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NFL picks 2019, Week 1: Experts are buying the Browns hype

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Our panel of 10 experts — nine human, one animal — welcomes the new season with predictions for all 16 games.

Washington Redskins v Cleveland Browns Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The waiting game is over. You made it through free agency, the NFL Draft, training camp, preseason, and the extra boring stuff in between. It’s time for football that counts.

Kicking it off Thursday is a divisional game between the Packers and Bears — a matchup that dates back almost a century and also gave us the best Week 1 action of 2018. Khalil Mack went full Super Saiyan to help Chicago to a 17-0 lead at halftime just days after he was traded. Then a hobbled Aaron Rodgers somehow threw three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to pull out a Green Bay win.

It was a ridiculously thrilling game that looks fluky in hindsight.

Chicago went on to finish the year 12-4 and earn a trip to the playoffs. Green Bay sputtered to a 6-9-1 record, its worst mark in 10 years. Late in the season, Mike McCarthy was fired and now the Packers are starting over with Matt LaFleur as head coach.

The Bears proved to be the better squad, but their season-opening loss exemplifies why Week 1 is so fun. Every team enters with high hopes for the upcoming season and — even after the dust settles on the first week of the regular season — it’s hard to tell which teams are actually good.

That makes it a nightmare to try to predict winners in the first week. Alas, we’re going to give a shot anyway, beginning with Thursday’s game, which proved to be the toughest one for our experts to pick. In fact, they are split right down the middle, with five taking the Bears and five picking the Packers.

The panel is also somewhat divided on matchups between the Falcons and Vikings, Bills and Jets, 49ers and Buccaneers, and the Monday Night Football doubleheader of Texans-Saints and Broncos-Raiders.

There are a handful of teams that are getting overwhelming support, though.

Hop aboard the Browns hype train

Cleveland is real excited about the Browns this year. Like, running-down-the-street-screaming-and-scaring-the-neighbors level excited.

The Browns won five of their last seven games in 2018 and enter this year with expectations sky high. Baker Mayfield is a year wiser after setting the NFL rookie record for touchdown passes. He also now has Odell Beckham Jr. on his list of weapons, which already included Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, and Nick Chubb.

The defense should be better, too. Cleveland added Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon to a defensive line that boasts former No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett.

On paper, everything looks amazing and our experts are buying in. Almost everyone thinks the Browns will beat the Titans — a team with three straight winning seasons — in Week 1. But if Tennessee wins, then one member of our group will have bragging rights.

The panel also believes the Ravens will handle the Dolphins, the Eagles will beat Washington, the Cowboys will take care of the Giants, and the Seahawks will win against the Bengals.

There’s clearly not much faith in the Colts without Andrew Luck, because the experts are going with the Chargers in Week 1.

But wait, who are these experts, you ask?

Here are your 2019 NFL oracles

This year, our panel consists of:

  • SB Nation NFL editor Sarah Hardy
  • Former NFL players and SB Nation contributors Stephen White and Geoff Schwartz
  • SB Nation NFL writers Christian D’Andrea, Charles McDonald, and Adam Stites
  • SB Nation jack-of-all-trades James Brady
  • A guest picker from one of the 32 NFL blogs here at SB Nation
  • Fooch, our gambling guru from DraftKings Nation
  • A guest Good Dog of the week

But the one you should definitely listen to most is the last on that list. Each week we’ll have a different very Good Dog here to make their very good predictions. Here’s this week’s guest canine:

Meet the Good Dog of Week 1: Rosie

Rosie is one of Charles’ dogs and it goes without saying that she’s a very good girl. She was a rescue dog and no one knows exactly what breeds she’s mixed with, but it doesn’t get in the way of her innate goodness.

Good girl

Rosie will be opening the season by siding with her animal cohorts against all human mascots. In games where animals are playing animals, she mostly picked animals that have four legs and tend to stay on the ground, where it’s safer and treats are easily accessible.

However, there are some caveats in Week 1. She chose the Dolphins over the Ravens because somehow she had the foresight to know that Dolphins are fellow mammals. Rosie also picked the Rams to beat the Panthers — she and cats just don’t seem to get along. For the game between the Giants and the Cowboys, she rolled with the G-Men since giant treats are better than smaller ones. She decided to predict a tie for the Steelers and Patriots game, because no good dog can morally pick one of those two teams to win.

Let’s get to the picks

Here are all the predictions, with an asterisk: each expert has a chance to change a pick by Friday, in the case of an injury or other outside circumstances (like whatever’s going on with Antonio Brown). The guest picker from the NFL blogs this week is Levi Damien, the manager at our Raiders site, Silver and Black Pride.

Week 1 picks

Games James Brady Christian D'Andrea Sarah Hardy Charles McDonald Geoff Schwartz Adam Stites Stephen White Levi Damien Rosie the Good Dog Fooch
Games James Brady Christian D'Andrea Sarah Hardy Charles McDonald Geoff Schwartz Adam Stites Stephen White Levi Damien Rosie the Good Dog Fooch
GB vs CHI GB GB CHI GB GB CHI CHI CHI CHI GB
TEN vs CLE CLE CLE CLE CLE TEN CLE CLE CLE CLE CLE
BAL vs MIA BAL BAL BAL BAL BAL BAL BAL BAL MIA BAL
ATL vs MIN MIN ATL MIN MIN MIN ATL MIN MIN ATL ATL
BUF vs NYJ NYJ BUF BUF NYJ NYJ NYJ NYJ NYJ BUF NYJ
WAS vs PHI PHI PHI PHI PHI PHI PHI PHI PHI PHI PHI
LAR vs CAR LAR LAR LAR LAR CAR LAR CAR LAR LAR CAR
KC vs JAX KC JAX KC KC KC KC KC KC JAX JAX
IND vs LAC LAC LAC LAC LAC LAC LAC LAC LAC IND LAC
CIN vs SEA SEA SEA SEA SEA SEA SEA SEA SEA CIN SEA
NYG vs DAL DAL DAL DAL DAL DAL DAL DAL DAL NYG DAL
DET vs ARI DET DET DET ARI DET DET DET DET DET DET
SF vs TB SF TB TB SF TB SF TB SF SF SF
PIT vs NE NE NE NE NE NE PIT PIT NE TIE NE
HOU vs NO NO HOU NO NO NO HOU NO NO HOU NO
DEN vs OAK DEN OAK OAK DEN DEN OAK DEN OAK DEN OAK
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