Schwartz’s Trench Report: Week 1 NFL Bets Based on Offensive Line Play
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tyron Smith, Dak Prescott
- Former NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz offers his two best Week 1 bets based on the state of teams' offensive lines.
- The Cowboys and Panthers had formidable units in camp, but enter Sunday with weakened versions.
- The Jaguars-Giants matchup, on the other hand, will be a bloodbath in the trenches.
The Cowboys and Panthers opened camp with stellar offensive lines, but will kick the season off with their respective units depleted. Meanwhile, the Jaguars and Giants enter their Week 1 matchup with strong units up front.
So what are the betting implications based on the O-line situations in each matchup?
Here are my top two NFL picks for Week 1 based on the battles up front.
>> All odds as of 3 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets.
Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers
- Spread: Panthers -3
- Over/Under: 43
- Time: 4:25 p.m. ET
- TV channel: FOX
The Cowboys and Panthers entered camp with above-average-to-outstanding offensive lines.
Now, heading into Week 1, both units are major concerns.
Let’s start with the Panthers, who placed left tackle Matt Kalil on injured reserve following knee surgery, meaning he will miss at least the first half of the season. Second-year tackle Taylor Moton has looked decent filling in for Kalil this preseason, but Moton has yet to get any big-boy reps at left tackle during the regular season.
Then there’s right tackle Daryl Williams, who also suffered a knee injury in camp and at one point was thought to be out for the season. He’s back at practice, but I doubt he plays much this week — if at all. Even if he does, he’ll be going against Demarcus Lawrence, which is already a tough task when 100% healthy.
All of this likely leaves the Panthers down two starting tackles while also breaking in a new guard against a Cowboys defensive line that loves to slant and move the line almost every play. Combine that with the Panthers installing a new offense and it could be a tough day for Cam Newton and Co.
And yet the Cowboys are even worse off up-front than the Panthers.
Dallas lost All-Pro center Travis Frederick, who was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease in August. Not only will the Cowboys miss his talents, but they will miss his mind — Frederick points the entire unit in the right direction and helps quarterback Dak Prescott with protection adjustments. This is a huge loss.
Then there’s Tyron Smith, the best left tackle in the business when he’s healthy. The problem is that he rarely is. He will start on Sunday without taking any preseason reps.
Zack Martin is the best right guard in football, but he also missed most of the preseason with a hyperextended knee and is most likely a game-time decision.
Right tackle La’el Collins has a bum ankle, but will start. In all, it leaves a banged up interior with rookie left guard Connor Williams against the Panthers’ monster interior defensive line and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly.
This game has “under” written all over it. I grabbed it at 44 a few weeks ago.
The Bet: Under 43
Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants
- Spread: Jaguars -3
- Over/Under: 43.5
- Time: 1 p.m. ET
- TV channel: FOX
This matchup will be a blood bath in the trenches.
The Jaguars have a strong, physical offensive line and added Andrew Norwell in free agency to get even nastier.
But the Giants have the NFL’s best run-stuffing nose tackle, Damon “Snacks” Harrison, to go with multiple players in their front seven who can stop the run. Add safety Landon Collins to the mix, and the Jaguars will have issues running the ball.
Points will come down to Blake Bortles, and yeah, I don’t believe in him. He’s 3-11 against the spread versus NFC opponents in his career (-7.9 units).
Meanwhile, the Giants’ offense is loaded with talent: Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and second-overall pick Saquon Barkley. They’ve also improved four of their five offensive lineman. Oh, and they have two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning under center.
But as much as I believe in Eli, the Giants are still up against the most talented defense in the league.
This game will be low scoring and close, with the Giants covering at home.
The Bet: Under 43.5