NFL Week 1 Mega Preview: Breaking Down All 16 Games (2020)

NFL Week 1 Preview

Jared Goff and the Rams feature in a showcase Week 1 game against Dallas (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

With NFL Week 1 of the 2020 season kicking off on Thursday, here’s a numbers-driven preview of all 16 games, including offseason news, spreads, picks, odds, stats, injuries, preseason outlooks, betting trends and more.

We dare you to read it all!

Quick Links to Individual Game Previews

Houston at Kansas City | Chicago at Detroit | Cleveland at Baltimore | Miami at New England | Philadelphia at Washington | Indianapolis at Jacksonville | NY Jets at Buffalo | Seattle at Atlanta | Las Vegas at Carolina | Green Bay at Minnesota | LA Chargers at Cincinnati | Arizona at San Francisco | Tampa Bay at New Orleans | Dallas at LA Rams | Pittsburgh at NY Giants | Tennessee at Denver

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1. Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs

Game Time: Thursday, Sep. 10 at 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)

Point Spread: Kansas City -9.5 (as of Monday, Sep. 7)

News & Notes

Houston’s final game of 2019 was an embarrassing 51-31 defeat at Kansas City in the AFC Divisional Round after the Texans led 24-0 in the second quarter. The team saw some notable offseason turnover on offense, headlined by the trade of star WR DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona for RB David Johnson. The Texans also added WRs Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb, hoping to offset Hopkins’ loss.

Following a disappointing year defensively, the Texans demoted coordinator Romeo Crennel and promoted defensive line coach Anthony Weaver to that role. The team is relying on new safety Eric Murray, a former Chief, and second-round pick DT Ross Blacklock to help after losing D.J. Reader, with a strong core that also includes DE J.J. Watt and LBs Zach Cunningham and Benardrick McKinney.

The reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs kept most of the band together, returning almost all of their starters from last year’s roster. One of the notable exceptions is running back, where first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire will replace Damien Williams. QB Patrick Mahomes does have his top four wideouts and star tight end Travis Kelce available, and the defense returns star players DE Frank Clark, DT Chris Jones, and S Tyrann Mathieu.

Key Injuries/Absences

Houston: CB Phillip Gaines suffered an ankle injury and is questionable.

Kansas City: RB Damien Williams and RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif opted out of the 2020 season. Starting CB Bashaud Breeland is suspended for the first four games of the regular season. Rotation DT Mike Pennel is suspended for the first two games.

Betting Blurbs

  • The 54.0 point over/under is the second highest in the history of the Chiefs/Texans matchup. The high was 54.5 points on October 13, 2019.
  • The defending Super Bowl champion is 7-3 SU and 5-3-2 ATS in their season opener over the last decade.

Season Outlook

The Chiefs open the season No. 1 in our predictive ratings, and while they have the top Super Bowl odds (17%), they trail Baltimore just slightly for odds to get the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs at 28%. Houston ranks No. 19 and is projected to finish third place in the AFC South with 7.7 wins.

Computer Picks & More Analysis

TR Game Winner Pick: Kansas City (79.8% win odds)

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2. Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

Game Time: Sunday, Sep. 13 at 1:00 p.m. ET (FOX)

Point Spread: Detroit -3 (as of Monday, Sep. 7)

News & Notes

The Bears acquired QB Nick Foles from the Jaguars in the offseason, but have announced that incumbent Mitchell Trubisky will be the starter to open the season. Unfortunately, Trubisky will be without starting running back RB David Montgomery, who is out with a groin injury.

Instead, the Bears are likely to use a committee of backs. As usual, they will lean on the defense that has finished top five in points allowed in consecutive seasons. The team is hopeful the losses of DT Eddie Goldman, LB Leonard Floyd, CB Prince Amukamara, and S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix can be offset by a healthy DE Akiem Hicks and the addition of OLB Robert Quinn.

Detroit was a competitive 3-4-1 last season before their season went off the rails due to QB Matthew Stafford’s back injury. Stafford is healthy, and has a new weapon at his disposal with second-round RB D’Andre Swift. The Lions made even more impactful moves on defense, adding former Patriots DT Danny Shelton, LB Jamie Collins, and S Duran Harmon, while also drafting CB Jeff Okudah to replace Darius Slay. The defense is head coaching Matt Patricia’s calling card, but he’s employed coordinator Cory Undlin to call plays in 2020.

Key Injuries/Absences

Chicago: Starting RB David Montgomery is out with a groin injury. NT Eddie Goldman opted out of the regular season. CB Artie Burns is out for the year with a torn ACL.

Detroit: WR Geronimo Allison opted out of the 2020 season.

Betting Blurbs

  • Head coaches Matt Nagy and Matt Patricia were both hired in 2018, and each has losing ATS records in their two seasons. Nagy is 16-17, while Patricia is 15-17.
  • Detroit is 6-4 SU and 7-3 ATS in their last 10 home games against Chicago.
  • This marks only the fifth time Detroit will be the betting favorite in a game with Patricia as coach. They are 2-2 SU and 1-3 ATS in the previous games as a favorite.

