Steve Believes: Week 1, 2019 NFL Season

                                               The 2018 NFL regular season was a successful one for me prediction-wise, as I went 162-92-2. And with that being said, I hope 2019 at least matches that.

                                                So without further ado, here are my predictions for Week 1 of the 2019 NFL season.

                                                The matchups are listed via the bullet points and bold text below:

  • Green Bay Packers Vs. Chicago Bears-The 100th NFL season kicks off with the league’s oldest rivalry, but at Soldier Field this time around. As you all may recall, these two teams met at Lambeau Field in Week 1 last year in a game that marked Khalil Mack’s debut in a Bears uniform, as well as the Packers erasing a 20-point deficit to win 24-23. That loss, along with how the season ended for the Bears, are doubly motivating for last year’s NFC North champions. So for those two reasons, I see the Bears ruining Matt LaFleur’s head coaching debut with a punishing victory. Look for Mack to have three sacks of Aaron Rodgers.
  • Tennessee Titans Vs. Cleveland Browns-Expectations are sky high for a team that hasn’t won a season opener since 2004, along with not making the playoffs for 16 consecutive seasons. But winning five of their last seven games and acquiring Odell Beckham Jr. this off-season are valid reasons to have optimism about the Browns this upcoming season. As for the Titans, they were alive for the playoffs during Week 17 last season, only to lose 33-17 against the Indianapolis Colts, thus ending their season. Their division (AFC South) projects to be the toughest in 2019, as the Houston Texans are reigning division champions, the Jacksonville Jaguars upgrading at quarterback with Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles, and the aforementioned Colts getting stronger with the addition of Justin Houston. Wins will be hard to come by in that division, because of how damn good it is. Especially for a Titans team that I’m still trying to figure out. However, this week will be one of those wins, as the Browns will initially struggle in gelling together.
  • Baltimore Ravens Vs. Miami Dolphins-The Ravens are a little lighter this season, as they no longer have key leaders in Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Eric Weddle. Plus, they open with the very raw Lamar Jackson as their starting quarterback this season. However, they did uphold their tradition of excellent safety play, as they signed Earl Thomas this off-season. As for the Dolphins, this game marks the beginning of the Brian Flores era, as the highly-touted New England Patriots coach makes his debut as head coach in South Beach. With how strong that the Ravens defense still looks despite those three key losses and with how questionable that the Ravens offense looks, this will be an ugly and close game. And as far as who will win, I’m picking the Dolphins, as I feel that they will give an inspired performance for Coach Flores.
  • Atlanta Falcons Vs. Minnesota Vikings-Injuries weren’t kind to the Falcons last season, as they lost three major parts of their interior defense (Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen) to either season-ending or near season-ending injuries. Plus, last season marked the second consecutive one of Vic Beasley Jr. failing to come anywhere close to his 2016 sack total of 15.5. As for the Falcons offense, they were at times inept under Steve Sarkisian, as they had six games of scoring less than 20 points. Oh yeah, and those six games were all losses. However, they are poised to resemble their 2016 offense, as Dirk Koetter returns in his second stint to replace Sarkisian in the role of offensive coordinator. As for the Vikings, expectations are not as high this season, due to how they squandered their opportunity at getting the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC bracket last season. However, I can’t pick against them in home openers, as they are 3-0 in such games in U.S. Bank Stadium. Make it 4-0.
  • Buffalo Bills Vs. New York Jets-Optimism abounds for the Bills, based on ending last season on a high note, along with the draft pick of University of Houston standout defensive tackle Ed Oliver. Optimism also abounds for the Jets, as this game marks the New York Jet debuts for head coach Adam Gase, as well as prized free agent signings Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Moseley. The Bills are due for a bounce back year, but they’ll start the season 0-1, because the talents of both Bell and Moseley will help propel Gang Green to their first 1-0 start since 2015.
  • Washington Redskins Vs. Philadelphia Eagles-The last time these teams faced each other in Week 1, well that was the season that the Eagles finally won the Super Bowl. The fact that they face each other in Week 1 for the second time in three years doesn’t necessarily mean that the Eagles will win the Super Bowl this year. However, they will beat the Redskins in Week 1 for the second time in three years in the Doug Pederson era, as they just have way more talent than the Redskins on both sides of the ball.
  • Los Angeles Rams Vs. Carolina Panthers-The Super Bowl LIII runner-up opens its quest to get back to the big game in Carolina against a Panthers team that has seen the retirement of Julius Peppers, the retirement and unretirement of Ryan Kalil and the departure of Thomas Davis to the Los Angeles Chargers during the off-season. Plus, it remains to be seen how Cam Newton responds to off-season surgery of the shoulder on his throwing arm, along with a preseason left foot injury that he suffered against the New England Patriots. There are too many questions for the Panthers right now, so with that being said, I think the Rams will make Sean McVay 3-0 in Week 1 games.
  • Kansas City Chiefs Vs. Jacksonville Jaguars-The Chiefs enter Year 2 of the Patrick Mahomes era against the only team that prevented “Showtime” from throwing a touchdown pass last season. Plus, it’s the team that earned Andy Reid his first victory as Chiefs head coach. However, the defensive continuity of both Justin Houston and Eric Berry is no longer on the Chiefs roster, which is a reason why I don’t see the Chiefs winning the Super Bowl this season. They won’t beat the Jaguars, either, as I see Nick Foles lighting up a defense that will be still transitioning under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Plus, I also see Calais Campbell and that stout Jacksonville defense neutralizing Kansas City’s high-powered offense.
