The NFL season opened last night in Tampa, where the Super Bowl champion Bucs looked back to top form for much of what turned into a fairly sloppy 31-29 win over the Cowboys.
That 60 points sent some shock waves around my weekend betting picks. Tom Brady led a last-minute drive to set up the game winning FG, but the Bucs might have put it away earlier if not for a fumble by Ronald Jones, a blown catch by Leonard Fournette that counts as a pick, and a drop by Chris Godwin, who also made the game's big play with a nice push-off reception.
My bet, which you would have heard if you listened to Betfair's NFL Only Bettor podcast on Wednesday, was Antonio Brown as an anytime TD scorer at 15/8, and AB came through. On to the rest of week one:
Sunday Early Games (18:00 start)
Philadelphia at Atlanta
A Bird Derby! Both teams have new coaches: Nick Sirianni for the Birds North and Arthur Smith for Birds South. Mike Davis and rookie Kyle Pitts don't turn Atlanta into Smith's Titan offense, but new coordinator Drew Pees might give Jalen Hurts a rough time.
Pittsburgh at Buffalo
You could look at Josh Allen as being a younger, more mobile Ben Rothlesberger, and though the Bills' O line isn't super, the Steelers' is already in a second total rebuild due to injury. If Big Ben wants to throw short, the Bills will let him. I like the Bills by a TD, so taking them at 9/10 giving 6.5 points seems good and look at Bills' newbie Emmanuel Sanders to open his account with a TD at 4/1. But for my VALUE BET: I like the 48.5 under at 9/10
NY Jets at Carolina
Sam Darnold Bowl! Can Joe Brady coach Darnold to competency, something Adam Gase couldn't. The Jest are being run by adults now, but they're probably still a year off, though that defensive front could hurt some teams.
Minnesota at Cincinnati
Mike Zimmer was once the defensive coordinator for the Bengals. I reckon he's glad to be out. Kirk Cousins has had a lot of trouble re Covid, but he ought to be ready to play like Kirk Cousins. I like the Vikes to win -3 at 9/10 but my OUTSIDE BET is a double: Vikings winning and under 46.5 total points at 15/8
San Francisco at Detroit
As many of us said was totally inevitable, Jimmy G will start for SF, going against ex-Ram Jared Goff in Dan Campbell's Ditka-Lite offense. I like the Niners, but by how much? Anytime TD scorers George Kittle at 6/4 and DeAndre Swift at 8.5 appeal.
Jacksonville at Houston
Voted by an international panel of experts the game you least want to watch. Houston will be awful, Jax probably will be too, though I'd give Urban Meyer a coaching nod over David Culley. You won't often find a home team at 6/4 on the moneyline against a team as unsettled as the Jags, but they are for a reason.
Seattle at Indianapolis
If Carson Wentz needs more info about the coronavirus vaccine, how can he prepare for the Seahawks' defense? Russell Wilson against the speedy Indy D is a more balanced match-up. The Colts are home dogs getting three, I like Seattle here, giving three at 9/10, and like the under 48.5 at 9/10 too.
Arizona at Tennessee
JJ Watt saw the Titans twice a year in Houston, and you don't like seeing Derrick Henry coming at you with a head of speed. This is where eight days of contact in training camp and pre-season comes back to haunt you.
LA Chargers at Washington
This is a really fascinating matchup, because the Chargers, with Justin Herbert, were one of the best teams in the league against pressure, and pressure is the name of the team with no name's game. Ryan Fitzpatrick reminds me of Jake Delhomme in Carolina, but that was before Ron Rivera coached the Panthers, so it's meaningless. But can he avoid turnovers, and WTF force them? I like the Chargers in some ways, but they are a west coast team playing a 1pm game and the jet lag factor stops me from backing an upset at evens on the moneyline.
Sunday Late Games (21:25 start)
Cleveland at Kansas City
In 2016 Baker Mayfield led Oklahoma to a 66-59 win over Texas Tech, quarterbacked by Patrick Mahomes. Both were juniors, but Mayfield, had transferred from Tech, were he'd been a starter as a walk-on freshman. Each team had 854 yards of offense. Mahomes threw for 735 yards (52 of 88 passes) and 5 TDs while Mayfield had 545 yards and 7 scores. Joe Mixon of Oklahoma ran 31 times for 263 yards and 2 TDs, and had 3 more scores receiving. Mixon's playing for the Bengals Sunday, but Mayfield has Nick Chubb and ex-Chief Kareem Hunt. So take KC at home. 54.5 is a big over but I wouldn't bet against it at 9/10.
Miami at New England
Bill Belichick feasts on rookie QBs, and Miami coach Brian Flores is a Belichick disciple. On the other hand, is Tua ready? The absence of corner Stephon Gilmore may hurt the Pats more than a rookie signal caller. The Pats are giving three but could cover; I like Damien Harris as a TD scorer at 11/10 but rookie Rhamondre Stevenson at 5/1 is a nice outside bet.
Green Bay "at" New Orleans at Jacksonville
Because of the hurricane damage in New Orleans, the game has been moved to Jax. And Aaron Rodgers thinks things are tough? Green Bay are coming off two 13-3 seasons, the Saints are coming off Drew Brees' retirement. Can new defensive coord Joe Barry stop Jameis Winston? Maybe not, but I think the Pack will roll. I'd look at the over 49.5 at 9/10 but my BEST BET: Green Bay -3.5 at 9/10
Denver at NY Giants
Vic Fangio sics Von Miller on Daniel Jones. What could possibly go wrong?
Sunday Night (1:20am, Monday morning)
Chicago at LA Rams
Da Bears face familiar face Matt Stafford and a Rams' team which typically has bled stars with big contracts and traded draft picks for Stafford and in a rare Ram bargain, for Sony Michel to replace Cam Akers. Michel's TD beat the Rams in the Super Bowl; he could beat the Bears Sunday.
Monday Night Football (1:20am, Tuesday morning)
Baltimore at Las Vegas
I'd go with the Ravens except they are badly battered on offense, and a run-first team is attacking Vegas at a strong point. Jon Gruden played Nathan Peterman all through pre-season, so if Derek Carr does well, Gruden will look like a guru.