The NFL returns this weekend and our man Luca Bercelli has briefly previewed this Sunday's games and provided a recommended bet for each
"With the big man attracting defensive attention, Wilson's superb scrambling and Marshawn Lynch's bulldozing could be even more dominant"
Back the Seattle Seahawks to win @ 1.558/15
Carolina Panthers @ Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, 18:00
The Jags have sucked for too long now but they continue to build through the draft and could post a surprising result or two this season. It's unlikely to be in week one, however, as Carolina's defence is pretty solid, and with Mr do-it-all Cam Newton at quarterback, its offense is a hard one for an embryonic team to contain. If anyone can cover this 4.5 point spread, Cam can.
Back Carolina -4.5pts @ 2.186/5
Cleveland Browns @ New York Jets Sunday, 18:00
The big question to ask yourself in any Jets' game this season is - how the hell is any team going to score on them? Last year they had an under-the-radar but still sixth-best defence to which they've added several top notch cornerbacks, including the best of the lot, Darrelle Revis. Plus, they took the best defensive player in the draft Leonard Williams, and swiped one of the best defensive coaches in the league, Todd Bowles, promoting him to the top job in Florham Park. This all adds up to the scoreboard operator taking the most of the day off at Met Life stadium on Sundays. First up for the Planes are the defensively minded Browns, so this could definitely be one for the purist. There is only one bet here - back the unders...heavily.
Back under 40.5pts @ 2.01/1
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears Sunday, 18:00
Da Bears are up against it this year. They really should have taken their chance and got shot of old misery guts Jay Cutler once and for all in the off-season, but they decided to stick with The Scowl and will be wishing they hadn't round about week 8. He will lead his team to mediocrity once again but the Pack have problems too. Most people seem to think that the loss of top receiver Jordy Nelson for the year is not going to hamper the Packers too much, after all they're still as short as 7.613/2 on the exchange to win the Superbowl. Yes, Aaron Rodgers is phenomenal, but he's not a one man team, and week one could be a serious problem for the Cheeseheads with number two receiver Randall Cobb not fully fit. Reluctantly I'm going with the Jack Dee of the NFL and expect Chicago to keep it close.
Back Chicago +6.0pts @ 2.0521/20
Indianapolis Colts @ Buffalo Bills Sunday, 18:00
Rex Ryan adds some spice to a hard-nosed franchise but he inherits an offense that is lacklustre at best. Defence will be the key to the Bills this season, and if they're not fully up to speed on day one, the best quarterback in the league, Andrew Luck, will take them apart. Ryan has asked Bills' fans to make life miserable for Luck, but the man with the Mark Sanchez tattoo (that's Rex FYI) is in for a reality check when the Colts waltz out of town with a big fat W. I love Indy in this one. They scream out to be backed on the moneyline.
Back the Indianapolis Colts @ 1.84/5
Kansas City Chiefs @ Houston Texans Sunday, 18:00
The prospect of facing a marauding JJ Watt on one side and jumping Jadeveon Clowney on the other is enough to make any QB wish they'd packed several sets of pants; but when you throw in an experimental and inexperienced offensive line such as the one Kansas will put out, a few sets of fully padded Huggies could be the order of the day. Protection for the Chiefs' QB Alex Smith will be provided by an unproven left tackle, a rookie centre and some guy called Laurent Duvernay-Tardif at right guard who is in his second year in the NFL, but has yet to start a game. Good luck! Expect carnage and back the Texans to win.
Back the Houston Texans to win @ 1.9420/21
Miami Dolphins @ Washington Redskins Sunday, 18:00
The Skins are relatively distraction-free now that RGIII has finally been relegated to where he belongs...the scrap heap. Without a quarterback controversy to muddy the waters Kirk Cousins can get something rolling for Washington this season, but it won't be in week one. Miami has the look of a rapidly improving franchise with QB Ryan Tannehill maturing fast, and an already strong defence improved by the addition of bad boy Ndamukong Suh for an enormous fee. I take the Fish to dominate this one so get with them minus the points.
