NFL Preseason Week 1 Picks - Early Games

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NFL Preseason Week 1 Early Games

All times Eastern

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NFL HALL OF FAME GAME, Thursday, August 5

Pittsburgh Steelers (-1 1/2, 33) vs. Dallas Cowboys (FOX), 8:00 pm - After missing most of 2020 with a broken ankle, Dak Prescott will be back at quarterback this season for the Cowboys, fresh off signing a $160 million, four-year extension ($126 million guaranteed). He'll get a good look from the coaches in his first start and may stay in longer than many expect to work off some of the rust.

Receivers Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup will be happy to see Prescott back, though Cooper may miss this contest, nursing a sore ankle. The Cowboys are coming off a dismal 6-10 performance in McCarthy's first season as head coach, but, with Prescott back and maybe some improvement on defense, they should be the pick to win the NFC East division.

For the Steelers, veteran Ben Roethlisberger returns for an 18th season. He bounced back well in 2020 after missing most of 2019, but will likely only play a series or two, like Prescott. Dwayne Haskins comes over from Washington, and he's likely to see plenty of snaps as the likely backup, though Mason Rudolph is listed as the #2 QB.

Pittsburgh welcomes Najee Harris to the backfield, hoping to make the rookie out of Alabama a key element to their rushing game, which was dead last in the NFL last season. After starting out 11-0 in 2020, Pittsburgh slumped to a 1-4 finish and lost to Cleveland, 48-37, in a wild card game, knocking them out of the playoffs. Along with Cleveland and Baltimore, they will contend for the AFC North title.

Pittsburgh's defense was a bright spot in 2020, ranked #3 league-wide in yards and points allowed. The Cowboys were 28th overall, allowing 29.6 points per outing.

Coin Flip: Dallas

Prediction: Steelers 24 Cowboys 13

RESULT: Steelers 16 Cowboys 3


Thursday, August 12

Washington Football Team (-2, 35) at New England Patriots, 7:30 pm - Washington hasn't yet figured out what to call themselves, but they will have a new QB this season, be it Ryan Fitzpatrick, Taylor Heinicke or injured (ankle) Kyle Allen, who appears to be in the sweet spot longer term. The Pats return with Cam Newton, though the team surely wasn't happy about their 27th-place ranking in total offense last season. Mac Jones, fresh from Alabama, will get most of the reps here, and may be the starter before long if Newton doesn't produce wins.

Both teams went 7-9 in 2020, but Washington reached the playoffs by winning the incredibly weak NFC East. They lost to Tampa Bay in a wild card game, 31-23. Plenty of uncertainty on both sides of the ball, but figure the Washington Whatevers to have more game and less guessing.

Coin Flip: Washington

Prediction: Football Team 20 Patriots 10


Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles (-1, 33 1/2), 7:30 pm - Pittsburgh already has a win to their credit, topping Dallas in last week's Hall of Fame game, 16-3. The Steeler defense looked pretty solid, though the Cowboys were not fluid offensively. Considering that Pittsburgh started last season 11-0, coach Mike Tomlin has his troops prepared, as usual, and this week may get Ben Roethlisberger into the mix, at least for some first quarter snaps.

Philly comes off a very disappointing 4-11-1 season, after which they parted ways with QB Carson Wentz, shipped off to Indianapolis, in favor of Jalen Hurts, who showed skill and poise in the final five games of the season, even though the Eagles won only one of those contests. The Eagles have a very good opportunity to turn things around in 2021, but Hurts is still young and unproven. He'll have trouble finding ways down the field against the Steelers, but will get some help from Eagles' top draft pick, DeVonta Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner out of Alabama, though he's listed questionable for this game.

Coin Flip: Philadelphia

Prediction: Steelers 17 Eagles 13


Friday, August 13

Tennessee Titans (-1, 38) at Atlanta Falcons, 7:00 pm - The Titans are aiming as high as possible this season, having reached the playoffs each of the past two seasons, reaching the conference championship in 2019. Last season, they were ousted by the Ravens in a 20-13 revenge game, but the Titans remain unbowed and didn't make many off-season moves. One big trade was for Julio Jones, who will tandem with emerging star, A.J. Brown, to form one of the more dangerous wideout combos in the league. Ryan Tannehill has proven himself as a starter and a gamer. Coach Mike Vrable has put together an imposing squad for 2021, a contender for the Super Bowl.

Despite last year's 4-12 mark, the Falcons didn't do much to improve their situation other than rely on the arm of Matt Ryan and an offense without Julio Jones to win more games. Eight of Altanta's 2020 losses were by seven or fewer points, but that's academic. Winning teams win more of those games than lose, so if the Falcon's front office thinks being close is good enough, they'll likely be sitting in front of TVs come January after another losing season. The last time Atlanta finished over .500 was 2017 (10-6). That's becoming a distant memory.

Coin Flip: Tennessee

Prediction: Titans 24 Falcons 9



Buffalo Bills (-2, 37) at Detroit Lions, 7:00 pm - Buffalo is likely to make Jared Goff's first appearance in the Detroit uniform uncomfortable, as the Bills have solidified an already-solid defense. Detroit sent Matthew Stafford off to the LA Rams for the youthful Goff, though the young QB seemed out of sorts in the stretch run last season and may not be as durable as most QBs his age.

Of course, the Lions last winning season was 2017, when they went 9-7. Since they, they were 6-10 in 2018, 3-12-1 in 2019, and 5-11 last season. Their ability to maintain mediocrity is unmatched in the NFL and their choices in trades and drafts expose management's ineptitude. Matt Patricia's tenure from 2018 was a disaster ending in a November 2020 firing along with GM Bob Quinn. Maybe new head coach, Dan Campbell, can fare better, but it's a tough job, and, even with subs and scrubs getting most of the playing time for and against the Bills, probably a losing effort.

Buffalo has emerged as the class of the AFC East, replacing New England after Tom Brady's departure. Buffalo is coming off a 13-3 season in which they advanced to the conference championship, losing to Kansas City, 38-24.

Coin Flip: Buffalo

Prediction: Bills 27 Lions 7


Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals (-1 1/2, 40) 10:00 pm - Even though they're in disparate divisions, these two share a Southwest regional rivalry which usually makes for exciting, well-played contests. Arizona gets the edge here as both QB Day Prescott and WR Amari Cooper are unlikely to see any action in this game. Dallas backups, Garrett Gilbert, Ben DiNucci, and Cooper Rush were not impressive in their loss to Pittsburgh last week, and the defense wasn't worth much either.

Kyler Murray will see first quarter action at QB, and Colt McCoy will get plenty of reps as backup. The Cardinals went 8-8 last season and were one of the bright spots in the league. The team is pointed for a winning record, even in the tough NFC West, and has a good chance to reach the playoffs. The Cardinals were 5-2 prior to their 2020 bye week, but went 3-6 after that, including tough losses at Seattle, New England, and the LA Rams. They should be geared up for this one.

Coin Flip: Dallas

Prediction: Cardinals 22 Cowboys 16


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