Season Outlook

The Bears and Lions are projected to finish third and fourth place in the NFC North, respectively. We give the Bears a 39% chance to make the playoffs with 7.8 wins, while the Lions trail with a 28% shot and 7.1 wins.

Computer Picks & More Analysis

TR Game Winner Pick: Detroit (65.5% win odds)

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3. Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens

Game Time: Sunday, Sep. 13 at 1:00 p.m. ET (CBS)

Point Spread: Baltimore -8.0 (as of Monday, Sep. 7)

News & Notes

Cleveland underwent yet another change at the top, with former Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski replacing former head coach Freddie Kitchens after Kitchens lasted one season. Stefanski is the franchise’s 10th full-time head coach since 2000, if you’re counting at home.

His biggest challenge will be developing former No. 1 overall draft choice QB Baker Mayfield, who had a disappointing sophomore season. The vastly improved offensive line will help after the Browns signed former Titans RT Jack Conklin and drafted LT Jedrick Wills in the first round.

The team also signed former Falcons TE Austin Hooper, adding to the impressive weapons that include RB Nick Chubb, RB Kareem Hunt, WR Odell Beckham, and WR Jarvis Landry. The defense also returns star DE Myles Garrett, who was suspended for the final six games of 2019. Former 49ers defensive backs coach Joe Woods was hired to run the defensive unit.

Baltimore had a historic 2019 season ruined by an early playoff ouster at the hands of Tennessee. Up to that point, the team was spectacular, led by MVP QB Lamar Jackson. They went 14-2 during the regular season, leading the NFL in points with a team that averaged a staggering 205 rushing yards per game.

The defense also allowed the third fewest points in the league, and have added to their front seven with the additions of DE Calais Campbell, DE Derek Wolfe, as well as rookie LBs Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison. One notable loss is Pro Bowl S Earl Thomas, who was cut two weeks ago following a fight at practice.

Key Injuries/Absences

Cleveland: OC J.C. Tretter is questionable with a knee injury. S Grant Delpit is out for the season with a torn right Achilles.

Baltimore: OC Matt Skura is questionable as he rehabs from knee surgery.

Betting Blurbs

  • Cleveland has the second-worst ATS record of any NFL franchise since 2003 at 119-145-8 (45.1%). Only the Raiders have a worse ATS record. That record includes a 5-10-1 ATS record in 2019.
  • Baltimore has been favored by more than 6 points against Cleveland in nine of the last 10 home games. They are 8-2 SU but only 3-7 ATS at home against the Browns over that span, including last year’s 40-25 upset loss at home.

Season Outlook

Cleveland has almost a 50/50 shot to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2002, with an 8.4 win projection (having a 7th playoff spot this year helps with that). Baltimore ranks No. 2 in predictive rankings behind the Chiefs and has a 16% chance to win the Super Bowl. Their 11.4 win projection is the best in the NFL.

Computer Picks & More Analysis

TR Game Winner Pick: Baltimore (75.3% win odds)

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4. Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots

Game Time: Sunday, Sep. 13 at 1:00 p.m. ET (CBS)

Point Spread: New England -6.0 (as of Monday, Sep. 7)

News & Notes

When the Dolphins last took the field, they shocked the playoff-bound Patriots in a 27-24 Week 17 victory. They get another opportunity in Week 1 after some major offseason changes. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick retains the starting job ahead of rookie Tua Tagavailoa this week, but he has two new running backs and an almost entirely new offensive line. The defense also added DE Shaq Lawson, LB Kyle Van Noy, LB Elandon Roberts, CB Byron Jones, and rookie CB Noah Igbinoghene.

For all of Miami’s changes, the Patriots have arguably seen even more this offseason. No change was bigger than the one at quarterback, as former Panthers QB Cam Newton replaces Tom Brady. The defense, which finished first in points and yards allowed in 2019, is also seeing big changes, as Van Noy and Roberts went to the opposite sideline, DT Danny Shelton  left for Cleveland, and LB Dont’a Hightower and S Patrick Chung opted out. While the Patriots still have reigning Defensive Player of the Year CB Stephon Gilmore, it would be naive to think the changing personnel won’t have an impact.

Key Injuries/Absences

Miami: WRs Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns opted out of the season.

New England: The Patriots had a league-high eight optouts, including RT Marcus Cannon, LB Dont’a Hightower, and S Patrick Chung. RB Damien Harris is also questionable with a hand injury.

Betting Blurbs

  • Miami has been at least 6.5 point underdogs in the last six head-to-head matchups vs. New England, but have covered and won outright in three of those games. The 6.0 point spread between the two teams is the lowest since September 18, 2016.
  • New England is 15-5 SU but only 9-11 ATS in season openers under Bill Belichick.

Season Outlook

Despite all of their offseason losses, the Patriots open the year ranked No. 8 in our predictive ratings and have a 61% chance to win the AFC East again with an 8.9 win projection. Miami is projected to finish in the cellar again with 5.7 wins and rank 30th.

