The NFL is back, and everyone’s got the same record — including NESN.com’s trio of pigskin prognosticators.
The 2018 season kicks off Thursday night in Philadelphia, and with that comes the return of NESN.com’s weekly NFL picks against the spread.
NESN.com’s Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian will make their picks for every game all season long. You can see their full picks below, and you also should check out “The Spread,” where the guys break down their picks every week on the NESN Podcast Network. (Click here to subscribe on iTunes.)
Here are the picks! (All lines courtesy of OddsShark; all times Eastern.)
THURSDAY, SEPT. 6
Atlanta Falcons at (-2.5) Philadelphia Eagles, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Falcons. Atlanta is returning to the scene of the crime where it had Philly on the ropes in the playoffs last season. The Falcons know they can win at the Linc, especially with Nick Foles — who looked terrible in the preseason — under center.
Ricky: Falcons. Philadelphia better heed Malcolm Jenkins’ advice and turn the page, because Atlanta is more than capable of pulling off an upset against the defending champions on Opening Night. The Falcons’ offense is explosive, with plenty of weapons and an O-line capable of neutralizing the Eagles’ impressive front seven. Atlanta’s defense also remains an intriguing unit given its athleticism and overall team speed.
Andre: Falcons. In terms of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, Nick Foles is more Joe Flacco than Tom Brady, in that he got hot at the right time. Foles is still Foles. He went 16-of-26 for 171 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions, two fumbles and was sacked six times in the preseason.
SUNDAY, SEPT. 9
Buffalo Bills at (-7) Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.
Mike: Ravens. Nathan Peterman on the road against a halfway decent defense sounds like the first in a season of disasters for the Bills.
Ricky: Ravens. One reason the Ravens went 9-7 last season and nearly made the playoffs: They faced a ton of bad quarterbacks, including E.J. Manuel, Matt Moore, Brett Hundley, Tom Savage and DeShone Kizer twice. Fortunately for the Ravens, that trend will continue in Week 1 of this season with Peterman starting for the Bills.
Andre: Ravens. Baltimore led the NFL in interceptions, takeaways and turnover differential last season. That’s bad news for Peterman. Also, keep an eye on Ravens wide receiver John Brown, who will provide Joe Flacco the deep threat he didn’t have last year.
Cincinnati Bengals at (-3) Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bengals. I’m guessing Andrew Luck will have some rust, especially when he has that Cincy pass rush in his face. The Bengals can get after the passer, especially against a hardly improved Indy offensive line. Don’t sleep on the Bengals’ assortment of offensive weapons, either.
Ricky: Bengals. The worst part about football being back? Picking games like this. Luck is a good quarterback — I think; I can’t really remember — but that won’t matter much this season with Indianapolis’ bad offensive line, bad pass rush, bad run defense, bad secondary and inexperienced coaching staff.
Andre: Bengals. I don’t know what I’m getting with Luck, but I know what I’m getting with the Bengals. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible: Average quarterback play with some weapons that can really break the game open against a terrible Colts defense that allowed nearly six yards per play last season.
Houston Texans at (-6) New England Patriots, 1 p.m.
Mike: Texans. As I said this week on “The Spread,” I could see Houston winning this game. It’s going to take some time for the Patriots’ offense to get going, which could mean a difficult day for Brady against that Houston defensive line. Even if the Texans can’t finish the job, they should keep it within the number.
Ricky: Texans. I’m not just concerned about New England’s offense, which could have problems while sorting out its ball distribution and its offensive line communication against the Texans’ excellent pass rush. I’m also skeptical of the defense, namely the secondary, because Houston’s offense has speed on the outside. Malcolm Butler’s offseason departure might be felt right out of the gate.
Andre: Patriots. Quarterbacks with fewer than 20 games of experience have five touchdown passes, eight interceptions with an 0-8 record against the Pats in the last two years. Watson is coming off a serious injury and as talented as he is, it might take a bit for him to get back in the swing of things.
(-3) Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants, 1 p.m.
Mike: Giants. Here’s the thing about the Jaguars last season: Despite all the credit their defense got, you could run on them. They allowed 100 rushing yards or more in 10 games and went 4-6 in those contests. Should be a good spot for Saquon Barkley in his debut.
