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Ben Axelrod's Week 1 NFL picks: Bucs beat Cowboys, Dolphins upset Patriots

3News' Ben Axelrod makes his picks against the spread for every game in Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season.

CLEVELAND — "When I come back like Jordan wearin' the 4-5, it ain't to play games with you" - Jay-Z on 'Encore'

The NFL is almost back and that means that so are my picks. Each week, I'll be sharing my picks against the spread for every game on the schedule and because I live in one of the 18 states in this country that has still yet to legalize sports betting, this is the part where I tell you that it's for entertainment purposes only.

RELATED: More NFL coverage from WKYC

Follow along throughout the season to see how I do and perhaps I'll share a favorite daily fantasy sports (DFS) play or two along the way. Without further adieu, here are my Week 1 picks:

All lines made available via VegasInsider.com

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-8) vs. Dallas Cowboys

Pick: Buccaneers -8

Tom Brady and the Bucs are the first defending Super Bowl champion to return every starter since 1979. Meanwhile, between his shoulder and his ankle, I'm not sure how you can have much faith in Dallas having a healthy Dak Prescott at this point. Give me Tompa Bay with a comfortable enough win to cover the eight-point spread.

Buffalo Bills (-6.5) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Pick: Steelers +6.5

Between its offensive line and Ben Roethlisberger's recent regression, I'm not a big fan of the Steelers' outlook for 2021. But if there was a spot for Pittsburgh to keep pace with Josh Allen and the Bills, one would think it'd be in the season opener. I don't think the Steelers win, but I'll take Pittsburgh and the points.

Carolina Panthers (-5) vs. New York Jets

Pick: Panthers -5

The Jets were one of the NFL's more active teams this past offseason, but none of the moves they made seemed to come with much of a purpose. Meanwhile, the Panthers have collected enough talent that it seems feasible they'll take a step forward this season, starting with a revenge game for former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold.

Houston Texans +3 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Pick: Texans +3

There isn't much to like about the Texans, who appear to be one of the NFL's few clear-cut tanking teams this season. Having said that, out of principle, I can't take a rookie head coach and rookie quarterback to win their NFL debuts as road favorites.

Tennessee Titans (-3) vs. Arizona Cardinals

Pick: Titans -3

The Titans added Julio Jones and made multiple moves to address last season's underwhelming defense. The mileage on Derrick Henry might catch up sooner than later, but that's nothing to worry about in a season opener --especially against Arizona.

Washington Football Team (+1) vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Pick: Football Team +1

Say what you will about Ryan Fitzpatrick, but it's tough to imagine he won't be an upgrade for Washington at quarterback this season. As much as I like Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, facing Chase Young and the Football Team's defense is a tough way to start his sophomore campaign.

Atlanta Falcons (-3.5) vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Pick: Falcons -3.5

Jalen Hurts found some success in his rookie season, but not enough for Philadelphia to truly commit to him as its starting quarterback. Still dealing with the cap ramifications of trading Carson Wentz, this feels like a potential rebuilding year for the Eagles, while Atlanta appears to be one of the teams most obviously primed to bounce back from a disappointing 2020 campaign.

Indianapolis Colts (+2) vs. Seattle Seahawks

Pick: Seahawks -2

Speaking of Carson Wentz, it's probably not a good sign that most seem to view him as a downgrade from 38-year-old Phillip Rivers. Seattle has some concerns of its own, particularly in the secondary, but those issues should be easy to mask against Indianapolis' underwhelming receiving corps.

Cincinnati Bengals (+3) vs. Minnesota Vikings

Pick: Vikings -3

The Bengals made plenty of moves this offseason but didn't do much to address their biggest weakness: their offensive line. Unless Cincinnati can suddenly keep Joe Burrow upright, it's hard to imagine the Bengals keeping pace with Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.

Detroit Lions (+7.5) vs. San Francisco 49ers

Pick: Lions +7.5

Make no mistake, I fully expect San Francisco to win this game. But at this point in the year, it's too early for me to feel comfortable taking a Jimmy Garoppolo-led offense to cover by more than a touchdown on the road -- even against the Lions.

Kansas City Chiefs (-6) vs. Cleveland Browns

Pick: Browns +6

Between Jadeveon Clowney, John Johnson III, Troy Hill, Anthony Walker Jr., Greg Newsome II and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, the Browns spent the offseason systematically filling the holes on their defense. That might not be enough for Cleveland to beat the Chiefs in Week 1, but it should help the Browns keep the score close enough to cover.

New England Patriots (-3) vs. Miami Dolphins

Pick: Dolphins +3

I think the Patriots' decision to release Cam Newton said more about Newton than it did about rookie Mac Jones. If Tua Tagovailoa can make the leap that many expect him to in his second season as the Dolphins' starter, I wouldn't be surprised to see Miami win this game outright.

New York Giants (+3) vs. Denver Broncos

Pick Broncos -3

Daniel Jones behind a poor offensive line seems like a recipe for disaster. With weapons on both sides of the ball, Denver doesn't need Teddy Bridgewater to be anything more than a caretaker at quarterback.

Los Angeles Rams (-7.5) vs. Chicago Bears

Pick: Bears +7.5

I'm a believer in Matthew Stafford being a significant upgrade for the Rams and don't understand why Chicago is intent on starting the season with Andy Dalton instead of Justin Fields at quarterback. Having said all of that, 7.5 points are simply too many for me to lay in a game that doesn't seem like too much of an overall talent mismatch.

New Orleans Saints (+4) vs. Green Bay Packers

Pick: Packers -4

Count me in as a believer in Aaron Rodgers' "Last Dance" in Green Bay. I've seen enough of Jameis Winston to not trust him in primetime, especially against an opponent as talented as the Packers.

Las Vegas Raiders (+4.5) vs. Baltimore Ravens

Pick: Raiders +4.5

Not all seasons are created equal, but it seems like the Raiders covering the second Monday Night Football game of Week 1 has become an annual tradition at this point. I'm not writing off the Ravens, but there are plenty of fair questions about the amount of talent they lost this past offseason.

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