Ultimate Week 1 NFL Guide: Picks & Predictions for Every Game

Ultimate Week 1 NFL Guide: Picks & Predictions for Every Game article feature image
Credit:

USA Today Sports. Pictured: Jalen Ramsey, Baker Mayfield, Travis Kelce

  • See our staff's previews, betting picks and predictions for every NFL Week 1 game slated for Sunday.

Key divisional matchups. The regular-season debut of first overall pick Kyler Murray. Two future Hall of Famers in primetime.

We have a full lineup of games to ring in the first NFL Sunday of 2019:

  • Chiefs at Jaguars: 1 p.m. ET
  • Falcons at Vikings: 1 p.m. ET
  • Titans at Browns: 1 p.m. ET
  • Bills at Jets: 1 p.m. ET
  • Ravens at Dolphins: 1 p.m. ET
  • Redskins at Eagles: 1 p.m. ET
  • Rams at Panthers: 1 p.m. ET
  • Colts at Chargers: 4:05 p.m. ET
  • Bengals at Seahawks: 4:05 p.m. ET
  • Giants at Cowboys: 4:25 p.m. ET
  • 49ers at Buccaneers: 4:25 p.m. ET
  • Lions at Cardinals: 4:25 p.m. ET
  • Steelers at Patriots: 8:20 p.m. ET

All odds are as of Thursday and via PointsBet.

The better news? Our staff has every actionable angle covered.

See how they’re betting all 13, featuring analysis of key matchups and more.


Go To: KC-JAX | ATL-MIN | TEN-CLE | BUF-NYJ | BAL-MIA | WAS-PHI | LAR-CAR | IND-LAC | CIN-SEA | NYG-DAL | SF-TB | DET-ARI | PIT-NE


Chiefs at Jaguars Betting Odds

  • Odds: Chiefs -3.5
  • Total: 51.5
  • Time: 1 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: CBS

These franchises slid in opposite directions last season, with the Chiefs jumping to 12 wins and an AFC Championship appearance and the Jaguars dropping to five wins after nearly making the Super Bowl in 2017.

All eyes will be on Patrick Mahomes as he builds on last year’s MVP campaign, but are his Chiefs overvalued in this road spot? Our analysts dive into the game, betting odds, matchups and more.

Chiefs-Jaguars Injury Report

Considering the Chiefs had zero players listed on their injury report, they win the healthiest team award. The Jaguars are also in good shape with defensive lineman Marcell Dareus and linebacker D.J. Alexander as the only two players on the first injury report.

One player to watch is Marqise Lee, who is coming off an ACL tear and was listed as a full participant on Wednesday. Lee appears healthy enough to play, but it’s unclear how many snaps he’ll receive.Justin Bailey

Note: All injury info in this guide is as of Thursday. See our Injury Report for daily practice participation and game statuses up until kickoff.

Sean Koerner’s Projected Odds

  • Projected Spread: Chiefs -2.5
  • Projected Total: 51

The Jaguars were one of five teams to receive an A grade in my Buy/Sell Ratings, so I’ll be looking to back them early in the season. They’re up against the top team in my power ratings in the Chiefs, whom I have as only -2.5 favorites in this one.

Sign me up for Jaguars +3.5 to lock in the most valuable number against the spread in 3.

Most of the action has been on Kansas City here and the line still dropped from +4.5 to +3.5. A lot of the line movement early this summer was due to Tyreek Hill going from likely to be suspended/released to not suspended/available to play Week 1. Wide receivers typically don’t impact a line, but Hill is so dynamic that he’d be worth 0.5-1 points, especially on a weak number like 4.5.

We’re able to filter out the noise now and can safely conclude that the number has dropped a full point due to sharp action, and I still think there’s value here. Sean Koerner

Biggest Mismatch

Leonard Fournette vs. Kansas City’s Run Defense

From all indications, Fournette is in the best shape of his NFL career. A strong rookie season in 2017 was followed with a huge disappointment last season, causing many to question if he is truly a three-down bell cow.

After losing 20 pounds and training through the offseason, Fournette looked explosive in the preseason. Jacksonville’s offensive line is healthy, with left tackle Cam Robinson scheduled to start after ACL reconstruction and 6-foot-5, 315-pound rookie Jawaan Taylor starting at right tackle. Playing at home with a new offensive coordinator in John DeFilippo should provide an optimal setting for the Jaguars to establish the ground game.

More importantly, they face a Chiefs defense that was far and away the NFL’s worst against the run last season. Kansas City ranked last in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA and allowed 132.1 rushing yards per game in 2018, ranking sixth-worst in the league.

Per Sharp Football, the Chiefs ranked last in Early Down Success Rate, which would allow Jacksonville to gain favorable down and distance opportunities and keep the Chiefs offense off the field. Kansas City’s personnel additions of defensive ends Frank Clark and Alex Okafor should help that unit, but can it compensate for the losses of Justin Houston and linebacker Dee Ford?

Jacksonville will need to limit the opportunities for Mahomes, which will mean maintaining its slow pace from the first half of games last season. The Jaguars ranked 30th with an average of 29.81 seconds per play in the first half of games, but became more uptempo as they entered the second half, usually playing from behind. Fournette was a true nightmare in 2017, averaging 3.7 targets along with 80 rushing yards per game.

Leonard-Fournette-Week-1-Fantasy-Running-Back-Rankings
Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (27) in action during the game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.

With Jacksonville’s defense having their biggest test of the season in Week 1, DeFilippo will try to control the time of possession behind Fournette and an improved offensive line. The key is whether Kansas City’s new defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, can improve a run defense that was thrashed weekly in 2018. — Mike Randle

Expert Picks

Stuckey: Jaguars +3 or better

When these two teams met last year in Arrowhead, the 5-0 Chiefs were 3-point favorites over the Jaguars. If you assume nothing has changed since then, that would imply the Jaguars should be about a 3.5- to 4-point favorite here.

But they opened as a 3.5- to 4-point dog and now sit around 3.5/4. So, what gives?

Well, obviously the Chiefs ended up being much better than many had anticipated and the Jaguars continued to slide for the remainder of the season. But I still think this is an overreaction– remember that season-to-season regression is vicious in the NFL.

The Jaguars were simply not as bad as they looked on the field in 2018 — one year removed from the AFC Championship game.

Last year….

  • They dealt with atrocious QB play from Blake Bortles
  • Injuries plagued them throughout the season
  • They went 2-6 in games decided by six or fewer and 0-3 in field goal games
  • They recovered only 39% of fumbles compared to 58% the year prior

Look no further than last season’s matchup, which was a microcosm of the Jags’ year. It looks like a blowout on paper (31-14 KC win), but Bortles threw four picks (including one returned for a TD) and lost a fumble.

Bortles has since been replaced by Nick Foles in one of the biggest QB upgrades of the offseason. And the Jags are much healthier on defense and in the backfield with Fournette, who should have plenty of success running against a suspect KC run defense.

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles (7) throws a pass against the Miami Dolphins during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles

Jacksonville also upgraded in the trenches and has two elite corners who will come in handy against the explosive Chiefs offense. While the Jags do play a ton of Cover 3 and 4 with some man mixed in, Jalen Ramsey will still shadow Hill. Now, there are questions at safety, and Travis Kelce could have a massive day, but this Jags defense can match up with KC.

Andy Reid is excellent with time to prepare (17-3 after a bye) and the Chiefs have excelled in September the past few seasons. KC has also been nails in season openers under Reid, including three straight road wins over eventual playoff teams.

But this number is just an outrageous market overreaction. I’m buying the Jags and have them circled as a potential team to bet throughout September.

