The NFL opened the season Thursday with a really fun game between the Cowboys and Buccaneers. Even with college football back, it’s really just an appetizer for the NFL to many of us.
We already covered the first eight games of this week in our Part 1 article. Now, it’s time for us to cover the last eight.
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Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook
Vikings -3 at Bengals
The Vikings are bringing one of the most veteran offenses into the 2021 season. Last season, Justin Jefferson smashed the rookie receiving record, while Dalvin Cook was one of the most valuable running backs in football. Even with a quarterback many consider average, the Vikings can really make waves this season with even a slight improvement on defense.
The Bengals are kind of a mess right now. They opted to go with a receiver instead of going with an offensive lineman with their high draft pick, despite losing their QB last season to a lack of protection.
The Vikings should be much better this season defensively. The Bengals, though talented offensively, still stand vulnerable with the offensive line. In many ways, I anticipate this game being a bit of “older, wiser version of team meets younger, less prepared version of same team”. The Vikings should pull away in a landslide victory.
Vikings 31 Bengals 20
Eagles +3.5 at Falcons
I’ll be brief with this one. Both these teams were massive disappointments in 2020. The Eagles were terrible with Wentz and again had to overcome an insane amount of big injuries. The Falcons were simply a putrid defensive team, whose offense seemingly flipped a coin to determine how they’d play on a given Sunday.
This season, the Eagles come in with young talent all over their offense. Defensively, there are more questions on the Falcons side, but both teams have a lot to prove.
This one is a coin flip for me. I could see any number of scenarios happening here, but the one thing I’m most confident in is the Eagles’ ability to move the ball against this ridiculous Atlanta secondary. This wildly mediocre matchup can only end one way: with a dramatic, last second field goal.
Falcons 31 Eagles 30
Dolphins at Patriots -3.5
The Dolphins were a fun story in 2020. Prior to the season, I had suggested Brian Flores as a +2500 bet to win Coach of the Year. Had they not gotten absolutely destroyed by the Buffalo second unit in the finale, both the Dolphins playoff hopes, as well as my big prop payday would’ve likely come to fruition.
The Patriots were an interesting case study last season. With the departure of Tom Brady, the narrative became, “was it Brady or Belichik who was most to credit for the Patriots dynasty?” Despite Brady momentarily swaying that argument, the Patriots did more than most noticed, despite lackluster play from Cam Newton.
This season, expectations are high for both the Dolphins and the Patriots. The one issue I have is the prep time for this game. The Dolphins will have to prepare for a Bill Belichik offense led by a somewhat mysterious rookie. The Patriots will prepare for a Dolphins team with ample time on the side of Bill Belichik. The latter sounds much more frightening to me.
New England 34 Miami 24
Browns at Chiefs -4.5
The Browns did well to fuse into a solid team by the end of last season. The Chiefs did well to give themselves some real motivation heading into 2021. Much of the focus in the offseason was for the Chiefs to improve their offensive line, and they did just that.
After realizing their major flaw was the offensive line (albeit on the biggest stage in football), the Chiefs took that step and it’s really going to be telling this week when they face the Browns. The strength of the Brons is their pass rush and their offensive line. With the pass rush somewhat quelled in this matchup, you have to consider both home field advantage and offensive potency.
The Chiefs have both and with both, stand a decent chance of turning this game into a boat race. Though the Browns can put up points, their strength lies in their run game. I fear the Chiefs may come out and make a statement at home here, washing away their supporters’ fear of the offensive line struggles.
This one is a tough call, but I like the Chiefs to get out to a decent lead and hold off the Browns late. I’m still skeptical of the Browns’ consistency through the air and that may cost them in the opener.
Chiefs 34 Browns 27
Packers -3.5 at Saints
Part of me wants to go with the Saints in Week 1, but another part of me is telling me Aaron Rodgers is on the other side, so that would be foolish. Aaron Rodgers was at the center of much offseason drama, after demanding a trade. The frustrations for Rodgers to this point have been justified, but now he’s back for one “last dance” with the Packers.
On the other side, the Saints are ushering in the post-Drew Brees era by starting Jameis Winston at QB, along with a bunch of receivers most casual NFL fans know nothing about. I think the Saints could be just fine this season, but this is a tough matchup for them out of the gate.
I like for the Packers to exploit the Saints at the second level on defense. Don’t expect the Saints to play a turnover-free game on offense, either. There will likely be more than a handful of third and long situations Jameis could inevitably exacerbate. Trust in Aaron Rodgers on this final quest for the Packers.
Packers 26 Saints 19
Broncos -2.5 at Giants
To be clear, I don’t expect either of these teams to be very good this season. I wrote a props article about the Giants going with an offensive lineman in the first round and they instead took Kadarius Toney (a Florida WR with a gun charge).
Realistically, Daniel Jones just isn’t the answer, and neither is Teddy Bridgewater for Denver. The issue for this game is, which team will look more awful in Week 1? All the song and dance that’s been transpiring for the Giants this offseason is about to come crashing down before our eyes.
With a paper mache offensive line, I don’t think the Giants are going to be able to get a lot accomplished this week in the opener. The Broncos have a solid roster and, more importantly, don’t have Daniel Jones as their starter.
The Broncos should be able to maintain a balanced attack throughout this game. Javonte Williams is the running back of the future in Denver, and we’re going to get to see that era begin Sunday. I like the Broncos to control the ever-critical line of scrimmage and choke off a late comeback attempt from the Giants this week.
Broncos 27 Giants 20
Bears at Rams -8.5
The Rams have an entirely new offense this season. I say that because the offense isn’t actually new, but it will look newer and better because a competent QB is now at the helm in LA.
With Jared Goff being sent down to the minors in the trade with Detroit, the Rams may just regain their status as a functional, innovate offense in the NFL. The Rams already have probably the best defense in the league. Now, they get to kickoff the season against the Bears and Andy Dalton.
The Bears are going to struggle on the offense line in this game. With Aaron Donald on the other side, we should see quite a bit of the Chicago punting unit, as well as plenty of cries for the Bears to put Justin Fields in.
This should be a fun game if you enjot beatdowns in the NFL. The Bears have a decent team overall, but this matchup is an absolute nightmare from a personnel standpoint.
Rams 30 Bears 13
Ravens at Raiders +4
Look, I’m a huge believer in Lamar Jackson and the Ravens as a whole. Conversely, I’m a big doubter when it comes to the Raiders. I fully expect the Raiders to win less than eight games in 2021. However, I am picking the Raiders to cover here.
The Raiders, since moving to Las Vegas, have been a tough out at home (when betting against them). They covered the spread in four of their last six home games to close the season last year. Keep in mind, the Ravens will be without Derek Wolfe, LJ Fort, Marcus Peters, and of course both featured running backs.
Everything in me wants to pick the Ravens this week, but this game just doesn’t smell right. Expect to see Bryan Edwards emerge as a valuable new outside threat in the Raiders offense, as well as an absolutely electric environment in Vegas for the year’s first MNF game. I like the Ravens to win on a late field goal but expect a good game otherwise.
Ravens 26 Raiders 23