I can almost hear it all… the National Football League intro music on their respective television stations … Scott Hanson welcoming us back to a season of “seven hours of commercial-free football” … the voice of the Philadelphia Eagles, Merrill Reese, bringing us right into Ford Field in Detroit. So many incredible sounds and sights are just a few days away, and I, like many of you out there, just can’t wait for the start of the season.
The NFL is back, and that means it’s time for me to give you the Week 1 picks in order to kick your betting season off right. We are also going to wipe the slate clean for the new season (our prior record of 60% wins will be reset and put to a new test.)
Let’s get right into it:
Bills vs. Rams — Thursday, 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
This is one of the better kickoff games I can remember. To me, The Bills are the most exciting team in the NFL, primarily driven by the most exciting player at quarterback in Josh Allen. The Rams are the defending Super Bowl champions, which gives them the right to host on opening night. It’s very possible that this is a Super Bowl preview for us as both teams will see anything less as a failure.
The Bills are favorites on the road in this match-up, and while I fully respect everything about Buffalo and see them as a top team in the league, this spread is a little disrespectful to the defending champs. Super Bowl champs are 19-3 straight up in Week 1 of the next year over the past 22 seasons (13-7-2 ATS), and, more recently, they are 8-1 straight up (5-3-1 ATS).
While the ATS records are good, the straight up records are superb, and with the Rams being underdogs in their own building, straight up will do just fine for us in this spot. Sean McVay is the better coach, it’s a long road trip game for the Bills, and the Rams still have a more complete roster in my opinion (just by the slightest of margins). Let’s take the Rams on the moneyline to start the year.
Rams +115 ML. Check out latest odds here.
Patriots vs. Dolphins — Sunday, 1 p.m. (CBS)
From what I can see, the Patriots are about to be in for a rough season, and I think an ugly start in Miami is going to be the beginning. New England had a lot of change in the offseason, and most moves in the negative direction from what I can tell. First off, their offense is now being run by a combination of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, as Josh McDaniels is now the head coach in Vegas. They have gotten older on defense, losing more pieces than they gained as well, and are very one dimensional on the offensive side of the ball.
Miami had one of the best off-seasons in the NFL on paper. Adding Tyreek Hill with other weapons like Chase Edmonds, to go with a coaching change to Mike McDaniel, there is a lot of optimism for the Dolphins this season. Tua Tagovailoa seems primed for a breakout this season, where he can establish himself as a top 15 QB in the league. For this game specifically though, New England has lost three straight games outright and ATS against Miami, as well as six of the last 10, which is a trend I certainly think continues with the way this off-season has gone for both squads.
Dolphins -2.5. Check out latest odds here.
Browns vs. Panthers — Sunday, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Whether they had inside info, or just got lucky, the NFL has turned this game that generally would have been a pretty boring one for Week 1 into the best revenge game on this opening Sunday. Baker Mayfield faces off against the franchise that took him No. 1 overall just a few years ago, as Cleveland chose to go with Deshaun Watson amid all his legal issues. Mayfield is playing with a chip on his shoulder, and that might be a scary thing for the NFL, and especially the Browns in this match-up.
Jacoby Brisset will be starting for Cleveland, which is already a very easy way to give me confidence to bet on the Panthers. But, more importantly for my Carolina love here is the fact that Christian McCaffrey is fully healthy coming into this season. When healthy, he is one of the best offensive players in the league, and it shows on how it impacts that Panthers. Last season, in the three games CMC got 20 or more touches, the Panthers were 3-0. Matt Rhule knows he’s coaching for his life, and he will utilize McCaffrey for as long as he is out on the field to fight for it.
Panthers -2. Check out latest odds here.
49ers vs. Bears — Sunday, 1 p.m. (FOX)
This is going to be an ugly one. Really, Bears fans should get used to saying that a lot this year, as they project to be one of, if not the, worst team in the NFL. Their offense is devoid of weapons, they have a terrible offensive line, and Justin Fields will not be able to overcome both of those flaws (not that I’m a Fields believer even on a good team based on what I’ve seen from him.) The 49ers have a great defense, and the Bears will struggle to move the ball on offense.
The 49ers have a new starting QB in former third overall pick Trey Lance. While the book is yet to be written on whether Lance will be the long term answer in the Bay, I feel pretty confident that Kyle Shanahan will maximize the run game (which already is his general strategy) to make sure his young quarterback has an easier, contained start to the season. While they will have success on offense in this game, the game plan will keep the clock running. That combined with the way the Bears will struggle overall offensively in this game and all season long, screams under to me. It’s one of our lowest totals on the board at 41.5, but it’s low for a reason.
Under 41.5. Check out latest odds here.
Steelers vs. Bengals — Sunday, 1 p.m. (CBS)
For my last play, we have a very strong trend backing us. The last 12 years, the Super Bowl loser has failed to cover Week 1 of the following year. Twelve years straight is a very strong trend and sample size for us to keep riding this. The Bengals should be a great team this year, but I certainly believe that a Super Bowl hangover could exist for a young team. The Steelers also have an upgrade at quarterback (yes, Mitch Trubisky is better than Big Ben was last season) and still carry a great defense. We know Mike Tomlin has a great record as an underdog, and getting 6.5 points against a division rival is a great opportunity for him to start the season right (at least against the spread).
Steelers +6.5. Check out latest odds here.
Odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook.
You can follow Tim O’Keefe on Twitter (@TKO_Picks) and e-mail him at [email protected]
Subscribe, rate, and review all Philly Influencer podcasts here. Follow Philly Influencer on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.