Don’t expect crispness this week

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Coaches have rightfully pulled back on exposing their starters in the preseason, preferring to get them reps in the more controlled environment afforded by joint practices. As a result, blind faith that everyone is good to go is required to bet Week 1.

We’re relying on rhythm to be there. We’re riding with a tried and true, which includes backing a quarterback we haven’t seen since he was ruled out with a back injury last December and a running back who hasn’t played since mid-January of 2018. At least Carson Wentz and LeVeon Bell will be in the mix. A prevailing theme among my picks is attempting to take advantage of who will be missing.

It remains to be seen whether that list will include Cowboys star rusher Ezekiel Elliott, but the only game where we’re taking points in here looks to capitalize on his holdout even if he does finally report. 

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We’re taking some risk that the two heaviest favorites will cover the number at home but see that as a much better alternative to hoping that the Bengals’ Andy Dalton and Redskins’ Case Keenum can engineer backdoor covers working with decimated receiving corps. 

Sloppy play is likely to reign throughout the NFL’s opening week, so we’ll do our best to back continuity, hoping for the best when the scores go final.

Sunday

Falcons at Vikings -4: Minnesota has won four of its five season openers under Mike Zimmer, who has a healthy roster at his disposal. Dalvin Cook running away from Arizona’s defense on an 85-yard scamper in the “dress rehearsal” game is proof he’s back after looking like a shell of himself in his return from a torn ACL last season. 

If he’s back to his pre-injury form, life will be easier on quarterback Kirk Cousins as he attempts to bounce back from last season’s rough 8-7-1 run. Look for the Falcons’ offensive line issues to be a problem on the road. VIKINGS

Redskins at Eagles -9.5: With Wentz seeing his first action since being shelved 10 months ago and last season’s top two rushers getting cut from the final 53-man roster, Philadelphia is dealing with uncertainty. 

Despite this, Washington is nearly a double-digit underdog because Keenum was initially signed to be the backup QB and is being pressed into duty due to Colt McCoy’s return from a broken fibula hitting a snag. 

Generating points won’t be easy since a no-name group of Redskins’ receivers will have issues getting open and top tackle Trent Williams remains a holdout, so protection should be a problem. EAGLES

Bills at Jets -3: The Adam Gase era begins for the Jets against a team he knows quite well from his days with the Dolphins. 

Although Sean McDermott’s Bills won three of the four AFC East meetings against Miami, they’re at a disadvantage here since aggressive new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will be able to confuse QB Josh Allen into miscues. The former No. 7 overall pick went 2-6 on the road as a rookie starter and isn’t developing as quickly as counterpart Sam Darnold. 

With Bell on board, New York is set to ascend past Buffalo in the divisional pecking order. JETS

Ravens -7 at Dolphins: New head coach Brian Flores insists Miami isn’t tanking but its personnel decisions since cutdown day suggest otherwise. 

Top tackle Laremy Tunsil was shipped to Houston alongside receiver Kenny Stills and linebacker Kiko Alonso was moved to New Orleans after recording 355 tackles over three seasons. The Dolphins will be relevant when the draft rolls around but should play doormat until then. 

South Florida native Lamar Jackson should have a festive homecoming as he opens his first full season as Baltimore’s starting QB following a strong camp. RAVENS

Bengals at Seahawks -9.5: Cincinnati star receiver A.J. Green is out at least another month after ankle surgery, which makes Andy Dalton’s job more difficult as he looks to pick up a new offense that first-year head coach Zac Taylor has brought over after working under Rams’ guru Sean McVay. 

Pete Carroll’s defense has an advantage in knowing what to expect as a result, which should help the Seahawks dominate on defense. With Marvin Lewis’ influence gone after 16 years and bad boy Vontaze Burfict now with the Raiders, Cincy’s unit will be a work in progress. Russell Wilson should generate breakdowns in a blowout. SEAHAWKS

Giants at Cowboys -7: As of Tuesday afternoon, Elliott’s game of “chicken” with Jerry Jones appeared headed to a resolution with a contract extension set to be ironed out.

Expecting him to hit the ground running enough to cover the number against visiting New York is another story. The number also looks inflated, perhaps due to Odell Beckham, Jr.’s high-profile departure. Eli Manning will have receiver Sterling Shepard available and should have opportunities since Saquon Barkley will receive the bulk of the attention against a Dallas defense missing multiple defensive linemen. GIANTS

 

About the Author
Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia has been a national writer for nearly two decades and has covered NBA and college basketball as a columnist, analyst, handicapper, and bracketologist for CBS Sports, Pro Basketball News, and numerous other sites.

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