7:00 AM ET
The Week 1 NFL schedule for the 2021 season is stacked with great matchups, and we have you covered with what you need to know heading into the weekend. Our NFL Nation reporters bring us the biggest keys to every game, a bold prediction for each matchup and, of course, final score picks.
Additionally, ESPN Stats & Information provides a big stat to know for each contest, and our Football Power Index (FPI) goes inside the numbers with a matchup rating (on a scale of 1 to 100) and a game projection. ESPN researcher Kyle Soppe hands out helpful fantasy football and betting nuggets as well. Everything you want to know is here in one spot to help you get ready for a loaded weekend of NFL football.
Let’s get into the full Week 1 slate, including a showdown between two AFC powerhouses, numerous players suiting up for the first time with new teams and three rookie QBs making their debuts as starters. It all culminates with a Monday Night Football matchup between the Ravens and Raiders on ESPN. (Game times are Sunday unless otherwise noted.)
Thursday: TB 31, DAL 29
NFL : Steelers at Bills
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 63.5 | Spread: BUF -6.5 (48)
What to watch for: The Bills ranked 15th in the NFL in sacks last season, while the Steelers protected QB Ben Roethlisberger better than any other team, allowing a league-low 14 sacks. But Buffalo revamped its defensive line this offseason, while Pittsburgh placed right tackle Zach Banner on IR last week and listed rookie Dan Moore Jr. as its starter at left tackle. Roethlisberger’s jersey might not be so clean come Sunday. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Bold prediction: Steelers running back Najee Harris will have more than 100 all-purpose yards. It’s no small task to ask a rookie to carry a team’s ground game, but taken in the first round in April, Harris is expected to do exactly that. His first test comes against a Bills team that struggled with missed tackles a season ago and had an average run defense. In 2020, the Steelers combined for 47 rushing yards on 2.8 yards per carry in their loss to the Bills, but as a dual-threat runner and pass-catcher, Harris should drastically elevate the Steelers’ offense — even with a work-in-progress offensive line. — Brooke Pryor
Stat to know: Bills QB Josh Allen set franchise records with 37 passing TDs and 4,544 passing yards, and his 25 rushing touchdowns over the past three seasons are the most among QBs and rank ninth among all players in that span.
What to know for fantasy: Allen was a top-five fantasy quarterback a league-best nine times last season, but he draws a Steelers defense that was second best in limiting fantasy production by QBs. See Week 1 rankings.
Betting nugget: The Bills covered in six home games last season, matching their total from the two prior seasons combined. Read more.
Pryor’s pick: Bills 24, Steelers 21
Louis-Jacques’ pick: Bills 27, Steelers 14
FPI prediction: BUF, 67.8% (by an average of 6.7 points)
Matchup must-reads: Steelers expect LB Watt to practice in full, be available for opener … How Allen, Bills keep underdog mentality despite expectations … Steelers acquire CB Witherspoon from Seahawks … Bills’ Stevenson, White’s path from Shreveport to Buffalo
NFL : Seahawks at Colts
1 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 60.7 | Spread: SEA -3 (49.5)
What to watch for: Keep an eye on how Colts rookie defensive end Kwity Paye does against Seahawks left tackle Duane Brown. Paye, the No. 21 pick in this year’s draft, dominated just about every offensive tackle he faced during training camp, but he’ll be tested in his first NFL start. Brown is a four-time Pro Bowler who had the second-best pass block win rate among tackles last season. The Colts are trying to make up for losing a combined 15.5 sacks in Justin Houston and Denico Autry in the offseason. — Mike Wells
Bold prediction: The Seahawks’ offense will turn in a mixed-bag performance. There will be some moments that show how much potential it has with one of the NFL’s best collections of skill players and a new scheme that can put defenses on their heels. But it’s being coordinated by a first-time playcaller in Shane Waldron, it’s facing a top-10 defense from last season and many of its starters — including QB Russell Wilson — didn’t play a down in the preseason. — Brady Henderson
Stat to know: The Seahawks are 12-1 with Wilson at QB in the Eastern time zone since the start of the 2018 season. And in those 13 games, Wilson has a Total QBR of 83, 26 TDs, five interceptions and a 72% completion percentage.
