NFL Picks: Tom Brady will beat Dak Prescott in NFL kick-off
In Week 1 of NFL 2021 only three teams have been marked favorites by a touchdown or more: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-8), LA Rams (-7.5) and the 49ers (-7.5).
Few things make me this happy. It’s football season! Can you feel it? Are you ready?
The NFL is back and that means my picks are back.
So, just relax, take a note or two and follow your, ahem, our instinct.
In Week 1 only three teams have been marked as favorites by a touchdown or more: Tampa Bay (-8), the Rams (-7.5) and the 49ers (-7.5), which means that, at least in Las Vegas, a lot of close games are expected from day 1.
This is the norm in the NFL. In 2020, for example, 70 percent of regular season games (179 of 256) reached the fourth quarter with a score difference of eight points or less.
It's the second highest in league history, but that was in a year where very few fans were able to enter stadiums, for reasons we all know. F*** Y** covid-19!
In 2021, full stadiums return to the NFL, a very important factor for us in the picks factory.
Home teams finished with a combined record of 127-128-1 last season, the worst ever (6-6 in the Playoffs, not including the Super Bowl).
With fans in the stadiums, I hope a dramatic change that will benefit home teams and life in the NFL will be “normal” again.
Now, it is time for the picks...
GAME OF THE WEEK
Dallas at Tampa Bay (-8)
The NFL has built part of its rich history on tradition. There is Monday Night Football, the games on Thanksgiving, Sunday Night and, since 2004, a special Thursday game to kickoff the season with the Super Bowl champions on stage.
Tom Brady has four of those games on his resume, all with the Patriots, and his record is 3-1. He won games in 2004 (New England 27-24 Indianapolis), 2005 (New England 30-20 Oakland) and 2015 (New England 28-21 Pittsburgh); the loss came in 2017, when the Chiefs defeated the Patriots, 42-27 at Foxborough.
Now Brady makes his debut on Kickoff Thursday with the Buccaneers, a team that begins the 2021 season with the 22 starters that won Super Bowl LV, the first champion to do so in the salary cap era.
Although "TB12" is the new face of the franchise, the defense of the Bucs is the key for this team to be able to repeat in the Super Bowl. Including Playoffs, Tampa Bay led the NFL with 34 takeaways (including 22 interceptions); third with 55 sacks; second with 133 hits to quarterbacks, and second with 103 tackles for loss of yards.
So Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh and Lavonte David have not hosted a welcome party tonight for Dak Prescott, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback who will try to put a pause on the buzz around the Bucs' “repeat” season.
Prescott is returning to a regular season game for the first time since October 11, 2020, when he broke his foot in the game against the Giants.
The plan was for Dak, who signed a four-year, $160 million contract extension in March, to play in the preseason, but during training camp he suffered a muscle injury in his right shoulder and the Cowboys have been very cautelous with him ever since.
Prescott commands a Dallas offense that will miss guard Zach Martin (COVID-19), but has the cannons to counter Brady's buccaneer ship.
Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup are a formidable group of wide receivers, and in the backfield the Cowboys have Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.
"Zeke" is coming off his worst season in the NFL, and not just because of his 979 yards, but because of those six inopportune fumbles.
When the Bucs have the ball, immediate improvement is expected in Dallas' defense, a headache for coach Mike McCarthy.
Jerry Jones hired Dan Quinn (former defensive coordinator in Seattle) to take charge of his defense and in the Draft the Cowboys used their first six picks on defensive players, including linebacker Micah Parsons, who showed good things in the preseason and is an automatic starter.
Parsons will make an interesting LB duo in Dallas with Jaylon Smith, second in the NFL last season with 154 tackles.
Trevon Diggs, who was second among rookie defensive backs with 14 passes defended, will have a busy night with the Bucs' wide receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown.
The pick: The Bucs last lost on November 29 (27-24 to Kansas City) and since then Tom Brady has thrown 22 touchdown passes against just four interceptions. Dallas has the arsenal, but Tampa Bay is a more than solid team on both sides of the ball. Buccaneers 31-24 Cowboys
Miami at New England (-3)
Against the renewed defense of Bill Belichick, it will be Tua Tagovailoa who will look like a rookie at Foxborough. Patriots 20-10 Dolphins
Los Angeles Chargers (-1) at Washington
Offensive Rookie of the Year (Justin Herbert) vs. Defensive Rookie of the Year (Chase Young)? My pick is Ryan Fitzpatrick. WFT 23-20 Chargers
TWO MINUTE DRILL
Philadelphia at Atlanta (-3.5)
Both teams are rebuilding, but only one of them has a reliable quarterback. Falcons 24-19 Eagles
Pittsburgh at Buffalo (-6.5)
With or without TJ Watt, the Pittsburgh defense is not going to have a good time with my MVP candidate, Josh Allen. Bills 27-17 Steelers
New York Jets at Carolina (-5)
Sam Darnold begins his "second chance" in the NFL against his former team, now in the hands of an excellent rookie QB. Panthers 28-20 Jets
Minnesota (-3.5) at Cincinnati
Joe Burrow returns after a ligament injury and does so alongside Ja'Marr Chase, his best wide receiver at LSU. Bengals 24-21 Vikings
San Francisco (-7.5) at Detroit
The opening of coach Kyle Shanahan’s circus, who will alternate Jimmy Garoppolo with rookie Trey Lance. 49ers 31-17 Lions
Jacksonville (-3) at Houston
This is one of the few games Houston can win in 2021: on rookie Trevor Lawrence's debut. Texans 19-17 Jaguars
Seattle (-2.5) at Indianapolis
Carson Wentz will make Indianapolis a very competitive team; Russell Wilson has made Seattle a contender. Seahawks 26-23 Colts
Arizona in Tennessee (-3)
Who else can't wait to see Julio Jones debut in Tennessee? Titans 31-21 Cardinals
Cleveland at Kansas City (-6.5)
Patrick Mahomes is 10-0 in September with 32 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Chiefs 28-20 Browns
Denver (-3) at New York Giants
Both teams are expected to improve in 2021, but I trust the Denver defense more than I do Daniel Jones. Broncos 23-17 Giants
Green Bay (-4.5) vs. New Orleans (in Jacksonville)
The Aaron Rodgers-Davante Adams version of “The Last Dance” begins. It won't be easy, because with Jameis Winston the Saints will be explosive all season. Packers 28-24 Saints
Chicago at Los Angeles Rams (-7.5)
Rookie Justin Fields will be happy not to deal with Aaron Donald. Rams 29-19 Bears
Baltimore (-4.5) at Las Vegas
Hard test for the black and silver defense. And I don’t think they will be up to it. Ravens 26-21 Raiders
Dolphins vs. Patriots UNDER 43.5