The long wait is over. The NFL is officially back! We have an extra week of regular season games to enjoy, which only adds further excitement. As far as Week 1 goes, there are several matchups that present enticing wagering opportunities. If you want to take a chance on a few underdogs, here are three that could prove to be profitable.
Las Vegas Raiders vs. Baltimore Ravens: Raiders +3.5
The Raiders didn’t have much of a home-field advantage in Las Vegas last season, posting just a 2-6 record. They still managed to finish 8-8, though, thanks to a stellar 6-2 mark on the road. The Ravens were also excellent on the road with a 6-2 record last year, so taking the points here might not jump off the page as an appealing wager.
The reason why taking the points here could turn out to be a wise move is because the Ravens might be a little shell-shocked heading into this matchup. Already down J.K. Dobbins (knee) for the season, Gus Edwards suffered a torn ACL in Thursday’s practice. The Ravens have added Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman to their practice squad and have reportedly agreed to a deal with Latavius Murray, but none of them might be ready to take on a significant role in Week 1. That leaves them extremely thin at running back. To make matters even worse, cornerback Marcus Peters also tore his ACL in Thursday’s practice.
Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons: Eagles +3.5
It’s a new era in Philadelphia with Carson Wentz having been dealt to the Colts. Jalen Hurts takes over at quarterback and provides a unique dimension with his legs. He only played three full games last season, but he rushed 38 times for 238 yards and a touchdown during that stretch. His pass-catching options are also more dangerous this season with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert healthy and DeVonta Smith having been selected in the first round of the draft. Their offensive line, which was decimated by injuries last year, also looks to be in better shape heading into Week 1.
The Falcons started a new era of their own when they dealt Julio Jones to the Titans this offseason. They have some familiar faces in Matt Ryan and Calvin Ridley poised to lead their offense, and they also added tight end Kyle Pitts and running back Mike Davis. The concern with taking the Eagles here is that they were 1-7 on the road last season. With that being said, the Falcons were only 2-6 at home, so they weren’t exactly world beaters there. With a full offseason as the starter under his belt and a healthy roster around him, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Hurts lead the Eagles to a win here, let alone cover.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Minnesota Vikings: Bengals +3
The Bengals have the makings of an explosive offense. They are loaded at wide receiver, adding Ja’Marr Chase to holdovers Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins. They also have Joe Mixon at running back, who can be a difference-maker when he’s healthy. A key area of need for them has been their offensive line. They somewhat addressed that by signing tackle Riley Reiff and drafting guard Jackson Carman in the second round.
A hot topic leading up to Week 1 has been the vaccination status of the Vikings, who have one of the lowest rates in the league. They already had an instance during training camp in which most of their quarterbacks went on the COVID-19 list because they weren’t vaccinated and were considered to be a close contact of someone who tested positive. Keep that in mind when considering placing wagers on them because their active list could change significantly at a moment’s notice. With regards to this matchup, the reason to possibly take a chance on the Bengals with the points is the return of Joe Burrow from his torn ACL. In his first nine games as a starter, the Bengals either won, tied or lost by three points or fewer five times. The other four games came against tough opponents in the Browns, Ravens, Colts and Steelers.
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