Week 1 NFL Bets: Our Experts’ 7 Favorite Picks
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images. Pictured: Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include more recent odds as of June 1.
Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season is still months away, but one key way to find betting value is to get in on the action early.
Our staff has already made picks for seven Week 1 games. Let’s dive in.
Chris Raybon: Bills -5.5 vs. Jets
Would bet to: Bills -7
Odds as of June 1: Bills -6 [Bet now at PointsBet]
Even factoring in Sam Darnold’s three-game absence last season, the Jets overachieved with a 7-9 record that was 1.6 wins better than the 5.6 wins implied by their point differential of -83. Their schedule-adjusted margin of victory — also known as Simple Rating System (SRS) — of -6.3 trailed the Bills (+2.2) by 8.5 points, and the presence of Darnold does not close that gap, especially with the Bills at home.
The Bills also had the better offseason in terms of landing players that can help immediately, landing wide receiver Stefon Diggs in a trade with the Vikings, drafting a first-round talent at defensive end in A.J. Epenesa (Iowa) in Round 2 and a more dynamic replacement for Frank Gore at running back in Zack Moss (Utah) in Round 3. The Jets had a solid draft, addressing tackle in Round 1 with Mekhi Becton (Louisville) and wide receiver in Round 2 with Denzel Mims (Baylor). But Mims is raw and may take time to reach the level of Robby Anderson, who left for Carolina.
Ultimately, the Bills have a sizable edge on both sides of the ball. And since head coach Sean McDermott took over in 2017, they rank fourth in the NFL with a +2.1 against the spread (ATS) margin as a home favorite while covering at a 58.3% clip in those spots.
I’d roll with Buffalo up to -7.
Mike Randle: Vikings -3.5 vs. Packers
Would bet to: Vikings -4
Odds as of June 1: Vikings -3.5 [Bet now at PointsBet]
Minnesota will be out for revenge after getting swept by Green Bay in both matchups last season. The Vikings were 4-0-1 in the five games prior to last season in this NFC North rivalry.
Dalvin Cook should also find success against a Packers rush defense that ranked just 23rd in run defense efficiency last season per Football Outsiders.
Backing the Vikings at home against the spread under head coach Mike Zimmer has been very profitable, especially early in the season. Per our data at Bet Labs, the Vikings cover at an 80% (12-3-1) rate under Zimmer as a home favorite in Weeks 1-7. With no new wide receivers for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, I see a comfortable Vikings home opening win.
I would take this line up to Vikings -4.
Raybon: Seahawks -1 at Falcons
Would bet to: Seahawks -2.5
Odds as of June 1: Seahawks -1 [Bet now at PointsBet]
The Seahawks haven’t covered in four tries against their former defensive coordinator and current head coach of the Falcons (by a thread), Dan Quinn, but this is a great spot for Seattle to finally get over the hump.
Since drafting Russell Wilson in 2012, the Seahawks are 40-30-1 straight up and 37-30-4 (55.2%) ATS on the road, with the second-best margin of victory (+3.5) and third-best ATS margin (+2.4) in the league over that span. The Falcons, meanwhile, are just 12-12 SU and ATS at home since former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan took the head job in San Francisco, and their -2.0 home ATS margin over that stretch ranks 23rd.
The Seahawks offense ranked fifth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA last season, 10 spots ahead of the Falcons, who arguably are worse off than a year ago after losing tight end Austin Hooper and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. And on defense, the Seahawks (18th in DVOA) still project as slightly better than the Falcons (20th) after both squads added players on that side of the ball in the first and second round of the draft.
Give me the better team at anything under a field goal.
