Shapiro's NFL Week 1 picks: Cardinals will keep it close against 49ers
It is an understatement to say that a lot has happened outside of football since Patrick Mahomes and Damien Williams led the Chiefs to a fourth quarter comeback in Super Bowl LIV. Thankfully though, Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season is finally upon us.
Due to COVID-19, there are far more questions to be answered than in years’ past as we embark on another National Football League journey. Which teams will make the fewest mistakes with the preseason scrapped? Will homefield advantage matter with stadiums empty? Will squads with new signal callers or coordinators struggle to be on the same page over the first few weeks? Despite a ton of uncertainty, it is great to be back for another season on BetAmerica.
2018 was one of my better campaigns this century, and it appeared that 2019 was going to be equally great. However, I struggled down the stretch and ended the season with a disappointing below .500 mark. I look forward to making up for that over the next 17 weeks. Let’s do this!
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers
Sun, September 13 2020, 8:25 PM
San Francisco 49ers
The defending NFC champs are once again amongst the top contenders to win their conference after failing to close the deal in Super LIV. The 49ers have every reason to be competitive again in 2020, but their offensive line and receiving corps head into their Week 1 contest versus Arizona banged-up. Couple that with likely regression on defense and it's difficult to get excited about laying a touchdown against the Cardinals.
Kliff Kingsbury’s squad struggled to win contests in his first year as an NFL head coach, but they won two of their final three and carry solid momentum into his second season. They ran the ball well in 2019, averaging five yards a carry, but the passing attack and the defense were problematic. Stopping the other team may still be an issue in 2020, but the aerial attack should take a massive step forward behind second-year quarterback Kyler Murray. Murray lacked aggressiveness and weaponry in his rookie year, but with a season under his belt and the addition of All-Pro WR DeAndre Hopkins, look for the Cardinals to find the end zone far more often starting in Week 1.
Arizona gives the Niners all they can handle.
Las Vegas Raiders at Carolina Panthers
Sun, September 13 2020, 5:00 PM
Las Vegas Raiders
Carolina’s defense gave up an NFC-high 470 points a season ago, and is in far worse shape heading into the 2020 campaign. Stud linebacker and leader of the unit Luke Kuechly retired and they lost a number of other key contributors, including their best cover corner James Bradberry, and lineman Mario Addison and Gerald McCoy. The Panthers wisely used all seven of their draft picks on defensive players, including the seventh overall selection on defensive tackle Derrick Brown, but it will take some time before they are ready to make a significant impact. Plain and simply, they are going to struggle to stop teams.
On the other hand, the Panthers offense should be dynamic. LSU passing game coordinator Joe Brady joins Matt Rhule’s coaching staff and Teddy Bridgewater is an upgrade at quarterback from Kyle Allen. Christian McCaffrey is nearly impossible to stop, and they added deep threat Robby Anderson to an up-and-coming receiving corps led by D.J. Moore.
Look for Carolina to be involved in a lot of shootouts, including in Week 1 versus Derek Carr and the Raiders.
Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants
Mon, September 14 2020, 11:15 PM
New York Giants
The Pittsburgh defense carried Mike Tomlin’s squad a season ago, but the Steelers could not overcome the loss of future Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. It remains to be seen whether "Big Ben" can rediscover the form he had before the elbow injury that sidelined him in 2019, but he is certain to be far more competent than the combination of "Duck" Hodges and Mason Rudolph.
The Steelers’ passing attack should have lots of success in Week 1 against one of the worst secondaries in the National Football League. Expect a number of big plays from Pittsburgh’s talented receiving corps and for their defense to make life difficult on second-year signal caller Daniel Jones.