Matthew Berry explains why he is high on Russell Wilson this year in fantasy.
What to know for fantasy: Colts running back Jonathan Taylor ranked second in percentage of runs gaining at least 10 yards last season (15.1%), but he has a tough matchup against a Seahawks front that ranked among the top eight in yards per carry allowed both before and after contact last season. See Week 1 rankings.
Betting nugget: Over the past two seasons, the Seahawks are 8-2 outright as road favorites but just 3-6-1 against the spread (ATS) in those games. Read more.
Henderson’s pick: Seahawks 23, Colts 21
Wells’ pick: Seahawks 33, Colts 26
FPI prediction: IND, 51.7% (by an average of 0.7 points)
Matchup must-reads: Seahawks’ Brown says no bad blood with team after contract dispute … Leonard, Buckner, Colts D take aim at forcing 40 turnovers … New players, same question: Do the Seahawks have enough at cornerback? … How Seahawks’ Wilson, Waldron plan to avoid 2020 repeat
NFL : Cardinals at Titans
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 53.7 | Spread: TEN -3 (52)
What to watch for: It’s finally time for the Titans to see how quickly QB Ryan Tannehill and wide receiver Julio Jones are able to get on the same page after limited reps together in camp. Jones against any of the Cardinals’ corners is an obvious mismatch — and the same can be said about receiver A.J. Brown‘s matchups. Tannehill isn’t one to lock in on a particular receiver, so it will be interesting to see how he goes about distributing the football to his two premier playmakers. — Turron Davenport
Bold prediction: There will be a lot of yards gained by a lot of players Sunday in Nissan Stadium. Arizona’s DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green, and Tennessee’s Jones and Brown will all have 100 yards receiving in the opener, and Titans running back Derrick Henry will rush for 150 yards. Both offenses will showcase what they can do and all their shiny new players, but they’ll both be exhausted by the end of the game. — Josh Weinfuss
Stat to know: Jones and Hopkins love Week 1; they are tied for the most receiving touchdowns in the opening week of play among all currently rostered players with seven apiece (Larry Fitzgerald has nine).
What to know for fantasy: Henry has never had a carry gain more than 25 yards in the first month of a season. See Week 1 rankings.
Betting nugget: All eight of Arizona’s road games went under the total last season. But the over is 21-4-1 for Tennessee in the regular season in Tannehill’s starts since he joined the team. Read more.
Weinfuss’ pick: Titans 38, Cardinals 35
Davenport’s pick: Titans 35, Cardinals 27
FPI prediction: TEN, 63.6% (by an average of 5.0 points)
Matchup must-reads: Cardinals’ Kingsbury not sweating playoff pressure … Titans’ Tannehill, Jones must work quickly to establish chemistry … How the Titans’ defense can solve its Achilles’ heel: third downs
NFL : Chargers at Washington
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 51.8 | Spread: WSH -1 (44.5)
What to watch for: Can the Chargers’ offensive line hold Washington’s defensive front? Los Angeles quarterback Justin Herbert was sacked 32 times last season, tied for ninth most in the NFL, while Washington recorded 47 sacks, tied for sixth best. And 34 of those came from a defensive line that welcomes back its best interior rusher in Matt Ioannidis and has two top young defensive ends in Chase Young and Montez Sweat. Los Angeles revamped its line with four new starters — including rookie tackle Rashawn Slater — but will it be enough? — John Keim
Bold prediction: Yes, Washington has a defensive front that Herbert said “is about as good as it gets.” But the Chargers’ revamped offensive line has something to prove. Expect it to keep Herbert clean and allow him to throw for more than 350 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday. — Shelley Smith
Stat to know: Washington QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will be starting for his ninth different team. According to the Elias Sports Bureau research, he was already the first player (not just quarterback) to start for eight different teams since at least 1933. The only other QB to throw a pass for eight different teams is Josh McCown.
