Week 1 NFL Betting Guide: Odds, Picks & Predictions For All of Sunday’s Games
Getty Images. Pictured: Kyle Shanahan, Lamar Jackson, Joey Bosa
- Odds. Picks. Predictions. Find your guide to betting all of Sunday's Week 1 NFL games below.
- How should you approach the lowest over/under? The highest spread?
- Our analysts break down each matchup to give you actionable advice.
After a very long and unusual offseason, we finally have an NFL Sunday.
Week 1 NFL Betting Guides
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Dolphins vs. Patriots Odds
Raheem Palmer: All good things must come to an end.
For the first time since the 2000 season, the New England Patriots open an NFL season without Tom Brady on their Week 1 roster. But if there’s one organization that’s successfully fostered the “next man up” philosophy, it’s New England.
After a tumultuous offseason full of losses, the Cam Newton era of Patriots football begins Sunday afternoon in an AFC East showdown against the Miami Dolphins.
The Patriots are 6.5-point favorites at the time of writing with the over/under set at 42. With so many changes, is there any value betting this matchup? Let’s take a closer look.
Believe it or not, the Dolphins exceeded expectations in 2019. After spending the first half of the season “Tanking for Tua,” Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Dolphins to five wins.
His stellar play — the finished with the eighth-best mark in ESPN’s Total QBR — nearly squandered their tanking efforts as the Dolphins averaged 25 points per game over their final nine contests after averaging 11 points per game through their first seven games.
The Dolphins hope to carry the momentum over into this season as Fitzpatrick will be their Week 1 starter. Given the familiarity with new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, whom Fitzpatrick played for during stints with the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, the veteran QB should be able to find success in this offense.
The addition of Jordan Howard and Matt Breida strengthens a struggling ground game, which had Fitzpatrick (243 yards) as its leading rusher last season.
The Dolphins bolstered the league’s worst offensive line by signing free agents guard Eric Flowers and Ted Karras. While neither are great, they are significant upgrades for an offensive line that was last in adjusted line yards and had the third-worst pressure rate, according to Football Outsiders.
If Fitzpatrick has time to throw, receivers DeVante Parker and Preston Williams should be tough for opposing defenses to stop.
The Dolphins had the worst defense in the league last season finishing last in points allowed and Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA. They’ve made some improvements, however, signing corner Byron Jones, linebacker Kyle Van Noy and edge rushers Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah along with the return of cornerback Xavien Howard.
Still, it remains to be see if this unit can put it together early in the season.
New England Patriots
Who could have imagined all of the roster turnover that took place during this Patriots offseason? After 20 seasons, 17 division titles and six Super Bowls, Tom Brady is gone.
Eight Patriots players, including star linebacker Dont’a Hightower and safety Patrick Chung opted out of the NFL season due to COVID-19 concerns. The Pats’ defense also took hits with the free agent departures of defensive tackle Danny Shelton, linebackers Elandon Roberts, Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy as well as safety Duron Harmon.
Last season, the Patriots held opposing offenses to 14.1 points per game, forced 36 turnovers and finished the season ranked third in defensive DVOA. It goes without saying that their defense will have trouble replicating these numbers.
The addition of Newton, provides the Patriots with a new element: The ability to run when plays break down or to move the chains in short yardage situations. The options Newton’s presence provides should make a Patriots offense, with a lack of receiving threats outside of Julian Edelman, more difficult to defend.
The strength of this Patriots offense is their backfield with Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead and Damien Harris along with their offensive line. We should look forward to Newton utilizing play action and getting the ball out quickly to running backs out of the backfield.
Despite all the changes, Bill Belichick’s presence remains consistent. If there’s one place you can gain an edge in sports, it’s coaching, and the Patriots still have the best in the business.
Despite having one of the best secondaries in the league with Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones, it would be unreasonable to expect the Patriots defense to be as stingy as it was last year.
Teams will score on this unit, especially early in the year as it gets acclimated to all of its new pieces. Fitzpatrick will put up points on Sunday, but he’s just as likely to turn the ball over leading to short fields.
On the other side of the ball, the Dolphins — despite making some improvements — aren’t a unit the Patriots should fear. When you look at the 2019 Dolphins, their vulnerability against mobile quarterbacks immediately stands out:
- Lamar Jackson: 324 yards passing, five passing touchdowns
- Dak Prescott: 263 yards passing, two passing TDs, one rushing TD
- Carson Wentz: 310 yards passing, three passing TDs
- Josh Allen, Game 1: 202 yards passing, two passing TDs
- Allen, Game 2: 256 yards passing, three passing TDs, one rushing TD
With a revamped Patriots offense headed by Newton that has yet to be seen on film, we should expect similar results.
