Welcome another edition of Justin Hier’s weekly Game Previews and Predictions!
Week 1 came by in a flash and gave us multiple high profile NFL games to satiate our football appetite following a long offseason and relatively dull preseason. Now that the regular season is finally well underway (and our Miami Dolphins will finally have a game to play), it’s time for another set of Game Previews and Predictions.
Each week of the NFL season, I’ll be giving you a sneak peak of the action ahead, as well as my own forecast for the outcome of each contest. Feel free to leave your own predictions and opinions in the comments below!
Week 1 prediction record: 10-5
2017 Season prediction record: 10-5
Houston Texans (0-1) @ Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) - 8:25 pm ET on NFLN
Week 2’s Thursday night matchup doesn’t look to have the same flare that Kansas City at New England did in this year’s season opener, as the two teams highlighting this matchup scored seven points combined last week. However, the fact that Deshaun Watson will get his first start in an NFL regular season game certainly gives viewers plenty of reason to tune into this contest.
Score prediction: Houston 20 - 13 Cincinnati
Cleveland Browns (0-1) @ Baltimore Ravens (1-0) - 1:00 pm ET on CBS
Divisional matchups are never as straightforward as they might initially seem, a fact that was clearly evidenced by Big Ben and co. just barely eeking out a win in Cleveland last Sunday. However, moving the ball against Baltimore’s formidable defense, one anchored by the ageless Terrell Suggs, will be no easy task for rookie passer DeShone Kizer. Cleveland’s front office put considerable funds into a revamped offensive line, and that unit will have to perform at an unbelievably high level to give their team a chance in this ballgame.
On the Ravens’ side, Joe Flacco’s backfield will need to play up to par with Danny Woodhead sidelined by a hamstring injury for the next few weeks. This coaching staff seems adamant about finally committing to the run game, something Flacco and his ailing back sorely need in order to have a balanced attack on offense.
Score prediction: Baltimore 24 - 14 Cleveland
Chicago Bears (0-1) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) - 1:00 pm ET on FOX
Chicago put up a much tougher fight than many would have expected against the NFC Champion Falcons. However, the state of their passing game is still cause for concern now that the team has lost both Cameron Meredith and Kevin White to serious injuries. Mike Glennon may not have been spectacular last Sunday, but it seems unfair to judge the long-time backup without a decent cast of weapons to throw to. The emergence of rookie runner Tarik Cohen should at least take some of the burden away from the team’s lackluster receiving corps.
The Buccaneers who have been waiting to make their season debut after having their Week 1 matchup against Miami postponed due to Hurricane Irma. Many have the Bucs pegged as a sleeper team that could make some real noise in the 2017-2018 playoffs, and their home opener against the Bears will be their first step in proving the pundits right.
Score prediction: Tampa Bay 27 - 20 Chicago
Minnesota Vikings (1-0) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) - 1:00 pm ET on FOX
The Vikings are coming off of a convincing win against New Orleans, while the Steelers are coming off of a win in which they barely scraped by one of the last year’s weakest teams.
For the Vikings to come out victorious in this contest, keeping Sam Bradford upright is a must. Bradford displayed to the entire league how competent he can be when he has quality blocking up front, and his bevy of weapons showed they can be more than capable offensive playmakers when paired with decent quarterback play. The Steelers, on the other hand, need to get Le’Veon Bell going. Bell accumulated a measly 32 yards on 10 carries last week. That won’t be enough against a revitalized Vikings squad.
Score prediction: Pittsburgh 28 - 24 Minnesota
New England Patriots (0-1) @ New Orleans Saints (0-1) - 1:00 pm ET on CBS
The Patriots failed to show up for their home opener in Foxborough last week, an extremely rare occurrence for a Belichick-Brady led unit. Anybody who’s been following the NFL for any extended period of time will know that Bill Belichick will not take this loss lightly, and will have his Patriots ready and raring to go in New Orleans this Sunday. Tom Brady specifically will look to get back on track this week. Even without Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, and possibly Danny Amendola, expect Brady to carve up New Orleans’ paltry secondary. This matchup will be a shootout, but I foresee the Patriots coming out on top.
Score prediction: New England 35 - 27 New Orleans
Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) @ Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) - 1:00 pm ET on FOX
This is easily one of the most underrated games of the week. The Eagles put up a solid showing against a good Redskins team to open the season, and Carson Wentz showed a steady chemistry with his revamped receiving corps. Alex Smith was even more impressive in his season debut against the Patriots, putting up historical numbers against a usually stingy New England defense. Both quarterbacks will look to use this ballgame as a way to cement their status as franchise quarterbacks, especially given the fact that Smith will need to fight off a younger passer to keep his job a little ways down the road.
Score prediction: Kansas City 30 - 28 Philadelphia
Tennessee Titans (0-1) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) - 1:00 pm ET on CBS
The Jaguars stunned the football world last Sunday with a 29-7 beatdown of their AFC South rival Houston Texans. Jacksonville’s defense, which looked like one of the league’s better units on paper, came together as a dominant force both up front and on the perimeter. Doug Marrone’s defense will need to play up to similar standards this week, as Tennessee’s dangerous rushing duo of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry come to town and look to bounce back after falling to Oakland last week.
The Jaguars will continue to ride Leonard Fournette on offense as Blake Bortles continues to just barely hold on to his position as the Jaguars’ starting quarterback.
Score prediction: Tennessee 24 - 20 Jacksonville
Arizona Cardinals (0-1) @ Indianapolis Colts (0-1) - 1:00 pm ET on FOX
This game could have been much more exciting had both teams still had their best players healthy and on the field. Unfortunately, neither David Johnson nor Andrew Luck will be suiting up for this contest, meaning their supporting casts will have to step up to earn a win. When you add it all up, I’d much prefer to put my chips behind Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, and Andre Ellington than Scott Tolzein, Jacoby Brissett, and an aging Frank Gore.
