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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 8-17)

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Thursday, 5 September 2019

NFL Week 1 Picks 2019 (September 5-9)

Five months of Football officially started two weeks ago when the 2019 College Football season got underway, but it is the time for the professionals to take centre stage as the 2019 NFL season kicks off on Thursday 5th September.

Every team playing in Week 1 will be looking forward to being in a position to compete for the Super Bowl in South Florida on Sunday 2nd February 2020, even those who look to be tanking away the season in preparation for a much stronger 2020.

I love the excitement at this time of the year- the days are getting shorter, but Sunday's become very live with the NFL games taking place from 6pm United Kingdom time right through to 3am Monday morning. It means a lack of sleep at times, but I love the games and I am looking forward to another memorable season, the 100th in the history of the NFL which is remarkable alone.

It is much easier to enjoy the NFL when your own team is going to be absolutely awful- the Miami Dolphins have traded away every single piece of note and I would be surprised if they can do much better than 4-12 for the regular season. Much more will be expected in 2020 if they can get the Draft right next year, while there will be money to spend in Free Agency too, but for now it means having another year of pain... Which Dolphins fan isn't used to that though?!!

Personally I just hope someone can stop the New England Patriots this year- I could never cheer for a Divisional rival, but like many I can't stand much about the Patriots at all. You have to respect Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, but if they can guide the Patriots to the Super Bowl again despite all of the changes and upheaval at that team over the summer, then I don't doubt both go down as the greatest Head Coach and Quarter Back of all time.

The AFC does look a little weaker than the NFC this year when you look at the depth of teams in both Conferences, but it is the AFC who have produced the Super Bowl Champion in five of the last seven years. I think that could have something to do with the wear and tear teams pick up in the highly competitive NFC, especially through the PlayOffs, although it isn't going to be an excuse used by those teams in the National Football Conference looking to pick up the big prize.

Before I get onto my Week 1 Picks, I am just going to give you a quick run through of the Divisions and offer up my PlayOff teams from each Conference as well as the Super Bowl Winner I would be backing right now. These things change so quickly in the NFL with injuries and momentum hard to judge in September compared with the end of November, but that means I will have to have a mid-season post with newer predictions as the season develops.

AFC East- if the New England Patriots don't win this Division, even with the changes made in the off-season and the retirement of Rob Gronkowski, I will be stunned. It is a Division where the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills will show improvement, but not enough to find a Wild Card spot, while the less said about the Miami Dolphins the better.

Winner: New England Patriots

AFC North- the Cleveland Browns have plenty of fans backing them this season and the talent is there for all to see. However the Browns have not had a consistent success for so long now that they may have forgotten what it is like.

I also don't think Pittsburgh or Baltimore are as bad as some may have you believe so this is a Division from which I can see a Wild Card produced as long as the top three teams don't cannibalise one another to leave only the Division winner standing. The Cincinnati Bengals are transitioning and look short of depth on both sides of the ball.

Winner: Cleveland Browns; Wild Card: Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South- a Division was changed in all aspects by the decision of one man: Andrew Luck's retirement means there is a more open feel about the AFC South as I would have had Indianapolis as clear favourites with Luck at Quarter Back.

The Colts should still be ok, but the Houston Texans might be the team to beat if they can keep Deshaun Watson upright. He has plenty of Receiving threats to look to in the passing game and the Texans still have a decent Defensive unit even after trading away Jadeveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks.

I also expect the Jacksonville Jaguars to bounce back having failed to make the PlayOffs in 2018, the year after reaching the AFC Championship Game, while the Tennessee Titans are better than the sum of their parts. This is another Division in which all of the teams will believe they can at least lock up a Wild Card spot.

Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars (think 9-7 is enough for any team)

AFC West- the Oakland Raiders move to Las Vegas next season, but I think this could be another long season for a team still looking to be moulded in the image Jon Gruden wants. They will be challenging for the Number 1 Pick in the next Draft for much of the season.

I expect so much more from the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs and this looks a very competitive Division. Schedules are going to be key and I think the Chiefs will see off the Chargers for the AFC West crown again, although I fully expect Philip Rivers to be back in the PlayOffs.

Winner: Kansas City Chiefs; Wild Card: Los Angeles Chargers

NFC East- this has long been considered one of the premier Divisions in the NFL, but this season I can't see it being anything but a two team race between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. Both look very strong and it would surprise no one if the Week 16 game at Lincoln Field between the Cowboys and Eagles decide the fate of the NFC East.

