Week 1 NFL score predictions: A guide for best games, fantasy help, more

Vikings' D will be the difference against Garoppolo (0:48)

NFL Live's Darren Woodson and Tedy Bruschi make their picks for the 49ers vs. Vikings. (0:48)

We're previewing the Week 1 NFL slate with score predictions for each game from our Nation reporters, what to watch for in fantasy, ESPN Football Power Index projections from Seth Walder and Hank Gargiulo, and much more.

Catch up on Week 1: Biggest injuries of the week ... Projecting the season from 1-32 ... The Super Bowl path for every team ... Bold predictions to kick off the season


Sunday's games

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (1 p.m. ET, CBS)

Point spread: PIT -3.5 | Matchup quality: 50 (of 100)

Jeremy Fowler's pick: The Steelers have won 11 games in Cleveland with Ben Roethlisberger as their quarterback, and though the Browns should be much improved, a passing offense ranked 20th or worse each season since 2014 inherits a quarterback (Tyrod Taylor) who barely averages 200 yards per game. That's a good matchup for a Steelers defense that thrives off rushing defense and limiting big plays downfield, while the Pittsburgh offensive line will be eager to get James Conner going. Steelers 27, Browns 21

Pat McManamon's pick: An angry Steelers team is usually not a good thing for the Browns, who start with a new quarterback (Taylor), receiver (Jarvis Landry), running back (Carlos Hyde), left tackle (Joel Bitonio) and right tackle (Chris Hubbard), along with a new coordinator (Todd Haley) and new offensive system. It is not easy to bring that all together immediately. Steelers 24, Browns 17

FPI win projection: PIT, 65 percent. The FPI sees this as Cleveland's best chance at winning against the Steelers since Week 6 of the 2014 season, when Cleveland was a 56 percent home favorite. Every game since, the FPI has had Pittsburgh as at least a 72 percent favorite.

What to watch for in fantasy: Conner seems likely to start at running back for the Steelers. So what if you draft Le'Veon Bell in your league? Read more.Insider

In case you missed it: All the possible Le'Veon Bell scenarios ... Gordon believes Browns' hope for his return is justified

San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings (1 p.m. ET, Fox)

Point spread: MIN -6.5 | Matchup quality: 59.4 (of 100)

Nick Wagoner's pick: Even before the injury to Jerick McKinnon and suspension for Reuben Foster, the 49ers figured to be facing an uphill battle against the Vikings. This week, coach Kyle Shanahan acknowledged that losing McKinnon was a serious blow to his game plan. The Niners have lost five consecutive road games to the Vikings. That streak continues. Vikings 27, 49ers 20

Courtney Cronin's pick: The Vikings usher in the Kirk Cousins era at home. Minnesota's No. 1 defense has allowed 10 points or fewer in five of its past seven regular-season games. Cousins and his playmakers have been working all offseason to build their on-field chemistry, which involves spreading the ball around and placing an emphasis on Dalvin Cook, Latavius Murray and this explosive backfield. Vikings 27, 49ers 13

FPI win projection: MIN, 70 percent. Jimmy G and the 49ers might have finished 2017 with a five-game winning streak, but a Week 1 trip to Minnesota and the FPI's top preseason defense is a big test.

What to watch for in fantasy: With McKinnon's injury, Alfred Morris has predictably been the most-added player in ESPN leagues the past week. Keep him on the bench in Week 1, though. Read more.Insider

In case you missed it: How Kobe Bryant became 'essential' in Sherman's recovery ... Cousins' all-or-nothing pursuit kicks off against 49ers ... A perfect match? Garoppolo and the Bay Area's instant embrace

Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts (1 p.m. ET, CBS)

Point spread: IND -3 | Matchup quality: 38.2 (of 100)

Katherine Terrell's pick: The Bengals seemed quietly confident this week, and there's a reason for that. They have new offensive and defensive coordinators, a revamped offensive line and healthy weapons in Tyler Eifert and John Ross. The Colts don't appear to have much of a pass rush, and the Bengals' talented defensive line can take advantage of the fact that this will be Andrew Luck's first game since 2016. Bengals 24, Colts 17

Mike Wells' pick: The Colts have lost four consecutive Week 1 games, their starting left tackle just returned to practice for the first time in five weeks following a hamstring injury, and their starting running back just returned from a hamstring injury suffered Aug. 9. What the Colts do have going for them is that Luck is the healthiest he has been since Week 1 of the 2015 season. Colts 21, Bengals 17

FPI win projection: IND, 61 percent. With Luck back in the fold, the Colts are FPI favorites in nine games this season after being favored only once in 2017. The Bengals can up their odds to make the playoffs to nearly 30 percent with a victory, but a loss drops them below 15 percent.