Computer Picks & More Analysis

TR Game Winner Pick: New England (67.9% win odds)

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5. Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Football Team

Game Time: Sunday, Sep. 13 at 1:00 p.m. ET (FOX)

Point Spread: Philadelphia -6.5 (as of Monday, Sep. 7)

News & Notes

The Eagles made the playoffs for the third consecutive season in 2019, and won the NFC East for the second time in three years. The task could be tougher this year after Philadelphia lost 40% of their offensive line, as RG Brandon Brooks and LT Andre Dillard suffered season-ending injuries. First-round WR Jalen Reagor also suffered an injury two weeks ago, and WR Alshon Jeffery has been out of camp with a foot injury.

QB Carson Wentz will likely have to put the team on his back, at least early in the year. The defense has seen impact additions with DT Javon Hargrave and CB Darius Slay, though S Malcolm Jenkins left in free agency.

Washington is likely a work in progress this year. They cleaned house again after going 3-13 last year, hiring head coach Ron Rivera and even ridding themselves of the “Redskins” surname with a new official name TBD. The personnel hasn’t had many major changes, but there’s hope second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins will take a leap after struggling last year.

The running back position looks wide open after the team released Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson. The defense does have reason to be excited about second overall draft choice DE Chase Young, and veteran LB Thomas Davis comes on board with a history in Rivera’s defense while in Carolina.

Key Injuries/Absences

Philadelphia: The Eagles are already very banged up. OG Brandon Brooks and OT Andre Dillard each suffered season-ending injuries. WRs Alshon Jeffery (foot) and Jalen Reagor (shoulder) will miss Week 1, leaving the team short-handed. S Will Parks is out for 4-6 weeks with a hamstring injury. DE Derek Barnett is questionable with a sprained ankle, and DT Javon Hargrave is questionable with a pectoral injury.

Washington: Promising young WR Kelvin Harmon was lost for the year to a torn ACL.

Betting Blurbs

  • The Eagles have won six consecutive games vs. Washington and covered the spread in five of those contests.
  • This will mark the seventh straight year that Philadelphia is favored when playing at Washington. They are 3-3 SU and ATS the previous six seasons in the favorite’s role.
  • The last time Washington won a season opener at home was in 2011. They are 0-4 at home in Week 1 since then.

Season Outlook

Philly is projected to finish second in the NFC East with 8.6 wins, but they still have a 54% chance to make the playoffs. The odds are much longer for Washington, who are projected for only 5.0 wins and have a 9% shot to make the playoffs. Washington opens the year ahead of only Jacksonville in our predictive ratings.

Computer Picks & More Analysis

TR Game Winner Pick: Philadelphia (73.2% win odds)

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6. Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars

Game Time: Sunday, Sep. 13 at 1:00 p.m. ET (FOX)

Point Spread: Indianapolis -8.0 (as of Monday, Sep. 7)

News & Notes

The Colts enter the season with their third starting quarterback in three years, as former Charger QB Philip Rivers was brought in to replace QB Jacoby Brissett. Rivers has a talented, albeit raw, set of wideouts behind T.Y. Hilton with second-year Parris Campbell and rookie Michael Pittman Jr. Rookie RB Jonathan Taylor will also challenge Marlon Mack for carries.

As big an impact as Rivers will have on the offense, the Colts are hoping DT DeForest Buckner can have an almost equal impact on defense after trading their first-round pick to San Francisco to acquire him. He joins 2019 acquisition DE Justin Houston for what looks like a formidable front seven. The secondary is also remade with new starting CBs T.J. Carrie and Xavier Rhodes.

Jacksonville is a team in transition, with QB Gardner Minshew inheriting the full-time post after the team traded Nick Foles. The Jags also released RB Leonard Fournette last week, and will turn to a committee as a result.

The defense also traded star pass rushers Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue, as well as CB A.J. Bouye and S Ronnie Harrison, though they did augment the talent with LBs Joe Schobert and rookie K’Lavon Chaisson, along with rookie CB C.J. Henderson.

Key Injuries/Absences

Indianapolis: TE Trey Burton is out with a calf injury.

Jacksonville: CB Rashaan Melvin opted out of the season.

Betting Blurbs

  • The Colts are 8-5 SU and 8-4-1 ATS vs. AFC South division opponents since Frank Reich was hired in 2018.
  • Indianapolis last won in Jacksonville in September of 2014. They are 0-4 since then, losing by an average of 20 points (one other “road” game was played in London since ’14).

Season Outlook

The Colts are our favorite to win the AFC South, just edging out the Titans with a 38% chance to win the division at 8.8 wins and No. 14 in our rankings. Jacksonville ranks dead last in our predictive ratings and have just a 10% chance to make the playoffs.