Collin Wilson: Jaguars +3.5

The Jaguars have a legitimate shot at winning the AFC, and Week 1 is their first chance to prove that. The 2018 season was marred with a record of 0-4 in games decided by a field goal or less and 2-6 in games decided by fewer than six points. There’s still plenty of defensive retention from a 2017 roster that led New England in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship.

Bortles exits the roster;  Reid-quarterback Foles enters.

Some will point to Foles having motivation to show up Reid and Kansas City, but the real story is DeFilippo — the new play-caller for the Jags whose history includes a stint as offensive coordinator for the Super Bowl-winning Eagles, led by none other than Foles.

Regression for Mahomes is expected after the loss of superior weapons in 2018’s run to the AFC title game. Kansas City leaves the frying pan of the midwest for the 90-degree coastal humidity. Take the Jaguars to win this game outright and for their AFC Championship odds to increase.

Falcons at Vikings Betting Odds

  • Odds: Vikings -4
  • Total: 47.5
  • Time: 1 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: FOX

Despite getting a lot of public love, the Falcons are 4-point underdogs in their season opener against the Vikings. Why hasn’t the spread moved since opening? Should you consider taking Atlanta on the road to open the season?

Our experts compare their projections to the odds and reveal how they’re betting this game.

Falcons-Vikings Injury Report

The Falcons have no key injuries at the moment, but Stefon Diggs missed the Vikings’ practice on Wednesday with a hamstring issue. This is something to monitor throughout the week as Diggs’ absence would free up 33% of their Air Yards and 25% of their target share from last season.

The Vikings headed into the regular season with just four receivers on their active roster, so any call-ups from the practice squad could be a good indicator of Diggs’ health. Justin Bailey

Sean Koerner’s Projected Odds

  • Projected Spread: Vikings -3.5
  • Projected Total: 47.5

The Vikings have remained at -4 despite what appears to be lopsided action on the Falcons, who are attracting 62% of bets as of writing (you can find live betting percentages here).

I have a similar line for this game, but think the slight value is on the Vikings.

The Falcons’ offensive line looked a bit off in the preseason, which caused Matt Ryan to be visually frustrated. It could take a week or two for them to get in sync, but should still be an improvement over last season. Still, Julio Jones and the three key defenders who ended up on IR at various points last season (Deion Jones, Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen) have been treated with kids gloves heading into the season.

The Vikings are much more likely to hit the ground running and should be able to take advantage of the Falcons, who will improve as the season goes on. I’d lean Vikings -4 here.

The total is right in the range I’ve pegged it. It’s worth noting that despite about 75% of the tickets coming in on the over, the line hasn’t budged yet. There could be some sharp money preventing this line from going too much higher.

I’d lean on the under in a pick ’em contest, but right now, this is a pass for me. Sean Koerner

Biggest Mismatch

Falcons WR Julio Jones vs. Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes

I’ll be watching this game closely, primarily to see how much the Vikings run the ball — a stated emphasis of Mike Zimmer late in the season when he fired his offensive coordinator — and to gauge the relative performances of each offensive line, both of which have major question marks.

Minnesota’s offensive line struggled throughout 2018 and still doesn’t project as a strong unit, especially up the middle. How will the Vikings handle star DT Grady Jarrett and any pressure the Falcons bring up the middle? If the Vikings can hold up, Kirk Cousins certainly has the talent at receiver and tight end to pick apart Atlanta through the air.

The Falcons have a lot of uncertainty on the right side of the line in particular, where they’ll presumably start two completely inexperienced linemen. Rookie Chris Lindstrom will get the start at RG while the RT spot will either be filled by rookie Kaleb McGary or Matt Gono, a second-year undrafted player. And McGary has been dealing with a heart issue while Gono is also banged up.

Can the Falcons’ right side of the line hold up against Danielle Hunter and a very complex Vikings defense that likes to bring various disguised exotic blitzes throughout the game? It’s a unit that ranked second in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate in 2018 for a reason.

Julio Jones-Xaiver Rhodes
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Julio Jones, Xaiver Rhodes

If the Falcons’ line can give Ryan some time, he can exploit a complete mismatch on the outside with Jones, who will likely be shadowed by Rhodes.

Rhodes is not the same elite lockdown corner he once was. He appears to have lost a step, and that’s all it takes in the NFL to see a massive decline in production.

Just take a look at his Pro Football Focus grades over the past three seasons:

If Ryan gets any time at all, expect a number of big plays down the field to the NFL’s leading receiver over the past five seasons combined. Stuckey

Expert Pick

Chris Raybon: Falcons +4

The Vikings are getting a bit too much credit here at -4 instead of -3.

This is a team that managed to rank just 22nd in yards per pass attempt despite the stellar play of Adam Thielen and Diggs and the big money addition of Cousins. Their O-line is still one of the NFL’s shakiest (ranked 25th by PFF), and Diggs (hamstring) tends to struggle when banged up.

The Falcons will be better coached with Dan Quinn taking over defensive play-calling and Dirk Koetter returning to coordinate the offense.

The Vikings want to run the ball, which is sup-optimal in terms of pulling away. They’ve also been having kicker issues while the Falcons solved theirs by bringing back Matt Bryant.


This has all the makings of a game in which the Vikings let the Falcons hang around, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they win outright. I would bet this down to +3.5.


Titans at Browns Betting Odds

  • Odds: Browns -5.5
  • Total: 45.5
  • Time: 1 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: CBS

We now live in a world where the Cleveland Browns are perhaps the most-hyped team coming into an NFL season. With Baker Mayfield under center, Odell Beckham Jr. out wide and anybody but Hue Jackson on the sideline, the market is bullish on the Browns.

The question all season long will be whether the NFL’s newest darlings will be overrated thanks to public love. As of noon ET on Thursday, 70% of the bets were on Cleveland to beat the number.

Let’s dig into our experts’ preview of their season opener, featuring matchup analysis and picks.

Browns-Titans Injury Report

The Titans and Browns both enter this game in good health. Although, there are two suspensions worth noting. Browns receiver Antonio Callaway will miss the first four games of the season: He amassed 20% of the Browns’ Air Yards and 14% of their target share last year. His absence will make room for Rashard Higgins in 3-WR sets with Jarvis Landry and Beckham.

Also, the Titans will be without left tackle Taylor Lewan, who graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 15 tackle in 2018. Right tackle Dennis Kelly is expected to slide over to fill his role, he’s an excellent pass and run-blocker, but he’ll have his hands full against Myles Garrett, PFF’s No. 6-graded defensive end when it comes to the pass rush. Justin Bailey

Note: Info as of Thursday. See our Injury Report for daily practice participation and game statuses up until kickoff.

Sean Koerner’s Projected Odds

  • Projected Spread: Browns -4
  • Projected Total: 45

The Browns are entering this season with a lot of hype. They’re built to win now and are likely going to be a team the public backs heavily.

Their Week 1 opponent is the Titans, who are a very bland team that isn’t going to be drawing a ton of public backing this week. That seems to be the case as the line has been bet up from -5 to -6 at some shops. I make the Browns 4-point favorites and I’m guessing we won’t see enough action to get the Browns pushed up to a key number like 7.

There does seem to be a bit of sharp resistance on this line as 66% of the money is coming in on the Titans as of writing. I’m willing to see if it can get pushed up to 6.5 and then will likely come in on the Titans. Sean Koerner

Biggest Mismatch

Browns Wide Receivers vs. Titans Cornerbacks

Last year the Titans were No. 5 overall with a 90.2 coverage grade (per PFF), so this should theoretically be a hard matchup for the Browns passing game. But I expect Beckham and Landry to go off in their first game together since they were LSU teammates a half decade ago.