Ricky: Jaguars. Jacksonville allowed an NFL-low 68.5 passer rating last season. Which means quarterbacks, collectively, against the Jags basically turned into C.J. Beathard (69.2), Drew Stanton (66.4) or DeShone Kizer (60.5). Good luck to Eli Manning, who hasn’t really been good in three years.
Andre: Jaguars. The Jaguars allowed the lowest completion percentage in the NFL and the fewest yards per play last season. How are they only three-point favorites against Manning?
(-4) Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m.
Mike: Steelers. The Browns are still the Browns, right?
Ricky: Browns. Are the Browns still the Browns? Probably. But the Steelers’ defense wasn’t the same after Ryan Shazier’s injury last season, and there’s been a weird vibe coming out of Pittsburgh, where Le’Veon Bell’s holdout and Ben Roethlisberger’s comments about drafting quarterback Mason Rudolph have dominated headlines. Maybe Browns offensive coordinator Todd Haley can exact some revenge against his former team for not renewing his contract. Also, I really want the folks in Cleveland to enjoy some free beer.
Andre: Steelers. The Steelers had the highest sack rate in the NFL last season and the Browns’ offensive line has plenty of question marks. Joe Bitonio, who hasn’t played left tackle since college, may be starting and filling the shoes of recently retired Joe Thomas.
San Francisco 49ers at (-6) Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m.
Mike: Vikings. This is my lock of the week. I think the Vikings are the best team in football, and even though Jimmy Garoppolo won all three of his road starts last season, his numbers were much better at home. Now, he has to go into Minnesota and face a Mike Zimmer-led team that’s had all offseason to prepare? Not great.
Ricky: Vikings. What better way to pump the brakes on the Jimmy G hype train than a matchup with the Vikings, who boast arguably the NFL’s best defense and a potentially great offense with Kirk Cousins under center?
Andre: Vikings. Garoppolo threw six touchdown passes and five interceptions in his five starts last year — and that was against defenses not named the Vikings, who limited opponents to a 58.4 completion percentage last season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at (-9.5) New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m.
Mike: Saints. The Saints rolled to a 30-10 win at home against Tampa Bay last season, with Drew Brees completing 22 of 27 passes for 263 yards and a pair of touchdowns. This should go pretty much like that, too.
Ricky: Saints. I’ve actually come around a bit on the Bucs, who solidified their defensive line and will have a much-improved secondary if a couple of draft picks pan out. But they’re screwed this week against the Saints, one of the favorites in the NFC. And it won’t get much easier, either, as Tampa Bay next faces Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Atlanta.
Andre: Bucs. I think the Saints win, but seven of the last eight Saints vs. Bucs meetings were decided by a touchdown. The Bucs have a ton of weapons offensively and will get plenty of support on defense from veterans like Gerald McCoy, Jason Pierre-Paul, Lavonte David and Brent Grimes.
(-1) Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m.
Mike: Titans. I’m tempted to take the Dolphins here because it seems like such a screwy line, but really, this is a game the Titans have to win if we’re going to take them seriously this season.
Ricky: Dolphins. The Titans will be OK in the long run, to the point where they might even make the playoffs and be a legitimate threat in the AFC. But it’ll take some time for new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur to fully work his magic with quarterback Marcus Mariota. Give me the Fish at home.
Andre: Titans. As I mentioned about Bengals-Colts, I know what I’m getting with the Titans, but I have no idea how Ryan Tannehill will look like after missing a full season. He was fairly accurate in the preseason but averaged a mediocre 6.3 yards per attempt.
Kansas City Chiefs at (-3) Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Chiefs. Los Angeles had the worst run defense in the league last season, and the Chiefs took full advantage of that, rushing for more than 180 yards per game in a pair of wins. A similar attack should take the pressure off Patrick Mahomes.
Ricky: Chargers. The Chiefs simply aren’t equipped to handle the Chargers’ pass rush, which will make life extremely difficult for Mahomes in his first meaningful NFL start. Kansas City also has questions on defense, and that’s a bad recipe against Los Angeles’ high-powered offense.
Andre: Chargers. Philip Rivers threw six picks in two losses against the Chiefs last year, but the Chiefs lost Marcus Peters and Terrance Mitchell — who had five of those six interceptions — and now have a young quarterback playing in his first NFL game against a pass rush that had the fifth-best sack rate in 2017.
