Here we are again, Week 1 of the 2019 NFL season and sports betting is slowly becoming more and more mainstream as leagues and networks are incorporating this data into their programming.
For those who may be unaware of how a betting line works, here are some “Cliffs notes:”
Spread – Points to add or subtract to the team’s final score
Win – Win without points
Total – Total combined score between the two teams (O = Over, U = Under)
In this case, if you placed a bet on the Ravens -7, they would need to win by more than 7 points for you to win. If you bet on the Bills +7, they would need to lose by fewer than 7 points (or win) for you to win the bet. A score difference of exactly 7 points would be a push and you would simply get your money back.
The number in parenthesis indicates the amount of money you will win for a particular bet. A negative number shows how much money you would have to put down to win $100. A positive number shows how much money you will win if you placed a $100 bet. For this game, if you wanted to bet on the Ravens to win, without points, you would have to put down $280 to win $100.
My goal each week is to provide some insights and data on each game that would help you make your decision. I will also make my pick for each game, but let’s be honest, if I was good enough or had the bankroll to win it big, I wouldn’t be working a 9-5 and betting pocket change here and there on games.
I will be using the spread data from the Action Network, and the other game-related records and stats will be compiled from my own data combined with OddsShark.com. The lines will be as of Wednesday each week.
This year, I’ll also be introducing my score predictor. It uses over 10 years worth of score data to try and predict the score of each game. Now, I may not always go along with what it says, but I’ll throw it out there as another tidbit and see how it stacks up when making picks. One downfall with this is that it doesn’t take into account teams that make drastic roster overhauls (i.e. Cleveland). Although it weighs more heavily on recent data, there are still aspects of a team year to year that no amount of data can account for. That’s what makes this fun.
Before we get into the meat of the article, here is probably the most important line that you will read:
Disclaimer: Please do not take these picks and expect to make any real money. I enjoy picking games and the discussions they create so feel free to play along. I will provide information for each game, but please make your own decisions and BE RESPONSIBLE!
Feel free to play along, tell me where I am wrong, or just enjoy the read. Onto Week 1…
Thursday – 9/5/19
Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears (-3, o/u 46.5)
The first game of the season should be a good one in Chicago. Aaron Rodgers did not play a single snap in the preseason so he’ll get thrown right into the fire against arguably the best defense in the NFL.
Being a divisional game, these teams obviously have a history with each other. The Packers are 6-4 ATS in their last 10 matchups overall with the Bears averaging 27.8 points per game and 7-3 ATS in their last 10 at Soldier field. The Bears are averaging 21.4 points per game at home against the Packers in their last 10 meetings and they covered in both games last season.
I have a hard time picking against defense and in this case so that leads me to the Bears. I think they’ll be able to slow down Rodgers enough to get the Week 1 win. However, my main play here is the under. These teams should be below the 46.5 number when the dust settles on Thursday night.
Score Predictor: Green Bay 26.6 – Chicago 22.6 (Green Bay +3)
My Pick: Chicago -3
Sunday – 9/8/19
Baltimore Ravens vs. Miami Dolphins (+7, o/u 37.5)
After Miami started to trade away their key contributors, the line has moved from -4 all the way to -7 in favor of the Ravens. Even at that number, money has been flowing in on the Ravens which will scare a lot of us contrarians off. You can read what you want into that line movement, but I think it’s right where it should be given what Miami has transformed into over the past few weeks.
I think the Ravens will get a few picks and there will be no “Fitzmagic” this year in Week 1. Ravens win by 10+.
Since 2008, Baltimore is 7-1 straight up and 8-0 ATS against the Dolphins with 5 of those games being in Miami with an average point differential of 9.6 points.
Score Predictor: Baltimore 27.0 – Miami 16.7 (Baltimore -7)
My Pick: Baltimore -7
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (+4, o/u 52.0)
I was high on Jacksonville going into last season after their AFC Championship run the prior year, but they were a huge disappointment in 2018. Their defense remains mostly intact and they’ve added Nick Foles to replace the struggling Blake Bortles. That should mean an uptick from last season, but they don’t get any favors in facing the Chiefs in Week 1 as Kansas City looks to put last year’s playoff loss behind them.
This is one of the tougher one’s for me this week. Part of me sees a bit of a regression for Patrick Mahomes in year two, but without me seeing that regression begin, I can’t bring myself to pick against him. Especially when the Chiefs are 4-1 ATS against Jacksonville in their last 5 and have won 7 straight ATS September games. Jacksonville is also 1-13 ATS in their last 14 games against AFC West teams. Personally, I would play the under here. With an offseason to prepare for Mahomes, I think Jacksonville will keep them in the 20s which should hit the under.
