NFL Week 1 game picks: Packers nip Seahawks; Cowboys win

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Week 1. Game Picks: Here.

After wondering aloud how I should get into the initial picks piece of the 2017 season, I was informed that everyone just wants to see who I am ... well ... picking. Debated spinning yarn about the showdown between Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, two guys who just so happen to hold the top two career passer ratings among tenured quarterbacks in league history. Last time this happened? Steve Young vs. Joe Montana in 1994. (I have that game on VHS or DVD, yo. Or both.) Thought about providing a written history of Giants-Cowboys openers. (But I'll save that for my TBT NFL mini-mentary.) Considered pumping up all the road teams I am favoring. (But you can just see that below.)

Bottom line: It's Week 1 of a new season, and folks just want me to get to the good stuff. NOW.

Been working on them, broham.

Get off me. I didn't pick the Lions.

That's an '83 Nissan Pulsar. Moving along ...

Much to get to below, including that Cardinals-Lions matchup, which is one of eight games where I am taking the road team. As always, your feedback is welcome: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Let's get to it!

Elliot Harrison went 179-86-2 on his predictions last season. How will he fare in the 2017 campaign? His picks for Week 1 are below.

Easily the most anticipated game of the year ...

... or not. Many prognosticators have opined about the Jets' chances of going 0-16. Don't see that happening. In fact, this face-off in Buffalo constitutes a winnable game for Todd Bowles and staff -- partly because the Bills are devoid of offensive weapons beyond LeSean McCoy. In fact, in two games versus the Jets last season, McCoy totaled 20 carries for 69 yards. New York is vulnerable through the air, which, unfortunately, is not an area of strength in Buffalo. For New York to win, offensive coordinator John Morton must get Bilal Powell and Matt Forte out in space to challenge the Bills LBs and provide Josh McCown with easy completions. Even if Forte is trade bait. Jets at Bills isn't click bait. #NYJvsBUF

This Falcons- Bears contest will be a close affair. Not only is this Atlanta's first step on what the franchise hopes is the long road back to Super Sunday, but it's the dawn of a new era in Chicago with quarterback Mike Glennon. (One of those narratives will last 16 games. The other? About half that. A free Curtis Enis road jersey to whoever can guess which is which.) Can the Bears run at will on Dan Quinn's defense? Think so, but we will see the value of the (barely talked about) Dontari Poe acquisition right away. The Falcons won't face a run game this stout until November, when they see the Panthers and Cowboys in successive weeks. Going the other way, expect Chicago's front seven to hold up fine against the run. But if the unit can't create pressure, the secondary will suffer the consequences. What I'm watching: RZ targets for Julio Jones. New OC Steve Sarkisian said he will get his stud wideout more involved in the paint. #ATLvsCHI

All things point to the Bengals winning this game:

A) They're at home.
B) Joe Flacco didn't play in the preseason, nursing his balky back.
C) A.J. Green is healthy and ready to roll.
D) A and C only.

The Ravens have already endured a ton of injuries thus far, but I can't get past how well the defense played in preseason. Nothing has jumped off the page for me concerning Cincy. John Ross is an exciting prospect, but he won't suit up. Joe Mixon isn't expected to start. And while Vontaze Burfict's presence could really enliven this AFC North dust-up, he's suspended. Think Baltimore's front seven consistently beats the Bengals' offensive line at the point of the attack. Ravens win. #BALvsCIN

This will be no cakewalk for the Steelers. Mike Tomlin's teams have played down to the competition often over the course of his decade at the helm, leading Pittsburgh fans to scratch their heads. That's not even accounting for the large discrepancy between Ben Roethlisberger's performance on the road and at home. Yet, the real storyline to watch in this game will be pitch count. What kind of workload does Le'Veon Bell receive? How many dropbacks will Hue Jackson give rookie QB DeShone Kizer to make plays? Is Martavis Bryant full-go for 40 offensive snaps? Like the Steelers, but not by much. #PITvsCLE

As much as I would like to pick the Lions at home, where they've been quite successful during Jim Caldwell's tenure, I am putting my faith in the Cardinals starting a playoff run in Week 1. Oh, and Detroit has lost its last two home openers. Arizona is coming off a disappointing 7-8-1 campaign, but bear in mind that this was just the third team since the merger in 1970 to outscore its opponents by more than 50 points and still finish with a losing record. The other two? The Steve Bartkowski-led Falcons in 1981 and this same Cards franchise in 1993. As much as I like Matthew Stafford -- Matthew Stafford with 10 healthy fingers, that is -- this Arizona defense finished last season ranked second in yards allowed, second in yards per play and first in sacks. Don't see Detroit matching the Cardinals' pass rush.

