NFL Picks, Odds for Week 1: Our 7 Best Bets for Sunday’s Early Slate
Getty Images. Pictured: Deshaun Watson (left) and Baker Mayfield.
Welcome to Week 1, for which you're here to fill your betting cards with the help of our experts' NFL picks.
We have you covered for the early slate, from a team total to a player prop and five NFL spreads to target.
I won't keep you up here for too long. I know what you're here for, and it's not my potentially clever introduction to our picks. This isn't a cooking recipe. Keep scrolling down for our NFL Week 1 picks.
NFL Picks: Week 1
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our NFL betting staff is targeting from today's slate of games. Click on the team logos for any of the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.
Specific betting recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NFL Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.
Texans vs. Ravens
If you've read just about anything I wrote heading into the season, you know I'm all-in on the Texans. I'm backing Will Anderson +500 for Defensive Rookie of the Year, Dameon Pierce +4000 to lead the league in rushing, and DeMeco Ryans +2500 for Coach of the Year. I'm also backing the Texans as this year's worst-to-first division winner in a bad AFC South at +1100.
It's almost always a good idea to back a team with such a high line in Week 1 — football is unpredictable, and until we've seen these teams play, there's just no way we know Houston is bad enough to be a 10-point underdog. The trends speak for themselves. Week 1 underdogs of eight or more are 25-9 ATS (74%) since 2003. Teams that missed the postseason and open as Week 1 road dogs are 51-29-2 ATS (64%) since 2011.
Translation: Week 1 spreads are giving too much credit to the team that played poorly last year, not the one on the field now.
Houston added some real floor-raising pieces this offseason. Veterans Sheldon Rankins and Jimmie Ward improve the defense, while Shaq Mason and Josh Jones should help a young offensive line, though one that's very banged up right now. And then there are the headliner top-three picks: Will Anderson, the best defender in the draft, and QB C.J. Stroud.
Houston also returns 2022 first-round CB Derek Stingley Jr. after missing much of his rookie season, and that should help a defense led by new head coach DeMeco Ryans, who did so well with the 49ers. The Texans quietly ranked 10th in Defensive DVOA over the back half of last season, including No. 2 against the pass. Don't be surprised if this defense more than holds its own against a Baltimore offense debuting a new attack under OC Todd Monken, likely still needing some time to find out what works and what doesn't.
Baltimore has been a high-floor team for years with its rushing attack and stout defense, but this year's team looks pass-heavy and is already experiencing cluster injuries at corner, so the Ravens could be high variance. This is just too many points to give a favorite and an underdog we don't know enough about. Monken offenses are 9-18-1 ATS (33%) in September and October, including an awful 2-10 ATS as favorites.
Give me the Texans, and I'll sprinkle the +375 moneyline too. The Texans can upset a lot of Survivor pools if they pull the shocker and hang with a Ravens team in transition that will probably be better late in the year than they are right now.
Pick: Texans +9.5
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Texans vs. Ravens
Dobbins enters the season as the unquestioned leader of the Ravens backfield.
The former Ohio State star, and the Ravens' running game, starts with a dream spot. Baltimore faces a Texans defense that allowed the most rushing yards per game to opposing running backs (170.2) last season.
While Baltimore has a new offensive coordinator, I expect a run-heavy scheme against this Houston defense
Pick: J.K. Dobbins Over 59.5 Rushing Yards (-110)
49ers vs. Steelers
The 3s are mostly gone from the market now, but consider me a buyer in the Pittsburgh offense in year two under Kenny Pickett and a seller in this San Francisco defense relative to its elite market power rating.
The 49ers defense will still be quite good up front, but you could see some regression in the secondary. DeMeco Ryans is gone as defensive coordinator, and Steve Wilks career resumé as a defensive coordinator is quite middling. From a talent perspective, the secondary isn't nearly as talented and didn't grade out nearly as well by Pro Football Focus as the Niners' front seven.
Pittsburgh is a bet for me at +3, but key numbers remain crucial in the NFL and I'm instead going to target the Pittsburgh team total offensively. The 49ers created more turnovers than every team in the NFL besides Dallas, which set them up in a lot of shorter fields. If Purdy has more long fields, that increases the chance of this havoc-inducing Pittsburgh defense turning him over too.
Pick: Steelers Team Total Over 20
Buccaneers vs. Vikings
Everybody knows the Vikings and their 13 wins were fraudulent last year due to extreme close-game positive variance. I even had them power rated as a bottom-five team toward the end of the regular season.
They had a flawed roster that needed a significant overhaul, which management quietly began in the offseason, shedding veterans like WR Adam Thielen, RB Dalvin Cook, CB Patrick Peterson, LBs Eric Kendricks and Za'Darius Smith, and more.
In my opinion, those constituted smart moves for the franchise's long-term success. However, the roster now possesses less overall talent. Despite the undeniable dominance of star wide receiver Justin Jefferson and a strong pair of tackles, the offense is still led by an aging quarterback who likely finds himself in his final year in the Twin Cities, and he's playing behind an offensive line with a questionable interior.