In 2018, the Titans defense was strong in Football Outsiders’ pass DVOA against tight ends and running backs, but against any of the three wide receiver positions, they ranked no better than No. 20.

Based on how the Titans used him last year, I expect third-year cornerback Adoree’ Jackson to shadow Beckham, and although Jackson has potential, he’s not on OBJ’s level yet. In Week 11 last year, Jackson tailed T.Y. Hilton on 77.8% of his routes, and Hilton humiliated him with an 8-146-2 receiving line on eight targets.

And Landry and No. 3 wide receiver Higgins should be able to have their way with former Patriots castoffs Logan Ryan in the slot and Malcolm Butler on the outside. Last year, Ryan and Butler combined to allow 1,192 yards and 10 touchdowns with a 65.7% catch rate in their coverage.

In OBJ’s first game with Mayfield, the Browns seem likely to attack aggressively through the air, and the Titans corners simply don’t match up well with the Browns wide receivers. Matthew Freedman

Expert Pick

Chris Raybon: Browns -5.5

I like the Browns at the dead number here for the reasons Freedman mentioned. Mayfield was 0.1 yards per attempt behind Patrick Mahomes for the league lead over the second half of last season and took just five sacks over that eight-game span.

The Titans like to muck up the game to stay close and have a mostly solid football team, but even with Delanie Walker back and the addition of Adam Humphries, they’ll struggle to play from behind against Garrett and Olivier Vernon off the edge with Denzel Ward blanketing Corey Davis.

Last season, Tennessee mustered just 4.8 yards per play when trailing, 26th in the league.

Bills at Jets Betting Odds

  • Odds: Jets -2.5
  • Total: 40.5
  • Time: 1 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: CBS

Second-year quarterbacks Sam Darnold and Josh Allen will look to start their seasons with a win Sunday. Our NFL experts break down this division matchup, hitting on key injuries, matchups to note, favorite bets and more.

Bills-Jets Injury Report

The Bills are the healthier team, as the Jets are dealing with injuries to a few players in Robby Anderson and starting corner Trumaine Johnson. Anderson has a calf injury, but he got in a limited session on Wednesday, and there’s nothing at the moment to indicate he’ll miss this game.

Head coach Adam Gase stated Johnson is “trending towards playing,” which is good news, though it’s never ideal for a cornerback to have a soft tissue injury — especially with speedsters John Brown and Zay Jones on the outside. Justin Bailey

Sean Koerner’s Projected Odds

  • Projected Spread: Jets -3.5
  • Projected Total: 39.5

I have the Jets graded out as an A- in my Buy/Sell Ratings, while the Bills are a C.

The Jets improved their roster a ton, bringing in free agents Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley while also selecting DT Quinnen Williams third overall to bolster the line. Darnold should also only improve in Year 2.

I’ll be looking to back the Jets early in the season; however, the Week 1 market isn’t posing much value, as -3 is pretty spot on. And despite lopsided action on the Jets so far, the line hasn’t budged. I’m going to pass on them this week and look to potentially target them in Week 2 against the Browns.

The total opened at 38 and has been bet up all the way to 41 at some books. My projected total splits the difference at 39.5, and I do like the under as of now. As I’ve mentioned before, totals don’t have as significant key numbers, but 41 is one of them.

I might wait to see if this gets bumped up to 41.5 before coming in on the under and get the hook on that key number. If it doesn’t move, I’ll settle on under 41. Sean Koerner

bills-jets-betting-odds-pick-preview-nfl-week 1-2019
Photo credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Sam Darnold vs. Bills

Biggest Mismatch: Special Teams

If you just look at the numbers last year, you’d think the Jets should hold an enormous special teams edge. You can’t get more of a wider disparity than first and worst, which were the rankings of the Jets and Bills special teams, respectively.

The Jets special teams were absolutely money in 2018.

After getting blown out at home in their first meeting, the Jets won by four in Buffalo for one of their four wins on the season. Special teams played a major role in that victory: Not only did the Bills miss two field goals (one blocked), Andre Roberts also had an 86-yard return to inside the Buffalo 10 to set up New York’s only touchdown of the first half.

And in one of their other victories, the Jets beat the Colts thanks to Jason Myers’ franchise-record seven field goals.

Meanwhile, the Bills special teams were nothing short of a disaster last season in every phase.

But don’t expect that disparity to persist this season. In fact, I project the Bills special teams to finish higher than the Jets. Let’s take a look at each unit.

Jets’ Special Teams

Gone is Roberts. Gone is Myers. That’s two Pro Bowlers who helped lead the Jets’ No. 1 rated special teams unit last season.

Replacing them won’t be easy, especially considering the unproven talent the Jets brought in to fill the voids. New York claimed former Miami Hurricane WR Braxton Berrios off waivers from the Patriots to apparently take over return duties. How they didn’t keep Greg Dortch on the final 53-man roster to handle the return duties is a baffling move that I think the Jets will regret.

Speaking of waivers, the Jets’ new kicker was also just claimed off waivers this week. After being released by the Vikings for preseason struggles, Kaare Vedvik will take over field goal duties in New York.

Also, the Jets lose two of the most unheralded special teams contributors in Charone Peake (recently cut) and Eric Tomlinson (recently claimed off waivers by the Giants).

This unit should take a massive step back.

Bills Special Teams

As I mentioned, the Bills special teams were awful last year. It’s one of the reasons they brought in a new special teams coordinator in Heath Farwell, who should bring in some much-needed energy and new looks for the coverage units.

Oh, and the return units should get an immediate boost from the signing of Roberts (assuming he can go on Sunday with a quad injury), who Buffalo pilfered from New York.

Buffalo also re-signed the reliable Steven Hauschka, who had an uncharacteristic down year. He had some bad luck, multiple punters as holders and dealt with an injury late in the season. He’s still the seventh-most accurate kicker in NFL history. Expect a bounce-back year for the former NC State kicker.

Punter does remain a major question mark with Corey Bojorquez, who really struggled in the preseason. Consequently, the Bills tried out four punters this week, so it remains to be seen who ends up booting balls for the Bills.

Even with potential punter problems, this unit should be exponentially better than the train wreck in 2018.

Throw in a little regression for each unit and I actually expect the Bills to have a superior special teams unit this season. That’s an enormous 180 from last season and could make all of the difference this week in a matchup of two very similarly-rated teams. Stuckey

PRO System Match

Underdogs have historically performed well in division games as increased familiarity among opponents keeps games competitive, and it’s been profitable to bet small dogs in these matchups to win outright.

Even though teams matching this Pro System have a losing record of 105-112-2, bettors have still been able to turn a profit due to plus-money bets. A $100 gambler would have returned a profit of $4,172 following this strategy since 2003.

The Bills +3 are a match for this system in their season opener. John Ewing

Expert Pick

Stuckey: Bills +3 or better

Not only has the special teams gap closed between Buffalo and New York, I actually think the Bills will have a superior unit in 2019. That matters in a close game between two average teams at best.

That will obviously help the Bills, who I like in this game catching three points in MetLife to open the season.

Whichever team is able to get more pressure on the other’s second-year quarterback should win this game.

Allen and Darnold were absolutely horrendous under pressure in 2018, which happened frequently in front of two subpar offensive line units.

Only Josh Rosen had a worse QB rating last season.

Now, neither team will have anything close to an elite offensive line this year, but I do think the Bills did more to improve their protection, primarily through the acquisition of center Mitch Morse. Buffalo also upgraded at receiver, although it’s still not an overwhelming group. And the Jets defense just isn’t at full strength right now with a plethora of injuries and suspensions.

