NFL Week One Tipsheet: Bengals defense can keep Colts in check

Indiana quarter-back Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck (above) is at QB for Indiana v Cincinnati
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The NFL is back and with it comes Betting.Betfair American football expert Mike Carlson as he kicks off week one of the new season with bets on Cincinnati, Denver and Baltimore.

"I just don't see the Colts stopping the Bengals offense, and even though Andrew Luck is back at QB for Indy, with new coach Frank Reich a good offensive mind, I think the Bengal's defense will be able to hold him in check."

Welcome to a new NFL season, and my second here on Betfair, where every Friday I'll be looking to suggest a few games that may reward your interest. I feel like I should put one of those investment-style warning disclaimers here, but frankly, one of the beauties of the NFL is the way it resists even the most sophisticated analysis.

I could pat myself on the back and say I'm coming off a pretty good final two weekends last season: in the NFC championship the Eagles beat the Vikings 38-7, and nearly covered the 38.5 over all by themselves, while in the AFC the Pats and Jags combined to make me look smart on their 46.5 under when New England won 24-20. Then that fantastic Super Bowl weekend was another three for three with the Eagles with the points, half-time lead and on the moneyline as the outside bet.

I'm not saying it's like that, or even close, every week, but what I will try to do is give you an informed opinion on the game, state my reasons clearly, and provide enough to help you make a reasoned judgement. It gets more difficult every year when you're early in the season, because pre-season has become less and less like 'real' football.

Restrictions on contact in practice leads to teams holding out their starters more than ever in the exhibition games; the league doesn't want to give up ticketed items but really controlled scrimmages would be more valuable, and two pre-season games would probably be sufficient. I can honestly say, having watched a good deal of tape, that I don't trust anyone to be as good, or as bad, as they looked in pre-season. Well, maybe a couple of people. But having waxed the downhill skis of disappointment, let's skate into week one's outlook...

Handicap makes Bengals the bet in tight contest

Best Bet: Cincinnati (+2.5 at 21/20) at Indianapolis

This has moved slightly in Indy's favour during the week, but basically the Bengals are 5/4 on the moneyline for a reason, and frankly that may be the better bet. I just don't see the Colts stopping the Bengals offense, and even though Andrew Luck is back at QB for Indy, with new coach Frank Reich a good offensive mind, I think the Bengal's defense will be able to hold him in check. Take your pick of the bets; if the line went back to three it might be more attractive than the moneyline, but the points are, of course, slightly safer.

Denver can cover handicap against Seattle

I also like Denver (-3 at 19/20) v Seattle.

Denver is a huge home field advantage, and although you'd think it would be biggest in the winter snow, it's actually when the weather's warm that the altitude and lack of oxygen hurts visiting teams the most. There are questions about the Broncos' offense, but Case Keenum can't be worse than anyone who played QB for them last year, and rookies Royce Freeman (RB) and Courtland Sutton (WR) ought to energise their offense. The Denver D may not be what it was, but Seattle's offense still relies on Russell Wilson's mobility, and their own D is not what it what it once was.

Why backing under is the way to go at Indianapolis and elsewhere in week one

Value Bet: Cincinnati at Indianapolis under 48.5 at evens

There is the possibility that Luck's big play arm springs into past form, or that Andy Dalton's biggest weapon A.J. Green, or second-year running back Joe Mixon, has a big day, but for both to happen seems a long shot to me. It's an under kind of week in my mind; Dallas at Carolina under 42.5 is also evens; Dallas' D has to show me they can stop people, and Carolina has to show me their attack, under new coordinator Norv Turner will be improved.

Ex-Pats coaching staff can help Houston in Foxboro

Outside Bet: Houston (+6 @ evens) at New England: Last year DeShaun Watson brought the Texans into Foxboro and rang up 33 points on the Pats, though they lost 36-33. I think New England's defense should be stronger this year, but the fact remains Houston's Bill O'Brien and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennell, as ex-Pats, know how the Pats play, especially in the Red Zone, and the Patriot offense is missing a lot of big-play offensive players, including both their first round draft picks. Watson looked fully healthy in preseason and could light it up again, though he needs Lamar Miller to step up because D'Onta Foreman. As for the odds, 6.5 would be better, but 6 still seems like a reasonable bet at the odds.

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