The Giants and Redskins look to be involved in transitional seasons. Both should start rookie Quarter Backs before long and, while having some positive pieces, it is going to be a long, tough season for both.

Winner: Philadelphia Eagles; Wild Card: Dallas Cowboys

NFC North- the Detroit Lions might be about to embark in another long season and I would not be surprised if Head Coach Matt Patricia pays for it with his job at some point before the conclusion of the regular season.

Chicago might just fall back a little bit which will open the door for the Minnesota Vikings who are a team built to win now. I also expect the Green Bay Packers to be a lot better than 2018 with a new Offensive minded Head Coach and Aaron Rodgers healthier than he was a year ago.

All three teams will have Super Bowl aspirations this season and this Division is going to be a fight to the finish.

Winner: Chicago Bears; Wild Card: Green Bay Packers

NFC South- the New Orleans Saints saw their 2017 season end in heartbreaking fashion in the PlayOffs, but it was even more difficult to take at the end of the 2018 season with a botched call proving to be the pivotal moment in the NFC Championship Game.

They have shown they can bounce back, but the team looked a little shaky down the stretch and I do wonder if Drew Brees is finally showing signs of regression.

If he has the Carolina Panthers might be best placed to take advantage as long as Cam Newton is fully healthy. Atlanta are a team filled with skill players, but Defensively there are questions, while Tampa Bay are a work in progress, although a team I expect to be better than the 2018 version.

Winner: New Orleans Saints

NFC West- the return of Jimmy G from injury has made San Francisco a trendy pick to reach the PlayOffs, but I am not convinced he is 100%, at least from a mental point of view. The 49ers should be better, but Defensively there are some issues and I think they are still a season away in this Division.

Last season's Super Bowl Runner Up the Los Angeles Rams have had a few changes in personnel and also looked to be struggling in the second half of the season compared with the first half. I can see them being very vulnerable, although being in the NFC West will help.

Seattle are always there or thereabouts, but they have lost Doug Baldwin and the Offensive Line is still a problem. The Cardinals are in a transition process so this might be the weakest Division in Football which allows the Rams to earn their way back into the PlayOffs, but with a far weaker record than last season.

Winner: Los Angeles Rams

AFC Seeds: 1) New England Patriots; 2) Kansas City Chiefs; 3) Cleveland Browns; 4) Jacksonville Jaguars; 5) Pittsburgh Steelers; 6) Los Angeles Chargers.

NFC Seeds: 1) Philadelphia Eagles; 2) Chicago Bears; 3) Los Angeles Rams; 4) New Orleans Saints; 5) Dallas Cowboys; 6) Green Bay Packers

Super Bowl LIV Pick: Kansas City Chiefs over Philadelphia Eagles

Let's be honest though, those predictions can look very foolish within two weeks of the season kicking off and I think a lot of people who have put their predictions out in various forums will understand that is the way it goes.

Picking the second favourite is hardly staring out over the parapet either, but the Chiefs look like they can produce enough Offensive firepower to be the team to beat. The Philadelphia Eagles might be able to give you a better run for the money at their price for the Super Bowl, but it does look like the leading contenders are going to be hard to oppose.

A big priced team that could surprise are Jacksonville now they have Nick Foles leading the team from the Quarter Back position, but they are in a tough Division and I think at this stage it is better holding onto your outright cash and looking to see how the season goes through to Week 9 or 10 at least.

Week 1 Picks
Just like that we are into Week 1 of the 2019 NFL Season and I think it is fitting that the Chicago Bears host Green Bay in the first game of the 100th season of the League.

Those teams are meeting for the 199th and 200th time during the 2019 regular season and I think it is a very attractive opening game for the NFL with plenty of storylines and intrigue attached to it.

Last season was a good one for the NFL Picks despite some up and down moments in the last few weeks of the season. The Super Bowl winning Pick meant a profit for the 2018 season, but it wasn't as memorable as the 2013 season which has been good enough to cover the letdown in 2015 and 2016.

The last two seasons have been better, but I do want to improve the 53% winning record. Last season it was the management of the Picks that really helped, but I do see room for improvement to say the least.

Like most weeks, I am going to try and have the thread out by Thursday ahead of the start of any given Week. It may or may not include a selection from the Thursday Night Football offering and my aim is to have most Picks ready and locked in by Saturday evening or early Sunday morning.

