NFL Week 1 Predictions: Data-Driven Picks for Dolphins vs Chargers, Eagles vs Patriots
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Tua Tagovailoa.
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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.
Titans vs. Saints
By Sean Koerner
Derek Carr is coming off a career-worst 2.8% interception rate last season with the Raiders. He wasn't as bad as that would indicate, though, as I projected him closer to a 2.2% rate that's much closer to a career 2% rate. He was very unlucky when it comes to his interception rate.
Aside from bad luck with interceptions, he was throwing the ball downfield a ton. Carr's 64 pass attempts of 20 or more yards down the field ranked fifth in the NFL. This is notable because downfield throws result in a higher interception rate, as the league average was 7.8% last season. Carr is unlikely to throw the ball downfield as much this season with the Saints, who ranked 21st in the league in passes 20 or more yards down the field.
Carr faces the Titans in Week 1. Tennessee's Achilles heel is its secondary, and its 1.9% interception rate ranked 19th last season.
As a three-point home favorite, Carr will likely be involved in a more conservative game script, one that should help limit the number of dangerous passes he attempts.
I'm projecting Carr for closer to -125 to not throw an interception. It's not quite the lock of the century, but I wanted to introduce this concept to possibly help you handicap quarterbacks' interception props moving forward. These rankings will act as a great piece of data to consult before attacking this market.
Pick: Derek Carr Under 0.5 Interceptions
Eagles vs. Patriots
By Billy Ward
All last season, I made a variety of bets around this thesis: the Eagles playing fast and running up the score early before taking their figurative feet (wings?) off the gas in the second half.
Which made sense, as the Eagles were dominant for most of last season. When you’re playing from way ahead, why take unnecessary risks late? The numbers bear this out, with the Eagles playing 3.5 seconds slower per play in the second half, the largest (negative) gap in the league.
Finding a way to profit on this thesis was the harder part though. First-half overs made sense, but not without some help from the opposing team. Second-half unders? Maybe, but sometimes the opponent would make a late push and drive the score up.
Enter this year’s improved version of the bet: the highest scoring half prop.
While the Eagles are only favored by four points, they should still control the action. It’s also hard to see the Patriots having much success if Mac Jones is forced to throw the ball with Philadelphia ranking first in DVOA last season.
This bet gives us a few more ways to win than any of the other iterations based on the same concept. I’d bet it down to -120.
Pick: Highest Scoring Half: 1st Half (-105)
Dolphins vs. Chargers
By Nick Giffen
Much like my YES bet on the Chiefs vs. Lions game, the home team is favored by less than a touchdown in a game that projects to be relatively high scoring.
Since the extra point was pushed back to the 15-yard line in 2015, games in this situation have historically gone to overtime at just over a 12% clip. With some regression back to league average, as my model forecasts, there’s still an 8.9% chance of bonus football.
That equates to fair odds of +1030, meaning we’re getting a solid 2.4% edge in this market.
There are additional reasons to like this game to go to overtime as well. Miami will have a second year of having its core players together: Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, along with head coach Mike McDaniel and offensive coordinator Frank Smith.
As the Dolphins should continue to grow and progress, they also have the benefit of being the unlucky team in our Action Network Luck Rankings in this matchup, meaning this game could be even closer than the 3-point line suggests.
Pick: Will There Be Overtime? Yes (+1460)
Dolphins vs. Chargers
By Billy Ward
Sean Koerner analyzed every quarterback and defense last season in order to find out which players or teams were lucky or unlucky in terms of interceptions.
Obviously, interceptions are fairly fluky events – here’s looking at you, Kadarius Toney – that don’t always reflect a quarterback's true ability to protect the ball.
However, over a large enough sample size we should expect their true ability and interceptions thrown to equalize. Same thing on the defensive side – though I’m hesitant to use last year’s data on full teams given the personnel and coaching changes year over year.
Using Gilles Gallant's list of plus-money quarterback INT props, I went diving into the “interception luck rankings” to find a worthy candidate. Herbert immediately jumped out for a couple of reasons: He has the longest odds on the slate, and he was one of the luckier quarterbacks last year.
Of course, those concepts are connected, as long interception odds are generally attached to players who didn't throw many interceptions, even if they should have. Then, using his expected interception rate and his projected pass attempts, I came up with a fair value for his interception prop: roughly +113.
That doesn’t factor the opposing defense in at all, but Miami was fifth on the list of least-lucky defenses last season. Miami then used their second-round draft pick on cornerback Cam Smith, and signed Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator. Even without prized offseason acquisition Jalen Ramsey being healthy, the defense should take a step forward this year.
I’d be comfortable betting this one down to +120 given the likely progression of the Dolphins defense factored in with the calculated odds based purely on Herbert.