Schrock's Week 1 picks: Can 49ers make opening statement? originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
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Welcome back fellow gamblers, NFL fans and all-around degenerates. We made it through the harsh winter months, the NFL draft rumors, the free agent frenzy and dog days of summer back to the place where we all belong -- the NFL season.
Last year we finished green against the spread (123-113) and straight-up (152-88-1). But we need to aim a little higher. We had some lean weeks in the middle of the season, and I admittedly rode the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Chargers a little too much.
So, let's get into it. Let those winners flow.
Cowboys at Bucs
Line: Bucs -8
The Bucs brought the entire band back for a run at back-to-back titles. With an entire offseason to jell with his receiving corps and get on the same page with Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich, I expect Tom Brady and the Bucs' offense to be much better than it was last year.
Raising the banner coupled with Dallas' sieve of a secondary all points to Tampa covering and opening its repeat campaign on a high note.
Pick: Bucs 30, Cowboys 20
Cardinals at Titans
Line: Titans -3
Arthur Smith left in the offseason, but the Titans replaced him internally, hoping to keep the Derrick Henry-led train moving. Henry has carried the ball over 300 times in each of the last two seasons, and eventually, that bill comes due.
I admitted I rode the Cardinals too long last season. They started 6-3 and averaged 425 yards per game before falling flat toward the end of the season. Kliff Kingsbury needs to be more creative as a play-caller in Year 3, and going against the Titans' porous defense is a good way to experiment. Give me Arizona. I have a sickness.
Pick: Cardinals 31, Titans 30
Jaguars at Texans
Line: Jags -3
Other than Trevor Lawrence's NFL debut, there is zero reason to watch this game. Tyrod Taylor will be under center for the Texans, with Deshaun Watson inactive. Honestly, expectations are low in Houston, and rightfully so. But the Jaguars aren't exactly the 2007 Patriots, and Urban Meyer's decision to hand his passing game to Brian Schottenheimer doesn't give me the warm fuzzies.
I believe in Lawrence, but the Texans get a surprise win right out of the gate.
Pick: Texans 20, Jags 17
Jets at Panthers
Line: Panthers -5.5
The Robert Saleh era in New York opens with a matchup against the face of the last failed era in East Rutherford when they take on Sam Darnold and the Panthers.
Darnold gets a fresh start with two 1,000-yard receivers in Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore, the best offensive weapon in football in Christian McCaffrey and an innovative play-caller in Joe Brady. With revenge on his mind, Darnold lights up the Jets and gets Carolina off to a 1-0 start.
Pick: Panthers 27, Jets 20
Seahawks at Colts
Line: Seahawks -2.5
Russell Wilson and Co. open the season as 2.5-point favorites on the road against Carson Wentz and the Colts. All the Seahawks do is play one-score games, so this should be a tight affair. While all eyes will be on Wentz's Colts debut, how Jonathan Taylor runs will determine the outcome of this game.
The Seahawks had the No. 5-ranked run defense last season, but Cam Akers gauged that unit in Seattle's playoff loss to the Rams. Taylor averaged 21 carries and 140 yards over the final month of the regular season and the Colts will lean on the Wisconsin product heavily this season.
Seattle stuffs the run, gets out to a 10-point lead and Wentz can find the magic to bring the Colts all the way back.
Pick: Seahawks 27, Colts 21
Steelers at Bills
Line: Bills -6.5
These two teams met toward the end of last season, and the Bills held the Steelers to 224 total yards in a 26-15 win. Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs are back to lead an offense that ranked No. 2 in the league last year and finished 11-5 ATS.
As for the Steelers, a lot is going to rest on the right arm of 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers lost four offensive linemen, drafted running back Najee Harris, and promoted Matt Canada to offensive coordinator. Canada is Roethlisberger's guy, and the thought is the offense will be more tailored to what the veteran wants to do than in years past. But I don't think Roethlisberger has a lot left in the tank, if any, and starting in Buffalo is a brutal way to open the season. Bills make a statement.
Pick: Bills 31, Steelers 21
Eagles at Falcons
Line: Falcons -3
Two first-year head coaches taking over two of the worst teams in the NFL from a year ago.
For the Falcons, Julio Jones is gone and Kyle Pitts is the new electric offensive weapon in town. Can Arthur Smith replicate his offensive success with the Titans in Atlanta without a running back of Derrick Henry's caliber? It will be a tough ask, but I think Matt Ryan can do enough to beat the Eagles in Week 1. Where the Falcons go from there is anyone's guess.
Pick: Falcons 26, Eagles 20
Vikings at Bengals
Line: Vikings -3
The Bengals had the 29th-ranked rushing defense last season. The Vikings have Dalvin Cook. That's a bad start for the Bengals.
