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NFL picks Week 1: Welcome back to the game

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It’s Week 1. I’m already 1-0 on the season. Let’s keep this beautiful thing going.

New England Patriots v New York Giants Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

We are officially one game into the 2018 NFL season, and impressively, I’m off to a good start. Thanks to the Falcons’ offense being absolutely awful in the red zone, I’m taking a 1-0 record into the first NFL Sunday of the year.

But man, the Eagles didn’t make it easy.

Let’s paint a little picture here: About eight months ago, backup quarterback Nick Foles (who previously had never been very good, hence why he was a backup) jumped into the starting role for the Eagles, hit the ground running, turned in one of the best postseasons by a quarterback ever, threw for almost 400 yards in Super Bowl LII, tossed three touchdown passes, even caught a touchdown pass, decided not to also rush for a touchdown because that clearly would’ve been doing too much, won Philadelphia its first ever Super Bowl title and was named Super Bowl MVP. Did I miss anything?

After pulling off one of the most improbable and unexpected championship runs ever, the only thing the Eagles had to do in their 2018 season opener was cover a 2.5-point spread at home against the Falcons. To make things easier for them, there was even some crazy weather happening right before the game started, and the Falcons aren’t an outdoor team. Couldn’t be that hard, right?

Then suddenly, the Eagles went into the locker room at halftime trailing 6-3 because they couldn’t do anything right offensively, all while their home crowd booed them off the field just a matter of hours after they raised their Super Bowl banner … because, you know, Philly fans are special like that. I’ve seen plenty of Super Bowl hangovers in my time. That first half by the Eagles was about as hangover-ish as you can get. The only elements missing were Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis.

In the second half, the Eagles finally realized, oh hey, we’re the Super Bowl champions. Maybe we should play like a championship team and try to cover this spread. They even pulled off another one of those ridiculous “Philly Special” plays, which is a term that needs to be wiped from the face of the earth immediately. They took an 18-12 lead on Jay Ajayi’s second touchdown run of the game and held on for the win after, in the final seconds, Matt Ryan and the Falcons failed in the red zone for about the 15th time in the game.

To sum this game up: the first half was awful, but the second half slowly became more and more interesting as it went on, leading up to an incredible edge-of-your-seat finish. And most importantly, the Eagles came through in the end.

Now I can go into the weekend feeling good about myself and my 1-0 record, at least until Sunday gets here and I stumble to 3-11 or something like that. Welcome back, football season. You’ve been greatly missed.

Anyway, I’m here with my laptop, my iPod jamming some late night tunes, some nacho chips and Diet Mountain Dew, and I’m ready to crank out the rest of my Week 1 picks. It’s time to keep this football party rolling. As five-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady would say … LET’S GOOOOOOOO!

(Quick note: Home teams are denoted by the wonderful CAPS LOCK feature, and all lines are courtesy of OddsShark.com)

Texans (+6) over PATRIOTS

Deshaun Watson is back in action after fixing his torn ACL this offseason. Last year, as a rookie, he brought the Texans into Gillette Stadium in just the third NFL start of his career and darn near knocked off the Patriots, who just barely escaped with a 36-33 win after Brandin Cooks hauled in a go-ahead touchdown with 23 seconds left.

That was a year ago, when Tom Brady had elite targets like Cooks and Danny Amendola. This year, the Pats are depleted at the receiver position, Watson is more experienced and Houston has an amped up defense (featuring a now healthy J.J. Watt). The Texans should be better than they were last year, and the Patriots might be a little worse. I don’t see why Houston can’t cover these six points.

RAVENS (-7.5) over Bills

Say what you want about the diminishing partnership of John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco. Say what you want about Harbaugh being a humongous jerk. Say what you want about Flacco being washed up. Call for the crowning of Lamar Jackson all you want. It doesn’t change the facts.

And right now, the facts are this: there’s no way in hell the Bills are going into Baltimore with Nathan Peterman as their starting quarterback and playing a good game. Nope, nope, nope.

Bengals (-2.5) over COLTS

Here’s a game that comes close to qualifying for “definitely not worth watching” status. The only argument for watching this game would be to see what Andrew Luck has in the tank after not playing a game in almost two years.

Other than that, these are two teams that aren’t looking too interesting in 2018.

Jaguars (-3) over GIANTS

The Jags are my preseason pick to win the AFC, so there’s no way I can pick against them in the first game of the year — even if Blake Bortles is sure to lose them a couple games along the way.

With that being said, I drafted Giants rookie Saquon Barkley seventh overall in my fantasy football draft last week, so I would absolutely love to see him rush for 200 yards and five touchdowns in this game. Maybe the Giants can even try a “Philly Special” and Barkley can throw a touchdown pass to Eli Manning. Now there’s something I would pay to see.

Steelers (-4) over BROWNS

Here’s a funny story. Whenever you’re drafting for a random ESPN.com fantasy football league that you joined, there’s always that one annoying guy who is constantly messaging the entire group after every single pick acting like he’s the Michael Jordan of fantasy sports. Well this year, that annoying guy in my draft had the No. 1 pick in our draft and he used it on Le’Veon Bell.

