These three teams should defend their home turf in Week 1.
Atlanta Falcons (-7) at Chicago Bears
The Falcons are looking to rebound off a crushing loss in the Super Bowl, but they’ll need to buck a negative trend. The last 16 losers of the championship game are 4-12 ATS in Week 1 of the following season.
Atlanta’s offense stayed together for the most part – Matt Ryan will still sling it to Julio Jones with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman splitting time in the backfield – but they lost coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Steve Sarkisian, yet to prove himself in the NFL, has the daunting task of following up what Shanahan did last season (415.8 YPG, second in the league).
Chicago should offer resistance, as cornerback Prince Amukamara comes in to bolster a unit that was 15th by YPG last season. Mike Glennon offers hope for consistency at quarterback this year as he gets another chance to headman an NFL offense, while second-year halfback Jordan Howard looks to build on a 1,300-plus yard campaign. Howard faces some shoddy Falcons run-stoppers (17th by YPG in 2016). The Bears have also trended favorably at home, covering in four of their last five at Soldier Field.
Sprinkle some dough on the Bears to win outright and grab the points; they’re the best bet of the week.
The pick: Bears +7
New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings (-3.5)
The Vikings unraveled after a 5-0 start in 2016 thanks primarily to a multitude of injuries on the offensive line. GM Rick Spielman addressed that area this offseason by signing Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers to multi-year contracts. And although Adrian Peterson left for New Orleans, Minnesota reaffirmed their commitment to the ground game by drafting Florida State’s Dalvin Cook and adding former Raider Latavius Murray.
The Vikings should shred the Saints’ perennially porous defense while keeping Drew Brees and company in check with their stellar pass defense (third last year by YPG).
The pick: Vikings -3.5
Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos (-3.5)
The Broncos are in search of their sixth win in their last seven Week 1 games and their seventh win in their last eight contests with the Chargers. Newly-anointed head coach Vance Joseph has a revamped front line and a promising new offensive attack led by coordinator Mike McCoy, who served in that capacity from 2009-2012 with mixed success. Second-year vet Trevor Siemian will be calling the shots, with Super Bowl-winning wide-outs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders at his disposal.
The Chargers went 4-12 last year and saw key defensive veterans like Brandon Flowers and Manti Te’o walk away. They’re also trying to rebuild their offensive line through two rookies. Denver’s NFL-best pass defense from last year should keep Philip Rivers in check, so unless Melvin Gordon has a monster game (the run defense was a soft spot for Denver in 2016), the Broncos should begin the new season with a win.
The pick: Broncos -3.5
Best of the rest (picks in bold)
Pittsburgh Steelers (-8) at Cleveland Browns
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (-9)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans (-5.5)
Philadelphia Eagles (-1) at Washington Redskins
Arizona Cardinals (-1.5) at Detroit Lions
Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans (-2.5)
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (-3)
Indianapolis Colts at Los Angeles Rams (-3.5)
Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers (-3)
Carolina Panthers (-5.5) at San Francisco 49ers
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (-4)