Uncle Sam’s NFL Guide to Free Money: Week 1

The NFL is back! And with its triumphant return, we get to welcome Sam Slezek and the rest of the Tautonomy team to make predictions and lose money in our weekly pick em. 

Green Bay (-7) At Chicago

Matt Van Liedekerke: The Bears finished 5-11 a season ago and don’t appear much improved. On defense, Briggs is gone, Tillman is gone, which is heartbreaking as a Bears fan, but finally signals the end to the era of defensive dominance that was already well over a couple years ago. Brian Urlacher is not walking through that door! Safe to say, this Bears defense is a shell of what it once was. Offensively, first round pick Kevin White was supposed to bring some help to a stuggling offense but reports say he’s probably out for the year after having surgery to repair a stress fracture in his shin. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how the new coaching staff remodels this team, particulary how new offensive coordinator Adam Gase tries to maximize Jay Cutler. In the first game under the new regime and with a so-so roster, I’d be surprised if this wasn’t blowout. Green Bay is easy money.

Houston (-1) vs. Kansas City

Aditya Joshi: Though I’m a complete homer, the fact that KC is an underdog here (even by 1 point) is absurd. Kansas City was the only undefeated team coming out of the pre-season, which, though not an indicator of future success, ought to be enough of a motivation to pick them over an Arian Foster-less Houston team. JJ Watt might be a monster, but KC’s defense looks great in its own right, anchored by a re-energized linebacking core and a still dominant d-line led by Dontari Poe. By putting pressure on Brian Hoyer and utilizing new weapon Jeremy Maclin to get the ball out of Alex Smith’s hands before Watt and Co. can reach him, the Chiefs should be in a good position to keep their winning streak going.

Sam Slezek: Change the Houston write up to: “Eric fisher is out. JJ watt will now face off against Jah Reid. This is free money”

NY Jets (-3) vs Cleveland

SS: I never thought I’d say this again, but the Jets aren’t that bad. We know they have a solid defense across the board, but their offense shouldn’t be too bad either. Geno Smith getting hurt was a blessing in disguise as Fitzpatrick is a much better quarterback. Marshall provides an underrated stud wide receiver for him to throw to (who I don’t think Joe Haden will be able to shut down), and Ivory should be able to provide some balance. Cleveland doesn’t have near as much going for them.  JETS

Indianapolis (-2.5) At Buffalo

SS: Following their complete and utter annihilation at the hands of the Patriots in last year’s playoffs, the Colts needed to make a few changes. Namely, they needed to improve their offensive line and their entire defense outside of Vontae Davis. So, naturally, they signed Andre Johnson and Frank Gore and used their first round pick on a wide receiver. Under Rex Ryan, I expect the Bills D to hold a party in the backfield in this game, as the Colts line is no match for the Bills front 7. On the other side of the ball, Shady should be able to get enough done to win. After all, Jonas Gray shredded the Colts D for over 200 yards and 4 TDs, and he can’t even make an NFL roster.

Miami (-3.5) At Washington

SS: To get something going on offense, Dan Snyder and the Redskins need to be able to establish the run game through Alfred Morris. Against the most dominant D-Line this league has seen in a while, that’s not happening. MIAMI

Carolina (-3) At Jacksonville

SS: I’m the lone guy picking the Jags here, but I’m not sure how the ‘Thers can cover a 3 point spread on the road when I can’t even see how they are going to score 3 points. Cam Newton didn’t impress much all of last year, and that was with Kelvin. Without him, I really don’t expect much as the ‘Thers are just so short on weapons. Don’t sleep on the Jags.

Seattle (-4) At St. Louis

SS: Seattle should remain one of the best teams in the NFL, especially with the signing of a Pro-Bowl Tight End in Jimmy Graham. I expect more of the same in this game

Arizona (-2) vs. New Orleans

SS: New Orleans lost a lot of weapons last year, and I don’t expect them to be able to put all their new ones together quickly enough to keep up with Arizona in week 1. Palmer is back for the Cards, and he looked great in limited action last year.