The only reference point we have for the circumstances of this season is 2011, when the lockout meant limited training camp and no preseason. That season, a dozen Week 1 games went over.
I see both teams putting up points in this game.
Packers vs. Vikings Odds
Mike Randle: One of the NFL’s legendary rivalries renews in Week 1 when the Green Bay Packers visit the Minnesota Vikings.
Last season, the Packers swept the season series, snapping a five-game winless streak against Minnesota. With two strong pass defenses and a close point-spread, expect another tight battle between these two bitter NFC North enemies.
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay doubled-down on head coach Matt LaFleur’s strong preference of running the football by selecting Boston College star running back A.J. Dillon in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft — and much to the disappointment of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers failed to draft a wide receiver.
After allowing an embarrassing 285 rushing yards in last season’s NFC Championship Game, LaFleur clearly wants to mirror San Francisco’s ball-control offense.
Green Bay reduced its team passing percentage from a league-leading 67.5% in 2018 to just 59.8% (16th) last season. The Packers were also the fifth-slowest team in offensive pace, per Football Outsiders.
The Packers now feature a strong trio of running backs led by Aaron Jones. The fourth-year rusher was brilliantly efficient with more than 1,500 total yards and 19 touchdowns. With Dillon and veteran Jamaal Williams serving as backups, the Packers have the talent and depth to control the clock throughout the game.
Their run defense needs to improve, though, especially up front. Green Bay ranked just 27th in run defensive efficiency, which the 49ers exploited in that NFC title game by rushing on 84% of their plays en route to a 37-20 win.
Cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Kevin King are the base of a strong secondary, which will limit the effectiveness of Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins. Green Bay will try to win the time of possession to avoid wearing down an overall defense that isn’t among the NFL’s elite.
Head coach Mike Zimmer has implemented his hard-nosed brand of football by supplementing a strong defense with a run-first offense: Minnesota ranked 30th in pass attempts per game and fourth in rushing attempts per game in 2019.
The Vikings traded explosive wide receiver Stefon Diggs to Buffalo over the offseason, depleting their low-volume passing attack even further. With unproven receivers — led by second-year pass-catcher Bisi Johnson and rookie Justin Jefferson — the Vikings will hope veteran Adam Thielen can rebound from a disappointing year that produced only 30 receptions and 418 receiving yards.
Expect Minnesota to lean on All Pro running back Dalvin Cook, who produced the overall RB1 line (three receptions, 191 total yards and one touchdown) in the Vikings’ 21-16 loss at Green Bay in Week 2 of 2019. Per Pro Football Focus, their offensive line grades only as the NFL’s 23rd-best due to major pass-blocking concerns.
Minnesota’s strong zone-blocking/play-action attack, however, should continue to flourish under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.
The Minnesota defense will cause problems for the Green Bay offense all game. In last year’s home game against the Packers (without Cook), the Vikings tallied three sacks, one interception and four forced fumbles, recovering two. Now the Vikings will be without Pro Bowl defensive end Danielle Hunter (14.5 sacks) but still have a capable pass rush. Rodgers will see constant pressure from former Jacksonville defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (eight sacks) and third-year pass-rusher Ifeadi Odenigbo (seven sacks).
Six of the past seven games in this historic rivalry have totaled 41 or fewer points, with five of those games finishing under 38 points. Both head coaches want to establish a strong running game and have the respective backfield talent to do so.
During head coach Mike Zimmer’s tenure, the Vikings have been a lucrative bet to cover at home. Since his first season in 2014, Minnesota is 25-11-1 (69.4%) as a home favorite, with a Return On Investment (ROI) of 34.6%.
With the news of Hunter’s injury, the line has dropped to Vikings -2.5, so this game now presents two opportunities to fade the public: Green Bay is getting 70% of the money and 62% of the bets per our public betting data, while the under is drawing 70% of the bets but 93% of the money, indicating a sharp lean on a lower total.
I’m on Minnesota -2.5 but would not play below that value to cover a potential field goal win. I am also backing the under at 46, which I would play down to 45.5.
PICKS: Vikings -2.5; Under 46 (down to 45.5)
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Eagles vs. Washington Odds
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BJ Cunningham: The Philadelphia Eagles will look to defend the NFC East title as they take on the lowly Washington Football Team to open the season.
