NFK Monday Night Football Free Pick

I wish football fans were fortunate enough to get two Monday night games more often, but the good news is we get a doubleheader in Week 1 to conclude the first week of action in the NFL.

Here are my thoughts on the two prime-time contests.

Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints (-7), 7:10 p.m. ET, ESPN

Drew Brees and the Saints will take the field for the first time since they lost to the Rams in the NFC Championship, 26-23. New Orleans is once again among the favorites to win it all in 2019, but I have my concerns.

It is difficult enough to bounce back a year after losing the way they did in the NFC title game, but don’t forget they also lost in similarly painful fashion two years ago, when Case Keenum completed a Hail Mary to wide receiver Stefon Diggs with just seconds remaining on the game clock.

I expect the Saints offense to once again do its thing behind Brees and stud running back Alvin Kamara, especially against a questionable Texans’ defense. However, the Saints defense may struggle to play as well as it did in 2018. If defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins cannot recover quickly from an Achilles tear, those concerns increase.

Houston will head into the Superdome without former first-round pick Jadeveon Clowney, but it bolstered a bottom-five offensive line with the addition of Laremy Tunsil from Miami. If the Texans offensive line can protect quarterback Deshaun Watson, it will be a very tough unit to stop. The Texans have a ton of weaponry for the former Clemson signal caller to work with, led by one of the league’s best catchers, DeAndre Hopkins.

Points can sometimes be at a premium in Week 1, but I do not expect that to be the case in the first half of the Monday night twin bill.

Pick: Over 52.5

Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders (Pk), 10:20 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Antonio Brown circus has overshadowed the fact that the Raiders’ second year under head coach Jon Gruden begins against their longtime rival Denver Broncos.

The inaugural campaign under Gruden did not go as Raider Nation wanted, but hopes were high heading into 2019, with the offseason acquisitions of wide receiver Tyrell Williams to play opposite of Brown, offensive tackle Trent Brown and four of the first 40 picks in the NFL Draft, including Alabama running back Josh Jacobs. Unfortunately for Oakland the antics from one of the world’s most talented pass catchers has sidetracked what was expected to be a significant step forward for the Raiders offense.

The Broncos were competitive a season ago, but former head coach Vance Joseph found unique ways to lose games. The end result was an unsatisfactory 6-10 record. Joseph was let go, which paved the way for the hiring of defensive wizard Vic Fangio. Fangio inherited a defense with a lot of talent, led by one of the league’s best pass rushers, Von Miller. I look for the former Chicago defensive coordinator to mold this group back into one of the NFL’s top units.

The amount of success Denver has in 2019 will likely to depend on its offense. General manager John Elway brought in veteran Joe Flacco to replace Case Keenum at quarterback. Flacco is on the downside of his career, but he should still be an upgrade. However, I am not overly bullish on the Broncos offense, given an overall lack of playmakers in the huddle and concern that Flacco is just a guy at this point.

This game was already projected to be an inter-division grinder before the recent Antonio Brown drama. Now it is even harder to imagine a lot of points being scored by either squad.

Pick: Under 43


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