What to know for fantasy: Washington tight end Logan Thomas lined up in the slot on 44.2% of his snaps last season and faces a Chargers defense that allowed the third-most yards per slot pass attempt in 2020 (8.8). See Week 1 rankings.
Matthew Berry identifies the biggest attribute Logan Thomas has in common with Rob Gronkowski.
Betting nugget: Last season, Washington ranked second in fourth-quarter point differential (plus-69), while the Chargers ranked 31st (minus-50). Read more.
Smith’s pick: Chargers 27, Washington 17
Keim’s pick: Washington 23, Chargers 21
FPI prediction: WSH, 59.3% (by an average of 3.4 points)
Matchup must-reads: Young or Herbert? ESPN experts hit rewind, make Washington’s 2020 pick … Chargers hope Vizcaino is the kicker to solve their late-game issues … Reyes makes Washington’s roster, becomes first Chilean-born NFL player … The magic and mystery of Herbert
NFL : Vikings at Bengals
1 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 41.5 | Spread: MIN -3 (47)
What to watch for: Bengals QB Joe Burrow will be making his official return from a season-ending knee injury in 2020. He’ll try to exploit a Minnesota secondary that surrendered big passing plays in 2020, while Vikings running back Dalvin Cook will look to exploit the Bengals’ run defense. — Ben Baby
Bold prediction: Minnesota’s overhauled secondary will struggle against Burrow, whose accuracy and ability to scramble will lead him to three passing touchdowns, keeping this game close until the final moments. Vikings’ kicker Greg Joseph, who hasn’t kicked in a game since the end of the 2019 season, will nail a 50-plus-yarder to lift Minnesota past Cincinnati. — Courtney Cronin
Stat to know: The Vikings allowed 40.0 points per game in their final three 2020 games, but they haven’t allowed 30-plus points in four consecutive games since the 2012-13 seasons.
What to know for fantasy: Cook had one weakness last season, and that was his 3.7 yards per carry on up-the-gut runs, a rate that ranked 30th of 47 qualifiers. Well, the 5.2 yards per carry that Cincinnati allowed to RBs on such runs last season wasn’t just a league high, it was the most by an AFC defense since the 2012 Bills. See Week 1 rankings.
Betting nugget: The Bengals were just 1-7-1 outright with Burrow starting, but they did manage to cover five of those contests. Read more.
Cronin’s pick: Vikings 23, Bengals 20
Baby’s pick: Bengals 31, Vikings 28
FPI prediction: MIN, 52.7% (by an average of 1.1 points)
Matchup must-reads: Vikings rookie LT Darrisaw to return to practice Wednesday … How Burrow’s improved velocity could have Bengals thinking playoffs … O’Neill signs five-year extension with Vikings worth $92.5 million, source says … How Bengals safety Bates is using meditation to prepare for a pivotal 2021 season
NFL : 49ers at Lions
1 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 41.0 | Spread: SF -7.5 (44.5)
What to watch for: It’s truly a new era in Detroit, with Jared Goff set to become the first quarterback outside of Matthew Stafford to start a season opener since 2008. There aren’t many expectations for Detroit to win more than five regular-season games, so players seem to be embracing an underdog role this season. Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson is close friends with and a former college teammate of the 49ers’ George Kittle, so that’ll be a matchup to watch for bragging rights at the position. — Eric Woodyard
Bold prediction: Much of the talk about the Niners going into this one centers on the quarterbacks, but it will be the run game — led by back Raheem Mostert — that will steal the show. Mostert will run for 150-plus yards and a pair of touchdowns against a Detroit defense that finished 28th in rushing yards allowed per game and gave up a league-high 27 rushing touchdowns in 2020, and then didn’t make many significant moves to improve in that area in the offseason. — Nick Wagoner
Stat to know: The 49ers are 15-2 against the Lions dating back to 1988, the best record by a team versus a single opponent in that span (minimum 10 meetings).