San Diego (-3) VS. Detroit

SS: Two strong passing games square off in San Diego. While San Diego has a slight edge playing at home, I just can’t see this being anything but a close game. It will be interesting, too, to see if Ameer Abdullah is featured by the Lions from week one, and if Melvin Gordon can show more than he did in an unimpressive preseason.

Tampa Bay (-3) vs. Tennessee

SS: Doug Martin looked good in the preseason, and Tampa might have just a few more weapons than Tennessee on offense. A fun little matchup for our two rookie QBs before things start to go downhill fast for the rest of the season.

Cincinnati (-3.5) At Oakland

SS: Carr looked good in his rookie year last year, and has now added a stud receiver in Amari Cooper. Latatvius looks ready to take over the ground game, and with Vontaze Burfict hurt again to start the year, I don’t think the Bengals will be able to shut this offense down the way they once could. Jeremy Hill could do big things on the other side of the football, but I think Oakland’s home field advantage will be enough to keep this close.

Denver (-4.5) vs. Baltimore

AJ: Not sure if Baltimore will actually win this game, but I expect it to be close. That said, all of this is dependent on what Peyton Manning shows up. Peyton did not look good the last few games of the year, playoffs included, posting a passer rating more similar to Geno Smith than Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers (per Grantland). I have faith in Peyton, but I also have faith in Harbaugh and Co. I see this being a close game, a field goal here or there deciding the outcome.

Dallas (-6) vs. NY Giants

SS: You never know what you are going to get with the Giants in any given year. But last year, Eli looked revitalized under new OC Ben McAdoo’s West Coast scheme, and with OBJ back in the mix, I am not ready to count them out against the Cowboys in week 1. The Cowboys won’t have quite the same ability to keep the ball out of opponents hands as they did last year after losing Demarco, and I just think the Giants keep this one close.

Philadelphia (-3) At Atlanta

Carter Rauch: You’re probably not hearing it here first, but if Sam Bradford stays healthy, the Eagles are going to win a lot of games this year. During the preseason, Bradford looked as dynamic and accurate as I’ve ever seen him, and one of the offense’s biggest question marks, the wide receiving corps, looked big, fast, and aggressive. Furthermore, Murray, Matthews and Sproles should post huge numbers behind an offensive line that actually rated better than Dallas’s standout group in the 2014 season (per football prospectus). The defense looks improved as well, with Kiko Alonso joining a linebacking group that should give opponents fits, and Byron Maxwell *hopefully* curing a very mediocre secondary.–Line Break– Atlanta also, however, looks poised to improve, with a new coaching staff (Head Coach Dan Quinn and Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan), a top-10 quarterback in his prime, and one of the most dangerous receiving threats in the league. The Falcons defense, however, has been awful. It’s going to take a little more than some artificial crowd noise to stop Chip Kelly’s offense from running the Falcons right off of their home turf.

Minnesota (-2.5) At San Francisco

SS: Two very different stories here. San Francisco lost a ton of guys over the offseason and seem to be fading fast in the NFC West. Minnesota’s offense under Teddy Bridgewater didn’t look bad at the end of last season, and they will add Kyle Rudolph, Adrian Peterson, and Mike Wallace to the mix year. I expect a one sided affair in San Fran.

FULL PICKS

AJ Basil S MV CR Ben Salz SS
GB GB GB GB GB CHI
KC KC HOU Kansas City KC HOU
Cleveland NYJ CLE Cleveland NYJ NYJ
Indy BUF IND Indy Indy BUF
Miami MIA MIA miami MIA
Carolina CAR CAR Carolina Carolina JAX
Seattle Seattle SEA Seattle SEA
New Orleans Arizona ARI New orleans ARI
SD Detroit SD Detroit DET
TB Tampa Bay TEN TB TB
Cincy CIN CIN Cincy Oakland OAK
Baltimore Denver DEN Denver Denver BAL
Dallas NYG NYG Dallas Dallas NYG
Philly ATL PHI Philly Philly PHI
Minny MIN SF Minnesota Minnesota MIN
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