The Vikings have several players who are unvaccinated, which makes them a stay away from me on the betting market, but I'll take them to cover here.
Pick: Vikings 21, Bengals 13
Chargers at Football Team
Line: Pick 'em
The Football Team might have the best front four in the NFL. But can you really bet on Ryan Fitzpatrick at age 38? I can't.
In a game where I just need a win, and the Chargers are mostly healthy, I'll take the better QB. Bolts get off to a hot start.
Pick: Chargers 24, WFT 20
Broncos at Giants
Line: Broncos -3
Last season, the Giants' offense, led by Daniel Jones and Jason Garrett, ranked 31st in the NFL. Jones is entering his third season, is just 8-18 as a starter and has an ugly habit of turning the ball over. The Broncos' defense hasn't been their problem in recent seasons. Denver brought in Teddy Bridgewater to give them a veteran quarterback who won't turn the ball over.
The Giants' defense was good last year, but I don't see the law firm of Jones and Garrett finding the end zone much against Vic Fangio's defense.
Pick: Broncos 17, Giants 10
Patriots at Dolphins
Line: Patriots -3
It will be an All-Alabama affair Sunday in Foxboro when Mac Jones makes his NFL debut against Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins.
This game has all the makings of a defensive struggle as Brian Flores and Bill Belichick try to fluster the opposing quarterback on the other sideline. In nine starts last season, Tagovailoa only averaged 201.6 passing yards per game and failed to take advantage of even the weakest pass defenses *stares at Paul Guenther's Raiders secondary*
If that holds to form, the Patriots should be able to stymy Tagovailoa and give Jones enough opportunities to deliver a win.
Pick: Patriots 20, Dolphins 14
Browns at Chiefs
Line: Chiefs -6.5
The preseason darling Browns don't get thrown right into the fire in Week 1, heading back to Arrowhead Stadium, where their season ended nine months ago in the AFC Divisional Round.
You have to love what the Browns did this offseason. They looked at what they needed to try and slow down teams like the Chiefs and went to work adding on defense. Cleveland drafted cornerback Greg Newsome and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and signed John Johnson and Troy Hill in free agency. Grant Delpit is back, and the Browns added Jadeveon Clowney to their defensive line.
Likewise, the Chiefs revamped their offensive line after getting pushed around in their Super Bowl loss to the Bucs. I think this could be an AFC Championship Game preview. Browns cover, but the Chiefs survive.
Pick: Chiefs 30, Browns 28
Packers at Saints
Line: Packers -4
Sean Payton made the right call in picking Jameis Winston over Taysom Hill. But with no Michael Thomas, at least for the first six weeks, a lot will fall on Alvin Kamara's shoulders. Opening against the Packers in Jacksonville due to Hurricane Ida is a tough ask for Payton and his new quarterback.
Packers make a statement in Duval.
Pick: Packers 30, Saints 20
Bears at Rams
Line: Rams -7.5
The Matthew Stafford era is underway in Los Angeles as the Rams host Andy Dalton and the Bears to open a season they hope ends with them lifting the Lombardi Trophy in their own stadium.
With Justin Fields on the sideline, Aaron Donald and the Rams defense mercilessly hammers Dalton as LA cruises to a Week 1 win.
Pick: Rams 30, Bears 17
Ravens at Raiders
Line: Ravens -4.5
The official opening of Allegiant Stadium sees Lamar Jackson and Co. come to Sin City to face a defense that ranked 30th in points allowed last season.
Jon Gruden ejected Paul Guenther and brought in Gus Bradley. The Raiders signed Yannick Ngakoue to give them a true No. 1 pass rusher. The secondary still has a lot of question marks, but the Ravens aren't the team best-suited to take advantage of that.
If the Raiders can slow down Baltimore's ground game, which now is without J.K. Dobbins, Derek Carr will have a chance to deliver a win in front of his new home crowd for the first time. Give me the upset. Let the drinks flow on the strip.
Pick: Raiders, 27, Ravens 24
49ers at Lions
Line: 49ers -7.5
It's a big line for a team opening on the road. But the Lions might have the worst set of skill players in the NFL and have Jared Goff at QB.
The 49ers are mostly healthy and motivated to prove that their 2020 season was nothing more than a speedbump caused by injuries.
Jimmy Garoppolo announced he will be the starter, but rookie quarterback Trey Lance should get some snaps if his finger fracture is fully healed.
Dan Campbell's kneecap-biting attitude helps the Lions keep it close for a half, but the 49ers assert their will after halftime and pull away without much trouble.
Pick: 49ers 31, Lions 16