, so it’s hard to predict what he can contribute in Week 1. There’s also the Andy Dalton 1 p.m. factor: The Bengals QB is 44-21-1 in early games. He’s also 30-15-2 at home.

The pick: Bengals




Panthers by 5.5; O/U: 47.5

The Panthers have Cam Newton and made the Super Bowl two seasons ago. The 49ers? They have Brian Hoyer and went 2-14 last season. Ah, but let’s dig a little deeper. First, Hoyer may not be in your fantasy lineup but in reality he’s a smart quarterback who doesn’t make mistakes: 25 TDs to just 7 INTs when he’s been able to play the last two seasons. Second, this is San Francisco’s home opener in the Kyle Shanahan-John Lynch era. That means something, and the 49ers will be extra-motivated to deliver a win as the organization starts over with a first-year coach and first-year GM. Shanahan is a great offensive mind — despite the brain freeze during the Falcons’ Super Bowl meltdown — and he will have some tricks up his sleeve for the opener (flea flickers, please). Thirdly, Carolina is making a cross-country trip, and that always has the potential to be an issue. Give me the 49ers to win, 23-21, in an upset special. And remember, even if they lose by fewer than six, you still win.

The pick: 49ers


Rams by 4; O/U: 42

This line went from Colts -3 to Rams -4 after Andrew Luck was ruled out. Sean McVay, the youngest coach in NFL history, makes his debut as the Rams kick off Year 2 in Los Angeles. McVay, the former Redskins offensive coordinator, should help Jared Goff get a sophomore jump. The Colts, meanwhile, have to start Scott Tolzien against a Wade Phillips-coached defense. The inconsistent Colts, even with Luck, have been a tough team to back: Unpredictable with a capital horseshoe.

The pick: Rams


Packers by 3; O/U: 50.5

TV: Ch. 5

The last time Seattle won at Lambeau Field, Russell Wilson was 10 years old. Since that win in November of 1999, the Seahawks have lost all seven of their trips to Green Bay by an average of nearly 19 points. Pete Carroll, the master motivator, surely will remind his team of this. Wilson and Doug Baldwin make enough plays against a suspect Packers secondary, and the Seattle defense makes enough stops to pull off the mini upset.

The pick: Seahawks



Vikings by 3; O/U: 48

TV: ESPN, 7:10 p.m.

The schedule makers gave us a good story line as Adrian Peterson returns to Minnesota. He’s been outspoken in his desire to beat his old team, but the real story may be an improved Saints defense. Drew Brees won’t have to put up 30 points to win this one.

The pick: Saints


Broncos by 3.5; O/U: 43

TV: ESPN, 10:20 p.m.

The Chargers bolted San Diego for Los Angeles, so seeing “LAC” will take some getting used to. For me, the acronym might as well stand for Los Angeles: Contender. They’re my surprise team of the season and pick to win the AFC West. Philip Rivers has weapons on offense, and Joey Bosa is a beast on the D-line. The Chargers will be playing with a chip on their shoulder all season because of their move and stadium situation. They’re a live underdog in this matchup, and one of the golden rules of picking ATS is this: If you think the underdog is going to win outright, grab the points as fast as you can.

The pick: Chargers


(best bet in bold)


Giants Bills Redskins Cardinals

Falcons Titans Jaguars Steelers

Bengals 49ers Rams

Seahawks Saints Chargers


Giants Bills Eagles Lions

Falcons Titans Texans Steelers

Bengals Panthers Rams

Packers Vikings Broncos


Giants Jets Redskins Lions

Falcons Raiders Texans Steelers

Bengals Panthers Rams

Seahawks Vikings Broncos


Cowboys Jets Redskins Lions

Falcons Raiders Texans Steelers

Ravens Panthers Rams

Packers Vikings Broncos

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