Picks, Parlays, and Props for Week 1
Betting on the NFL in week one is a little bit like trying to hit a bullseye with a butcher knife, while blindfolded and blacked out. Other than that, it's a breeze.
You have nothing to base your wagers on besides some meaningless play and training camp murmurs. This season will be no exception EXCEPT given the COVID truncated offseason, there's one thing you can value more than any other year: Continuity.
If the Chiefs taught us anything from the Thursday night shellacking of the Texans, it's that all that money they shelled out to keep their absurd level of talent was worth it. Not just because it's better to have more talent than the other team, it is, but also because if you can keep as much of a championship squad together from one year to the next, you have a better chance of that squad continuing to play in the rhythm they've already established.
The Chiefs ran it back with their coordinators, all their speedy wide receivers, their terrorizing twosome on the defensive line, their All-Pro tight end, and plugged in LSU's double threat running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Put all that together, Andy Reid might be lining up for free cheeseburgers in Kansas City with two Super Bowl rings in 2021.
So, betting-wise, where does that leave us? Looking for teams who have established chemistry and culture. I'm looking for teams that are bringing the band back against teams that are trotting out untested rosters and fresh coaching staffs. I'd also say it's safe to bet against some truly bottom-of-the-barrel, no-hope-in-sight, dreadful teams.
Battle Tested vs. Newbs
Ravens -7.5 over Browns
Colts -8 over Jaguars
Bills -6.5 over Jets
Eagles -5.5 over Football Team
Steelers -6 over Giants
Saints -3.5 over Bucs
Titans -2.5 over Broncos
The Ravens come off one of the most efficient offensive seasons ever, period. All they did was add talent around their transcendentally talented QB. The Browns were, well, the Browns and thus they overhauled the coaching staff. This is a make-or-break year for Baker and his receivers, who could put it together later in the year, but not against a definitive Super Bowl contender in their first game under new head coach Kevin Stefanski's system.
The Colts built the most dominant offensive line in football, drafted a running back made of bowling balls powered by rocket fuel, and signed a quarterback who takes the phrase "wily vet" to a whole new level. Meanwhile, the Jaguars are so very bad. They've either cut, traded away, or chosen not to resign their most talented players over the past two years and given Gardner Minshew little to work with heading into 2020.
The Bills competed last season with Josh Allen operating as a deep ball throwing machine or a running option with little in between. They've added weapons, like Stefon Diggs, to bring some balance and their defense will be disruptive as ever. The Jets, last time I checked, are still coached by Adam Gase. They would need players at every level of the offense and defense to make significant leaps to be competitive this decade, especially after trading away Jamal Adams for no immediate help.
The Eagles soar under Doug Pederson, Carson Wentz, and a game-wrecking defensive line, which all return intact. If they can keep even halfway decent receivers on the field for a game or two and get some run out of the intriguing Miles Sanders, I like their chances against virtually any opponent. The Washington Football Team is so disorganized that they can't even pick a name or respond to multiple reports of harassment without slipping all over themselves. Not to mention, Ron Rivera is dealing with cancer treatments (get well soon!), which means Jack Del Rio is running practice in his absence. Not exactly an ideal situation to inspire the team to be ready for week 1.
The Steelers boast one of the most steady-handed coaching staffs in the NFL. Big Ben returns to lead the offense and their defense played so well down the stretch that they almost dragged Mason Rudolph into the playoffs. The Giants have a whole new coaching staff, which includes the underwhelming Jason Garrett at OC, and a second year QB throwing to guys who've seen better days or haven't reached their potential. Look for Roethlisberger and the Steelers to hit their stride early.
The Saints return a team with no real holes on offense or defense and actually upgraded by signing Emmanuel Sanders over Ted Ginn Jr. Not to mention, Sean Payton's connection with Drew Brees remains strong. The Bucs have acquired more talent in one off season in recent memory. It all looks good on paper, but practically they have a 43 year old QB and a 31 year old tight end that's already retired once after dealing with just about every injury imaginable. This has the Eagles' Dream team disaster written all over it. Don't believe the hype, trust in the team that's been at the top of the NFC South for the past 3 seasons in the Saints.
The Titans bring back an offense that had been firing on all cylinders behind Ryan Tannehill, a brutalizing rushing attack, and the work of wunderkind OC Arthur Smith. Plus, they gassed up their defense by signing Javedeon Clowney. The Broncos just lost their most important player, Von Miller, which greatly diminishes their pass rush and overall effectiveness on D. Drew Lock looked serviceable in his limited starts last year, but how much could he improve in an off season like this? Especially when Courtland Sutton's questionable for the game and the rookie, Jerry Jeudy, only has a month of hands on experience in the offense.
Here's the thing about this column and these picks. I don't necessarily expect to rip off a seven-teamer out of the starting gate, like I'm some kind of psychic on a hot streak. However, these games all fit the bill of what I'm looking for in value. Play 'em as a three, four, or five team parlay and give it a ride.
For something completely different, these games all fit under a tried and true bettor's rule: Go against west coast teams on the road playing east coast teams. The idea of travel and playing While this maxim isn't foolproof, it certainly gives you a good base to work from when deciding where to put your money.
Panthers +3 over Raiders
Bengals +3 over Chargers
Falcons +2.5 over Seahawks
The Panthers may have finished last season on an eight game slide, but look at those games, even with Kyle Allen at QB, they played a lot of good teams close. Now with Teddy Bridgewater, who's looked above average, under the tutelage of Matt Rhule and Joe Brady, the college football whiz kid, the ceiling has been raised. However, the Raiders under Jon Gruden have seemed to teeter between mediocre and utter mess. There's nothing they did this off season that would make me feel they deserve 3 points on the road.
The Bengals drafted the man who should be the franchise, Joe Burrow, and, by all accounts, he's been everything and more since arriving in Cincy. One other thing to note here, the Bengals played the Seahawks to a 21-20 nail-biter in Week 1. I wouldn't call it a trend, but, perhaps, Zac Taylor can prep even a 2-win team to a close game if you give him all off season. Let's just say this year's Chargers aren't last year's Seahawks. Their D will be stout, but the offense is unproven. Gimme those points.
The Falcons finished last season hot, saving Dan Quinn's job in the process. Quinn, who was Seattle's DC for their championship run, knows his former team better than just about anyone else. These teams met last year, and after Seattle broke it open early, it ended up a one score game. Which sums up the value here, the Seahawks were in twelve (12!) games that came down to one score. It's a running joke that Seattle never plays in a normal game, I don't expect one this Sunday.
As a three-teamer, this pays out at +700. If only two of the three suit your fancy, I'd recommend parlaying those, as well.
Dolphins over Patriots
The Dolphins took down the Patriots in Week 17 last season in a game that Brady and co. needed to win. Brian Flores, former Pats coach, knows Belichick well and coached his scrappy team above their pay grade in his first year. The Dolphins went on a shopping spree, adding talent all up and down their roster, and cashed in some draft capital. Meanwhile, the Pats replace Brady with Cam Newton, but didn't do much else, except have a handful of players opt out of the season. This one will be close and the value of +240 is enough to get a few shekels from me.
That's all for me to start the season. Let's hope all these come up winners and we can check back next week to count our profits.
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