NFL Betting Predictions: Week 1 Opening Line Report and Picks
Just over seven months since the New England Patriots staged the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history - probably the greatest single-game comeback in sports history considering the stage - the NFL is finally back. As am I every Monday with an NFL opening line report.
If you follow these stories, you know the drill: I'll touch on any major news or injuries from the previous week and how they might affect the coming week's lines - or a team's futures odds. One thing to keep in mind this year, and it surely will come into play at least a couple of times, is that the league shortened the overtime session from 15 to 10 minutes. The aim of the change is to cut down on injuries. Is it now more likely we see a tie game? Sure. At BetOnline , that there's any tie game this year is -350 and no +260.
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The change also could have the unintentional effect of wrecking the NFL's OT rules where both teams get at least one possession unless the team with the ball first scores a touchdown (or the defense does) - as New England did in the Super Bowl. Now it could end on a field goal. While 10-minute drives are rare in the NFL, they do happen. Since 1999 there have been 29 possessions that took 10 or more minutes off the clock and ended in a field goal. Another seven that took 10 or more minutes off the clock ended in a missed field goal. There has never been a 15-minute possession in league history. Just something to chew on.
Here are some Week 1 early lines that caught my eye. I won't touch on Thursday's game (Chiefs-Patriots), my in-depth Sunday matchup (Jaguars-Texans) or the Monday night game (Saints-Vikings) as I will be previewing them here individually. If being honest, the Sunday preview would be Giants-Cowboys as that's a marquee matchup, but I'll wait to touch on that in my Friday news update story so I'm clear on the status of Odell Beckham Jr. and Ezekiel Elliott.
Jets at Bills (-6.5, 41): Huge one in the AFC East! OK, I kid. I saw plenty of the 2008 Detroit Lions, the only team to finish a 16-game season winless. That team was just awful. These Jets look potentially worse on paper and might have the worst offensive team this century. That's not hyperbole. Veteran journeyman Josh McCown won maybe the least interesting quarterback derby in NFL history this preseason over Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty. This despite the fact that McCown has a career 78.2 passer rating and is 2-20 in his last 22 starts. Oh, and then the Jets let McCown start the meaningless fourth preseason game, he went down with an injury but limped back in to finish the drive. I've never seen a more blatant attempt at tanking than these Jets. At 5Dimes, you can get them at +2100 to go 0-16. I seriously think that's worth a roll of the dice. As for Buffalo, it's the head coaching debut of Sean McDermott, the former Panthers defensive coordinator. Will McDermott have starting QB Tyrod Taylor? He was put in the concussion protocol after the third preseason game but is confident he will play. If not, it's fifth-round rookie Nathan Peterman. The Pick: Bills (and way under) if Taylor goes.
Steelers at Browns (+9, 47): Assuming Taylor does go, Cleveland second-round pick DeShone Kizer will be the only rookie quarterback to start Week 1 in the NFL. He won perhaps the second least interesting quarterback derby in NFL history this preseason over Brock Osweiler (since released and signed with Denver) and Cody Kessler. Is Kizer ready? Absolutely not. He has all the physical skills but some questions about his head - he was benched at onepoint last year at Notre Dame. But the Browns are in 100 percent tank mode as well as shown by them releasing former Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden last week and trading a few other veterans. Meanwhile, this will be our first look this year at Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell. He didn't bother reporting to the team until after the preseason finished. And Bell was well within in right to do so as he hadn't signed his franchise tender. Frankly, the Steelers were fine with that rather than risk injury. Bell should be a fantasy stud this year because he has mega-financial reasons (i.e. likely pending free agency) to stay on the field and shine. The Pick: Steelers.
Bucs at Dolphins (+2.5, 45.5): Miami is the only playoff team from last season that will have a new starting quarterback in Week 1, and that's of course Jay Cutler after Ryan Tannehill suffered a season-ending knee injury early in training camp. I honestly don't know anyone who likes Cutler much as a player or a leader in the locker room. Yeah, yeah, he has a cannon for an arm. That said, I think he could be a bit better than Tannehill was, although I don't expect the Dolphins to reach the playoffs again. Adam Gase got the best out of Cutler in 2015 while Chicago's offensive coordinator, essentially by limiting the chances of Cutler throwing interceptions. Cutler has a good running back (Jay Ajayi) and a very nice group of receivers to work with. He could take this job full time; i.e. the Fins opt to keep Cutler in 2018 and dump Tannehill. We shall see. Tampa could contend for the NFC title if Jameis Winston takes that step to elite. If you watched Hard Knocks, you see the talent and leadership - but still too many bone-headed throws. That's the only thing holding him back. The Bucs are without No. 1 running back Doug Martin the first three game due to suspension. This line originally opened weeks ago with Miami at -2.5. The Pick: Dolphins.
Ravens at Bengals (-2.5, 43): How much does it matter if your starting quarterback doesn't play at all during the preseason and barely takes a snap? We will find out with Ravens' Joe Flacco, who injured his back early in camp lifting weights. He has resumed throwing and there's no question he will start in Cincinnati. That's about the only good news this team has gotten in losing a whopping nine players to season-ending injuries or retirements or suspensions since June 1. Cincinnati will be without top linebacker Vontaze Burfict the first three games due to a suspension. The Bengals also won't have first-round rookie receiver John Ross, who had that record-setting 40 time at the NFL Combine. While Ross can fly, taking him at No. 9 overall is starting to look like a mistake because he battled knee injuries at the University of Washington, had shoulder surgery before the draft and hasn't been healthy much during camp. He's out at least a few weeks due to knee problems. I am eager to see another Bengals rookie, second-round running back Joe Mixon. He could be great. The Pick: Bengals (my favorite of these four).
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