NFL Week 1 Preseason Picks - Late Games

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NFL Preseason Week 1 Late Games

All times Eastern

Click here for early games.

Saturday, August 14

Miami Dolphins at Chicago Bears (-3 1/2, 34 1/2), 1:00 pm - A few seasons ago, all anybody wanted to talk about was Chicago's defense. That was 2019, when the Bears limited just two opponents to 10 points or fewer (Green Bay, Minnesota). They managed to lose that game to Green Bay, 10-3. In 2020, they limited just one team, Houston, to 10 points or fewer in a 36-7 home win over the Texans. Chicago's defense is OK, finishing 11th in yards allowed per game and 13th in points allowed. Their problem was the offense. The Bears were 26th in yards, and 22nd in points, so they shipped struggling Mitch Trubisky off to the Bills and took in Andy Dalton via free agency and drafted Justin Fields (Ohio State) with their first round pick.

Fields should get plenty of practice time as Dalton is a short term fix though he's likely to be the starter opening day. Unless the Bears start winning, figure on Fields taking over by week 4 of the regular season.

Miami is headed to a better place, given their 10-6 record in 2020. Despite their better record, Miami didn't make the playoffs, but the Bears did, where they lost to New Orleans in the wild card round. With Tua Tagovailoa back for a second season, the Dolphins will pressure Buffalo for the AFC East title. They have plenty of weapons and their defense allowed just 21.1 points per game in 2020, good for 6th-best.

Coin Flip: Miami

Prediction: Dolphins 20 Bears 10


Denver Broncos (-1 1/2, 34 1/2) at Minnesota Vikings, 4:00 pm - A complete bust in 2020 (5-11), the Broncos have a trio of solid QBs gunning to be the #1 starter, currently the spot filled by Drew Lock. Teddy Bridgewater and Brett Rypien are also quite capable and there's a good chance to see all three of them in this contest. They'll need to produce, because the Bronco defense allowed 27.9 points per outing in 2020, even with Von Miller and Kyle Fuller, who both return.

Kirk Cousins completed every game last season for the Vikings, but they finished 7-9 after a 1-5 start. Cousins wasn't great, but RB Dalvin Cook was, rushing for 1,557 yards, second in the league. There's been a lack of consistency on defense in Minnesota but the one bright spot has been cornerback Patrick Peterson. With plenty of holes to fill on defense, expect any number of new looks by the Vikings in hopes of getting into a workable situation.

Tough call here, but give Denver the edge due to their quarterback depth.

Coin Flip: Denver

Prediction: Broncos 27 Vikings 20


New Orleans Saints at Baltimore Ravens (-3, 35 1/2), 7:00 pm - Here's a solid match-up between two playoff teams from last season. Neither are short on talent, especially in Baltimore, where LaMar Jackson sets new standards for the position on a regular basis. The Ravens finished 11-5 last season and defeated Tennessee, 20-13, before losing to Buffalo, 17-3, in the divisional round. Baltimore is a legitimate contender for the Lombardi Trophy with a defense that was second in points allowed in 2020 (18.9). They picked up Sammy Watkins from KC in the off-season. If he stays healthy, he could add to Baltimore's appeal.

The Saints are faced with having to replace a legend in Drew Brees, who retired after last season. New Orleans got bounced out of the playoffs by Tampa Bay in the divisional round after a 12-4 regular season. Jameis Winston will be the starter and he's got experience but a penchant for turnovers. Taysom Hill, the Saints' Swiss Army Knife, will get some snaps, but most eyes will be on Notre Dame rookie Ian Book, who went in the fourth round, but has plenty of upside.

Coin Flip: New Orleans

Prediction: Ravens 31 Saints 13


Cleveland Browns at Jacksonville Jaguars (-2, 37 1/2), 7:00 pm - Cleveland's backfield of Baker Mayfield, Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb may be the best trio in the league, and the Brows look set to improve on last year's 11-5 mark with another trip to the playoffs. The Browns put up a valiant effort in a 22-17 loss to the Chiefs after dusting Pittsburgh, 48-37. Loaded with talent, the Browns added much-traveled Jadeveon Clowney from Tennessee via free agency, who will line up opposite pro bowler, Myles Garrett and added John Johnson at free safety.

Jacksonville was a pushover in 2020, winning their opener against the Colts, 27-20, and then proceeding to lose the next 15 straight games. They will start Trevor Lawrence, the highly-acclaimed rookie QB from Clemson, and should be more competitive this season, though just changing QBs is rarely a solution to a team's problems. The Jags allowed 30.8 points per game last year, second only to Detroit (32.4). The Jaguars also snapped up RB Travis Etienne Jr. from Clemson in the draft, who may produce sooner than his Tiger teammate, Lawrence.

Coin Flip: Cleveland

Prediction: Browns 30 Jaguars 6


New York Jets at New York Giants (-1 1/2, 34 12) 7:30 pm - In the two years that Adam Tase was head coach for the Jets, they went backwards, from 7-9 in 2019 to 2-14 in 2020. Enter Robert Saleh, coming over from San Francisco, where he was defensive coordinator, to the head coaching position for the Jets. The Jets were 26th in points allowed, at 28.6, last season. They were even worse offensively, scoring just 15.7 points per game, worst in the league. Sales has plenty on his plate, including getting Jets' #1 draft pick, QB Zach Wilson (BYU) up to speed by opening weekend. The Jets are a work in progress.

The good news for the Giants is that RB Saquon Barkley should be ready to roll come September, but being August and preseason, he's not likely to see action in this game.QB Daniel Jones should get in a few series and if he continues to improve, could help the Giants to the NFC East crown. Going 6-10 last year had NY tied with Dallas for second place. Washington won the division with a 7-9 mark, so it's likely to be pretty competitive this season. The Giants were hardly better than their metro rival, clocking in at 17.5 points per game in 2020. Barkley's return should help but not in this contest.

