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NFL Week 1 game picks: Packers nip Bears; Rams roll Raiders

Game day.

Haven't been able to say that for a while, huh? The Falcons and Eagles tee it up Thursday night for the first time since one of the quality games of the 2017 postseason -- a Divisional Round affair that was almost immediately overshadowed by a certain miracle in Minneapolis. Kind of a memorable ending there. But don't forget about the final set of plays in Falcons-Eagles -- a goal-to-go series that ended with Julio Jones slipping out of his break and then having the ball go through his hands. Philly's 15-10 victory kick-started the Eagles' unprecedented run to Super Bowl glory.

As Baldy shows, the Eagles earned it. Yet, you can make the argument that the Falcons challenged the champs more than the Vikings (OK, definitely) or Patriots (debate fodder).

Another Week 1 matchup -- taking place in the aforementioned Twin City -- has its own unique history ...

All in all, we have 16 games to look forward to: division matchups, fun QB duels (Watson vs. Brady!) and bouts featuring new faces in new places (... like a certain pass rusher you might be familiar with). So, take a gander below, and feel free to send your take: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Elliot Harrison went 171-96 on his predictions last season. How will he fare in 2018? His picks for Week 1 are below.


7:10 p.m. ET (ESPN) | Ford Field (Detroit)

There are a few folks who feel that the Jets will deliver an upset in Detroit. That's putting a lot of confidence in Sam Darnold, because the Lions' offense will move the ball. One of the things to watch in this matchup is the running-game mixture. Not only in how much support Todd Bowles and the staff will provide for their (uber-talented) rookie QB, but also in how the workload is split between projected RB1 Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell. That same point of interest is going on with Detroit, as well. The Lions drafted Kerryon Johnson and signed LeGarrette Blount, with Theo Riddick still contributing. If Johnson is as effective as many of his fans have predicted, Blount is a goal-line hoss and Riddick converts passing downs into first downs, this offense will hum in the Motor City.

Key matchup: Leonard Williams, vet Steve McLendon and rookie Nathan Shepherd vs. a solid Lions offensive line.

10:20 p.m. ET (ESPN) | Oakland Coliseum (Oakland, Calif.)

Did the Raiders get fleeced by the Bears in the Khalil Mack trade? Oakland fans sure seem to think so. All (financial) things considered, the trade made sense, but Mack's absence leaves the Rams with significantly fewer concerns in this game. Ask left tackle Andrew Whitworth, a star in his own right. We will see if the Rams' offense comes out slow, given that Sean McVay would've called Marc Bulger and Trung Canidate out of retirement to avoid playing Jared Goff or Todd Gurley in the preseason. Those guys should find their footing against this defense, though. Poor Derek Carr will have to throw for 360 and three scores, ultimately morphing into a one-man gang. His brother, David, used to tell me he had to do the same thing when playing the Hoth level on "Star Wars Battlefront." Totally serious stuff. In not-related news, Monday night would be a great time for Marshawn Lynch to pull a 2014 Marshawn Lynch and rack up 125 yards on the ground.


1 p.m. ET (CBS) | M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore)

This is the 16th-most-anticipated game on this week's slate. Buffalo's offensive line will have to endure an onslaught from both the Ravens' committee pass rush and a raucous opening-day crowd. On that note, Nate Peterman can ill-afford to lose his poise under pressure or dwell on mistakes, which is precisely what went awry for him against the Chargers in his first NFL start. Look for a heavy dose of Alex Collins in this game, like 20 to 25 carries' worth. Baltimore wins.

1 p.m. ET (FOX) | MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.)

Slow start for the revamped Giant offense, particularly the offensive line. The new-and-improved unit will face its toughest matchup all year right off the bat. The Jags are gonna eclipse 50 sacks again this year -- or at least they appear to be headed that direction. But make no mistake: This game is still a prime candidate for a Week 1 upset. With no Jacksonville wide receivers necessitating bracket coverage, Landon Collins should have a few opportunities for picks. Yeah, so, Blake Bortles can't be throwing much.

1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Mercedes-Benz Superdome (New Orleans)

The Saints' offense marches, albeit slowly, in this Week 1 division matchup. Tampa reworked its defensive front, which could make matters a little more difficult, especially with no Mark Ingram to soften it up. Alvin Kamara's workload should be quite heavy. And hey, Kamara fared pretty well in two games against the Bucs last season: 19 rushes for 112 yards and two touchdowns; 12 catches for 168 yards and a touchdown. Oh, and did I mention the 106-yard kickoff-return touchdown? Absolutely electric. The Bucs' RB situation? Definitely not electric.

1 p.m. ET (CBS) | Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, Mass.)

This sucker might be a track meet, not tooooo dissimilar from last year's tilt. Can Deshaun Watson pull off his insane three-touchdowns-in-every-game act again? There is plenty of concern about the Patriots' defense providing the kid with plenty of opportunities. After narrowly escaping with a win over the Texans last year, New England's defense majorly flipped the script, going from Swiss cheese to the stingiest unit in the league the rest of the season. Houston's defense will have trouble covering the Patriots' backs. Give James White 10 catches.

1 p.m. ET (FOX) | U.S. Bank Stadium (Minneapolis)

The Kirk Cousins era begins with a quality home win. Stefon Diggs will have a big game, methinks, as I don't trust the 49ers' secondary yet. Guessing Richard Sherman will see a lot of Adam Thielen. Advantage: Thielen. The real battle to watch will be DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas and that Niners defensive front against a Minnesota O-line that can be had. The outcome can't all be contingent on Jimmy G. Despite all the breathless offseason hype, he's no Steve Young -- at least, not yet.

1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Gardens, Fla.)

