There’s a general rule in gambling on games in Week 1 as teams showcase what they have coming into the season for the first time – when in doubt, bet on the home team.
Apparently those who made the NFL schedule were aware of that axiom. Of the 16 games in Week 1, 10 home teams are underdogs, including the defending champs.
If trying to rock the boat early was the NFL’s intent, well played. Now let’s see how many of these road favorites get the job done.
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NFL Betting Odds and Lines: Week 1
Buffalo Bills (-135) at Los Angeles Rams (+115)
This should be a great opening game with the defending champion Rams facing my pick to win it all this year in the Bills. A case can be made for both teams, which may explain why Buffalo is a 2.5 road favorite. But the number I’m interested in here is the Over/Under (51.5 points at -112 Over, -108 Under). Both teams have solid defenses, but they also both have lethal offenses. All this will require is one team taking a 10-point lead early and then the fireworks begin. Take the Over at -112.
New Orleans Saints (-240) at Atlanta Falcons (+200)
The Saints have quietly built a Super Bowl-contending team in the shadow of Tom Brady and the Buccaneers and look to have as many offensive weapons as they did during the heyday of Drew Brees. Although I’m not a big fan of the number of points New Orleans has to give (5.5 points at -108 Saints, -112 Falcons), my lack of faith in Marcus Mariota and a team in the bottom seven on both offense and defense last year eases that concern. Take the Saints and lay the 5.5 points (-108).
Cleveland Browns (+105) at Carolina Panthers (-125)
The storyline here is Baker Mayfield playing against his former team, but nobody is talking about the Browns defense looking for the opportunity to knock Mayfield around and force him into the big mistakes that cost his team games too often in his career in Cleveland. This one’s for the Dawg Pound. Take the Browns on the Moneyline (+105).
San Francisco 49ers (-320) at Chicago Bears (+260)
The battle of two of hottest young quarterback prospects – Trey Lance and Justin Fields – is another made-for-TV scheduling decision, but the quarterbacks aren’t the real storyline. The 49ers have one of the deepest rosters in the NFL on both sides of the ball. The Bears are painfully thin on offensive depth, which is why the 49ers are big favorites (6.5 points at 49ers -120, Bears +100). Just as telling as the point spread is what you have to bet. Get in now before the line goes to 7.5 and the onus is higher to cover. Take the 49ers and lay the 6.5 points.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+230) at Cincinnati Bengals (-280)
There are likely going to be a lot of people jumping on the Steelers getting 6.5 points (I’m not far off that myself), but I have a feeling this game is going to be about ball control and making plays to extend long drives. While the Over/Under is one of the lower totals on the board this week (44.5 points at -105 Over, -115 Under), this one has the smell of a 23-20 of 20-13 type of game with more field goals than touchdowns from these division rivals. Take the Under (-115).
Philadelphia Eagles (-200) at Detroit Lions (+165)
The Eagles are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The same can’t be said for the Lions. I’ve never been a fan of Jared Goff being able to put up a slew of points, which is why the Over/Under seems too inflated (48.5 points at -112 Over, -108 Under). Dan Campbell has the Lions pointed in the right direction, but expecting his offense to light up the Eagles is a tall order the Lions likely aren’t up to taking on. Take the Under (-108).
Indianapolis Colts (-340) at Houston Texans (+270)
The Colts are tied for being the biggest favorite of Week 1 (7.5 points) and, while I’m relatively convinced they can cover, I am looking at an Over/Under that seems very reachable whether the Texans put up a fight or not (45.5 points at -115 Over, -105 Under). It may take a touchdown in garbage time to hit this number, but Take the Over (-115).
New England Patriots (+150) at Miami Dolphins (-175)
Huge things are expected from Tua Tagovailoa with additions of Tyreek Hill and Chase Edmonds, but with the way New England plays defense, I see this game falling one of two ways. In one scenario, Miami makes enough big plays to put the game on the shoulders of Mac Jones to answer back and he fails. The other has New England grinding the ball on the ground and playing a smothering defense. In both those scenarios, the Over/Under (45.5 points at -115 Over, -105 Under) seems too high. The only way this goes Over is if Miami blows the doors off the Patriots, which I don’t see happening. Take the Under (-105).