Trivia: Who was the quarterback for that aforementioned '93 Cardinals team? (Hint: He was one of the biggest acquisitions in the first year of NFL free agency.) Hit me: @HarrisonNFL. #AZvsDET

J.J. Watt's efforts as a master "coordinator" lifted spirits everywhere, but the reality is that Hurricane Harvey is a national tragedy. Football isn't changing that, but distractions are welcome in times like these, especially with Florida facing the potential impact of Hurricane Irma -- and Texans fans have eagerly anticipated Watt's return to the field. Given the emergence of Jadeveon Clowney, as well, Houston should give the Jags' offensive line fits. Blake Bortles, too. Which could (probably will) mean spotting Tom Savage the football on Jacksonville's side of the field. Jacksonville must establish Leonard Fournette early, so that play action slows the Whitney Merciluses of the world down. Doubt that'll happen. #JAXvsHOU

Boy, I like both these teams. Derek Carr is an MVP candidate. Marcus Mariota? An ascending player. By the way, Carr was baaaaaaarely superior to Mariota statistically in 2016. So why pick the Raiders on the road here? Tennessee's offensive strengths = running the football and the mobility of the quarterback. But the way to trounce Oakland is to cock the arm, not run the rock. The secondary will be the subject of Jack Del Rio's stress ball all season. The Titans could've beaten these guys last year, but they let the game get out of hand -- especially when Taylor Lewan did his best to resemble a Springer guest with personal foul-age. Solid player. Solid enough to shut out Khalil Mack? No. Raiders win a close one. #OAKvsTEN

The NFL averages about six new playoff teams a year -- and I think the Eagles could be one of them in 2017. After watching the Redskins' offense in the preseason, I'm not sure I feel the same way regarding their postseason prospects. However, I am picking the Redskins at home. While Philadelphia looks better on offense and the front seven should be fine, the secondary -- even with the addition of Ronald Darby -- needs time to gel. Thus, Cousins should capitalize, completing balls to newbie Terrelle Pryor, as well as Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder. Funny how things change, though. Last year, Matt Jones ran through Jim Schwartz's defense like it wasn't even there. Now, Jones really isn't even there. We'll see how Rob Kelley fares. #PHIvsWAS

"Tolzien!!! ... Goff!!! ... It's the NFL on CBS!!" Uhhhhhh, yeah. Welp, here we are. The Colts are rolling out a career backup who has started three games. Included in those starts: one touchdown pass, five interceptions, two double-digit losses and a tie. Scott Tolzien will be going up against what could be a formidable Rams defense -- well, especially if the unit had Aaron Donald's services. However, there is still enough talent -- particularly in the front seven -- to limit Frank Gore and the run game, putting the prospects of the road win on Tolzien's shoulders. That Rams "talent" includes the silver fox upstairs in DC Wade Phillips, who should create enough pressure in his L.A. coaching debut to smash Tolzien around before creating pure genius with his thumbs. What can I say? I enjoy @SonOfBum's tweets. Also of note: The debut of Todd Gurley in an offense that doesn't ensure he will rush for 50 yards on 20 carries. Indy will have trouble with the Rams' smooth tailback. #INDvsLA

The marquee matchup of Week 1 includes my second- and fourth-ranked teams. Of course, Seahawks-Packers won't be played on a neutral field, either. After struggling in three games versus Seattle's famed Legion of Boom from 2011 to '14, Rodgers has gone 2-0 with a 76.8 completion percentage, five touchdown passes and no picks. Worth noting that both of those games were at Lambeau. While using the classic hybrid player like Ty Montgomery forces defenses to declare intentions early, the Seahawks keep their D basic enough that I don't see them being out-schemed. Simple Simon: Rodgers must be accurate, the Seahawks safeties must bottle up Martellus Bennett and hope Davante Adams doesn't win his battles against Jeremy Lane. Oh yeah, it's the Eddie Lacy revenge game ... all five carries of it. Get excited. #SEAvsGB

