NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Training Camp
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Remember at the end of The Shawshank Redemption when "Red" (Morgan Freeman's character) met Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins) on a beach down in Mexico after they got out of prison? The joyful look in their eyes and the gleeful embrace of freedom they shared? Well, that's essentially me -- and likely you, too -- embracing football and the start of the NFL's 2020 regular season this week. This year, to put it lightly, has been ... an "experience" to this point on the calendar, but football fans have finally reached a light at the end of this dark, gross tunnel: Week 1.

This offseason in the NFL stayed in lockstep with the rest of the world in 2020 and went absolutely bananas. Tom Brady left the Patriots for Tampa Bay, Philip Rivers is in Indy, Bill Belichick landed Cam Newton for pennies on the dollar, and Bill O'Brien traded DeAndre Hopkins for a bag of marbles and the artist formerly known as David Johnson. I'm definitely missing about 15 other different and crazy storylines, but you get the gist. 

With the start of the new year comes the return of my weekly picks column that I'm sure will be without a single blemish from wire-to-wire, so you better pay close attention. Specifically, we'll be paying the most attention to the spreads each week and determining games through that lens. I'll naturally be giving you my thoughts on how I see the games turning out, but for those keeping score at home, we'll be battling against the spread in 2020. Ready? Let's hit it!  

All odds are via William Hill Sportsbook (9/8/2020).

NFL Week 1 Picks

Houston at Kansas City

8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
Point spread: Kansas City -9

I think the only person who is enjoying 2020 is Patrick Mahomes. In all honesty, I'm not sure there has been a person in the history of humanity who has been on such a hot streak: He won the first Super Bowl of his career back in February, inked a mega $503 million contract extension with the Chiefs this offseason, became a part-owner of the Royals, and he got engaged. By my count, Mahomes is up 4-0 on 2020 so far and I don't expect that to slow down when he brings Kansas City out on the field against the Texans to begin their title defense. 

I think one of the biggest factors to team success this year will be continuity, which K.C. has in spades. Not only are they bringing the band back together, but they also added rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire -- who Andy Reid compared to Brian Westbrook -- to only make their offense that much more lethal. Houston, meanwhile, has a superstar quarterback in Deshaun Watson and there is the revenge factor after blowing a 24-0 lead to the Chiefs in the Divisional Round a year ago, but I just don't think it has the horses to keep up in this game. 

The juices will be flowing for the Chiefs after raising a banner and I don't think this will be particularly close. 

The pick: Kansas City -9 
Score prediction: Kansas City 38, Houston 17

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Tampa Bay at New Orleans

4:25 p.m. ET (FOX) 
Point spread: New Orleans -3.5

As the resident Bostonian on our NFL staff, seeing Tom Brady take the field in a Buccaneers uniform isn't something I'm necessarily looking forward to. In an ideal world, he would have stayed with the Patriots for the rest of his football days, but it just wasn't in the cards. That said, it will be fascinating to watch how he performs in Bruce Arians' offense and with the loaded talent around him offensively. 

Tampa Bay is my pick to win the Super Bowl this year so it's not surprising that I have them winning this game to begin 2020. The Superdome isn't going to have the home-field advantage that it normally does without fans in the stands making life difficult for both sides of the ball for the Bucs. That's why I'll gladly take the points here and also wouldn't be afraid to attack this on the moneyline as well. We know both offenses can put up points, but I'm optimistic that Tampa Bay's defense -- that was No. 6 in defensive efficiency in 2019 -- will be able to slow Drew Brees and the Saints offense down. 

The pick: Tampa Bay and the points
Score prediction: Tampa Bay 27, New Orleans 20

Chicago at Detroit 

1 p.m. ET (FOX) 
Point spread: Detroit -3

2019 was a lost year for the Lions after Matthew Stafford was sidelined after Week 9, but there is considerable sleeper buzz surrounding Detroit as it enters this season. Prior to going down for the year, Stafford was playing himself into MVP discussions as his 312.4 passing yards per game and 8.6 yards per attempt were the second-best in the NFL to that point in the year. His 106 passer-rating was also just outside the top five in the league. If he's able to recapture that (Spoiler: I think he does), the Lions are a threat in the NFC North. 

Chicago, meanwhile, named Mitchell Trubisky the Week 1 starter over Nick Foles, who they traded for this offseason. I think that has more to do with the pandemic shortened offseason eliminating the opportunity for Foles to more clearly overtake Trubisky than it does the incumbent simply beating him out. That means we'll likely see more of the same inconsistency from Trubisky to start, which gives Detroit a nice starting off point to 2020. 