A strong start to the season should hopefully provide the momentum to take through the 2019 season and I am looking forward to having a good one. Best of luck to everyone who is getting ready for a big season.

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears Pick: A Divisional game between two of the oldest rivals in the NFL to open the 100th season of the League should have everyone pumped for the 2019 NFL season. The Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears both look capable of being amongst the best teams in the NFL this season too which only adds to the intrigue surrounding this game and I think it is the perfectly scheduled opener for headlines to be made.

The Packers decided to remove Mike McCarthy as Head Coach after it became clear that things had become stagnant under his watch. There were clearly issues with the Head Coach and Quarter Back Aaron Rodgers who suffered only his second ever full season with a losing record as a starter for the Packers.

A 6-9-1 record and missing the PlayOffs in back to back seasons was always going to lead to some changes, but it was no less surprising to see someone like Matt LaFleur given the Head Coach role in Green Bay. There hasn't been a lot of positive history to suggest he was ready for this kind of stage, but LaFleur is in and is confident he can take the Packers Offensive unit into the 21st Century after the predictable play-calling of the former Head Coach both frustrated his players and the fans.

Getting on the same page as Aaron Rodgers immediately is going to be vital for LaFleur to show he can lead the Packers and also get the best out of a Quarter Back who has been with enough talented squads to have expected to have earned more than a single Super Bowl ring. Last season Rodgers was clearly not at 100% ever since the Week 1 game against the Chicago Bears, but that doesn't account for the fact he is 24-24-1 in his last forty-nine games as a starting Quarter Back for the Packers.

Some of that will be down to the frustration and discord between himself and Mike McCarthy, but Rodgers is going to have to trust the new Head Coach and not look to do everything himself. Being better protected will help, but the Offensive Line will also be asked to create better running lanes for Aaron Jones who should be the lead Back for the Packers.

Davante Adams should continue to be targeted heavily, but others need to step up and make the Packers that much more difficult to defend. Aaron Rodgers will need to trust those younger Receivers a little more, but I do expect to see a decent game from the Quarter Back, even against a much respected Chicago Bears team.

One player who could certainly help in the game-planning for Week 1 is new Green Bay Safety Adrian Amos who arrived from the Chicago Bears. He should have some knowledge on how to attack the players left in Chicago after Bryce Callahan also departed, but the biggest factor for the Bears Defensive unit to have a regression is the departure of Vic Fangio, the Defensive Co-Ordinator of 2018.

I still expect the Bears to have a strong Defense that can make it difficult for teams throughout the NFL, but Aaron Rodgers is the kind of Quarter Back that can expose any indecisive moments in the Secondary. Khalil Mack is going to be an issue as he was against Green Bay last season, but Rodgers should feel good about his chances of moving the chains in this difficult opener.

He will certainly be easier to believe in than Mitch Trubisky who is now in his third year as a professional in the NFL. I did think Trubisky played well last season and his 24 Touchdown passes with 12 Interceptions is not a bad record for a player who is not being asked to win games on his own, but to just avoid the really bad mistakes that can cost Chicago games.

So far it has been so good for Trubisky who is also capable of making plays with his legs which makes him a dangerous Quarter Back to face. The Offensive Line does just enough to protect Trubisky, but they are going up against an upgraded Packers Defensive Line who have signed some big time pass rushers to aid them up front.

Both Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith have been signed in Free Agency and I do think the Packers look improved with Amos now playing in the Safety position. These additions which certainly test Mitchell Trubisky and see if he has improved his accuracy to get to the Corner Backs of the Packers who are perhaps not as strong having produced just 7 Interceptions last season.

They are experienced though and Green Bay will believe they can make it very difficult for the Chicago Receivers to find separation when Trubisky does go back to throw. It may mean the Bears have to lean on rookie David Montgomery who is set to be the feature Running Back after Jordan Howard was traded away and they will be running into a Green Bay Defensive Line which has lost Mike Daniels.

Montgomery, Trubisky and Tarik Cohen should have some success running the ball, but Chicago continue to have a Kicker issue and if they get bogged down Offensively it will certainly give the Packers an edge in this one.

I have actually picked the Chicago Bears to still finish above the Green Bay Packers, but in Week 1 getting the points could be critical. I would have loved to have still been able to get the hook with the Packers, but having a full Field Goal start is still appealing in what looks like a game that could come down to a final kick to decide it.