Coin Flip: New York Jets

Prediction: Jets 16 Giants 13


Cincinnati Bengals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6, 33 1/2) 7:30 pm - Joe Burrow returns at QB after sitting out the second half of his rookie season in 2020, but the Bengals were just 2-7-1 with him in the lineup before his season-ending injury. Cincy finished just 4-11-1 and were 29th in scoring, at 19.4 ppg. Their 26th-ranked defense didn't help matters much. They may get to .500 this season, but, in a division with the Steelers, Browns, and Ravens, that's a hopeful projection.

Tampa Bay, well, they won the Super Bowl and convinced Tom Brady to return for another season. The Buccaneers have as solid a squad as there is in the NFL and will be a tough out every week. Some claim preseason games don't mean much, but there will be fire in the eyes of Brady and many of his teammates, even in this blowout affair.

Coin Flip: Cincinnati

Prediction: Buccaneers 38 Bengals 10



Houston Texans at Green Bay Packers (-3, 33 1/2), 8:00 pm - Aaron Rodgers returns for another crack at the playoffs, where the Packers topped the Rams, 32-18 in the divisional round, only to lose to Tampa Bay in the conference championship, 31-26. Rodgers will get some help in Randall Cobb, who was traded back to the Pack from Houston during the off-season. That will take some pressure off Davante Adams, Green Bay's go-to receiver.

Green Bay was 5th in points scored and ninth in points allowed, putting them in elite status league-wide.

Houston slumped to a 4-10 mark as everything went wrong for the Texans last year. They really didn't improve much after firing Bill O'Brien, who led them to an 0-4 start. Romeo Crennel took over and went 4-8, with the Texans losing their last five straight.David Culley has the job this season, coming over from Baltimore. The Texans lost the services of J.J. Watt, defecting to Arizona after the 2020 season. Houston has many questions to answer. QB DeShawn Watson is unlikely to see action in this preseason opener. Tyrod Taylor, Davis Mills, and Jeff Driskel will take snaps.

Coin Flip: Green Bay

Prediction: Texans 23 Packers 17


Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers (-1 1/2, 36 1/2), 8:30 pm - Jimmy Garoppolo returns from injury for the 49ers and KC's Patrick Mahomes returns from the embarrassment of last season's Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay. While the Chiefs led the league in offense last season and compiled a 14-2 record regular season, that 31-9 defeat slapped down by Tom Bay and the Buccaneers still hurts. San Francisco was 6-10 in 2020, but 3-1 when Jimmy G. was healthy. Coaches Andy Reid and Kyle Shanahan will likely be looking to evaluate talent more than focusing on winning the game, giving the 49ers a slight edge.

Coin Flip: San Francisco

Prediction: 49ers 21 Chiefs 14


Seattle Seahawks at Las Vegas Raiders (-1 1/2, 37 1/2), 9:00 pm - The Raiders looked like contenders last season after a 6-3 start, but a 35-31 loss to Kansas City started a downward spiral and they won just two more games the rest of the way, finishing 8-8. They need to shore up their defense, which allowed 29.9 points per game in 2020. Only the Jaguars and Lions were worse.

Seattle won the NFC West with a 12-4 record, winning their last four straight, but they seemed out of gas in the playoffs, losing a wild card game to the Rams, 30-20. The defense was spotty through much of the season, but Russell Wilson returns at QB, along with wideouts DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, plus running back Chris Carson. Their offense should be among the league's best. This could be one of the more enjoyable games of the first preseason weekend, as both teams have higher aspirations and lots of talent.

Coin Flip: Seattle

Prediction: Seahawks 20 Raiders 16


Los Angeles Chargers (-3 1/2, 34 1/2) at Los Angeles Rams, 10:00 pm - It's a new era in LA, with the Rams having swapped out QB Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford from the Lions. The hope is for a steadier passing game with the experienced Stafford. Defensively, the Rams were second to none in 2020. Led by defensive end Aaron Donald and Linebacker Leonard Floyd, the Rams allowed the fewest yards per game (281.9) and the fewest points (18.5).

QB Justin Herbert turned a lot of heads last season with some outstanding performances, but the Chargers were only able to get to 7-9 on the season. The Chargers will be employing some new defensive schemes in 2021, and DE Joey Bosa should revel in more activity. However the Rams have a more experienced and disciplined defense already, which should pave the way to a win.

Coin Flip: Los Angeles Rams

Prediction: Rams 20 Chargers 17


Sunday, August 15

Carolina Panthers at Indianapolis Colts (-1 1/2, 34), 1:00 pm - Carson Wentz arrives from Philadelphia, replacing the retired Phillip Rivers in Indy, but it's doubtful he'll see any action in this game, having undergone foot surgery just last week. His timetable to return to action is 5 -12 weeks. Jacob Eason and rookie Sam Ehlinger, draftee from Texas, will get most of the snaps for the Colts. Ehlinger could become the starter if he passes some preseason tests.

The Colts went 11-5 in 2020, and lost in the wild card round to the Bills, 27-24, but that was with Phillip Rivers at QB. Expect them to take a step back without the future hall of fame QB.

Teddy Bridgewater started every game for Carolina in 2020, but produced a sub-par 5-11 record and was shipped off to Denver. The Panther picked up Sam Darnold from the Jets, who should see first quarter action here. With Chuba Hubbard (draftee from Oklahoma State) joining Christian McCaffrey in the Panther backfield, they could lead the league in rushing, but that duo should take some of the pressure off Darnold. The Panther should be one of the most improved teams this year.

Coin Flip: Indianapolis

Prediction: Panthers 20 Colts 17


Click here for early games.


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