N.F.L. Week 1 Predictions: Our Picks Against the Spread


In the quiet moments before Week 1 begins in the N.F.L., every team believes it is destined for the Super Bowl. (OK, maybe not the Jaguars or the Giants, but certainly most teams.) While almost no football-related questions will be completely answered this week, as Week 1 usually has a lot more noise than signal, the mere fact that the 2020 season is on track and will proceed as planned is a thrilling development for fans who have anxiously been awaiting the sport’s return.

Here is a look at N.F.L. Week 1, with all picks made against the point spread.

Browns at Ravens, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Ravens -8 | Total: 48.5

These teams were the biggest surprises of 2019, but in very different ways. The Browns, a fashionable pick for a major breakout, fell flat on their faces. The Ravens faced some uncertainty as to whether their atypical offense could stand up throughout the regular season, but ended up dominating, setting an N.F.L. record with 3,296 rushing yards even as Lamar Jackson threw a league-leading 36 touchdown passes.

The teams split their meetings last year, with each winning one on the road in convincing fashion. But the version of the Ravens team that lost to Cleveland, 40-25, in Week 4 last season, hasn’t been seen since that game. After that wake-up call, Baltimore won the rest of their regular season games, and they should run that streak to 13 games with this one. Pick: Ravens -8

Cardinals at 49ers, 4:25 p.m., Fox

Line: 49ers -7 | Total: 47

The Cardinals were inconsistent last season, but they played their best in two games against the 49ers, giving the eventual N.F.C. champions a run for their money in both meetings. And that was before Arizona added wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who joins the aging Larry Fitzgerald in one of the more intimidating tandems in the N.F.L.

The 49ers, with center Weston Richburg expected to miss the first few weeks and wide receiver Deebo Samuel starting the season on injured reserve, are less predictable than usual. Those absences, combined with a Super Bowl hangover, make a full touchdown point spread seem a bit generous, even in a game they should be expected to win. Pick: Cardinals +7

Cowboys at Rams, 8:20 p.m., NBC

Line: Cowboys -3 | Total: 51.5

Two of the most disappointing teams in the N.F.L. last season will square off in prime time, with the vultures circling around both to pick apart their performances. Can Coach Mike McCarthy do more with Dallas’s loaded offense? Can Coach Sean McVay rebound from a 9-7 season that took a lot of the shine off his star?

The biggest problem for Los Angeles is roster turnover. Running back Todd Gurley and wide receiver Brandin Cooks are gone, and the team’s defense, even after adding cornerback Jalen Ramsey last season, has never seemed to click. With Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott motivated to make up for last season’s disaster, the Cowboys should be able to start the McCarthy era off with a road win. Pick: Cowboys -3

Raiders at Panthers, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Raiders -3 | Total: 48

The Panthers being underdogs at home is interesting, considering that quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was solid in his starts for New Orleans last year and running back Christian McCaffrey is among the best in the game. In truth, both of these teams have some talent and also plenty of flaws, so going with the home team seems wise. Pick: Panthers +3

Bears at Lions, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Lions -3 | Total: 44.5

Why did the Bears announce so early that Mitchell Trubisky had beaten out Nick Foles for the starting quarterback job? How did the team, after seeing Trubisky flail for the last few years, think this was the right move? Can Detroit find a running back? Was reimagining the Lions’ defense to better reflect Coach Matt Patricia’s priorities the necessary step to rebuild this franchise? This game could help begin to answer a lot of those questions. Pick: Bears +3

Steelers at Giants, 7:15 p.m., ESPN

Line: Steelers -5.5 | Total: 47.5

Every team needs to be felt out at the beginning of a season to get a sense of player development and player decline, but the talent imbalance between these teams is among the most extreme of this week’s games. Pittsburgh nearly made the playoffs without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger last year, and now the team gets the two-time Super Bowl winner back. The Steelers start off against a team that might be unlocked by a new coaching staff but has yet to prove it is anything but an also-ran. Pick: Steelers -5.5

Titans at Broncos, 10:10 p.m., ESPN

Line: Titans -1.5 | Total: 41.5

Denver made some good moves on offense this off-season, and appear to have the pieces in place to support quarterback Drew Lock, but with linebacker Von Miller potentially out for the season, all bets should be off on Denver until people get a chance to see them play. Losing a player of the emotional and physical value of Miller can sometimes rally a team to pick up the slack, but it is more likely to deflate the Broncos like a balloon. Pick: Titans -1.5



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