Colts (-3) at Bills
The Colts come into the 2015 season as one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl, and they’ll open against a common playoff “sleeper” pick for this year in the Buffalo Bills. The Bills are a new-look team as they brought in Rex Ryan to take over as head coach. LeSean McCoy will be the go-to running back with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller out of the picture.
I’m not sure how long McCoy will hold up this season but assuming he’s healthy for the opener the Colts will have to account for him with a rushing defense that ranked only 17th in the league in yards allowed in 2014. A good game from McCoy would go a long way in helping newly-anointed Bills QB Tyrod Taylor, who has thrown only 35 passes in his NFL career.
The Bills are 6-1 ATS (against the spread) as a home underdog going back to 2013 which includes a two-point loss to the Patriots in 2013 and a 21-13 win over the Packers late last season. Andrew Luck is a frontrunner for the MVP in my eyes but the Bills defense was ranked 4th in yards allowed last season, so he’ll have his hands full on the road where he is 4-6 SU (straight-up) in his career against non-divisional opponents. The pick: Bills +3
Browns at Jets (-3)
The Jets may not be a playoff-caliber squad, but the Browns are destined to be amongst the dregs of the league this year. Cleveland lost productive TE Jordan Cameron to the Dolphins in free agency and WR Josh Gordon to a year-long substance abuse suspension.
Even with those two offensive weapons the Browns were ranked 23rd in offensive YPG and 27th in PPG in 2014. The Jets 6th ranked defense from last year should have no problem containing either Josh McCown or Johnny Manziel and the lack of talent around them. The Browns were only 23rd in defensive yards allowed last season, and with no significant changes in that department the Jets’ triumvirate of RBs should run wild. As long as Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t throw the game away the Jets should grab an easy win in Metlife Stadium to kick off the new season. The pick: Jets -3
Lions at Chargers (-2.5)
The Lions were not nearly as good as their 11-5 record last year would have you believe. Detroit was 6-1 in one-score games and had a turnover ratio of +7 (these things tend to even out from year to year), and based on point differential the Lions should have only won nine games. The departures of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley will hurt, even if Haloti Ngata has a career year in his first season as a Lion.
Beyond Calvin Johnson, Matt Stafford’s options are limited (Joique Bell and Golden Tate are the only household names) and they’ll have to deal with a Chargers defense that was ranked 9th in yards allowed last year. The Lions were also a bad bet away from home last season, going 2-5 ATS in road contests. The Chargers should be able to tame this weakened Lions defense as Philip Rivers has a slew of options at wideout including the newly-acquired Stevie Johnson, who is due for a career renaissance.
The San Diego passing game may not even come into play if the ground attack is established; Melvin Gordon, Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver are all candidates for impact performances. The pick: Chargers -2.5
Best of the rest (picks in bold)
Packers (-6.5) at Bears
Chiefs at Texans (-1)
Panthers (-3) at Jaguars
Seahawks (-4) at Rams
Dolphins (-4) at Redskins
Saints at Cardinals (-2.5)
Ravens at Broncos (-5)
Bengals (-3) at Raiders
Titans at Buccaneers (-3)
Giants at Cowboys (-5.5)
Eagles (-3) at Falcons
Vikings (-2.5) at 49ers
Lines are based on a consensus of major sportsbooks.