For The Win: Week 1

NFL picks against the Las Vegas lines.

Here we are again this year, back for more NFL picks. It is with great pleasure that I take the reins from Jeff Pasquino after writing a guest edition last year. As someone who has won and lost their fair share of money on the NFL (and many other sports), this is bound to be a fun and unpredictable ride. Join me, won’t you?

As with the format in previous years, this article will help those of you who compete in confidence pools and in ranking selections, which may come in handy on those Las Vegas trips. Games are rated based on preference for both the point spread and other angles (such as totals or over/unders) with 1-3 “Stars”, which basically highlight the best bets for the week. Those games which have zero stars are not preferred one way or the other, but will still be covered, discussed and a winner will be predicted for those trying to get some advice for their weekly office pools.

Let’s make a start with a tantalizing slate of games in Week 1 which, as we all know, can be a tricky week to make selections. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained; the uncertainty can swing things in our favor. If you have been on top of the NFL to this point and all through preseason, this might afford you a good advantage and help you to get off to a fast start.

Gleaning too much from the preseason can be a red herring on some level; defenses are vanilla in their schemes, offenses are reticent to give away too much. While it’s tempting to take all the overs this week, there are a couple of things to consider:

  1. Vegas knows people love to bet the over, so the totals are usually going to be a little higher than one might expect
  2. Defenses tend to be ahead of offenses early in the season

The best bet (no pun intended) is to let things play out in Week 1 and then start to increase your bankroll commitment as the picture becomes clearer. If the 2019 season was a puzzle, right now all we’d have are the corner pieces. Let’s get started with this week’s picks.

Note that the over/unders are taken from VegasInsider.com

(Thursday) GREEN BAY at CHICAGO (-3.5 to -3) (Over/Under 46)

There is no better way to kick off the 100th NFL season than a duel between two of the sport’s OGs in Green Bay and Chicago. While much has remained the same for these teams during the offseason, there have been some pivotal changes as well. Green Bay’s defense looks beefier and more dangerous as a pass-rushing unit, while long-tenured head coach Mike McCarthy has made way for former Sean McVay disciple Matt LaFleur. The Bears lost mastermind defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to the Broncos, so Chuck Pagano takes the reins of a unit poised to pick up right where they left off in 2018.

It is important to note that, being that this is the first ‘real’ game that people can wager on, there is bound to be plenty of action. Both teams would be popular public teams as well, with diehard fanbases and even casual fans getting in on the action. The line move from Bears -3.5 to -3 tells us that money has come in on the Pack, and that could continue as the game draws closer. There is every chance that both teams will come out a little rusty, paving the way for a classic NFC North slobber knocker, as the famed wrestling commentator Jim Ross would say.

Notably, the Bears boasted the best record against the spread last season, notching a 12-5 record (covering 70.6% of the time). I would advise sitting back and enjoying this one, but if you are planning to dip your toe in the pool on opening night, the Bears at -3 is the way to go.

Pick: Chicago

LA RAMS (-2.5 to -3) at CAROLINA (Over/Under 50.5)

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera is notoriously cagey when it comes to revealing the injury status of players, preferring to demur and defer to the head trainer. In the case of ailing quarterback Cam Newton and his foot sprain, however, Rivera said he had "no doubt" his star passer would suit up this week. Newton has played only a week after being involved in a serious car accident, among other things, so a foot sprain isn’t likely to prevent him from taking the field. The question becomes: how effective will he be?

In order to navigate what is likely to be a muddy pocket with Aaron Donald and others wreaking havoc, Newton will have to rely on his arm – and not his legs – to beat this team which, as we know, represented the NFC in the Super Bowl last year. The thing to like about the Rams is their continuity; Sean McVay’s offense is boosted by the return of Cooper Kupp, while Wade Phillips has the defense on lock. It is a difficult proposition for Newton and a Carolina offense that has flattered to deceive in the preseason.

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