Score Predictor: Kansas City 26.1 – Jacksonville 23.4 (Jacksonville +4)
My Pick: Kansas City -4
Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia Eagles (-9.5, o/u 46.0)
I don’t see the Eagles as potential Super Bowl contenders like some people do, but they are a good team, and probably the class of the NFC East. The Redskins, well, they’re not. This is a rout on paper, but divisional games are a different beast. Even so, the Eagles should win and win big here.
The Eagles have won their last four games straight up and ATS against the Redskins (by an average of 15.5 points) and I look for that to continue here.
Score Predictor: Washington 22.1 – Philadelphia 27.1 (Washington +9.5)
My Pick: Philadelphia -9.5
Buffalo Bills vs. New York Jets (-3, o/u 40.0)
The battle of the Sophomore quarterbacks and this game could go either way. The Jets added Le’Veon Bell and Jamison Crowder to Darnold’s supporting cast which should enhance his development, but the Bills defense is still one of the more stout groups in the league. I like the Bills getting 3 in this spot as the favored team is 1-7 straight up and ATS in the last 8 games in this matchup.
Score Predictor: Buffalo 26.4 – New York 22.6 (Buffalo +3)
My Pick: Buffalo +3
Tennessee Titans vs. Cleveland Browns (-5.5, o/u 45.5)
One of the more interesting matchups for me in Week 1. It’s the somehow perennial 9-7 Titans versus one of the, I can’t believe I’m about to type this, Super Bowl favorites in the Cleveland Browns.
I just did a quick search on StubHub and the cheapest seat in Cleveland this Sunday is going for $137. Compare that against the Ravens opener next week where the cheapest seat is going for $41 and you can tell the level of excitement in Cleveland for this team. I don’t know if they’ll be any good for a full season, but in Week 1 I anticipate them coming out with a fire under them and they will roll over the Titans with the help of that raucous crowd behind them who will have something to cheer about for the first time in years.
Cleveland was 6-1 ATS to close out the 2018 season whereas the Titans were 2-5 ATS in that same stretch. I’m taking Cleveland and the points.
Score Predictor: Tennessee 20.6 – Cleveland 22.5 (Tennessee +5.5)
My Pick: Cleveland -5.5
Los Angeles Rams vs. Carolina Panthers (+3, o/u 50.0)
This game for me hinges on whether or not Cam Newton is healthy. If he his, I’m comfortable with the pick. If he’s not, I’d roll with the Rams here. Assuming he is healthy though, this Panthers team has some talent. They were 6-2 last year before Cam got hurt and should be able to keep pace with the NFC West defending champs.
Super Bowl losers are 3-16 ATS in their last 19 season openers and 1-12 ATS on the road since 2000.
Score Predictor: Los Angeles 22.5 – Carolina 23.2 (Carolina +3)
My Pick: Carolina +3
Atlanta Falcons vs. Minnesota Vikings (-4, o/u 47.5)
The Vikings offense struggled last season without Dalvin Cook, but he is back healthy and should have a big impact. However, the Falcons also are getting back two key defensive starters in Keanu Neal and Deion Jones to counter Cook. I had Atlanta pegged as one of my Super Bowl favorites (especially at the price) and I’m going to pick them to win outright here in week 1.
Dating back to 2014, Minnesota has gone 3-0 straight up and ATS against Atlanta winning by an average of 9.3 points.
Score Predictor: Atlanta 21.9 – Minnesota 24.1 (Atlanta +4)
My Pick: Atlanta +4
Indianapolis Colts vs. Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5, o/u 44.5)
As far as Super Bowl favorites go, my personal Super Bowl pick this year, the Chargers, will get the first crack at the Luck-less Colts. There is potential that Indy can keep this close, but the Chargers have the horses that should be able to pull away. I also like the under in this game as the Chargers defense proved to be a force last season and will prey on Jacoby Brissett.
The Chargers are 6-2 straight up and ATS in their last 8 games against the Colts.
Score Predictor: Los Angeles 22.6 – Indianapolis 19.5 (Indianapolis +6.5)
My Pick: Los Angeles -6.5
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Seattle Seahawks (-9.5, o/u 44.0)
Again, this game is all about defense for me. Seattle has a top 5 defense (in my opinion), and Cincinnati did little to improve one of the league’s worst defenses in 2018. Russell Wilson should have his way with Cincinnati and win handily.