Meanwhile, the Jets offensive line is still a mess until it proves otherwise. It could be a long day against a solid Bills DL. Buffalo added Ed Oliver via the draft to an already formidable group that retained the likes of Shaq Lawson and Jerry Hughes. In addition to an improved defensive front, I expect the Bills to bring pressure from all over, as I don’t think they really fear a Jets downfield passing attack that includes a potentially hobbled primary receiver (Anderson) and a suspended starting tight end (Chris Herndon).

Both teams have excellent safeties and some talent at corner, but the Bills defensive front should generate more pressure against a QB who has looked awful when not in a clean pocket. I think the Bills will win this game in the trenches against an undermanned Jets roster.


Ravens at Dolphins Betting Odds

  • Odds: Ravens -6.5
  • Total: 38.5
  • Time: 1 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: CBS

Expectations are brutally low for the Miami Dolphins in 2019. The Fish boast the lowest win total coming into the season at 4.5 games and began their fire sale at the end of training camp by dealing Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills to the Texans.

Now Miami will open its season as a 6.5-point home underdog.

Bettors are backing the Ravens, even on the road, as 83% of the bets are on the Ravens to cover the number. But what do our experts think? Let’s dig into their analysis and see how they’re betting this game.

Ravens-Dolphins Injury Report

Again, given it’s Week 1, a lot of teams are healthy. Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr (hip) was the only player listed on their injury report on Wednesday and Albert Wilson was the only skill player on the Dolphins who got in a limited practice on Wednesday. There aren’t any crucial implications here for betting or fantasy purposes. — Justin Bailey

Note: Info as of Thursday. See our Injury Report for daily practice participation and game statuses up until kickoff.

Sean Koerner’s Projected Odds

  • Projected Spread: Ravens -5
  • Projected Total: 37.5

The Ravens have been bet up from -3.5 to -7, making them the largest road favorites in Week 1. I have them being pegged as -5 for this matchup and feel like the market is getting carried away with the 2019 Dolphins fade already.

We’re all aware that Miami is likely the worst team in the NFL and likely going to tank at the end of the season to get into position for what will be a loaded 2020 draft class at QB.

I’m waiting for this to bump up to +7.5, where I would bite the bullet and back the Dolphins.

Biggest Mismatch

Ravens Run Offense vs. Dolphins Run Defense

In quarterback Lamar Jackson’s eight starts last year (including playoffs), the Ravens had a 1940s-esque 61.1% run rate. But that doesn’t mean the Ravens were entirely antiquated or inefficient. They actually managed 5.0 yards per carry and had a 54% rushing success rate.

In the offseason, the Ravens promoted dual-threat run-game aficionado Greg Roman to offensive coordinator, and head coach John Harbaugh has said that the team will remain committed to the running game this year.

And that spells trouble for the Dolphins, who are not just tanking — they’re also rebuilding, especially on defense, which means that right now they’re in the process of tearing it down. Gone from last year’s front seven are edge defenders Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn, tackle Akeem Spence and linebacker Kiko Alonso. I don’t even know who’s starting in their place. I don’t even know if the Dolphins know.

The Ravens are returning all five of their starters on the offensive line. They have one of the best running quarterbacks in the league in Jackson. They have a strong between-the-tackles grinder in Mark Ingram. They have an athletic change-of-pace back in Justice Hill. They can attack the Dolphins run defense with a variety of looks and personnel packages, and they will do so relentlessly.

ravens vs dolphins-betting-odds-pick-preview-nfl-week 1-2019
Kirby Lee, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Lamar Jackson

Against the Ravens run game, the Dolphins defense looks almost defenseless. — Matthew Freedman

Expert Pick

John Ewing: Over 38.5

Ravens-Dolphins features the lowest total in Week 1. Baltimore led the NFL in rushing attempts (33.5) in 2018 and ranked third in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA a season ago. Miami appears to be actively tanking following multiple trades. Points could be few and far between on Sunday.

Yet, history suggests there is value betting the over. In the past 10 seasons, in all games with totals of 39 or fewer points the over has gone 147-109-2 (57%).John Ewing


Redskins at Eagles Betting Odds

  • Odds: Eagles -10
  • Total: 45.5
  • Time: 1 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: FOX

The Philadelphia Eagles are flying very high as the biggest favorite of Week 1 and a trendy Super Bowl pick around the market. On the flip side, the Washington Redskins will be starting a quarterback on his third different squad in as many seasons and will be down their best offensive lineman due to an extended holdout.

As of Thursday evening, more two-thirds of betting tickets were backing the Eagles, but can they cover in this spot, or is there value on the road team? Our experts analyze this matchup and reveal their picks.

Redskins-Eagles Injury Report

The Eagles appear to be the healthier team in this matchup. Dallas Goedert (calf) practiced in full on Wednesday, so he should be ready to go.

Meanwhile, Jordan Reed (concussion) remains limited and could be out on Sunday if he can’t clear the concussion protocol. Vernon Davis would be the next man up in this spot, but he’s a low-floor option in this offense. Davis averaged just 4.8 targets per game in 15 games without Reed since 2016.

It’s also not ideal that the Redskins will be without left tackle Trent Williams (holdout), but Donald Penn will start in his place. Justin Bailey

Sean Koerner’s Projected Odds

  • Projected Spread: Eagles -9
  • Projected Total: 46

The Eagles opened at -7.5 and have been bet up. You have to wonder if part of that was due to some uncertainty around Carson Wentz’s Week 1 availability. They’ve benefited from having one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league with Nick Foles, who frequently had to step in for Wentz. With Foles out of the picture, the Eagles would drop four to five points in my power ratings if Wentz were to ever miss a game.

I have this game as Eagles -9, so this is a pass for me. Once we get a key number like -10.5, I might be interested in backing the Redskins here.

I have the total set at 46, which is right in line with the current market. The under looks like it’s been getting hammered with 76% of the tickets, and yet, the line hasn’t budged. I wouldn’t look into that too much since Week 1 can be a bit tricky when it comes to reading the market. This is a pass for me. Sean Koerner

Biggest Mismatch

TBD

This could be Eagles defense vs. Redskins offense, but the Redskins will really struggle in the trenches.

As noted above, the 36-year-old Penn — who played just four games last season — will start at left tackle in place of Williams. At left guard, first-round bust Ereck Flowers is trying to transition from tackle in his first year with the franchise. Please join me in wishing him good fortune in the wars to come.

Brandon Scherff and Morgan Moses have been steady veterans for years at right guard and tackle, but third-year center Chase Roullier is no better than league average, and he hasn’t seen much action in the preseason because he’s been recovering from a shoulder surgery.

Against this line, the Eagles’ trench defenders should dominate. Last season the Eagles were No. 2 with an 85.2 pass-rush grade and No. 10 with an 88.3 run-defense grade (per Pro Football Focus).

Fletcher-Cox
Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Fletcher Cox

Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson at tackle and Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett on the edge might form the best starting defensive line in the league. And the Eagles might have the best trio of rotational players on the defensive front with tackle Timmy Jernigan and defensive ends Vinny Curry and Josh Sweat.

With a matchup this uneven, whether the Redskins are pass protecting or run blocking, the Eagles defensive line should cause lots of chaos. Matthew Freedman

Expert Picks

John Ewing: Redskins +10

The Eagles are tied with the Seahawks as the largest favorites in Week 1. More than 60% of spread tickets are on Philly. Wentz and Co. have the fifth-best odds to win the Super Bowl (+1400) while the Redskins are tied for the third lowest win total (6) this season.