Randle: Browns +8.5 at Ravens
Would bet to: Browns +7.5
Odds as of June 1: Browns +9 [Bet now at PointsBet]
By adding free agent Jack Conklin and drafting offensive tackle Jedrick Wills with the 10th overall pick, the Browns should greatly improve on last season’s 30th-best protection rate (PlayerProfiler) for quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Cleveland has split the last four regular season games in this series including a big 40-25 win at Baltimore last season. The Browns offense should be much improved under new head coach Kevin Stefanski, who graded out as the best play caller in game-neutral situations per Pro Football Focus last season.
Taking the points in Week 1 has proved extremely profitable per our Bet Labs data. Since 2003, teams receiving more than seven points cover at a 70.8% rate (17-7) with an ROI of 37%. I’ll take the 8.5 in this divisional rivalry game that could be played in front of a stadium with limited or no fans in attendance.
I’d bet this line down to +7.5.
Randle: Cowboys -2.5 at Rams (SNF)
Would bet to: Cowboys -2.5
Odds as of June 1: Cowboys -2.5 [Bet now at PointsBet]
While this is the first game in the Rams’ new SoFi Stadium, I’m taking an explosive Cowboys offense on the road laying this small number — they boasted the second-most efficient offense per Football Outsiders, and will now have a healthy Amari Cooper and new explosive rookie wideout CeeDee Lamb.
Meanwhile, the Rams’ offensive line struggled, and only added seventh-round guard Tremayne Anchrum in the draft. Their offense will also need to replace key offensive pieces in running back Todd Gurley and wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
Even if fans can attend this game in person, the Cowboys have strong support in southern California. I’m taking the more talented Dallas team under new head coach Mike McCarthy and laying the small number.
I would take this line at -2.5 or better.
Raybon: Steelers -3.5 at Giants (MNF)
Would bet to: Steelers -6
Odds as of June 1: Steelers -3.5 [Bet now at PointsBet]
The Steelers were the only team to finish with a top-three DVOA defense vs. both the run and pass in 2019, and they’re getting back quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who led the league in passing yards in 2018 and is my top pick for Comeback Player of the Year.
Despite enduring dismal quarterback play from Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges after Roethlisberger went down in Week 2, the Steelers’ SRS of +0.3 was still 8.2 points better than the Giants (-7.9). Yes, Antonio Brown is long gone, but the Steelers aren’t exactly lacking for weapons after adding pass-catching tight end Eric Ebron in free agency and plus-sized wide receiver Chase Claypool (Notre Dame) in Round 2 to a young, talented wide receiving core featuring JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and James Washington.
I’m cautiously optimistic about the Giants’ long-term prospects — Daniel Jones over Dwayne Haskins was the right call, Round 1 offensive tackle Andrew Thomas and Round 2 safety Xavier McKinney (Alabama) fill key needs, and it no longer appears as if John Mara’s meddling is running the franchise into the ground — but this is a brutal spot for Jones, first-year coach Joe Judge and Co. despite it being at MetLife Stadium.
The Mike Tomlin/Big Ben road-favorite letdown spot will come at some point, but not in Week 1. I’d bet the Steelers up to -6.
Collin Wilson: Broncos -1.5 vs. Titans (MNF)
Would bet to: Broncos -1.5
Odds as of June 1: Broncos -1.5 [Bet now at DraftKings]
One of the points spreads quickly on the move is the Broncos opener against the Titans.
It is well known in the gambling universe that teams traveling to Denver in Weeks 1 or 2 of the regular season have struggled. The Titans, with a home elevation of 597 feet, start the season in Denver at an altitude of 5,280 feet.
Tennessee addressed one of its biggest needs in the draft with cornerback Kristian Fulton. The LSU star will earn his money in Week 1 against rookie wideouts Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler. The addition of Isaiah Wilson to the offensive line will also be put to the test, as Denver finished 11th in adjusted sack rate for the 2019 season.
Teams traveling to Denver Week 1 or 2 have been a profitable fade. The Broncos are 6-1-4 against the spread when the number is within a field goal. While some shops in Vegas have moved Denver past a field goal, DraftKings still offers the Broncos at -1.5 for their opener.