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Week One Picks and 2020 Season Predictions

September 10th, 2020

Normally, just before the NFL season gets going I spend a bit of time making fun of the whole notion of predicting the outcome of a 17-week season and four-week (well, five if you count the bye before the Super Bowl) postseason — only to go ahead and make predictions anyhow.

But there’s nothing normal about this year. Where I usually have little to go on as I try to assess five-plus months of a brutal war of attrition before it even starts, this year I have absolutely nothing to go on. I mean, there’s been some fine reporting out of training camps. So it’s not like the league is a complete mystery. But you can’t even pretend to size up a team based on secondhand information from practices. There’s been no preseason. And even if there had been, I don’t think it would have told us much. We know who’s opted out of this season. We won’t know who’s going to miss time (maybe a little, maybe a lot) due to Covid-19 until it’s happened. That goes not just for players but for coaches. And no one has any idea of how players are going to be affected by the limited preparation they’ve had for this season — or how they’re going to be affected by the pandemic itself, or the incredible period of societal upheaval we’re all living through.

So, yeah. All I can I really feel confident in predicting is disarray. I predict we’re going to see some terrible football in September. Some of it may look like good football to those who watch the games just to see offense, but most of it won’t actually be good football. I predict a lot of injuries, particularly early in the season when the first game action anyone sees is of the full-speed regular season variety. I predict strange events and confusing outcomes (or, you know, even more of these things than usual). And I predict that a lot of folks in the league, around the league, and outside of the league will pretend everything is going exactly according to plan unless and until it becomes entirely absurd to do so.

I will mimic one of my usual preseason practices, predicting a range of wins for each team. It’s just one range, though. And it’s 0-16. I’m confident every team in the NFL will win no fewer than 0 games and no more than 16. Everything in between is a possibility. That’s about as close as I can get.


Here’s what not to expect in week one.

Houston (+9) at Kansas City
In the face of abject uncertainty, the wise move is to play it safe. And safe says you don’t pick against the defending champs in the season opener. That said, nine seems excessive. Kansas City by six.

Seattle (-1.5) at Atlanta
The west-east travel factor will keep this one close. And I won’t be shocked if the Falcons come away with a win. But I’m taking the Seahawks to come out ahead by a point.

NY Jets (+6.5) at Buffalo
One of these teams finished last season looking like it was on the ascent. The other one is supposed to be getting better, but I’ve heard that story before. Like, a lot. Buffalo by four.

Chicago (+3) at Detroit
Home team by a field goal sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

Green Bay (+2.5) at Minnesota
On paper, there’s reason to think the Packers may look pretty good by the time the season wraps up (well, if it goes full length, anyhow). But there’s also reason think they may need some time to get their legs under them first. And the home team in this match, on paper, looks like they’re coming in relatively fully formed. Vikings by five.

Miami (+6.5) at New England
Losing the greatest quarterback ever to play the game arguably is not a path to improvement in the NFL. But the Patriots managed to get an outstanding replacement. I think New England might be OK. Patriots by a touchdown.

Philadelphia (-6) at Washington
The Not-Still-The-Racists still have a lot of work to do, on the field as well as off. Eagles by nine.

Las Vegas (-3) at Carolina
This Las Vegas business is going to take some getting used to. Also, I’m not sure the Panthers have a team. Do the Panthers have a team? Raiders by seven.

Indianapolis (-8) at Jacksonville
Philip Rivers has something to prove. And probably only a couple of good seasons left in him. The Jaguars have work to do — possibly in the next offseason. Colts by 10.

Cleveland (+8) at Baltimore
If I’m right and play at the start of this season favors offense even more than it does in a typical season, the Ravens should probably get off to a very fast start. Baltimore by two touchdowns.

LA Chargers (-3) at Cincinnati
I’m not sure the Chargers giving points here makes sense. Bengals by a point.

Tampa Bay (+3.5) at New Orleans
If the Saints pass rush hasn’t dropped off considerably and/or the Bucs O line hasn’t picked up considerably from what we saw last season, Tom Brady may find himself wishing he’s stayed in Foxborough by halftime. Tampa should put up some points no matter what. But maybe not quite so many as New Orleans. Saints by a field goal.

Arizona (+7) at San Francisco
Assuming the NFL season makes it to week 16, this matchup may look very different when these teams meet in Arizona in late December. Right now, I’m thinking 49ers by four.

Dallas (-3) at LA Rams
I don’t know. Cowboys by four, I guess.

Pittsburgh (-6) at NY Giants
The Giants will be good again when the Steelers aren’t good anymore. You know, in a couple of years. Pittsburgh by a touchdown.

Tennessee (-2.5) at Denver
I expect these teams to continue where they left off at the end of last season, with the Titans going in the right direction, and the Broncos going in the wrong. Tennessee by six.

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