NFL Expert Picks: Favorite Bets for Week 1


Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander

Sep 09, 2018, 11:00 AM EDT
  • The Action Network's NFL experts give their favorite bets for Week 1 of the 2018 season.
  • Hope you're ready to feel the Bucs love. Plus, get over/under betting angles on multiple matchups.

Sunday football has arrived. And no, not LSU blowing out Miami on opening weekend of college football. A real Sunday, where you sit on your couch — or at the bar, I don’t judge — for 12 hours and monitor all of your bets and fantasy leagues while stuffing your face with delivery.

Yes, that kind of Sunday.

Action will get underway at 1 p.m. ET with eight early games, followed by four more in the late afternoon. We also have Sunday Night Football before a Monday Night Football doubleheader.

So strap in, as The Action Network has you covered for all 15 games.

We will begin with Sunday’s early games, then end with a prop and a side for Monday’s games.

Let’s start by getting the hold-your-nose portion out of the way with the three experts who love the Buccaneers.

*All odds for the picks as of 5:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 7


Ken Barkley: Buccaneers +10 (at Saints)

1 p.m. ET on FOX

I will play the role of “The Most Interesting Gambler in the World” for this pick.

clears voice

I don’t always bet the NFL, but when I do, I prefer contrarianism.

One thing people completely underestimate is the difference between the best and the worst team in the NFL. (It’s generally less than you think.)

People also completely underestimate the difference between a team from year to year. (It’s generally more than you think.)

The truth is that we have only a small idea of what these teams will be based on the previous year and preseason, which doesn’t tell us much historically.

As much of a home-field advantage as the Saints have, I love the idea of getting 10 in a divisional game this early in the season.

Last year, Jameis Winston completed only 54% of his passes against New Orleans in two meetings, throwing three interceptions in one game and leaving the second game early in the other. Will Winston really be missed that much here?

Whether or not you believe the drop-off from Winston to Ryan Fitzpatrick will be massive, this isn’t a surprising move. Tampa has had a long time to plan for Fitz under center. The Bucs can at least keep this game close, despite what everyone on earth expects.

John Ewing: Buccaneers +10 (at Saints)

1 p.m. ET on FOX

Bucs backer here, as well. New Orleans finished the 2017 season ranked second in the NFL in total offense (391.2 yards/game) and fourth in scoring (28.0 points/game). Drew Brees & Co. should have success against a Tampa Bay defense that Football Outsiders graded as the worst in all of football last season.

The great matchup — plus Winston’s suspension — has helped the Saints become the largest favorites of Week 1. So, bet the Saints, right?

Well, the largest Week 1 favorite has gone 12-22 (35%) against the spread (ATS) since 1993. All favorites of more than a touchdown over that span are 19-36 (35%) ATS.

The Saints’ line is inflated because of their success last season and Tampa’s struggles.

Matt LaMarca: Buccaneers +10 (at Saints)

1 p.m. ET on FOX

Add a third Bucs believer here.

Ultimately, the downgrade from Winston to Fitzpatrick is being overly priced into the line. Fitzpatrick should actually be an upgrade in protecting the football: He threw an interception on only 1.8% of passes last season, while Winston has a career interception rate of 2.8%.

The Saints’ defense excelled last season largely because of its ability to generate turnovers. New Orleans tied for ninth with 25 takeaways in 2017, but finished with the 16th-most yards allowed per game.

There are also a few other trends working in the Bucs’ favor:

  • Teams that won six or fewer games the previous season cover at a 59.2% clip in Week 1 of the following year.
  • Teams that won 10 or more games the previous season own a cover rate of just 43.4% in Week 1.
  • Backing division underdogs of 10-plus points has resulted in a return on investment of +10.8% since 2005.

Matthew Freedman: Jaguars-Giants Under 43

1 p.m. ET on FOX

The Jags led the league last year with 32.9 rushes per game and a 49.5% rush rate, while holding opponents to the league’s second-lowest scoring mark (16.8 points per game). They have a team built to control the ball and win low-scoring games.

It seems that the Giants are copying that blueprint, as they drafted a running back at No. 2 overall and a run-blocking left guard in the second round. With both teams leaning on the run, trying to hide their subpar quarterbacks and playing not to lose, I like the under.

Stuckey:  Giants +3 (vs. Jaguars)

1 p.m. ET on FOX

I agree with Freedman on that under bet, especially with the windy and rainy conditions expected in East Rutherford on Sunday. I just don’t know how either team will move the ball, especially the Jaguars.

The injury to Marqise Lee not only hurts Jacksonville’s passing game, but he was also an excellent run-blocker. The Jags now have a group of inexperienced receivers on the outside with Blake Bortles throwing them the ball. Not ideal against a talented Giants secondary.

Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins might be their best receiving option, but he’s banged up. And even if he plays, safety Landon Collins can blanket him.

That means the Jags will have to rely even more on their power running game, which might work against them for two primary reasons:

  1. Jacksonville invested a lot in its offensive line this offseason, which will pay off down the line. However, this group has never played a single live snap together (not even in the preseason). That’s not ideal for a road game in Week 1.
  2. The Giants excel at shutting down power running games thanks to one of the NFL’s best interior run defenders, Damon Harrison (aka Snacks).

The Giants will also struggle to move the ball through the air against the best secondary in the league, but they upgraded at offensive line and running back. And you can run on the Jags, who will also be without elite edge rusher Dante Fowler (suspension).

This should be an ugly game in ugly conditions, which makes three points very valuable against a Jags offense that I think will sputter early with all of the recent personnel changes.

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