Seattle is 14-0 straight up and 12-2 ATS in their last 14 September home games.
Score Predictor: Cincinnati 18.9 – Seattle 26.8 (Cincinnati +9.5)
My Pick: Seattle -9.5
San Francisco 49ers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (PICK, o/u 50.0)
I’m going to call this my “Your guess is as good as mine” game. The 49ers went 0-8 straight up and 2-6 ATS on the road last season and they must travel to the East coast for this one in Week 1. That record has an asterisk by it as they now will have Jimmy Garoppolo back. So for me it comes down to who do I trust more? Garoppolo or Winston. I’m going to lean (softly) toward Garoppolo and the Niners. I love the Tevin Coleman addition and I think he’ll have a big impact in their offense.
Score Predictor: San Francisco 20.1 – Tampa Bay 25.2 (Tampa Bay PICK)
My Pick: San Francisco PICK
Detroit Lions vs. Arizona Cardinals (+2.5, o/u 47.5)
This is another game that’s tough to call because of the unknown in Kyler Murray. He didn’t look sharp in the preseason, but once the handcuffs come off, who knows what he’ll look like. I’m going to back the veteran QB and ride with Matthew Stafford. Personally though, I’m going to avoid this game because there are way too many unknowns.
Score Predictor: Detroit 20.2 – Arizona 19.1 (Arizona +2.5)
My Pick: Detroit -2.5
New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys (-7, o/u 45.5)
Both teams have above average defenses which should make points at a premium in this game. I like Dallas to win, but I think the Giants will keep it much closer than expected with Barkley running the ball effectively. It’ll also be interesting to see how Ezekiel Elliott is used in Week 1 after having not participated at all this offseason. If he is on a pitch count, which is my assumption, that will also affect this game and how close the Giants can keep it.
Dallas is 8-3-1 ATS against the Giants in their last 12 meetings.
Score Predictor: New York 20.6 – Dallas 23.5 (New York +7)
My Pick: New York +7
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots (-6, o/u 51.5)
I can’t forget the matchup last December where the Steelers defense kept the Patriots in check in Pittsburgh. They won that game 17-10 while also missing James Connor. While I think the loss of Antonio Brown will hurt, the Steelers do have two capable #2 receivers in my opinion in James Washington and Donte Moncrief to shoulder the load.
On the other side, her Majesty lost one of the biggest weapons in football (when healthy) in Rob Gronkowski. Even if Gronk wasn’t catching passes, his mere presence on the field was something that teams had to account for. Without him, I think their other receivers will get exposed and the Steelers will do that this week.
I’m not confident enough to say the Steelers win this game, but I wouldn’t be surprised. I do think they cover the 6 points.
In 2018, the Steelers were 3-0 ATS as road dogs, but the Patriots were 7-2 ATS as home favorites.
Score Predictor: Pittsburgh 21.9 – New England 30.3 (New England -6)
My Pick: Pittsburgh +6
Monday – 9/9/19
Houston Texans vs. New Orleans Saints (-7, o/u 53.5)
The Saints are returning most of their team from a year ago when they were robbed of a Super Bowl spot. Since the ruiner of all things fantasy, Mark Ingram (yes, I’m still bitter), is gone, Alvin Kamara has the backfield all to himself to prove that he can carry the load. This should be a high scoring game, but I do think that Houston can keep it close enough to cover the 7 points on the road.
The Saints finished 2018 going 3-6 ATS as home favorites, but are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 home games when favored by 7/7.5 points.
Score Predictor: Houston 22.8 – New Orleans 26.1 (Houston +7)
My Pick: Houston +7
Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders (PICK, o/u 43.0)
I’ll be honest. I had Oaklavegas here initially. Then I remembered that they’re the Raiders. They gave up 52 sacks last season so Chubb and Miller should be able to get to Carr early and often which will disrupt his rhythm and potentially have Antonio Brown throwing his league approved helmet on the sidelines. Couple that with a veteran-led offense in Denver and the Broncos should be able to overcome the turmoil that is the Raiders and win this game.
Oaklavegas has gone 3-0 ATS in their last 3 matchups with the Broncos.
Score Predictor: Denver 23.3 – Oakland 21.3 (Denver PICK)
My Pick: Denver PICK
Week 1 is always a crap shoot. There are so many unknowns that it makes it nearly impossible to make concrete decisions on the majority of these games. Who are the Browns? Who is Kyler Murray? How will Jacoby Brissett perform as a quarterback of a potential playoff team? All of those questions make Week 1 the most frustrating and exciting week of the NFL season.