Football is back. Which means that the dart-throwing process of picking games is back, too.
This year, the target is smaller. The lighting is poor. And the tips of the targets are dull.
No offseason program. No joint practices in camp. No preseason. It all adds up to having no idea what will happen, especially in Week One.
So now that our excuse is out of the way, here we go with our picks for the first sixteen of (hopefully) 256 regular-season games.
Texans (+9) at Chiefs
MDS’s take: The defending champions have every reason to be confident heading into the 2020 season, with the same core group of players back as they attempt to repeat. I expect a strong start to the season from Kansas City.
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 31, Texans 21.
Florio’s take: Offenses may be ahead of defenses entering the 2020 season, which means that there will be plenty of points scored in Week One. With two of the better offenses starting things off, let’s get the scoreboard properly loosened up.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 41, Texans 38.
Eagles (-6) at Washington Football Team
MDS’s take: I expect the Football Team to take a step in the right direction under Ron Rivera this season, but we may not see the results until late in Rivera’s first year. The Eagles should cruise on Sunday.
MDS’s pick: Eagles 20, Washington 10.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 27, Washington 17.
Dolphins (+6.5) at Patriots
MDS’s take: The AFC East is wider open than at any point in recent memory, but I still think Year One of the post-Tom Brady era should get off to a good start in New England.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 27, Dolphins 21.
Florio’s take: Cam Newton is everything the Patriots expected him to be and more. This year, the Patriots could end up being everything they’ve been. And more.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 24, Dolphins 16.
Packers (+2.5) at Vikings
MDS’s take: These look like the top two teams in the NFC North, and the Vikings look to me like they should have a slight edge as the division favorites this season.
MDS’s pick: Vikings 24, Packers 17.
Florio’s take: Danielle Hunter isn’t playing, but the Vikings have the firepower on both sides of the ball to hold serve at home* against a team that chose to take a step back in the offseason in the hopes of eventually taking a couple of steps forward.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 27, Packers 20.
Colts (-7.5) at Jaguars
MDS’s take: The Jaguars look like the worst team in the league, and I have a hunch the Colts are going to be better with Philip Rivers than most people think. This should be an easy win for Indianapolis.
MDS’s pick: Colts 28, Jaguars 7.
Florio’s take: The Jaguars aren’t trying to lose. They don’t have to.
Florio’s pick: Colts 24, Jaguars 13.
Bears (+3) at Lions
MDS’s take: Mitch Trubisky owns Matt Patricia’s defense. In the three games Trubisky has started against the Lions since Patricia became Detroit’s coach, the Bears are 3-0 and Trubisky has completed 68 of 91 passes for 866 yards, with nine touchdowns and one interception. Trubisky should keep it going on Sunday.
MDS’s pick: Bears 34, Lions 20.
Florio’s pick: Lions 23, Bears 20.
Raiders (-3) at Panthers
MDS’s take: Matt Rhule has a big rebuilding effort ahead of him in Carolina, and there will be plenty of growing pains. The Panthers are going to struggle this season.
MDS’s pick: Raiders 24, Panthers 16.
Florio’s take: It’s always better to start the year with a soft spot on the schedule than with a tough opponent. Jon Gruden and company get to the right side of .500, at least for now.
Florio’s pick: Raiders 27, Panthers 20.
Jets (+6.5) at Bills
MDS’s take: This is a big season for the Jets to find out what they have in Sam Darnold and the Bills to find out what they have in Josh Allen. In the long term I think Darnold will have the better career, but on Sunday I like Allen’s team to win.
MDS’s pick: Bills 17, Jets 10.
Florio’s take: Last year, the Jets had the Bills on the ropes in Week One. This year, maybe the Jets can punch them through. New York finished the year 6-2 and the roster is better now than it was last year.
Florio’s pick: Jets 24, Bills 21.
Browns (+8) at Ravens
MDS’s take: The Browns should be better this year, but the Ravens’ offense will prove too much for Cleveland’s defense on Sunday.
MDS’s pick: Ravens 35, Browns 24.
Florio’s take: Last year’s Browns somehow beat the Ravens at Baltimore. Although this year’s Browns will be better, they’re not going to catch the team that used to be the Browns napping.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 27, Browns 17.
Seahawks (-2) at Falcons
MDS’s take: The Falcons look to me like a team poised to take a big step backward, and at the end of this season they may decide they have a big rebuilding effort ahead of them. I like the Seahawks to start the season with a road win.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 20, Falcons 14.
Florio’s take: The Falcons, like the Jets, finished last season 6-2. If Todd Gurley is healthy (he currently is), Atlanta could have a surprise in store for one of the best teams in the conference.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 23, Seahawks 20.
Chargers (-3.5) at Bengals
MDS’s take: Joe Burrow is going to surprise people with how ready he is to play from Day One. I like the Bengals to start the season with an upset win.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 23, Chargers 20.
Florio’s take: Joe Burrow? Meet Joey Bosa.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 24, Bengals 16.
Cardinals (+7) at 49ers
MDS’s take: I’m looking forward to seeing what the Cardinals’ offense looks like in Year Two of Kyler Murray and with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins, but I expect the 49ers’ defense to play well against them and San Francisco to win a low-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: 49ers 16, Cardinals 13.
Florio’s take: The 49ers have fallen from brink of a Super Bowl win back to the valley of 0-0. That could become the valley of 0-1, if the new-look Cardinals with DeAndre Hopkins and an improved Kyler Murray can bedevil the San Fran defense. While it could still be a long season for the defending NFC champions, they’ll dodge a bullet right out of the games.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 24, Cardinals 20.
Buccaneers (+3.5) at Saints
MDS’s take: Tom Brady vs. Drew Brees will be a treat we get twice this season. The home team wins the first one.
MDS’s pick: Saints 28, Buccaneers 21.
Florio’s take: The Saints tend to start the season slowly, especially at home. But Tom Brady and company will have the full attention of the home team, and the Saints will find a way to hold off a quarterback who may not have Mike Evans available to him.
Florio’s pick: Saints 34, Buccaneers 27.
Cowboys (-3) at Rams
MDS’s take: Dak Prescott will be on a mission to show this year that he deserves to be paid like an elite quarterback, and he’ll add a few million to his eventual long-term contract with a big showing on Sunday night.
MDS’s pick: Cowboys 31, Rams 23.
Florio’s take: Four years after the Cowboys and Rams kicked of L.A. 2.0 with a packed house at the Coliseum, they’ll christen SoFi Stadium before a crowd of crickets. That actually could help the home team, because the place could have been overrun by Cowboys fans. It won’t help enough.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 30, Rams 21.
Steelers (-5.5) at Giants
MDS’s take: With a healthy Ben Roethlisberger, I like the Steelers to start this season strong. The Giants still have a lot of work to do to get back on track.
MDS’s pick: Steelers 27, Giants 10.
Florio’s take: The Steelers will be serious contenders for as long as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can stay healthy. He’ll stay healthy at least for a week.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 24, Giants 14.
Titans (-1.5) at Broncos
MDS’s pick: Titans 34, Broncos 20.
Florio’s take: The Titans are the best team no one is paying attention to. After Monday night, maybe more will be.
Florio’s pick: Titans 27, Broncos 17.