It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, not Christmas. But close. It’s the kickoff of a new NFL season ripe with possibilities from the reigning Super Bowl champions to the basement of the NFL.
The first week of the 2016 NFL season kicks off with a Super Bowl 50 rematch between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos on Thursday Night Football, which is sure to be quite the start to the season.
Sunday’s games also feature some anticipated match-ups including Green Bay vs. Jacksonville, New York Giants vs. Dallas, and a double-header on Monday Night Football featuring the Rams’ debut (again) as the Los Angeles Rams.
Here are our picks for week one of the 2016 NFL season:
THURSDAY NFL KICKOFF: CAROLINA PANTHERS vs. DENVER BRONCOS
ALYSSA: Denver 27, Carolina 23 – Denver might’ve lost its Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning to retirement, but the Broncos defense was central in its Super Bowl 50 victory over the Panthers. I expect a close one.
LIZZIE: Denver 21, Carolina 14 – Trevor Siemian might be the quarterback for Denver, but that hardly matters. They still have the best defense in the NFL by far, and as long as Siemian can take care of the football, Denver can still make a run for another title.
CHARLES: Denver 16, Carolina 13 – I expect even with Peyton Manning gone due to retirement that this game will be another defensive struggle much like Super Bowl 50. As with the Super Bowl , Denver will pull out a victory with great defensive play and key turnovers.
NADIA: Carolina 31, Denver 21 – Peyton Manning is living the retirement life and Carolina is looking for Super Bowl redemption. Carolina will get the win, but they still won’t have a ring.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS vs. ATLANTA FALCONS
ALYSSA: Tampa Bay 30, Atlanta 20 – Jameis Winston continues to grow into his own as a viable threat at quarterback, and the Buccaneers offense will guide them to victory.
LIZZIE: Tampa Bay 23, Atlanta 21 – On the one hand it’s the regular season, so the Falcons should be decent. On the other hand, it seems like the Falcons offense and Matt Ryan are not compatible at all. And Tampa Bay is going up.
CHARLES: Atlanta 36, Tampa Bay 30 – A high-scoring game is expected with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones being able to pull out one more play than Winston and the Bucs can.
NADIA: Tampa Bay 24, Atlanta 21– Jameis Winston will be live up to all hype this season and it will start with Game 1. Matt Ryan will take a few games to establish his rhythm.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS vs. TENNESSEE TITANS
ALYSSA: Minnesota 20, Tennessee 17 – While Minnesota lost quarterback Teddy Bridgewater they were never overtly reliant on him. Don’t forget the Vikings have the best running back in the league in Adrian Peterson.
LIZZIE: Minnesota 20, Tennessee 17 – This looked like an easy win for Minnesota a week ago. Not so much anymore. Still, Adrian Peterson should help Minnesota take this one over an unproven Mariota, especially with a young, mobile defense to help him out.
CHARLES: Tennessee 21, Minnesota 13: With Teddy Bridgewater out, the improving Titans could show they are a real threat for the AFC South with opening-day victory over a still in shock Vikings team.
NADIA: Tennessee 17 Minnesota 14 -Despite having the best running back in Adrian Peterson, the Vikings will be unable to overcome the loss of Teddy Bridgewater. I don’t have high expectations from either team and will be a low scoring game.
CLEVELAND BROWNS vs. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
ALYSSA: Philadelphia 17, Cleveland 13 – The Eagles are debuting rookie quarterback Carson Wentz after trading Sam Bradford to Minnesota. While this game should be a close affair, the Eagles still have the edge with a rookie QB.
LIZZIE: Philadelphia 14, Cleveland 13 – Home field advantage makes this one an Eagles win, in my mind, but neither of the two teams has me feeling very optimistic about how this season’s going to go.
CHARLES: Cleveland 24, Philadelphia 21 – With it being put up or shut up time for RGIII, The Browns will get the upset win and Griffin quiets his detractors for a week at least with a outstanding performance.
NADIA: Cleveland 21, Philadelphia 13 – Before the Sam Bradford trade, Philly would have been my pick. RG III will play a respectable game against a Philly team in rebuild mode.
CINCINNATI BENGALS vs. NEW YORK JETS
ALYSSA: Cincinnati 27, New York Jets 24 – After a heartbreaking playoff ousting I expect the Bengals to come out firing against a talented Jets squad that just missed the playoffs.
LIZZIE: Cincinnati 23, New York Jets 14 – I always like the Bengals in the regular season. The Jets are, well …the Jets. And though I expect them to be better than they’ve been lately, I still need some actual proof to back up this gut feeling.
CHARLES: Cincinnati 31, New York Jets 17 – The Bengals respond to their Wild-card loss with a impressive thrashing of the Jets with Andy Dalton back being center and back with his running mate AJ Green.