What to know for fantasy: The highest-scoring career debut by a non-QB last season was 21.3 points from Bills running back Antonio Williams. That number could be within reach for Niners RB Trey Sermon against a Lions defense that allowed a league-high 32.5 fantasy points per game to the position last season. See Week 1 rankings.
Matthew Berry has enough confidence in the 49ers’ run-heavy offense to value Raheem Mostert and Trey Sermon.
Betting nugget: Over the past decade, road teams favored by at least seven points win outright 83% of the time but are just 87-88-3 ATS. Read more.
Wagoner’s pick: 49ers 31, Lions 23
Woodyard’s pick: 49ers 30, Lions 21
FPI prediction: SF, 61.3% (by an average of 4.2 points)
Matchup must-reads: What can the 49ers expect from Bosa? ‘He’s better’ … How a near-death experience helped shape Lions GM Holmes … Shanahan remains coy on QB choice; Garoppolo indicates ‘it’s official’ … I’m focused on myself’: Lions quarterback Goff charting his own path in Detroit
NFL : Eagles at Falcons
1 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 32.8 | Spread: ATL -3 (48.5)
What to watch for: This is the debut for both head coaches — Arthur Smith with Atlanta, and Nick Sirianni with Philadelphia — and it has led to a bit of scheme mystery for both teams. Neither the Eagles nor Falcons showed much of their offenses or defenses during training camp. “The advantages that I think we have is that they don’t know what we’re going to do and we don’t know what they’re going to do,” Sirianni said. “So just kind of a blank slate right there.” — Michael Rothstein
Bold prediction: Eagles cornerback Darius Slay will record his third career interception against quarterback Matt Ryan, sparking a bounce-back year. Ryan had an abysmal day the last time these two faced off, throwing three picks — two to Slay — in a 2017 matchup between the Falcons and Detroit Lions. Slay, 30, is focused on generating more takeaways this season after posting just one interception in 2020. Playing in defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s takeaway-obsessed scheme should help. — Tim McManus
Stat to know: At 23 years and 36 days old, Philadelphia QB Jalen Hurts will surpass Carson Wentz and Donovan McNabb as the youngest Eagles season-opening starter in the Super Bowl era. Both Wentz and McNabb won those openers, and while Hurts was 1-3 as the starting QB last season, the Eagles averaged 382.0 yards per game in his starts as opposed to 318.8 in Wentz’s starts.
What to know for fantasy: Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley led the NFL in air yards last season with 2,042, and he faces an Eagles defense that didn’t turn over the opposition on deep passes last season (2% deep interception rate, fourth lowest). See Week 1 rankings.
Betting nugget: The Eagles were just 1-7, both outright and ATS, on the road last season. Read more.
McManus’ pick: Eagles 34, Falcons 26
Rothstein’s pick: Falcons 31, Eagles 27
FPI prediction: ATL, 63.0% (by an average of 4.8 points)
Matchup must-reads: Eagles walk fine line in keeping Goedert, Ertz … Why Pees joined the Falcons and is still scheming up defenses as he turns 72 … Why Sanders could have a bust-out season for Eagles … Eagles’ tough love helping Mailata thrive in Philadelphia
NFL : Jets at Panthers
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 32.1 | Spread: CAR -4 (44)
What to watch for: This is all about former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold — now starting with the Panthers — and new Jets quarterback Zach Wilson. Whomever gets the best protection and is the most efficient will come out ahead, and both defensive coordinators will aim to get the opposing quarterbacks out of their comfort zones. — David Newton
Bold prediction: Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey will have double-digit receptions for the 11th time in his career. He will be a matchup nightmare for the Jets, who don’t have anyone who can cover him. C.J. Mosley isn’t great in coverage, and the other linebackers are rookies. New York could try using safety Lamarcus Joyner, who has experience as a slot corner. — Rich Cimini
Stat to know: This is the first instance of a top-three-drafted QB starting his first NFL game against another selected by the same franchise.
