At long last, NFL Week 1 has finally arrived. Fans will be back in the stands and we once again enter a season in which Tom Brady will be defending yet another Super Bowl championship. Week 1 kicks off this year with all 32 teams in action with only one game each on Thursday night and Monday night, which bookends a busy 14 game slate on Sunday.
Rookies have been the talk of training camp as quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson will be making their NFL debuts on Sunday. Both the Jaguars and the Jets will start their seasons on the road, with Wilson facing off against a familiar face for Jets fans in Carolina’s new starting quarterback, Sam Darnold. Meanwhile, Lawrence gets an easier assignment as Jacksonville visits AFC South division rival Houston. Lawrence will be doing so without his Clemson running mate Travis Etienne, who will miss the entire season with a lisfranc sprain in his foot.
The football world is still reeling from the surprise cut of Cam Newton by the New England Patriots. Perhaps nobody was as surprised as former Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, who will get the ball in Week 1 as a rookie. The Patriots host their AFC East division rivals from Miami, in a battle of former Alabama teammates as Tua Tagovailoa begins his second season as the Dolphins’ quarterback.
It’s hard not to talk about the biggest clashes of the week without discussing the Thursday Night Football game that opens the season. The Dallas Cowboys visit the Super Bowl Champions in Tampa Bay, as Dak Prescott makes his long-awaited return to the field after his gruesome ankle injury last season. Prescott is a ‘full go’ according to head coach Mike McCarthy, which is music to the ears of Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Ezekiel Elliott.
The Buccaneers bring back a majority of their Championship roster, including franchise tagged wide receiver Chris Godwin. He will be determined to put up big numbers this season in order to win a lucrative contract, but he is a part of the deepest receiver core in the league. Godwin lines up next to Mike Evans and Antonio Brown, as well as the returning tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and OJ Howard.
Tampa Bay is a -7.5 favorite which is significant against a Dallas team that is believed to have one of the best offenses in the league. History isn’t in favor of Tampa Bay either as the team is 1-6 against the spread in its last seven Thursday Night games. One stat that stands out: the under is 5-0 in the last five meetings between these two teams, as oddsmakers usually prepare for a shootout.
My Pick: Dallas +7.5 and the Under 51.5
For the second big clash of Week 1, we had to Jacksonville, Florida where the New Orleans Saints will be temporarily playing home games as they await the departure of Hurricane Ida. The Saints welcome the Green Bay Packers in a matchup between two perennial NFC favorites. The Packers enter as -4 favorites, as oddsmakers bet on the New Orleans offense sputtering in the first game of the post Drew Brees era.
Jameis Winston has officially won the starting job for the Saints, but that does not mean he’ll be on the field the whole time. If Taysom Hill could take Drew Brees off the field, you know he can take Jameis off. Without star wide receiver Michael Thomas in the lineup, the Saints should struggle to get things going offensively. They will rely heavily on Alvin Kamara and the run game to limit Winston’s mistakes. The Saints also have the defense to try and keep the Packers somewhat at bay. Ultimately, I think the sportsbooks are right in having the Packers as a road favorite.
My Pick: Green Bay -4 and the Under 50
Week 1 is always an exciting time. Everyone is healthy for the most part, and everyone is starting on the same foot. I’ll be paying particular attention to the new faces in new places this season. Julio Jones will suit up for a team other than Atlanta for the first time in his career. He’s had an ailing leg injury throughout the preseason but should be good to go for Week 1. What will Julio do in Tennessee's run-heavy offense, and will he be the true number two behind AJ Brown?
I am very high on the Los Angeles Rams this season with the addition of Mathew Stafford under center. With Stafford, I think head coach Sean McVay finally has his gunslinger, and with the season-ending injury to Cam Akers, I expect the Rams to finally lean on their passing game this year. One bet I am actually eyeing is Stafford to lead the NFL in passing yards this year. You can get it right now at 15.00 odds, which I think is a nice risk/reward bet to make.
In terms of Sunday’s slate, I am eyeing a couple of favorites as best bets. The Carolina Panthers are hosting the New York Jets as -5 favorites and I think they can cover that. The Jets have been a disaster this preseason and are still unclear if rookie Elijah Moore or veteran Jamison Crowder will be available. On the Carolina side, it is the first game under center for Sam Darnold, but the return of Christian McCaffrey certainly helps his cause. The Panthers will be lining up star rookie Terrance Marshall next to DJ Moore and another former Jets wide receiver Robbie Anderson. Take the Panthers to cover the five points.
Finally, the 49ers visit the hapless Lions in Detroit as -7.5 road favorites. That’s a big number to take, but the 49ers have historically performed well in pressuring Jared Goff when he was in Los Angeles. San Francisco is healthy and will welcome back George Kittle and Nick Bosa, while keeping the Detroit defense on their toes with both Trey Lance and Jimmy Garopollo. I see no answer for Detroit here, especially with running back D’andre Swift sidelined through the end of camp. Take the 49ers as big time road favorites.