Computer Picks & More Analysis

TR Game Winner Pick: Indianapolis (77.3% win odds)

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7. New York Jets at Buffalo Bills

Game Time: Sunday, Sep. 13 at 1:00 p.m. ET (CBS)

Point Spread: Buffalo -6.5 (as of Monday, Sep. 7)

News & Notes

The Jets finished 7-9 last season under head coach Adam Gase, but it remains to be seen if they have a chance to improve with this year’s roster. The team had several offensive line additions, led by first-round pick LT Mekhi Becton, to help keep QB Sam Darnold upright, but have lost No. 1 wide receiver WR Robby Anderson along with star S Jamal Adams, among other defensive players. The wide receiver corps is also banged up going into the season, with Breshad Perriman and rookie Denzel Mims nursing injuries in training camp.

With the changes in New England, the Bills would seem to have their best shot at winning the AFC East in decades. The team last won the division 25 years ago, but they have made the playoffs in two of the last three seasons under head coach Sean McDermott.

The team is challenging third-year QB Josh Allen to improve, and he will have the aid of No. 1 WR Stefon Diggs, along with third-round rookie RB Zack Moss. The defense is also hoping to get a boost from veterans DE Mario Addison and CB Josh Norman after allowing the second fewest points in the NFL in 2019.

Key Injuries/Absences

NY Jets: LB C.J. Mosley opted out of the 2020 season. LB Patrick Onwuasor is out with a knee injury. CB Pierre Desir is questionable with a hamstring injury.

Buffalo: DT Star Lotulelei opted out of the season.

Betting Blurbs

  • Buffalo’s over record has been below 50% in all three seasons since McDermott became head coach and is 19-31 (38%) overall, second lowest in the NFL in that timespan.
  • Over the last decade, the favorite in the Jets-Bills series is only 9-11 SU and 8-12 ATS.

Season Outlook

The Jets open the season ranked No. 29 in our predictive ratings with only a 17% chance to make the playoffs. The Bills are projected for 8.5 wins, putting them in second place in the division behind the Patriots. They have a 37% chance to win the division and a 53% chance to make the playoffs.

Computer Picks & More Analysis

TR Game Winner Pick: Buffalo (72.2% win odds)

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8. Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons

Game Time: Sunday, Sep. 13 at 1:00 p.m. ET (FOX)

Point Spread: Seattle -1.5 (as of Monday, Sep. 7)

News & Notes

Seattle averaged nearly 30 rush attempts per game last season, with a run-heavy offense they adopted under coordinator Brian Schottenheimer in 2018. They have the personnel to do that again with lead RB Chris Carson and the addition of Carlos Hyde, though the analytics crowd would like to see highly efficient QB Russell Wilson throw more often.

The defense last season was the second worst since Pete Carroll’s arrival in 2010, ranking 11th worst in points allowed. The team could have even more trouble rushing the passer after losing DE Jadeveon Clowney, but they hope to have remedied the secondary with the additions of All-Pro S Jamal Adams and CB Quinton Dunbar.

The Falcons had a tale of two halves in 2019, going 1-7 in the first half of the season and 6-2 in the latter half. Head coach Dan Quinn could be on his last run after missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.

The offensive personnel has seen slight changes, with the additions of RB Todd Gurley and TE Hayden Hurst, but the offense runs through perennial 4,000 yard passer Matt Ryan. After the defense allowed 245 passing yards per game last season (12th worst), they added pass rusher Dante Fowler and first-round CB A.J. Terrell. Better health from S Keanu Neal would also go a long way in helping, as the 2017 Pro Bowler has played a combined four games over the last two seasons.

Key Injuries/Absences

Seattle: RB Rashaad Penny is out as he recovers from a torn ACL suffered late last season. DE Branden Jackson is out with a back injury. WR Josh Gordon was signed last week but is currently suspended.

Atlanta: DB Jordan Miller is suspended for the first three games of the season.

Betting Blurbs

  • Seattle has the fifth-best ATS record since Carroll was hired in 2010 at 94-76-7 (55.3%) and third-best since Wilson became the starting quarterback in 2012 at 77-60-6 (56.2%).
  • However, Seattle is 1-4 SU and ATS in Week 1 road openers with Carroll coaching and Wilson starting at QB.
  • Seattle is 14-6 SU and 11-6-3 ATS in early Sunday afternoon road games played in the Eastern Time Zone since 2010.

Season Outlook

Seattle projects to finish second place behind San Francisco in the tough NFC West with 9.1 wins. We give them a 27% chance to win the division and a 56% chance to make the playoffs. The Falcons have a 7.6 win projection, putting them in third place in the NFC South with a 35% chance to make the playoffs.

Computer Picks & More Analysis

TR Game Winner Pick: Seattle (52.2% win odds)

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9. Las Vegas Raiders at Carolina Panthers

Game Time: Sunday, Sep. 13 at 1:00 p.m. ET (CBS)

Point Spread: Las Vegas -3.0 (as of Monday, Sep. 7)

News & Notes

The Raiders start a new era in 2020, calling Las Vegas home. The team had an active offseason that included the additions of TE Jason Witten, LB Cory Littleton, and LB Nick Kwiatkoski. The team also addressed needs in the draft, adding two wideouts in Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards, as well as first-round CB Damon Arnette. The team improved from 4-12 to 7-9 in head coach Jon Gruden‘s second season, and hope for another jump this year despite finishing 24th in points scored and points allowed in 2019.