It is difficult to ignore the fact that Chicago were 6-1 against the spread as the home favourite in 2018 and they also finished 6-0 against the spread in Divisional games. Mitchell Trubisky has a strong record at home since becoming Chicago's starting Quarter Back and he is also 7-3 against the spread as the home favourite.

However the Bears have yet to cover on Thursday Night Football and they are facing Aaron Rodgers who has a 36-29 record against the spread when playing with revenge. He hasn't always been at his best in the road underdog spot, and Green Bay have a pretty miserable recent record when playing a Conference opponent as an underdog seeking revenge, but I do think the Packers will be revitalised under a new direction and the Bears having kicking issues might be the storyline as it was at the end of the 2018 season.

The Packers were beaten here last season, but they are 16-5 against the spread in their last twenty-one games in Chicago. In recent years the road underdog spot has not been kind to Green Bay, but I think they have enough Offense here and an improved Defensive unit to keep things very close and potentially even earn the upset.

I expect the arrival of Matt LaFleur to inspire a big performance from Aaron Rodgers as Green Bay bid to turn the page on the Mike McCarthy era immediately and by taking the Divisional Champions to the brink on the road is the perfect place to do that. 

This should be a really good start to the 2019 NFL season, and I am opening up with a back of the underdog with the points, especially now low layers are giving us the hook on the Field Goal start.

Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles Pick: I am pretty high on the Philadelphia Eagles this season and I do believe we will see a team that is closer to the one that won the Super Bowl at the end of the 2017 season than the one that were 9-7 in the regular season and were beaten in the Divisional Round of the PlayOffs last time around.

Both times the Eagles have been guided by Nick Foles at Quarter Back when Carson Wentz went down with an injury, but this time there is no such backup if things go wrong for their starting Quarter Back. Foles has moved on to Jacksonville so it is imperative for Carson Wentz to have a full season having been knocked out of the last two seasons when it was magic from his backup that gave the Eagles a chance in the PlayOffs.

Much is going to depend on Wentz' health, but he can't have other excuses as he gets to play behind a very strong Offensive Line and has plenty of skilled weapons to help move the chains. A strong group of Running Backs should open things up in the passing game and Carson Wentz did have 21 Touchdown passes with just 7 Interceptions last season, while throwing for over 3000 yards before injuries got the better of him.

Running the ball against the Washington Redskins won't be easy as the strength of that team lies in the Defensive Line. However this feels like it is going to be a long season for Washington considering the Offensive growing pains they are likely to suffer through and that will keep the Defense on the field for long periods which is also going to have an impact on their ability to make the plays the talented group can.

I do like the moves Washington have made in the Secondary with Landon Collins coming in to replace Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, but Josh Norman has to rediscover his form and I do think Philadelphia's Running Backs will also cause problems in coverage and could be another method for the Eagles to move the chains against this Divisional rival.

At the end of the day I do expect the Eagles to establish some form of the run which can open things up for Carson Wentz to make big plays down the field. If he can play a clean enough game, the Eagles are going to show people why they were such big favourites in Week 1.

While I have to respect the Washington Defensive unit, I do think there is enough about this Eagles Offense to at least find a way to move the chains and score points. They might be playing with strong field position all day too because Philadelphia also boast a very strong Defense, but this is a unit going up against a Washington Offense that does not look to have the tools to be very effective consistently.

Case Keenum is most likely going to get the nod as starting Quarter Back with Alex Smith injured and I am assuming Jay Gruden having the knowledge that it could be an impossible situation to put Draft Pick Dwayne Haskins on the field. Haskins is likely going to be given a chance to learn behind the veteran Keenum, but it could be a long day for him considering the awful Offensive Line that the Redskins are going to have to use on Sunday.

To make matters worse Trent Williams continues to sit out and that means Keenum is going to have to pray the likes of Fletcher Cox take pity on him. It is unlikely with Jim Schwartz continuing as Defensive Co-Ordinator who loves to send the Defensive Line to get after the Quarter Back and the Eagles are very talented up front which should have them engulfing Keenum whenever he drops back to throw the ball.

Washington can't really rely on a running game in this one either considering the issues the Offensive Line have. Last season the Eagles held teams to 96 yards per game on the ground which was in the top ten of the NFL, and I think it is going to be very difficult for Case Keenum to move the chains and avoid turnovers.