On paper, this is a clear mismatch, but there are plenty of reasons to believe Washington can keep this game closer than the spread indicates. For starters, the largest favorite in Week 1 has gone 12-23 (34%) against the spread since 1993.

Since 2003, underdogs in Week 1 division games, like the ‘Skins, have gone 50-36-2 ATS and in openers teams that become bigger favorites, like the Eagles, have gone 48-64-1 ATS.

Not a fan of historical trends? Our Bet Labs’ simulations have the Eagles winning by 6.7 points per game — nearly three points less than the spread. Philly is the popular side, but look for the Redskins to cover.

PJ Walsh: Under 46

Washington’s seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle is showing no signs of returning to an offense that will have Case Keenum throwing to starting wide receivers Paul Richardson, Trey Quinn and Terry McLaurin. Needless to say, this team is going to have trouble scoring.

And even if the Redskins can move the ball, they’ll likely do so at an incredibly slow pace. According to Football Outsiders’ situation-neutral pace, Washington ranked dead last in the NFL last year in offensive pace.

Philadelphia is loaded in terms of offensive talent, but just like Washington, plays at a shockingly slow place. The Eagles finished last season just 30th in situation-neutral pace, indicating they’ll be in no rush offensively either.


This number has started to tick lower, but shopping can still get you 46 (-110), especially for those betting in New Jersey.


Rams at Panthers Betting Odds

  • Odds: Rams -2
  • Total: 50
  • Time: 1 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: FOX

Since 2000, teams that lost the Super Bowl are 3-16 against the spread in the next season opener. Will the Los Angeles Rams buck that trend on Sunday?

The market has already moved against them, going from -3 to -2 as of writing. Are our experts aligned with that movement?

They compare their projections to the odds and reveal their picks below.

Rams-Panthers Injury Report

The Rams seldom had players injured last year, and that remains the case heading into their first game.

Panthers-odds-win-total-projections
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Cam Newton

Cam Newton was dealing with a foot injury, but practiced in full on Wednesday and is ready to roll. Both teams are healthy in this one. Justin Bailey

Sean Koerner’s Projected Odds

  • Projected Spread: Rams -0.5
  • Projected Total: 51

The Rams graded as an F and the Panthers received an A-plus in my Buy/Sell Ratings. I’m looking to buy into the Panthers here as a result.

My plan was foiled a bit when Newton suffered an ankle injury in Week 3 of the preseason. He appears to be fine for Week 1, but could be limited. While waiting for that news, the line has dropped off a key number in +3. I still like the Panthers at +2.5 (available at some books) since I think this should be a pick ‘em.

The best way to buy into them here is forego the spread altogether and take them on the moneyline at +120. The betting behavior and line movement all indicate that sharps are on the Panthers this week.

The total has dropped from 51 to 49.5 at some books. I have this graded out as 51, so might nibble on the over here if the line continues to fall. The line move has not lined up with the betting behavior at all as it looks like 89% of bets have come in on the over.

Generally, Week 1 is the hardest when it comes to gauging these things because all lines have been up for months now. Sean Koerner

Biggest Mismatch

Rams’ Pass Offense vs. Panthers’ Pass Defense

Lost in the talk of how Newton’s preseason injury scare would impact this game is the return of a healthy Cooper Kupp for Jared Goff.

In the Sean McVay era, Goff has averaged a middling 7.3 yards per attempt in eight games without Kupp. In 23 games with Kupp in the lineup, though, that figure skyrockets to 8.6. Kupp’s ability to win on the inside opens up the full play-calling arsenal for McVay.

The Carolina defense ranked 22nd in Football Outsiders’ pass DVOA a season ago and fields two corners — Donte Jackson and James Bradberry — who each graded outside the top 50 in Pro Football Focus’ coverage grades. Chris Raybon

Expert Pick

Stuckey: Panthers +0.5

McVay held out his starters during the preseason again. While that did prevent injuries and is probably the smart decision in the long run, it definitely could lead to a slow start in the season opener.

The Rams did the same thing in 2018. And if you just look at the final score of their season opener vs. the lowly Raiders, you’d assume it had no adverse impact in a 33-13 blowout win. But the Rams came out extremely slow and actually trailed the Raiders 13-10 at the half before outscoring them 23-0 in the second half.

Look no further than the words of recent acquisition Eric Weddle: “I’m sure the first couple quarters, or maybe even a game, my timing will be a little off.”

There will be rust early and the Panthers can take advantage.

los angeles rams-betting odds-win total-2019 season-sean mcvay and jared goff
Photo credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Sean McVay and Jared Goff

More importantly, I’m looking to buy the Panthers early while selling a Rams team that got very fortunate last season.

Just take a look at the differences between these teams in 2018:

  • Rams’ One-Score Games: 6-1; 4-0 in field-goal games; +11 turnover margin (four more returns for TDs)
  • Panthers’ One-Score Games: 3-7; 1-3 in FG games; +1 turnover margin

The Rams also recovered a league-high 66% of fumbles last season. You can expect a number closer to their 2017 rate (47%) in 2019. All of that fumble luck in all of those close games makes a huge difference.

I also believe the Rams got worse along the offensive line (up the middle) and at linebacker. Micah Kiser, who was projected to replace Mark Barron, is out for season. That means Bryce Hager, a special teamer, will now start. This LB group is horrendous and a unit Carolina can exploit.

The Panthers can also generate pressure up the middle against the Rams. And when you pressure Goff, the Rams’ offense falls apart. Goff doesn’t have the strongest arm, but since he’s so mechanically strong, he can make all the throws and very accurately — as long as he gets time.

If you can pressure Goff, he’s basically Josh Allen. In the 2018 regular season, Goff finished with a 59.8 QB rating when under pressure — 28th in the NFL among QBs with a minimum of 200 snaps, per PFF.

I’m buying the Panthers, who are improved in the trenches and have a healthy Newton who can actually throw the ball down the field.

Colts at Chargers Betting Odds

  • Odds: Chargers -6.5
  • Total: 45
  • Time: 4:05 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: CBS

This matchup looks a lot different than it did just a few weeks ago.

Andrew Luck retired. Melvin Gordon is holding out. And stud safety Derwin James (foot) has been placed on Injured Reserve.

The Chargers have moved from 3- to 6.5-point favorites following Luck’s retirement. But is there hope for Jacoby Brissett and the Colts on the road? Our experts compare their projections to the odds and reveal their favorite picks in this comprehensive betting guide.

Colts-Chargers Injury Report

The Colts are dealing with some injuries as defensive end Jabaal Sheard missed practice with a knee injury, cornerback Kenny Moore (thumb) got in a limited session and the same goes for Devin Funchess (back).

Ideally, they’d would prefer to have Sheard suit up since he led the team in pressures, hurries and quarterback hits last season.

However, the Chargers are in worse shape on the injury/holdout front since they’ll be without left tackle Russell Okung (PUP) and Melvin Gordon (holdout), while James (foot) is on IR. Justin Bailey

Sean Koerner’s Projected Odds

  • Projected Spread: Chargers -6
  • Projected Total: 44

This line was Chargers -3 when Luck shocked the NFL with his retirement. I figured the line would bump up to Chargers -7 or -7.5, which it did, but it’s since been bet down to -6.5.

I have this graded as Chargers -6, creating some slight value on the Colts.

Gordon is set to miss the game due to his holdout. While I realize #RBsDontMatter — and that’s largely true when it comes to point spreads — the Chargers will also be without James (IR). Both key players being out could be worth a half-point or so to the spread.

