NFL Week 1 is only a couple of days away. I preview every game as well as make a pick against the spread for every game. There are a couple of matchups that I think deserve best bet status. I list those as Best Picks instead of Picks. Hopefully, NFL Week 1 will signal a great and prosperous football season for all NFL handicappers.
2017 NFL Week 1 Preview
Kansas City Chiefs +9 at New England Patriots -9
New England is a good team. I’m not ready to anoint them Super Bowl 52 Champions. If you read my NFL Season Predictions blog, you know that I don’t think the Patriots make it back to the Super Bowl. It’s tough to get to the Lombardi Trophy Game 2 years in a row.
Kansas City isn’t 9 points worse of a team than the Patriots. The Chiefs’ defense should be better than New England’s this season. WR Tyreek Hill could turn into the toughest skill player to cover in the NFL. I like KC to make this game closer than 9 points.
Pick: Kansas City +9
New York Jets +8 at Buffalo Bills -8
I was hot on Buffalo during the offseason. My thinking was that a great defensive coordinator like Sean McDermott could take all that talent on Buffalo’s D and turn the unit into one of the best in the NFL. He might still do it. But, I’m questioning the wisdom of trading away both your starting cornerbacks from a year ago.
No matter for Week 1. Buffalo should dominate the New York Jets, a team with no real offense to speak of. One thing to note, the Jets defense could be one of the better units in the NFL. It’s got some young, really talented, players.
I still think the Bills win by at least 10.
Atlanta Falcons -7 at Chicago Bears +7
The Saints’ fan in me says that the Falcons are going to be one of the worst teams in the NFL. I hate those Dirty Birds. I can’t stand them. But, the NFL handicapper in me believes Atlanta is the best team in the NFC along with the Green Bay Packers.
Either way, this is a no-brainer pick for me. Atlanta should squash the Chicago Bears on Sunday. This shouldn’t be a contest by halftime. Chicago’s defense can’t stop Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Devonta Freeman. Chicago’s offense is going to run into an improved Falcons’ defense.
Atlanta -7 is a Best Pick.
Best Pick: Atlanta -7
Baltimore Ravens +3 at Cincinnati Bengals -3
This game could go either way. The key for me is how Cincinnati responds this season after such a terrible 2016. In 2016, the Bengals took a major step back after winning the AFC North in 2015. If Cincy doesn’t pay attention, Baltimore can smack them in the mouth before they know what hit them.
This is one of the toughest NFL Week 1 games to handicap. I’m laying off for sure. But, since I must make a pick, I’ll take the 3 points on the Ravens.
Pick: Baltimore +3
Pittsburgh Steelers -9 at Cleveland Browns +9
Pittsburgh’s a Best Pick, right? Not even close. Cleveland rookie QB DeShone Kizer can’t play any worse than any Browns’ quarterback from last season. More importantly, how is Pitt’s D going to stop RB Isaiah Crowell from rushing all over it?
The Steelers couldn’t stop Crowell with a brick wall in the second game between these 2 rivals last season. Crowell rushed for 152 yards. Cleveland should be improved across the board. I’ll grab the points.
Best Pick: Cleveland +9
Arizona Cardinals -1.5 at Detroit Lions +1.5
There are many professional football handicappers who believe the Lions should be at least 3 point dogs in this contest. Arizona, they contend, is overall the better team. I’m not sure that’s the case. My problem with Arizona is that their two best players on offense, WR Larry Fitzgerald and QB Carson Palmer, are their 2 oldest players on offense.
I believe the Lions build off their wildcard playoff appearance from last season. I like Detroit to win by 3 to 6 points.
Pick: Detroit money line
Jacksonville Jaguars +5.5 at Houston Texans -5.5
Oh, man, what a tough game to handicap, right? I mean, Jacksonville’s D should be exceptional this season. Jalen Ramsey, last season’s Round 1 draft pick, could turn into the best defensive back in the NFL in 2017.
But, Houston’s D might be the best in the NFl. This should be a low-scoring, tight, game with both teams averaging around 3 yards per rush. Leonard Fournette figures to have 25 carries for 65 yards in this one.
I’m taking the points because I’m not sure the Texans’ offense can score more than 10 to 17 points while the Jags should plop up with 10 to 13 or so.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers -2.5 at Miami Dolphins +2.5
Here’s another NFC South New Orleans’ rival that I think destroys their Week 1 opponent. I don’t have a problem with Miami’s Jay Cutler, I truly don’t. But I do have an issue with Jay Ajayi. Ajayi’s claim to fame happened in only 3 games last season. In the rest of the games outside of the 3 (2 were versus Buffalo, FYI) he stunk it up.
Tampa’s defense is pretty good. What’s really scary for Dolphin fans is dealing with Tampa’s offense. QB Jameis Winston is ready to become an elite signal-caller. RB Jacquizz Rodgers might be better in Tampa’s offense than Doug Martin. Martin is suspended for Tampa’s first 3 games.
WR Mike Evans is one of the best in the NFL. TE O.J. Howard, this year’s Round 1 pick, is one of the most talented tight-ends to enter the league in a long time. Forget it. Tampa easily covers the -2.5.
