2017 NFL Week 1 Bettor’s Guide
Week 1 is upon us and the season is underway. A few points of order with this season’s bettor’s guides:
As previously stated earlier this week, will be doing the Thursday games separate from the remaining Bettor’s Guide, as Friday practices (Saturday for Monday night teams) affect lineups and obviously the action thereafter.
KC +8 (Hit), KC ML (Hit).
Atlanta Falcons vs. Chicago Bears
My Call: ATL -7
Over/Under: Over 48.5
We don’t really know what the Bears are entering this season. They released Jay Cutler, then signed Mike Glennon to a galling contract in the offseason, before needlessly sacrificing a draft pick in order to move up to draft Mitch Trubisky, who looked every bit as good as Glennon (and, at some points, better; albeit versus second-stringers and final cuts in some instances) in the preseason.
Nevertheless, we know what the Falcons are. Their offense might not be as electric as it was last year with a new coordinator and surely a slightly different approach with the departure of Kyle Shanahan to take the San Francisco head coaching position, but their defense should be even better with the additions of Dontari Poe at nose/defensive tackle and Takk McKinley via the draft. There should be a bit more balance with this squad, as the offense carried the team until the defense began to gel late in the season. You would be a trivia genius if you could name all 11 Bears starters on defense without looking them up.
Most importantly, the Falcons know who they are, and will gameplan and execute accordingly.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington Redskins
My Call: PHI -1
Over/Under: Over 48
These two tend to play some wild games in recent years, regardless of the locale. Both teams have had drastic overhauls on both sides of the ball. It’s a tough call for that reason. Both teams return their starting quarterbacks from last season, but that is basically where the continuity ends. The Eagles’ secondary is virtually made over; moving on from Brandon Boykin, and trading WR Jordan Matthews to acquire CB Ronald Darby from Buffalo. LB Mychal Kendricks wants out of town, but the Eagles linebackers are solid. We don’t really know what to make of their defensive line — which, on paper, looks stout — with top dog Fletcher Cox, Florida State legend Timmy Jernigan, who was acquired from Baltimore, and Brandon Graham. The Eagles’ WR corps is a major question mark, as is their running game.
The Redskins defense is shaky. They are going to miss Trent Murphy during his suspension. They will also interior anchor Chris Baker, who commanded two blocks for most of the season in 2016, allowing Ryan Kerrigan and Murphy to run free in run support and to get after the passer. Their secondary is not good. DeAngelo Hall is on his last legs. Bashaud Breeland got exposed throughout last year. Josh Norman’s play did not match his bluster at any point in 2016. Offensively, while the team acquired Terrelle Pryor in free agency, they moved on from Pierre Garçon and, at least this week, Jamison Crowder’s availability is in question. They will finally have Josh Doctson healthy, however. It is anyone’s guess how many games Jordan Reed will be healthy for in 2017, but as for now, he will be ready for Week 1.
Washington’s run game is a major question mark. Rob Kelley looked decent in 2016, but even his production tailed off toward the end of the season. They moved on from Matt Jones, who is now a Colt.
This team has more questions than answers. But again, these two teams play wild, high scoring and close games every time they square off; hence the lines. It is a virtual pick ’em.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns
My Call: CLE -9.5
Over/Under: Over 47
The Browns tend to play the Steelers competitively; whether it be an entire game or at least for a half. It is shaky to propose the Steelers winning by 10 or more, particularly with the addition of Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator for the Browns, and the addition-by-subtraction by cutting the already-washed-up Joe Haden. The Browns defense looks like a solid unit. The real questions are about their offense. At best, it is a project and a work in progress. But they have a good amount of talent at the “skill” positions.
The Steelers had trouble on the road last season. They do get Martavis Bryant back for this season, but he missed all of 2016 with a suspension and it is difficult to think that he will pick right up where he left off in 2015. Le’Veon Bell is effectively playing himself into football shape in this game. The Steelers SHOULD win, but do not be the least bit surprised if the Browns, at the very least, cover.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Paul Brown Stadium
My Call: BAL +3
Over/Under: Under 42.5
We don’t know what to make of the Ravens offense as of right now. We did not see Joe Flacco in the preseason. Will the Ravens have a pass rush? Will they have enough in the secondary? We think so, but it’s hard to pin your hopes for wagering purposes until you’ve seen a live game. That’s the crap shoot that is Week 1 in the NFL season nowadays.
The Bengals should be relatively healthy, and Joe Mixon figures to eventually make Jeremy Hill expendable before long. Slight questions in the secondary, but the Ravens don’t appear to have much in the way of a running game. You just never know. Should be close, though. Tough call to pick the Ravens to cover and lose a close game, but it should turn out about that way.
Arizona Cardinals vs. Detroit Lions
My Call: DET +2
Over/Under: Over 48
We’ll take the Lions only because Ameer Abdullah should — SHOULD — at least be healthy for Week 1’s game, right? Beyond that, who knows?
New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills
New Era Field
Orchard Park, New York
My Call: NYJ +8
Over/Under: Under 40
NY Jets 16
Oakland Raiders vs. Tennessee Titans
My Call: TEN -1.5
Over/Under: Under 50.5
The Titans played the Raiders tough last season. In fact, some would argue that they blew the game. The Titans are favorites (with us, at least) to win the AFC South. As they should be. Don’t know why so many people think anyone but the Raiders or Chiefs win the AFC West, but we’ve seen picks for the Chargers and Broncos at times. Odd.
As for this game. It should be more of the same from last year’s meeting. Maybe not 17-10, but something along those lines in terms of separation on the scoreboard.
