8:15 PM EST
Betting Line Provider: BetOnline
Seahawks +7 over Broncos
The Broncos were crowned as one of the AFC favorites after trading for Russell Wilson in the offseason but I think that kind of talk is too premature. I do think the Broncos will end up being a solid team once Wilson gets acclimated in his new offense, but this is WAY too many points for them to be laying on the road in this spot to start the season.
The Seahawks were expected to be one of the worst teams in the league after losing Wilson and that was further reinforced during a horrific preseason. They went 0-3 and had an especially putrid loss against the Bears in a game where Seattle played their starters for a half and they were destroyed by the Bears backups. I had this game circled since the schedule was released and even my stomach turned a little after watching that pathetic display.
That said, I do not think the Seahawks are as terrible of a team as many think and this is a perfect spot to back an extremely undervalued home underdog, even as unappealing as it may seem. Lumen Field, formerly Century Link Field, is one of the toughest stadiums to play in the entire NFL. The fan base is always rabid for Prime Time games and they are rightfully nicknamed the 12th man — Seattle has the single biggest home field advantage in the league in my book. Speaking of Prime Time games, Pete Carrol has an elite track record of rallying his players for these big games under the lights — 33-10 (76%) ATS in his career as a head coach in PrimeTime games. Yes, the vast majority of those games were with Wilson at the helm, but he is actually a perfect 4-0 ATS without Wilson as well.
A major reason why the market is so sour on the Seahawks is because they have arguably the worst starting QB outside of Cleveland and I would not argue that. However despite Geno Smith’s flaws, one thing he does well is protect the football. Let’s not forget that Smith started three games last season and he went a perfect 3-0 ATS while playing cleanly, throwing for four TD’s and committing zero turnovers. He is surrounded with playmakers in arguably the best WR duo in the league to throw to in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, plus newly acquired tight end Noah Fant. He also has an underrated backfield in Rashad Penny, Travis Homer, and DeeJay Dallas, three very talented backs who can pick up chunk yardage on the ground or through the air.
The Broncos had to give up a lot of capital to make the Wilson trade which hurt their depth, and it’s not like they were an especially good team last year anyway. The idea that Russell Wilson is going to come into town and just pummel his old team without playing any live preseason snaps with his new offense is wishful thinking to this bettor. The Denver defense is also going to be shorthanded with stud run stopper Josey Jewell sidelined for this game which is a very under the radar injury. Without Jewell stuffing the run, the Hawks will be able to run the ball with success which is going to allow them to rack up possession time and more importantly keep the ball out of Wilson’s hands.
Even if he had live game snaps in this new offense (which he doesn’t), I would still like Seattle in this spot. The emotion of this game in returning to his old stomping grounds cannot be understated for Wilson. We have seen it time and time again where an all-time great returns to his former team and underperforms. Look no further than the best to ever do it, Tom Brady, in his return to the Patriots last season. Those who were clients last year will remember that game well, our one and only ‘NFL Pick of The Year’ backing the Patriots catching seven. Brady came out totally flat and struggled all game, trailing at halftime and doing just enough in the second half to win the game, never sniffing a point spread cover. I expect the same sort of emotion and struggle out of Wilson in this game, especially early on.
I look for a slow start for Wilson and the Broncos playing their first live game snaps together against an amped-up Seattle defense in what is going to be an emotional and raucous environment. Similar to Brady’s return to the Pats last year, I like for Seattle to ride the emotion to a lead at halftime, and for this game to go down to the wire— a scenario where we will cash our bet either way. Take the Seahawks.
1:00 PM EST
Betting Line Provider: Fanduel
Texans +7.5 over Colts
The preseason is generally meaningless once the regular season begins, but I could help but downgrade the Colts in my power ratings based on their dismal showing in the preseason. The Colts have historically been slow starters during Frank Reich’s tenure — 0-4 SU & ATS in Week 1 during his time with the Colts — so he made a concerted effort to play the starters more in the preseason this year to have them prepared to come out of the gate in better form. To say that it didn’t go as planned is an understatement.
The aging Matt Ryan looked every bit of 37 years old in his Colts preseason debut and wasn’t able to find any chemistry with his mediocre at best receiving corps. Their reshuffled offensive line struggled to pass-protect and run block, and the defense was shaky. The new look Colts offense will take time to gel — they are certainly not an offense that I expect to come out of the gates gun-blazing to begin the season in Week 1.
