September 08, 2022
For the gambling enthusiasts, here are my Week 1 NFL picks. To note, the team logos indicate who I think will win the game, not cover the spread. At the end of the picks, I'll note a few teams that I like based on the spread.
Bills (-2.5) at Rams: With the exception of the Bears-Packers rivalry game that only two fanbases cared about in 2019, the reigning champs have played on Thursday night to kick off the season every year since 2004. I was curious how each of those champs defended their title in Week 1, so I took a quick look back.
So, the reigning champs are 14-3 in the subsequent Thursday night game, almost always against legit, contending opponents. I get that many believe that the Bills are the best team in the NFL, but it's not like the Rams were some lucky Super Bowl winner, like, say, the Giants. I'll ride the reigning champs trend, and I'll take the points along with them.
Eagles (-4) at Lions: The Eagles and Lions had different approaches to training camp. The Eagles opted for short practices with minimal physical periods, with the idea in mind that being healthy for the start of the regular season is what is most important. (For the record, I agree with this approach.)
If you watched Hard Knocks this year, you saw that the Lions went hard, at least compared to more modern training camps.
The Eagles achieved their goal — their starters are good to go for Week 1. To be determined if the Lions' tough camp will mean that they're more ready for the regular season than the Eagles.
I don't think any edge the Lions may have from a tough camp will matter, since, well, they're just not that talented. Look at each positional group — quarterback, running back, wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, secondary. Where are the Lions better than the Eagles? Maybe a slight edge at running back? Look at their depth chart. That's it, right?
The Eagles should smash this team. If they don't and head home 0-1, the harsh criticisms for a passive camp will be loud.
Saints (-5.5) at Falcons: The Falcons are in the conversation for the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. A Saints loss against this team would be outstanding for the Eagles, but don't bet on it.
49ers (-7) at Bears: It's going to be a long season for the Bears' offensive line, and that begins Week 1 against Nick Bosa and the Niners' defensive front.
Steelers at Bengals (6.5): The Steelers had won 11 straight in this series before the Bengals finally got one in 2020. The Bengals swept the Steelers in 2021 by a combined score of 65-20. The Steelers still have a playmaking defense, as they led the NFL with 55 sacks last season, but it's not enough to make up for an offense with a very shaky line and Mitch Trubisky as the starting quarterback. The reigning AFC champs are simply the more complete team.
Patri*ts at Dolphins (-3.5): Eagles media got a close look at the Dolphins for one day this summer, and Miami was impressive. They have elite speed on offense and some pass-rushing juice with star power on the back end on defense. Tua Tagovailoa doesn't have a great arm, but he throws with anticipation, touch, and accuracy.
It's also going to be hot af on Sunday in Miami. They're used to that. The Patri*ts are not.
Ravens (-7) at Jets: The Ravens lost their Week 1 matchup in Las Vegas last season in a thrilling Monday Night Football game that went to overtime. Still, you don't want to get the Ravens on your schedule Week 1. Here's what they did to opponents on opening weekend the previous four years:
I'll do the math for you. They outscored their opponents 164-19 those four seasons, and I think there's a reason for that. They go hard in training camp and they play starters in the preseason games, which has them prepared for Week 1. Of course, they were also by far the most injured team a year ago, so, you know, there's a downside to that approach as well. But for our purposes in Week 1, we'll ride that trend of early-season success.
Oh, and the Jets are starting Joe Flacco, so there's that, too.
Jaguars at Commanders (-2.5): In Week 18 last season, the Colts were in a win-and-in situation against the then 2-14 Jaguars. Carson Wentz completed 17 of 29 passes for 185 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT, though the numbers didn't adequately convey how ineffective he was. He also lost a fumble on a vintage "2020 Wentz" play in which he tried to throw a shovel pass instead of just eating a sack. The Colts then traded Wentz to NFL hell, and their owner has openly displayed his disdain for his former QB ever since.
Wentz's next opponent after his Week 18 disaster a year ago is... the Jaguars! Lol.
The Jaguars could be trending upward. I mean, they've had the No. 1 overall pick each of the last two drafts, so that bar couldn't be any lower, but whatever, they'll be better. Meanwhile, the Commanders' dumpster fire piece was very easy to write this year, which is never a good sign. These are two absolutely terrible franchises. I was really tempted to take the Jags, but ultimately decided against it since they haven't won a road game since Week 15 of 2019.
Browns at Panthers (-1.5): The Browns are going to have a terrible passing offense this season as long as Jacoby Brissett is under center. Trust me, I saw it this summer in Cleveland. However, they are strong in the trenches on both sides of the ball, they have a very good secondary, and an excellent rushing attack.
Baker Mayfield vs. his old team will be the story in this matchup, and my guess is that there's probably a lot of action on that side of the line looking for a heroic Mayfield performance, especially now that the Browns are the league's "gross" team. However, in my view Mayfield is a quarterback who must play within himself, and his added emotional motivation could lead to bad decisions on the field.
Colts (-7) at Texans: The line on this game was initially 8, but it has since moved to 7, due to action on the Texans. Huh? Their roster is awful, and they lost 11 games by a touchdown or more in 2021. They lost eight games by at least two touchdowns. Are people forgetting how dysfunctional this team is just because for one offseason the Browns and Dolphins had more high-profile scandals?
The Colts beat them twice by a combined score of 62-3 in 2021.
Giants at Titans (-5.5): The Titans are a weird team that always seems to have some obvious glaring holes heading into the season, and then they figure it out. They should be fine Week 1 against this still very bad Giants team.
Packers (-1.5) at Vikings: Why is this line only 1.5? OK, I'll bite.
Chiefs (-5.5) at Cardinals: The Cardinals are frauds, and the Chiefs have started 1-0 in 7 straight seasons.
Raiders at Chargers (-3.5): I'm not touching a Week 1 game between a pair of franchises that have underperformed relative to their talent over the last couple of decades.
Buccaneers (-2.5) at Cowboys: This one will probably do some decent TV ratings.
The Bucs are potentially vulnerable on the interior of their offensive line, but the Cowboys don't have the defensive tackles to exploit that. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see what Dak Prescott can do with the worst supporting cast of his career against a very good Bucs defense led by Todd Bowles.
Broncos (-6.5) at Seahawks: Russell Wilson is going to remind people this year that he is still a top 5 type of quarterback, and it starts against his old team.
Week 1: Ravens
• Last 8 years, ATS: 297-244-13 (0.548)
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