The Eagles do want to improve on their turnover mark from last season and Jordan Reed's likely absence means the Secondary should be able to deal with all of the Receivers Washington are playing. It could be a big day for the Philadelphia Defensive unit to lay down a marker for the 2019 season.

The Redskins have lost all of the last four against the Philadelphia Eagles and failed to cover the spread in any of those defeats. All of those defeats have been by double digits so even this huge number, one I would usually skip past on an opening day Divisional matchup, is one that I believe the Eagles can and will cover.

Philadelphia are 5-1 against the spread in their last six Week 1 games and Washington are 1-5 against the spread in the same situation. Doug Pederson has gone 3-0 against the spread, while the Eagles have tended to play well as the favourite in the opening week of the season.

Even though this is a revenge game for the Redskins, Coach Pederson is 17-12 against the spread playing teams with that motivation behind them. On the other side, Jay Gruden is just 21-29 against the spread in that spot.

The only thing that is bothering me is that Case Keenum has a decent record in the road underdog role, but Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Defense play better at home and I am going to back the team I believe wins the NFC East to win in Week 1 with a strong performance on both sides of the ball.

Los Angeles Rams @ Carolina Panthers Pick: Injuries hit the Carolina Panthers hard last year and I think that is part of the reason Head Coach Ron Rivera has been given another chance with the team despite the 7-9 record in 2018. At one point the Panthers were 6-2, but Cam Newton was then banged up and they lost seven games in a row before winning in Week 17 to show the players are still very much behind their Head Coach.

A bounce back season has to be expected from the Panthers who had reached the PlayOffs in four of the previous five years and made the Super Bowl. With that in mind it is not hard to understand why Rivera avoided being given the boot, and there is a lot more positive vibes around this team going into the 2019 season with Cam Newton looking healthier.

A scare in the pre-season should not hold Newton out of this game and he is going to need all of his energy and wheels to make sure he continues to help Carolina get into a position to win games. Last season his Offensive Line gave up 32 Sacks and they are not expected to be much better in 2019 either, but Newton can scramble and take off for big gains, while he is ably supported by Christian McCaffrey in the backfield.

It is going to be a big test for the Panthers Offensive Line as they take on a much vaunted Los Angeles Defensive Line who remain strong even without Ndamukong Suh. I still don't think it will lessen the impact Aaron Donald is going to have up front, although stopping McCaffrey both as a runner and a Receiving threat is going to be difficult task for the Rams who did have issues stopping the run last season.

Christian McCaffrey is also going to be important in giving Cam Newton a safety valve by providing a mismatch in the middle of the field and I think that will be something used to open up the passing game. I am not convinced Newton has a huge outing against this LA Rams Secondary, but there are some talented Receivers around him and the Quarter Back won't be afraid to take some chances.

The Rams were a revelation in the NFL last season in Sean McVay's second season as the Head Coach and much of the attention was grabbed by an Offensive unit that ranked in the top five of Total Offense, Passing, Rushing and Points per Game. The amount of points scored makes them very dangerous and is perhaps a key reason they are favoured to win on the East Coast in Week 1, but there are some questions to answer.

Todd Gurley's health is easily the biggest question mark and taking a Running Back in the Third Round of the Draft won't have made those any easier to answer. We saw in the PlayOffs that the Rams can plug bodies in, CJ Anderson having a superb time, but the Rams Offensive Line looks weaker than a year ago and I think that is going to put additional pressure on Jared Goff and the whole Offense.

We are going to see the Offensive Line tested immediately with the likes of Bruce Irvin coming in and Brian Burns being Drafted in the First Round by the Panthers. Those are the kind of players that are expected to revitalise the pass rush and going up against this newly built Rams Offensive Line may give the Panthers the chance to rattle a fourth year Quarter Back.

I would expect Carolina to be stouter against the run too and it might take Los Angeles a little time to really get the Offensive Line on the same page. That could mean seeing Goff having to throw from third and long situations, something the Rams won't want to see too often.

It would be a surprise if Goff still wasn't able to make some plays with the talented skill players the Rams have and there being a couple of holes in the Carolina Secondary. Even then he will have to beware of turning the ball over and this should give Carolina chances of earning the upset in Week 1.