For the Eagles, it’s not a question whether they can make the playoffs this season — it’s if Carson Wentz can take the next step and become a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback. The jury is still out of Wentz, and a poor 2020 season could raise even more question marks for the Eagles’ signal-caller.
As for Washington, no team was in the headlines more this offseason — and it wasn’t for good reasons. The team will try to put all of that behind them with a new coach, new president and a lot of new players on the roster. But it likely won’t translate to many points in Week 1.
The Eagles dealt with a ton of offensive injuries last season, with many of their skill players sidelined or placed on Injured Reserve for various stints. Wentz was still able to post a fantastic touchdown-to-interception ratio (27-6), but struggled with efficiency — his yards per attempt (6.70) proved to be one of the lowest in football and his passer rating (95.2) came in at 15th in the NFL.
Now Wentz will have the benefit of a healthy group of skill players to start the season, so his numbers should improve early in 2020.
Philly running backs had the benefit of playing behind one the best run-blocking offensive lines in football last season. The Eagles return most of that unit, but with All Pro left tackle Jason Peters is moving to guard, it’s hard to imagine that they’ll repeat that same type of success.
Still, Miles Sanders and Boston Scott showed a lot of promise last season, running the ball for a combined 4.65 yards per carry. And while the Eagles’ offensive success will no doubt rest on Wentz’s shoulders, if they can establish a consistent running game, it could take a lot of pressure off Wentz and allow him to return to the 2017 version of himself.
Philadelphia’s defensive line is one of the best in all of football. Not only does the unit have a ton of talent, but it also has a ton of depth. The Eagles ranked fourth in terms of rushing success allowed and third in stuff rate (per Football Outsiders).
Fletcher Cox and the rest of the group will be Philly’s strength heading into 2020.
The Eagles went through a number of changes over the offseason, mainly in their secondary. They traded for Darius Slay and let Ronald Darby walk in free agency. Slay is an upgrade from Darby and should improve a secondary that ranked 10th in passing success rate last year.
The Eagles also re-signed Jalen Mills to a one-year contract and will move him to safety to play alongside Rodney McLoud. The team hopes that will provide some continuity in its secondary in 2020.
Washington Football Team
It was a tumultuous offseason for the Washington Football Team that left the team with question marks all over offense.
Outside of Devlin Hodges and David Blough, Dwyane Haskins had the worst passer rating in the league last year. He had only a 46% passing success rate and turned the ball over 11 times in nine games. He has star in the making and college teammate Terry McLaurin to throw to, but otherwise, Haskins doesn’t have very many weapons on offense.
The new coaching staff is putting their faith in Haskins, but he’ll need to develop quickly or Washington could find itself looking for a new quarterback this offseason.
Washington has a lot of no-names in its backfield.
With Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice gone, it’s down to J.D. McKissic and third-round pick Antonio Gibson. Gibson stood out in Mike Norvell’s offense at Memphis, averaging 11.2 yards per carry. However, it’s hard to imagine that Gibson will have that same type of success in his rookie season behind a below-average offensive line.
Washington’s defensive line will no doubt improve in 2020 after drafting Chase Young with the second overall pick. The team finished as one of the worst defenses in 2019, ranking 24th in defensive passing success and 27th in defensive rushing success.
They added veteran Thomas Davis to the linebacking corps and Ronald Darby to the secondary over the offseason, so it should see some improvement overall. But this will probably be an average defense at best in 2020.
Cunningham’s Eagles-Washington Projections
I have the Eagles projected as -7.05 favorites and this total at 40.95, but I think the value is on the Washington team under.
The Eagles looked poised to feature one of the best defensive units in the NFC this season, and I think their defensive line will be the difference in this game given Washington’s weakness in its rushing attack heading into the season. And if Washington can’t run the ball, it’s hard to imagine Haskins lighting up Philly’s secondary if it becomes one-dimensional.
I have Washington projected for 16.95 points in, so there’s some value in taking the team total Under 18.5 points at -109.
Pick: Washington Under 18.5 Points (-109; up to -112)
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Colts vs. Jaguars Odds
Phillip Kall: Week 1 brings an AFC South matchup between the division favorite and the team projected to finish last.
The Colts have capitalized on their draft picks and cap space and added Philip Rivers in hopes he’s the missing link.
Only three years removed from a 10-point lead in the AFC Championship Game, the Jaguars seem to be ripping it down to the studs, as only five of the 22 starters are left. They’re the second-largest underdogs this weekend at +8.
