Life feels like a fever dream 98.7 percent of the time these days, so you will be forgiven if it hasn’t completely sunk in yet: FOOTBALL IS BACK. Professional football will be played tonight for the first time since Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid took down the 49ers in Miami to win their first Super Bowl. That was only about eight months ago (or “seven Marches” depending on how you keep track of time) but it feels like 749 years ago. 

Football is just a sport, and sports are just entertainment, but tonight and this weekend should feel like a special dose of relief and normalcy for everyone watching. That’s how the league office wants it; kudos to them for appearing to have pulled it off. 

Enough backslapping, though. We gotta turn the page and find some winners. I would point to my record last year and say “let’s get hot again” but it appears the powers that be here at CBS changed up the NFL experts picks page (probably to protect Pete Prisco from his humiliating 2019 record against the spread or maybe for a more obvious technical reason that falls outside the spectrum of my comprehension). Whatever the case may be, I torched it last year for CBS against the spread and plan on doing so again. 

A couple of hints for Week 1 — generally speaking no one knows anything about NFL teams in the first week of the season. That is doubly and maybe triply true. Don’t blindly believe some team will be terrible just because the media is parroting stuff. Follow your gut. 

Focus on consistency. You’re going to see teams who know each other, who need less practice and who have cornerstones on the roster and in personnel/coaching locked in succeed more out of the gate in my opinion. 

I tend to think dogs are LIVE this week. I also think you could see a lot of points scored in some unexpected places. Over 70 percent of the overs hit in Week 1 and Week 2 of the 2011 NFL season, when the lockdown snuffed out most of the offseason training. Don’t blindly fire at every over, because some totals are probably inflated (New Orleans/Tampa for instance) but there are exploitable over games. 

Finally, wait as long as you can before hitting these spreads unless there’s just something you can’t lay off. Sunday morning will probably be fine in Week 1, but it could be chaos moving forward. 

Football is back. 

All odds are via William Hill Sportsbook.

NFL Week 1 Picks

Texans at Chiefs

Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
Point spread: Chiefs, -9.5

Football is back and people are PUMPED to bet on this game. Why shouldn’t they be? It’s the first NFL game since the pandemic hit. This is thrilling. But here’s the problem: when you emerge from the corona cocoon are you betting on an underdog that lost to the favorite by a ton of points in the same calendar year? No. Are you betting on no points from Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson? No. You’re jamming the favorite and the over. And yet, the line has moved towards the Texans, sliding under 10 and to nine. These teams are reasonably consistent in terms of personnel outside of Houston losing its top receiver. Pinch your nose and grab the points. It won’t feel good but I bet it hits.

The Pick: Chiefs 31, Texans 28 

Raiders at Panthers

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Raiders -3

Lemme guess, you expect the “Panthers homer” and the “Raiders hater” to pick against Derek Carr and Jon Gruden on the East Coast. GOOD CALL! Of course I’m taking the Panthers. But it’s not because I don’t like the Raiders — I actually think they can put up some points against a bad Panthers defense and could come away with a win here. However, Las Vegas is awful on the road in early games since Gruden took over, going 1-5 straight up and against the spread over the last two years in these situations. Add in pandemic travel conditions in the first week of the season and I would expect they come out slow. The Panthers won’t stop them on defense (take the over here), but they will be able to score. This is a sneaky good game to stack for DFS purposes and I would bet it ends up being one of the better games of the week just in terms of pure entertainment. Related hot take: I think Teddy Bridgewater ends up finishing the season as a top-10 fantasy quarterback this year, strictly on volume, YAC and game flow. You heard it here first! 

The Pick: Panthers 35, Raiders 31

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Browns at Ravens

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Ravens -7.5

The Ravens were the best team in the regular season last year but got an unlucky draw in the playoffs. But just for snapshot purposes, let’s remember the last time these teams met — Nick Chubb was sprinting down the field for a run-up-the-score touchdown, followed closely behind by a helicoptering Baker Mayfield. The Browns dropped a 40-burger on the Ravens and it looked like the AFC North was pretty wide open. Cleveland would spend the rest of the year floundering and the Ravens wouldn’t lose another game. I guess my point is when we’re early into an NFL season don’t take outcomes as gospel. These teams evolve and get better or get worse. Remember that throughout the season. Also, this is too many points for a team that is no longer coached by Freddie “Outhouse” Kitchens. Yes, this is literally a “The Browns aren’t coached by Freddie Kitchens anymore” pick.