While Brissett is a drop-off from Luck, he’s still one of the better backups in the league. He started for the Colts in 2017 but was thrown into the fire after being acquired right before Week 1, had a poor offensive line, poor coaching and not as many weapons. All of those factors have changed for the better, making him likely to succeed this time around.

Let’s not forget that while Luck had been sidelined all offseason with his ankle/calf injury, Brissett was working with the starters the entire time. I’d lean Colts +6.5 here. Sean Koerner

Biggest Mismatch

Chargers’ Offensive Line vs. Colts’ Defensive Line

The Colts run a pretty unique defensive scheme. They ran more zone than any NFL team last season and were the highest-MOFO (middle of the field, aka no single high safety) defense. Their primary objective was to keep everything in front of them and limit big plays with safety help over the top.

Now, if they aren’t able to generate pressure, any elite quarterback can pick apart the Indy zone. The Colts fortunately had a very easy opponent QB schedule last season, but Philip Rivers and a group of elite receivers on the outside are more than capable of picking the Colts’ zone-based defense apart … if Rivers gets the time. And I’m just not sure the Chargers can give him that.

colts-chargers-betting-odds-pick-preview-nfl-week 1-2019
Photo credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Philip Rivers

Keep your eyes on the matchup between the Colts’ newly-acquired DE Justin Houston (a top-five edge rusher last season) and Okung’s replacement, Trent Scott, an undrafted free agent who will be making his first career start at LT.

Scott will line up next to LG Dan Feeney, whose Pro Football Focus pass blocking grade (38.3) ranked last among 65 guards who played at least 500 snaps last season. And things don’t get much better at right tackle with Sam Tevi, who finished dead last in PFF’s pass blocking grades (40.2) among 64 tackles who played a minimum of 500 snaps last season.

If you can grab 7+, the look is Indianapolis because of the Colts’ advantage in the trenches.

Don’t sleep on the mass impact of James’ injury, either The All-Pro superstar played multiple roles and positions in Gus Bradley’s defense and his loss cannot be understated.

He’ll be sorely missed against the Colts, who love to run two tight end sets with Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle. The Chargers had issues covering TEs until the arrivals of James and fellow Pro Bowler Desmond King. There was no better duo at covering safeties.

Now, without James, veteran Adrian Phillips steps in. He’s not the worst backup, but he’s a significant downgrade in coverage: Among 65 safeties who played at least 300 snaps last season, Phillips was the only one who allowed more than one yard per snap.

Also, because the Chargers need him at safety, Phillips — a 2018 All Pro special teamer — won’t be participating on that unit. The same can be said for Austin Ekeler without Gordon. So, the perennially weak Chargers special teams unit will also take a hit without Gordon and James. Stuckey

Expert Pick

Chad Millman: Colts +6.5

Rule No. 1 in betting: Bookmakers live and die by public perception. And Luck is how most of the public perceives the Colts.

Not only was he the face of the franchise, not only did he retire unexpectedly, but the news broke during the first primetime college football game of the year, which led to a hastily arranged press conference afterward. As much as the fact Luck was retiring, the shock of the moment sent betting markets spiraling.

Before the news, the Colts had been 3-point underdogs to the Chargers. Afterward, the Luck-less Colts had moved to 7.5-point underdogs. Holy over-correction!

Wiseguys will tell you that the drop from Luck to Brissett was three points, maximum. And they backed up their beliefs by betting the Colts as 7.5-point underdogs, 7-point underdogs and even as 6.5-point underdogs. That is where the number is still sitting, even with 66% of the bets coming in on Los Angeles (check out our odds page for up-to-date info). I’ll be on the Colts.

Bengals at Seahawks Betting Odds

  • Odds: Seahawks -9.5
  • Total: 44
  • Time: 4:05 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: CBS

The Seahawks are the biggest favorite on the board in Week 1 as they host the rebuilding Cincinnati Bengals. Seattle moved from -8 to -9.5 since the market for this game opened and it will be interesting to see if the number creeps up to the key number of 10 before kick on Sunday.

Our NFL experts break down this game, hitting on key injuries, matchups to note, favorite bets and more.

Seahawks-Bengals Injury Report

Both teams are relatively banged up and each have a few key injuries. A.J. Green (ankle) is in a walking boot and won’t play on Sunday, leaving Tyler Boyd to soak up most of Green’s target share. Left tackle Cordy Glenn also hasn’t practiced while he’s still in the concussion protocol.

DK Metcalf (knee) got in a limited practice on Wednesday, but Pete Carroll mentioned they’ll “wait and see” when it comes to his snap count. Additionally, guard Mike Iupati (calf) and left tackle Duane Brown (knee) missed practice on Wednesday. Brown graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 5 tackle last year.

It wouldn’t be a great start to the season if Seattle was missing the left side of their offensive line, especially since Russell Wilson absorbed 51 sacks last year. Justin Bailey

Sean Koerner’s Projected Odds

  • Projected Spread: Seahawks -9
  • Projected Total: 44

I am right in line with the spread and total here, so staying away from both. Sean Koerner

Biggest Mismatch

Seattle’s Running Game vs. Cincinnati’s Run Defense

Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is a firm member of “Team Establish the Run.” Last season, the Seahawks ranked second with 32.8 rushing attempts per game, trailing only the Ravens. In home games? Seattle was first with 35.8 attempts.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati will need to reverse their multi-year trend of getting gashed by opposing running backs. The Bengals have ranked 24th, 20th and 26th in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA over the past three seasons, respectively.

New defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo’s background is as a long-time defensive backs coach, leading to more run defense uncertainty. Anarumo will try to fix a defense that allowed a team-record 6,618 yards, finishing dead last in the NFL. They also ranked 30th in points allowed at 28.4 points per game.

Cincinnati will also have almost the same personnel as last season, selecting only one defensive player (Round 3 linebacker Germaine Pratt) in the first four draft picks. While All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins is a force, the Bengals linebackers are one of the worst groups in the NFL after losing Vontaze Burfict to Oakland.

Chris Carson-Fantasy Football
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Chris Carson

The Seahawks featured the sixth-most efficient run offense in 2018, led by running back Chris Carson who finished fifth in the league with 1,151 rushing yards in just 14 games. Per PlayerProfiler, Carson ranked third among all running backs in evaded tackles and 10th in breakaway runs in 2018.

Brian Schottenheimer has already stated that Carson will be much more involved in the passing game, with last season’s first-round pick Rashaad Penny (4.46 speed) featuring as a big-play backup.

Seattle’s offensive line also showed signs of improvement in the preseason with former second-rounder guard Ethan Pocic solidifying the left side of the line with tackle Duane Brown (Second-Team All Pro).

A road game against the Seattle rushing attack is a big early season mismatch for this Bengals defense. Mike Randle

Expert Pick

Matthew Freedman: Seahawks -9.5

The Bengals are bad. Really bad. They have an offensive-oriented head coach in Zac Taylor and offensive coordinator in Brian Callahan who have never called plays in the NFL. They have the walking definition of mediocrity at quarterback in Andy Dalton. They are without Pro-Bowl wide receiver Green. Left tackle Jonah Williams is out for the year with a torn labrum, and left guard Clint Boling just retired. And the offensive line was a sub-par unit last year.

And on defense, the Bengals last year allowed 28.4 points per game, the third-highest mark in the league.

The Seahawks have their own problems: They are thin at wide receiver, and their offensive line is also suspect. But they have the clear edge at quarterback and head coach in Wilson and Carroll.

