Handicapping NFL Week 1 Lines with Expert Predictions
We are still two and a half months away from the start of the NFL season, but odds for 12 of the 16 games on the first week of the schedule already have odds posted at Bovada . It was 13 until recently, but the suspension of Jameis Winston this week has locked up the Tampa Bay number for now. It's obviously very early, and a lot will change as camps open and we get a look at what teams are thinking and looking like in the preseason. But, based on what we know now, we can take a look at these numbers before the public jumps all over them to see if any particular numbers stand out as particularly interesting. And we can look at them before the public is paying attention, which could offer us a little value. After all, it's not like we have anything better to do on the football front right now. Without further ado, here are the eight most interesting lines:
Minnesota (-5) vs. San Francisco: This is a very interesting game. Both teams have boldly made QB moves in recent times that they hope will set them up for the next decade or so. I really like both moves, and I like a lot about both teams. Minnesota is further along, and I like them a lot in the NFC, but San Francisco is very well coached, has had a good offseason, and is dangerous. I don't see a whole lot of value in this price, but I sure am excited about the game.
Jacksonville (-3.5) at New York Giants: I really don't like the Giants at all. There has been too much drama, they didn't do a lot to improve, and I really don't believe in Eli Manning anymore. I think they are going to be bad - and potentially really bad. Jacksonville, on the other hand, is a team I like. They had a solid offseason and should be able to build on the season they had last year. Road favorites of more than a field goal are always a little scary, but this one is palatable.
Tennessee (-2) at Miami: I want to like Tennessee this year. I like their offensive line a lot, like some of the things they did, and want to see the improvement we have been waiting for form them. Miami, meanwhile, feels like a team that is just treading water. They don't inspire. At less than a field goal I would be all over the Titans here.
L.A. Chargers (-3) vs. Kansas City: The Chargers are favored to win their division. They probably should be. But they make me uneasy, and I am still left with questions from them. The Chiefs have gotten clarity at quarterback and have talent and sound coaching. The Chargers aren't going to have overwhelming crowd support here, and the Chiefs always get up to play the Chargers. I see underdog value here.
Denver (-2) vs. Seattle: I really don't like the Seahawks this year. They have gone through a lot of changes, and some don't feel like they were well thought out. I feel like we are teetering towards the end of the end of the Pete Carroll era, and that it could be a rough trip. I like Case Keenum with these Broncos, and I like the defense. I think Denver is very attractive at home at this price. I'd give up a couple more points if I had to and still take them.
Carolina (-2.5) vs. Dallas: I don't like the Cowboys any more than I like the Seahawks this year. I don't trust their quarterbacking or their coaching, and while I like some defensive pieces I don't think it will all come together for them. Carolina is a solid team, and if Cam Newton can find his mojo again then they can be solidly more than that. I like the favorites here quite a bit.
Washington (even) at Arizona: Easy play for the Redskins for me. I don't think Alex Smith is better than Kirk Cousins, but he has the full support of the organization, and that's big for the team. Arizona is going through a lot of transitions right now, and I don't think they know who they are. It's going to be a rough year or three in the desert. Washington should be solidly favored here.
L.A. Rams (-3) at Oakland: I was not excited about the Jon Gruden hire at the time it was made, and nothing I have seen since has changed that. His knowledge is obviously strong, but in his eyes his biggest asset is that he is Jon Gruden, and I'm not convinced he will adapt and learn enough to succeed in a very different league than the one he left. The Rams, meanwhile, had a disappointing end to their season, but they have done a lot to tweak and improve, they are young and very talented, and the coaching is excellent. This will not be the welcome back that Gruden is dreaming of. The Rams are attractive at this price.
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