Hello again! It is great to be back with NFL Pickwatch for a third straight season. I have been doing straight up NFL picks since 2014 and over the past two years added in confidence levels. That will be the format this year as well and the picks with a confidence level of 1-5 will be available to all NFL Pickwatch readers.


The selections with a 6+ confidence level, a group of games that have netted a 153-53-1 record over the past two seasons (including a 70-24-1 mark last year), will be available exclusively to Pickwatch Pro subscribers. Pickwatch Pro is a great service that allows subscribers to download the best expert data in the industry, see team-by-team winners for every expert, and provides access to Upset Watch, which has been the ultimate cheatcode to beat the sportsbooks over the last six years. Combine those elements with the top level of my weekly picks and it makes for a must-subscribe service for anyone serious about betting.


Now let’s get to this week’s picks!


Free Picks


Buffalo at Los Angeles Rams


KC’s pick: Buffalo


Confidence level: 3


The defending Super Bowl champion Rams return almost everyone from last year’s title team, added a potential impact wideout in Allen Robinson II, and even got Aaron Donald to run it back and yet are still a 2.5-point home underdog. That illustrates the power the Bills bring to the table with Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and Von Miller, but don’t forget that Buffalo started running the ball more frequently late last year. This may be a sign that Sean McDermott wants to avoid the shootout games that the Bills often don’t fare well in. That mindset will keep this contest lower scoring than expected and should work to help Buffalo earn a close season-opening road win.


Cleveland at Carolina


KC’s pick: Carolina


Confidence level: 2


This may seem like a battle between mediocre quarterbacks, but let’s not forget just how efficient Baker Mayfield was in the Cleveland offense before injuries wrecked his 2021 campaign. It’s why Mayfield won the Panthers quarterback battle quite easily and it may result in Carolina’s offense playing much closer to its above average talent level than it did last year. The Panthers also return a healthy Christian McCaffrey, who should make a big early season difference for this offense. The Browns defense should make some splash plays against Carolina’s inconsistent offensive line but having Jacoby Brissett under center means that Cleveland is likely to lose the quarterback battle against a highly motivated Mayfield, so rate this one for the Panthers.


Pittsburgh at Cincinnati


KC’s pick: Cincinnati


Confidence level: 4


The football world is making a mistake in selling the Steelers too short, as Mitch Trubisky is closer to being a quality quarterback than is generally anticipated. He also is among the few quarterbacks who can make the claim of having a receiving corps as talented as Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, George Pickens, and Pat Freiermuth. Even fewer quarterbacks have a running back the caliber of Najee Harris. The problem for Pittsburgh is Joe Burrow can make both of those claims and he provides the Bengals with a notable edge over Trubisky. Combine that with the Bengals offensive line improvements and this game being in Cincinnati and the Bengals should end up on the winning side of this ledger.


Philadelphia at Detroit


KC’s pick: Philadelphia


Confidence level: 5


Nick Sirianni’s passing background made him hesitant to lean on the ground game early last year, but once he came around Philadelphia posted consistently elite rushing totals rarely seen in NFL history. Sirianni will now get to add some aerial prowess to that, as the addition of A.J. Brown to DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert gives the Eagles a powerful trio of pass catchers. Detroit is making significant strides under fiery coach Dan Campbell and will give the Eagles a four-quarter battle, but Philadelphia’s talent advantage will eventually win out.


New England at Miami


KC’s pick: Miami


Confidence level: 4


It wasn’t very long ago when picking the Dolphins to win this matchup would be considered a major upset, but Miami has won three straight against New England and is 6-3 in the last nine matchups between these clubs. The Dolphins should have an improved ground game with Mike McDaniel now calling the shots and their vertical passing attack took a major step forward with the addition of Tyreek Hill. The Patriots offense has been in awful shape this preseason, as injuries and inexperienced offensive coaches have combined to cause some to suggest that Mac Jones is far from ready for his second NFL season. Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer will aim to keep Jones guessing all day long and it should provide enough of an edge to give Miami another win in this series.


