The first Sunday of the NFL season is in the books, and what a day it was. A bunch of high-scoring games, and almost every game came down to the final minutes. After a dreadful 2015 season, this one just started, yet has already eclipsed last year.
To cap off the week, there will be a Monday night doubleheader as usual. The first game is a very compelling interleague matchup. While the nightcap isn’t as promising, it should still be a decent divisional game. Without further ado, here are my picks for tonight’s Monday night games.
Pittsburgh Steelers at. Washington Redskins (6:55/5:55c, ESPN)
Kicking off the evening is an interconference matchup between a pair of 2015 Wild Card playoff teams. The Steelers melted down in their game against the Bengals, but won after the Bengals melted down. They almost beat the eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos the following week, but injuries caught up to then and they fell. Meanwhile, the Redskins won the NFC East with a 9-7 record and led 14-0 over the Green Bay Packers, before getting blown out the rest of the way.
On paper, the Steelers should win this. They have the better defense, better quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, the best receiver in football in Antonio Brown, and despite missing All-Pro caliber running back Le’Veon Bell, have a better running game than the Redskins too.
The ‘Skins have a quarterback in Kirk Cousins who was great last year, but needs to prove it wasn’t a fluke. DeSean Jackson, Josh Doctson and Pierre Garcon round out a very good receiving core along with elite caliber tight end Jordan Reed, but the running game is suspect, and so is the defense.
I see this being a fun game, with the Steelers pulling away. An upset would be far from crazy, but I won’t predict it. Prediction: Steelers 34, Redskins 23.
Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers (10:15/9:15c, ESPN)
As fun as the first Monday night game might be, the nightcap might be the complete opposite. For some reason, the 49ers seem to be hosting a Monday night game for the second straight Week 1. They went 5-11 last year, and aren’t expected to be better this year. Running back Carlos Hyde seems to finally be healthy, but Blaine Gabbert is 8-27 as a starter, the defense isn’t very good, and the team is still in shambles. Honestly, the top storyline for them might be what Colin Kaepernick, the once star quarterback, will do during the anthem.
The Rams are kicking off their return as the LA Rams, and they will be interesting this year. Top overall pick Jared Goff won’t be starting, Case Keenum will. But, he will have shifty wide receiver Taco Austin by his side, one of the best running backs in the league in Todd Gurley behind him, and a high-powered defense led by Aaron Donald to help maintain any lead the Rams take.
This isn’t an appealing game, but it’s happening, and for nocturnals, it’s worth a watch. The 49ers are playing at home, so maybe they can win? I’ll go with the Rams by double digits, in a game where first to 20 wins. Prediction: Rams 20, 49ers 10.