Football is back and the first college slate of the season provided quite the appetizer in advance of the NFL’s arrival. As always, there is a healthy amount of anticipation swirling for Week 1 of the campaign and, as such, there is real excitement (at least in some corners) to throw down hard-earned money on sides, totals, and money lines before kickoff.
In this space each week, we will bring five winners to the table, staying true to our principles along the way. For background, we will be fading the public whenever possible, leaning toward the Under and the Underdog by default, and generally seeking value wherever it can be found. It is, admittedly, more difficult to find edges in Week 1 when the lines have been available for months but, alas, we press on with the big picture in mind.
If nothing else, we’ll look to make some jelly beans along the way and, before we get started, let’s look back at what transpired during the 2017 season with an eye toward building on a strong performance.
- 2017 Season: 49-35-1
- 2018 Season: TBD
Come get these winners.
Cincinnati Bengals (+3) over Indianapolis Colts
This is perhaps my favorite pick of the week. Yes, Andrew Luck is back, but the ultra-talented quarterback hasn’t proven that he can sling the rock all over the field just yet. Beyond that, the rest of the Colts’ roster is fairly ugly in the grand scheme of things and I firmly believe the Bengals are the better overall team. The line is set as to suggest these teams are even and we’ll gladly take the candy.
Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants UNDER 43.5 points
It is very tempting to take the Jaguars here but it is also feels dirty to take a road favorite in Week 1. The entire universe is on the Giants and that makes me want to go the other way. Alas, the under feels like the better side, as more than 80 percent of the money is leaning that direction despite a relatively even ticket count. Translation? The sharp guys are with us here and, in general, people seem to be forgetting just how good Jacksonville’s defense is.
Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers UNDER 21.5 points in the first half
This quietly has the makings of a rock fight. The Cowboys have been inconsistent on defense in recent years but Sean Lee is on the field and, when that happens, Dallas is always better. Carolina’s offense will probably take some time to get going under Norv Turner as well, and Dallas has every intention of grinding things out given the league’s worst receiving corps. The full game total might get dicey but this feels like a spot in which both teams will be feeling each other out and we’ll get to the window after only 30 minutes of game action.
Washington and Arizona Cardinals UNDER 44 points
The Cardinals weren’t a lot of fun to follow last season. With that said, Arizona finished with a top-five defense according to DVOA and the team should be effective on that side of the ball again. The Cardinals should also be at least slightly better on offense with a healthy David Johnson but Washington now has a conservative quarterback in Sam Bradford. Trying to decipher who wins this coin-flip game is above my pay grade but the under is the right side and the (vast) majority of the big money is on our side.
Chicago Bears (+7.5) over Green Bay Packers
There are a few point spreads of more than a touchdown this week and, out of principle, we have to take the underdog in one of them. The Bucs were in consideration against the Saints but, in short, this Bears side is too juicy to ignore. The Packers are absolutely better than the Bears but this is a spot in which the dollars are on Chicago, even as the ticket count is on Green Bay. To put it plainly, every square handicapper you know will be laying the points with Aaron Rodgers on Sunday evening and this line might go back to eight points by kick-off. As a result, it might be good to wait but, provided you’re getting more than a touchdown, I like the Bears with newly-minted pass rusher Khalil Mack as a nice bonus.