NFL Week 1 game picks: Cardinals top Jimmy Garoppolo's Pats

Print

Panthers versus Broncos, 2.0.

Well, not really. You know by now that Trevor Siemian is starting for Denver. You also are probably aware that Carolina has its best wide receiver back in Kelvin Benjamin. That doesn't mean we aren't reliving last season.

Absolutely understand the sentiment here, but no team has repeated in over a decade. And all of the defending Super Bowl champs were much stronger at quarterback.

Yep, Jim Bob Cooter has his work cut out for him this season. Gotta say, I am big believer in Golden Tate this year.

You might be surprised by the Lions' forecast below. Or many of the picks, perhaps. As always, I try to incorporate the Twitter followers and their hot sports opinions fresh out of the oven in the Power Rankings and above: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Hey, real, meaningful professional football is here, man. Let's get to it!

Elliot Harrison went 159-108 on his predictions last season. How will he fare in the 2016 campaign? His picks for Week 1 are below.

Jameis Winston starts the season hot and the Bucs continue their winning ways against this division rival. Last year's sweep of Atlanta could've been a springboard for the Bucs. Instead, the Bucs, who were 6-6 after their second win over the Falcons, dropped four in a row to end the season. ( Thanks for the freakin' reminder, jack@#$, said about 10,000 Bucs fans one second ago.) Horrific tackling allowed Tampa to steal that second meeting, a game Atlanta should NOT have lost. ( Falcons fans just said ... OK, I'd better not type what they said.) What will this matchup bring? Hopefully a sack. Tampa Bay's pressure looked much-improved in the preseason. Improved, not gangbusters. Meanwhile, Atlanta has no pass rush. Dwight Freeney was brought in to help. He has to give the Falcons something, or they'll be forced to dedicate more personnel on the back end -- leaving running lanes for Doug Martin to exploit. #TBvsATL

For some reason, this matchup reminds me of Week 6, 1989. It was Herschel Walker's first game in purple, less than a week after the megadeal that would become famous for building the Cowboys' dynasty of the '90s. Walker ran wild, piling up 148 yards and pleasing the Minnesota home crowd to no end. Sam Bradford is facing similar circumstances, having been with the team for less than a week. Granted, running back is an easier position to adjust to than quarterback, but I'm thinking Norv Turner will simplify the approach enough for Bradford to not have to consume too much in a short amount of time. (Yes, Mike Zimmer has stated he'll wait until Sunday before announcing his starter under center -- I'm guessing it'll be the shiny new quarterback.) Incidentally, Turner was the OC on the 1992 and '93 Cowboys teams that won back-to-back Super Bowls. I love the Titans' running attack, and I like their prospects this season, but I think the Vikings' front presents a bad matchup. Fun fact: This game features the last two rushing champs, Adrian Peterson and DeMarco Murray. #MINvsTEN

The Eagles' defense looked too strong in the preseason for me to call a Browns upset here, and I think Philly will continue that trend throughout the season under new DC Jim Schwartz. But what to make of Carson Wentz, a rookie we barely saw in the preseason? Over the last 20 years, five quarterbacks have been drafted second overall: Wentz, Marcus Mariota, RGIII, Donovan McNabb and Ryan Leaf. Would you believe the latter four all won their first start? For Cleveland to win, the Isaiah Crowell- Duke Johnson concoction must take advantage of what was the worst run defense in the league last year. On that note, how do we feel about Duke as a sleeper stud this year? Browns fans? I like him. ( @HarrisonNFL) #CLEvsPHI

If the Bengals are going to win this game, A.J. Green is going to have to produce. Jeremy Hill will produce this season -- it just won't begin this week vs. the Jets' run defense. On that note, I can't wait to see what Leonard Williams is going to do with another year of seasoning. Everyone I've spoken with says he's ready to erupt. Statistically, in Todd Bowles' defense, that might not equate to 10 sacks, but it will be disruptive. When the Jets' offense is on the field, New York's wideouts vs. Cincy's DBs is the matchup to watch. Advantage: Gang Green. #CINvsNYJ

These aren't your dad's Raiders. Or your older brother Larry's Raiders. Or the Raiders of your annoying middle brother who gave up on the team sometime during the Andrew Walter era. Who remembers the dynamic days of the AW-fueled engine? Don't answer that. This 2016 Oakland offense represents a different deal altogether. Even with whatever kinks the Raiders need to work out -- like Latavius Murray capitalizing on his opportunities -- the Saints will make it easier on them. New Orleans' defense isn't there yet. Improving, but not enough to win in Week 1. That is, unless Drew Brees, Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead absolutely light it up. New Orleans' offensive line might forbid that. #OAKvsNO

