NFL Week 1 predictions: Broncos, Vikings, Colts, Packers the favorites


Here are our NFL Nation reporters' predictions for Sunday's and Monday's games:



Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy and the rest of the Packers are tired of starting 1-2. They have done so the past three years, losing the season opener every time. Now they will have to try to break that trend in their first game without injured Pro Bowl receiver Jordy Nelson. They get a break playing the Bears in the first game under new coach John Fox, who has a major rebuilding job in front of him. Packers 38, Bears 17 -- Rob Demovsky

Chicago: The talent gap between the Bears and Packers is too wide. Expect Jay Cutler to play efficiently, but Chicago lacks the firepower to keep pace with Green Bay through four quarters. On the bright side, the Packers probably won't lead 42-0 at halftime like last season. Green Bay 31, Bears 21 -- Jeff Dickerson


Kansas City: Season openers can be unpredictable, but I am confident of this: The defenses will dominate and it will be an ugly game. The Chiefs won’t get their long-awaited wide receiver touchdown, but they are better at quarterback and have all their important pieces in their lineup. They will still get enough done to survive. Chiefs 20, Texans 16 -- Adam Teicher

Houston: Chiefs coach Andy Reid joked this week that he wasn’t going to pass the ball at all against the Texans. The Chiefs also ranked last in receiving yards, receiving touchdowns and receptions last season, with quarterback Alex Smith averaging the fewest yards per pass attempt, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Though the Chiefs have one of the league’s top running backs in Jamaal Charles, and added explosive receiver Jeremy Maclin, the Texans' starting defense has a lot of pent-up aggression and they’ve got even more talent. Texans 13, Chiefs 9 -- Tania Ganguli


Cleveland Browns: The Cleveland Browns have lost 10 season-opening games in a row, the longest losing streak on opening day in NFL history. Will the Browns win Game 1 for the first time since 2004? No. The Jets are at home. Their secondary will want to justify the huge investment made in it. They have seven first-round draft picks on the defense. And Ryan Fitzpatrick has won three in a row against the Browns. Jets 16, Browns 6 -- Pat McManamon

N.Y. Jets: The Jets have won four consecutive openers and the Browns have lost a record 10 in a row. One of the trends will continue Sunday, as the Jets will win an ugly, low-scoring game. The teams are quite similar in terms of personnel and scheme, but the Jets have a little more offensive firepower than the Browns. Jets 17, Browns 13 -- Rich Cimini


Indianapolis: The Colts have lost four straight road season openers, but they have several things favoring them on Sunday. Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus will miss the game while serving his one-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor hasn’t started a game since he was at Virginia Tech in January 2011. The Bills have one of the stingiest defenses in the NFL, finishing fourth in the league last season. But Andrew Luck has too many weapons at his disposal. Colts 24, Bills 17 -- Mike Wells

Buffalo Bills: When was the last time there has been this much anticipation for a Bills' opener? Rex Ryan has fans hyped for what they hope is the Bills' first playoff run since 1999, but one of the NFL's best quarterbacks, Andrew Luck, stands in the way. The Bills went 1-3 last season in full games against quarterbacks who finished the season in the top 15 in QBR and 1-5 against such quarterbacks in 2013. This is a good Bills defense, but it will show some holes against a better quarterback. Colts 21, Bills 14 -- Mike Rodak


Miami: The Dolphins’ defensive line, led by Pro Bowler Ndamukong Suh, against Washington’s shaky offensive line is one of the NFL’s biggest mismatches in Week 1. Look for Miami to rattle new Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins and earn a valuable road win to start the season. Dolphins 23, Redskins 16 -- James Walker

Washington: Washington has a young right side of the line facing a potentially dominant one in Miami. Not a good way to open the season, but keep in mind that Cousins has been sacked only 16 times in 427 career drop-backs. Another thing to know: Miami ranked next to last in yards allowed per play-action pass (9.30) while Cousins averaged 14.72 yards on such plays a year ago, tops in the NFL for quarterback with at least 38 play-action drop-backs. The Redskins will keep it close, but Ryan Tannehill has enough weapons, especially new tight end Jordan Cameron and receiver DeVante Parker. Dolphins 21, Redskins 17. -- John Keim


