Scully's NFL Week 1 picks: Packers poised to upset Vikings
With no preseason games, Week 1 of the NFL season will have a different look this year as certain squads will be slow to find their rhythm. I'm playing against a pair of teams implementing new coaching schemes, and another with significant personnel changes.
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Sun, September 13 2020, 5:00 PM
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay exited last year’s NFC Championship Game defeat focused on the Super Bowl in 2021. They upgraded their biggest weakness, linebacker, by signing free agent Christian Kirksey, and the Packers bring back most of their key pieces from last year. Coordinator Mike Pettine did a great job leading the defense last season – Green Bay didn’t win 13 regular season games by accident – and the stop unit is on pace to show even more in the second year of the new coaching regime.
Minnesota, meanwhile, has had significant turnover on both sides of the ball. The linebacker corps remains elite, but the top two pass rushers (Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph) are gone along with four key contributors in the defensive backfield. The Vikings traded away their top downfield weapon, Stephon Diggs, for draft picks, and they’ll try to run the ball as much as possible this season. Minnesota remains talented with a lot of promising young players, but they could be a work in progress to start the season.
Green Bay is more than capable of winning straight up, and given the probability of a low-scoring affair between two teams relying on rushing and short passes, it won't be surprising if the game is decided by less than a field goal. The Packers feature one of the NFC’s best offensive lines and a strong ground game led by Aaron Jones. Aaron Rogers can take advantage of a suspect pass rush, and Davante Adams will be the best receiver on the field.
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Football Team
Sun, September 13 2020, 5:00 PM
Philadelphia dealt with an injury-riddled roster from Week 2 onwards last year, but coach Doug Pederson will have his player's attention due to how they opened last season vs. Washington. After falling into a 17-0 hole at home late in the second quarter, the Eagles rallied to win their opener 32-27. This time around, Philly should be focused, and are unlikely to take Washington lightly two years in a row.
Ron Rivera can coach and Washington will make strides as the season progresses, but the lack of preseason games figures to really work against them early in the campaign. They'll have an especially tough time against Philadelphia’s formidable offensive and defensive lines. Washington was not good up front offensively last year, and this year’s line continues to be in transition, with several new pieces and players shifting around for a better overall fit.
Washington must also replace their top two running backs from last season, with huge questions in the backfield, and quarterback Dwayne Haskins still has much to prove. Rookie Chase Young is a bright spot on the defensive front, and the stop unit is in much better shape than the offense, but the defense may need time to jell.
Carson Wentz enters this season with plenty of doubters and should be motivated to start the season fast after last year’s struggles. Philadelphia will take care of business with a double-digit win over lowly Washington.
Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams
Mon, September 14 2020, 12:20 AM
Los Angeles Rams
There won't be any fans in attendance, but Los Angeles will look to christen their brand-new, glitzy stadium with a victory all the same. And given the mighty expectations surrounding Dallas, which is dealing with a suspect defensive line and implementing a new offense, the Rams figure to have a chip on their shoulder as a home underdog. Los Angeles still has good personnel, and Sean McVay can exploit match-ups as well as any coach in the NFC.
Dallas surprisingly lost top-ranked center Travis Frederick to retirement, and the Cowboys struggled to keep pressure off Dak Elliott in passing situations last year. The Rams have a significant edge up front defensively, with Aaron Donald wreaking havoc, and it’s a favorable matchup for Los Angeles shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey, who has held Amari Cooper to only one reception per game in their last two meetings.
Jared Goff leads an efficient passing offense, and after thriving under two-tight end sets, the Rams added Brycen Hopkins in the draft to assist Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. Look for continued success.
The ground game has some question marks, with rookie RB Cam Akers set to start the opener, but I don’t have much faith in the Dallas defense early in the season. The Cowboys can still score with their weapons, but they’ll make too many mistakes to cover the opener on the road.