NFL picks, predictions against the spread Week 1: Buccaneers best Cowboys; Packers, Patriots, Steelers slip up
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NFL picks, predictions against the spread Week 1: Buccaneers best Cowboys; Packers, Patriots, Steelers slip up

The 2022 NFL season is here, giving us the first real meaningful action since Super Bowl 56. That means it’s time for Sporting News to get back to picking games against the spread and straight up for 2022.

From opening kickoff Thursday night through Monday night, every team has a clean slate and represents a fresh set of possibilities. With all the records unblemished, here’s navigating through some of the unknown to make a fearless forecast vs. the initial numbers:

(Odds courtesy of Sports Interaction)

MORE: SN’s predictions for entire 2022 season, Super Bowl 57 pick

NFL picks against the spread for Week 1

  • Game of Midweek: Bills (-2.5, 52.5 o/u) at Rams

Thursday 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC

The Bills are the Super Bowl 57 favorites. The Rams are the Super Bowl 56 champions. Something needs to give right away. This is an important game for MVP favorite Josh Allen to set the tone with Buffalo’s explosive offense vs. Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and L.A.’s daunting defense.

The coaching Seans will oversee a tight, physical game with the Bills’ defense — now powered by former Ram Von Miller — making the difference late vs. Matthew Stafford behind a new-look offensive line.

Pick: Bills win 24-23.

Result: Bills win 31-10.

  • Game of the Week: Buccaneers (-1.5, 50 o/u) at Cowboys

Sunday 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC

The Buccaneers have taken big hits on the interior offensive line and are adjusting to a passing game minus Rob Gronkowski. But they still have and un-retired Tom Brady and a reloaded, remixed group of weapons plus top-flight tackles.

But in Todd Bowles’ first game replacing Bruce Arians as head coach, expect Tampa Bay’s loaded and healthy defense to make the biggest impact. The Bucs will be better at stopping the run and pressuring the QB vs. Dak Prescott while the Cowboys’ big-play-dependent defense gets limited results vs. Brady.

Pick: Buccaneers win 31-23 and cover the spread.

  • Lock of the Week: 49ers (-7, 41.5 o/u) over Bears

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, Fox

This is the much-anticipated duel of second-year first-round QBs Trey Lance and Justin Fields. Lance inherits a stellar and deep supporting cast in replacing Jimmy Garoppolo full-time and will be comfortable passing and running on a transitioning defense. There’s optimism for Fields as a dual threat in his new offense but the Bears aren’t so stocked around him. 

San Francisco tends to play well out of the West Coast under Kyle Shanahan and they will control the game with the more reliable rushing attack and more big plays downfield.

Pick: 49ers win 34-17 and cover the spread.

  • Upset of the Week: Vikings over Packers (-1, 48 o/u)

Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

Kevin O’Connell should be the most successful of the rookie coaches as implementing his Rams-enhanced offensive acumen in Minnesota, raising the elite games of wide receiver Justin Jefferson and running back Dalvin Cook. The defense also should play more inspired in a new scheme with a pass rush revamped by a healthy Danielle Hunter and former Packer Za’Darius Smith, plus better secondary help from Patrick Peterson and others.

Green Bay’s defense and running game will operate well out of the gate to keep it in the game but there will be some key kinks around Aaron Rodgers with a Davante Adams-less receiving corps. The Vikings sound the early horn at home toward an NFC playoff berth.

Pick: Vikings win 24-20.

  • Saints (-5.5, 42.5 o/u) at Falcons

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, Fox

The Saints are turning the page from Sean Payton and hoping to open up the passing game with a healthy Jameis Winston and improved receivers, including a healthy Michael Thomas and first-round pick Chris Olave. They still will be best served going with their usual run-centric approach with Alvin Kamara given the Falcons’ defensive strength lies in cornerbacks A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward Jr.

The Falcons have limited offensive pop for new starting QB Marcus Mariota, so they will focus on grinding with the run, using big young targets Kyle Pitts and Drake London in the intermediate passing game and not making mistakes. New Orleans escapes in a slugfest with the offenses in a feeling-out stage.

Pick: Saints win 20-17 but fail to cover the spread.

  • Browns over Panthers (-2.5, 41.5 o/u)

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Lost in the whole drama surrounding Deshaun Watson’s suspension is the fact the Browns remain a super-talented team away from quarterback. They will lean on their strong blocking and deep running game featuring Nick Chubb to facilitate Jacoby Brissett’s first start.

Baker Mayfield has the spotlight facing his former team in his first game starting with his new team, but the No. 1 overall pick that preceded him in Cleveland will be the true star of the game. Myles Garrett will wreak havoc with great front seven support and the secondary ready to clean up after the Panthers don’t get the desired results from their own run-heavy style with Christian McCaffrey.

Pick: Browns win 20-17.

  • Steelers at Bengals (-6.5, 44.5 o/u)

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Steelers present a tough immediate challenge as the Bengals try to avoid a Super Bowl-losing hangover in the brutal AFC North. But Cincinnati gets a break with Pittsburgh starting Mitchell Trubisky over the better QB choice, first-round rookie Kenny Pickett.

The Bengals’ offense should come out confident with an improved line, but Joe Burrow is facing a dangerous pass defense coming off a preseason layoff. They will survive late with Burrow delivering better than his counterpart, but the Steelers stay in it with plenty of Najee Harris and other key QB help.

Pick: Bengals win 24-23 but fail to cover the spread.