What to watch for in fantasy: Here's why A.J. Green and Ross have an advantageous matchup against this Colts defense. Read more.Insider

In case you missed it: Luck 'excited' ahead of regular-season return ... Willis could be more than run-stopper for Bengals

Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, Fox)

Point spread: TEN -1.5 | Matchup quality: 34.9 (of 100)

Turron Davenport's pick: New offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur hopes to take advantage of the Dolphins' linebackers with Dion Lewis and the tight end combo of Delanie Walker and Jonnu Smith. The Titans' secondary, bolstered by the addition of Malcolm Butler, will protect an early lead to give Mike Vrabel a victory in his first game as coach. Titans 24, Dolphins 17

Cameron Wolfe's pick: The Dolphins should use their up-tempo offense and South Florida humidity to wear out the banged-up Titans front seven, but none of that will save them if they can't score enough points. Tennessee's route to a win seems simple -- Lewis, Derrick Henry and Marcus Mariota exploiting the Dolphins' struggles to stop the run. Titans 20, Dolphins 16

FPI win projection: TEN, 50.4 percent. Tennessee is the most narrow FPI favorite of the week and could nudge its playoff probability just north of 50 percent with a win. Miami goes from Jay Cutler (43.5 Total QBR in 2017) back to Ryan Tannehill (48.6 in 2016), who missed last season because of injury.

What to watch for in fantasy: With Tannehill back, Kenny Stills could quickly emerge as a WR3. Read more.Insider

In case you missed it: After 637 days, 'riled up' Tannehill returns for real ... Vrabel to Mariota: Let it rip! ... Gase confident Dolphins can reclaim 2016 magic

Houston Texans at New England Patriots (1 p.m. ET, CBS)

Point spread: NE -6.5 | Matchup quality: 59.4 (of 100)

Sarah Barshop's pick: Houston certainly has the playmakers to win in New England -- especially with a healthy Deshaun Watson, J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney -- but it's hard to pick against a Patriots team that has never lost to the Texans at Gillette Stadium. It will be a close game like last season, but the Texans will come up short again. Patriots 30, Texans 24

Mike Reiss' pick: Three of the Patriots' key starters -- Rex Burkhead, Marcus Cannon and Trey Flowers -- didn't play in the preseason, and the team enters the game with just three wide receivers who were with the club in training camp: Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson. Add in the fact that Jacob Hollister might not be ready, and it's asking a lot of the offense against the Texans' D. Texans 24, Patriots 20

FPI win projection: NE, 73 percent. All eyes will be on the quarterbacks. Watson led the league last season with an 93.5 Total QBR at the time of his injury in November. The ageless Tom Brady finished the season third in QBR, the fourth consecutive season he has finished in the top five.

What to watch for in fantasy: Matthew Berry says Lamar Miller is a top-10 fantasy back in 2018. Read more.

In case you missed it: As Brady improves movement, 'broken-play coach' helps Patriots ... Are Texans for real? Week 1 is an early litmus test ... Where does 2018 WR corps rank among those in Belichick's tenure?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (1 p.m. ET, Fox)

Point spread: NO -9.5 | Matchup quality: 48.1 (of 100)

Jenna Laine's pick: The Bucs won't have the suspended Jameis Winston, and their new pieces on defense -- defensive linemen Beau Allen, Jason Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry -- haven't had enough time to jell to effectively rattle Drew Brees. The Saints also boast what Ryan Fitzpatrick called one of the league's "best home-field advantages," even if they historically have struggled in September. Saints 29, Bucs 21

Mike Triplett's pick: Both teams will be missing star players because of suspensions. But the Saints' offense is still loaded without Mark Ingram. I'm surprised the betting line is flirting with double digits, even with Winston out. But this is practically a must-win game for a Saints team with Super Bowl aspirations. New Orleans can't afford another slow start after starting 0-2, 0-3, 0-3 and 0-2 the past four seasons. Saints 27, Bucs 19

FPI win projection: NO, 82 percent. The Saints get the good scheduling fortune of catching Tampa Bay without Winston. Had Winston been available, New Orleans would still be the favorite, but closer to 75 percent.

