NFL Week 1 Expert Picks: 3 Bets for Saints vs Falcons, 49ers vs Bears, More
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images. Pictured: Bill Belichick.
- Chris Raybon has been waiting six months for this day. The NFL is back.
- For the 1 p.m. ET. slate, he has three bets he has targeted, including two underdogs.
- Check out Raybon's picks and the trends he's backing below.
NFL Odds & Picks
The Falcons are the consensus worst team in the NFC. Can’t argue with that. But that’s why we’re getting a great number here (I make it Falcons +4 and our PRO Model makes it Falcons +3.8).
There are many reasons not to expect peak performance from the Saints in this spot:
- They no longer are coached by Sean Payton, whose 133-105-3 (56%) career against the spread (ATS) mark makes him the third-most profitable head coach of all time in our Action Labs database. On average, Payton-coached teams beat the spread by 1.9 points per game. His replacement Dennis Allen is 14-21-3 (40%) ATS with a -3.9 average margin.
- This is Jameis Winston’s first game back from after suffering an ACL injury. He also missed part of camp with a foot injury.
- This is Winston’s live game action as a starter with all three of his starting wide receivers. Michael Thomas was hurt all of last year — and still may not be 100% after being limited all week in practice with a hamstring injury. Chris Olave is a rookie. And Jarvis Landry was signed as a free agent. It’s also worth noting cornerback is one of Atlanta’s strengths, as A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward ranked second and 12th, respectively, among 116 qualifiers in PFF grade last season.
- The Saints have an all-new back end, with Tyrann Mathieu (who is listed as questionable with an illness after missing practice Friday) and Marcus Maye replacing Marcus Williams and Malcolm Jenkins, which could lead to communication issues.
All things considered, the Falcons match up pretty well with the Saints. I already mentioned the Falcons have strong boundary corners to counteract the talented Thomas and Olave.
One of New Orleans’ biggest issues last year was pressure, but you don’t necessarily need to pressure Winston to force him into mistakes, as he has thrown 56 of his 91 career interceptions from a clean pocket. In fact, Winston catching 5.5 points on the road is arguably enough to trigger a wager, as his career ATS record as a favorite is 8-17-1 (33%).
On the other side of the ball, the Saints have been one of the best run defenses in football over the past few years. But the Falcons now have a bunch of athletic players who can gain yards on the ground without having to slam it between the tackles, including QB Marcus Mariota, WR-turned-RB Cordarrelle Patterson, QB-turned-TE Felipe Franks, and CB/KR-turned-RB Avery Williams. WIth those players plus a TE who plays WR in Kyle Pitts, I’d venture the bet the Falcons will have quite a few wrinkles the Saints haven’t seen before in Week 1.
Week 1 Divisional dogs are 58-36-2 (61.7%) since 2005, covering by an average of 1.96 points per game.
Over the past eight seasons, that record improves to 29-9 with an average cover margin of 6.03.
I’m buying the dip on the Patriots here. The public sentiment surrounding the Patriots could not be more negative. They have Matt Patricia and Joe Judge screwing up the offense and looked horrible in preseason. They can’t play in the heat.
The offensive struggles could well be overblown. This was an offense that finished No. 5 in DVOA last year with a rookie QB. All four of their returning offensive lineman graded out well above average at PFF, including top-two finishes for David Andrews at center and Michael Onwenu at guard. The fifth is rookie guard Cole Strange, a Round 1-2 talent who also graded above average in the preseason.
Also, whatever you think of Devante Parker, you cannot argue that their wide receiver corps didn’t get better by swapping Parker in for N’Keal Harry.
Much is made of the Patriots struggling to cover in Miami (2-7-1 ATS in their last 10), but all but two of those games have been in December, when it’s a lot more difficult for a cold-weather team to make the transition. They’ve played in September twice over that span and are 1-1, including a 43-0 win in the most recent meeting.
The Dolphins should be improved on offense with the addition of Tyreek Hill, but this is still Tua Tagovailoa, a rookie head coach (Mike McDaniel) and a rookie offensive coordinator (Frank Smith) going against a Belichick defense. Tagovailoa is averaging just 6.1 yards per attempt with two TDs and two interceptions in three career starts vs. the Patriots.
Per Chad Graff of The Athletic, Belichick is 53-17 straight-up against rookie head coaches. And according to our Action Labs data, Belichick is also 30-15-2 (67%) ATS as an underdog.
And of course, we’re getting the Patriots as Divisional dogs, which have crushed it even on the road, covering at a 61% clip since 2005.
Trey Lance is making the third start of his career. He’ll have three new starters on the interior line and no George Kittle, one of the team’s best blockers and pass catchers. Kyle Shanahan went super run-heavy with Lance in his two starts last year, and it led to only 59.0 plays per game for the 49ers and 120.0 total plays in the game,roughly seven below league average. It’s no surprise, then, that unders went 2-0 in Lance’s starts.
On the other side, Justin Fields is in his first game with a new staff after posting the worst QBR in the league last season. The under went 7-3 in his 10 starts. Beyond Darnell Mooney, he’s got an entirely new wide receiver group, many of whom he hasn’t had much practice time with because they’ve been injured.
The Bears are so bad on the offensive line that they claimed Raiders draft bust Alex Leatherwood and waivers. The 49ers have one of the best defensive fronts in the league, led by Nick Bosa on the edge, Arik Armstead on the interior, and Fred Warner at linebacker.
So we have two quarterbacks that are a combined 9-3 to the under, and two teams that will want to run the ball may struggle to do so. We may even have some weather, as rain and 15mph winds are currently forecast for Sunday in Chicago.