Since 1990, only 12 times has a team been a home underdog of seven or more points in Week 1. Those teams covered the spread eight times. Let’s see if the Jaguars can make it nine out of 13.
The Colts focused on improving their offense this offseason, signing Rivers and drafting wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and running back Jonathan Taylor early in the second round. Rivers and Pittman will have the opportunity to contribute right away, but a shortened offseason and no preseason games might make the first few weeks a bit of a learning curve.
Defensively, the Colts added DeForest Buckner to the interior of the line. Buckner was part of the elite front that led to San Francisco 49ers to their Super Bowl appearance, so his interior pressure should improve a pass defense that ranked 23rd in yards per pass attempt allowed.
However, the Colts will also need their defensive backfield to step up their game if they want to be like the 2018 pass defense that allowed the third-fewest passing touchdowns.
Early in the year, expect the Colts to focus on running the ball to give Rivers time to adapt to the offense at full game speed. Luckily, this will again play into the weaknesses of the opponent as the Jaguars ranked 28th against the run and 16th against the pass last year.
The Jaguars defense fell off the map last season, going from a top-five defense each season down to 21st in points allowed and 24th in yards allowed. One bright spot on this struggling defense was rookie Josh Allen. Despite playing only about 60% of snaps, Allen recorded 10.5 sacks, which ranked 14th.
To help Allen, the Jaguars spent their two first-round draft picks on cornerback C.J. Henderson and defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson. This should be a young defense that improves throughout the season.
This offseason tight end Tyler Eifert and rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. were brought in as reinforcement for this offense that’s now Gardner Minshew’s alone. Eifert has shown the ability to be a reliable target, especially in the red zone, while Shenault has been a hot fantasy name this offseason thanks to glowing reports from camp.
Shenault should line up in the slot, meaning he and Eifert will likely be the safety valves for Minshew.
The release of Leonard Fournette late in training camp sent a message to the NFL audience that the Jaguars are positioned to tank the season. However, the removal of a high-profile player can relieve play-callers of the pressure to get the ball to their star player and provide addition by subtraction.
With Fournette missing and Ryquell Armstead on the reserve/COVID list, the running back situation is uncertain, so the Jags will most likely look to lean on their passing game. This should play well as the Colts ranked 23rd against the pass compared seventh against the run.
I expect the Colts to control the game but play conservatively with their young wide receivers and a new quarterback. This should play out as a low-scoring game, and eight points is a lot to give in that situation — especially with a quarterback like Minshew, who has thrown 10 of his 21 touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
With all that said, give me the Jags to cover.
PICK: Jaguars +8 (down to +7)
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Bears vs. Lions Odds
Reed Wallach: The Lions and Bears open the season with an NFC North showdown in Detroit.
The Lions hope that a healthy Matthew Stafford will be able to utilize a host of weapons to get the Lions back to the postseason while the Bears are just hoping that Mitchell Trubisky can find his 2018 form.
If Trubisky’s struggles continue, expect him to be on a short leash with newly-acquired quarterback Nick Foles ready to slide in under center.
The Bears enter 2020 uneven. The defense was one of the best units in the league last season while the offense regressed negatively.
Anchored by Khalil Mack, Chicago ranked toward the top of the league in most defensive metrics.
Despite being in the bottom-10 in blitz percentage, the Bears still managed to hurry the quarterback at a top-four rate. Chicago did let Leonard Floyd go, but the team inked Robert Quinn to a big deal to replace the former first-round pick.
However, at times Chicago struggled to force turnovers, ranking 19th in takeaways last season. The Bears were also near the bottom of the league in finishing plays in the backfield and finished in the bottom third in tackles for loss and quarterback hits.
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Chicago’s metrics seem skewed, and I think that some better luck in the turnover department is in order with defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano back. Furthermore, the Bears return much of their fantastic secondary that limited big plays in 2019. Eddie Jackson and Kyle Fuller anchor a secondary that also added second-round pick Jaylon Johnson.
The offense is the real problem.
Trubisky fell off a cliff after his strong rookie start, seemingly losing all confidence and battling some injuries in 2019. The Bears brought in Foles for a bit of competition but nonetheless named Trubisky their Week 1 starter.
Chicago is lacking many elite weapons for Trubisky to use, Allen Robinson notwithstanding. But Trubisky’s biggest issue is his inability to get the ball downfield. He averaged 9.6 yards per completion in 2019, which ranked 32nd in the NFL.