This shouldn't be a barnburner at Arrowhead Stadium, unless you think Melvin Gordon and Spencer Ware are going to run wild. Jamaal Charles looks like a no-go, while San Diego hopes that Gordon and Danny Woodhead can move the chains the way Ryan Mathews and Woodhead did in 2013 under then-and-now OC Ken Whisenhunt. How much time Philip Rivers gets to throw should dictate how this game goes -- not having to face Justin Houston certainly helps San Diego's cause. Interesting games these two have played in K.C. the last few seasons. Last year, Woodhead couldn't handle that end-zone pass to decide the game. The year before, the Chiefs knocked the Chargers out of playoff contention in Week 17. In 2013, the Bolts prevailed, 41-38, in a rare shootout in this series. So I guess the point is: This matchup is worth your three hours more than the new "Star Trek" movie was. (Too much CGI.) #SDvsKC

Baltimore wins the home opener, giving fans hope of an AFC North title and playoff berth. Don't see either happening, but who wants to crap on hope in early September? Me! If the Ravens are going to win 10 games, they need to start by winning at home and taking advantage of an opponent with several missing parts on defense. It also will help if, in 2016, Baltimore can close the door on teams late. John Harbaugh's group left it cracked for everyone last season, resulting in frustrating losses at the end of games. Justin Tucker is apparently almost as good at loving him some him as he is at making clutch kicks -- so hopefully he'll win a few of these games in 2016. Predicting a rough start for the Bills, but I think Buffalo -- and particularly Tyrod Taylor -- will excel down the stretch. Rex Ryan's bunch will be one of the teams competing with the Ravens for the final wild-card spot. #BUFvsBAL

Another low-scoring affair (by modern standards) here. One of the big games last year for the Super Bowl champion Broncos was their trip to Chicago, when Brock Osweiler was able to lead Denver to a tough road win. It was Osweiler's first career start, and the calm, cool, composed 6-foot-8 QB threw two touchdown passes while posting a 127.1 passer rating. While important for Osweiler and his team, it was a huge loss for Chicago, which had clawed its way back to 4-5 after a rough start. I feel like this Week 1 matchup looms just as large for the franchise. The preseason wasn't pretty. Fans are down on Jay Cutler. A win against a viable playoff team would work wonders for morale. Crazy this-is-the-football-world-we-live-in note: Houston will be starting three guys Sunday who were Texans starters in Week 1 of 2105. Sorry, 2015 rather. Three starters from the future would be very J.J. Abrams-esque. #CHIvsHOU

I know, I know: Both of these defenses are supposed to be much better. Packers fans are honking about this being a stout enough D to win a fifth Lombardi Trophy. Jags fans think their unit is at the point now where Jacksonville can win the AFC South. On the other side of the ball, Blake Bortles led a strong offense last year that had fantasy owners crooning for him and Allen Robinson. Truth be told, the offense was only 14th in points scored. So Gus Bradley's defense is going to need to be better than merely average for the team to make the postseason for the first time since 2007. This game could go either way, but I think both offenses should be able to move the ball. Look for a slow first half, then both teams put up serious points late. #GBvsJAX

Seattle gets off to a sputtering start, then picks it up in the second half -- like so many of their victories in the Pete Carroll era. Will Adam Gase influence Ryan Tannehill's production? Everyone seems to think so. Yet, even if Tannehill performs much better, this Week 1 matchup is still a tall order. Love Arian Foster getting the starting nod, though look for the Seahawks' RB-by-committee (for now) to rule the day Sunday. Who knows, maybe Mario Williams and Ndamukong Suh will be licking their chops facing this Seahawks offensive line. They might be licking their wounds by day's end. On the subject of pass rushers: Tannehill (184) and Russell Wilson (164) are the two most-sacked QBs in the league since 2012. #MIAvsSEA

What a unique matchup this has turned out to be. Dak Prescott leaped straight from the fourth round into the starting lineup. There should be an adjustment period. Yet, the Giants' first-team offense was awful in the preseason, while Big Blue's defense is sporting several new players (including their seventh middle linebacker in as many years -- incredible not fun fact). Advantage Dallas, right? Well, not so fast. The Cowboys' defense will be operating without pass rushers Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence. This could be a track meet Sunday. Eli Manning has lost all three of his openers against the Cowboys. Tough game to call here, but thinking, with no book on Dak, the New York defense could suffer a struggle-rewski. #NYGvsDAL

