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NFL picks and predictions for Week 1

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Football is back and I could not be happier! I know many of you are really into college football, and while I enjoy channel surfing to see future NFL stars in action, it pales in comparison to the enjoyment I get from watching any NFL game.

As I have done for many years, each week, I will predict each game (straight up; I am not good enough to pick against the spread). I will also offer some commentary for each game. The only game that I do not reveal my prediction for is the one the Browns are competing in, and that is because I post that in my official preview for the game on either Friday or Saturday. Feel free to weigh in on some of the games in the comments section.

Week 1 Games Explanation Pick
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Super Bowl Re-Match: While it is exciting to kick off the 2016 NFL season with a Super Bowl rematch, the fact that Peyton Manning isn't leading the charge for Denver takes it a little bit of the flame out of this one. Yes, ultimately, last year's game (and season) for Denver was about their championship defense, but it still hasn't sunk in yet that Manning is retired. It will when we see Trevor Siemian under center.

Last year, Cam Newton had an MVP performance week in and week out until the Super Bowl. While Denver's defense will come at him again, I think in situations like this, it's more likely that a talented player like Newton will work with a gameplay that counters what went against him last year, catching the Broncos by surprise. Without having enough experience at quarterback to match the punch that Newton and the Panthers deliver, I'll go with Carolina. Panthers 23, Broncos 17

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Ravens QB Affiliates: This is a battle of former teammates -- in case you forgot, Tyrod Taylor was the backup to Joe Flacco in Baltimore before having a breakout year in Buffalo last year. Many people attribute the Ravens' poor 2015 season to injuries, and sure, that played a role. However, part of it was simply because they weren't a very good football team any more, and not a lot has changed to improve upon that perception.

Outside of Buffalo's secondary, their defense has faced suspensions, injuries, and surprise cuts leading into Week 1. The Ryan brothers being together on the same staff will be fun to see, but I think their personnel issues on defense will be too much to overcome on the road. Ravens 24, Bills 21

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It's Brock Osweiler Time: I was pretty impressed with the Texans' offense this preseason, led by Brock Osweiler. The icing on the cake is that Houston is getting J.J. Watt back in time for the opener. We don't know how effective he will be, but Chicago's doesn't have the weapons on offense or talent on defense to win many games this year. Texans 28, Bears 17

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The Offense, Minus Hue: Ken Zampese, the Bengals' quarterbacks coach from 2003-2015, takes over for Hue Jackson as the team's new offensive coordinator. One would think that a guy embedded in the system for so long would be able to make a smooth transition, but you never know. The Bengals lost two of their top three receivers this offseason to free agency: Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. They'll also be without Tyler Eifert. Their defense should still be the best in the AFC North, but I also think Reggie Nelson was a key piece on that side of the ball.

Even though Ryan Fitzpatrick held out for awhile, I don't think that'll matter come Week 1. It's the same system he played in last year, he's a veteran, and he still got a month's worth of work in. The Jets' defense should remain one of the better units in the NFL, so I'm taking them (after originally leaning toward the Bengals) in a tight one. Jets 23, Bengals 20

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Starting the Season High: The Browns and Eagles don't have high expectations this year, but one of these teams will get off to a good start as Cleveland monitors Philadelphia's record all year (due to having their first-round pick). Unlike the Rams-49ers match to end the week, this one has a compelling quarterback situation: Robert Griffin III with new life in Cleveland, and Carson Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick, making his NFL debut. My full game preview and prediction will be up Friday or Saturday.

TBA
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Rodgers With a Few More Toys: The Jaguars aren't the pushover they used to be. Blake Bortles is the real deal on offense, they've got some gritty young receivers, and they've made some significant investments in their front seven via the draft. Aaron Rodgers had Jordy Nelson back this year, though, and he also has a new toy at tight end in Jared Cook. Rodgers will take advantage of his surplus of outlets compared to last year, against a Jaguars secondary that is merely average. Packers 31, Jaguars 21

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Vikings' QB Turmoil: The Vikings' season was looking very optimistic until the season-ending injury to Teddy Bridgewater. They shipped a first-round pick to Philadelphia last week for Sam Bradford, and now Mike Zimmer won't announce the team's Week 1 starter until gameday. It'll be between Bradford and veteran Shaun Hill.