What to watch for in fantasy: Michael Thomas got at least eight targets in 14 of his 16 games last season, and Matthew Berry thinks he could be the top-scoring WR in fantasy in 2018. Read more.

In case you missed it: Beyond the brawl: Mike Evans-Marshon Lattimore is must-see TV ... Saints don't have time to waste another season with a slow start ... Only Saints RBs on active roster are Kamara, Gillislee

Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants (1 p.m. ET, Fox)

Point spread: JAX -3 | Matchup quality: 46.8 (of 100)

Mike DiRocco's pick: The Jaguars are 0-3 all time at MetLife Stadium, but this is by far the best team they've brought to New Jersey. The marquee matchup is Jalen Ramsey vs. Odell Beckham Jr., but don't get sidetracked. The Jaguars' running game, with the addition of Andrew Norwell and a slimmed-down Leonard Fournette, will determine the outcome. Jaguars 25, Giants 16

Jordan Raanan's pick: The revamped Giants offense finally takes the field with Beckham and Saquon Barkley. That should help a unit that scored 13.6 points last season with Beckham either limited or out with injury; the Giants average 23 points with him at or near full strength. The Jaguars were the No. 2 scoring defense last season, and ranked second with 55 sacks. That's a problem for the new-look Giants offensive line, which still has problems on the right side. Jaguars 21, Giants 20

FPI win projection: NYG, 51 percent. Will a healthy OBJ, plus the addition of Barkley, be enough on offense for the Giants to overcome the most efficient defense from 2017? It might come down to whether they can protect 37-year-old quarterback Eli Manning.

What to watch for in fantasy: Should you start Beckham against Ramsey this week? Ramsey might not shadow him, but here's why OBJ should be downgraded. Read more.Insider

In case you missed it: Inside Jalen vs. OBJ, from those who have faced them ... Ramsey is OBJ's toughest matchup yet ... How Bouye will factor into Jags' success vs. Giants

Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens (1 p.m. ET, CBS)

Point spread: BAL -7.5 | Matchup quality: 41.3 (of 100)

Mike Rodak's pick: Baltimore's defense allowed the NFL's 10th-fewest passing yards in 2017. The chances seem low of seeing new Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, quarterback Nathan Peterman and an offensive line that struggled this preseason all click immediately in a road opener. Ravens 20, Bills 13

Jamison Hensley's pick: Since 2008, Baltimore is 5-1 when opening the season at home, with an average margin of victory of 17.2 points. To make matters worse for the Bills, the Ravens return every starter on defense, and their pass rush has been dominant this preseason. That spells a long day for Peterman. Ravens 20, Bills 6

FPI win projection: BAL, 84 percent. Baltimore is the FPI's biggest favorite of the week, partially because the Bills are starting Peterman, who finished last season with a 12.4 Total QBR in limited action.

What to watch for in fantasy: Fantasy's No. 7 running back from 2017 did not suddenly get too old to do it again -- Eric Karabell ranked LeSean McCoy as one of the top RB2 options this week. Read more.Insider

In case you missed it: Starting Peterman not a surprise, despite '17 disaster ... Ravens' secret weapon? Jackson 'absolutely' ready to play

Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS)

Point spread: LAC -3.5 | Matchup quality: 56.2 (of 100)

Adam Teicher's pick: Kansas City's defense looked fundamentally bad in a lot of ways during preseason. The Chiefs will need to score into the 30s to beat the Chargers, and that's a lot to ask of Patrick Mahomes in his first full season as a starter against a good defensive opponent. Chargers 34, Chiefs 26

Eric D. Williams' pick: The Chargers have lost eight straight to the Chiefs, but they finally will put an end to that losing streak Sunday. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will figure out a way to pressure Mahomes, and a Philip Rivers-led offense should have its way with a Kansas City defense that likely will be missing its best player in safety Eric Berry (heel). Chargers 31, Chiefs 27

FPI win projection: LAC, 62 percent. Mahomes is greeted by an improved Chargers defense to start the 2018 season. Could be worse, but not by much.

