The season is a game old and I’ll be honest, I picked Seattle to win big. I was a bit perplexed by the Packers gameplan on the ground. Not enough between the tackles running, allowing Seattle’s quick and athletic 2nd level to make tackles that often stopped Green Bay for short gains. I did like that Green Bay left Boykin on the right flank the whole game to be matched up by Richard Sherman (Green Bay did not attempt a pass Sherman’s way all night). The Packers were clearly trying to get their two best receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb free. It worked to a degree, as Nelson had a game high 9 catches for 83 yards, while Cobb hauled in another 6 for 58 yards and one of two Green Bay touchdowns (the other was on a John Kuhn 2 yard plunge).
Sunday and Monday the rest of the NFL teams open their seasons, and as a numbers guy, I can’t help but try to find an edge over Vegas. This year (for fun) I’ll be picking every game against the spread (ATS)…but what I really am keeping track of is the actual bets I place. I’ll be making wagers every week this year, although there is no specific number of games per week that I’ll be betting.
Without further ado, here are my week 1 picks:
Seattle (-6) over Green Bay:
Yes, call me out if you want since this is after the game, but I did pick my 2nd favorite NFL team to beat up on the Packers. After seeing what they did to the Broncos, and factoring in Seattle’s 12th man advantage, I couldn’t pick any other way.
New Orleans (-3) over Atlanta:
The Falcons will be much improved this year, but their run game still concerns me and they are not as sound defensively as New Orleans. Drew Brees has had one of the better preseasons of his career, and last year’s improved Saints defense should continue to develop even more in Rob Ryan’s second year as defensive coordinator. I like the team with the better offense and defense to win by at least a field goal, even on the road.
Minnesota (+3.5) over St. Louis:
St. Louis lost Sam Bradford, but the drop off to Shaun Hill isn’t as big as one might expect. Add in the Rams’ elite pass rush on defense and home field advantage and you’d think they’d be the smart pick. However, with Norv Turner now calling the plays, look for the Vikings to be more efficient offensively this year, even with Matt Cassel under center. Norv Turner immediately created 10 plays for Cordarelle Patterson, historically likes using his tight ends (meaning Kyle Rudolph should see improved numbers), vows to get Peterson more involved in the pass game, and Cassel himself has great rapport with veteran Greg Jennings (just look at Jennings numbers last year with Cassel at QB compared to Freeman/Ponder). I think Minnesota keeps it within a field goal, even if they lose.
Pittsburgh (-7) over Cleveland
Pittsburgh should win this comfortably. Despite Joe Haden’s noted coverage skills, Antonio Brown didn’t catch less than 5 balls in any game last year – expect that to continue. Wideout Markus Wheaton impressed in the preseason, and the Bell/Blount combo should force Cleveland’s defense to respect the run. Throw in Brian Hoyer starting his first regular season game since tearing his ACL and the loss of Josh Gordon and Cleveland becomes more one dimensional than two.
Jacksonville (-10.5) over Philadelphia
I’m not picking Jacksonville to win, but I think they keep it within 10. This is less about Jacksonville improving (I see them as a 5 win team this year), and more about Philadelphia regressing a bit. Nick Foles’ 27 TD, 2 INT season last year is a statistical oddity. He should be nowhere near that ratio this year. Jeremy Maclin should not pose the same downfield thread DeSean Jackson did (and Maclin always is an injury risk), and while I like Jordan Matthews to become a quality NFL wideout, it’s his first game. The Eagles will have to rely on their ground game and tight ends, which doesn’t equate to blowout for me.
New York Jets (-5.5) over Oakland
Geno Smith really came along at the end of last season. And I’ll happily take the home team that faces a rookie QB who has to travel east for a 1pm start time game.
Baltimore (-1) over Cincinnati
I’m quite torn on this game, so I’ll go with the should-be-improved Ravens over the Bengals and a brand new offensive scheme.
Chicago (-7) over Buffalo
The Bears will be a serious threat in the NFC North this year, and it starts with a thrashing of Buffalo. Sammy Watkins will not be playing all the snaps, the Bills are missing key defenders, and E.J. Manuel still needs to prove himself in the NFL. Look for the Bears offensive weapons to score early and often.
Washington (+3) over Houston
Yes, RGIII struggled in the preseason, but I also saw moments in there that made me hopeful (as a Skins fan). Houston will be significantly better than last year, but I can’t see them being playoff caliber with Fitzpatrick at QB. These teams are a toss up at Houston +3, so I’ll go with the QB with the higher ceiling.
Kansas City (-3) over Tennessee
The Titans just might earn a playoff spot this year, but I’m still going to take the Chiefs. They have one of the most calm, collected QBs in the league, and the addition of Travis Kelce as a receiving tight end (who comps well to one Rob Gronkowski) to complement the blocking of Anthony Fasano gives Smith a nice weapon. Throw in an upper level defense and home field, and I like them, even with out Dwayne Bowe.
New England (-5) over Miami
I think this is a close line, but give me New England by a TD. They are nearing 100% health offensively. While I like Tannehill, I don’t like his receiving corps, and I really don’t like the Miami run game.
Carolina (+3) over Tampa Bay
Cam’s hurting, but I think it’s a bit overblown. The Panthers’ D will neutralize a Tampa Bay offense that’s still looking to gel, and the Panthers will grind out a close one.
Dallas (+4.5) over San Francisco
This will be a close one. But without NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith, a healthy Dallas offense at home should generate enough scores to keep this one close, and maybe steal the win.
Indianapolis (+8) over Denver
Denver, having seen how a good defense can dismantle a good offense, made moves to improve their own defense this year. But with suspensions to Wes Welker and Matt Prater, I think Luck and the Colts repeat what they did to the Broncos in the regular season last year. Prater won’t be there to save Denver with a 50+ yard bomb, his replacement Brandon McManus has already missed two.
Detroit (-6) over New York Giants
Detroit has a better overall game. Better run game, better passing game, better front seven defensively. And they are at home. The Giants first team offense looked terrible in the preseason, and while there were hopes on the ground, Eli won’t come close to the 70% completion rate target that quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf set for him.
San Diego (+3) over Arizona
I think San Diego wins this straight up. Arizona is another team (like the 49ers) that is missing key defensive personnel, and with news out about Andre Ellington injuring his foot on Thursday, some last minute game planning must be going on. Phillip Rivers has Malcolm Floyd (a potential fantasy sleeper) healthy again to complement Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates, and the three-headed attack on the ground will get things done.
Real Money Bets:
Where’s my money going this week? Cautious in week 1, money’s going two places:
- Chicago (-7) over Buffalo – 2 units
- San Diego (+3) over Arizona – 1 unit