  • Indianapolis Colts Vs. Los Angeles Chargers-This game marks a matchup of last season’s AFC Wild Card teams, whom both are poised to win their respective divisions. However, each team has a major absence, with the Colts dealing with the surprising retirement of their best player in quarterback Andrew Luck, while the Chargers are without their all-world safety, Derwin James, for at least half of the season, due to the latter suffering a stress fracture in his right foot. Jacoby Brissett, one of the best back-up quarterbacks from last season, is now thrust into the role of starting quarterback for a Colts team that has all the pieces around him to make a Super Bowl run this season. And while I think he’ll have a much better record as a starter this year than he did in 2017, I just can’t see him beating the more seasoned veteran in Philip Rivers. So with that being said, I expect the Chargers to start the season 1-0 for the first time since 2015.
  • Cincinnati Bengals Vs. Seattle Seahawks-From a talent standpoint, the Bengals and New York Giants (more on them next) are the worst two teams in football this season. And that’s with A.J. Green on the roster of the former. However, Green will be missing this game with a severe ankle injury, thus making the Bengals the worst team heading into Week 1. The Seahawks are a different team as well, as they no longer have the Legion Of Boom, Frank Clark or Doug Baldwin. But they still have Russell Wilson, whom is 49-12 at home (including playoffs) as a starter. Make it number 50 for the man, who hails from “a whole Pack of Badgers”.
  • New York Giants Vs. Dallas Cowboys-Speaking of the Giants, it’s the fifth consecutive season in which their first road game is in Jerry World (AT&T Stadium) to take on the Cowboys. Lately, AT&T Stadium has been a house of horrors for the Giants, as they have lost five of their last six games in that stadium. Make it six of seven, because the Cowboys are head and shoulders better than the G-Men this season.
  • Detroit Lions Vs. Arizona Cardinals-Back in Week 14 last season, the Lions snapped their eight-game losing streak in the state of Arizona, by way of a 17-3 defeat of the Cardinals. As for the Cardinals, they look to start 1-0 in the Kyler Murray-Kliff Kingsbury era. Chandler Jones and Terrell Suggs paired together as bookend pass rushers have me tempted to pick the Cardinals to win against the Lions for the ninth time in ten meetings in the state of Arizona. However, the combination of Detroit’s continuity and off-season talent infusion give them the edge. So with that being said, I like the Lions to make it two in a row in the state of Arizona.
  • San Francisco 49ers Vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Expectations are high for the team that has the second most Super Bowls wins (5) in NFL history, as they welcome back Jimmy G, along with giving their Pro Bowl defensive tackle, DeForest Buckner, help on the defensive line in defensive ends Dee Ford and Nick Bosa. As for the Buccaneers, they’re on their fifth different head coach following the firing of Jon Gruden 10 years ago with Bruce Arians being the head man this time around. Arians as a regular season head coach (9-3 coaching in place of Chuck Pagano in 2012 while with the Colts) is 49-30-1, and is .500 or better in four of those such seasons. And with that being said, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Buccaneers have a record that far exceeds the lack of talent that they have on their roster by season’s end. However, I don’t see them beating a 49ers team that’s more complete than they are.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers Vs. New England Patriots-For the first time since 2009 and 2012, respectively, the Steelers open a season with no Antonio Brown and/or Le’Veon Bell on the roster, yet they also return the bulk of a roster that started out last season at 7-2-1 prior to a subsequent 2-4 skid that ended their playoff hopes. However, one of those two wins was against the Patriots, whom they defeated, 17-10, in what I thought was one of the best games of last season. As for the Patriots, they open as a Super Bowl champion for the third time in five years and have been talked about as the team to win it all again this season. However, the Steelers gained even more confidence in playing the Patriots, based on last season’s victory against them. That will carry over into this game, as I predict that they will spoil the home opener for the Super Bowl 53 champions.
  • Houston Texans Vs. New Orleans Saints-The Texans had a crazy pre-Labor Day weekend, as they acquired both Barkevious Mingo and Jacob Martin from the Seahawks in the Jadeveon Clowney trade, along with acquiring Carolos Hyde from the Chiefs, and acquiring both Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills from the Dolphins. As for the Saints, it’s their first real game since that monstrosity of an NFC Championship Game last season. There has been talk that the Saints will regress this season. However, I feel differently, as I expect them to use last season’s ending as fuel for this upcoming season. And while the Texans will play them tough even without Clowney, I just can’t see a motivated Saints team losing at home in Week 1.
  • Denver Broncos Vs. Oakland Raiders-Week 1 concludes with the same two teams that closed out last season’s Monday Night Football slate. However, new faces are on both of these teams, as the Broncos now have Joe Flacco as their starting quarterback, while the Raiders have one of the league’s best wide receivers in Antonio Brown. Plus, the Broncos have a third different head coach in four years, as Vic Fangio is the head man this time around. I’m tempted to give the Raiders the win since those will be few and far between for them this season. However, they have disaster written all over them heading into this game, whereas the Broncos will be fundamentally sound under Fangio. So with that being said, I like the Broncos in this one.