The Colts did blow the Texans out in both meetings last year — shutting them out 31-0 in the first game then winning the second by a virtually identical score 31-3. That said, that was then, this is now. The Texans were especially putrid last season but there is a lot of reason for optimism this year. They have a returning coach in Lovie Smith who took over as the interim coach last season after David Culley was fired. They have a returning QB in Davis Mills who is a better QB than he gets credit for. Rookie running back Dameon Pierce was impressive in the preseason and has a favorable matchup against the Colts who will be without their best run stuffer in Darius ‘Shaq’ Leonard. The Texans showed promise at the end of last season as well, beating the Chargers and Titans, and nearly knocking the Titans off for a second time to close out the year.
It has been harped on ad nauseam at this point, but I’d be remiss not to mention that divisional underdogs in Week 1 are a total ‘bet-on’ profitable subset — 28-9-1 (76%) ATS in Week 1 since 2015. Not quite as strong, but still a trend worth mentioning is Week 1 dogs of 6.5 points or more, another profitable subset that has gone 43-27 (61%) since 2015.
Everyone remembers watching the Texans struggle to score on a backup defense during the Amazon Prime game during the preseason, but they were missing most of their key offensive weapons in that game so I don’t take anything away from that. The Texans are being power rated in this game like they are among the worst teams in the NFL, but I don’t agree with that. They’re not a good team, by any means, but I don’t believe that they are among the worst. Let’s also not forget that Houston’s only win in the first half of the season came as underdogs in Week 1 — a game they won by 16 points.
I’m not suggesting that the Texans are going to be a good team this year or that they will win this game straight up, but neither have to be true for us to cash this bet. Given the Colts preseason shortcomings and propensity to start the season slow, there is no doubt in this bettor’s mind that the Colts are an overpriced favorite in this spot. I look for this game to be much closer than most anticipate and expect the Texans to do enough to hang around for four quarters. Take the Texans.
1:00 PM EST
Betting Line Provider: BetOnline
Steelers +7 -125 over Bengals
In my pro-Rams writeup, I touched on the Super Bowl hangover being a farce in Week 1 for the Super Bowl winner, however it is very much a real thing for the Super Bowl loser. Dating back to the opening of the 1998 season, the Super Bowl loser has gone 9-14 SU and 6-17 ATS in Week 1. I never base my handicap on trends alone but that is a STRONG under-the-radar subset that is hard to ignore.
The Bengals are a team who I will be looking to bet on the road this season but fade at home, especially when they are laying inflated points like they are in this instance. The Bengals were the best road team in the NFL last season, an elite 9-2 (81.2%) ATS, but they were among one of the worst home favorites. In nine regular season home game’s last year, Cincinnati won exactly two by over a field goal — certainly not a team I am running to the window to lay points with in Week 1.
That is especially true this year after Joe Burrow missed extended time after an emergency appendectomy — an operation which led to him losing 20 pounds. Burrow, for as great as he has been in his young career, has never had a full offseason to prepare as a professional QB. He was a rookie in 2020 and was recovering from a torn ACL ahead of last year’s campaign. Last year he had to play his way into form as the season progressed and I look for more of the same this year. I do not expect him to be in midseason form in this game after sitting out virtually the entire preseason — far from it.
Mike Tomlin is excellent in the underdog role, 45-24 ATS in his career, and he is an outstanding Week 1 coach as well. Let’s not forget the Steelers won outright as a touchdown road underdog against the Bills to open last season and won and covered as road chalk in their season opener against the Jets in 2020. Tomlin has won six straight Week 1 openers despite playing on the road in Week 1 every year. The Steelers also fit into the same profitable subsets that the Texans fall into, both as divisional home dogs in Week 1 and underdogs of 6.5 or more points.
I am a believer in Mitch Trubisky who had a strong preseason where he showed real chemistry with his bevy of talented offensive weapons. The Steelers offensive line is not good, but Trubisky’s athleticism and ability to extend the play with his legs will be a big factor in this game and provide a wrinkle to the Pittsburgh offense that they haven’t had in over a decade with the immobile and decrepit Ben Roethlisberger. Before last season the Steelers have beaten the Bengals in 23 of the last 28 meetings, but the Bengals smacked them twice last season which will just be extra motivation for this Week 1 affair. This is way too many points for an opening week divisional game between two comparable teams and don’t be shocked in the least if the Steelers make it a seventh straight opening season win. Live dog! Take the Steelers.