Week 1 NFL game picks: Vikings nip Packers; Seahawks surprise Russell Wilson-led Broncos – NFL.com

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Gregg Rosenthal will predict every game of the 2022 NFL season, and he promises to get them all right. Check out his Week 1 picks below.
The lines provided by Caesars Sportsbook are current as of Noon ET on Thursday, Sept. 8 unless otherwise noted below.

Perhaps I’m overrating the preseason, but the Saints’ starting group looked on it when given the chance in August. Jameis Winston knows this scheme better than he did a year ago and his weapons are vastly improved. This rivalry is full of surprises, and Falcons coach Arthur Smith could have schematic tricks up his sleeve, which makes this point spread imposing. But New Orleans’ edge up front on both sides should eventually wear down Atlanta. 

The Browns are no longer that talented. They currently rank near the league’s bottom at quarterback, wide receiver, center, defensive tackle and possibly right tackle if Jack Conklin can’t get healthy. The Panthers, meanwhile, are upgrading a lot of spots just from getting back healthy players (RB Christian McCaffrey, CB Jaycee Horn) and finding a competent starting quarterback. I give them a slight edge with the caveat that I’m more confident in this game being low scoring than either team winning.

Does Chicago have enough of a pass rush to make San Francisco’s new-look offensive line look young? Could the Bears’ patchwork line have picked a worse opponent to start the season against? All of the focus on Trey Lance has generally looked past the fact that the 49ers’ defense and running game — with Lance included — can win games like this one without a lot of help from the forward pass.

I call it threading the needle when an underdog keeps it closer than the point spread without winning the game outright. The Steelers figure to be the threading-the-needle champions this season. They are going to win more games than expected because their defense still has that many dudes, is coached by Mike Tomlin and because the skill-position talent outside quarterback is undeniable. They will still come up short too often because of their quarterback. It’s a wild world when the Bengals have the more stable QB situation and more loaded overall roster in this AFC North matchup.

In a battle of two teams that did so much right this offseason, the Lions’ secondary stands out as an unaddressed area. I can’t see the unit holding up against A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert when so much attention will be paid to stopping the Eagles’ running game.

There will be blowouts in Week 1. But there’s a reason why no team is favored by more than a touchdown across the entire league; there’s so much we don’t know. Can Houston’s strange blend of seasoned professionals and youngsters coalesce early? Can Indianapolis’ offense look better than it did in the preseason? Is Shaq Leonard really going to play in this game? The Colts outscored the Texans 62-3 last season, so a score like this would mark substantial progress for Lovie Smith’s team.

Both Mike McDaniel and Matt Patricia have attempted to install similar offensive schemes this offseason. One man grew up in the system and added Tyreek Hill and Raheem Mostert to an offensive group whose team speed rivals any in football. The other man is Matt Patricia, who added DeVante Parker, a player the Dolphins were happy to give up. This is going to take Mac Jones some time.

It feels like Robert Saleh wants Joe Flacco to start this early AFC North gauntlet in the schedule, with Zach Wilson now out until Week 4, at least. We’ll see how the Jets coach feels after Sunday’s game, but don’t be surprised if Saleh’s defense turns this one close and ugly. New York’s front four could be nasty and cornerback Sauce Gardner is part of an improved back end. They’ll make Lamar Jackson earn it. 

While the Commanders’ roster has atrophied on both lines, the Jaguars have quietly built up a solid base of young talent. Keep an eye on cornerback Tyson Campbell and safety Andre Cisco here, along with how Trevor Lawrence jells with new receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones. I initially had Jacksonville winning this game, but flipped the pick when I thought about how this Washington staff is in its third season and should be further along in the program than a new Jags group, at least in Week 1.

I worry about the Giants’ defense. Their edge rushers (Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari) are already banged up. Their secondary is as thin as any in football, and their coordinator, Don Martindale, loves to leave his cornerbacks on an island. The Titans might not field an explosive attack, but they have years of experience on both sides of the ball, while the G-Men are just starting a rebuilding year.

The Cardinals drew the short straw. It’s one thing to have the superior quarterback and play-caller in a shootout. It’s another when Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid are also buttressed by superior line play on both sides of the ball. 

On paper, the biggest roster weakness on each side of the ball belongs to Vegas, as the Raiders have serious questions along the offensive line and in the secondary, two areas the Chargers can exploit. I’m optimistic Josh McDaniels’ staff will improve both units to average, and Chargers cornerback J.C. Jackson’s expected absence should help the Raiders move the ball. These two teams feel incapable of playing a boring game.

I have no clue what will happen here. That’s true of every game all season, but each week, there’s at least one game where I know how little confidence I have beforehand and would beg off a pick if not for editors. Part of the challenge here is the Packers’ offensive line. If Elgton Jenkins and David Bakhtiari play (and play well), Green Bay has the best tackle combo in football to counteract Minnesota’s edge rush duo of Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith. If not, the Vikings’ purple people could eat. 

The top two scoring teams from a season ago face budding protection problems that could slow them down. Only one of the teams, however, aggressively helped its quarterback by adding weapons this offseason. Both defensive backfields here have underrated continuity and youth, so don’t be surprised if it’s a lower-scoring game than last season’s opener, albeit with a similar result. 

Every Seahawks game this season will end 18-17, at least in Pete Carroll’s dreams. Led by a sneaky-deep group of pass rushers, the Seattle defense has a chance to hurry Russell Wilson into mistakes. The Broncos’ run defense doesn’t match up well against Rashaad Penny, but this pick is more about Carroll living out his fantasy of slowing down his former quarterback. It’s Pete’s Super Bowl, except this time he won’t pass at the goal line.

The Bills paid a premium to steal Von Miller from the Rams because Sean McDermott’s defense couldn’t get a finger on Patrick Mahomes in the playoffs. While Buffalo’s pass rush should be better, the cornerback depth chart is a legitimate weakness until Tre’Davious White is back. The defending champs should not be an underdog against anyone at home in the NFL Kickoff Game, even if they are facing the preseason Super Bowl favorites
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