Lot of settling for field goals from two teams who endured their share of struggles on offense in the preseason. Look up the word blah in the dictionary and there is probably a picture of Matthew Stafford targeting Eric Ebron in the Lions' "attack." The Colts' offense might be real fun if Andrew Luck enjoys three whole seconds to look for a receiver, or if Frank Gore isn't having to stutter-step 55 times to get through the hole. He had four carries for 6 yards the other night. #getexcited. Couple more important points here ... Indy's defense is in transition, which should assist Detroit's sputtering drives. Call me an Andrew Luck homer, but I think he is determined to put this team on his back, without running around like a linebacker to do it (and thus, staying healthy). Not fun fact: Do you realize that neither the Lions nor Colts had a 100-yard rusher the last two years. Trivia: Can you name the last RB to put up 100 yards rushing for Indianapolis? ( @HarrisonNFL) #DETvsIND

This is not indicative of a lack of faith in Jimmy Garoppolo. That said, he will be going up against a defense in which anyone can be coming from anywhere at any time. Oh, and a very motivated Chandler Jones. Although he can't be too mad. What if Belichick had sent him to Cleveland? The million-dollar question with the Patriots: How much will they run the ball (and who exactly will be doing the running)? The last time we saw them on the field for real, Tom Brady was dropping back on every play, with James White running wheel route after wheel route. Arizona wins as long as Carson Palmer doesn't force throws. And it's time for the David Johnson hype train to officially leave the station! (OK, I believe in Johnson, but my goodness, the amount of burn he got this offseason ...) #NEvsAZ

There is no question that Pittsburgh is hurting at the moment -- to what degree is the question. DeAngelo Williams proved last year that there is plenty of gas left in his tank. And it's now or never for wideout Markus Wheaton. Those two are primarily tasked with filling the void left by suspended playmakers Le'Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant. Being on the road without two key players against the defending NFC East champs presents a challenge. Stiff challenge. But at least Pittsburgh employs Williams' services. The Redskins are merely trying to find a running game. Matt Jones is banged-up. Keith Marshall landed on IR. Which leaves the possibility that undrafted Tulane product Rob Kelley will carry the load. Given Ben Roethlisberger's track record -- and the fact that we are waiting to see if Kirk Cousins continues his brilliant play from the second half of last year -- the run game is especially key for Washington. #PITvsWAS

Los Angeles should be relying on its defense to "contain" Blaine Gabbert -- do you contain Blaine Gabbert? -- brandishing a style of football reminiscent of 1986. Meanwhile, we'll get our first regular-season look at Chip Kelly's offense, San Francisco style. Most importantly, this cool West Coast rivalry is back! Speaking of 1986, Rams vs. Niners was one of the NFL's top matchups in those days. Then- Rams coach John Robinson leaned on a veteran quarterback (Steve Bartkowski) over his rookie (Jim Everett) early, and pounded the rock with a tall, incredibly gifted tailback (Eric Dickerson). In that first 1986 meeting, Jeff Kemp (former Congressman/pro quarterback Jack Kemp's son) started for the 49ers in place of Joe Montana. Kemp coincidentally had been L.A.'s QB when Dickerson posted a record 2,105 rushing yards in 1984. Could Todd Gurley approach that this year? Maybe not, but with limited options on offense, 1,800 seems reasonable. So that aforementioned 1986 game was fugly (16-13 Rams). Thinking the same deal this Monday night. What if Carlos Hyde shocks us all and steals the show? That would be awesome for the organization, and all of us fans who think we know it all going into the season. #LAvsSF

THURSDAY NIGHT'S GAME

So many storylines here ...

A) What kind of quarterback is Trevor Siemian?
B) Can the right side of the Panthers' offensive line do anything to slow down Von Miller? (And if they use a TE to help, what about DeMarcus Ware on the other side?)
C) How focused is Cam Newton, and how much of Super Bowl 50 is in the rearview?
D) Where is the Broncos' running game -- thinking offensive line here -- right now?
E) Where is the Panthers' secondary sans Josh Norman?

Really want to take Denver, but have a feeling Newton is going to surprise a few of the haters and make plays in the fourth quarter. I've heard his attitude questioned many times this offseason. Kickoff night could answer much. Still, a loss Thursday night is not devastating to either side. The Broncos' supporting cast is too damn good. And Carolina has proven to be quite resilient. #CARvsDEN

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop