The NFL is here. Thank goodness it’s back, because we had some truly ugly offensive performances this past week in College football, and we are all in need of a palate cleansing.
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This week, we are kicking of the football season with a two-part NFL article and continuing that each week. Last season, we finished the year at a 52.12% success rate.
The NFL can be funny with their spreads. Unlike College Football, the range of outcomes is much greater across every matchup. When dealing with professional sports and betting on them, keep in mind it’s just that. Without further delay, let’s dive in on Week 1.
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook
Cowboys at Buccaneers -8
As much as I’m weary about large spreads in the NFL; it’s hard to justify taking the Cowboys in the opener. For one, Zach Martin is out. Losing a key offensive lineman against a team whose defensive front dominated the Chiefs in the Super Bowl is daunting. It’s even more frightening when your defense is about to face a Tom Brady-led offense.
For that, I just don’t see the Cowboys hanging in this game late or making a game of it late. Typically, when a team gets down, you’ll see them climb their way back in by virtue of the defense going into prevent. We didn’t see that happen with the Chiefs against the Bucs in the last NFL game we saw, so I wouldn’t cross my fingers for it to happen to kick off the season.
Buccaneers 34 Cowboys 17
Jets +5.5 at Panthers
The Jets were the laughing stock of the league last season, with the exception of the Jags (who were just better at tanking). Last season, the Jets were on the fast track to the number one pick, before inexplicably beating the powerhouse Rams. Much of the reason for this was their defensive front, which is actually not bad.
According to PFF, the Jets have two of the top 13 defensive tackles in football. That stout middle should help anchor the defense against a balanced Panthers attack. I think the advantage the Panthers have at WR will be the ultimate difference in this game. However, expect a Robert Saleh-led team to put up solid defensive effort in the opener against a team using a reclamation project at QB.
Panthers 20 Jets 17
Steelers at Bills -6.5
The Steelers were one of the worst teams in the NFL to close the season. After an 11-0 start on the season, the Steelers went on to lose five of their final six games. One problem was defensive injuries, but the major problem was the offensive line. Last year, the Steelers had one of the notoriously worst offensive lines in all of football.
Had Ben not been #1 in quickest release on his throws, the Steelers would’ve been even more exposed on their offensive line. Despite these issues, the Steelers did nothing to improve their line in the offseason. They brought in one of the best running backs out of college, but that won’t fix their biggest weakness.
Buffalo, on the other hand, got stronger as the season went along and were just one game away from the title game. Buffalo is returning much of their starters on both sides of the ball, but they made even more upgrades towards rushing the passer.
This game isn’t going to go well for Pittsburgh. I expect the Buffalo defense to plug the rushing lanes and give Ben very little time in the pocket. Offensively, Buffalo is a little too dynamic and could present a lot of issues early in the season, even for a solid Pittsburgh defense. Offense typically rules the day in the early part of the season and this one doesn’t bode well for the Steelers.
Buffalo 26 Pittsburgh 17
49ers -7.5 at Lions
I typically shy away from taking road teams by more than a touchdown, but this one is simply too tasty. The Lions were an abysmal team last season, plagued by poor coaching, an awful defense, and an inability to stay consistent on offense. Conversely, the 49ers were also technically bad last season. After a 6-10 finish to the season, the 49ers were justifiably frustrated. Injuries to their two best receivers, their All-Pro Tight end, their star defensive end, and their QB derailed a promising team.
This season, with those players returning and the addition of a promising rookie QB, the 49ers are positioned well to make a run towards the NFC title game. For this matchup, I like the 49ers for their dynamic versatility on offense. The Lions, on the other hand, have taken a very old school approach and will likely lack a lot of offensive creativity. I expect this to be very pronounced in Week 1 and feel the 49ers will dissect this young Lions team.
49ers 31 Lions 10
Jaguars -2.5 at Texans
I am a firm believer the Texans will be at the bottom of the AFC standings by the end of the season. That being said, this is one of the few games they have a shot at winning. I’m not threatened by the idea of Tyrod Taylor at quarterback or Mark Ingram and Brandin Cooks as their best skill position players. However, the Jaguars have a number of issues going on their end.
This game comes down to coaching and the quarterback position. Even though we should have plenty of questions about the Jaguars, it would be hard to imagine the combination of Trevor Lawrence and Urban Meyer would perform worse than the combo of Tyrod Taylor and David Culley (whose last job was the WR coach at Baltimore, where they don’t really throw to their receivers).
Jaguars 23 Texans 20
Seahawks -2.5 at Colts
A number of minor injuries have hindered the Colts throughout camp and the offseason. The Colts intend to be a balanced offense, as indicated with the acquisition of Carson Wentz. Alas, we may need a few months to determine if that plan actually worked.
The Seahawks apparently moved on from their offensive coordinator because he was too run-heavy. Aside from that switch, not much else has happened. They’re still an odd defense, strong against the run, but kind of a mess against good passing teams. Offensively, the Seahawks are very balanced, featuring a solid duo of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett at WR.
For the game, I expect the Colts to be a little rusty, given their issues with injuries and lack of reps. Seattle will be looking to showcase their offense through the air, but I expect Russell Wilson to do quite a bit of damage after the pocket breaks down. I understand the Colts have a solid defense, but Wilson will have more answers than the Colts can deal with here.
Seahawks 24 Colts 20
Cardinals at Titans -3
The Cardinals started out last season 5-2 before going 3-6 down the final stretch. Over their last ten games, the defense gave up at least 20 points in eight games. Meanwhile, the Titans won the AFC South with an 11-5 record, losing in the playoffs to the Baltimore Ravens. The Titans had a number of issues defensively in 2020 but managed to overcome them through an efficient and well-balanced offense.
I trust the Titans much more going into the season, instead of the team who stumbled down the stretch last season. I expect Derrick Henry will have a huge game against a poor rushing defense. Expect a high-scoring game, but a Titans win.
Titans 31 Cardinals 26
Chargers at WFT +1
The Chargers have a lot of hype coming into 2021. Last season, their offense carried an otherwise disappointing defense, primarily due to injuries across their roster (primarily defense). The WFT was completely carried by their defense in 2020 and came dangerously close to winning their Wildcard matchup over the Bucs, despite starting Taylor Heineke at QB.
As much as I like the Chargers offense, they already may be without their best offensive lineman and running back for the game. Washington has made upgrades across their offense and still has an elite defense on the other side. I expect the WFT to give the Chargers offense fits all day.
WFT 24 Chargers 16