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There is a free 10K Sportsbook Pool for NFL Week 1. You have to pick each of the 14 games on Sunday against the spread, and the higher you finish on the leaderboard, the more money you earn.
Let’s take a look at all 14 contests slated for Sunday, including my five personal favorites.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Atlanta Falcons (-3.5)
The Pick: Eagles +3.5
This matchup features a battle of old school vs. new school at the quarterback position. Matt Ryan is in his 14th season as the Falcons’ starting quarterback, while Jalen Hurts will make just his fifth career start. Ryan is the prototypical pocket passer, while Hurts brings elite athleticism to the quarterback position. Hurts averaged just under 80 rushing yards per game in three full starts last season, and it’s not easy to prepare for that kind of weapon at quarterback.
Hurts’ arm is a bit more questionable than his legs, but he had no problems shredding opposing defenses in college. He cracked the Alabama starting lineup as a true freshman, which is easier said than done, and he ranks in at least the 94th percentile for college QBR and yards per attempt.
The Falcons were one of the worst defensive teams in football last year, and they don’t figure to be much better this year. Hurts should be able to have a field day against this unit, and I’m not sure if Ryan and the Falcons can keep up. Ryan is coming off a subpar season by his standards – he ranked 18th out of 36 qualified quarterbacks in adjusted net yards per attempt – and now he’ll have to survive without Julio Jones. I’ll take the points with the Eagles.
New York Jets @ Carolina Panthers (-4.5)
The Pick: Jets +4.5
The Jets have long been the laughingstock of the NFL, but things feel different with the team this season. They have a new coach, a new quarterback, and a competent GM, so perhaps things are finally changing for Gang Green.
The buzz with Zach Wilson is tangible. He had an impressive training camp and followed that up with a brilliant performance in his regular-season tune-up vs. the Packers. He led the team to scores on all three of his possessions, and he racked up 128 passing yards with two touchdowns.
Wilson is replacing the disappointing Sam Darnold, who will be looking for a fresh start with the Panthers. Some people believe he can have a Ryan Tannehill-like emergence in a new system, but I am not one of those people. He definitely has better weapons at his disposal with the Panthers than he had at any point with the Jets, but I don’t think it matters. Darnold owns a career record of just 14-23-1 against the spread as a starter, including a mark of 2-6 ATS as a favorite. I’m happy to fade him vs. his former squad.
The Pick: Broncos -2.5
The Broncos have a roster that is ready to win now, with the possible exception being at the quarterback position. That’s a huge exception – you can’t win in today’s NFL without a quality QB – but I think they made a nice upgrade with Teddy Bridgewater. He’s been one of the more underrated passers in football for years, particularly when it comes to covering the spread. He owns a ridiculous 35-14 ATS record as a starting quarterback, making him the fifth-most profitable passer since 2004. Only Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning have made more money for bettors over that time frame, which is elite company.
On the other side, the Giants are coming into the contest at far less than full strength. Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and Saquon Barkley have all missed large chunks of the offseason, and Barkley’s status is still up in the air for this matchup. Even if he does play, he will almost certainly be limited. Evan Engram has also been ruled out for this matchup, giving Daniel Jones one less weapon in the passing game.
That could be a problem against a Broncos defense with plenty of talent. They boast one of the best pass rushes in the game, and they didn’t even have Von Miller last year. I think they roll vs. the Giants.
Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots (-2.5)
The Pick: Dolphins +2.5
This is one of the more intriguing Week 1 matchups. Both of these teams have playoff aspirations, but they’ve been constructed in different ways. The Dolphins went for the traditional rebuild, tearing things down and building back up through the draft, while the Patriots went for the quick fix this offseason. They spent a record amount in free agency, and they’ll hand the keys of the offense to rookie quarterback Mac Jones.
I’m more bullish on the Dolphins’ approach than the Patriots’. Spending big in free agency doesn’t necessarily lead to wins and often saddles you with bad contracts. It’s the exact opposite approach that the Patriots used to take when they would allow other teams to overpay their departing players and scoop the compensatory draft picks. The Patriots should be better this season, but it might not be by as much as people are anticipating.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins have quietly assembled a fantastic roster. Their defense was excellent against the pass last year, and they’ve given Tua Tagovailoa significantly more weapons to lean on in his second season. The Dolphins won’t have Will Fuller for this matchup – he’s serving the final game of a suspension – but rookie Jaylen Waddle gives him a true burner at wide receiver. I also think Brian Flores is one of the best young coaches in the league, and he owns a record of 20-12 against the spread through his first two seasons.
Overall, the Dolphins’ trajectory is pointing up, and I want to buy in early.
Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5)
The Pick: Chiefs -6.5
This one is a pretty simple formula for me: Patrick Mahomes + Andy Reid + time = victory. Reid is one of the best coaches in football, and he is known for his ability to draw up creative game plans when given extra time to prepare. He’s 10-6 against the spread in Week 1 since 2006, including a perfect 3-0 with Mahomes at quarterback.
The Chiefs also have the potential to be even better offensively this season. They invested heavily in their offensive line during the offseason, which was really their only weakness on that side of the ball. It’s scary to think about what Mahomes can do with additional time to dissect opposing defenses.
The Browns are no pushovers, but I don’t think they can hang with this juggernaut.
Here’s who I’m targeting for the rest of the Sunday games. Remember, we’re looking to beat the competition and climb up the leaderboard, so I’ll be looking to gain leverage on the field and fade the public in situations where I don’t see a huge edge on the spread.
San Francisco 49ers (-7.5) @ Detroit Lions
Pick: 49ers -7.5
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Buffalo Bills (-6.5)
Pick: Steelers +6.5
Arizona Cardinals @ Tennessee Titans (-3.5)
Pick: Cardinals +3.5
Seattle Seahawks (-1.5) @ Indianapolis Colts
Pick: Colts +1.5
Minnesota Vikings (-3.5) @ Cincinnati Bengals
Pick: Bengals +3.5
Pick: Football Team +1.5
Jacksonville Jaguars (-3.5) @ Houston Texans
Pick: Jaguars -3.5
Green Bay Packers (-3.5) @ New Orleans Saints
Pick: Packers -3.5
Chicago Bears @ Los Angeles Rams (-7.5)
Pick: Rams -7.5
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