NFL Week 1 Picks

Football is back and so are the weekly picks against the spread

I have seasonal depression. The fact that it’s getting cold at night and the temperatures are going to begin to fluctuate enough from day to day that I will have to actually check the weather to see what I should be wearing saddens me. I hate that summer is over. I hate it. But like every year at this time, I’m happy that football is back.

The first week of football is special and the anxiousness at 1:00 p.m. on the first Sunday of the season is indescribable. Keeping up with the games, parlays, teasers and fantasy teams all at once, while drinking and eating thousands of bad calories for nearly 11 straight hours 17 times a year is magical.

In order to avoid a down week from a financial standpoint I have come up with some personal gambling rules to prevent any emotional or illogical decisions this season.

1. Don’t Be Tricked by Week 1
Week 1 is my favorite week to pick and wager on because your decision making is based on your own knowledge and feel for how the season will play out. Week 2, on the other hand, is a reaction and a lot of times an overreaction to what happened in Week 1. (If I could, I would sit out Week 2. I guess I technically could sit out Week 2, but we all know that’s not going to happen.)

I spend the entire offseason coming up with an opinion on each team, and then Week 1 happens, and some of those opinions, and at times a lot of those opinions, are destroyed or proved wrong. Except they aren’t.

Don’t let the results of Week 1 influence your original opinions on teams for Week 2. The Week 2 lines are the most reactive lines of the season because there is only one game of information to go off of.

I need to set a calendar reminder to read this paragraph when I write the Week 2 picks blog.

2. Be Careful with Thursday Night Football
It’s not so much about Thursday Night Football in September and October as it is in November and December when baseball is over and the time between Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football feels like an eternity.

The Thursday Night Football game generally sucks. Generally might be too generous. It sucks nearly every single week. The Opening Night Thursday game doesn’t count and neither do the Thanksgiving games since those are unlike the other Thursday games. Thankfully, this season, the Thursday Night Football schedule has given us matchups that include at least one postseason-contending team each week (at least for now). I have bolded those teams.

Tampa Bay at Carolina
Tennessee at Jacksonville
Philadelphia at Green Bay
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle
New York Giants at New England
Kansas City at Denver
Washington at Minnesota
San Francisco at Arizona
Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland
Pittsburgh at Cleveland
Indianapolis at Houston
Dallas at Chicago
New York Jets at Baltimore

I didn’t want to bold Indianapolis or Houston, but I did because both teams were playoff teams last season and both teams could at least be in the conversation this season.

Even with the best potential Thursday Night Football slate we have ever received, it still doesn’t mean the games need to be bet on because there hasn’t been a game in 72 hours.

3. Beware of the Non-Bear Bs
It was always beware of all the Bs, but after the Bears’ 2018 season, they have removed themselves from the pack. Now watch the Bears regress like the post-2016 Giants and be the worst of all the Bs.

The Browns, Bengals, Buccaneers, Broncos and Bills are not your friend. Don’t get enticed by any high-point spread or any glowing money line.

It doesn’t matter that the Browns now have Odell Beckham to go along with Jarvis Landry. The Bengals’ quarterback is still Andy Dalton. Jameis Winston is still the starter in Tampa Bay even if Bruce Arians is the head coach. The Ravens decided to move on from Joe Flacco despite watching one of the single-worst quarterback performances of all time in the playoffs and now he’s the Broncos’ starter. The Bills … they’re the Bills.

4. Don’t Bet on the Giants
I have had some memorable runs with the Giants, especially their money lines over the years, but we are long past the point of where I have lost money overall on the Giants. Long past the point. If the point is Mischa Barton on The OC in 2003 then I’m Mischa Barton on The Hills in 2019.

I’m over thinking the Giants are good or are going to eventually be good midseason or are going to win each week. I’m over it. I need to accept the Giants aren’t going to be good in 2019 and need to realize no one really knows the next time they will be good. As a Giants fan, I need to expect the worst each week and not let inexplicable turnovers, undisciplined penalties and nonsensical in-game coaching decisions affect my life. I need to treat the Giants the way they have treated me in all but two years over the last 12 years: like I don’t care.

On top of this all, I need to somehow talk myself into thinking John Mara and David Gettleman have any idea what they’re doing and won’t further separate the Giants from contention. I need to talk myself into believing in Daniel Jones, the rest of Gettleman’s draft picks and the vision he has about building a team around a running back in a league which has drastically changed every rule to promote and help the passing game.