What to watch for in fantasy: Be careful expecting too much from Mahomes against the Chargers' top cover corner, Casey Hayward, and their elite pass-rushers. Read more.Insider

In case you missed it: For Year 2 in L.A., Rivers turns to kickboxing and a sweet ride ... Changes to secondary threaten Chiefs' success against Rivers

Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos (4:25 p.m. ET, Fox)

Point spread: DEN -3 | Matchup quality: 38.1 (of 100)

Brady Henderson's pick: The Broncos are 17-1 in their past 18 home openers, but there's more than history working against the Seahawks in this one. Dion Jordan might not be ready to help a pass rush that is already a major question mark, and it's not certain whether All-Pro Earl Thomas will play after returning from his holdout this week. Broncos 21, Seahawks 20

Jeff Legwold's pick: The Broncos hope to unveil their improvements on offense -- featuring new starting QB Case Keenum -- and hope their rookie class, with 10 on the current roster, fuels a rebound from 2017's 5-11 finish. Broncos 23, Seahawks 20

FPI win projection: DEN, 55 percent. Was Keenum's 2017 -- when he finished second among qualifying starters in Total QBR -- an aberration? We'll get our first hint come Sunday ... especially if Thomas is on the field.

What to watch for in fantasy: One trend Matthew Berry is buying from the preseason? That Broncos running back Royce Freeman is a future star. Read more.

In case you missed it: Thomas ends holdout; Seahawks turn down second-round pick ... Keenum to get first real taste of new job in Broncos' opener ... Shaquem Griffin to start in Week 1

Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals (4:25 p.m. ET, Fox)

Point spread: ARI -1 | Matchup quality: 33.3 (of 100)

John Keim's pick: The Redskins are 0-4 in openers under Jay Gruden, with 10 giveaways to only five takeaways. The solution? Quarterback Alex Smith, who is 4-1 in the past five seasons in Week 1, with 12 touchdowns to four picks. Washington's offense is far from a finished product, and has a new starting back in Adrian Peterson. Redskins 21, Cardinals 17

Josh Weinfuss' pick: Arizona will be unveiling new looks in Year 1 under coach Steve Wilks. The defense might be mostly stable, but the offense will be a large unknown aside from David Johnson being its centerpiece. It'll take the Cardinals at least a game to get used to everything new -- Wilks, his coaching staff, the offense with Sam Bradford, the defense and the 24 new players. Washington 24, Cardinals 17

FPI win projection: ARI, 57 percent. These are two teams with new quarterback situations, and the FPI actually predicts Smith and Bradford to be remarkably similar in quality on a per-play basis going forward.

What to watch for in fantasy: Here's a fact to know from Matthew Berry's 10 lists of 10: In the past three seasons, no quarterback has targeted tight ends more than Smith. Read more.

In case you missed it: Smith, Davis look to recapture 'great connection' with Redskins ... Peterson, Norman share same 'Mr. Miyagi' ... AD ready for big workload


The Kansas City Chiefs can't stop anybody

The NFL Live crew makes its picks for the Chiefs vs. Titans and discusses how Kansas City's defense has struggled in the preseason.

Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers (4:25 p.m. ET, Fox)

Point spread: CAR -3 | Matchup quality: 59.3 (of 100)

Todd Archer's pick: Offensively, the Cowboys have questions at wide receiver and tight end and will not have Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick for the first time. They will be breaking in a new kicker in Brett Maher as well. The biggest question on defense is at safety, but their strength is the defensive line. The Panthers' weakness is an offensive line that is banged up and could struggle to protect Cam Newton. The Cowboys' defense must carry the day. Cowboys 23, Panthers 17

David Newton's pick: Both teams are banged up on the offensive line, but the Panthers appear to be in better shape with right tackle Daryl Williams and guard/tackle Amini Silatolu returning to practice. Because it will be nearly impossible for the Cowboys to successfully rush against one of the best front sevens in the NFL with their injury situation, the Panthers get the edge. Panthers 27, Cowboys 10

FPI win projection: CAR, 60 percent. Most believe Dak Prescott suffered a major sophomore slump, but Total QBR still had him as the fourth-most-efficient quarterback last season. FPI is optimistic about Prescott in 2018 and beyond.