Chicago opted to load up on tight ends in the offseason, bringing in Jimmy Graham and using its first pick on Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet. The Bears could use some more downfield options for Trubisky to stretch the field, but it does not appear that Chicago added those weapons for 2020.
Stafford was having a career season before a back injury derailed his — and the Lions’ — 2019 season.
However, Detroit did see excellent progression from Kenny Golladay, who appears ready to become a true No. 1 wide receiver (although he is dealing with a hamstring injury in the run-up to Week 1). And T.J. Hockenson looks like a promising target for Stafford at tight end.
Detroit did use its second-round pick on running back D’Andre Swift out of Georgia. He joins a crowded backfield, but this could be an injury-prone running back corps: Swift has been battling a hip injury in camp — his status is up in the air for Sunday — and incumbent starter Kerryon Johnson has missed 14 games over his first two seasons. Detroit signed Adrian Peterson for some injury insurance this week, so he might see some work in Week 1.
The offense figures to be a strong point for the Lions, who could have the most explosive unit in the NFC North, but the defense is going to need to take a step forward.
This was a poor defensive front that was constantly pushed back by the opposing front seven. Per Football Outsiders, Detroit ranked last in stuffed percentage, which is the percentage of runs where the running back is tackled behind the line of scrimmage. This could be a good setting for David Montgomery to get off to a strong start after a disheartening rookie campaign.
The secondary does not figure to be much better. The Lions traded stud corner Darius Slay and were in the bottom-third of the league in getting off the field on third down. Detroit must hope that offseason addition Desmond Trufant still has something left in the tank at corner to help No. 3 overall pick Jeff Okudah along.
Luckily, Chicago is not flush with receiving talent.
This line shifted from an opening spread of Detroit -1 to the Lions as steady 3-point favorites with a total at 42.5, which is right around where I make the side and total.
Special teams play may be an underrated factor in this matchup. Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro — who struggled in 2019 — was placed on the IR this Tuesday, and the team signed Cairo Santos. Santos was 4-of-9 in five games for the Titans in 2019, so the Bears suddenly went from inconsistent to very inconsistent in the kicking department entering Week 1.
Contrast Chicago’s kicking woes with Detroit’s always reliable Matt Prater — The Lions can be counted on to score when they pass the Bears’ 35-yard line, whereas the Bears are far from a sure thing.
With the full-game odds right on the mark for me, I’ll look to the first-half under. The first half total is set at 21.5, and I expect to see a slow start from both offenses, especially in a divisional setting and given Chicago’s lack of explosiveness on offense.
I will also look to play Detroit live at any number greater than +3.5 if the Lions get off to a slow start.
PICKS: First-half under 21.5; Lions live (better than +3.5)
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Raiders vs. Panthers Odds
BJ Cunningham: The Raiders open the season on the road against the revamped Panthers.
Carolina finished last in the NFC South last season, but made wholesale changes over the offseason. And at the moment, those changes look to be trending in the right direction.
Af for Las Vegas, it needs to see some improvement in Year 3 of the Jon Gruden era after finishing 4-12 in 2018 and 7-9 in 2019. This game will mark only the third time the Raiders will be road favorite since Gruden took over the franchise reins (the second time).
That said, this is uncharted territory for them to open the season.
The Raiders wide receivers rated out as the worst corps last season, according to Pro Football Focus. They tried to improve that ranking by drafting Alabama star Henry Ruggs III, and the emergence of tight end Darren Waller helped offset some of their issues as he had the second-best mark in Sharp Football Stats’ Target & Output Adj. Success metric last season, so the addition of Ruggs should help free up Waller in the passing game.
Derek Carr is one of most accurate quarterbacks in the league, but took on more of a game-manager role in 2019. His average yards per passing attempt was 6.9 yards last season, the third-lowest in the NFL. If the Raiders want to take the next step toward the playoffs, Carr will need to be more aggressive pushing the ball downfield.
Josh Jacobs was fantastic in his first season, averaging 4.9 per carry and sporting the 12th-best rushing success rate in the league (per Sharp Football Stats). The Raiders also bring back their entire offensive line from last season, which ranked seventh in offensive-line yards.
The Panthers had one of the worst defensive lines against run in 2019, but made big upgrades in the draft, so Las Vegas may have a tough time running the ball on Sunday.
The Raiders have major question marks coming into the campaign.
They ranked 24th in defensive run success and 29th in defensive pass success in 2019 (per Sharp Football Stats). They did add Corey Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski in free agency to try and improve their linebacking core. However, the biggest question marks remain in the secondary.
