Spread picks and scores for every Week 1 NFL game

Mike Renner makes score predictions for every game of Week 1 of the NFL season.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Spread picks and scores for every Week 1 NFL game

The first game of the 2015 NFL season is in the books, and the Patriots came away with a commanding 28-21 victory at home. What we really want to know now, though, is how all the other games are going to play out.

Each week during the season I’ll dig deep into each matchup and try to pull out the critical factors from our PFF database that will decide each game. I’ll synthesize that data and give you my take on who will win and by how much.

Below each pick is my “Confidence Grade”, using PFF’s patented -2 through +2 grading scale, to indicate how strongly I feel about the outcome of each.

Enough chit-chat, let’s get to the picks:

Packers at Bears

Line: Packers -7

O/U: 49

How the Packers, against a Bears team that went 5-11 a year ago, are favored by less than the Patriots were, who faced a division winner from a year ago, I do not know. What I do know is that I’m going with the Packers. Jay Cutler has beaten the Packers once in his career, and the Bears’ 2010 defense ain’t walking through that door to help him out this time. Cutler has a -27.9 career grade in 11 NFC North matchups with the Packers, and only two positively graded games. With ball-hawk Casey Hayward now starting full time and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix looking primed to break out in Year 2, I expect more of the same.

Prediction: Packers 31, Bears 17

PFF Confidence Grade: +1


Seahawks at Rams

Line: Seahawks -4.5

O/U: 40.5

The Rams’ starting defensive line had a combined grade of +68.6 last year, and the Seahawks starting O-line had a combined grade of -29.2. That’s a huge mismatch, and a reason for St. Louis can keep things close, but there’s a more important mismatch in this one: The Rams’ secondary had a -9.2 coverage grade last season, while the Seahawks had a +5.0 pass grade as a team. I’ll take the passing advantage all day, everyday — and it should be enough for the favorites to cover in this one.

Prediction: Seahawks 17, Rams 10

PFF Confidence Grade: -1


Colts at Bills

Line: Colts -3

O/U: 45

The Bills have increased their focus on the running game after two bland years of Doug Marrone’s hurry-up offense. They traded for LeSean McCoy and made numerous changes to the offensive line. The only problem is that Greg Roman’s scheme isn’t enough to mask a dearth of talent. They have one starting offensive lineman who graded positively last year, and a running back who was afraid of tight creases in Philadelphia and is coming off a disappointing season. Indianapolis added Andre Johnson to an already sound receiving corps, and even though the Bills had our eighth-ranked coverage unit a year ago, I think Indy will be able to move the ball through the air.

Prediction: Colts 24, Bills 16

PFF Confidence Grade: +.5


Dolphins at Redskins

Line: Dolphins -4

O/U: 43.5

There are always a handful of early-season lines that seem way off, and this is one. The Dolphins added our second-ranked defensive tackle (Ndamukong Suh) from a year ago alongside our 23rd-ranked wide receiver (Kenny Stills) and our 15th-ranked receiving tight end (Jordan Cameron). The Redskins also made some improvements, just more modest ones: adding our 11th- and 12th-rated defensive tackles (Stephen Paea and Terrance Knighton), alongside our 15th-ranked corner (Chris Culliver). The Redskins are starting a new quarterback and went 4-12 last season. The Dolphins are starting our 11th-graded quarterback from a year ago and went 8-8. I feel strongly about the Dolphins in this one.

Prediction: Dolphins 31, Redskins 10

PFF Confidence Grade: +2


Chiefs at Texans

Line: Pick em

O/U: 41

DeAndre Hopkins is becoming one of the best wide receivers in the league, but he alone does not an offense make. The Texans are a talented team, but just not at the positions that touch the ball the most. Brian Hoyer may have had an even more favorable situation last year, and he proved himself to be a replacement-level quarterback once again. It’s going to take more than that to break through this vaunted Chiefs defense that features our highest-graded edge rusher from a year ago in Justin Houston. With Derrick Johnson and Eric Berry back patrolling the middle for Kansas City and star RB Arian Foster out, I struggle to see how the Texans will be able to move the ball consistently.