Carolina: The Jaguars were the worst team at protecting the quarterback in 2014, giving up 71 sacks. With the addition of rookie outside linebacker Shaq Thompson, the Panthers are poised to return to the unit that led the league in sacks with 60 in 2013. Carolina’s defense simply is too strong and Jacksonville doesn’t have enough weapons around quarterback Blake Bortles to keep this close. Panthers 24, Jaguars 10 -- David Newton

Jacksonville: The outcome hinges on whether the Jaguars’ offense can consistently move the ball and not be the liability it was last season. Bortles had a great preseason (65 percent completions) and the offensive line looks much better, thanks to the addition of right tackle Jermey Parnell and offensive line coach Doug Marrone. That should be enough to eke out a close victory. Jaguars 27, Panthers 24 -- Michael DiRocco


Seattle: The Seahawks’ quest for a third straight trip to the Super Bowl begins in St. Louis, and all eyes will be on two offensive lines that enter the season with plenty of question marks. Russell Wilson has been sacked 25 times in six games against the Rams. Look for both defensive lines to dominate in an ugly Seahawks win. Seahawks 17, Rams 13 -- Sheil Kapadia

St. Louis: The Rams have given Seattle fits at home in recent years, including a trickery-induced win in 2014. Both teams enter with vulnerable offensive lines and points will probably be hard to come by. With Seattle safety Earl Thomas still rounding into shape and the absence of Seattle safety Kam Chancellor, the Rams find a way to steal it late. Rams 13, Seahawks 10 -- Nick Wagoner


New Orleans: Quarterbacks Drew Brees and Carson Palmer both have looked great this summer and appear poised for bounce-back seasons -- Brees from a down year that was plagued by turnovers and Palmer from a torn ACL. I like Palmer’s chances better in Week 1, because he will face an injury-depleted Saints secondary that is without top cornerback Keenan Lewis and free safety Jairus Byrd. Brees, meanwhile, will have to tangle with the likes of Arizona defensive backs Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. The environment also favors the Cardinals, who are 13-3 at home under coach Bruce Arians. Cardinals 23, Saints 20 -- Mike Triplett

Arizona: There will be enough reasons for Arizona to be jacked up for the season opener: Palmer returning, a new backfield featuring Chris Johnson, a new defensive coordinator in James Bettcher and a healthy Mathieu. Palmer has been patiently waiting for this game since his knee injury on the same field back in November. Expect him to light it up while the defense shows it hasn't lost a step without Todd Bowles. Cardinals 31, Saints 20 -- Josh Weinfuss


Detroit: Linebacker DeAndre Levy has not practiced in two weeks, and though this would be more devastating if San Diego had the suspended Antonio Gates, his absence will be exceedingly noticeable on Detroit’s defense. With Levy likely out, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers should have even more time to dissect the middle of the field. The Lions will score and Calvin Johnson will have a pair of touchdowns, but Detroit’s defense just isn’t quite there yet without a healthy Levy. Chargers 30, Lions 24 -- Michael Rothstein

San Diego: Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked a career-high 45 times in 2014, and finished with a total QBR of 51.3 (No. 27 in the NFL) when facing just four rushers. Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano will blitz and disguise coverages to confuse Stafford, creating a couple of turnovers that will be the difference for San Diego. Chargers 30, Lions 27 -- Eric D. Williams


Tennessee. The Titans get a relatively mistake-free game from rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota, an interception from Perrish Cox and a solid day from a Dick LeBeau defense against a rookie signal-caller on the other side. The key for Mariota success against the Cover 2 is not to fall behind by much, and Jameis Winston will be more amped than the cool Mariota. Because of that, the Bucs fail to turn early energy in to significant points. Titans 20, Buccaneers 17 -- Paul Kuharsky

Tampa Bay: Winston will become the 37th different quarterback to start a game in Bucs franchise history. Winston was 26-1 in his college career at Florida State. The Bucs have won only 27 games over the past five seasons combined. But I think Winston's college track record shows he can turn the Bucs into a winner quickly. Bucs 24, Titans 13 -- Pat Yasinskas


