By: Matt Doherty and Liam O’Brien
Finally, Week 1 of the NFL season is upon us. We gave our eight picks for college football earlier in the week but it is now time to transition to pro ball. Here are our favorite spread picks that you can’t go wrong with this Sunday.
Liam: Ravens (-7.5) over Bills
Analysis: Don’t let the steep line scare you, Baltimore will beat Buffalo by double digits. The Bills have the potential to be the worst team in the NFL this season, and starting second-year quarterback Nathan Peterman over rookie Josh Allen in the season opener is the wrong decision.
The Ravens defense finished sixth in the NFL with 18.9 points allowed per game in 2017 and finished 12th with nearly three sacks per outing. Their pass rush should be able to cause a ruckus against a porous Buffalo offensive line missing former staples Cordy Glenn, Eric Wood and Richie Incognito, three players with a combined 347 NFL starts and five Pro Bowls.
Pick: Ravens -7.5
Matt: Panthers (-3) over Cowboys
Analysis: I spit out my coffee that I wasn’t drinking when I saw how low this line was. The Panthers are not only coming off an 11-5 season but are going up against a Cowboys team in Week 1 loaded with question marks. Ezekiel Elliott is back after a turbulent 2017, but outside of him, the Dallas offense is in shambles. With Travis Frederick and Zack Martin out on the offensive line, the most important part of the Cowboys offense is diminished.
On top of the O-Line injuries, the top pass catchers from last season, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, are both gone. Dallas will struggle to move the ball with an assortment of below average receivers and an average quarterback. Carolina’s Top 10 defense, led by Luke Kuechly, will have no problem shutting down the one dimensional Cowboys attack. On the other side of the ball, Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey will provide enough offense for an easy home win.
Pick: Panthers -3
Liam: Broncos (-3) over Seahawks
Analysis: This game will be decided between the trenches, and the Broncos have a sharp advantage. The Seahawks offensive line enters the season ranked 30th by Pro Football Focus while the Broncos possess the seventh-ranked pass rush.
On one side of the line, you have six-time Pro Bowler Von Miller going up against Germain Ifedi, the 59th-ranked right tackle in 2017. On the other side, you have the biggest steal of the NFL Draft, fifth overall selection Bradley Chubb, breathing down the neck of left tackle Duane Brown.
Expect Russell Wilson to be on his back throughout the afternoon. The Broncos offensive line is nothing special but the Seahawks defense is a shell of what it used to be.
Pick: Broncos -3
Matt: Cardinals (-0.5) over Redskins
Analysis: This bottom feeder matchup in the desert might have the lowest TV ratings of the week, but that doesn’t mean we can’t win some money off it. Both teams are breaking in new quarterbacks but the home team will have the advantage in this one. The Cardinals somehow went 8-8 last season without star back David Johnson and although Alex Smith is a pure winner, this is a tough spot for the Skins, taking the vaunted cross country road trip to begin 2018.
There’s still a lot of talent left on the Cards D, highlighted by Patrick Peterson and Chandler Jones. I expect Bradford to make enough plays and start his short lived Arizona Era off 1-0.
Pick: Cardinals -0.5
Liam: Bengals (+3) over Colts
Analysis: I’m a huge believer in the Bengals this season. Their offensive line is improved with the addition of Glenn from the Bills in free agency and the selection of center Billy Price in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Andy Dalton has plenty of healthy weapons at his disposal and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor involved the lightning-fast John Ross and running back Joe Mixon more in the passing game in an exciting preseason.
The Colts first-string defense had lapses in the preseason as well. Seattle’s Wilson played one possession against Indianapolis and gashed the defense, going 4 of 5 for 43 yards and a touchdown. One week later, the Ravens’ Joe Flacco went 7 of 9 for 72 yards and a touchdown.
Pick: Bengals +3
Matt: Dolphins (+1) over Titans
Analysis: I know Tennessee has the more talented roster, but I have a gut feeling the Dolphins will pull of the upset in Week 1. Ryan Tannehill is fully healthy, which will be a massive upgrade over the former QB, who is now the hit star of E!’s “Very Cavallari.” The last time we saw Tannehill, he guided the Dolphins to a 10-6 record. Adam Gase is still one of the brightest young coaches in the game and has fared well in season openers in the past.
For some reason, I love the Phins as a home dog in South Beach against a Titans team that was not as good as their record suggested last season.
Pick: Dolphins +1
.Liam: Titans (-1) over Dolphins
Analysis: Here’s the counter: Tennessee is an exciting unit this year after hiring head coach Mike Vrabel and adding running back Dion Lewis and cornerback Malcolm Butler.
Lewis and Derrick Henry should have plenty of running room behind a fantastic offensive line which ranks among the top five in the league. Expect Marcus Mariota to sit back and do his thing against a Dolphins defense which allowed 24.6 points per game last season, the fourth-worst mark in the NFL.
Pick: Titans -1
Matt: Teaser: Ravens (-7.5 down to -0.5 vs. Buffalo), Minnesota (-6.5 to +0.5 vs. SF), and New Orleans (-10 down to -3 vs. Tampa)
Analysis: So who messes this glorious three team teaser up? Nathan “Six Interception” Peterman, Jimmy G on the road against a Super Bowl favorite, or the dynamic duo of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Dirk Koetter in the Superdome against another Super Bowl favorite? So help me god if this doesn’t hit.