The Raiders added Prince Amukamara in the offseason, who is the definition of an average NFL cornerback. They also drafted Damon Arnette with the 19th overall pick, so he may see time earlier than expected. But Las Vegas ranked 29th in explosive passing plays allowed last season, so without any major upgrades, its hard to imagine they’ll improve in 2020.
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Carolina went through wholesale changes this offseason, starting at the top by bringing on former Baylor coach Matt Rhule as its head new coach and LSU offensive wizard Joe Brady as the new offensive coordinator. They also made a quarterback change, signing Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year deal.
Bridgewater did well in his five starts for the Saints with Drew Brees sidelined last season. Bridgewater went 5-0, posting a 103.8 QB rating that ranked 10th in the league. He’ll now get his shot to be the starter from opening day and try to improve an offense that ranked middle of the pack in passing success last season.
That said, Carolina’s success is still going to go through Christian McCaffrey.
The star played more than 2,000 snaps in 2019 and is the definition of an every-down back. McCaffrey is the best dual-threat back in the entire league, toting the ball at 5.1 yards per carry and catching 100 balls in the passing game in last season.
Carolina also has a well-rounded group of receivers, which will hopefully free up McCaffrey more so everything doesn’t fall on his shoulders.
Carolina suffered a huge loss this offseason, with the retirement of all-world linebacker Luke Kuechly. The standout’s impact is irreplaceable, but the Panthers did re-sign Shaq Thompson to shore up things on defense.
Thompson is a rock-solid coverage player and will take on a lot of Kuechly’s responsibilities in Carolina’s defensive scheme. Its defensive line will see some big improvement adding Derrick Brown from Auburn with the eighth overall pick in the NFL draft. He will no doubt improve a defense that ranked 29th in defensive rushing success last season
There are still some question marks in the secondary, but the Panthers locked down their talented safety Tre Boston, so they’ll have some experience in the secondary that ranked 16th in defensive passing success last year.
Cunningham’s Raiders-Panthers Projections
The Raiders are a very trendy team coming into the season, but there’s still plenty of defensive holes that have not been addressed. I think the Panthers’ offense will surprise some people and be one of the more efficient teams with Bridgewater at the helm.
In my opinion, I don’t think the Raiders should be 3.5-point favorites on the road. Based on my projections I have this line at Carolina -1.20, so I backed the Panthers +3.5 but would bet them down to +2.
PICK: Panthers +3 (-110)
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Jets vs. Bills Odds
Brandon Anderson: When the NFL kicks off its first main slate of the 2020 season this Sunday, 26 teams will finally play their first real football in many months, most of them for the first time in 2020. The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the NFL summer, eliminating intrasquad scrimmages and all preseason action.
With so much uncertainty, team continuity and familiarity will be king, especially early in the season. And that gives the Bills a huge edge against the Jets in Week 1.
New York Jets
The 2019 Jets were a tale of two halves. They began the year 1-7, thanks in part to three missed games from quarterback Sam Darnold with mono, but they closed the year on a tear, winning six of their final eight.
That closing stretch probably saved Adam Gase’s job, which means somehow these Jets are running it back for the new season with Darnold and Le’Veon Bell leading the way again.
The Jets had the league’s second-worst mark in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA last year, ahead of only the Steelers and their dearth of quarterbacks. Though the offensive skill players remain in place, the Jets re-made their offensive line with four new starters. It’s still have one of the league’s worst lines, though, and the unit has not played a snap together yet.
The Jets defense was the stronger unit but saw linebacker C.J. Mosley opt out and they traded safety Jamal Adams, leaving them short their two best defenders. Gregg Williams’ unit is aggressive but gets little pass rush and projects as one of the worst pass defenses in the league, especially against outside receivers down the field.
It could be a big debut for Buffalo’s prize acquisition, Stefon Diggs.
Diggs is the flashy new weapon of Buffalo’s offense, but outside of him, Buffalo returns largely the same team that won 10 games a year ago. The Bills have The Athletic’s highest continuity score in the NFL, returning all five starting offensive linemen along with QB quarterback Josh Allen and all the key coaches.
Buffalo’s defense has finished in the top six in DVOA two seasons in a row and has become the team’s clear calling card. That’s where Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier do their best work, and the Bills are expected to be a top defensive unit again, this time as division favorites.
In many ways, Buffalo is expected to be what it was last year: A well-coached team with an outstanding defense and just enough offense, hopefully improved with the arrival of Diggs.
The Bills are certainly the better team, and their high level of continuity gives them an extra edge early in the season against teams still learning to play together.