What to know for fantasy: Since Week 14 of 2019, McCaffrey has six games with at least 24.5 fantasy points, a number that trails only Derrick Henry at the position over that stretch. And McCaffrey has played in only seven of those 21 weeks. See Week 1 rankings.
Betting nugget: No team covered fewer games in the first half of last season than the Jets, but only four teams (Bills, Saints, Ravens and Dolphins) covered more in the second portion of the season. Read more.
Cimini’s pick: Panthers 31, Jets 24
Newton’s pick: Panthers 27, Jets 17
FPI prediction: CAR, 65.7% (by an average of 5.9 points)
Matchup must-reads: Wilson, Darnold insist Jets-Panthers opener not about outdueling each other … Darnold focused on second chance with Panthers, not revenge versus Jets … Can Jets’ coach-QB duo of Saleh, Wilson flip the franchise? … Jets go young (12 rookies!): Short-term pain, long-term gain
Matthew Berry breaks down a scenario where Sam Darnold could be a successful fantasy pick.
NFL : Jaguars at Texans
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 11.3 | Spread: JAX -3 (45.5)
What to watch for: Can rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence find success against a depleted Texans secondary? Houston was already going to be without cornerback Bradley Roby (he is finishing out his six-game suspension in Week 1) but also has injury concerns with safety Lonnie Johnson. Johnson, who is dealing with a thigh injury, did not practice Wednesday. — Sarah Barshop
Bold prediction: Texans QB Tyrod Taylor will throw for fewer than 200 yards. He has made two previous starts against the Jaguars and hasn’t thrown for more than 166 yards in them. The last time he started a game against the Jaguars came in the 2017 playoffs, and he threw for just 134 yards in a 10-3 loss. The Jaguars have rebuilt their secondary with the addition of defensive backs Shaquill Griffin, Tyson Campbell, Rayshawn Jenkins and Andre Cisco, and defensive coordinator Joe Cullen likes to call a lot of blitzes, so the Jaguars should make it a tough day for Taylor. — Mike DiRocco
Stat to know: A few not-so-great streaks are in play here. The Jaguars have lost a franchise-record 15 straight games, which is tied for the 10th-longest losing streak since the NFL merger in 1970. They also have 18 straight games allowing at least 20 points, tied for the fifth-longest streak since 1970. The Texans, meanwhile, have lost four straight season openers, tied with Giants for the second-longest active streak in the NFL.
What to know for fantasy: Since 2016, only Mike Evans and Julio Jones have more deep receptions than Texans receiver Brandin Cooks, who lines up against a Jags defense that allowed the fifth-most yards per deep completion last season (28.8). See Week 1 rankings.
Betting nugget: This is just the third time in the past 15 seasons that Jacksonville has been a road favorite in a division game, and it’s the first time since 2017. Read more.
DiRocco’s pick: Jaguars 24, Texans 17
Barshop’s pick: Jaguars 24, Texans 21
FPI prediction: JAX, 51.5% (by an average of 0.6 points)
Matchup must-reads: QB Lawrence ‘excited’ to be named one of Jaguars’ captains as rookie … Texans’ Taylor embraces simple philosophy: ‘Control what you can control’ … How bad does Vegas think the Texans are going to be in 2021?
NFL : Browns at Chiefs
4:25 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 76.1 | Spread: KC -5.5 (54.5)
What to watch for: The Chiefs will start two rookies and a first-year player (Lucas Niang opted out in 2020) on their offensive line, but no member of that group will be under more scrutiny than veteran Orlando Brown Jr., who makes his Kansas City debut at left tackle against the Browns’ Myles Garrett. The Chiefs’ rebuilt offensive line, with five new starters from last season, showed well in the preseason but faces a bigger challenge against Garrett and the Browns. In his one start at left tackle for the Ravens against the Browns last season, Brown held Garrett without a sack, one of the four games in which Garrett was shut out. — Adam Teicher
Bold prediction: In his return, Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will catch two touchdown passes from QB Baker Mayfield. It might not be enough against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, but Cleveland’s offense can take away plenty of confidence about its potential for the rest of the season. — Jake Trotter
Stat to know: The Browns have not won a season-opener since 2004, when QB Jeff Garcia led them to a 20-3 win over the Ravens. The closest they’ve come was a 21-21 tie against the Steelers in 2018. It’s easily the longest winless streak in season openers of all time. But the Browns made a habit of breaking bad streaks last season, including their 12 straight seasons without a winning record and 17 straight seasons out of the playoffs.
