Week 1 taught us a few things. First off, the Kansas City Chiefs may have the best offense in the league with quarterback Patrick Mahomes and speedy wide-out Tyreek Hill. Secondly, the Pittsburgh Steelers are experiencing dysfunction without its star running back Le’Veon Bell. To finish, the New Orleans Saints’ defense may not have recovered from the Minneapolis Miracle last postseason. With that being said, here are my five key picks, including my game to avoid, and the lock of the week.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (-4): Two of the best offenses in the NFL go head-to-head this week with the Chiefs and the Steelers. Kansas City offers the electric duo of Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt, whereas Pittsburgh counters with the always dependable Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger. Despite the dysfunction going in with tailback Le’Veon Bell, I’m choosing the Steelers here simply because they have been the Chiefs’ kryptonite for years. In fact, Kansas City has never won at Heinz Field since it opened in 2001. Steelers 38-28.
Carolina Panthers vs. Atlanta Falcons (-6): This is a huge NFC South matchup which pairs two teams that have represented the conference in two of the past three Super Bowls. This will be a highly-contested game, and it will come down to who can make the big play. In this case, I’ll go with Atlanta. However, they will not cover the six-point spread. Look for the playmaking ability from Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman to be the difference maker. Falcons win 24-21.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers (-1): Another NFC divisional matchup, this time coming from the NFC North. Both teams, Minnesota and Green Bay, are expected to make the playoffs this year. The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers may not be 100 percent going into this matchup, however, and Davonte Adams is also listed as questionable.
With that said, I feel confident by picking the Vikings to win this first matchup due to their impenetrable defense, which forced four turnovers last week. Minnesota’s ground attack will need to get going for them to win but I believe they will be able to. Vikings win 28-24.
New England Patriots vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (-1): This is a rematch of last year’s AFC title game in which the Patriots won to clinch their eighth Super Bowl berth in the Brady-Belichick era. This will be a fun matchup as both teams appear to be Super Bowl contenders once again this season. In this contest, I’ll go with New England because of the QB play of Tom Brady. Also, New England’s defense looks much improved. Patriots win 31-20.
New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys (-3): As is always the case, a huge NFC East battle looms on the upcoming Sunday slate. Both teams will need to get something out of their quarterbacks; for New York, it’s the inconsistent veteran Eli Manning and for Dallas, it’s the sporadic third-year-pro Dak Prescott. The matchup at running back is also quite intriguing between rookie Saquon Barkley (Giants) and workhorse Ezekiel Elliot (Dallas). I have the Giants taking this one thanks to their receiving core, which is heads and shoulders better than the Cowboys. Giants win 24-20.
Game to Avoid
Houston Texans (-2) vs. Tennessee Titans: This matchup is a very tricky one to predict. Both teams want to avoid a catastrophic 0-2 start, and both feature unpredictable quarterback play. There’s just too much uncertainty to pick a clear winner here.
Lock of the Week
Arizona Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Rams (-13): The Rams looked very impressive in their Week 1 showing against Oakland on Monday Night Football. They spoiled Jon Gruden’s return to the Bay area by stomping the Raiders, 33-13. With Arizona dealing with quarterback issues, as well as leaky rushing defense which surrendered 182 rushing yards last week, expect Los Angeles’ Todd Gurley to have a big day and the Rams to win big.