The Jets offensive line will be a real problem in this game, especially against Tre’Davious White and the Bills terrific secondary. If the Jets can’t move the ball through the air, they’re stuck with last year’s terrible rushing attack.
I lean under on this game because of the lack of offense and tough D, even with a low line — these teams were under in both matchups last year, but went over in five of the previous six.
The Jets’ team Under at 16.5 is a bit more enticing. They scored 16 and 13 against Buffalo last year and went under 16.5 in nine games, while the Bills held opponents under 16.5 nine times too.
In the end, I expect Buffalo to win this game. And when the Bills win, they typically close things out well. Buffalo covered a 6.5-point spread in eight of their 10 wins last season, while the Jets failed to cover 6.5 points in eight of their nine losses.
I’m grabbing the 6.5 points before it jumps to that key number of 7, where it’s much less enticing (check out our updated NFL odds page to shop for the best number).
PICK: Bills -6.5 or better
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Browns vs. Ravens Odds
Raheem Palmer: The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns enter the 2020 season on two different ends of the spectrum. After finishing 14-2 with an MVP season from quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Ravens are primed for a Super Bowl run while the Cleveland Browns finished 6-10 and hope to forget about the Freddie Kitchen era with a bounce-back year from Baker Mayfield.
The reigning AFC North champions now sit as 8-point favorites over the Browns. Can Cleveland keep up with Baltimore’s offense? Or will the Ravens pick up where they left off last season?
With the hiring of Kevin Stefanski, Mayfield will be playing for his fourth head coach in three seasons. I personally value continuity during a season with a shortened training camp, but this as a significant upgrade: Stefanski led one of the best play-action offenses with Kirk Cousins in Minnesota, and that’s exactly what Mayfield excels at.
With the talent on this roster in Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and new addition Austin Hooper, Stefanski’s system could be the key toward unlocking Mayfield and making Cleveland a top tier offense.
Center JC Tretter has returned to practice after missing all of training camp and is expected to play in Sunday’s matchup (you can track his latest updates in our Week 1 NFL Injury Report). Cleveland has improved the offensive line by signing All-Pro offensive tackle Jack Conklin and drafting tackle Jedrick Wills, which should only improve the rushing attack with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
There’s potential for the Browns to have two 1,000-yard rushers this season, which would go a long way toward taking the pressure off Mayfield and keeping prolific offenses like the Ravens off the field.
Defensively, the Browns have some struggles on the back end with an injury to starting cornerback Greedy Williams. However, their defensive line — one that features Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon, Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson — can make life difficult for a team that relies on running the ball.
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The Ravens are coming off a dream season. They won 14 games, including 12 straight, leading the league in point differential, points per game and rushing yards per game while finishing third in points allowed and first in Football Outsiders’ overall DVOA.
The dream season ended with a nightmare, though, flaming out in the Divisional Round of the playoffs with a 28-12 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Fortunately for Baltimore, its MVP quarterback is in the third year of his rookie contract, giving it the ability to go all-in on a Super Bowl run. If there was a weakness for the 2019 Ravens, it was their run defense.
Baltimore revamped its front seven by trading for Pro Bowl defensive lineman Calais Campbell and signing defensive lineman Derek Wolfe. It also drafted inside linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison. This revamped defense will get its first test against Browns RB Nick Chubb, who rushed for 165 yards and three touchdowns during the Browns’ 40-25 victory in Week 4 last year.
Unfortunately, when a team is as good as the 2019 Ravens, it can only get worse — whether that’s through regression or the subtraction of key pieces. For the first time in 13 seasons, the Ravens will be without All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda. They also cut Earl Thomas for conduct detrimental to the team. Although the Ravens have the talent to survive these losses, it’s hard to believe their absence won’t have any impact.
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What goes up must come down. The Ravens are coming off a year in which they went 14-2 straight up, 10-6 against the spread (ATS), won 12 games in a row and didn’t face any adversity until the playoffs.
That changes this season.
The Ravens are a Super Bowl contender that should be feared, but coming off last year’s historically great season, I’d be leery of laying almost double-digits with them against a divisional opponent. The market has a way of catching up with great teams, and that’s what I see here.
My model makes this number Ravens -7, so there’s some value on the Browns if you can find them at +8 or better.
Although the Browns are installing a new system on both sides of the ball, they were the last team to defeat the Baltimore Ravens in the 2019 regular season. With an upgrade at head coach and a system that gives them an identity, the Browns have a solid shot at making the playoffs.