What to know for fantasy: Cleveland’s Nick Chubb was RB5 in total points over the final six weeks of last season, and he shouldn’t have a problem finishing drives against 2020’s worst red zone defense. See Week 1 rankings.
Betting nugget: The Chiefs were 11-5 ATS in 2019 (12-4 outright). But Vegas adjusted properly last season, as Kansas City was just 7-9 ATS despite a sparkling 14-2 outright record. Read more.
Trotter’s pick: Chiefs 35, Browns 31
Teicher’s pick: Chiefs 31, Browns 20
FPI prediction: KC, 67.6% (by an average of 6.6 points)
Matchup must-reads: Continuity, comfort have Browns’ Mayfield poised for ‘huge jump’ in 2021 … Four tight ends at once? Chiefs have more than just Kelce … Why Mahomes, Chiefs have found so much September success
NFL : Packers at Saints (Jacksonville)
4:25 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 66.5 | Spread: GB -3.5 (49.5)
What to watch for: The Saints will have to deal with a ton of adjustments in this game, from their temporary “home” venue in Jacksonville, Florida, in the wake of Hurricane Ida to at least 10 new starters in the lineup because of injuries, retirements and an offseason salary-cap purge. But none will be bigger than the switch at quarterback from Drew Brees to Jameis Winston, who will try to revive his career by proving he can still make big plays while avoiding the big mistakes that doomed him in Tampa Bay. — Mike Triplett
Bold prediction: This will turn into a quasi-home game for the Packers, and that will play right into QB Aaron Rodgers‘ hands. He’ll draw the Saints offsides with his cadence more than once, and at least one of them will turn into a big play down the field — just like the one he had last year against the Saints in a crowd-free Superdome, where on a free play he drew a pass interference penalty that set up the Packers’ last score to seal the game. — Rob Demovsky
Stat to know: Saints running back Alvin Kamara had career highs in scrimmage yards (197), receiving yards (139) and receiving TDs (2) in Week 3 against Packers last season.
Field Yates and Stephania Bell discuss how Jameis Winston’s lack of consistency could affect his fantasy value.
What to know for fantasy: Winston found receiver Marquez Callaway for touchdowns of 29 and 43 yards in New Orleans’ final preseason game. The Packers gave up a 31-yard passing TD in their preseason finale and allowed a WR1 in Week 1 last season to rack up 110 yards and two scores (Adam Thielen). See Week 1 rankings.
Betting nugget: The Saints covered in Week 1 last season, the first time they had done that since 2013 and just the fifth time in the 15-year Sean Payton era. Read more.