Carolina had an offseason facelift, to the say the least, hiring head coach Matt Rhule away from Baylor University, signing QB Teddy Bridgewater, and revamping almost the entire defense. The changes might be a work in progress after an abbreviated offseason, but there is reason to be excited about the offense with RB Christian McCaffrey, WR D.J. Moore, and former Jets No. 1 WR Robby Anderson. New coordinator Joe Brady is also well-regarded after revamping LSU’s passing game last year. As for the defense, holdovers DT Kawann Short, DE Brian Burns, LB Shaq Thompson, CB Donte Jackson, and S Tre Boston will be counted on to stabilize an otherwise very young and inexperienced unit that finished second worst in points allowed last season.

Key Injuries/Absences

Las Vegas: WR Tyrell Williams will miss the season with a torn labrum. CB Damon Arnette is questionable with a thumb injury.

Carolina: The Panthers have no major reported injuries at this time.

Betting Blurbs

  • Bridgewater is 28-7 ATS as a starting quarterback during his NFL career.
  • Teams with new head coaches, like Carolina in this game, are 1-13-1 SU and 4-11 ATS in Week 1 over the last two seasons. The only win was the Packers over the Bears in the season opener last year.

Season Outlook

Our projections put the Raiders in last place in the AFC West this season with 6.7 wins, ranking No. 24 in the NFL with a 26% chance to make the playoffs. The Panthers are even worse, ranked No. 26 with 6.1 wins and a 15% chance at the playoffs.

Computer Picks & More Analysis

TR Game Winner Pick: Las Vegas (59.3% win odds)

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10. Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings

Game Time: Sunday, Sep. 13 at 1:00 p.m. ET (FOX)

Point Spread: Minnesota -3.0 (as of Monday, Sep. 7)

News & Notes

It was an unsatisfying offseason for Packers fans after the team advanced to the NFC Championship Game last year. With clear receiver needs, the Packers mostly stood pat in free agency and the draft, with the exception of now opted out WR Devin Funchess. Of course, QB Aaron Rodgers has found success in the NFL in almost every situation, and he will try to lead the offense again this year.

Green Bay finished just 15th in points scored last year, and will likely lean on RB Aaron Jones again, who had 285 touches and a league-leading 19 touchdowns in 2019. The task could be slightly tougher this year after losing RT Bryan Bulaga in free agency.

The defense was able to get more consistent pass rush last season after signing OLBs Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, and return most of last year’s unit with the notable exception of ILB Christian Kirksey replacing Blake Martinez.

Like Green Bay, the Vikings fell to San Francisco in last year’s playoffs. Unlike the Packers, Minnesota addressed their major perceived holes in the offseason. The team lost star WR Stefon Diggs, long-time DE Everson Griffen, and CBs Trae Waynes, Xavier Rhodes, and Mackensie Alexander. To replace those players, Minnesota drafted WR Justin Jefferson, CB Jeff Gladney, and CB Cameron Dantzler, and they also recently acquired former Jaguars sack artist DE Yannick Ngakoue.

This offseason doesn’t seem like an optimal time for major changes, but the team does have a strong core to fall back on, led by QB Kirk Cousins, RB Dalvin Cook, and WR Adam Thielen on offense, and DE Danielle Hunter, LB Eric Kendricks, and S Harrison Smith on defense. The latter defensive trio will try to continue the team’s streak of five consecutive seasons ranking top 10 in points allowed under head coach Mike Zimmer.

Key Injuries/Absences

Green Bay: WR Devin Funchess opted out of the 2020 season. LB Kamal Martin is out 6-8 weeks with a torn meniscus in his left knee. RT Billy Turner is questionable with a knee injury.

Minnesota: DT Michael Pierce opted out of the 2020 season.

Betting Blurbs

  • Since Zimmer was hired in 2014, the Vikings ATS record is the second-best in the NFL at 62-38-1 (62.0%).
  • The Packers won both head-to-head matchups vs. Minnesota last season and have covered in three of the last four contests.
  • The home team in the Packers-Vikings series is 11-8-2 SU and 14-7 ATS over the last decade.

Season Outlook

We project a highly competitive NFC North again, with the Vikings and Packers deadlocked with a 31% chance to claim the division. Minnesota ranks No. 11 in our predictive ratings, while Green Bay is one spot behind at No. 12.

Computer Picks & More Analysis

TR Game Winner Pick: Minnesota (59.5% win odds)

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11. Los Angeles Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals

Game Time: Sunday, Sep. 13 at 4:05 p.m. ET (CBS)

Point Spread: LA Chargers -3.0 (as of Monday, Sep. 7)

News & Notes

For the first time since 2005, the Chargers will enter Week 1 without QB Philip Rivers under center. Instead, veteran QB Tyrod Taylor will start in Week 1, keeping the seat warm for first-round pick QB Justin Herbert. That pair has a lot to work with, including dynamic RB Austin Ekeler, No. 1 WR Keenan Allen, and TE Hunter Henry.