Back the Miami Dolphins -2.5pts @ 1.75/7
Seattle Seahawks @ St Louis Rams Sunday, 18:00
The addition of tight-end Jimmy Graham makes the Seahawks much stronger this year. He had a sub-par season in 2014 due to injury but is a monster at his best, and can be a real difference maker. Without him, Russell Wilson didn't have much to aim at, but still almost brought home the bacon in the S-Bowl. With the big man attracting defensive attention, Wilson's superb scrambling and Marshawn Lynch's bulldozing could be even more dominant this time. I like the Rams but they'll need rookie running back Todd Gurley to be fit and firing before they are seen to their best. Seattle should cruise this so back them for the win.
Back the Seattle Seahawks to win @ 1.558/15
Detroit Lions @ San Diego Chargers Sunday 21:05
The Chargers have beefed up their offensive line, which should be some comfort to oft-sacked quarterback Philip Rivers as he tries to find an alternative to Antonio Gates (who is serving a four game suspension for illegally beefing himself up with a hyperdermic needle.) More protection for Rivers might not be enough to combat a still dangerous Lions defence (despite the loss of the previously mentioned Ndamukong Suh.) On top of that, the Lions have the dual receiving threat of Megatron and Golden Tate, and a new potential offensive star in the form of running back Ameer Abdullah who excelled in the pre-season. The Lions +2.5 will do for me.
Back the Detroit Lions +2.5pts @ 2.111/10
New Orleans Saints @ Arizona Cardinals Sunday, 21:05
The Saints of New Orleans did their best Saints of Southampton impression this off-season by letting go a slew of top players including Jimmy Graham, Junior Galette, Pierre Thomas, Kenny Stills and Curtis Lofton to name but five. You have to admire QB Drew Brees' attempt to put a positive spin on the situation by saying: 'you have to feel comfortable feeling uncomfortable,' but I think he knows, as do the rest of us, that this season will be a washout. The Cards on the other hand, can continue their progression with a healthy Carson Palmer at the helm. They should cruise this at a generous price.
Back the Arizona Cardinals to win @ 1.84/5
Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos Sunday, 21:25
I hate this game from a betting perspective as I'm itching to oppose the Broncs at every opportunity but a skinny four point headstart for the Ravens doesn't tempt me. Denver will be relying heavily on its defence and running game this season; and although Peyton Manning might not be quite as bad as he was in some of the back end games of 2014, he won't be much better. Denver's home crowd, however, will always make things difficult, and might help paper over the wrinkles. My only play would be a winning margin bet on both teams to win by 1-6 points.
Back Denver to win by 1-6 points, and Baltimore to win by 1-6 points
Cincinnati Bengals @ Oakland Raiders Sunday, 21:25
Carrot Top QB Andy Dalton got booed by his own fans at a celebrity softball game during the off-season. Not an ideal lead up to 2015 but he's one of those sportsman who just does enough to avoid the sack but persistently comes up short. His post-season record is appalling and it will be affecting his confidence and fans' patience. Luckily for him, week 1 provides the perfect opportunity to earn some brownie points at the expense of the hapless Oakland Raiders. Fair enough, their attacking options have increased, but their defence could be sorely exposed by the likes of AJ Green and Jeremy Hill. I predict a riot of points, so get on the overs.
Back over 43.5pts @ 2.111/10
Tennessee Titans @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, 21:25
One of the things we love most about the NFL (apart from watching 300lb plus defensive linemen rumble the length of the field after an interception) is that, no matter how bad a team is, it will eventually come good due to the strength of draft picks. Fans of a certain team who play in silver and black might want to argue the point but basically it holds true. If, as a punter you can anticipate when the pendulum will swing, you're on to a winner. One of these two sides featuring the first two picks in the draft and stacked with rookies will gain immediate momentum. It should be a good watch, but I'll just side with the Titans; QB Marcus Mariota impressed more than Jameis Winston in the pre-season, and with a better coaching staff to orchestrate proceedings, they can get 50% of last season's win tally by the end of Sunday night.
Back the Tennessee Titans to win @ 2.3211/8
New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys Monday, 01:30
Despite the wide gap in their final divisional standings in 2014, these teams had two close games last year. Was that an anomaly or a true reflection? The stats point to the former, but I'm hoping for the latter. There's one aspect I just can't get away from here, and that's the Eli Manning-Odell Beckham Jr combination which became irresistible as the season wore on. At times they were totally unplayable, so if they click from the outset, they can hopefully outscore a Dallas side minus their league-leading running back.
Back the New York Giants +6.0pts @ 1.9520/21