NADIA: New York Jets 30, Cincinnati 24 – Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall reunite in New York and will offensively put up the numbers over the Bengals.
OAKLAND RAIDERS vs. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
ALYSSA: New Orleans 24, Oakland 17 – Drew Brees had a quiet 2015 campaign and I’m looking for him to rebound big with his slew of weapons. But the Saints are facing an up-and-coming Raiders squad. Expect it to be close.
LIZZIE: New Orleans 27, Oakland 24 – My head says the Raiders are good enough to beat New Orleans. My heart says they won’t. Knowing the Raiders, I’m going to put them on the losing side, until they prove otherwise. I’ve been afraid of them before and nothing.
CHARLES: Oakland 45, New Orleans 38 – A high-scoring affair being expected, David Carr and the Raiders will take a major step forward in their bid to get to the playoffs for the first time since 2002 with their high-flying offense.
NADIA: New Orleans 34, Oakland 31 – I expect this to be an offensive shoot out between Brees and Carr with New Orleans having the slight advantage. Don’t sleep on Carr this season though.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS vs. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
ALYSSA: Kansas City 27, San Diego 23 – The Chiefs are a talented squad on both sides of the football and I expect them to best the Chargers at home at Arrowhead.
LIZZIE: Kansas City 21, San Diego 17 – I really don’t want either of them to win, and this game could probably go either way, but I’m picking the Chiefs because their defense is better and Rivers is a good quarterback, but not a great one. Not anymore, at least.
CHARLES: San Diego 39, Kansas City 29 – Andy Reid’s Chiefs teams have had slow starts the last few years and nothing will change in what I think will be a high-scoring dog fight
NADIA: Kansas City 21, San Diego 17 – Phillip Rivers can be expected to throw 2 INT, one which will be returned for a TD, and giving the Chiefs a win.
BUFFALO BILLS vs. BALTIMORE RAVENS
ALYSSA: Baltimore 30, Buffalo 24 – The Ravens would like to forget 2015 and get back to their winning ways. They’ll be facing a talented Buffalo squad that will challenge them.
LIZZIE: Buffalo 20, Baltimore 17 – I flipped a coin. Well, no, I didn’t, but I came close. And yes, I know I could have, maybe should have gone with the Ravens at home, but there’s gotta be at least one upset, right?
CHARLES: Baltimore 19, Buffalo 9 – After a down year, Joe Flacco and the Ravens look to rebound and will over the Buffalo Bills with good defense and lots of field goals.
NADIA: Buffalo 24, Baltimore 13 – I have a soft spot for the Bills and don’t have faith in Joe Flacco and the Ravens to put together a game to score enough points. Buffalo will take advantage of those inevitable turnovers.
CHICAGO BEARS vs. HOUSTON TEXANS
ALYSSA: Houston 24, Chicago 20 – This is a Houston squad fresh off a playoff appearance with a returning J.J. Watt hungry to get back. The Bears offense has a slew of talent, but they need to prove they can be consistent on offense.
LIZZIE: Houston 24, Chicago 17 – The Texans are at home. That’s about as deep as this prediction gets, because, again, it’s week 1. I’d like to have faith in the Bears, but …eh …that hasn’t been an easy proposition the last few years. I need to be wooed.
CHARLES: Houston 24, Chicago 10 – Brock Osweiler’s debut with the Texans will end up with a W thanks mostly a struggling Chicago offense
NADIA: Chicago 24, Houston 21 – It’s week 1 so I have to go with my hometown Chicago. The offense is shaky, but I believe Jeffery and White will surprise us. Wild card will be how the OL holds up against J.J. Watt.
GREEN BAY PACKERS vs. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
ALYSSA: Jacksonville 27, Green Bay 23 – There’s a lot of hype surrounding the Jaguars this season. Green Bay is always a tough opponent – especially when you’re facing Aaron Rodgers – but I’m calling this as my Upset of the Week with the Jags winning at home.
LIZZIE: Green Bay 38, Jacksonville 31 – This won’t be a kind game for either defense. The Packers are the better team, but the Jaguars are not the same easy win they’ve been in previous years, and they could both put up a lot of points.
CHARLES: Green Bay 31, Jacksonville 28 – The Jaguars will impress a lot of people and stay close with the Pack but in the end Aaron Rodgers will just be enough to push the Packers over a up and coming Jags team
NADIA: Jacksonville 28, Green bay 27 – This is my upset of the week. Don’t sleep on Jacksonville and Blake Bortles this season. They are young and hungry. Green Bay still has Aaron Rodgers, but will it be enough this time?
MIAMI DOLPHINS vs. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
ALYSSA: Seattle 31, Miami 17 – Seattle is Seattle. Expect a dominant defensive effort and impressive offensive showing at the place where it’s always tough to win on the road.