The defense added to its talent pool with DT Linval Joseph, LB Nick Vigil, CB Chris Harris Jr., and first-round pick LB Kenneth Murray, but unfortunately star S Derwin James will miss all of 2020 after suffering a knee injury. That injury adds to what has become seemingly annual bad luck for the franchise.

Cincinnati was the NFL’s worst team in 2019 at 2-14, but they had the draft capital and salary cap space to make a splash this offseason. Former LSU QB Joe Burrow was the headliner as the No. 1 overall draft choice, but the team also spent big on defense after allowing the third most points in 2018 and eighth most points in 2019. The additions included DT D.J. Reader, CB Trae Waynes, and CB Mackensie Alexander, and the Bengals also added multiple linebackers in the draft. If nothing else, Cincinnati looks more competitive on paper than they did last season.

Key Injuries/Absences

LA Chargers: Derwin James is out for the season following knee surgeryWR Mike Williams is out with a shoulder injury.

Cincinnati: CB Trae Waynes is out with a pectoral injury. WR John Ross has been nursing an arm injury.

Betting Blurbs

  • Cincinnati has covered in six of the last seven head-to-head contests vs. the Chargers, dating back to 2009. The most recent game was 2018.
  • Since moving to Los Angeles in 2017, the Chargers are 11-11 SU and 7-14-1 ATS when playing at home, but are 16-12 SU and 15-10-3 ATS when playing a game outside of LA.

Season Outlook

Despite the loss of Rivers, the Chargers project to improve to 7.8 wins and have a 39% chance to make the playoffs. Cincinnati’s influx of talent improves their projected outlook to 6.0 wins, but that only gives them a 16% chance to make the playoffs.

Computer Picks & More Analysis

TR Game Winner Pick: LA Chargers (54.6% win odds)

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12. Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers

Game Time: Sunday, Sep. 13 at 4:25 p.m. ET (FOX)

Point Spread: San Francisco -7.0 (as of Monday, Sep. 7)

News & Notes

Arizona’s offense improved from dead last in points during 2018 to 16th last season, due in large part to the additions of rookie QB Kyler Murray and head coach Kliff Kingsbury. They hope to continue the momentum this season now that Murray has a full year under his belt. He also has elite WR DeAndre Hopkins, acquired from Houston in the offseason, as a new weapon.

However, it’s the defense that has the biggest room for improvement, allowing the fifth-most points and most yards in the NFL last year. The Cardinals were busy adding talent to the defense during the offseason, including DT Jordan Phillips, LB De’Vondre Campbell, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, and first-round pick LB Isaiah Simmons. Arizona also hopes star CB Patrick Peterson rebounds after a sub-par season by his standards.

The 49ers lost a 10-point fourth quarter lead in last year’s Super Bowl, but hope to get another opportunity this season. Last year’s roster is mostly intact, though the team did lose WR Emmanuel Sanders, LT Joe Staley, and DT DeForest Buckner. Each of those losses was addressed, though the big concern early in the year will be receiver depth with WR Deebo Samuel questionable with a foot injury.

The offense saw quite a jump from 21st in points in 2018 to second place last year on the strength of an elite running game that averaged 154 yards per game. The defense also set the tone, ranking eighth in points allowed due in large part to a dominant defensive line spurred by the addition of rookie DE Nick Bosa. The loss of Buckner hurts, but the team still has Bosa, DE Dee Ford, and DE Arik Armstead, while also using a first-round pick on DT Javon Kinlaw to replace Buckner.

Key Injuries/Absences

Arizona: CB Robert Alford is out with a pectoral injury, and RT Marcus Gilbert opted out of the season. RB Kenyan Drake nursed a foot injury during camp but should be fine for Week 1.

San Francisco: WR Deebo Samuel missed much of training camp with a foot injury and seems questionable for Week 1. LB Fred Warner was placed on the COVID-19 list last week. CB K’Waun Williams is questionable due to a strained calf.

Betting Blurbs

  • Despite winning both head-to-head matchups last season, the 49ers haven’t covered the spread vs. Arizona since 2017, a span covering five games.
  • San Francisco was 11-7-1 overall ATS in 2019 (including the playoffs) but only 2-6-1 ATS when favored by 6 or more points.

Season Outlook

The 49ers are our No. 4 overall ranked team, and we give them a 46% chance to repeat as NFC West champs. Arizona is projected to finish last again with 7.2 wins, and open the year ranked No. 23.

