NFL Betting Predictions: Week 1 Opening Line Report and Picks
OK, Roger Goodell, it's time to shorten the preseason to just two games.
I know many of you probably wager on the preseason - and there's money to be made in those exhibition games if you do your homework. The television ratings remain strong. But the product is just getting worse and worse as more and more coaches are deciding to play their key guys very little or not at all. Two of the NFL's best running backs, the Rams' Todd Gurley and Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott, didn't play a preseason snap.
One would think that the Bears' Matt Nagy would want as much game action as possible for his guys because he's a first-year head coach implementing a completely opposite offense of what Chicago ran last year. Yet, Nagy sat every key offensive key player in Week 3 of the preseason when most starters see a half of action. How would you feel if you were a Bears fan who bought a ticket to that game (and it was their home opener)? If the Bears struggle mightily this Sunday night in Green Bay on offense, Nagy already will be under fire.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recently said an 18-game regular season would be better for players' health. Jerry Jones is a gazillionaire and obviously more business smart than I am, but that's freaking ridiculous. That said, I do believe that when the new CBA is up after the 2020 season the league will shorten the preseason to two games and as a tradeoff the players will agree to a 17-game regular season and two more teams added to the playoffs -- meaning only the top seed in each conference would earn a bye.
I suppose the one good thing about stars playing so little in the preseason is that limits risk, and there weren't any odds-altering season-ending injuries. The big ones off the top of my head would be Jaguars receiver Marqise Lee and Redskins running back Derrius Guice, who was a legitimate Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate.
Every Monday, we'll be here with an opening line report to highlight major injuries, key games, unusual spreads and the like. Here are some Week 1 early lines that caught my eye. I won't touch on Thursday's game (Falcons-Eagles), my in-depth Sunday matchup (Steelers-Browns) or the Monday night late game (Rams-Raiders) as I will be previewing them here individually.
Bucs at Saints (-9.5, 49.5): NFL lines have been out for months, so it's hard to pinpoint any movement, but this one moved a field goal at most books when the three-game suspension for Jameis Winston was handed down. At least Winston didn't appeal it, so we have some clarity on when he will serve it unlike recent suspensions to guys like Tom Brady and Elliott. The Bucs do have one of the better backups in the NFL in Ryan Fitzpatrick. Speaking of better backups in the NFL, the Saints might now have the best one (yes better than Nick Foles) in Teddy Bridgewater. Very intriguing deal last week with New Orleans giving up a 2019 third-round pick to land a guy the team hopes never takes the field. This is clearly an all-in move for the Super Bowl as Drew Brees insurance. I do think the Saints are good enough everywhere else to be a legit contender with Bridgewater. New Orleans also loses a key starter to suspension in running back Mark Ingram. He's out four games.The pick: Bucs cover ( 5Dimes is lone book I've found to have it 10.5, so go there if you bet Tampa).
Bengals at Colts (-3, 46.5): Cincinnati will be without top linebacker Vontaze Burfict the first four games for a PED suspension. Colts projected starting running back Marlon Mack is in question with a hamstring injury. So is left tackle Anthony Castonzo. Christine Michael and Jordan Wilkins would likely share duties if he sits. The team's second-round pick, defensive end Tyquan Lewis, has a foot injury that could cost him half the season. He has been sidelined all preseason. However, this game is all about the return of Andrew Luck. The former No. 1 overall pick looked OK this preseason and then naturally suffered a food injury in the third one. Nothing serious but he missed about a week. Starting to think this isn't going to end well for Luck. The pick: Bengals (I'd shop/buy to 3.5).
Jaguars at Giants (+3, 43.5): Just think, two years ago the thought of the Jaguars being road favorites would have been laughable, but they've covered nine of their past 13 away and not many teams can say that. Jacksonville's defense is amazing - the best individual matchup of Week 1 likely will be brash on brash: Jags All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey vs. the new highest-paid WR in the NFL in Odell Beckham Jr. - but that offense is worrisome with the loss of Lee, who is done for the year following knee surgery. It's the second straight season the Jags lost their leading receiver from the year before early on. It was Allen Robinson in Week 1 of 2017, and I guess that worked out OK. Lee had 56 receptions for 702 yards and three touchdowns last year. Not spectacular numbers, but then the Jags run more than most teams. Unless you are a devout Jags fan, I promise you can't name their two starting wideouts now. We get our first look at Saquon Barkley, the heavy NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite. The past two NFL rushing leaders have been rookies … just sayin'. Barkley barely played this preseason due to a hamstring injury suffered in his first game. The pick: 'Under'!
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