Now I’m thoroughly enjoying the fact that the annoying guy won’t have his top pick for Week 1. Hey Le’Veon, feel free to keep holding out for as long as you feel necessary and sink this guy’s fantasy season before it even starts.

Luckily for the Steelers, they are playing the Browns this week, which is like the equivalent of a pitcher coming up to bat in National League baseball games. It’s pretty much a guaranteed out.

49ers (+6.5) over VIKINGS

Come on, chant it with me… “Jimmy G! Jimmy G! Jimmy G!”

Enough said.

SAINTS (-9.5) over Buccaneers

I thought about taking Tampa Bay in this game since the spread is so big, but then I remembered that they are without Jameis Winston for a few games, they are on the road against a Saints team that was literally seconds away from reaching the NFC Championship Game last year, and the Bucs are just a really bad team in general. I just couldn’t bring myself to take these points.

DOLPHINS (+1) over Titans

I seem to be one of the few people out there who just isn’t sold on this Titans team. Plenty of people are straight up picking Tennessee to win the AFC South, beating out two teams that should both be significantly better than them (Jacksonville and Houston), and I just really can’t see it. They are going through a coaching overhaul. Quarterback Marcus Mariota has been in the league a few years now, but he still looks incredibly shaky at times and just hasn’t really made that leap yet. The Titans beat the Chiefs in the wild card round of the playoffs last year, but that was a lucky, somewhat fluky, win if I’ve ever seen one. They may have added former Patriots Dion Lewis and Malcolm Butler, but who knows what those guys will do now that they aren’t playing for Bill Belichick anymore. I don’t know. I’m just not sold.

Trust me, I don’t plan on betting on the Dolphins very often this season. But I feel like if there was ever a time to do it — at home against an overrated team that is only favored by one point — this is it.

Chiefs (+3) over CHARGERS

That’s right, I’m grabbing the underdog on the road. Why? Because I refuse to buy into the Los Angeles Chargers, also known as the Stubhub Center Chargers, like the rest of America.

I would much rather buy into a first-year starting quarterback, Pat Mahomes, and one of the league’s truly exciting offenses: Travis Kelce, Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins etc. I’m telling you, the 2018 Chiefs are going to be a super fun team to watch, and if my preseason picks hadn’t already been set in stone before the Raiders traded Khalil Mack, I would go back and pick Kansas City to win the AFC West. That’s what I get.

PANTHERS (-3) over Cowboys

This is the season Cam Newton gets back on the horse. This is the season. Come on, Cam, I’m rooting for you.

Seahawks (+3) over BRONCOS

I’m not sure I agree with this line. I’d favor the Seahawks in this game simply for the fact that they still have Russell Wilson (the starting quarterback on my fantasy team, by the way), who is about 30 times better than any QB on Denver’s roster. I don’t care that the Broncos signed Case Keenum, who was in the NFC title game last year with the Vikings, to be their starter. He’s still Case Keenum — not really anything special — and it’s not like he’s going to magically make up for Denver’s pure lack of … well … players that make up a winning football team.

Redskins (+1) over CARDINALS

This game was set at EVEN earlier in the week, and now the Cardinals are favored -1. This is probably the toughest game of the Week 1 slate to pick. I’m pretty much stumped. I like Alex Smith, and Adrian Peterson used to be the best running back in the league. Meanwhile, on the Arizona side, I like both Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson.

Usually in this situation, I would automatically go to the home team by default, but screw it. Alex Smith is about a million times better than Sam Bradford, so I’ll take the points and go with Washington. I’m going to regret this.

Bears (+7) over PACKERS

Here we go. It’s the game of the week, complete with a Carrie Underwood introduction. Does it get any better than this?

It’s Aaron Rodgers vs. Khalil Mack. It’s Packers-Bears, live from Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, only on Sunday Night Football. This might even be DVR-worthy, as long as NBC gets rid of that goofy Green Zone and that horrendous skycam.

Jets (+6.5) over LIONS

The heralded savior of the New York Jets, Sam Darnold, gets to make history as the youngest quarterback to ever start for a team in their season opener, and he gets to do it on Monday Night Football. That’s a pretty big deal.

This will be the first test for Matt Patricia as Lions’ head coach, trying to turn around a defense that ranked 27th last year. The pressure is on you, Matt. Can you stop a rookie quarterback making his NFL debut in primetime on the road?

Rams (-4.5) over RAIDERS

Had Jon Gruden done the logical thing and not traded away arguably the best defensive player in the league last week, and then not followed that up by continuing to dismantle Oakland’s roster, then we might’ve been left with a pretty fantastic Monday night game between a pair of West Coast teams.

Instead, the Rams — in my opinion, the most complete team in the league this year — should take these 4.5 points and run wild with them. And by the time it’s all said and done, Gruden will be getting ripped to shreds on Twitter. Heck, he might even need a police escort out of the Oakland Coliseum after the game. This could get real ugly.