Computer Picks & More Analysis

TR Game Winner Pick: San Francisco (70.9% win odds)

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13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints

Game Time: Sunday, Sep. 13 at 4:25 p.m. ET (FOX)

Point Spread: New Orleans -3.5 (as of Monday, Sep. 7)

News & Notes

Tampa Bay was one of the biggest stories of the offseason, bringing on future Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady and also adding former Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski. It should be noted the offensive production wasn’t the Bucs problem last year, as they ranked third in points and yards during 2019 with QB Jameis Winston at quarterback. However, Winston’s whopping 30 interceptions often put the defense in compromising positions, so the hope is that a more accurate and conservative Brady will put the team over the hump after their third straight losing season.

The defense is loaded with big-name talent, and were able to retain the pass-rushing trio of DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DT Ndamukong Suh, and OLB Shaq Barrett. Tampa Bay shored up other weaknesses in the draft by taking RT Tristan Wirfs in the first round and S Antoine Winfield Jr. in the second round.

Like last season, the Saints have a Super Bowl or bust approach in what could be 41-year-old QB Drew Brees’ final season. The team’s 13-3 regular season ended with a thud in a shocking home loss to the Vikings in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs.

The Saints have added veterans with Super Bowl experience in WR Emmanuel Sanders and S Malcolm Jenkins, but also return most of their core roster from last season. Brees has plenty of support with RB Alvin Kamara, WR Michael Thomas, and TE Jared Cook, and the defense is on a three-year streak of finishing in the top half of the NFL in points allowed with elite players at all three levels in DE Cameron Jordan, LB Demario Davis, and CB Marshon Lattimore.

Key Injuries/Absences

Tampa Bay: The Bucs have no major reported injuries.

New Orleans: LB Kiko Alonso is recovering form a torn ACL suffered in last year’s playoffs. LG Andrus Peat is questionable with a fractured thumb.

Betting Blurbs

  • Tampa Bay led all NFL teams with a 12-4 over record last season.
  • New Orleans snapped a 5-game Week 1 losing streak last year with a close win over Houston, but are still 0-6 ATS in Week 1 since 2014.

Season Outlook

We project the Saints and Bucs to be in the top two teams in the NFC South, giving New Orleans a 53% chance to claim the division and the Buccaneers at 30% chance. Both teams are likely to make the playoffs, regardless, with the Saints at 78% and Bucs at 61% odds to make the postseason.

Computer Picks & More Analysis

TR Game Winner Pick: New Orleans (52.3% win odds)

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14. Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams

Game Time: Sunday, Sep. 13 at 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)

Point Spread: Dallas -3.0 (as of Monday, Sep. 7)

News & Notes

After nine-plus seasons of the Jason Garrett experience, the Cowboys finally moved on and hired former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy in the offseason. His offense was considered vanilla at the end of his tenure in Green Bay, but he has the weapons to do whatever he desires with his new team. In addition to stars QB Dak Prescott, RB Ezekiel Elliott, WR Amari Cooper, and WR Michael Gallup, the Cowboys drafted former Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb in the first round.

The defense was plagued by losses in the offseason like DE Robert Quinn, DT Maliek Collins, CB Byron Jones, and S Jeff Heath, but they did add DE Everson Griffen, DE Aldon Smith, DT Dontari Poe, and rookie CB Trevon Diggs. The end result is a roster that’s arguably the most talented in the NFC, with expectations to match, despite missing the playoffs in 2019.

The Rams also fell short of the playoffs last year after advancing to the Super Bowl in 2018. Also like Dallas, the Rams lost some prominent players in the offseason such as RB Todd Gurley, WR Brandin Cooks, OLB Dante Fowler, ILB Cory Littleton, and S Eric Weddle.

Los Angeles is hopeful that QB Jared Goff can rebound after his stats regressed in 2019, though it remains to be seen how the running back play will fare from the team’s new three-man committee. The defense moved on from acclaimed coordinator Wade Phillips, hiring former Bears and Broncos linebackers coach Brandon Staley, so some adjustment could be in order. The team did add LB Leonard Floyd to fill one of the linebacker voidsand still have star power with arguably the best defensive lineman (Aaron Donald) and cornerback (Jalen Ramsey) in football.

Key Injuries/Absences

Dallas: DT Gerald McCoy was lost for the year to an Achilles injury. CB Jourdan Lewis is questionable with a left ankle injury.

LA Rams: Rookie OLB Terrell Lewis is questionable with a knee injury.

Betting Blurbs

  • The Rams have the fourth-best ATS record in the NFL since Sean McVay was hired in 2017 at 28-22-2 (56.0%).
  • Over the last decade, there have been 14 Week 1 games featuring an O/U of 50 or more. The betting underdog has gone 8-6 SU and 13-1 ATS in those expected high-scoring Week 1 matchups.

Season Outlook

Dallas is projected to be the class of the NFC East with 9.3 wins and a 49% chance to win the division. They rank No. 6 overall in our predictive ratings. The Rams are all the way down to No. 16 in our rankings and have a 45% chance to return to the playoffs with an 8.4 win projection.