The Pick: Ravens 21, Browns 17

Bears at Lions

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
Point spread: Lions -3

I’ve found myself in the middle of the #LionsDen this year and, yes, it is worrisome to have *THE DETROIT LIONS* as a trendy team in the NFL. That’s OK. I’m picking Matthew Stafford to win MVP and I believe Kenny Golladay will end up as the No. 1 WR in fantasy this year. Now, having said all that, this matchup concerns me greatly. The Bears are a good defensive team, they’ve played divisional matchups well in the past in Week 1 (see: Packers recently) and, again, I’m jumping on the Lions bandwagon. I don’t care. I think this Lions team can be explosive on offense. Matt Patricia surely won’t let them play for a tie again, right? And we get to fade Mitchell Trubisky. Sign me up.

The Pick: Lions 31, Bears 24

Packers at Vikings 

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
Point spread: Vikings, -2.5

Another NFC North Week 1 matchup? I’m so excited. I just can’t hide it. I’m about to lose control and I’m not entirely sure I like it. Sorry, that sarcasm should be saved for something other than Week 1 football picks when we never thought we’d get this game in 2020. Instead, let’s focus our energy on Pete Prisco putting the freaking Packers No. 2 in his power rankings and the 49ers not at No. 1, meaning he thinks Green Bay is better than San Francisco despite a mountain of very compelling evidence from last season. Is Pete a troll who loves clicks? Maybe. People are talking about it. Regardless, I think he will be doing a tiny tan peacock prance around the CBS offices for the next week because the Packers might smash the Vikings in this spot. Or at least just win outright — the Packers shouldn’t be dogs in a game where the Vikings lose home-field advantage, not with the way they’ve taken care of business against this team in years past.

The Pick: Packers 21, Vikings 17

Jets at Bills 

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Bills -6.5

There are four rules that I live by: never get less than 12 hours sleep; never play cards with a guy who has the same first name as a city, never get involved with a woman with a tattoo of a dagger on her body and when the Jets and Bills play you always smash the under. Now you stick to that, and everything else is cream cheese. But seriously, take this under no matter how low it goes. And take the Jets if you need to in a pick ’em league. This is too many points. Sam Darnold is better than Josh Allen. There I said it.

The Pick: Jets 17, Bills 14

Seahawks at Falcons

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
Point spread: Seahawks -2

Unfortunately it appears the jig is up when it comes to the free money that was Pete Carroll/Russell Wilson as a dog on the East Coast. They just win these games. I want to zig towards the Falcons but I Russ is really comfortable in these spots. The bet is probably the over and then it’s just who do you trust late, Wilson or Matt Ryan? Feels like an obvious spot to grab the. Seahawks laying less than a field goal against a Falcons team that hasn’t started hot in recent years. I might recommend going Falcons first half here though, and then live betting the Seahawks. Because, you know, #LetRussCook.

The Pick: Seahawks 31, Falcons 28

Dolphins at Patriots 

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Patriots -6.5

The Dolphins hype is out of control. Lots of smart people who know lots of smart things about football are making a mistake and getting caught up in a tidal wave of ambition for Brian Flores and Ryan Fitzpatrick winning the AFC East. One thing that people seem to be ignoring is Cam Newton and Bill Belichick teaming up. Which seems like pertinent information!!! If you think the Pats will shrivel into obscurity and Belichick will go back to playing WAR with his dog because Tom Brady left, by all means bet against the Pats. This feels like a hammer spot for Cam and Co. out of the gate for me. 

The Pick: Patriots 28, Dolphins 7

Colts at Jaguars

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Colts -8

Let’s be clear here: I have picked the Colts to win the Super Bowl. I legit believe they are a contender to hoist the Lombardi Trophy and they’re very talented on both sides of the ball. But they’re not going 16-0 and they’re not going to come out of the gate steamrolling teams. Hence why I think the Jaguars are a very good choice here. Can’t you imagine a scenario where Philip Rivers is sweating through a white uniform and trying to bring his team back from a 10-point deficit against Gardner Minshew and D.J. Chark? OK it’s not pretty but it might happen. Colts will squeak one out with a Rodrigo Blankenship field goal late but it won’t be easy.

The Pick: Colts 17, Jaguars 14

Philadelphia at Washington Football Team

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
Point spread: Eagles -5.5

Hey Washington: I’m proud of you for changing the racist team name but you know what would be nice? PICK A NEW NAME. And do it now, for crying out loud. Do you know how ridiculous it looks to have “FOOTBALL TEAM” plastered everywhere. This isn’t Liverpool, man. Pick a name and change it so we can stop seeing this nonsense on our scoreboards:

It makes it look like you’re some company that is too cheap to pay the NFL for rights to use the team nickname … and you’re the actual team. Anyway, WFT will probably come out of the gates firing with Dwayne Haskins to Terry McLaurin for a couple of scores and then DeSean Jackson will drag the Eagles back in it with two long touchdowns because that’s what happens every single year in Week 1. Since I actually trust the Washington coaching staff this time around, give me the points. 