Dallas Cowboys at (-3) Carolina Panthers, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Panthers. Carolina’s stout run defense should bottle up Ezekiel Elliott and force Dallas to do what it can’t afford to do, which is rely on the passing game. Dallas went 2-3 when Elliott was held under 100 yards last season, and you can argue the Cowboys’ offense is even worse this season.
Ricky: Panthers. Dallas’ offensive line was dealt a big blow recently when center Travis Frederick was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome. That’ll set back the ‘Boys in the season opener, when they’ll face a very good front seven highlighted by an excellent linebacking corps.
Andre: Cowboys. Cam Newton has thrown 30 interceptions in his last 30 starts. Dallas should be able to force turnovers, get good field position and eat up clock and yards with Ezekiel Elliott. Carolina had a great run defense last year, but their two worst run defense efforts were against the Saints — who have Alvin Kamara.
Seattle Seahawks at (-3) Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Broncos. I’m just going to go into this season assuming Seattle still can’t protect Russell Wilson. And if that’s the case, starting at Denver against Von Miller and Bradley Chubb probably isn’t the greatest spot for the Seahawks.
Ricky: Broncos. Seattle’s window has closed. Plain and simple. The ‘Hawks will win some games this season in a weak NFC West, but Denver’s defense still has enough firepower to cause problems for Seattle’s shaky offensive line.
Andre: Broncos. Don’t sleep on the Broncos this year. They improved an already strong defense that allowed fewer than five yards per play last season by adding Chubb through the draft. Case Keenum is an obvious improvement at quarterback and he’ll have a mix of young and veteran weapons to work with.
Washington Redskins at (PK) Arizona Cardinals, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Redskins. Do Adrian Peterson revenge games exist? This would be one. Just as important, Alex Smith has also had a passer rating of 100 or higher on the road in two of his last three seasons.
Ricky: Redskins. Even the oddsmakers wanted no part of this game. Give me the ‘Skins… and a shot of vodka if I’m forced to watch even five minutes of this slap fight.
Andre: Redskins. The Redskins had a sneaky good pass defense last year. Opposing quarterbacks completed only 57.6 percent of their passes against Washington, which ranked seventh in the league in sack rate. Having Smith’s mistake-free style of football at quarterback won’t hurt either.
Chicago Bears at (-7.5) Green Bay Packers, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Packers. Just about everyone in Green Bay is healthy (for now), Aaron Rodgers has his new contract, and the Packers have plenty to prove in 2018. They’ll make the first opportunity to do so count — kind of like they did at home last season against the Bears, when they throttled Chicago 35-14 and No. 12 posted a 128.0 passer rating.
Ricky: Bears. I love the Bears this season. They’ve added All-Pro Khalil Mack and stud rookie Roquan Smith to their defense, and head coach Matt Nagy will get creative with Chicago’s versatile weapons on offense. They might not win this game on Sunday night at Lambeau Field, but they’ll cover.
Andre: Bears. Green Bay’s offensive line was leaky last season, allowing 51 sacks. The Bears’ biggest strength was their pass rush in 2017. The Packers will probably win, but it’s a divisional game and Chicago has the advantage in the trenches.
MONDAY, SEPT. 10
New York Jets at (-6.5) Detroit Lions, 7:10 p.m.
Mike: Lions. Sometimes you just gotta go against the rookie quarterback making his NFL debut on the road in a loud, hostile environment in primetime.
Ricky: Jets. This is a bad spot for rookie QB Sam Darnold to debut, but the Jets have building blocks on all three levels of their defense. A couple of new additions — linebacker Avery Williamson and cornerback Trumaine Johnson — will help keep things close.
Andre: Lions. This is my lock. Remember what I said against young and inexperienced quarterbacks? Well, Lions head coach Matt Patricia had plenty of success against them when he was with the Patriots. Darius Slay and the Lions defense had the fourth-most interceptions last season. Good luck, Sam Darnold.
(-4.5) Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Raiders, 10:20 p.m.
Mike: Rams. The Raiders traded their best player (Mack) a week before the season started, and Todd Gurley is already licking his chops.
Ricky: Rams. I absolutely hate laying points on the road in Week 1 in primetime, but I can’t in good faith pick the Raiders a week after sending Mack packing. The Jon Gruden reboot could get ugly in a hurry.
Andre: Rams. L.A. has the advantage at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, pass rush, offensive line, secondary and coaching. This could get ugly fast.
Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images