Cincinnati: A.J. Green has faced Oakland only once in his five-year career (three catches, 111 yards). But in seven games against AFC West opponents, he has 40 catches for 593 yards, four touchdowns and one lone drop. Fresh off an injury-filled, 1,000-yard 2014 season that he has since called a "disappointment," Green will be out to make an early statement. The combination of his play coupled with a physical running game will allow the Bengals to emerge from the Black Hole 1-0. Bengals 24, Raiders 14 -- Coley Harvey

Oakland Raiders: The Bengals have not won in nine games in Oakland. Cincinnati’s only road win in 13 tries against the Raiders was in Los Angeles. However, Cincinnati is the better team and its tough defense will make it rough on the growing Raiders’ offense. Oakland will not be embarrassed, but the Bengals will leave with their first win in Oakland. Bengals 24, Raiders 16 -- Bill Williamson


Baltimore: The Ravens have upgraded their secondary, but the season opener is the worst time to face Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. The weather is perfect for throwing the ball, and the 39-year-old quarterback has no wear and tear on him. Since 2009, Manning is 4-1 in Week 1 with 16 touchdowns and one interception. That's a passer rating of 119.7, tops the NFL. Broncos 27, Ravens 17 -- Jamison Hensley

Denver: Sunday will be the first time the Broncos’ offensive line has played together in a game. And Sunday we’ll get to see just how ready Manning is for his 18th season and Gary Kubiak’s offense. But in the end, the Broncos will formally introduce what will be one of the league’s most aggressive, sack-happy defenses, and that will be the difference. Broncos 24, Ravens 17 -- Jeff Legwold


N.Y. Giants: Remember Odell Beckham Jr.'s one-handed touchdown catch against the Cowboys in November? Of course you do. Who doesn’t? But do you also remember that the Cowboys won that game? The Cowboys won both games against the Giants last season. And both the year before. These franchises are not headed in similar directions right now, and the Cowboys’ offensive line is a mismatch for a Giants’ defensive front that’s loaded with question marks. Cowboys 35, Giants 24 -- Dan Graziano

Dallas: Dez Bryant has waited eight months to get past his overturned catch in the playoffs in January against the Green Bay Packers. He missed most of the offseason with a contract situation and the four preseason games with a hamstring injury. The Giants have all kinds of questions on defense and they didn’t have an answer for Bryant last season (16 catches, 237 yards, two touchdowns). They don’t have an answer for him Sunday, either. Cowboys 31, Giants 23 -- Todd Archer



Philadelphia: Sam Bradford is excited to return to the field for his first meaningful game in almost two seasons. Eagles fans are excited to see what he can do in Chip Kelly’s offense. Despite the Falcons’ element of surprise, with a new coaching staff, the expectation is that Bradford will be able to do quite a bit. Eagles 33, Falcons 27. -- Phil Sheridan

AtlantaThe up-tempo offense of the Eagles will make life difficult on the Falcons initially, but a few timely stops by Dan Quinn's revamped defense also will put Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the offense on the field enough to wear down the Eagles. Ryan, probably not fully comfortable yet with the rebuilt offensive line, will take advantage of throwing on the move in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s scheme and will find Jones for some explosive plays. And tight end Jacob Tamme makes an impact in a high-scoring affair. Falcons 31, Eagles 28 -- Vaughn McClure


Minnesota: Adrian Peterson's long-awaited return to the NFL comes against a team that has held him to fewer yards per carry (3.0) than any other in the league. But this 49ers defense, without Justin Smith, Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis, lacks the tenacity of the ones that bottled Peterson up in the past. The Vikings’ rickety offensive line is a cause for concern, but before a prime-time audience, Peterson will make a statement against a team in transition. Vikings 24, 49ers 13-- Ben Goessling

San Francisco: Colin Kaepernick is 4-0 on "Monday Night Football" and his nine touchdown passes without an interception under those lights trail only Jeff Garcia for most TD passes (12) before being picked off on MNF. But this is a different 49ers team than the powerhouse he took over in 2012; it’s a rebuilding project. Plus, the Vikings are a different squad now, too, albeit a better one with Peterson playing in his first game since last season’s opener. Vikings 23, 49ers 20 -- Paul Gutierrez