The Pick: Eagles 24, WFT 21

Chargers at Bengals 

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET (CBS)

Point spread: Chargers -3

Do not pass go, do not collect $200, do not do anything until you pencil in the Bengals +3 for a lock this week. The Chargers went all in on Tyrod Taylor this offseason and just lost Derwin James. Do I have concerns about Joe Burrow against Joey Boss and Melvin Ingram? Yes, obviously everyone does. But Burrow is a stud. Zac Taylor nearly beat the Seahawks in Seattle during Week 1 last year. He’ll be ready for Gus Bradley’s scheme sans Derwin. The Chargers are going to win like three games this year and the losses will start to pile up beginning in Cincinnati. Cue the Justin Herbert music. 

The Pick: Bengals 17, Chargers 10

Buccaneers at Saints 

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox)
Point spread: Saints -3.5

Another slammer jammer right here. Look at this line. The Saints, who probably should have been in the Super Bowl for the last three years except for some all-time horrific postseason football luck, are bringing back everyone on their roster to make one last run for Drew Brees. And they’re favored by just over a field goal against Tom Brady adjusting to a new system in Tampa Bay, potentially without Mike Evans this week? I know Sean Payton’s had issues early in the season over the last few years but the Saints are going to MAUL the Bucs on Sunday as Joe Buck screams about the sun rising in a domed stadium. 

The Pick: Saints 31, Bucs 17

Cardinals at 49ers 

Sunday, 4:25p.m. ET (FOX)
Point spread: 49ers -7

San Francisco is definitely the better team here, so I don’t disagree with the line. I just don’t understand how Kyler Murray could give the Niners fits as a rookie, add DeAndre Hopkins and still show up as a touchdown dog to San Francisco. I want to be bold and predict the Cards win this one outright but it feels like that would backfire in my face with 49ers fans. They have, um, been willing to say mean things on social media. Can’t have that happen. Also Kyle Shanahan is terrifying even if George Kittle is his only viable receiver. If the 49ers get downhill on you, you’re dead. I’ll still take the touchdown in a Week 1 game though.

The Pick: 49ers 21, Cardinals 17

Cowboys at Rams 

Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
Point spread: Cowboys -3

Not entirely sure I’m ready to see Cris Collinsworth come sliding across the screen in a half-zip sweater vest to seamlessly go from lamenting to the pandemic to telling Al Michaels why the Cowboys run game under Mike McCarthy might be due to explode. Don’t get me wrong, I WANT to see it, but it also means that Week 1 is almost over and that already feels kind of sad. Fortunately you can right all the wrongs from the first NFL Sunday of the year while watching this game by hammering the Rams, who should not be underdogs here. Dak Prescott is awesome, the Cowboys are stacked on offense and will win a bunch of games. But EVERYONE is betting on them. Ask anyone you know over the next 48 hours who will win this game and they’ll tell you the Cowboys. Sean McCoy ain’t no dummy, man. Take the Rams. And probably the under too.

The Pick: Rams 28, Cowboys 24

Steelers at Giants

Monday, 7:25 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Point spread: Steelers -6

Everything hinges on Ben Roethlisberger here. If he’s healthy, Pittsburgh could be great. If he’s not the Steelers could be terrible. But I’ll tell you one thing: we do not know. And when I don’t know something, you know what I do? First I yell at my son to come help me figure it out. Then I bet on the underdog. And it never fails. Daniel Jones definitely can’t score against that Steelers defense. Saquon Barkley will be toast here! Take the points and watch the Giants win. 

The Pick: Giants 14, Steelers 10

Titans at Broncos 

Monday, 10:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Point spread: Titans -2.5

This basically comes down to the Titans adding Jadeveon Clowney and the Broncos losing Von Miller and everyone assuming the Titans will win. Tennessee is the better team, but Tennessee ain’t used to practicing four million miles above sea level and they won’t get to adjust because they can’t get to Denver early. The Broncos first-half line is a great bet here because of that adjustment, and if the game is close, Tennessee should wear down as the game goes along. Ignore this if Derrick Henry is running wild in the first half and the Titans have a huge lead early.

The Pick: Broncos 17, Titans 14

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