And they’re at home. I think it’s easy for bettors to underestimate how much of a home-field advantage the Seahawks actually have. In the nine years of the Carroll era, the Seahawks are 42-27-3 against the spread at home in the regular season, good for an 18.7% return on investment (per BetLabs).

The Seahawks under Carroll also have a winning ATS home record in the preseason and postseason. Basically, whenever the Seahawks are at home, I’m inclined to bet them, and in Week 1 against a rookie HC and OC, I’m betting the Seahawks will lay on the points.

I’d bet this to -10.

Giants at Cowboys Betting Odds

  • Odds: Cowboys -7.5
  • Total: 45.5
  • Time: 4:25 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: FOX

Ezekiel Elliott will be in uniform on Sunday as the Dallas Cowboys take the field to take on their NFC East rival, the New York Giants.

The Cowboys are 7.5-point favorites over Eli Manning and Big Blue and the big spread isn’t scaring off many bettors as Dallas is attracting nearly 60% of the tickets as of Thursday evening. Let’s take a look at the key matchups in this divisional showdown and how our experts are betting it.

Giants-Cowboys Injury Report

Both teams are healthy entering their first game of the year. Amari Cooper (foot) got in a full practice on Wednesday and should be good to go barring any setbacks. Guard Zack Martin (back) was limited on Wednesday, but he’s expected to play.

The Giants will be without Golden Tate (suspension), leaving Sterling Shepard to run around in the slot and avoid Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie on the outside, at least some of the time. Justin Bailey

Sean Koerner’s Projected Odds

  • Projected Spread: Cowboys -7.5
  • Projected Total: 45.5

I am right in line with the spread and total here, so staying away. Sean Koerner

Biggest Mismatch

The Dallas Run Game vs. the Giants Run Defense

The Cowboys’ offensive line returns to full strength with center Travis Frederick recovered from Guillain-Barre Syndrome and tackle La’el Collins just signed to a five-year extension. Dallas’ front five rank as the NFL’s second-best group as per Pro Football Focus, ranking only behind the Philadelphia Eagles.

This will be a problem for a Giants team that ranked 20th in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA and allowed 118.6 rushing yards per game last season.

Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Ezekiel Elliott

The Giants were particularly poor against the NFL’s best rushers, allowing massive efficiency to Alvin Kamara (5.3 yards per carry), Adrian Peterson (5.5 YPC) and Derrick Henry (5.5 YPC).

Elliott has averaged 85 rushing yards in his four career games against the Giants, including more than 100 yards in two of the last three contests. Per PlayerProfiler, Elliott ranked first among all running backs with 23 Breakaway Runs of 15 yards or greater.

If the Giants want to earn an upset road win over their biggest rival, they need to find a way to hold their own against the massive Dallas offensive line. — Mike Randle

Expert Pick

Danny Donahue: Giants +7.5

Week 1 presents a great opportunity for bettors looking to take advantage of the public’s overreaction to the previous season. Teams that made the playoffs tend to be overvalued the following year, and teams that struggled to put together wins are written off.

So when you get a first-week matchup consisting of one of each, it’s been very profitable to take the uncomfortable side. Specifically, teams coming off a season of six wins or fewer have gone 82-58-4 the following Week 1, and 36-20 against teams coming off a playoff year.

In divisional matchups, that record improves to 20-4.

Buccaneers at 49ers Betting Odds

  • Odds: Buccaneers -1
  • Total: 51
  • Time: 4:25 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: FOX

The Bruce Arians Era in Tampa Bay gets underway with what’s expected to be a close game against the San Francisco 49ers at Raymond James Stadium. There’s a couple of interesting notes about this game on the surface, it features the tightest spread of the slate and is one of three games with a total of 50 or more points.

Let’s dig into our experts’ preview, which features analysis of key matchups and their favorite picks.

Buccaneers-49ers Injury Report

The Bucs enter this game with a healthy offense, which can’t be said for the 49ers. Wide receiver Trent Taylor (foot) won’t play, Jalen Hurd (back) didn’t practice on Wednesday, and Dante Pettis (groin) was limited. Hurd isn’t expected to suit up, and if Pettis isn’t 100%, that could be good news for Marquise Goodwin against a burnable Tampa Bay secondary.

Goodwin could run rampant on a defense that allowed a league-high 53.77% completion rate on passes 15-plus yards downfield, per Sports Info Solutions.

Rookie defensive end Nick Bosa (ankle) got in a limited practice on Wednesday, and they are hopeful he’ll be able to suit up. His presence would be bad news for a turnover-prone Jameis Winston. Justin Bailey

Sean Koerner’s Projected Odds

  • Projected Spread: 49ers -0.5
  • Projected Total: 50

This game has the second-highest total of the week, and for good reason. I have this pegged at 50. It has jumped from 50 to 51 over the past day at some books, and I think it’s getting enough action to go up a bit more.

If it reaches 51.5, there will be some slight value on the under as that hits another key number for totals (think 27-24 final score). Sean Koerner

Biggest Mismatch

Buccaneers Pass Offense vs. 49ers Pass Defense

This one is a layup. Last year the Bucs were No. 1 in the league with 5,358 yards passing, and Winston had top-three marks with 10.8 air yards per attempt, 1.5 yards to the sticks per attempt and a 20.4% aggressiveness rate (per Next Gen Stats). Winston regularly pushed the ball down the field and displayed a willingness to throw into tight coverage and trust his receivers.

And he has good receivers. He might have the league’s best WR-WR-TE- trio in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard.

And now Winston is paired with Arians, who developed Ben Roethlisberger, oversaw Andrew Luck as a rookie and coaxed career-best production out of late-stage Carson Palmer. Under Arians’ tutelage and in his downfield-attacking Air Coryell system, Winston should thrive.

As for the 49ers, in 2018 they were dead last in the league with a putrefied coverage grade of 37.5. (per Pro Football Focus). Despite a return to form last year from cornerback Richard Sherman, the rest of the secondary was exploitable, especially right corner Ahkello Witherspoon and slot corner K’Waun Williams, who collectively allowed 0.92 yards per snap and 0.062 touchdowns per target.

Even if the 49ers defense is improved through the addition of edge rushers  Bosa and Dee Ford, it’s doubtful that the secondary will be able to hang with the Bucs receivers. — Matthew Freedman

Buccaneers-Steelers-Betting-Odds-Picks-DFS-NFL-Preseason-Week-1
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jameis Winston, Bruce Arians

Expert Pick

Mike Randle: Over 51

Any game with a coaching matchup between Arians and Kyle Shanahan projects to be high scoring. For Tampa Bay, Winston has multiple receiving options in Evans, Godwin, Howard and speedster Breshad Perriman. The 49ers feature tight end George Kittle (who broke the NFL record for receiving yards last season), lid-lifter Marquise Goodwin and two superb pass-catching backs in Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida.

Defensively, both teams struggle against the pass. The Buccaneers ranked 30th among all teams in Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA, while the 49ers were 27th.

Even without Arians as head coach, the Buccaneers averaged 24.6 points at home when Winston was quarterback last season. Also, San Francisco allowed an average of 32.5 points to the opposition in their eight road games.

Look for the explosive offensive playmakers on both teams to exploit their opponents weak pass defenses. This profiles as one of the highest scoring games on the Week 1 slate, and I would bet the over up to a line of 51.5.


Lions at Cardinals Betting Odds

  • Odds: Lions -2.5
  • Total: 46.5
  • Time: 4:25 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: FOX

Cardinals QB Kyler Murray might’ve gone No. 1 overall in the 2019 draft, but his NFL career is starting with little fanfare — at least according to the betting community.