Demovsky’s pick: Packers 30, Saints 24
Triplett’s pick: Packers 27, Saints 22
FPI prediction: GB, 55.1% (by an average of 1.9 points)
Matchup must-reads: What to expect from Winston 2.0 in first start with Saints … A ‘kinder, gentler’ Rodgers? What rookie Myers faces as the Packers’ starting center … Former Saints QB Brees reflects on go-to plays, biggest regrets … Amid ‘a lot of unknowns,’ Rodgers prepares to begin 17th season with Packers
NFL : Dolphins at Patriots
4:25 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 59.7 | Spread: NE -3 (43.5)
What to watch for: Everyone knows the Tua Tagovailoa vs. Mac Jones storyline, but we shouldn’t overlook the key factors that could lead to each of their success. Dolphins starting left tackle Austin Jackson spent the week on the reserve/COVID-19 list, which means he might not play. That could create a decisive matchup advantage for Patriots outside linebackers Matt Judon and Kyle Van Noy, two of the team’s best defenders. Judon and other members of the Patriots’ D have remarked how they want to lighten the load for Jones by doing their part. “Mac has a lot on his plate right now,” Judon said. — Mike Reiss
Bold prediction: The Dolphins’ defense led the league in turnovers forced last season and will rudely welcome Jones to the NFL this year, holding him under 220 passing yards with a pair of interceptions. On the other side of the ball, rookie receiver Jaylen Waddle will record 75 total yards and his first career touchdown. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Stat to know: Tagovailoa and Jones will be the first matchup between NFL starting QBs who played for coach Nick Saban in college (both at Alabama). Miami’s Tagovailoa can become the youngest visiting QB to win at Gillette Stadium, where starting QBs age-23 or younger are 1-20. Jones, meanwhile, will become first rookie QB to start Week 1 under Pats coach Bill Belichick.
What to know for fantasy: Opponents were on-target with 93.9% of their passes when targeting running backs against New England last season (second highest), and Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin closed out his 2020 campaign with a 30-plus-yard reception in three straight games. See Week 1 rankings.
Betting nugget: Over the past two seasons, quarterbacks making their first career start are 18-6 ATS. Read more.
Louis-Jacques’ pick: Dolphins 20, Patriots 16
Reiss’ pick: Patriots 24, Dolphins 17
FPI prediction: NE, 59.8% (by an average of 3.6 points)
Matchup must-reads: Devin, Jason McCourty to face each other as captains of Patriots, Dolphins … Will the Patriots see results after spending $163 million in free agency? … Dolphins’ Tagovailoa says coach Flores’ support ‘means a lot’ … Jones, Patriots’ rookie class primed to contribute early … Can the Patriots’ Jones change the narrative of Alabama QBs in the NFL?
NFL : Broncos at Giants
4:25 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 40.9 | Spread: DEN -3 (41.5)
What to watch for: Broncos star pass-rusher Von Miller faces Giants right tackle Nate Solder, and both players have not played since 2019. Miller missed all of last year with an ankle injury, while Solder opted out of the season. Does Miller still have it? He’s 32 years old, coming off major injury and had 8.0 sacks in his last full season. The same question could be asked of Solder. He was ranked 35th in pass block win rate among tackles the last time we saw him play. — Jordan Raanan
Bold prediction: The Broncos forced zero turnovers in each of their past two season openers and lost both games. But they will force at least two in this one to end that streak. Helping the cause: Giants QB Daniel Jones has 39 turnovers since entering the NFL in 2019, the most in the NFL over that time. — Jeff Legwold
Stat to know: The Giants have lost nine of their past 10 season openers, and they averaged just 17.5 points per game last season, the second fewest in the NFL behind the Jets’ 15.2.
Betting nugget: Underdogs were 38-28 ATS last season when the over/under was fewer than 45 points. Read more.
Legwold’s pick: Broncos 26, Giants 16
Raanan’s pick: Broncos 20, Giants 16
FPI prediction: NYG, 53.0% (by an average of 1.2 points)
Matchup must-reads: Broncos’ always-optimistic Miller says 2021 ‘feels different’ … Why the Giants’ offense is a huge mystery entering Week 1 … Whether it’s picking up trash or Broncos’ offense, Sutton won’t take shortcuts … Giants running back Barkley cleared first contact at practice, inches closer to playing in Week 1, sources say … Broncos LB Chubb briefly detained on warrant … Judge coaching Giants his way, despite similarities to Patriots
Sam Acho explains why the Broncos will not be a playoff team with Teddy Bridgewater as their starting QB.
