NFL Betting Predictions: Week 1 Opening Line Report and Picks
You know how more and more teams are hiring Sean McVay clones/disciples as their head coaches? The Bengals, for example, did that with Zac Taylor this offseason even though he had never been an offensive coordinator who called plays. Well, more and more teams are following McVay's lead by not playing their key guys, especially offensively, in the preseason at all.
The NFL is a copycat league, and the Rams stayed pretty darn healthy overall last year in making it to the Super Bowl. Thus, this preseason four starting quarterbacks didn't play at all (like the Rams' Jared Goff), or if they did, very briefly. The NFL is going to shorten the preseason, but it may not happen until the 2021 campaign because that's when the current collective bargaining agreement is up (March 2021).
Perhaps thanks to all those quarterbacks not or barely playing, we didn't lose any starting signal-callers to serious injury. Yes, the NFL lost one of its biggest stars in Andrew Luck, but he never took a snap this preseason and simply retired. I still believe Luck plays in 2020. The Colts' odds have changed more dramatically than any team's this summer in the wake of that, with Indy now (all odds from Bovada) a +500 long shot to win the AFC South (had been favored), +2200 to win the AFC and +5000 to win the Super Bowl. The Colts' win total dropped to 7.5, and they are now +1100 to have the worst record in the NFL. It's a shame because that team had a Super Bowl-caliber roster. Still think a Wild-Card spot is possible behind Jacoby Brissett. You can get the Colts' 2017 starter at a cool +17500 to win the NFL MVP. Hey, if Kurt Warner can go from bagging groceries to winning MVP, then certainly someone like Brissett can do it. I just wouldn't bet on it.
We'll be here every Monday with a look back at any big NFL news from the weekend (if worthy) and a glance at a few interesting opening lines. I'll be previewing Thursday and Monday night games individually - there may be times I'll hit on a Sunday matchup as well - so I won't address those here. Here are some Week 1 early lines that caught my eye (just a coincidence they are all NFC games). Colts-Chargers had the biggest line shift to no surprise, moving from Chargers -3 before Luck's injury to -7. All picks ATS.
Rams at Panthers (+3, 50.5): Well, we ALMOST had a starting quarterback suffer a serious injury. If you are a Panthers fan and watched Carolina's third preseason game against the Patriots, Cam Newton left with what looked like a potentially serious foot injury. However, X-rays came back negative, and Newton should be good to go. If you didn't watch Newton's brief appearance in that game, you will notice a very different throwing motion this year off shoulder surgery. As for the Rams, I'm honestly not sure what to expect. That team simply didn't look the same at all with Todd Gurley gimping around on his knee late last year; think the Rams only score three points in the Super Bowl with a healthy Gurley? I've heard reports that Gurley has looked fantastic in camp but also has arthritis in that knee. The Rams also seemed to get some insurance when drafting Memphis' Darrell Henderson in the third round. Pick: Shop for or buy up Panthers to +3.5 and take the points.
49ers at Bucs (-1, 49.5): Did you know that the 49ers haven't won a game in the Eastern Time Zone since Jim Harbaugh's days as head coach? It's 12 straight losses for the Niners in the east, although this game starts in the late afternoon window instead of 1 p.m. ET. That's a break for the road team. Very interested to see Jimmy Garoppolo play in a meaningful game for the first time since tearing his ACL in Week 3 last year. He was very inconsistent in camp (one five-INT practice) and preseason. Not yet clear if Niners No. 2 overall pick Nick Bosa will debut. He badly sprained an ankle early in camp. The Bucs are a bit of a mystery as well under former Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, who came out of his one-year retirement. If anyone can salvage Jameis Winston, he should be able to. The Bucs surely will be throwing deep more than any team in the NFL as that's Arians' MO. Just not sure they can run the ball whatsoever, and the defense leaves much to be desired. Pick: Bucs.
Lions at Cardinals (+2.5, 47.5): Keep in mind that there are a handful of notable players who will begin suspensions Week 1. Certainly the best player of that group is Cardinals Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson. He was dinged six games for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. It will cost Peterson $3.8 million in game checks. Most suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs carry a four-game ban, so it's not clear why Peterson got six, although obviously the NFL found something it didn't like and Peterson didn't appeal. According to Pro Football Focus, Peterson graded fifth among all cornerbacks in 2018. What makes this game so interesting is the NFL debut of Cardinals No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray and his head coach, Kliff Kingsbury. Still shocked that Cards hired Kingsbury despite his mediocre run at Texas Tech, but he can coach offense and his system is tailor-made for Murray. Detroit, like Arizona, finished last in its division last year and like Arizona probably will again. If that happens, not sure Coach Matt Patricia gets a third year. The former Patriots DC should be able to confuse Murray, though. Pick: Lions.
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