2022 NFL RANKINGS: QBs | RBs | WRs | Head coaches

  • Eagles (-4, 48.5 o/u) at Lions

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, Fox

The Lions have some good vibes to have a surprising second season under Dan Campbell, to the point of getting into NFC wild-card contention. Unfortunately, they are facing another buzzy team with improved offensive upside. Jalen Hurts will use new go-to guy A.J. Brown to open up the passing game behind the Eagles’ elite line as they go back to more complementary running from the backs and Hurts.

Detroit’s offense can hang a little, but the defensive work in progress is seen as Philly is free to score often.

Pick: Eagles win 31-21 and cover the spread.

  • Colts (-8, 46 o/u) at Texans

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Indianapolis is favored to win the AFC South as it likes its new QB stability with Matt Ryan to make the passing game a more efficient complementary attack playing off rushing champion Jonathan Taylor. The defense has stars on every level, headlined by DeForest Buckner, Shaquille Leonard and Kenny Moore.

The Texans got swept by the Colts last season, losing 31-3 on the road and 31-0 at home. They still don’t have good answers for Taylor and even with some more favorable elements around QB Davis Mills, the offense has a hard ceiling. Lovie Smith has a new title, but his defense produces a familiar result.

Pick: Colts win 31-17 and cover the spread.

  • Patriots at Dolphins (-3, 46.5 o/u)

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Patriots lost some offensive mojo when Josh McDaniels left for the Raiders. The Dolphins gained plenty by hiring Mike McDaniel and adding Tyreek Hill, Terron Armstead, Connor Williams, Chase Edmonds and Cedrick Wilson. 

Bill Belichick’s defense also took hits in losing long-time leader Dont’a Hightower and top playmaker J.C. Jackson. New England will try to win more battles of attrition with the defense and running game, but history says it doesn’t fare well in Miami, with the early-season heat as an added factor. Tua Tagovailoa gets off to a good start outdueling Alabama successor Mac Jones.

Pick: Dolphins win 24-20 and cover the spread.

  • Ravens (-7, 44.5 o/u) at Jets

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS

There’s still a good chance Joe Flacco will get to start this home “revenge game” against the Ravens with Zach Wilson having a new knee ailment. They should have more pop with rookies Breece Hall and Garrett Wilson, but they are facing a Baltimore secondary that is arguably the league’s best after offseason changes.

The Jets also upgraded their secondary with three new starters but they still have holes in their front seven, which will carry over some of the run defense woes from last season. That’s not good news against Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews and a run-heavy attack.

Pick: Ravens win 30-14 and cover the spread.

  • Jaguars at Commanders (-3, 44 o/u)

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, Fox

The Jaguars have almost buried all the bad feelings from the short, tumultuous Urban Meyer era. Doug Pederson and his offensive coaching staff have a real plan to get the most out of Trevor Lawrence at QB, especially with Travis Etienne healthy to make an impact in the backfield. The receiving corps is better and former Commander Brandon Scherff anchors a promising new line. Defensively, Jacksonville also will get a jolt of front-seven energy from first-rounders Travon Walker and Devin Lloyd.

Washington won’t have Chase Young for the opener, which hurts the rest of the front and will trickle down to putting more heat on the secondary. The Commanders also haven’t had good offensive vibes, topped by doubts about Carson Wentz and Antonio Gibson. The Jags are set up to steal this with a coach who knows the NFC East well.

Pick: Jaguars win 27-24.

  • Giants at Titans (-5.5, 43.5 o/u)

Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

In a battle of teams nicknamed for their magnitudes, there’s a chance both will come up small. The Giants are an offensive wild card as some positives from Brian Daboll’s coaching staff and Saquon Barkley’s health are matched by some new questions with their offensive line, wide receivers and quarterback. The Titans are also sorting out plenty with big blocking and receiving changes while Ryan Tannehill tries to avoid a playoff hangover.

This game screams low-scoring, given how effective both defenses are built to be. Side with Jeffery Simmons and friends coming through more at home, even without edge-rushing leader Harold Landry.

Pick: Titans win 20-13 and cover the spread.

  • Chiefs (-4.5, 53.5 o/u) at Cardinals

Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

The Chiefs seem to have some offensive issues around Patrick Mahomes with a Hill-less wideout corps and nobody stepping up at running back. But then again, they are a great road team with Mahomes under Andy Reid, especially in a controlled environment with good traveling support. Travis Kelce and the offensive line will help take care of the rest on offense. The Cardinals have more limited firepower than perceived around Kyler Murray and their defensive front seven won’t slow much down.

Pick: Chiefs win 34-27 and cover the spread.

  • Raiders at Chargers (-3, 52 o/u)

Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

The Raiders are feeling it with McDaniels and new go-to guy Adams to lift Derek Carr. The Chargers, however, will remember how they were kept out of the playoffs because of this matchup last season. They remain the better all-around offense led by Justin Herbert and his myriad of weapons.

The Chargers also are the unquestioned superior defensive team with Khalil Mack leading the front, with hopeful immediate help from a healthy J.C. Jackson on the back end. L.A.’s other team begins in the march toward winning the other tough West division.

Pick: Chargers win 34-24 and cover the spread.

  • Broncos (-6.5, 43 o/u) at Seahawks

Monday 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

Seattle would seem like a prime home night underdog given the extra emotions tied to this game as Russell Wilson starts his first game for his new team against his original decade-long team. But Seattle’s offense is in disarray without Wilson, including an undecided replacement for Week 1. The defense for Pete Carroll isn’t inspiring to be improved with limited changes.

Wilson will have the greater motivation to deliver for Denver and his new teammates. The Broncos make sure there’s no doubt about revenge being served.

Pick: Broncos win 27-10 and cover the spread.