The early Eastern Time kick off is a tough spot for any West Coast team to face and Ron Rivera is 35-24 against the spread as the underdog since becoming Head Coach of the Panthers. Carolina are 5-2 against the spread as the home underdog in the last four seasons too.

Los Angeles are 8-6 against the spread as the road favourite since Sean McVay took over, but this team is off a Super Bowl loss and those teams are 5-19 against the spread in Week 1 of the following season. You have to think the Carolina Panthers are going to be highly motivated after seeing themselves as the home underdog and I also think it is better to be with the sharps on this one with bigger things expected from the Panthers in 2019 compared with 2018.

I also feel the Rams won't be as strong as 2018 and the Rams have not covered in their last five games in Carolina. I am taking the points in this one.

Baltimore Ravens @ Miami Dolphins Pick: When the initial spread came out for this game it was going to be one that I would leave alone- since then Miami have clearly shown they are a team that is not thinking about 2019 having released or traded away most of their best players in the off-season.

The latest departures are Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills who have been traded to the Houston Texans and Kiko Alonso to the New Orleans Saints, while veterans are being cut across the board. New Head Coach Brian Flores has dismissed the idea of 'tanking', but Dolphins fans around the world must be wondering if they are going to become the second team to fail to win a regular season game.

Ryan Tannehill is another who has left which means Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to be given the starting Quarter Back role and his backup will be former Number 1 Draft Pick Josh Rosen who is only entering his second year in the NFL. It says something that the Cardinals did not want to keep Rosen around and even relying on 'Fitz Magic' seems like it will be destined to go how it has at all the other teams the bearded one has Quarter Backed.

It is hard to imagine how anyone can succeed in the current climate in Miami when the players have to know this is a team not designed to win now. You have to play hard and give it your all to show you can belong in the years ahead, but Miami are going to be a mess for much of the season.

They have an Offensive Line which has lost their best player in Tunsil who was also protecting the Quarter Back's blindside, and I am not sure how they think they can improve on the 52 Sacks allowed last season. Both Tackles have left from 2018, but at least Miami are facing a Baltimore team that have lost some key contributors up front and at Linebacker which may see a decline in the number of Sacks Baltimore produce in 2019.

Much is still going to be on Fitzpatrick though as I don't believe Miami will be able to run the ball effectively in this game. Even though Eric Weddle has moved on, the Ravens still have a tough Secondary and I am not sure who is going to step up for the Dolphins and make the plays they need to keep the chains moving in this one.

In 2018 Miami were in the bottom five when it came to Total Offense and Passing Yards and finished with the sixth lowest Points per Game and I don't think there will be much improvement in any of those departments. It is going to put a lot of pressure on the Dolphins Defensive unit, but that has also been decimated from 2018 and this is the beginning of a long season for the team and the fans.

Baltimore have some issues to address too this season as they have a new look Defensive unit, while also asking Lamar Jackson to take the Offensive unit on the next step of their development. Much is going to depend on how well Jackson has improved in the passing aspect of his game, but the Ravens are confident enough to have moved on from Joe Flacco and given the young Quarter Back the keys to the team.

His Offensive Line were much happier running the ball than passing last season though and I think this is a game in which Baltimore will feel they can do what they want up front. The Miami Defensive Line has lost key players and last year they gave up 145 yards per game on the ground which was the second worst number in the NFL.

It is unlikely to be one that improves so I can expect to see Jackson and Mark Ingram have some very strong numbers on the day. I think later in the season we will get to see how much Jackson has improved as a passer, but in this one he should be comfortable playing from third and manageable situations as long as he avoids throwing at Xavien Howard.

The heat is a potential factor in Miami and it could be the biggest opponent for the Baltimore Ravens to overcome. However the Ravens should be able to control the clock and it might be the Dolphins who end up suffering if their Defensive unit has to be on the field for long periods while chasing Jackson and Ingram when they are making big gains.

Baltimore have enjoyed playing Miami with a cover in the last eight between these teams which includes five straight covers in Miami. If the Dolphins players do feel this is going to be a long season, I can imagine they are perhaps saving themselves for the big game in Week 2 against the New England Patriots which is also being hosted in South Florida and that may play a part in this game.

The Ravens are 8-1 against the spread under John Harbaugh in Week 1 when they are not playing the Denver Broncos, while they are 11-1 against the spread when playing with rest against a non-Division opponent. In recent years the Miami Dolphins have been a home underdog to respect, but I do think the Patriots game on deck can see them perhaps lose a bit of focus and it will be the rushing attack of the Ravens that can see them win this game.