Prediction: Chiefs 14, Texans 10

PFF Confidence Grade: -.5


Panthers at Jaguars

Line: Panthers -3

O/U: 41

There was so much to like about Blake Bortles’ preseason performance that saw him garner the fifth-highest grade of any quarterback. His pocket presence, accuracy, and decision making all looked much improved. But its only 114 snaps against preseason defenses. I have a hard time believing he’ll go from our lowest-graded quarterback in the NFL to a top 12 quarterback in one offseason. They’ll need Bortles’ best against the Panthers defense that saw big improvements in the preseason from their own early-round pick from 2014, DE Kony Ealy. Cam Newton may not have the weapons that Bortles has (or that any other quarterback in the league has, for that matter), but I like his chances of finding some open receivers against our fourth-lowest-graded coverage unit from a year ago.

Prediction: Panthers 27, Jaguars 21

PFF Confidence Grade: +1.5


Browns at Jets

Line: Jets -3

O/U: 39.5

For some reason I like this Jets team even more than some Jets fans. The loss of PFF all-pro DT Sheldon Richardson for at least four games due to suspension (and possibly more) is a crushing blow, but it actually opened up a spot for No. 6 overall pick Leonard Williams to see the field. What I believe has been downplayed is the sheer impact cornerback Darrelle Revis can have on a defense. We saw it in New England and in New York the first time around, and new head coach Todd Bowles isn’t going to waste Revis’ talents in zone coverage like they did in Tampa Bay. Already our second-highest-graded team in run defense last year, I think the Jets will be a top-10 coverage unit this year as well. With two top defenses I’ll give the nod to the Jets and their far more talented skill positions.

Prediction: Jets 17, Browns 9

PFF Confidence Grade: +1


Lions at Chargers

Line: Chargers -3

O/U: 46

These are two teams I have a hard time getting a read on this year. Will the Chargers’ new-look offensive line actually open up holes for rookie running back Melvin Gordon? Just how important was Ndamukong Suh to that Lions’ run defense? And can QB Matthew Stafford accurately facilitate a loaded offense? I truly can’t give you a solid answer to any of those questions. I know the Lions’ offensive line will be much improved, and I know that a full season of Jason Verrett is a huge boost to the Chargers’ secondary. In the end, though, I don’t much like the chances of two 5-foot-10 cornerbacks (Verrett and Brandon Flowers) stopping 6-5 Calvin Johnson, so I’ll go with the Lions.

Prediction: Lions 28, Chargers 27

PFF Confidence Grade: -1.5


Saints at Cardinals

Line: Cardinals -2.5

O/U: 48

The Saints seem to burn me every single year. Just when I think they’re back to their Super Bowl form, the defense completely loses all competency. This year I’ve learned my lesson, and I’m already fairly confident that their defense will be a mess right out of the gate without Keenan Lewis and Jairus Byrd for the first few weeks of the season. That leaves Brandon Browner, who was penalized 19 times in 12 games a year ago, as the team’s No. 1 cornerback. Yeesh. I don’t love the Cardinals’ offense, but if a healthy Carson Palmer can’t move the ball on this Saints team, they’ll have much bigger problems this year.

Prediction: Cardinals 21, Saints 20

PFF Confidence Grade: -1


Ravens at Broncos

Line: Broncos -5

O/U: 49

I’m going to chalk up the fact that Peyton Manning graded out as a below-average quarterback from Week 10 onwards last year to his hip injury, and not a greater trend of declining play. If he’s back to his early-season form that saw him as our sixth-highest-graded quarterback through the first seven weeks of the season, they’ll be in good hands. I’m not as much worried about Manning as I am Joe Flacco, who has lost any pretense of a receiving corps. The Ravens’ No. 2 receiver is Kamar Aiken, a player who has already been on four teams since entering the league in 2011. That’s not going to work against Denver’s Chris Harris Jr., our highest-graded cornerback in 2014.