Best Pick:Tampa Bay -2.5
Oakland Raiders +2 at Tennessee Titans -2
The 2017 Tennessee Titans are built to win football games. They’ve got a soon to be elite quarterback that doesn’t have to throw the football because they can run it down any defense’s throat. Tennessee’s defense should be much improved from last season’s unit.
I have no issue with the Oakland Raiders, and also believe they’re a good team. I just don’t think they’re good enough to upset Tennessee on the road in Week 1. So I like the Titans to cover.
Pick: Tennessee -2
Philadelphia Eagles -1 at Washington Redskins +1
I have my issues with Washington. For starters, I’m still not understanding how D.C. couldn’t franchise QB Kirk Cousins. I also have no faith in Washington’s defense. On the plus side, WR Terrelle Pryor Sr. is a heck of a football player.
But, one WR, heck 2 terrific WRs counting DeSean Jackson, won’t lead to a straight up win over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles ranked 7th in the NFL in yards allowed via the pass per game last season. Washington doesn’t have much of a running attack.
Second-year QB Carson Wentz has plenty of talented wide receivers to throw to. The Eagles could pound you with LeGarrette Blount. Or, they could use one of their scatbacks, Wendell Smallwood or Darren Sproles.
Philly wins by at least a field goal.
Best Pick: Philadelphia -1
Indianapolis Colts -3 at L.A. Rams +3
Word is that Indy QB Andrew Luck won’t hit the gridiron for this game. Because the Colts’ offensive line still isn’t very good, I don’t blame management if they want to keep Luck on the bench. Heck, I would. Then, I’d get an offensive line to protect him.
The Rams’ offense could be the surprise offensive unit this season. L.A. is going to be mighty difficult to keep from scoring points now that coach Sean McVay has one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, Sammy Watkins, on the team.
Let’s not forget that Todd Gurley is a talented running back. I’m going with the Rams on the money line.
Best Pick: L.A. Rams money line
Seattle Seahawks +3 at Green Bay Packers -3
Green Bay could blow out the Seahawks in this battle. I don’t see a ton of improvement along Seattle’s offensive line. Also as important is the fact that Eddie Lacy hasn’t won the starting position from Thomas Rawls. What it means is that Rawls, who’s a decent RB but no Beast Mode, must carry the load on Sunday.
Seattle’s defense might have lost a step. In any case, QB Aaron Rodgers almost never fails at Lambeau Field. Green Bay wins and covers.
Pick: Green Bay -3
Carolina Panthers -5.5 at San Francisco 49’ers +5.5
Am I crazy for thinking the 49’ers have a shot at covering the spread? Let’s go over the reasons. First, Carolina wants Cam Newton to throw the football. That’s not a recipe for success. Second, San Francisco’s starting QB is Brian Hoyer, who’s much, much better than either Blaine Gabbert, or Colin Kaepernick.
Finally, the Panthers’ D might not be as good this season since the D-coordinator, Sean McDermott, is now the head coach in Buffalo. There. I’ve convinced myself. I’m taking the points.
Pick: San Franciso +5.5
New York Giants -3.5 at Dallas Cowboys +3.5
So, Ezekiel Elliott’s 6-game suspension was upheld by an arbitrator…but, he’s eligible to play on Sunday? That’s good news. I’ll tell you why. With Zeke in Dallas silver and blue, the Cowboys might go off as -4 favorites over the much better New York Giants.
I think the Giants beat the Boys by 6 to 10 points in this game. NYG’s defense might be the best unit in the NFL. It’s almost certainly the best defensive unit in the NFC. Eli’s got another weapon in tight-end Evan Engram. Giants’ RB Paul Perkins could break out.
I think NYG on the money line is a Best Pick.
Best Pick: New York Giants money line
New Orleans Saints +3.5 at Minnesota Vikings -3.5
The story of this game isn’t going to be Adrian Peterson versus Minnesota’s front 7. The story won’t be Drew Brees versus the Vikings secondary. I’m not joking when I write that the real story is going to be the Saints’ defense and how it shuts down Minnesota’s offense.
Yep. I just wrote that. The New Orleans Saints should have one of the surprise defensive units in the NFL this season. DT Sheldon Rankins is healthy. LB Manti Te’0, whom the Saints signed in free agency, is healthy.
Heck, even the secondary projects to be a good unit. CB Marshon Lattimore, FS Von Bell, and S Kenny Vaccaro are all terrific players. Watch how the Saints D, now that former Raiders head coach Dennis Allen calls the shots, puts a beat down on Sam Bradford and the Vikings offense on Monday.
Pick:New Orleans money line
L.A. Chargers +3.5 at Denver Broncos -3.5
The Carson Chargers, I mean, L.A. Chargers should find it difficult to score points versus Denver’s defense on Monday. Denver’s D should be just fine even though the Broncos cut T.J. Ward. You don’t cut a player like Ward unless you’ve got a Plan B.
John Elway always has a Plan B. I love that Trevor Siemian starts in Denver. Under adverse conditions, he played well last season. Denver could be a sneaky good football team. It starts by beating the Bolts straight up and against the spread.
Pick: Denver -3.5