I won’t be betting on the Giants in 2019 because I’m suspending myself from betting on the Giants for all of 2019. (Unless, it’s in a teaser, of course.)

(Home team in caps)

CHICAGO -3 over Green Bay
In Week 1 on Sunday Night Football last season, I had my entire week connected to the Bears-Packers game. I had the Packers to cover (-7.5), I had the Packers’ money line as the final piece to a parlay and I had the Packers at 0.5 as the final piece of a teaser. When the Packers trailed 20-3 at the end of the third quarter, I figured all three bets were losses. Fortunately, the Packers came all the way back in the fourth quarter to win 24-23 and save two of the three bets.

I made those bets thinking the Bears were the same old Bears, and the result of that game showed me they were. But all of that happened before the Bears became the team that won the NFC North and should have won their wild-card game against the Eagles. I believe in the Bears this season. Or at least I believe in their defense. Give me the Bears at home in the first game of the season.

Tennessee +5 over CLEVELAND
Since the Giants can’t be expected to win the Super Bowl this season, my rooting interest has turned to rooting against the Browns. The last thing I want is for Odell Beckham to have any sort of success from a win-loss standpoint in Cleveland and what I really want is for the Browns to get off to a miserable start and have the offense divided in the locker room and on the field, so optimistic Browns fans can see the real Beckham at his best.

It’s unfortunate that it had to come to this. I enjoyed rooting for the Browns last season and was every bit as happy as real Browns fans when they beat the Jets in Baker Mayfield’s first game. But now I have to root for their demise. Though when you pair the history of the Browns with the issues Beckham brings, I won’t have to do much rooting. It will take care of itself.

Baltimore -6.5 over MIAMI
I’m sure Tua Tagovailoa is happy to see the Dolphins tanking as hard as possible for the first pick in the 2020 draft. Most first-overall picks end up in Cleveland or Oakland or some other cold-weather city with a crappy team no one wants to play on and a team that’s not going to be good for a while. But Miami? No one cares about getting drafted by the Dolphins and no one cares if the team is never going to be good when they’re living in South Florida and not paying state income tax.

MINNESOTA -4 over Atlanta
I was expecting this line to be higher, around 6. But when you collapse the way the Vikings did last season with Kirk Cousins, and when you’re as mediocre as the Falcons have been over the lastwo seasons, I guess 4 makes sense.

I don’t want to say how much money Kirk Cousins lost me last year. Actually, I can’t say because I have been too scared to add it all up. A year after riding the Vikings and Case Keenum to win after win after win, I tried to do the same for the 2019 Vikings and my bank account took more hits than Cousins, and no loss was worse than the Week 17 win-and-they’re-in game at home against the Bears, who had nothing to play for. But the same goes for the Falcons after I rode them to the Super Bowl a couple years ago only to frequently lose on them over the last two years.

I don’t want to pick Cousins to cover four points, but there’s no way I can pick the Falcons against a real opponent.

NEW YORK JETS -3 over Buffalo
I wouldn’t say I believe in the Jets from a “going to the playoffs” standpoint, but I believe in the Jets from a “going to win enough to crush their fans” standpoint. There’s nothing worse than the idea of having to watch the Giants play meaningless games starting in October while the Jets are in a playoff race, which is most likely going to happen. But the good news for Giants fans is that while the Jets are looking at a schedule that could lead to a midseason six-game winning streak, the final three weeks of their schedule present opponents which could ruin their season and postseason chances. That’s what I’m looking forward to.

PHILADELPHIA -10 over Washington
If the Giants are going to suck, they better suck enough to finish last in the division to set up the easiest possible 2020 schedule and also have the highest possible draft pick. In order to achieve these “goals”, they’re going to need the Redskins to not suck as much as them, and that’s going to be hard because the Redskins are going to suck.

CAROLINA +2.5 over Los Angeles Rams
It made me sick to watch Jared Goff’s Super Bowl performance and then think about the contract he has. That was the Rams’ chance at a championship with him as quarterback. They were handed a gift on the non-pass interference call in the NFC Championship Game to appear in the Super Bowl, and then once there, the Rams’ defense did everything it could to put Goff and the offense in a position to win, and he played as bad as a quarterback could ever play. Unfortunately, after being part of delivering another championship to Boston, I will have to root against the Rams, like I do the Falcons.