Not expecting fireworks. Special teams are sure to play a significant role in this affair, with Graham Gano being the star. OK, so maybe that doesn't sell anyone on this game. How about these storylines: Cam Newton is healthy, but he threw just two passes in the preseason; Christian McCaffrey makes his official debut just down the road from where he ran through the Pac-12 in college; and a new 49ers era begins with the John Lynch-Kyle Shanahan brain trust revealing its product for the first time. I think Lynch's preferred side of the ball will show up for the Niners in this NFC battle. By the way, I own a DVD of the San Francisco home opener for Bill Walsh, who was both the Lynch and the Shanahan of the 1979 49ers (GM and head coach). Back then, the mediocre performance against Roger Staubach and the Cowboys would have never clued fans in on what was to come. Just give this new San Francisco regime some time. And give Carolina a 1-0 start. #CARvsSF

This time, Terrance Williams finds his way to the sidelines. This time, Dan Bailey hits the game winner. As stated 485 times this offseason, the Giants swept the Cowboys last season. Well, the Week 1 win at Dallas was Dak Prescott's first game. Ezekiel Elliott's, too. We now know that the latter will play, which is key in a game that could ultimately tilt the NFC East. What occurred in these two teams' second matchup from last year -- Janoris Jenkins stifling Dez Bryant -- could be the deciding factor this Sunday. Dallas' dynamic wide receiver must produce, because even if Big Blue's air game hasn't reached its heights, Eli Manning should find plenty of large windows to throw into against a young secondary with even larger room for growth. The Perkins/Gallman run game? Ehh. #NYGvsDAL

Calling a Saints road upset here. At least I think this is an upset. What did we see from the Vikings' offense in the preseason? Every unit scored except for the first-teamers. (With Sam Bradford: 12 drives, 11 punts.) From the New Orleans defense? Vast improvement, including (but not limited to) the consistent heat put on opponents' quarterbacks. Meanwhile, Minnesota's defense, which has been a certifiable strength in the Mike Zimmer era, endured a few lulls -- particularly in the secondary -- at Seattle. Keep paring this matchup down, and ultimately this NFC battle comes down to the quarterbacks: Bradford vs. Drew Brees. Eek. That said, running back Dalvin Cook could make a mark in his first official action. Ditto Saints freshman Alvin Kamara. This Peterson guy is supposed to play, as well. Wait ... is that the running back who used to play with Kyle Orton in Chicago? #NOvsMIN

Taking another road dog in this AFC West tilt. Philip Rivers and the offense appeared to be in midseason form in the preseason. Sort of. Because you know if it were actually midseason, half the Chargers team would already be on IR. Right now, Rivers and Co. are mostly healthy and will present quite a difficult matchup for the Broncos. Rivers looked fantastic in August. Denver is going younger at safety, which means TE-by-committee Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates could make hay in the red zone. Keenan Allen versus Aqib Talib represents one of the premier player matchups of the entire weekend. The key, though, will be Melvin Gordon versus a middling Broncos run defense. Push the ball between the tackles consistently, and the Von Miller-fueled pass rush slows. This wonderful Week 1 nightcap will either be decided by the Chargers' new kicker, Younghoe Koo, or the Broncos' second-year passer, Trevor Siemian, running a successful two-minute offense. #LACvsDEN

THURSDAY'S GAME

Do the Chiefs have a chance? Sure. They're also facing a Bill Belichick- Tom Brady duo that is looking to improve to 14-2 in openers. The Pats have never lost a season opener at Gillette, either (8-0). The strength of this Kansas City team is the defense's ability to wreak havoc and create short fields for the offense by way of the takeaway. That's a difficult task against Brady, who dinks and dunks and 3-yard slants his way down the field. Brady has gotten more accurate with age, consistently hitting his receivers in stride so that they can turn 5 yards into 10. When defensive backs squeeze those plays, OC Josh McDaniels punks them with a call that gets Rob Gronkowski down the seam on a safety or linebacker. Annnnnnd scene. As for K.C.'s offense, Kareem Hunt must play like a vet in his pro debut. And the Chiefs need continued growth from Tyreek Hill, who takes on the WR1 role after lighting the league on fire as a gadgety player in 2016. James White will probably catch 10 balls on the other side, negating the Kansas City pass rush. #KCvsNE

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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