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DraftKings is offering up a new free-to-enter pool for the start of the 2022-23 season. It runs for the first 17 weeks of the season, and users are allowed to pick their five favorite spreads each week. You’re also allowed one self-appointed bye week, meaning each player will pick 80 games by the end of Week 17. The players who do the best will have a chance to take home part of a $100,000 prize pool, plus millions in bonus prizes.
Let’s take a look at my five favorite picks for NFL Week 1.
The Pick: Saints -5.5
The Saints and Falcons open up with a divisional matchup, but both teams have wildly different expectations heading into the year. The Saints are hopeful to compete for a playoff spot. They have Jameis Winston back at quarterback, and they went 5-2 with him under center in 2021-22. They’ll also likely have Michael Thomas available after missing all of the previous year, while the defense is very good. They ranked third in Football Outsiders' defensive DVOA, and they were top-four against the run and the pass.
On the other side, the Falcons might have the worst roster in football. Matt Ryan is gone, and Marcus Mariota will take over at quarterback. The last time we saw Mariota as a full-time starter, he put together a 2-4 record before losing his job to Ryan Tannehill.
The defense is also expected to be terrible, and first-round pick Drake London isn’t even a lock to play. Kyle Pitts is legitimately the only player on the entire roster to be excited about. I think this game could get ugly.
The Pick: Steelers +6.5
The Steelers will travel to Cincinnati in Week 1, and the Bengals have generated plenty of hype heading into the year. They nearly won the Super Bowl last season, and Joe Burrow is a trendy MVP pick in his third NFL season.
However, it’s important to remember that things weren’t all sunshine and rainbows for the Bengals last year. Joe Burrow was sacked nine times in the Divisional Round, and their season would’ve ended there if not for a horrendous performance from the Titans’ offense.
The Steelers do have a major question mark at quarterback, with Mitch Trubisky stepping in for the newly retired Ben Roethlisberger. Trubisky’s track record as a starter is not good, but he can’t be any worse than Roethlisberger was last year. He struggled to throw the ball more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, which severely hampered their offense. Ultimately, I think Trubisky has the potential to be a sizable upgrade, even if he’s the same player he was in Chicago.
Additionally, Mike Tomlin has historically been one of the best ATS coaches in football. He thrives in this situation in particular, posting a record of 45-23-2 as a divisional underdog. I love their chances of covering this spread.
The Pick: Browns +2.5
This might be my favorite game of the week. I have no idea what the Panthers have done to deserve to be favored in this spot.
Yes, Baker Mayfield will get a shot at “revenge” against his former team, but I’m not sure he even deserves to be a starting quarterback at this point. Pro Football Focus graded him 30th out of 37 qualifiers at the quarterback position last season, and that was playing behind arguably the top offensive line in the league.
Jacoby Brissett isn’t a world-beater, but he’s proven to be a capable game manager in the past. He can rely on one of the best rushing attacks in football against a team that was middle-of-the-pack in terms of run defense last year.
Finally, the Browns’ defense has the potential to be one of the best in the NFL. They have legit playmakers at every level, including two ferocious pass-rushers in Myles Garrett and Jadaveon Clowney. They should make life very difficult for Mayfield and company.
The Pick: Giants +5.5
A lot of really sharp people have the Giants pegged as a candidate for major improvement this season. It starts with the coaching staff. Joe Judge has been replaced by Brian Daboll, who previously served as the Bills' offensive coordinator. He’s at least partially responsible for evolving Josh Allen and turning that Buffalo offense into an absolute monster.
He’ll be tasked with doing the same thing for the Giants. Daniel Jones may not be the same caliber of player as Allen, but he does have a few things working for him. Namely, he’s an excellent athlete with top-end speed when he gets into the open field.
He also has a host of intriguing playmakers to lean on. Kadarius Toney was electric as a rookie, and Wan’Dale Robinson is cut from the same cloth. Both players should be able to create mismatch nightmares against opposing defenses, while a healthy Saquon Barkley is looking for a bounce-back year.
The Giants are also getting tons of sharp support at the moment. They’ve received just 47% of the spread bets, but they’ve accounted for 83% of the betting handle.
The Pick: Chiefs -3.5
This is a pure number play. The Chiefs initially opened as three-point favorites, and bettors have been absolutely teeing off on this line. The Chiefs have ballooned to -6.0 on DraftKings Sportsbook as a result, but we can still grab them at -3.5 in this pool.
The Chiefs have more questions than they have in a while thanks to the departure of Tyreek Hill. However, they still have arguably the best quarterback in football in Patrick Mahomes, and Andy Reid is still an offensive genius. They should be just fine with Travis Kelce and JuJu Smith-Schuster as their top two pass-catchers.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ offense is in rough shape. DeAndre Hopkins remains out with a suspension, and Rondale Moore has also been ruled out. Even Zach Ertz is questionable, so this team could be down three of their top pass-catchers. A healthy Kyler Murray is still extremely dangerous, but he’s going to have to make a ton of magic happen to keep up with the Chiefs.
Bottom line: it’s hard to pass up 2.5 points of spread value with one of the best teams in the league.
Year-to-Date Results: 0-0
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