After an action-packed preseason, the NFL regular season is back. Not only should fans be looking forward to watching their favorite team, but they also should be excited to place a few bets. With the recent federal legalization of sports gambling, fans all around the world should be thrilled to have the opportunity to wager money throughout the season. It’s a new season, which means teams that lost bettors a bunch of money last year may be due for some positive regression, while teams that raked in cash for bettors may be overvalued going into the season. Taking all of this into account, here are our favorite picks for week 1 of the NFL season.
Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants (+3)
Pick: New York Giants +3
After an abysmal 2017 campaign, the New York Giants will look to start their season off in the right direction against debatably the best defense in the NFL. In January, offensive guru Pat Shurmur was named the new head coach of the Giants after leading the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC championship in a miracle season. In April, the Giants drafted running back Saquon Barkley second overall in this years NFL draft, making their offense multi-dimensional for the first time in several years. In what seems like a perfect fit, the Giants offense is one to look out for in 2018. As a home underdog against a Jacksonville team that greatly exceeded expectations last season, New York has a lot of value in this weeks’ opener.
San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings (-6.5)
Pick: Under 46
Two improved teams will look to face off against each other in Minnesota on Sunday. While looking at this weeks’ totals, it was surprising to see this game with a relatively high one. Last season Minnesota undoubtedly had a top-five defense in the NFL, especially at home. The last 10 times the Vikings have played at their home stadium, they haven’t given up more than 20 points. After losing Jerrick McKinnon to a torn ACL last week, the 49ers will move ahead with an uninspiring committee in the backfield. The 49ers defense is not one to be slept on after acquiring superstar cornerback Richard Sherman. With young up and coming players, Reuben Foster and Solomon Thomas, San Francisco could be the most improved defense in the league.
Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers (-3)
Pick: Carolina Panthers -3
It’s been a difficult offseason for the Cowboys after cutting wide receiver Dez Bryant and losing four-time pro bowl center Travis Frederick to Guillain Barre Syndrome. It doesn’t help that they’ll have to face off against the stingy Carolina Panthers in week 1. Dallas will have to rely on Ezekiel Elliott more than ever with a misfit cast of pass-catchers giving the Panthers’ Luke Kuechly led defense a positive matchup. Legendary offensive coordinator Norv Turner will take over as the Carolina play-caller. With all types of weapons, he should have no problem making the Panthers’ offense one of the best in the league. Taking all of that into account, it seems like this line should be around -4 or -5, so have no fear laying the points with the Panthers.
Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Raiders (+4)
Pick: Oakland Raiders +4
The Oakland Raiders have been the talk of the offseason after hiring Super Bowl winning head coach Jon Gruden and signing a plethora of veteran players to help bolster both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Earlier this week, Oakland traded their All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack to Chicago in a questionable move. Although the Raiders have shaken up their roster quite a bit, I believe they are ready to get back to their 2016 form. They’re in a perfect spot as a primetime home underdog against an overrated team that is bound to regress. At the least, Oakland should be able to keep the game close and cover the spread.
Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals (-1.5)
Pick: Washington Redskins +1.5
The Redskins are +1.5 against the Cardinals in their opening matchup this week. While Arizona has home-field advantage, they are matched up against a revamped Redskins squad that is going to be hungry to get the Alex Smith era off to a good start. The Cardinals also have a brand-new head coach paired with Sam Bradford who is coming off a season ending knee injury. Bradford has been injury prone his entire career and didn’t even play 2 full games last season. David Johnson is also coming off a season ending injury which leads me to believe that this Cardinals offense will be rusty and sluggish. I think Vegas is giving Arizona too much credit and that the Redskins should be the favorites in this game despite being the away team.
New York Jets at Detroit Lions (-6.5)
Pick: Detroit Lions -6.5
The Lions are -6.5 against the Jets in their home opener. Sam Darnold is going to be getting his first career NFL start in an away game and I don’t think it will end well. Matt Stafford is a proven veteran who is going to move the ball against this Jets defense. They will be able to put up 20+ points easily and I don’t see the Jets offense keeping up with them. Lions head coach Matt Patricia is a defensive specialist who went 10-2 against the Jets as the Patriots defensive coordinator. With talent like Ezekiel Ansah and Glover Quinn on the ball, Darnold is going to be under pressure early and often in his home opener. I would not be surprised if the Lions blow the Jets out in week 1.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (+4.5)
Pick: Cleveland Browns +170
The Cleveland Browns are +170 on the money line against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This pick is riskier, but the payoff will be big if the Browns win. News came out yesterday that Le’veon Bell will be out indefinitely because of a contract dispute, a huge loss for the Steelers offense. The Browns have a significantly stronger squad than last year and will be looking for a huge opening win at home. The combination of Tyrod Taylor, Carlos Hyde, and Jarvis Landry will be able to put up points against the Steelers defense and I think the Browns will have a much-improved defense this year. They have given the Steelers trouble in the past and I wouldn’t be surprised if they won. If you are looking for a safer pick, lay the +4.5 with the improved Browns squad.