Jacksonville at Washington


KC’s pick: Jacksonville


Confidence level: 1


The Jaguars may be the most improved team in the league this year. Doug Pederson’s coaching is light years ahead of what Trevor Lawrence was getting from Urban Meyer. The backfield will now have both Travis Etienne and James Robinson and the receiving corps added a tremendous downfield threat in Christian Kirk. Washington is a volatile team, as no team in the NFL has more turnover potential in its backfield than Carson Wentz and Antonio Gibson give the Commanders. Washington may have more talent across its roster, and this is a home contest for the Commanders, but that turnover penchant and the big play potential of the Jaguars offense is enough to take a chance and predict a Week 1 upset.


Kansas City at Arizona


KC’s pick: Kansas City


Confidence level: 3


During Kansas City’s Super Bowl run in 2019, the Chiefs posted 300+ net passing yards only three times in the last 15 games and tallied fewer than 200 net passing yards on four occasions. Kliff Kingsbury has a reputation for being a pass-happy coach, yet his clubs rank in the top 10 in rush attempts over his Arizona tenure. That means this game is going to feature a lot more rushing than is generally thought. That may keep this contest out of shootout mode, which is a big plus for Kansas City since this club was 6-4 last year in shootout games (contests where both teams score 24+ points) and 8-2 in games that weren’t shootouts. That trend is enough to pick the Chiefs in this one.


Las Vegas at Los Angeles Chargers


KC’s pick: Los Angeles


Confidence level: 3


The Chargers have built a Justin Herbert-centric roster, as everything about this club is designed to maximize his talents and get the most out of his style of play. The Raiders could go the same pass-centric route with the talents on their offense, but it looks like Josh McDaniels will go with more of a gameplan-centric approach rather than automatically funneling the game plan through Derek Carr, Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller. Facing Los Angeles could push the Silver and Black go the aerial route, but that also could play into the Chargers hand, as their defense is stacked with people who specialize in splash plays. Those impact opportunities are enough to push this in the LA direction.


Green Bay at Minnesota


KC’s pick: Minnesota


Confidence level: 4


The Vikings have always been a thorn in the side of Aaron Rodgers, as they are the only divisional foe that has proven capable of keeping with the Packers over the years. It may now be that Minnesota can do more than match Green Bay’s pace, as new head coach Kevin O’Connell will operate a pass-centric system that should get a monster season out of Justin Jefferson. The Packers could have matched that with Davante Adams in past year, but Adams is now in Las Vegas. The drop-off of losing Adams will be even lower now that Allen Lazard may end up missing this contest. Add home field advantage to the mix and the Vikings are the preferred option here.


New York Giants at Tennessee


KC’s pick: Tennessee


Confidence level: 3


Tennessee was one of the most one-dimensional teams in the NFL last year. They leaned so heavily on Derrick Henry that he was on pace for an NFL record 500+ scrimmage plays before the wear and tear finally knocked him out of the lineup in Week 8. The Titans were 6-2 at that point and went 6-4 after that, with three of their wins being against Houston, Jacksonville, and a Saints team with Trevor Siemian at quarterback. Tennessee will go that route once again now that Henry is back, but they will have to deal with Saquon Barkley, who may be back to his pre-injury form. Barkley should do well in new head coach Brian Daboll’s system, and that may keep this game closer than the 5.5-point spread favoring the Titans, but Tennessee is still more likely to win this one straight up.


Tampa Bay at Dallas


KC’s pick: Tampa Bay


Confidence level: 2


Both clubs are facing offensive line issues, as the Buccaneers have already lost two interior offensive linemen for the season and Dallas will have 40-year-old Jason Peters at left tackle to replace the injured Tyron Smith. The Cowboys may fare better in that area due to having a strong 1-2 rushing combination in Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, but Tom Brady can also rely heavily on a quick pass game with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin (who is trending towards being able to play in this contest) and Russell Gage. That provides the Buccaneers with a bit more offensive firepower than Dallas and is enough to land this pick in their column.


KC’s 6+ confidence level picks, a group of selections that have gone 153-53-1 over the past two seasons (including a 70-24-1 mark last year), are available exclusively to Pickwatch Pro subscribers. Use the code KC20 to get 20% off a season pass (just $24) and get all Pro benefits.