The pick: Detroit -3
Score prediction: Detroit 24, Chicago 17

Dallas at L.A. Rams 

8:20 p.m. ET (NBC) 
Point spread: Dallas -3

The Cowboys are one of five teams in the NFL that are bringing a new head coach into 2020 after firing Jason Garrett and hiring Mike McCarthy this offseason. I expect this new era to get off to a strong start for Dallas when they help the Rams open up their new stadium. Dak Prescott is as motivated as ever heading into this season as he's still looking for that longterm contract and he'll likely continue to show out to try and earn it. He has arguably the best collection of pass-catchers he's seen in his career with receivers Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and first-round rookie CeeDee Lamb. Not only that, but tight end Blake Jarwin is primed to take a leap and he, of course, has Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard in the backfield. 

The Rams, meanwhile, are looking to recover from a very disappointing 2019 season where they were barely over .500. Jared Goff should be better than he was a year ago, but I don't think it'll be enough to outgun Prescott in this game. The 51.5 over/under line suggests that this is primed to be a very high-scoring game. If that proves to be the case, I'd rather roll with Prescott and the Dallas offense to secure the win. 

The pick: Dallas -3 
Score prediction: Dallas 28, L.A. Rams 20 

Las Vegas at Carolina 

1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Las Vegas -3

The Raiders are beginning the Las Vegas era as road favorites against the Panthers and I like the spot that they find themselves in to open up 2020. While there should be plenty of excitement surrounding Carolina after hiring head coach Matt Rhule and signing quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, it's a lot to ask for them to come out gangbusters in their very first game without any preseason action. This club is also very much still in its rebuilding phase and shouldn't win a lot of football games this year with a defense this suspect. That's why I'll gladly lean toward the continuity that the Raiders have with Derek Carr -- who is coming into this season with a chip on his shoulder -- under center and the weapons around him. I don't expect first-round receiver Henry Ruggs III to ball out from the jump, but Las Vegas has plenty of other weapons (Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller) to keep Carolina a field goal distance away. 

The pick: Las Vegas -3 
Score prediction: Las Vegas 24, Carolina 13

Tennessee at Denver

Monday, 10:10 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Point spread: Pick 'Em

When I was looking at the Week 1 slate earlier this summer, I was tempted to roll with the Broncos as an upset over the Titans simply because they have a home-field advantage that still is a factor: the altitude. Without a normal training camp and preseason to get players in regular-season shape, I saw that as a huge advantage for Denver (and still do). The loss of Von Miller, however, and the unlikelihood that Bradley Chubb will be able to be a full go in this one has me changing my original tune. Those are two massive pieces to how Denver operates and it is simply a different team without them. The Titans may be gassed by the end of it, but Tennessee should win this one.   

The pick: Tennessee
Score prediction: Tennessee 21, Denver 17

Rest of the bunch

Seattle (-2) at Atlanta 
The pick: Atlanta and the points
Score prediction: Atlanta 28, Seattle 21

N.Y. Jets at Buffalo (-6.5)
The pick: N.Y. Jets and the points
Score prediction
: Buffalo 23, Jets 17

Green Bay at Minnesota (-2.5)
The pick: Minnesota -2.5
Score prediction
: Minnesota 24, Green Bay 20

Miami at New England (-6.5)
The pick: New England, -6.5
Score prediction
: New England 27, Miami 17

Philadelphia (-6) at Washington
The pick: Washington and the points
Score prediction
: Philadelphia 24, Washington 21

Indianapolis (-8) at Jacksonville 
The pick: Indianapolis -8
Score prediction
: Indianapolis 28, Jacksonville 10

Cleveland at Baltimore (-7.5)
The pick: Baltimore -7.5
Score prediction
: Baltimore 33, Cleveland 17

L.A. Chargers (-3) at Cincinnati
The pick: L.A. Chargers -3 
Score prediction
: L.A. Chargers 20, Bengals 14

Arizona at San Francisco (-7)
The pick: San Francisco -7
Score prediction
: San Francisco 30, Arizona 20

Pittsburgh (-6) at N.Y. Giants 
The pick: N.Y. Giants and the points
Score prediction
: Pittsburgh 24, N.Y. Giants 20

2020 picks record