Prediction: Broncos 23, Ravens 16

PFF Confidence Grade: +.5


Bengals at Raiders

Line: Bengals -3.5

O/U: 43

My colleague Ben Stockwell wrote a terrific article on why expectations should be tempered for Derek Carr in Year 2, and I couldn’t agree more. I want to like this Raiders team, because they have some great burgeoning young talent in guys like Khalil Mack, Gabe Jackson, and Amari Cooper, but I still think Carr is a year away from making them a playoff contender. The Bengals, on the other hand, have been on the precipice of a Super Bowl contender for some time now, but can’t quite make it over the hump. The good news for them is that Geno Atkins has so far looked like he is back to his 2012 form that saw him produce the highest grade we’ve ever given to a defensive tackle. If the Bengals are finally going to get over that hump, these are the games they have to win.

Prediction: Bengals 23  Raiders 17

PFF Confidence Grade: +.5


Titans at Buccaneers

Line: Buccaneers -3

O/U: 41

I despise having to predict the performance of a rookie quarterback on a week-to-week basis, and this game features two of them. The volatility of their play can be Andy Dalton-esque. That being said, Marcus Mariota graded out higher in the preseason and he looked as though he was adjusting to the speed of the game quicker than Jameis Winston (although the Bucs’ O-line probably has something to do with that). I’ll side with the draft’s second pick in this one.

Prediction: Titans 27, Buccaneers 21

PFF Confidence Grade: -2


Giants at Cowboys

Line: Cowboys -6

O/U: 49

Who is going to carry the rock the most behind that dominant Cowboys offensive line? I can’t answer that for certain, but I’m not sure it will matter Sunday. The Giants are starting one of the weakest linebacker and safety tandems in the NFL, and now they don’t have Jason Pierre-Paul, our third-highest-graded edge defender against the run last year, to help protect them. WR Odell Beckham Jr. figures to run wild through the Cowboys secondary, but one man won’t be enough to overcome the Giants’ defensive deficiencies.

Prediction: Cowboys 38, Giants 31

PFF Confidence Grade: 0


Eagles at Falcons

Line: Eagles -3

O/U: 49

The Eagles lost all-world guard Evan Mathis, but they still have our two all-pro tackles (Jason Peters and Lane Johnson) from a year ago and our all-pro center from 2013 (Jason Kelce). That bodes well going against an Atlanta front that ranked 16th in run-defense grade and 30th in pass-rushing grade a year ago. Even though QB Matt Ryan and company will likely move the ball on the Eagles’ new-look secondary, I don’t think they’ll be able to keep pace with the Eagles offense.

Prediction: Eagles 38, Falcons 27

PFF Confidence Grade: -.5


Vikings at 49ers

Line: Vikings -3

O/U: 41.5

For all the crushing losses the 49ers suffered this offseason, they are not destitute by any means, and it’s a testament to the work general manager Trent Baalke has done in the draft. That being said, there are still far too many gaps on the roster to call them serious playoff contenders. They had our top-graded defensive line this preseason, but Ian Williams, Glenn Dorsey, and Quinton Dial isn’t enough to expose the Vikings’ depleted offensive line. If Teddy Bridgewater has time to throw, I see him taking some steps forward after being our 12th-highest-graded quarterback as a rookie.

Prediction: Vikings 25, 49ers 13

PFF Confidence Grade: -.5

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • Tim Edell

    Really went out on a limb with these picks!

    • Steve Franklin

      The idea is not to go out on a limb. Not sure where you got the idea that it was. The idea is to make picks and then explain the reasoning. That’s what he did. Troll.

      • Tim Edell

        Picking 14 out of 16 chalks.. My 5 year old could do that… Troll this junior!!!

        • Kevin Roland

          There is no such thing as chalk ATS

          • Tim Edell

            Out of 16 games they picked 12 favorites to cover junior!! Now do u get it??

  • Jaguars28

    I’ll say Carolina takes this one 20-13.

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    • Jaguars28

      Eh, 20-9, close

  • Greg Fuderer

    i don’t get the minus confidence grade. why don’t you just pick the other way and be positively confident?

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    • Taylor Christian Vance

      It means he is not sure who will win. The more negative the confidence, the more he feels the game could go either way.