Miami have made good starts in Week 1 games in recent years too, but I don't know how the players can be feeling after seeing so many big performers moved on in the last few days. I am also not a big fan backing a team who the public are pounding, but Baltimore should be able to get off to a winning start and I would be happy to take any spread under a converted Touchdown mark.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Jacksonville Jaguars Pick: They might be the team I have picked to win the Super Bowl in Miami on February 2nd 2020, but the Kansas City Chiefs might be forced into playing from 0-1 in the 2019 season. The Chiefs head to Florida to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1 of the season and I do think the hosts are a team that have all the capabilities of bouncing back after a sub-par season.

It is a surprise that Doug Marrone has kept his job as Head Coach of the Jaguars after a 5-11 season, especially as this was a team who reached the AFC Championship Game at the end of the 2017 season. Missing the PlayOffs with the talent that the Jaguars have was a huge blow and the reaction is clear as they have finally replaced Blake Bortles as the starting Quarter Back by bringing Nick Foles, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Foles is a Super Bowl winner having led the Eagles to the title over the New England Patriots at the end of the 2017 season. He is an upgrade on Bortles, especially in the system used by the Jaguars which is asking their Quarter Back not to lose games rather than going out to win them.

There is a pressure on Nick Foles with so many believing he is the missing piece of the puzzle for the Jaguars, but this team is not the Philadelphia Eagles as far as the Offensive talent is concerned. The Offensive Line gave up 53 Sacks a year ago as injury hurt them, but there is no guarantee that even getting back some starters feeling healthier is going to be enough to give Foles the time he will need to make plays down the field.

It is going to be a challenge to keep the Kansas City Chiefs Defensive Line from having their way up front if Foles is forced into obvious passing situations. There has also been a couple of upgrades made to the Secondary which means it is going to be tough for the Jaguars to win their battles if they are not able to establish the run and at least open up play-action and keep the Offense in third and manageable spots.

In 2018 the Chiefs received a lot of plaudits and I can even forgive them for some of the passing numbers against them as teams were forced to throw playing from behind. However the rush Defense was not as strong as it should be so Nick Foles could be benefit from handing the ball to Leonard Fournette who is in a contract year.

Fournette should be able to establish the run and at least help the Jaguars stay in manageable Downs and distance and it will also be key for the home team to try and control the clock and keep the Chiefs Offense baking in the Florida sun.

It is the best place to have Patrick Mahomes if you are a Jacksonville fan as the Quarter Back is one of the most dynamic of recent years. Kansas City and Andy Reid were obviously very sure of what they had at the Quarter Back position so dealt Alex Smith away and Mahomes responded with 50 Touchdown passes thrown as well as taking the Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game.

I am not anticipating a huge drop off from Mahomes who is still surrounded by some very skilled players and his ability to make plays on the run also helps the Offensive Line when it comes to pass protection. Kareem Hunt is no longer here, but Andy Reid is capable of plugging someone in at Running Back, while Tyreek Hill has avoided a suspension.

We will learn plenty about the Chiefs Offense and what they have learned from last season and what teams have learned from them when they face the Jaguars in Week 1. The Jacksonville Defensive Line is still amongst the best in the NFL and adding Josh Allen from Kentucky only makes them that much more threatening as they bid to get after Mahomes at Quarter Back.

Jalen Ramsey is one of the best Corner Backs in the NFL so there are ways they can defend some of the more talented players the Chiefs have and last season Jacksonville had one of the strongest passing Defenses in the League. They will want to at least plug the gaps up front to make sure the Chiefs are not able to establish the run, but this is a team that has enough about them to at least force this game to be very close.

Having the hook on the spread is huge which means even a Field Goal loss will see the home team cover. That is enough for me to want to be behind the Jaguars although I am going to keep stakes to a minimum for this one with the belief that the Chiefs could be the best team in the AFC.

I just feel this is a tough spot with people seemingly wanting to fall over themselves to back the Kansas City Chiefs, while I also think the Jaguars are a touch under-rated after a poor 2018. Nick Foles can avoid the mistakes which gives the Jaguars a chance in this one and I will take the points in this game too.