NFL : Bears at Rams
8:20 p.m. ET | NBC
Matchup rating: 53.6 | Spread: LAR -7.5 (46.5)
What to watch for: Both teams open the 2021 season with new quarterbacks. The Rams completed an offseason blockbuster trade for Matthew Stafford, who is expected to ignite an offense that has been in decline over the past two seasons with the hope of a Super Bowl run. “He has done such a good job getting acclimated to his teammates, this environment, this atmosphere,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. For the Bears, Andy Dalton, who was acquired as a free agent on a one-year deal, will start over rookie Justin Fields, the 11th-overall draft pick this year. “Andy has come in here from the start and been a great leader and been a great teammate,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said, adding that he feels good about what Fields has exemplified in a short period. — Lindsey Thiry
Bold prediction: Rams superstar Aaron Donald will end the night with 2.5 sacks. The Bears’ offensive line dealt with too many moving parts in the preseason; four of the five original projected starters on the offensive line will play on Sunday night, but chemistry figures to be an issue. Throw in the fact that 39-year-old veteran Jason Peters, whom the Bears signed late in camp, is starting at left tackle. And have we mentioned that Dalton isn’t the most mobile quarterback. Advantage: Donald. — Jeff Dickerson
Stat to know: Bears running back David Montgomery ended last season with six straight games with a scrimmage touchdown, tied for the longest active streak in the NFL (Nick Chubb, J.K. Dobbins). The last Bears player with seven straight games with a TD was Curtis Conway in 1995.
What to know for fantasy: Only the Jets allowed more fantasy points to tight ends last season than the Bears, and the Rams’ Tyler Higbee is poised to step into a greater role with Gerald Everett now in Seattle. See Week 1 rankings.
Betting nugget: No team had more outright wins as an underdog than the Bears last season (six). Read more.
Dickerson’s pick: Rams 24, Bears 14
Thiry’s pick: Rams 28, Bears 17
FPI prediction: LAR, 71.1% (by an average of 8.1 points)
Matchup must-reads: Ultra-elite level: Why the Bears are confident a healthy Mack is primed for a huge year … Rams embracing Hollywood, but will need Super Bowl run to get blockbuster billing … Stafford faces Super Bowl expectations with Rams, but how’s his supporting cast? … That dude — he’s fun’: Rams DC Morris brings energy, jokes
NFL : Ravens at Raiders
What to watch for: How will the Raiders’ rebuilt defense stop Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson, especially with a pair of linebackers added in the past two weeks in Denzel Perryman and K.J. Wright? Las Vegas linebacker Cory Littleton lamented, “He can throw. He can run. He can do magic tricks, apparently.” The Ravens’ injury-plagued running game actually makes Jackson more one-dimensional, but knowing it and stopping it are two different things for the Raiders. Containing Jackson and limiting his big-play potential could be the difference. — Paul Gutierrez
Bold prediction: Jackson will continue his hot start to seasons by totaling five touchdowns (four passing and one rushing). Jackson has scored the most touchdowns (eight) in the past two openers. And the Raiders allowed 106 touchdowns last season, the second most in the league. — Jamison Hensley
Stat to know: Raiders QB Derek Carr is 4-2 as a starting QB on Monday Night Football but has struggled in those games, posting the fifth-lowest Total QBR (46.0) on MNF over past 10 seasons (minimum five starts).
What to know for fantasy: Baltimore tight end Mark Andrews ended the 2020 regular season with seven scores in his final seven games and has been a top-three tight end in each of the past two opening weeks. See Week 1 rankings.
Betting nugget: Baltimore has covered five straight regular-season games as a favorite, but Las Vegas has covered four of its past five games as an underdog. Read more.
Hensley’s pick: Ravens 35, Raiders 24
Gutierrez’s pick: Raiders 26, Ravens 24
FPI prediction: BAL, 57.1% (by an average of 2.6 points)
Matchup must-reads: Ravens fear RB Edwards, CB Peters have torn ACLs, sources say … Hobbs ascends from fifth-rounder to Raiders’ nickel corner … Raiders’ Carr letting young WRs group ‘go make plays’ … Crosby combines flash, maturity to emerge as Raiders’ defensive leader