NFL Betting Storylines For Week 1
by Trevor Whenham - 09/03/2008
Well, it is finally here. After months of waiting and anticipating, the NFL season begins on Thursday. The next 17 weeks are pretty much heaven for sports bettors, with so many ways to try to make money. As we get ready for the season it's always entertaining to look at the most intriguing betting storylines the week has to offer. Pretty much every game this first week should be fun to watch and handicap for different reasons, but here are five games that offer the most for bettors to chew on from my perspective:
Tampa Bay (+3) at New Orleans - As far as we know this game will be played in New Orleans as planned. Even if it is, though, it's going to have a strange feel to it. As I write this on Tuesday people are still being told to stay away from the city, so it seems unlikely that the stadium will be full of fans. It will feel a bit like a road game for the Saints, too, because they are living in a hotel in Indianapolis this week and borrowing the Colts' new stadium to practice in. Several of their players and staff were with the team during Katrina, so there will be a sense of deja vu that could prove to be a distraction. Even if that doesn't prove to be a distraction, this game will be a fun one to figure out. New Orleans should have a potent offense this year, but we won't know for sure until we see how Jeremy Shockey fits in, whether Reggie Bush is ready to take a step forward, and if the receivers can do what is needed. Tampa Bay has questions of their own after creating dissension in the QB ranks thanks to their flirtation with Brett Favre.
NY Jets (-3) at Miami - It wouldn't have seemed like it eight months ago, but this is definitely the most interesting game of the first week. It has it all. Brett Favre makes his debut. The quarterback he forced out of town is commanding the other team. Bill Parcells is back in the NFL, and he makes his debut against a team he used to coach. Jake Long, the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft out of Michigan, makes his debut at left tackle amidst big expectations. Ricky Williams is back and in fine form, and some reports indicate that he is sitting on a big year. Both teams were lousy last year, and both face tremendous pressure to be much better this time around. I don't think that this will be the best game or the most exciting one, but it certainly has the most stories around it.
Seattle (+1) at Buffalo - Are you going to be around western New York on Sunday? Can you catch a ball? If so then the Seahawks probably want to talk to you because they have a serious shortage of receivers. Deion Branch and Bobby Engram are likely out for the game. Ben Obamanu was a victim of the totally pointless fourth preseason game, suffering a broken collarbone that landed him on the IR. Matt Hasselbeck is a good quarterback, but even he can't complete passes when there is no one to catch them. On top of that we get our first chance to see how well the Seattle coaching experiment - Mike Holmgren as a lame duck in his last year with his likely replacement already on board - is going to work. I was just in Buffalo, and optimism is running very high there. It seems like they could be setting themselves up for a fall, but there is a lot to like about them, and their fans are going to be rowdy. This will be a very good chance to see if the Bills can keep moving forward.
Dallas (-5.5) at Cleveland - I don't think that there are two teams with more on the line this year than these two. Dallas has a high profile, talented, risky lineup with few holes, yet they have disappointed in the playoffs two years in a row. They need to move out of the tabloids and show what they can do on the field. Jerry Jones has a new stadium he needs to pay for, so he will be anxious to get the results that he hungers for. Cleveland didn't quite make the playoffs last year, yet their fans are already planning the Super Bowl victory parade. They have a good team, but they face intense pressure to prove that last year wasn't a fluke. Cleveland as a city has a complete inability to win anything, so the Browns need to work hard to break that streak. Cleveland flew under the radar a bit last year as bettors tried to figure out if they were for real. This year they won't sneak up on anyone, and that makes the search for value that much harder.
Minnesota (+3) at Green Bay - The Aaron Rodgers era begins whether the team's fans want it to or not. There is going to be a very strange feel in Lambeau Field on Monday night and it seems very unlikely that Rodgers will be relaxed and confident in the face of the pressure. It won't help that he'll be facing a very good team with high expectations. The Vikings have their own problems on offense, though. Bryant McKinnie got himself suspended for four games, so Tarvaris Jackson has to prove that he is up to the challenge of leading an elite team without the confidence that his blind side will be protected.