I think the Vikings have got to go with Hill this week. Minnesota has a fantastic defense and Adrian Peterson, so it's the type of game they can win with a game manager. Let Bradford get some more time in the system so you don't have him out there oblivious to what's going on. I am intrigued by Tennessee's offensive potential with Marcus Mariota, DeMarco Murray, and Derrick Henry, but their defense was too inconsistent last year for me to be sold on them just yet. Vikings 20, Titans 13

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Upset of the Week: Technically, this isn't an upset, but bear with me. When you look at teams like Oakland, Jacksonville, and Tampa Bay that have re-built pretty effectively, I think Oakland is the furthest along. I love their core offensive pieces, and they've added even more help defensively that should make them a serious threat for the AFC West title. The Saints' defense won't be vastly improved, but I'm going with a hunch that Drew Brees helps re-ignite New Orleans' offense in one of those classic shootout type of games, with the advantage to the home team. Saints 34, Raiders 31

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Former Browns on Display: For any Browns fans who happen to catch this game, it will be moderately interesting to see how Travis Benjamin does as a member of the Chargers, and Mitchell Schwartz does as a member of the Chiefs. The Chargers are coming off of a very disappointing season for a Philip Rivers-led team. Jamaal Charles won't be ready for this game, but Kansas City features a plug-and-play system with running backs, as we've seen in the past, and their defense is top-rate. The Chargers were terrible on the road a season ago, so I think we'll see a big 2015 redux with this one. Chiefs 28, Chargers 20

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Believing in Jameis: This pick has everything to do with me believing in the ability and hype of Jameis Winston, and is also meant to make up for how much I doubted this team at the beginning of last year. Things went south in a major way during the second half of the Falcons' season last year, much like they did when Kyle Shanahan was with the Browns. They've upgraded the receiver position a little and added Alex Mack at center, but I don't think their defense is good enough to contend with the Buaccaneers' big receivers. Buccaneers 27, Falcons 24

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Blowout of the Week: This will be Adam Gase's debut as the new head coach of the Miami Dolphins, but I'm just not a fan whatsoever about how this team was constructed. They have a lot of pieces on both side of the ball who have underachieved, and the wedged-together product hasn't been pretty. Seattle's defense will re-gain a bit of the edge they lost to begin last season as they rout the Dolphins. Seahawks 30, Dolphins 10

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Coin Flip: You could say that both of these teams significantly underachieved in 2015, yet the Lions and Colts still scraped their way to 7-9 and 8-8 records, respectively. One would think that Matthew Stafford and especially Andrew Luck will turn things around in 2016, but you never know with the Lions not having Calvin Johnson and the Colts still being banged up on the offensive line and in their secondary. I'll bank on Luck doing more to look like the former first overall pick. Colts 24, Lions 21

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The Newest QB Sensation: There is never a dull moment with Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys. The latest storyline has everyone buying into rookie quarterback Dak Prescott. The NFC East is the most impossible division to predict every year, and the storylines continue leading into this game. The Cowboys were 1-7 at home last year; they have a fantastic offensive line and Ezekiel Elliot; the Giants have a bolstered front seven. I'll defer to the home team here. Cowboys 24, Giants 20

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Sunday Night Football: We've got some intriguing Week 1 battles in the NFL, but the Patriots vs. Cardinals one is the Game of the Week for me. Even though Tom Brady will be absent for the Patriots, that team is a well-oiled machine going up against the best team in the NFC. Ultimately, I think the Patriots will suffer without their top quarterback, but it will be fun as hell watching what Bill Belichick devises to accommodate the situation. Cardinals 31, Patriots 24

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Monday Night Football, Part 1: In the first of two Monday Night Football games, Browns fans will have an interest as our division-rival Steelers are on the road to battle the Redskins. This is a compelling match-up -- you don't often get to see these type of AFC vs. NFC games that both feature playoff teams. Washington's pass defense should still remain a liability, and without Le'Veon Bell, I expect Ben Roethlisberger to put up big numbers (as we know he can) in another shootout-type-of-game. Steelers 31, Redskins 27

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Monday Night Football, Part 2: The Rams have Todd Gurley. Other than that, this game should be a hot mess and definitely a lowlight to cap off the week, At least it'll be late in the day where only mostly West Coasters will be subjected to it. Case Keenum vs. Blaine Gabbert is a real Week 1 quarterback match-up, though. Rams 17, 49ers 13


Survivor: I will do a survivor-type contest again each week. I'll go with the Seahawks over the Dolphins to start things off.