Baltimore Ravens (-340) at New York Jets (+270)
In the first of many 1 p.m. ET Sunday starts for the Jets, the script seems to remain the same – the league’s worst defense in 2021 is facing Lamar Jackson and a Ravens team looking to bounce back from one of the most injury-ravaged seasons in NFL history. The Ravens are a heavy favorite (7.5 points at Ravens +100, Jets -120). The 7-and-a-hook is always a tough number, but I don’t see the Jets being able to muster up much on offense, which leaves the game on the backs of the defense. Take the Ravens and lay the 7.5 points (+100).
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Jacksonville Jaguars (+115) at Washington Commanders (-135)
In a FRO affair (For Relatives Only), two teams viewed with very little in the way of postseason aspirations, the Commanders are a non-commanding favorite (2.5 points at -103 Jaguars, -117 Commanders). We likely won’t be saying this often during the season, but Take the Commanders and lay the 2.5 points (-117).
Kansas City Chiefs (-240) at Arizona Cardinals (+200)
Tyreek who? Clearly, the oddsmakers aren’t intimidated by the new-look Chiefs wide receiver corps and have installed Kansas City as a big road favorite (5.5 points at -115 Chiefs, -105 Cardinals). While the biggest Over/Under on the board this week (53.5 points) is intriguing, all the Chiefs need to do is win the turnover battle and let Patrick Mahomes do what he does best. Take the Chiefs and lay the 5.5 points.
Las Vegas Raiders (+150) at Los Angles Chargers (-175)
The Raiders and Chargers have been the little brothers of the AFC West for a long time and are both looking to knock the Chiefs off the top of the hill, making this Week 1 matchup one that may have big implications when we flip to 2023 at the end of the regular season. The Chargers are a modest favorite (3.5 points at -112 Raiders, -108 Chargers). The game is expected to be high scoring, which lends itself to the ball being in the air a lot. In that scenario, I have a lot more faith in Justin Herbert than Derek Carr. Take the Chargers and lay the 3.5 points (-108).
Green Bay Packers (-117) at Minnesota Vikings (-101)
Of all the teams that are favored to win in Week 1, the least of those are the Packers (1.5 points at -108 Packers, -112 Vikings). The Vikings have consistently given the Packers much trouble in their recent reign atop the NFC North than the Bears or Lions. Kevin O’Connell makes his NFL debut with arguably the most talented veteran-laden roster any new coach inherits when his predecessor is fired. Rodgers has a vastly different set of receivers and, while they will come together and likely win the division again, they start 0-1. Take the Vikings on the Moneyline (-101).
New York Giants (+200) at Tennessee Titans (-240)
Many have already forgot that the Titans were the No. 1 seed in a stacked AFC last season. You don’t go from that to a Ground Zero rebuild just because you traded A.J. Brown. The Giants were a mess on offense last season, which is why the Titans are a respectable favorite, but not big enough for my liking (5.5 points at -110 for both teams). The Titans are going to run all over the Giants if Derrick Henry gets his typical mammoth workload. Take the Titans and lay the 5.5 points (-110).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ML) at Dallas Cowboys (ML)
The Cowboys are one of my picks to be a team that will be competitive but lose too many games against the other elite teams in the league – many of them in standalone or primetime games. They are a home underdog to the Buccaneers (2.5 points at -117 Buccaneers, -103 Cowboys). That number is almost begging Cowboys fans to take the bait and bite. That rarely ends well and the investment being asked means those making the lines think it should be higher, but don’t want to give away too many points. That’s fine. Take the Buccaneers and lay the 2.5 points (-117).
Denver Broncos (-270) at Seattle Seahawks (+220)
Russell Wilson plays his first game for someone other than the Seahawks in a stadium where he is beloved. Seattle made no attempt to replace Wilson and veteran retread Geno Smith gets the start. The Over/Under on this game is interesting (44.5 points at -110 for both) because when Wilson is at his best, he is running the ball and mixing in the pass – few are better at the 12-play, 8-minute drive to gas the clock. Denver should dominate this game and, if the Seahawks don’t score at least 14 points, it will be hard to hit the point. Take the Under (-110).
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