LIZZIE: Seattle 27, Miami 21 – I really wish I could give this one to the Dolpins, I just don’t think they’re there yet. Especially not in Seattle. But I still predict the Dolphins to have a better season than a lot pf people expect.
CHARLES: Seattle 28, Miami 10 – It has been silent in Seahwaks country and I expect the defense for Seattle to make a lot of noise in a winning effort over Ryan Tennehill and the Dolphins.
NADIA: Seattle 27, Miami 10 – Beast Mode may be inactive this season, but Seattle’s defense is still dominant. I expect this to be an easy win for Seattle.
NEW YORK GIANTS vs. DALLAS COWBOYS
ALYSSA: New York Giants 21, Dallas 13 – The Cowboys are starting two rookies at quarterback and running back. The Giants still have Odell Beckham Jr., rookie receiver Sterling Shepard, and a returning Victor Cruz. Don’t expect a similar result to last year’s season opener.
LIZZIE: New York Giants 28, Dallas 21 – The news coming out of Dallas is that Prescott is ready and that the team won’t have to dumb down the playbook for him. That’s a lie, of course. Prescott is no Tony Romo, and the Cowboys will feel the absence of their QB.
CHARLES: New York Giants 35, Dallas 20 – Dak Prescott looks good early for Dallas but rookie mistakes and a improved Giants defense will overwhelm Dallas for this week at least.
NADIA: New York Giants 31, Dallas 17 – The Cowboys will be unable to overcome the growing pains of a rookie QB and RB. The Giants also take an easy win.
DETROIT LIONS vs. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
ALYSSA: Indianapolis 31, Detroit 20 – Even though Andrew Luck struggled last season as he battled injury, expect this impressive talent to rebound this season and lead the charge in this season opener.
LIZZIE: Indianapolis 24, Detroit 21 – I’m going with the Luck factor in a game that, again, looks to be very even. Week 1 is hard to predict. Really, really hard. So, when in doubt, pick the best quarterback?
CHARLES: Indianapolis 41, Detroit 30 – Andrew Luck and Matthew Stafford have a shootout in what will be a fun game as Luck will avoid enough hits to give the Colts a opening-day victory.
NADIA: Indianapolis 37, Detroit 34 – Frankly speaking, I have no idea who Luck and Stafford will be throwing to, and neither will the opposing defense. I expect this to be a high scoring game.
SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS vs. ARIZONA CARDINALS
ALYSSA: Arizona 27, New England 20 – The Patriots are without Tom Brady and facing a Cardinals team that some forget were one win away from appearing in Super Bowl 50.
LIZZIE: Arizona 21, New England 16 – I don’t think NE wins this game even with Tom Brady. But Tom Brady isn’t around, so that makes it even less plausible that the Patriots can pull of this one against what look.
CHARLES: Arizona 28, New England 17 – Jimmy Garoppolo’s first NFL start will not be the disaster some think but the Cardinals are a Super Bowl contender and the loss of Tom Brady will be felt the most in crunch time for the Patriots.
NADIA: Arizona 31, New England 21 – The Cardinals are a well balanced team on both sides of the ball. New England without Tom Brady will be favorable for an Arizona win.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: PITTSBURGH STEELERS vs. WASHINGTON REDSKINS
ALYSSA: Pittsburgh 34, Washington 27 – The combination of Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown is enough to make any team shake. While the underrated Redskins will keep it close, I expect the Steelers to come away with this one.
LIZZIE: Washington 27, Pittsburgh 24 – This has the makings of a great game, and really, it’s another one that, for me, it’s just about gut feeling because, to be perfectly honest, on paper, it could go either way.
CHARLES: Pittsburgh 32, Washington 15 – Another Super Bowl contender, Steelers will be dominate on MNF against a Washington team ready to come back to earth after last year’s playoff run. Look for Antonio Brown to be dominate in a showcase performance.
NADIA: Pittsburgh 34, Washington 20 – It’s good there are 2 MNF games because I expect Antonio Brown to dominate this game. Washington will be an afterthought.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: LOS ANGELES RAMS vs. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
ALYSSA: Los Angeles 24, San Francisco 14 – The Rams have one of the hottest running backs in the league in Todd Gurley and are facing a struggling Niners team. The Rams’ first win back as the LA Rams will come against San Fran on the big stage.
LIZZIE: Los Angeles 21, San Francisco 14 – The Rams win in their first game against their new home-town crowd. Sounds like the perfect start (or end) to their very own movie. It also sounds very likely, considering the 49ers are merely a shadow of what they were a few years ago.
CHARLES: Los Angeles 13, San Francisco 7 – A pounding running game and a pretty good defense will let LA celebrate a opening day win with their new Rams team.
NADIA: Los Angeles 24, San Francisco 13 – Blaine Gabbert may get the start, but the 49ers are a stagnant team. The new LA Rams will be shine as they debut their new team.
Strap in for a fun kickoff weekend for the NFL!