This is a tough game to call. The Titans are a better team overall, and especially on defense. That said, heat can be a factor in these early-season games in Florida. The Dolphins will be wearing their whites, not surprisingly. They are also better at quarterback than they were last season, when Jay Cutler was essentially removed from the booth to run this offense. A huge factor for Miami this week (and, really, this year): wide receivers Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker, who must make up for the loss of Jarvis Landry. So, basically, they need to catch 1,000 bubble screens. As far as tandems go, look for Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis to give Miami trouble.

1 p.m. ET (CBS) | Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis)

Andrew Luck is a fantastic player when right. Whether he is a shadow of -- or all of -- himself will be a large determinant in both this game and the 2018 season in Indianapolis. Thinking the Bengals' front four will be too much for the Colts' offensive line, forcing Luck to carry too much of the load by himself. Especially with LT Anthony Castonzo banged up. Cincy's receivers should make hay on those Indy corners, unless Frank Reich suddenly unveils a scary pass rush. Doubtful.

1 p.m. ET (CBS) | FirstEnergy Stadium (Cleveland)

Despite the low score, this should be an exciting deal. A big deal. One team is the traditional division powerhouse, the other a proverbial doormat that many think is about to shed that label. Both offenses have kinks to work out. The Steelers are still waiting on their queen on the chessboard, Le'Veon Bell, so it will apparently be James Conner's baby this weekend. Cleveland must prove it can get the ball down the field consistently with Tyrod Taylor at the helm. So, what makes this AFC North tussle so exhilarating? The energy in Cleveland, which I suspect will be something like this:

4:05 p.m. ET (CBS) | ROKiT Field at StubHub Center (Carson, Calif.)

Anticipate much offense in this AFC West classic. The Chiefs' offense will average 28 points per game this year, but there might be a few hiccups in what will be Patrick Mahomes' second career start. Kansas City's offensive line will have its hands full with Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram and Co., which makes Kareem Hunt an important figure in this game. (UPDATE: The Chargers announced on Friday that Bosa has been ruled out of Sunday's game with a foot injury.) If both teams enter into a track meet, it will be an advantage for Anthony Lynn's team. Chiefs safety Eric Berry is questionable to play for a defense that already has major secondary questions. (UPDATE: Berry is now listed as doubtful for the game.) The Bolts have Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams and sophomore Mike Williams, who is ready to make a mark after a lost rookie season. It should be too much for Mahomes to keep up with -- at least in Week 1.

4:25 p.m. ET (FOX) | Broncos Stadium at Mile High (Denver)

Putting much faith in the Broncos bouncing back, with little faith in the visiting Seahawks. Case Keenum should bolster the home team's chances this year after the poor quarterback play Denver produced, and received, last season. Too often the defense was asked to mitigate the negative impacts of a thoroughly compromised offense. Funny, whenever I think of Case Keenum, I think of those Case Logic CD binders for all my Faith No More LPs back in the '90s. Logic dictates Russell Wilson might have to pull a rabbit out of a hat, unless Chris Carson jump-cuts and squirts his way through the front seven.

4:25 p.m. ET (FOX) | Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, N.C.)

A familiar face to Cowboys fans will make his debut as the Panthers' OC against Dallas on Sunday. Norv Turner, a huge figure in the ascendancy of the Cowboys' offense that dominated in 1992 and '93, looks to tweak a Cam Newton-led attack. Much has been made of the QB's ability -- or inability -- to be a pocket passer. Newton could improve in that area without completely giving up the traits that have made him a tough out over the years. And he's still far superior to Dak Prescott as a complete player, regardless. Can't wait to see what Turner does with Run CMC and Greg Olsen.

4:25 p.m. ET (FOX) | State Farm Stadium (Glendale, Ariz.)

What to make of either of these teams at this moment in time? Both have fresh new quarterbacks, and fresh new running backs ... sorta. Adrian Peterson has been in the league forever and will end up in the Hall of Fame, but no one knows how much he has left in the tank. The Cardinals were without star David Johnson for almost all of last season, with a multitude of players -- including Peterson -- trying to replace him. So, does DJ make the offense as good as new, like 2016? Not exactly. Sam Bradford must prove he will go downfield. And going a sprint further ... Sans John Brown, who is the vertical guy in this offense? I'm taking the home team, especially with this being the Redskins' first game with a new QB1, RB1 and WR1.

8:20 p.m. ET (NBC) | Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wis.)

In keeping with Aaron Rodgers as my MVP pick, the 2014 and 2011 award winner takes this sucker in the waning minutes. Don't see Green Bay running much on the Chicago front seven. Jordan Howard should endure no such issues with the Pack being so thin at linebacker, but trust Green Bay's young secondary to thwart Mitch Trubisky when it counts.


8:20 p.m. ET (NBC) | Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia)

Many folks see Atlanta as a Super Bowl team. If so, the Falcons can start by getting a win against the defending champs. They lucked out in avoiding Carson Wentz for the second time in a row. The real question is whether Atlanta's offense in Year 2 of Steve Sarkisian can topple a great defense -- that got even better this offseason -- at their place. Saying no.

Historical note: The Falcons' first-ever road game, back in September of 1966, came at Philadelphia. The league's newest expansion team lost 23-10. These two have met in a few awfully big games, though. There was last year's Division Round bout with the now-famous goal-to-go sequence, and the 2004 NFC title game that sent the Eagles to their only Super Bowl under Andy Reid. Michael Vick burst on the scene in 2002 but ran into a Brian Dawkins buzz saw in the Divisional Round. Atlanta's first-ever postseason game -- a victory, on the strength of the "Grits Blitz" defense -- came against Philly back in 1978. Those pesky Falcons darn-near beat the defending champion Cowboys the next week.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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