The picture looks even gloomier on the other side of the ball with a defense void of playmakers. I have an abundance of respect for new defensive coordinator Brian Flores, but there's only so much he can do schematically with a unit incapable of generating natural pressure or locking down on the outside. As a result, I expect Flores to call a very aggressive defense with plenty of blitzing.
Despite popular opinion, that might not be the worst thing in the world for Baker Mayfield, who actually has a higher career touchdown-to-interception ratio against the blitz compared to when he doesn't. Mayfield struggles most when teams can generate natural pressure with more defenders back in coverage.
Ultimately, I'm not sure Minnesota can consistently get into the backfield — even against a vulnerable offensive line that had to deal with plenty of turnover due to offseason attrition as well as the transition from right to left tackle for Tristan Wirfs.
Additionally, I believe Tampa made a major upgrade at offensive coordinator, which should help address some of the early down woes we saw in 2022. This offense still has two elite wide receivers who can exploit a beatable Minnesota secondary.
On defense, the Bucs still have talent at all three levels. While they lack depth, that doesn't matter as much in the season opener.
To me, Tampa enters the season a bit undervalued. Remember, the Bucs made the postseason last year despite poor injury luck and an inefficiently called offense. Tom Brady's gone, but I expect this veteran-laden roster to surprise early in the season after being written off in the summer.
Pick: Buccaneers +5.5
Panthers vs. Falcons
Week 1 picks are largely about your reads heading into the new season, and I'm all-in on the Falcons but worry the intriguing Panthers rebuild could take awhile to set.
Atlanta is my No. 8 offense, a vote of confidence in Arthur Smith's offensive genius unlocking an elite trio of weapons in Bijan Robinson, Drake London, and Kyle Pitts with the help of one of the league's best offensive lines. All of that makes life easy on sophomore QB Desmond Ridder, and so does what should be a significantly improved Falcons defense after the team added Jessie Bates, Calais Campbell, and a handful of other adults in the room to firm up the spine.
The Falcons are a clear playoff team for me in the watered-down NFC, and they're my division favorite in the South as a worst-to-first division winner. And this is a great opportunity to get the season started off on the right foot against a team debuting a rookie QB, a new coaching staff and rookie offensive coordinator, and a ton of moving pieces.
Carolina had a miserable preseason, particularly on offense. The team doesn't know who is calling the plays yet, and the offensive line looked shambolic at times. That could make for a difficult debut for No. 1 pick Bryce Young on the road in a loud dome against a much-improved defensive line.
Atlanta's powerful run game is the one clear strength for either team in this game. The Falcons have covered 10 of their last 15 against the Panthers, and new Carolina head coach Frank Reich has never covered in Week 1, a terrible 0-4-1 ATS and failing to cover by 8.0 PPG.
I'm still hoping we sneak a -3 at some point, but I'm happy to play Falcons -3.5 against a Carolina team debuting so many new, moving parts.
In fact, since lines are most likely to be far off reality early in the season before we have more data, this looks like a great chance for an escalator play if you like the Falcons and fear the Panthers could have a stinker. You can play an escalator at -9.5 (+215), -13.5 (+340), or even -20.5 (+800) all at FanDuel.
Pick: Falcons -3.5
Bengals vs. Browns
I’m extremely high on Cleveland this season, and what better way to start than with a win against your division rival in Week 1?
Think back to last season, when Joe Burrow suffered a ruptured appendix and needed surgery. His status was up in the air to open the season and he never saw preseason action. What happened? He threw four interceptions and went 33-of-53 in an overtime loss to Pittsburgh at home.
A similar timeline has happened once again in 2023. Burrow suffered a calf strain during practice and once again missed all of preseason. Zac Taylor seems confident in Burrow returning, but again, it’ll come only through practice run-throughs.
This Browns team is way more talented than last year’s Steelers team that trotted out Mitch Trubisky under center. Chase Claypool led Pittsburgh in rushing yards (36), above Najee Harris (10 rushes, 23 yards).
I love Cleveland to start hot out of the gate against a Bengals team that will have a rusty Burrow under center. For what it’s worth, Week 1 divisional underdogs are 61% ATS since 2005.
Pick: Browns +2
Titans vs. Saints
The Titans had just about everything go wrong in the home stretch of the 2022 season from injuries to a seven-game losing streak to lose the division.
Now, Ryan Tannehill is healthy to start 2023 and he raises the floor of the Titans offense considerably. Even while there are major questions along the offensive line, Tennessee upgraded at receiver with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins and maintains a clear coaching advantage with Mike Vrabel over Saints head coach Dennis Allen. Tennessee returns most of its underrated defensive personnel and has everyone healthy, while also retaining Shane Bowen as defensive coordinator.
New Orleans enters 2023 with an aging roster in year one under new quarterback Derek Carr. As much as the Saints will benefit from the league’s easiest schedule in 2023, they’re overvalued because of Carr’s decline in efficiency year over year and the reliance on post-production for aging veterans. The Saints are quite old at a lot of key positions, especially on the defensive line. New Orleans has been patching together its roster and filling in the gaps for years, and the addition of Carr is no different. His accuracy rate declined modestly each of the last two seasons and we now have a well-established baseline of what Carr is as an NFL quarterback.
These two teams are about even for me, so after home field, I’m willing to take the Titans at +3 or better in Week 1.