NFL Week 1 Picks, Predictions: Our Staff’s 7 Best Bets for Sunday’s Late Slate, Including Chiefs vs Cardinals, More
Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images. Pictured: Patrick Mahomes
NFL Odds & Picks
Derek Farnsworth: This is a great example of why we should shop for different lines and prices each week.
Most books have the Chargers as 3.5-point favorites with -105 to -110 odds, but we can grab Los Angeles as three-point favorites on Caesars if we pay a little more juice. The half point may not seem like much, but there are so many scenarios where the Raiders could keep this game within a field goal. If anything, that half point is worth the peace of mind.
While I think the Raiders made improvements over the offseason, that doesn’t automatically mean they are going to improve on their 10-7 record from a year ago. They play in the league’s toughest division and were arguably the luckiest team last season. They had a -65 point differential and somehow made the playoffs. I will gladly take the team with more talent on both ends of the ball.
This isn’t going to feel like a home game for the Chargers, but perhaps their fans will surprise us and show up. Regardless, this is a team that could have both a top-five defense and offense if they stay healthy. I am betting them early and often, and that includes Week 1 at home against the Raiders.
Dylan Wilkerson: The Giants’ offense has struggled over the past three years. Last season, they scored less than 19 points 11 times, and their lack of explosiveness means that if they do score, it’s a slow grind.
The Titans’ defense does a great job of applying pressure on the quarterback without having to blitz. Having the extra men drop back into pass coverage while making Daniel Jones hurry could equate to a stalling Giants offense. The Titans are known for their run-heavy offense, which reduces the amount of possessions the Giants will have.
Bet to 17.5.
Blake Krass: The disrespect of the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes is getting slightly out of hand. Mahomes is being left off of numerous best quarterback lists by media members. With trendy teams like the Raiders, Chargers and the Russell Wilson-led Broncos in the AFC West, the Chiefs seem like the forgotten team in the NFL.
Since Mahomes took over at quarterback for the Chiefs in 2018, they have made it to the AFC Championship Game four straight years and made two Super Bowls. Kansas City’s offense was also third in offensive DVOA last season. Neither of them is Tyreek Hill, but I think Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster will be excellent weapons – alongside Travis Kelce – for Mahomes to utilize.
For the Cardinals, they were always going to be without DeAndre Hopkins, who is suspended to start the season. However, it now looks like they could be without Zach Ertz (calf) and Rondale Moore (hamstring) as well. This leaves their offense in total disarray and will make life difficult for Kyler Murray.
Overall, I think the Chiefs offense will still get theirs as long as Mahomes and Andy Reid are at the helm. I think the Cardinals’ offense will struggle to keep up without all their top weapons. I have no issue backing K.C. in this spot since Andy Reid is 28-20 (58.3%) ATS as a road favorite since taking over as Chiefs head coach – the third-best mark in the NFL over that stretch.
Play to -6.5.
John LanFranca: It’s common knowledge at this point how dominant Andy Reid has been when he has extra time to prepare for regular-season games. Something that may be flying under the radar is just how explosive the Chiefs’ offense has been early on in the season, especially since Patrick Mahomes took over as quarterback.
The Chiefs are 7-0 since 2015 in the NFL’s opening weekend, with every game going over the posted total. K.C. is averaging over 30 points per game in those contests, with Mahomes throwing 13 touchdowns to 0 INTs, boasting a 133.7 passer rating. In the month of September over his career, Mahomes is 11-2 with 41 TDs and 3 INTs.
The Cardinals are already dealing with injuries on the defensive side of the ball. Antonio Hamilton is on the IR, while Trayvon Mullen, J.J. Watt and Markus Golden are operating at less than 100%. We need this wager to win approximately 45% (at +130) of the time to make it a profitable play long term. Even in what was considered a down year statistically for Mahomes in 2021, this play cashed every game in September and 52.6% of the Chiefs’ 19 games played.
Play Mahomes Over 2.5 TD passes +145 down to +130.
Sam Farley: Last year, Kirk Cousins took better care of the ball and threw just seven interceptions, a huge improvement from 2020, when he threw 13. Now as he enters his fifth season in Minnesota, he welcomes a Packers team to town and I’m … backing him to give up an interception despite his progress on that front.
The Packers arguably have one of the best defenses in the league and I’m of the belief they’ll be ranked even more highly by the end of the regular season. Their secondary in particular is versatile and has a number of playmakers. Jaire Alexander is the big name now that he’s the highest paid player in his position, but others like Darnell Savage and Eric Stokes are also big contributors.
Against a great Packers D, with a new playbook, there feels like a strong chance that we see Cousins turn over the ball in this divisional clash. It looks like value at -105.
Sam Farley: Only two teams passed for more yards per game than the Chargers in 2021 — the Bucs and the Cowboys. Now Justin Herbert is another year older and wiser, as is Josh Palmer, the third receiving option on his offense.
The 2021 third-round pick looks like a great complement to Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. He has good size at 6-foot-1 and he showed in the second half of last season that he has the ability to be a real playmaker.
There’s always a risk that the target share could go elsewhere, or that the Chargers lean on Austin Ekeler, but I think backing the over on Palmer’s receiving yards line offers huge value.
If you look at the last five games of Palmer’s 2021, you can see that he became one of Herbert’s preferred targets, as he hauled in 18 of 28 targets and averaged 37 yards per game.
I’m confident he’ll start the season hot and go over 30.5.
Kody Malstrom: We’re going to learn very quickly how much Davante Adams meant to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. Accounting for nearly 40% of Green Bay’s touchdowns and yards, he is now donning silver and black in Vegas.
On the flip side, the Vikings are finally going to unlock their offense after years of Mike Zimmer’s prehistoric schemes. Ramping up the pass attack under head coach Kevin O’Connell, the duo of Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen will wreck opposing defenses and open lanes for running back Dalvin Cook.
Minnesota’s defense is still league average, but it enters the season fully healthy and more than capable of getting to Rodgers with Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith.
The Packers’ defense may be one of the best in football, especially in the secondary, but are still susceptible against good running units.
Green Bay will be without its two starting offensive tackles and top receiver in Allen Lazard. Take the home team in what can represent a changing of the guard in the NFC North.