We’re actually going to take the Titans money line here.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Houston Texans
My Call: JAX +6
Over/Under: Under 39.5
First of all, we send out prayers TO GOD — FOR (not “to”) — those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Some fans are looking for some semblance of normalcy, and sports can be a great unifier and a means to take minds off the catastrophe at hand.
Not that this ugly game — and these two teams really play some stinkers — will exactly suffice, but anything to return to some normalcy is good enough.
Both teams have such immense talent on both sides of the ball and are held back by QB play. Unless Tom Savage gets a quick hook in this game in favor of Deshaun Watson, that will hold true.
Hide your eyes.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Los Angeles, California
My Call: LAR -5
Over/Under: Under 39.5
Scott Tolzien at QB? No Vontae Davis on an already-bad defense?
If the Rams can’t win this game, they won’t win more than 5 or 6 all season.
And even if they do, they will do so in epic-struggle fashion.
LA Rams 20
Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers
Green Bay, Wisconsin
AMERICA’S GAME OF THE WEEK
My Call: SEA +3
Over/Under: Over 51
Last season is over. Zero correlation between the 2016 tilt between these two and this game. The Seahawks are healthy across the board except at left tackle. They possess arguably the best defense in the NFL, though a couple of teams could make equal cases. The offense should be fine regardless of the injury to George Fant at the aforementioned left tackle spot. Rees Odhiambo will occupy that spot.
Green Bay is stocked offensively, and will present a few issues for Seattle at times. It will be tough sledding for Ty Montgomery & Co. on the ground, and there will be plays available in the passing game for sure.
But Green Bay’s defense still leaves a lot to be desired.
Green Bay 23
Carolina Panthers vs. San Francisco 49ers
Santa Clara, California
My Call: CAR -6
Over/Under: Under 47.5
The Panthers should win, but it will not be easy. We need to see more from the Niners’ offense before we can get a good idea of who they truly are.
San Francisco 17
New York Football Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys
***SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
My Call: NYG +4
Over/Under: Over 47.5
Some (Vegas) appear to be concerned about Odell Beckham’s availability for this game, but he is almost certainly playing. To what level of fluidity? That remains to be seen.
The Giants boast one of — if not arguably the best — defense in the NFL. The offense, with the addition of Brandon Marshall, who possesses the outside size the Giants desperately lacked in 2016, allowing Sterling Shepard to operate in the slot, and the freedom for Beckham to also alternate at every WR position, opens up more options for the Giants’ passing attack. The team also upgraded at tight end, which was a position of great lack, to one of great depth in 2017. Blocking TE Rhett Ellison will help with the run game, Evan Engram provides a downfield threat, and proved that he can effectively block when called upon. Additionally, holdovers Jerrell Adams and Matt LaCosse provide quality depth.
The Giants’ run game was a concern in 2016, but should be better simply with the release of Rashad Jennings alone. The offensive line itself isn’t bad (or great) at run blocking, but help on the edges will augment that aspect of the game with Paul Perkins & Co. in the backfield. The Giants have not had a reliable fullback in ages, and Shane Smith paid dividends in preseason. This will also help the run game, as well.
Pass protection is a concern to a degree, but the line now has depth should any of the starters show that they are unable to hack it. Half of Dallas’ defense is injured or suspended (and another who received a DUI should be, but isn’t, as well). This isn’t exactly the best game to gauge the progress of the Giants’ offensive line.
Dallas lost Doug Free to retirement after last season, and placed La’el Collins at right tackle to fill that need. Chaz Green at left guard is a liability. Dallas loves to boast about their offensive line, but it is not cohesive yet. Green has either been nicked up and, when he’s played, looked horrible. The Giants’ front isn’t the one to sort out one’s shortcomings. Soon-to-be suspended Ezekiel Elliott will have trouble finding rush lanes. We will see what Dak Prescott is truly made of Sunday night, as he gets a chance to prove that he wasn’t just a product of the offensive line’s protection, Elliott’s abilities in and outside of the backfield, and a solid, if not unspectacular defense that notched high grades in analytics, but isn’t particularly talented at all. Even less so in the secondary, and, especially for this game, their defensive line in Week 1.
NY Giants 31
New Orleans Saints vs. Minnesota Vikings
U.S. Bank Stadium
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
My Call: MIN -3
Over/Under: Over 48
Forget all the Adrian Peterson storylines. That is for the media to build up an audience for the game. As it is, it does the Saints no good to have Mark Ingram, Peterson, and Alvin Kamara to run the football if Drew Brees ends up still managing to pass the ball 40 times every week. The Saints’ main problem for years wasn’t always a lack of talent defensively; it was that they were on the field for long stretches or for more time per game than the offense. The Saints are marginally better defensively, but Florida State legend Dalvin Cook will give the Saints problems — even behind a poor offensive line — as he is also a superb pass receiver out of the backfield. The Vikes have plenty of weapons on the outside to counter what the Saints do.
And we know how the Saints play when they’re on the road.
And against a great defense?
New Orleans 23
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Denver Broncos
Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
My Call: LAC +3
Over/Under: Over 43
Not the most attractive game ever, but it should be good. For what it’s worth, the Bolts weren’t terrible in 2016. They lost a ton of games in the closing moments in almost comical fashion in a few instances. They were ravaged by injuries across the board, as well. Other than Denzel Perryman on defense, they are relatively healthy. They also have Joey Bosa, who had a full camp this year, who was unstoppable for long stretches last season.
Denver has to show and prove that they can run the ball against a very good defense, and that Trevor Siemian has actually made progress after a decidedly average season in 2016.
LA Chargers 31