Picks for Week 1 NFL games: Rams beat Bills; Seahawks surprise Russell Wilson-led Broncos

 Picks for Week 1 NFL games: Rams beat Bills; Seahawks surprise Russell Wilson-led Broncos 

Picks for Week 1 NFL games: Rams beat Bills; Seahawks surprise Russell Wilson-led Broncos

Week 1 will be filled with blowouts. But there's a reason why no team in the league is favored by more than a touchdown: there's so much we don't know. Can Houston's odd mix of seasoned professionals and young people gel quickly? Can the Indianapolis offense improve on its preseason performance? Is it true that Shaq Leonard will play in this game? Last season, the Colts outscored the Texans 62-3, so a score like this would represent significant progress for Lovie Smith's team.

Threading the needle is when an underdog keeps the game closer than the point spread without winning outright. This season, the Steelers appear to be the threading-the-needle champions. They will win more games than expected because their defense still has that many dudes, is coached by Mike Tomlin, and has undeniable skill-position talent outside of quarterback. They will continue to fall short due to their quarterback. When the Bengals have the more stable QB situation and the more loaded overall roster in this AFC North matchup, it's a wild world.

Is Chicago's pass rush strong enough to make San Francisco's new-look offensive line look inexperienced? Could the Bears' shaky offensive line have chosen a worse opponent to open the season against? All of the attention on Trey Lance has largely ignored the fact that the 49ers' defense and running game, including Lance, can win games like this one without relying heavily on the forward pass.

The Browns aren't as talented as they once were. They currently rank near the bottom of the league at quarterback, wide receiver, center, defensive tackle, and possibly right tackle if Jack Conklin is unable to recover from injury. Meanwhile, the Panthers are upgrading many positions simply by bringing back healthy players (RB Christian McCaffrey, CB Jaycee Horn) and finding a competent starting quarterback. I give them a slight edge, with the caveat that I believe this game will be low-scoring rather than either team winning.

Perhaps I'm exaggerating the importance of the preseason, but the Saints' starting lineup looked good when given the opportunity in August. Jameis Winston understands the scheme much better than he did a year ago, and his weapons have greatly improved. This rivalry is full of surprises, and Falcons coach Arthur Smith may have some schematic tricks up his sleeve, making this point spread intimidating. However, New Orleans' advantage up front on both sides should eventually wear Atlanta down.

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