American Football Commentator and Betting.Betfair resident Mike Carlson returns to give all his Sunday tips on the opening weekend of the NFL...
"There's no offensive mastermind behind that very good Cowboy O line, but even with a simplistic offense, Zeke ought to run and Dak Prescott ought to make enough throws to let their defense win it for them"
The first week of the season is not the best week to be betting because no matter how smart of well-informed you are, you are working with information that is, at best, incomplete.
It is a risky business to take almost anything you saw in pre-season at face value: besides evaluating players and getting them ready to play for real, the third purpose of preseason is to hide everything you've learned from your opposition, which means hiding it from the media, which means hiding it from us. So much of what we surmise before Week One can be illusory. One thing you can be sure of is that more often than not defenses, who play with reaction and individual effort, are ahead of offenses, who need to build timing and cohesion.
Dallas has the power at home
Best Bet: Dallas (-7 at 20/23) vs New York Giants: I don't really care if 'Zeke Who' (as owner Jerry Jones called him during his holdout), Ezekiel Elliott is back or not (though he is) but what I like in this one is home field advantage and the Cowboys' real strength, which is their defense, against the Giants' still-uncertain offensive line.
There's no offensive mastermind behind that very good Cowboy O line, but even with a simplistic offense, Zeke ought to run and Dak Prescott ought to make enough throws to let their defense win it for them, and I remain unconvinced that Eli Manning will make it through the season. New Orleans (-6.5 at 20/23 vs Houston is on the surface a similar bet, but the Texans, even without Jadeveon Clowney, are a better defensive team than the Giants, so think about this one carefully.
Bills to pay yours
Value Bet: Buffalo (+2.5 at EVS) @ New York Jets: I kind of think the Bills are being undervalued right now, partly because second-year QB Josh Allen has much to prove, and the Jets are being over-valued, partly because the smart guys think new coach Adam Gase will push second-year QB Syndrome Sam Darnold to the next level.
What I think is more important is that the Bills are a top defensive team that got better in the offseason, and added weapons for Allen; while the Jets were not a top defensive team, and despite the addition of Quinnen Williams in the draft probably still are not.
Go with Francisco
Outside Bet: San Francisco (to win at 11/10) @ Tampa Bay Bucs: You can get (San Francsico +1 at 10/11) but I think if you're thinking the Niners are a good outside pick against the Bucs, you might as well get the better odds.
Here's the thing: the uncertainty about Jameis Winston in Bruce Arians' offfense is balanced somewhat by Jimmy Garopollo's mixed results coming back from injury in preseason. And Arians is reunited with Todd Bowles as his defensive coordinator, which could make the Bucs a defensive-first team.
If they hit a couple of big play TDs against the still-unsure Niner D I will look like a fool, but I do have the sense that Kyle Shanahan's offense will be able to generate some points and that their D, which has underachieved for so many years, will be able to fight to keep them in this game and let them win. If you'd like a defensive team that could surprise, you might consider Carolina (+2 at 10/11) vs Los Angeles Rams; the home field and time zone advantage might help a good defensive team do some business.