Score prediction: Arizona 23 - 13 Indianapolis
Buffalo Bills (1-0) @ Carolina Panthers (1-0) - 1:00 pm ET on CBS
The Bills may be leading the AFC East, but that doesn’t mean much when they beat the league’s worst team in the Jets and the Dolphins didn’t even get to play last week. Now they’ll face some real competition in a Panthers team that is looking to prove last season’s 6-10 finish was an anomaly. If Cam Newton can play better than his poor showing against San Francisco last week and the Jonathan Stewart-Christian McCaffrey combo can run the rock with consistency, the Panthers should thoroughly outdo the Bills depleted offense.
Score prediction: Carolina 27 - 17 Buffalo
New York Jets (0-1) @ Oakland Raiders (1-0) - 4:05 pm ET on CBS
The Jets are in line to be one of the league’s worst teams this season, and playing a Super Bowl contender in the Oakland Raiders won’t make it any easier for this beleaguered squad to get their first win. Outside of rookie safety Jamaal Adams, the Jets’ secondary is an absolute mess, meaning Derek Carr and his top tier wide receiver duo will likely go to work in an all out ariel siege. This should be a high scoring affair, albeit a one-sided one.
Score prediction: Oakland 31 - 13 New York
Miami Dolphins (0-0) @ Los Angeles Chargers (0-1) - 4:05 pm ET on CBS
The Chargers put up a good fight against their AFC West rival Broncos last week, coming a blocked kick away from a truly excellent comeback. Now they head back to Los Angeles for their home opener in the 27,000 seat StubHub Center to host the Dolphins who have yet to even play a football game so far this regular season.
After having their own home opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers postponed until Week 11 due to the effects of Hurricane Irma, Adam Gase’s squad is raring to get on the football field. Their extra week of practice may even be a blessing in disguise, as Jay Cutler has now had extra time to get acclimated to his new team and new set of receivers. The past two months have been anything but ideal for our aqua-and-orange clad Dolphins, but if anyone can push their team to overcome adversity, it’s Adam Gase.
Score prediction: Dolphins 27- 24 Chargers
San Francisco 49ers (0-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (0-1) - 4:25 pm ET on FOX
Both the 49ers and Seahawks had plenty of trouble moving the ball on offense last Sunday, and both units will attempt to correct course in Seattle this weekend. For the 49ers, that task will be far more difficult against Seattle’s vaunted defensive front, while Russell Wilson and co. should have an easier time facing San Francisco’s rebuilding secondary.
The true test will come in the trenches. Wilson’s offensive line had plenty of trouble keeping the sixth-year passer upright against Green Bay, while the 49ers’ offensive line yielded four sacks against Carolina. Brian Hoyer better be ready to get the ball out quick, or else Michael Bennett, Sheldon Richardson, and Cliff Avril will look to feast on the veteran QB.
Score prediction: Seattle 23 - 14 San Francisco
Washington Redskins (0-1) @ Los Angeles Rams (1-0) - 4:25 pm ET on FOX
Jared Goff will attempt to build off of last week’s stellar opening performance against the Colts, but will now go up against Josh Norman and the rest of the Redskins secondary. After leading last season’s worst offense, Goff seems more comfortable in an attack now run by new Head Coach Sean McVay. The second year quarterback finally has some playmakers around him too, as the Rams brought in Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp this offseason.
The Redskins put up a good fight against their NFC East rival Eagles last weekend, but their offense, and more specifically, their highly paid quarterback, will need to perform better against a fearsome Wade Phillips run defense in order to come out with a win this Sunday.
Score prediction: Washington 21 - 20 Los Angeles
Dallas Cowboys (1-0) @ Denver Broncos (1-0) - 4:25 pm ET on FOX
The Cowboys are fresh off defeating one of the league’s most imposing defenses. Let’s hope they took some notes because they will now face another of the top defensive units in the NFL: the No Fly Zone.
Denver’s defense did an excellent job of shutting down Philip Rivers and the Chargers before its offense committed a few back breaking turnovers. The Cowboys defense, on the other hand, did a great job of shutting down Eli Manning last weekend, although Manning was without Odell Beckham Jr. for that contest. Dallas’ key to winning this game will be riding the back of Ezekiel Elliot, while Denver’s key will be shutting Elliot down.
Score prediction: Dallas 24 - 17 Denver
Green Bay Packers (1-0) @ Atlanta Falcons (1-0) - 8:30 pm ET on NBC
Shootout alert! This game could easily be one of the highest scoring ballgames of the week. Two of last year’s most impressive offenses, captained by two of the league’s best passers, will look to run up the score in a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship Game.
Now that the Packers finally have a healthier secondary, the Cheeseheads will be able to give Ryan more of a challenge compared to the swiss cheese (see what I did there) defensive backfield that the Falcons faced back in January. The better performing quarterback should come out on top in this contest.
Score prediction: Green Bay 35 - 31 Atlanta
Detroit Lions (1-0) @ New York Giants (0-1) - 8:30 pm ET on ESPN
Eli Manning better hope Odell Beckham is back and healthy for this game, because the veteran QB was simply unable to move the ball without his star receiver. The Giants also need to find some semblance of a running game if they want to go anywhere this season. A top tier defense can only take a team so far without any help from the offense.
Matthew Stafford faces another tough test this week after overcoming Arizona’s impressive secondary to open the season. It’s time to see if the league’s newly minted highest paid quarterback can consistently win games for his team after a very impressive 2016.
Score prediction: Detroit 24 - 20 New York