Tennessee Titans @ Cleveland Browns Pick: You can't deny that the Cleveland Browns have made the kind of moves that will push them the top of the thinking for many picking teams to make the PlayOffs and perhaps even a Super Bowl winner. For a team that has long been in the doldrums, the Browns have to show they don't just have the talented players, but they have a team who can work together to be successful.

It has only been two years since the Browns finished 0-16 in the NFL, but that gave them the chance to Draft Baker Mayfield and he led the team to a much more respectable 7-8-1 record in 2018. There is no doubt that Baker Mayfield can rub people up the wrong way and he has been doing that throughout his College career as well as since joining the NFL, so there will be pressure on him to deliver on the big words he continues to speak.

I don't think Mayfield himself will believe he has put any additional pressure on himself or the rest of the Browns and you can't blame someone for being confident when you think of the skilled players all around him. Odell Beckham Jr being traded for from the New York Giants was a huge move for a team who look to be in win now mode, and the addition of Kareem Hunt later this year will be another boost.

While I do think the Cleveland Browns are going to be a very productive team from an Offensive standpoint, I would be a little concerned about the Offensive Line which looks to be the weakest point of their team. They struggled in pass protection and in helping to convert third downs, while paving the way for 105 yards per game on the ground.

However these are issues that may not show up against the Tennessee Titans who are coming off a third consecutive year with at least nine wins earned. The Titans are not a team that is going to appeal from a star point of view in the same way as the Browns, but Tennessee have shown they are better than the sum of their parts.

They did earn 39 Sacks in 2018 and Cameron Wake has been signed from the Miami Dolphins to boost the pass rush, but I am not sure the Defensive Line is as deep as they would like. It might mean Baker Mayfield is given a touch more time than he might have the rest of the season, but Tennessee can still make things very difficult with the strong Secondary capable of matching up with the Receiving weapons the Browns will bring to the field.

Mike Vrabel will know the Tennessee Defensive unit gives his team a chance for an upset in Week 1, but he will also be looking for more out of the Offense. Where they were a top ten Defensive team in 2018, the Offense was ranked in the bottom ten and it is up to Marcus Mariota to finally prove that he is franchise Quarter Back Tennessee want to build around in the years ahead.

To be fair to Mariota, the Titans are a team who are looking to go back to being a power running team that will open things up for the Quarter Back. Derrick Henry showed he can be the lead back for the Titans and he is going up against a rebuilt Cleveland Defensive Line that had given up 135 yards per game on the ground in 2018, although the signings made have been with an improvement in that number on the mind.

I think the Titans will feel they can establish the run though as they are familiar with the concepts being run while Cleveland are trying to put a team together. Over the course of the season the Browns may improve, but in Week 1 I think the Titans are able to get the run going which is going to make life that much easier for Mariota.

The Quarter Back has had issues throwing the ball at times, and he comes into this season having thrown 11 Touchdown passes with 8 Interceptions last season. Marcus Mariota has to be better if the Titans are going to get back into the PlayOffs, but he might be able to have some success in this one if Henry gets going and someone can step up in his Receiving corps which is lacking the big names.

There are areas in the Linebacker area and the Secondary which can be exposed by the Titans if they are playing from third and manageable spots and that is important here. It certainly feels like it will give Tennessee the opportunity to make this a closer game than many believe and being able to oppose the public is a bonus for me.

Under Head Coach Mike Vrabel the Titans are 4-1 against the spread as an underdog against non-Division opponents. They are facing a Cleveland team who have an awful record in Week 1 straight up and who were only 1-2 against the spread as a home favourite in 2018 while dealing with the huge amount of expectation that will be on them going into this opening game

Despite being crowned by many as Divisional winners and potential Super Bowl Champions before a game has been played, Cleveland know they have plenty to prove on the field. They are playing a hardened Tennessee Titans team who will feel they have nothing to lose in Week 1 and who can control the clock and make enough plays to keep this one close.

Maybe Cleveland will make a statement by blowing out the Titans in this one, but I think it is more likely there are some early teething problems for the new look Browns. With that in mind I am taking some more points with an underdog.

MY PICKS: Green Bay Packers + 3.5 Points @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Philadelphia Eagles - 10 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Carolina Panthers + 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Baltimore Ravens - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Jacksonville Jaguars + 3.5 Points @ 1.86 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Tennessee Titans + 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Seattle Seahawks - 9.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Indianapolis Colts + 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)

Season 2018: 78-67-2, + 10.46 Units

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