JACKSONVILLE +3.5 over Kansas City
I’m expecting big things out of Jacksonville this season, especially now that the team has an actual quarterback to believe in, a healthy and dominant running back and the league’s top defense. The Chiefs will be a contender once again and seem to be the most-predicted Super Bowl winner, but a game that would have been an easy win for them last season won’t be this season.

Indianapolis +6.5 over LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
I don’t think the Colts are a playoff team without Andrew Luck, but I don’t think they’re going to fall apart without him either. Jacoby Brissett has proven to be serviceable when he starts and behind that offensive line, being serviceable is more than enough. And for anyone who has watched the Chargers throw away easy covers over the last two seasons, it’s hard to trust them to cover a touchdown whether they’re playing against a team whose franchise quarterback retired two weeks before the season or not.

SEATTLE -9.5 over Cincinnati
Andy Dalton without A.J. Green at CenturyLink Field? We have everyone’s survivor pool pick and the game most used in a teaser of the week.

New York Giants +7.5 over DALLAS
Jerry Jones should be embarrassed for caving to Ezekiel Elliott. It’s not a surprise a deal got done and got done prior to Week 1. The Cowboys were never going to play a game without Elliott signed, and everyone wasted a lot of time covering, reporting on, reading about and watching training camp and the preseason as if there had ever been a real chance a deal wouldn’t get done. 

The Cowboys had a chance to show off their impressive offensive line against a weak Giants defensive line and have a non-Elliott running back go to town on the Giants’ defense and prove that Elliott’s success is a product of the Cowboys’ offensive line, and not that the Cowboys’ success is a product of Elliott’s abilities. This would have hurt Elliott’s leverage, and the Cowboys could have gone on without him, as he sat by and forfeited millions of dollars and destroyed his entire holdout plan. Instead, the Cowboys made Elliott the highest-paid running back in the line, gave him everything he wanted and did it just in time for him to return to face the Giants in Week 1.

Do I think the Giants will win? No. Do I think they can cover? Eh. As you read earlier, I’m not exactly an optimist when it comes to the Giants and I certainly don’t expect anything from them this season. If anything, I expect them to finish last in the league and have the No. 1 pick in the draft with Tagovailoa available, and have them draft Tagovailoa a year after using the third-overall pick on Daniel Jones, wasting the opportunity to build a complete core with Top 6 picks in three straight years. If the Giants are really becoming the pre-Baker Mayfield Browns, that would complete the transformation.

ARIZONA +2.5 over Detroit
If not for the debut of No. 1 pick Kyler Murray, what would be the appeal of this game to anyone who isn’t a Lions or Cardinals fan?

TAMPA BAY 0 over San Francisco
The cross-country flight and timezone change is no joke even if it comes in Week 1. If the teams are evenly matched on the field, the mismatch occurs on the sideline where Bruce Arians is levels above the man responsible for the Falcons’ second-half Super Bowl collapse in Kyle Shanahan.

NEW ENGLAND -5.5 over Pittsburgh
The Steelers have been frauds for a while now. Usually good enough to make the playoffs, but not good enough to do anything when they get there, let alone beat the Patriots once they’re there. Tom Brady has owned Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers in his career and after having seven months to think about and prepare for this game, this is about as confident as anyone can be in picking a game.

Houston +7 NEW ORLEANS
I’m done with Drew Brees. Done with him. Between his Week 13 127-yard performance against the Cowboys as a seven-point favorite and his interception in overtime in the NFC Championship Game, I’ve had enough.

In the past I would be scared off by the Superdome Saints, but not anymore. While I don’t love Houston this season since I don’t even like Houston this season, this pick is more about going against Brees and the Saints than it is thinking the Texans will be good enough to stay with the Superdome Saints in Week 1.

Denver 0 over OAKLAND
The last game of the week happens to also be the worst matchup of the week. Instead of this game getting lost in the shuffle, it will be everyone’e last attempt to make everything back from a poor week or really go for a big week with one final bang.

As a football fan, I will watch the beginning of this game in bed. As someone who doesn’t want to be tired the following morning because I stayed up watching and wasting my time with this game, I will find out if the Broncos covered on Tuesday morning.