Not only are the Cards home underdogs against a Lions team that went 6-10 last year, but they’re also the second-least popular bet on the entire slate at the time of writing (23% of tickets, according to our proprietary data).

Who do our experts like to cover? Let’s dive in.

Lions-Cardinals Injury Report

The Cardinals are the healthier team, but they’ll be without two starting corners in Patrick Peterson (suspension) and Robert Alford (IR). This is good news for the likes of Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, who combined for 76% of the Lions’ Air Yards and 41% of their target share last season. Justin Bailey

Sean Koerner’s Projected Odds

Projected Spread: Lions -0.5
Projected Total: 48

Kliff Kingsbury is bringing the Air Raid offense to the NFL, which led to a lot of hype over the offseason. The offense looked flat in the preseason, though, and now people are souring on the Cardinals already.

As a result, the line has been creeping up to Lions -3. If it manages to hit that key number, I’ll strongly consider backing the Cardinals.

While the Cards defense should be vulnerable during Peterson’s six-game suspension, their offense will still surprise teams early in the season. It might take the NFL a few weeks of film to adjust to the new approach, so there could be some value in backing the Cardinals until then.

Watch for this line to hit 3 and then pounce. Sean Koerner

Biggest Mismatch

Lions WRs vs. Cardinals CBs

First Peterson got suspended for the first six games of the season, then Alford went on IR with a leg injury. That leaves the Cardinals to start two players who have never played an NFL snap — Byron Murphy, the 33rd overall pick of this year’s draft, and Jones, a 2018 undrafted free agent — alongside Tramaine Brock, a 31-year-old journeyman who ranked 80th among corners last season in Pro Football Focus’ coverage grades. The Lions’ passing game should feast. — Chris Raybon

Expert Pick

John Ewing: Cardinals +2.5

Why is Arizona a home underdog to Detroit? Sure, the Cardinals were the worst team in football last year going 3-13 and averaging 14.1 points per game. But Detroit wasn’t much better with its 6-10 record. We expect the Cardinals offense to be improved under new coach Kliff Kingsbury and first overall pick Kyler Murray.

We also know home dogs have historically been undervalued, especially early in the season (Weeks 1-4) where they have gone 155-124-4 (56%) against the spread since 2003. The best time to be contrarian is early in the season.

I’m buying a bounce-back season for the Cardinals, which starts with a win in Week 1.

Steelers at Patriots Betting Odds

  • Odds: Patriots -5.5
  • Total: 49
  • Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: NBC

The first Sunday Night Football game of the season features two very public teams quarterbacked by future Hall of Famers. What better way to end the first full-day marathon of regular-season NFL action?

Our experts break down this showdown between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots from every angle, offering their picks for the latest edition of Tom Brady vs. Ben Roethlisberger.

Steelers-Patriots Injury Report

Both teams are healthy for this game.

One injury of note is Demaryius Thomas (hamstring), who just recently signed a one-year contract with the Patriots a few days ago. However, he’s a low-floor fantasy option working behind Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon, along with fighting for No. 3 duties with Phillip Dorsett and Jakobi Meyers. Justin Bailey

Sean Koerner’s Projected Odds

  • Projected Spread: Patriots -6
  • Projected Total: 51.5

This total has been bet down from 51.5 to 49, but I actually agree with the opening number.

The Patriots looked like they were going to head into 2019 pretty thin at wide receiver, but were able to get Gordon reinstated in time to suit up Week 1.

Since this is a matchup between two public teams in the first Sunday Night Football game of the season, I have zero doubt this number will creep back up to 51 or higher, so the time to nibble on the over would be now. Sean Koerner

Biggest Mismatch

Patriots’ Defensive Scheme vs. Antonio Brown-Less Steelers Receiving Corps

Big Ben and the Steelers escaped with a 17-10 win in Week 15 last season, but sans AB, they have their work cut out for the against a Patriots defense that did a great job shutting down top WRs last season:

  • Adam Thielen: 10-5-28-1 (season average: 9.6-7.1-86-0.6)
  • Stefon Diggs: 5-5-49-0 (9.9-6.8-68-0.6)
  • Antonio Brown: 7-4-49-1 (11.2-6.9-87-1.0)
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster: 10-4-40-0 (10.4-6.9-89-0.4)
  • Tyreek Hill: 3-1-42-0 (8.5-5.3-89-0.7)
  • Travis Kelce: 5-3-23-1 (9.2-6.3-82-0.6)

Stephon Gilmore, Devin McCourty and JC Jackson ranked No. 1, 8 and 32 respectively in Pro Football Focus’ corner cover grades, but the real mismatch is Bill Belichick’s brain vs. that of any other human being on the planet.

The Pats held a Steelers team that ranked fourth with 26.8 points per game to just third-lowest point total of the season, and with the Steelers defense also improving, I’m expecting a lower-scoring game than you might expect given the big names at QB. Chris Raybon

Expert Pick

Stuckey: Steelers +6; Under 49

Brady and Belichick have dominated Roethlisberger and Tomlin for years. Look no further than Brady’s 7-2 record against Tomlin (24 touchdowns and two interceptions). And in Foxboro? Brady is even more dominant at 5-0 with 18 TDs to zero INTs and a completion percentage above 70%.

One reason was the Steelers’ zone scheme, which Brady could pick apart in his sleep. For the most part, you need to play man and pressure Brady to have a shot at slowing him down.

tom Brady-Steelers
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tom Brady

Well, that’s exactly what the Steelers have started to do. They were actually the third-heaviest man team in the league last season! That’s one reason they were able to finally beat Brady and the Pats, 17-10, late last season. And the season prior, the Steelers actually should’ve won if not for the Jesse James “fumble.”

I’m not a big trend player, but there are a handful I always keep in mind. One involves Tomlin, who has some of the most glaring road results: The Steelers have been one of the most profitable NFL teams as road underdogs, especially against teams better than .500.

This is a classic “Tomlin spot.”

Tomlin is 22-13 against the spread as a road underdog during his tenure in the Steel City for a gaudy 24.3% Return On Investment, making him fourth-best of 118 coaches as a road underdog since 2003 — and the third-most profitable among active coaches behind only Andy Reid and Belichick.

And as a road underdog against teams better than .500, he’s 14-5 ATS, making him the most profitable among 115 coaches since 2003. Even more impressive, he’s 13-6 straight-up on the moneyline for a silly 71.4% ROI.

On the flip side, Tomlin is 13-27 ATS (-32.8% ROI) as a road favorite against teams worse than .500. That’s dead last among 97 coaches since 2005. He’s also dead last on the ML at 23-18 -22.8% ROI. That means Tomlin has a higher winning percentage on the road against winning teams than he does losing teams.

So, what does it mean?

Well, I don’t regard Tomlin as the best Xs and Os coach, but he’s an excellent motivator and can fire up a locker room with the “us against the world” mantra.

The Steelers, now rid of Brown and Le’Veon Bell, should come in as fired up and unified as they’ve been in quite some time. And they have the scheme to compete and generate pressure against Brady. (They were No. 1 in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate last season and had more sacks than any team the past two years.)

It also doesn’t hurt that the Patriots lost center David Andrews for the season and are shorthanded at tight end with Rob Gronkowski’s departure and the suspensions of Ben Watson and Lance Kendricks. The Steelers have struggled to cover TEs in recent years, so that will be a big help.

Finally, I expect the Steelers to run the ball a ton, which they had a lot of success doing in that win last season. The Patriots have one of the NFL’s best secondaries that features three plus corners who can match up and play effective man (they play more man than any team) on the Steelers receivers.

I think this game is close throughout and lower scoring than most think.