What to watch for in fantasy: Looking for a streaming option in Week 1? Rookie Cowboys wideout Michael Gallup should be an option. Read more.

In case you missed it: Elliott ready to prove he's NFL's 'best back' ... Newton begins next chapter of career after 'pretty amazing' first ... Jason Garrett 'embracing the youth' in critical year

Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC)

Point spread: GB -7.5 | Matchup quality: 54.2 (of 100)

Jeff Dickerson's pick: The Bears' defense, led by new pass-rusher Khalil Mack, will no doubt keep the game interesting. But for all the offseason gains made by the Bears on both sides of the ball, the NFL is still a quarterback-driven league, and it's difficult to give the nod to Mitchell Trubisky over Aaron Rodgers. Packers 24, Bears 23

Rob Demovsky's pick: The Packers have dominated this series of late, going 16-4 in their past 20 regular-season meetings when Rodgers has started. This opener has special meaning for Rodgers -- it's his first home game since he broke his collarbone at Minnesota in Week 6 last season. Expect it to be a memorable one. Packers 30, Bears 27

FPI win projection: GB, 73 percent. The FPI anticipates Chicago having the eighth-best defense in the NFL. Given the price the Bears paid for Mack, surely they're hoping for better than that.

What to watch for in fantasy: Anthony Miller faces a largely untested, inexperienced secondary, making him an interesting Week 1 flier. Read more.Insider

In case you missed it: No stopping Rodgers at age 34, 40 or perhaps beyond ... Bear or Packer? After playing for both, usually one sticks

Monday's games

New York Jets at Detroit Lions (7:10 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)

Point spread: DET -6.5 | Matchup quality: 36.3 (of 100)

Rich Cimini's pick: The Jets have a rookie quarterback in Sam Darnold playing behind an offensive line that didn't play together for a single snap in the preseason. The Lions have their own issues, especially on both lines, but they have Matthew Stafford and the home crowd. In the end, the Jets will be undermined by their woeful pass rush (only 28 sacks last season) and fans will be second-guessing them for not offering more for Khalil Mack. Lions 27, Jets 23

Michael Rothstein's pick: It's a first-time head coach (Matt Patricia) facing a quarterback (Darnold) making his first start. Considering Patricia's familiarity with some of the Jets' personnel and with coach Todd Bowles from his time in New England, that should be enough to help the Lions fluster Darnold. Detroit has won six of its past seven season openers and usually plays well on Monday nights, going 2-0 last season. Lions 35, Jets 23

FPI win projection: DET, 72 percent. The FPI isn't giving Darnold much credit, hence the Lions' chances to win. If the rookie lives up to the hype, the model will quickly adjust.

What to watch for in fantasy: Isaiah Crowell is one of the game's strongest inside runners facing one of the weakest defensive interiors. Do you start him? Read more.Insider

In case you missed it: Jets rush Darnold into starting job, hoping for Carson Wentz ... Stafford knows what 'talented' Darnold faces

Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Raiders (10:20 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)

Point spread: LAR -4 | Matchup quality: 58.3 (of 100)

Lindsey Thiry's pick: The Rams open with a healthy roster, the highest-scoring offense from 2017, and a defense bolstered with the return of Aaron Donald and additions of Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. Meanwhile, the Raiders are in a new system under Jon Gruden, and players must move beyond the organization trading star Khalil Mack to the Bears. Rams 27, Raiders 20

Paul Gutierrez's pick: The Raiders enter Gruden 2.0 with more questions than answers, especially in the wake of the Mack trade and the team cutting Martavis Bryant. The Oakland natives are restless, the Raiders are facing an absolutely loaded Rams team, and this could get ugly early; as receiver Amari Cooper said, "We might have to go out there and score every possession." Rams 27, Raiders 17

FPI win projection: LAR, 57 percent. Welcome back, Gruden. Now please try to handle Donald and Suh on the defensive line, Talib and Peters in the secondary, and Brandin Cooks and Todd Gurley ... without Mack. It will be fine.

What to watch for in fantasy: Cooper is probably too talented to bench in most cases, but consider it this week against this stout Rams defense. Read more.Insider

In case you missed it: Chucky Part II: Gruden tales from those who know him best ... McVay is 'the happy version of Gruden' ... What is the method to Gruden's madness in trading Mack? ... How will Gruden rate vs. other multiple-stint coaches?