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NFL picks Week 1 2014: Predicting the week's games

Here are Baltimore Beatdown's predictions for this week's games, sans Ravens-Bengals.

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Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks (-5.5)

Ah, the first game of the 2014 regular season happens Thursday night. 'Bout time. As much as I want to go with the Green Bay upset, I'm sticking to my guns and will predict with a Seahawks win. Russell Wilson was impressive this preseason and that Seattle front seven should do enough to keep Aaron Rodgers from doing what he normally does. Prediction: Seahawks 31, Packers 24

New Orleans Saints (-3) at Atlanta Falcons

The Saints have been preseason media darlings and for good reason. The defense should be even more improved under Rob Ryan's leadership. While Darren Sproles and Lance Moore are now gone, rookie Brandin Cooks has potential to be an immediate impact player. The Falcons should be one of the most improved NFL teams in 2014, assuming they can stay predominantly healthy. If not, depth is thin. Anyway, the Saints' offense should be enough to overpower the Falcons this Sunday. Prediction: Saints 34, Falcons 24

Minnesota Vikings at St. Louis Rams (-3.5)

The Rams will be in a lot of games this year due to their defense. The Vikings should be improved on offense with Norv Turner coordinating things. The key will be whether the Rams' offense, quarterbacked by Shaun Hill, can sustain enough drives. Until we see that play out, it's hard to go with a St. Louis win right now. Prediction: Vikings 24, Rams 21

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (-6.5)

Without Josh Gordon, will the Browns be able to move the ball on the Steelers? This is a serious question. Yes, the offensive line still has a lot of talented pieces. But without a receiving game, Cleveland will be facing a lot of eight-man boxes. Therefore, the Steelers should win in a runaway. Prediction: Steelers 31, Browns 14

Jacksonville Jaguars at Philadelphia Eagles (-10.5)

While the Jaguars are still a work in progress, they should be improved from a year ago — at least defensively. Clearly they know plenty of issues are still present. Otherwise they'd go ahead and start Blake Bortles. But in the season-opener, with all the time to prepare for Philadelphia, Jacksonville keeps this game closer than people think. But LeSean McCoy and the uptempo attack is too much in the end. Prediction: Eagles 27, Jaguars 21

Oakland Raiders at New York Jets (-5)

If Geno Smith makes the leap that a lot of folks in New York are expecting, then this team could be a playoff contender. The upgrade at receiver is evident with Eric Decker on board. Chris Johnson should help the rushing attack with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell behind him. The Raiders will be starting a rookie in Derek Carr with no true No. 1 wideout. The Jets win, and win big. Prediction: Jets 34, Raiders 13

Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears (-7)

If the Bears can field an average defense this year they'll be a contender late in the season. The offense should rank among the league's best and will likely get a good start on Sunday, given the fact it's at home and going against a group that won't be too difficult to pass on. Prediction: Bears 31, Bills 23

Washington Redskins at Houston Texans (-3)

Two bottom-feeders of 2013 face off in the opening week of the season. Who to pick? Robert Griffin III should be better now that he's healthy, but he did not look that good in the preseason. The Texans' quarterback situation is laughable right now. Therefore, Washington gets a slight edge. Prediction: Redskins 24, Texans 23

Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs (-4)

There's a great chance NFL fans are introduced to the name Travis Kelce this Sunday. Kelce could be next in line in the evolution of the tight end position. A precise route-runner that could turn into Alex Smith's top option this year, Kelce could give the Titans more than they bargained for. I'm also not sold on Tennessee's offensive backfield at this time. Then again, who is? Prediction: Chiefs 27, Titans 20

New England Patriots (-5) at Miami Dolphins

The Patriots seemed like a shell of themselves a year ago and still went 12-4 in the regular season. This year, if everything falls their way, the Patriots could be Super Bowl contenders. The defense is vastly improved. The young receivers have a year under their belts and Brandon LaFell could be a huge sleeper to break out. But New England's success mainly hinges on Rob Gronkowski being available for most of the year. Given he's expected to play against Miami, you have to go with the Patriots in this one. Prediction: Patriots 34, Dolphins 17

Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5)

A lot of people are down on the Panthers because the receiving group is easily the worst in the NFL — at least at this time. But don't overlook this Panthers defense. The linebackers very well could be the best in the league and defensive end Greg Hardy hasn't been suspended yet (and he will be, eventually). This should be a close game as Lovie Smith and the Bucs begin figuring out what will work best with their personnel. Prediction: Panthers 20, Buccaneers 17

San Francisco 49ers (-5) at Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are starting Rolando McClain at inside linebacker. Will he be able to lead this defense against the 49ers' rushing attack? We'll see, but my money is on no. The 49ers get out to a lead early and keep it. Dallas will score some points though as its offense is still dangerous. Prediction: 49ers 38, Cowboys 27

Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos (-7.5)

The Broncos are stacked, sure. But the Colts are no joke. 7.5 points? That seems a bit much given what the Colts are working with on offense. Who cares about the added talent on Denver's defense? Andrew Luck and the Colts make a statement, albeit in a loss to Peyton Manning's Broncos. Prediction: Broncos 35, Colts 31

New York Giants at Detroit Lions (-6)

Each year, the Lions are supposedly more formidable on defense. Not buying it this time around. And do you really think Tom Coughlin is going to let a repeat of last year happen? Baltimore fans were happy when Jim Caldwell left town. Detroit fans will get a look at why on Monday. Prediction: Giants 27, Lions 21

San Diego Chargers at Arizona Cardinals (-3)

The Monday night West Coast game should be the more entertaining of the two. San Diego's offense should be clicking even better in Mike McCoy's second year as the head coach. But Arizona's defense, even with the loss of Darnell Dockett, remains strong. This game's a toss-up, with the Cardinals defensive backfield getting Arizona a close win. Prediction: Cardinals 28, Chargers 27

Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a $100,000 Fantasy Football Contest for Week 1's NFL games. It's only $10 to join and first prize is $10,000. Starts Sunday, September 7th at 1pm ET. Here's the link.