Computer Picks & More Analysis

TR Game Winner Pick: Dallas (59.6% win odds)

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15. Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants

Game Time: Sunday, Sep. 14 at 7:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Point Spread: Pittsburgh -5.5 (as of Monday, Sep. 7)

News & Notes

The Steelers lost QB Ben Roethlisberger to a season-ending elbow injury in Week 2 last season but managed a .500 record due in large part to their elite defense that finished fifth in yards and points allowed. The team is relieved to have Big Ben back, albeit at age 38.

Pittsburgh has continued to add young wideouts to the fray after losing Antonio Brown two years ago, as they’ve spent an early-round draft choice on the position in three consecutive years. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster is the clear No. 1 option, and the Steelers also signed veteran TE Eric Ebron to help. The defensive talent remains almost the same as last year, with elite pass rusher OLB T.J. Watt, DE Cameron Heyward, ILB Devin Bush, and S Minkah Fitzpatrick leading the way.

The Giants are hoping for a big sophomore leap from QB Daniel Jones. He will have to accomplish it with two rookie tackles after LT Nate Solder opted out of the regular season. The good news is that all of his weapons are healthy entering the year, including RB Saquon Barkley and TE Evan Engram.

The offense could be somewhat conservative based on new coordinator Jason Garrett‘s reputation and a defense that has major talent deficiencies. While the Giants did add LB Blake Martinez and CB James Bradberry in the offseason, they still lack much of a pass rush after finishing in the bottom half of the league in sack rate last season (6.08%) and lost 2019 first-round CB Deandre Baker to legal troubles at least to start the year.

Key Injuries/Absences

Pittsburgh: WR Diontae Johnson was hobbled in camp with a calf injury, and his status is uncertain.

NY Giants: LT Nate Solder and CB Sam Beal opted out of the season. CB Deandre Baker is out as he deals with off-field legal issues. S Xavier McKinney is out for 2-3 months following foot surgery.

Betting Blurbs

  • Pittsburgh had a 4-12 over record in 2019, the second-lowest rate in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh is 16-9-1 SU and 11-13-2 ATS as a road favorite over the last five seasons.
  • The Giants are 10-15 SU and 8-16-1 ATS in non-division home games in the last five years.

Season Outlook

Our projections show a slight rebound for the Steelers with 8.7 wins and a 53% chance to make the playoffs. The same can’t be said for the Giants and first-year head coach Joe Judge. They’re projected to win 6.1 wins with only a 17% chance to make the playoffs, beginning the season as our 27th ranked team.

Computer Picks & More Analysis

TR Game Winner Pick: Pittsburgh (71.6% win odds)

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16. Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos

Game Time: Sunday, Sep. 14 at 10:10 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Point Spread: PK (as of Monday, Sep. 7)

News & Notes

Tennessee went on a great playoff run to make the AFC Championship Game as a No. 6 seed last year, and look to continue that momentum in 2020. QB Ryan Tannehill got a contract extension after going 9-4 as a starter last season, and RB Derrick Henry also got paid in the offseason. The combo was uber-efficient last season, as Tannehill averaged 9.6 yards per attempt and Henry had 5.1 yards per carry.

The defense had some offseason adjustment after the retirement of coordinator Dean Pees and losses of DE Jurrell Casey and CB Logan Ryan. Tennessee signed former Falcons pass rusher Vic Beasley, who has missed time in camp for unknown reasons, and also added Jadeveon Clowney this weekend. They are otherwise relying on improvement from recent first-round draft picks DE Jeffery Simmons and LB Harold Landry.

The Broncos were obviously encouraged by rookie QB Drew Lock’s late-season performance, going 4-1 as a starter. They’ve worked to surround him with more talent in the offseason, signing RB Melvin Gordon and drafting WR Jerry Jeudy, WR K.J. Hamler, OC Lloyd Cushenberry, and TE Albert Okwuegbunam over the first four rounds.

That adds to what the team saw from exciting young weapons RB Phillip Lindsay, WR Courtland Sutton, and TE Noah Fant recently. The defense also got some love with the additions of former Titans DE Jurrell Casey and CB A.J. Bouye, along with the return of OLB Bradley Chubb from knee surgery. After three consecutive losing seasons, the Broncos expect to be more competitive in 2020.

Key Injuries/Absences

Tennessee: OLB Vic Beasley‘s status is up in the air after showing up for camp late and then failing his physical.

Denver: RT Ja’Wuan James opted out of the 2020 season. WR K.J. Hamler is likely to miss Week 1 with a hamstring injury.

Betting Blurbs

  • The Broncos had a 7-9 over record in 2019, but they were 3-2 with Drew Lock starting at quarterback.
  • Denver is 10-1 SU and 7-2-2 ATS in Week 1 home openers since 2000.

Season Outlook

We project the Colts to edge out the Titans in the AFC South, but still give Tennessee a 56% chance to return to the playoffs with an 8.7 win projection. Denver’s prospects for the playoffs aren’t quite as good, with only a 32% chance and 7.2 wins.

Computer Picks & More Analysis

TR Game Winner Pick: Tennessee (53.7% win odds)

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