The New York Giants had high hopes at the start of the 2017 season, but those hopes quickly disappeared as the team fell apart and head coach Ben McAdoo was subsequently fired.
The Giants hired Pat Shurmur to refocus the team, and the drafting of running back Saquon Barkley with the No. 2 pick overall is designed to take the running game and change it from a major weakness to a primary strength.
The Giants open the season at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. The Jaguars won the AFC South last year, beat the Pittsburgh Steelers twice and made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game before losing to the New England Patriots.
Shurmur's team will get tested severely in the opener by an opponent that is one of the league's strongest. The Jaguars are three-point favorites, according to OddsShark, and if the Giants are going to win, they are going to have to find a way to move the ball against an opponent that ranked second in yards allowed and first in passing yards allowed per game.
One of the keys for the Giants will be slowing down the pass rush of Calais Campbell (14.5 sacks in 2017) and Yannick Ngakoue (12 sacks in 2017). Those two are capable of ruining an opposing offense, and New York offensive tackles Nate Solder and Ereck Flowers are going to have to be at their best if the home team is going to win.
If the Giants can win the battle in the trenches, veteran quarterback Eli Manning is capable of delivering the ball accurately. Odell Beckham Jr. needs to show he is one of the top receivers in the league and put his signature on this game with his athleticism and big-play ability.
The Jaguars have a power running back in Leonard Fournette, who ran for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns last season. The key to Jacksonville's offense is erratic quarterback Blake Bortles, who is coming off a decent season in which he threw for 3,687 yards with 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
The Jaguars should be prepared for another strong year, while the Giants need to show that they are a much better team than the one that finished with a 3-13 record last year. Look for the Giants to set the tone for a winning season and come up with the narrow home upset.
Week 1 Predictions
Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles (-1.5, 44.5): Eagles 27-24
Jacksonville Jaguars (-3, 43.5) at New York Giants: Giants 28-27
Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens (-7.5, 40.5): Bills 17-16
San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings (-6, 46); Vikings 30-20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-9.5, 49.5): Saints 31-20
Tennessee Titans (-1, 45) at Miami Dolphins: Titans 24-23
Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts (-3, 48.5): Bengals 27-17
Houston Texans at New England Patriots (-6, 50.5): Houston 34-31
Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5, 45.5) at Cleveland Browns: Steelers 25-24
Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers (-3, 48): Chargers 37-33
Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos (-3, 43): Broncos 10-9
Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers (-3, 42.5): Panthers 34-10
Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals (-1, 44): Cardinals 27-10
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-7.5, 47.5): Packers 35-21
New York Jets at Detroit Lions (-6.5, 45): Lions 38-20
Los Angeles Rams (-4.5, 49.5) at Oakland Raiders: Rams 35-28
Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals
The Redskins will have a new look in 2018 with Alex Smith under center, and while he is not the kind of quarterback who is going to make a lot of highlight-reel plays, he is not going to make a lot of mistakes, either.
That should be a source of comfort for head coach Jay Gruden, but it doesn't mean he will be an upgrade over former quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is now in a Minnesota Vikings uniform. However, if the rest of the Washington offense performs well, Smith should be able to manage the game well and keep the Redskins from losing the game.
He should get a lift from tight end Jordan Reed, who was injured throughout the 2017 season and played in just six games because of a hamstring issue. Reed is healthy at the start of the season, and he is one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league.
The Cardinals are a new-look team with Steve Wilks as head coach and Sam Bradford at quarterback. Wilks had the Cardinals playing excellent and aggressive defense during the preseason, and if they can keep up that level of play, they could be quite dangerous even though many of the preseason prognostications do not give them a realistic playoff chance.
Bradford has had a difficult time staying healthy throughout his career, and that includes last year when he started the season as the No. 1 quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. He was quickly replaced by Case Keenum due to injuries.
If Bradford can remain in the lineup and running back David Johnson is healthy, Arizona could be quite explosive. Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen is waiting in the wings and should get an opportunity by midseason at the latest, but Bradford understands the position and can deliver accurate passes.
The Cardinals are one-point favorites, and look for Bradford and Johnson to get off to an excellent start. They should win fairly easily in front of their home fans.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
The new-look Bears should be one of the more interesting teams in the league this season with rookie head coach Matt Nagy installing a new offense and second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky at the helm.
The Bears were a losing proposition under previous coach John Fox, but there is a new atmosphere under Nagy. He previously called plays for Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs, and he should help the Bears become far more creative than they have been in the past.
The addition of wide receivers Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller should be an upgrade, but don't discount running back Jordan Howard, who ran for 1,122 yards and nine touchdowns last year. Howard is the Bears' best offensive player and their only proven commodity.
However, the biggest reason for excitement in Chicago is the addition of linebacker Khalil Mack. The Bears were in need of a game-changing pass rusher, and they pulled the trigger on a huge deal with the Oakland Raiders to bring him aboard.
While he is new to the Bears, he should make it on to the field for at least a handful of plays against the Packers.
Green Bay did not win the division title last year, as they surrendered first place to the Vikings. That did not sit well with the team or its fans, and the Packers may be much more focused this year.
The Packers have regularly beaten and embarrassed the Bears, and Aaron Rodgers threw four TD passes against Chicago in a Week 4 35-14 Green Bay victory. Rodgers will get off to a sharp start here after missing nine games last year with a fractured collarbone.
Rodgers knows how dangerous Mack is, and the Chicago defense is likely to be functioning at a much higher level when the Packers see the Bears again in Week 15. Look for the Packers to start the season with a signature game that allows them to get the best of their traditional rivals once again.
The Packers win and cover as 7.5-point favorites.
All point spread and total information provided by OddsShark.