John Halpin’s Week 1 NFL Picks

Why am I here picking NFL games? Well, I achieved one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of football by finishing atop the 2013 Pickwatch Pick’Em standings, just ahead of Ron Jaworski and a couple of computers. The fact that my subsequent finishes were 100th, 110th and 37th apparently did not dissuade the Pickwatch bosses from allowing me to offer my “expertise” this season.

For some background, I’m a lifelong Giants fan who has adopted the Panthers since moving to Charlotte in 2004. Rooting for two teams might be unseemly to some of you, but I’ve done some TV and radio work for the Panthers over the last few seasons, and I still make a weekly appearance on the team’s pregame show. As I tell my kids, I’m not rooting against the people who sign the paychecks.

My wheelhouse is fantasy football. I provided analysis for from 2007-17, and currently host the RotoWire Fantasy Football Podcast. I don’t necessarily have a strategy when it comes to picking games, but these two aspects often guide my selections:

  1. I like home underdogs. I mean, I might pick the Browns three or four times this season.
  2. Even the best teams are likely to lose three or four games, while the worst should win a few each. Try to identify those spots for both sides.

Enough with the pleasantries. Let’s get to the Week 1 picks, with selections being both straight up and against the spread unless noted otherwise. If you have any questions, catch me on Twitter (@jhalpin37).

(Winners in CAPS.)

Chiefs @ PATRIOTS (-9)

Belichick’s Patriots almost always win their home openers. The Chiefs roll into 2017 with a rookie starting at tailback, a questionable WR1, Alex Smith still at QB and a defense that lived off turnovers but ranked 24th in yards allowed last season. Pats haters aren’t going to like this Thursday night rout.

Jets @ BILLS (-9.5)

The Bills seem to be in tank mode, but the Jets? Their roster has been panned this summer by pundits far and wide, with one league executive saying they “might have the worst roster I’ve seen in a decade.” Sunday will start to tell us just how bad the Jets really are.

Falcons @ BEARS (+7)

Here’s the Week 1 upset pick. The Bears have a solid front seven, a decent offensive line, and a pretty good runner in Jordan Howard. Basically, they’re not very good, but they’re not overly terrible. Also, I sometimes picture dome teams entering road stadiums and saying things like, “Eww … what is this icky grass we’re running on?” I thought about picking the Falcons to win with the Bears covering, but what’s the fun in that?

Jaguars @ TEXANS (-5)

Blake Bortles versus Tom Savage. The NFL is back, baby!

In a battle of two defensively strong teams, I tend to think the Texans will pull out an emotional win for hurricane-ravaged Houston. I’m not willing to give five points in a game with an over-under of 40, though. Jags cover.

EAGLES (-1) @ Redskins

Man, I like the Eagles. An already good D that added CB Ronald Darby. Alshon Jeffery brought in to help Carson Wentz. If Wentz takes a reasonable (but not huge) step forward, this team could make some noise.

Cardinals @ LIONS (+1.5)

Mediocre Cardinais’ offense versus terrible Lions’ defense. Seems like a tossup. I’m taking the home team. Maybe Matthew Stafford will bribe the refs with some of crazy money he’s making now.

Raiders @ TITANS (-2)

Last year’s trendy breakout team faces its 2017 counterpart. Will the OMG TENNESSEE IS GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL hype fade? Maybe, but not after Week 1. They’ll take down the Raiders at home in what should be a very entertaining game. Unfortunately, CBS is airing Steelers-Browns in Charlotte instead of this game. WTF?

Buccaneers at Dolphins (PPD)

This game has been postponed until Week 11 due to the threat of inclement weather from Hurricane Irma. Stay safe, Florida.

BENGALS (-3) vs. Ravens

I’m not sure how the Ravens plan to move the ball this season, but their defense should be awfully good. The Bengals are kind of mediocre, even with the new weapons on offense. Home team gets the pick here.

STEELERS (-8.5) at Browns

In November, I’d be picking the Browns in this spot. They’ll be friskier this season, and Ben Roethlisberger has some terrible home/road splits. However, there’s NO WAY I’m predicting a W for DeShone Kizer in his first NFL start. How about we take the Browns to cover?

Colts @ RAMS (-3.5)

The Colts will be without QB Andrew Luck, while Rams expect to miss holdout DT Aaron Donald. Advantage, Rams.

SEAHAWKS (+3) @ Packers

This is easily the game of the weekend. The Seahawks seem ready to open up their offense a bit, with a healthy Russell Wilson leading the way. Can their defense slow down Aaron Rodgers. Just enough to win this one, I think.

PANTHERS (-5.5) @ 49ers

The Niners have some talent on the defensive front (which should be the case after spending three consecutive first-round picks there). Rookie LB Rueben Foster looks like a beast, and QB Brian Hoyer isn’t as much of a train wreck as you might think. However, the feeling here is that the Panthers will rebound to 10 or 11 wins. Losing this one seems unlikely, and they’ll probably cover.

GIANTS (+3.5) @ Cowboys

These teams usually play each other close, making 3.5 look like a big spread. I initially picked the Cowboys here, and switched the the G-Men. The Dallas D might be one of the only units in the league unable to take advantage of the Giants’ terrible offensive line.

Saints @ VIKINGS (-3.5)

On my podcast this summer, many smart people touted an improved Vikings’ offense. That puts a lot of faith in an overhauled offensive line, but if the defense is again pretty good, the Vikes could be an above-average squad. The Saints have added some pieces on defense, but I’m in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” mindset.

CHARGERS (+3.5) @ Broncos

The Chargers are an interesting team that should show improvement. The Broncos’ D is again very strong, but how many times can they go to that well with such little offensive firepower? The Bolts are going to win this one, with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram working over the Broncos’ shaky tackles.


Each week of the NFL season John Halpin and Josh Katzowitz are writing a pick’em column exclusively for Pickwatch readers. If you want to know when their picks are in, please register here for an email update.

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