The best bets for NFL Week 1:
Minnesota Vikings (-2) @ Tennessee Titans
Minnesota’s season came to a heartbreaking end, a missed chip-shot FG, in last year’s playoffs. The team had Super Bowl aspirations coming into training camp this year but that was seemingly derailed by a freak injury in training camp to Teddy Bridgewater. I am not so sure of that.
The Vikings were carried on offense by Adrian Peterson in 2015, not their NFL second-worst pass offense. Sam Bradford was brought in for a 1st and 4th round pick just days after Bridgewater was ruled out for the season, indicating the Vikings are not ready to give up on this season. Bradford may not have the mobility of Bridgewater, but he can be a decent game manager. His defense, fifth-best in the league by PPG allowed (18.9), will keep the team in every game.
Add to this that the Vikings are 7-0 ATS in their last 7 road games, and this spells a 1-0 start for Minnesota against the bottom-feeding Titans.
The pick: Vikings -2
Buffalo Bills @ Baltimore Ravens (-3)
Buffalo may not be a playoff team, but they should get off to a good start with a healthy squad. Buffalo’s offense starts and ends with their running game and LeSean McCoy, who missed four games last year due to injury; he should be fully healthy on Sunday. The Bills’ rushing attack was the best in the league last year, amassing over 150 YPG. That was thanks in part to highly-mobile QB Tyrod Taylor, who’s eligible to improve in his second year as a starter. He may not have injury-prone Sammy Watkins to throw to all year long but Watkins will suit up for Week 1, and the aging Ravens defense likely doesn’t have an answer for him.
Baltimore has been horrible at home dating back to 2014; they’re 1-8-1 ATS in their last ten games at M&T Bank Stadium. Joe Flacco’s best offensive weapons are Steve Smith Sr., whose best days are long gone, and 30-year-old RB Justin Forsett, who is ancient considering his position and is recovering from an arm injury. Expect the Bills to post a second straight season-opening upset.
The pick: Bills +3
Miami Dolphins @ Seattle Seahawks (-10.5)
As the biggest favorite on the board this week, the Seahawks are bound to be a popular survivor pool pick. They also seem like a good bet to cover this line.
Despite a slow start to 2015 (they were 4-5 before rallying to finish 10-6), Seattle posted the fourth-best offensive YPG numbers in football. Whether its Thomas Rawls or Christine Michael in the backfield for Seattle, the Seahawks should be able to run roughshod on Miami’s rush defense that was ranked 27th last season. That will open things up downfield for Russell Wilson should he need to go there. The Seahawks have a mostly untested offensive line but Miami had just 31 sacks last season despite having Ndamukong Suh in the trenches, so they should have plenty of time on offense.
The Dolphins’ 26th-ranked offense from last year seems up against it facing one of the NFL’s best defenses, and Miami’s 1-4 ATS record in their last five road games doesn’t inspire confidence.
The pick: Seahawks -10.5
Best of the rest (picks in bold)
Chicago Bears @ Houston Texans (-6)
Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5) @ New York Jets
Cleveland Browns @ Philadelphia Eagles (-4)
Green Bay Packers (-4.5) @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Oakland Raiders @ New Orleans Saints (-1)
San Diego Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs (-7)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons (-3)
New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys (E)
Detroit Lions @ Indianapolis Colts (-3.5)
New England Patriots @ Arizona Cardinals (-6)
Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) @ Washington Redskins
Los Angeles Rams (-2.5) @ San Francisco 49ers