Welcome to our new weekly picks format, Alternative Picks. We’re fashioning this after a game that Andy and I played when we were teenagers, where we “draft” games we want to pick each week. First person chooses one game, the other follows with two games, and then alternate the rest of the way down the list. We wager the standard Trading Places bet per game, and accumulate wins/losses through the year.

Andy won the right to choose first at Virtual Coin Toss and he elected to select the first game. Going forward, the loser of the previous week’s picks will go firs t– in the event of a tie, we will head back for another coin toss.

Andy: Given that it’s the first week and so much changes over the course of an off-season, I wanted to make sure I got the one game I feel is a near certain lock, at least straight up. I think the Browns are heading in the right direction. But I don’t think a rookie QB making his first start is going to lead an improving-but-still-bad team to a win over Pittsburgh. I pick the Steelers.

Tony: There is one logical game to go with second, which is the Falcons over the Bears. You’ll frequently see the loser of the Super Bowl follow up the next season with a down year — and that may happen with the Falcons, but I don’t think they’ll start the year on a down note against the Bears, who are still in rebuilding mode.

After that, games start to get a lot tougher — lots of good teams facing good teams, and suspect teams facing suspect teams. One game that appears to be a bit lopsided on paper, though, is the Texans hosting the Jaguars. There are question marks on both sides — like the starting quarterback for both teams — and even questions about where the game will be played, thanks to Harvey. But I’ll take the Texans, who’s defense will likely cause Blake Bortles even more headaches to start what might be his final season in Jacksonville.

Andy: Yeah, Tony’s right. There’s not much left in terms of sure things this week. So, who is the best team in the league? Well, New England won the Super Bowl and, arguably, got better in the off-season with acquisitions like Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore. This isn’t to discount the Chiefs. I fully expect them to be solid this season. But when in doubt, I’ll take the Pats.

Tony: There’s still one team that projects to have a significant struggle in 2017 — the San Francisco 49ers — facing a team that as recently as 2015 was pretty good. I’ll grab the Panthers as my next pick, and hope (for multiple reasons) that the Cam Newton of 2015 returns, even after not much preseason activity.

Andy: If forced to pick, I’d probably grab the Panthers too, but while San Francisco has sucked the last few seasons, the 49ers seem to play their best games in recent years, during week one. So he can have Carolina here. I’ll grab Buffalo. I don’t expect the Bills to be very good this year, but I do expect the Jets to threaten to be the next 0-16 team. It should take Buffalo about 12 points to beat a New York team that seems to have gone into full-scale rebuild.

Tony: The Bills would have been my next pick here, for the exact same reasons. Instead, I’ll take a shot on the Las Vegas Oakland Raiders over the Tennessee Titans, in the battle of the 3rd year QBs returning from broken legs…kind of a specific battle. The Titans have improved immensely since Marcus Mariota arrived, but not as much as the Raiders, who have a couple more proven weapons–on both sides of the ball–than the Titans.

Andy: Andrew Luck is out this week. Center Ryan Kelly is out. Scott Tolzien is the QB. I’ll take the Los Angeles Rams.

Tony: We’re firmly in the games that no one wants to pick here, so I’m going to grab another upset here, and go with the Los Angeles Chargers over the Denver Broncos. This game is in Denver (hence the 3.5 point Broncos line), but what you’ve really got here is good offense vs. good defense, and suspect offense vs. suspect defense. As much as the organization seems to be in chaos, I’ll give the Chargers a chance in this one.

Andy: Tony’s playing into my hands a bit here because, while he notes it’s an upset pick, I was leaning toward Denver with my own next pick. Instead I’ll go with my own mild upset: New York Giants over Dallas. I think there is a solid chance for Dak Prescott regression this year. And the Giants, who beat Dallas twice last year, have a better team now than they did then.

Tony: I really hate to do this, but I’ll take the Packers over Seattle. The Seahawks seem to have a deep stable of “skill” position players that are good, not great, and an offensive line that is almost as likely to get Russell Wilson killed in 2017 as they were in 2016. If this was in Seattle, I’d lean that way — but in Green Bay, I’ll take the Packers. At least losing a buck would feel good if I’m wrong.

Andy: Not that preseason means a ton, but one thing I did take from it is that the Vikings offense looks as mediocre as it did in 2016, potentially worse. And they face Drew Brees and an uber-motivated Adrian Peterson in week one while dealing with question marks at one cornerback spot and the nickel position. I’ll take the over – and the Saints.

Tony: Most sites I’ve looked at show the Arizona Cardinals as road favorites over the Detroit Lions. Not sure I understand what part of the 2016 season warrants that. Yes, they have David Johnson. Yes, maybe they are healthier. But maybe 2015 was the aberration? I’ll take the Lions at home.

Andy: Damn. Tony finally sniped me with one of his picks. Until the Cardinals win again win a few games they should and follow it up with a win or two in games they should lose, I’m buying 2016 over 2015. Oh well. I’ll go with another “Vegas upset” that I’m not sure should really be classified that way. The Bengals looked pretty good in the small amount of preseason action I saw them in, but I think the offensive line losses are going to expose them this week. Ravens on the road.

Tony: Leaves us with two games that neither of us want to touch. Rather than guess where or when the Buccaneers/Dolphins game will take place, much less who will win, I’ll take Washington at home against the Eagles, who still seem to be recovering from the Chip Kelly era. They think they have their QB of the future, but giving him a stable of questionable running back options isn’t going to help.

Andy: Yes! The Su’a Cravens retirement situation … not to mention the bizarre Kirk Cousins contract situation leaves me wanting nothing to do with the Redskins early on. So Tony can have them. I’ll gladly accept Carson Wentz and the Eagles. And I’ll close with the Bucs, who at least seem on the rise. The Dolphins, even with Ryan Tannehill, seem kind of stuck in that mediocre middle. Throw in a hurricane as a distraction and I’ll roll with Tampa.

For those scoring at home, this is how it played out:

Andy Tony
Pittsburgh Cleveland
Chicago Atlanta
Jacksonville Houston
New England Kansas City
San Francisco Carolina
Buffalo NY Jets
Tennessee Oakland
Los Angeles Rams Indianapolis
Denver San Diego
NY Giants Dallas
Seattle Green Bay
New Orleans Minnesota
Arizona Detroit
Baltimore Cincinnati
Philadelphia Washington
Tampa Bay Miami
*Bold means that person made the pick

For our more conventional picks, read below:

Andy’s picks Tony’s picks
New England  New England
Buffalo  Buffalo
Atlanta  Atlanta
Houston  Houston
Philadelphia  Washington
Detroit  Detroit
Oakland  Oakland
Tampa Bay  Tampa Bay
Baltimore  Cincinnati
Pittsburgh  Pittsburgh
LA Rams  Scoreless tie (Rams)
Seattle  Green Bay
Carolina  Carolina
NY Giants  Dallas
New Orleans  New Orleans
Denver  San Diego