They may not win this game, but I like them to keep it inside the number.
PICK: Browns +8
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Seahawks vs. Falcons Odds
Mike Randle: Atlanta comes off a Jekyll and Hyde season that saw a 1-7 start followed by a 6-2 finish. The Falcons will host a Seattle team that has finished no lower than second in the NFC West every year since 2011. This game features two teams with high expectations in 2020.
Atlanta and Seattle both have explosive offenses, but will that translate to a high-scoring Week 1 battle? Let’s explore why the highest total of Sunday’s main slate might be too high.
On the surface, most bettors will see a Seattle defense that was statistically the worst of Pete Carroll’s career. However, that may not be the same in 2020.
The Seahawks made two big moves in the offseason, acquiring former Washington cornerback Quinton Dunbar and New York Jets star safety Jamal Adams. Seattle also spent its first-round pick on Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks, who is now paired with All-Pro Bobby Wagner.
On offense, Seattle features a pair of big-play wideouts in Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf. When quarterback Russell Wilson has time, the Seahawks can connect on big pass plays. However, the offensive line woes that exist for Seattle are well-documented.
Brandon Thorn from EstablishTheRun ranks the Seahawks’ offensive line as the NFL’s third-worst unit heading into 2020. It projects to have three new starters and rely on quarterback Wilson’s mobility to try and avoid a high number of sacks. Despite this, Seattle ranked just 24th as a team with 48 sacks allowed.
Seattle offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will again lean on his running game. Chris Carson enjoyed another great season, ranking fifth in rushing yards for the second consecutive year. The Seahawks also added veteran Carlos Hyde with third-year rusher Rashaad Penny starting the season on the PUP list.
Atlanta’s season changed after that dismal 1-7 start. A surprising midseason coaching reshuffle spurred the Falcons to finish 6-2, including a 4-0 run to end the season. Atlanta’s road wins at New Orleans and San Francisco were led by a rejuvenated defense.
The Falcons signed defensive end Dante Fowler (11.5 sacks) and traded for edge rusher Charles Harris. They also used four of their six draft picks on defense, including cornerback A.J. Terrell at No. 16 overall. Head coach Dan Quinn and new defensive coordinator Raheem Morris recognize the need to balance their team’s efficiency better.
The biggest offensive concern is protecting the quarterback. Per Pro Football Focus, Atlanta’s offensive line posted the worst pass-blocking and run-blocking grades during Matt Ryan’s career. While the Falcons return all five offensive line starters, the effectiveness remains very much in question.
Right tackle Kaleb McGary struggled in pass protection and will need to show rapid improvement. Atlanta allowed 48 sacks last season and will be facing a revamped Seattle secondary. With a great wide receiver pairing in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, Atlanta needs to give Ryan better protection to allow time for explosive pass plays.
After leading the NFL with a 66.9% passing rate in 2019, the Falcons signed running back Todd Gurley to a one-year “prove it” deal. Atlanta also kept three backup running backs on its depth chart in Brian Hill, Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison.
I expect the Falcons to use a better running balance in their offense to help protect Ryan.
Vegas expects a close game with the Seahawks opening as a 1-point favorite, which has now only slightly climbed to Seattle -2.5. With Atlanta’s strong finish to close the 2019 season and Seattle favored to win the NFC West, all signs point to a very close non-conference Week 1 game.
Per BetLabs, during the Dan Quinn era, the under has hit 62.5% (15-9) of the time in Atlanta home games against non-divisional opponents. That percentage rises to 83.3% (5-1) in games with a spread of three or fewer points.
The over is getting 66% of the bets but only 56% of the money according to our public betting data. I’m going against the public and the perception of the Atlanta offense at home and took the under of 49.5 total points. I would bet it down to 48.5 — I welcome the chance to back the under in an Atlanta home game that most project as a high-scoring affair.
PICK: Under 49 (down to 48.5)
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Chargers vs. Bengals Odds
Michael Arinze: It won’t take long for Bengals fans to get their first look at who they hope will be their new franchise quarterback.
Joe Burrow was named the Bengals’ starting quarterback on Aug 31. As a first-year quarterback, I’m sure Burrow wouldn’t have objected to a few preseason games to get acclimated with the league and his new teammates, but the NFL Players Association nixed that idea as part of its COVID-19 negotiations with league owners.
Instead, the Bengals will spend their first game taking on the Chargers, who will be going through their own change at the quarterback position. For the first time since 2006, L.A. won’t have Philip Rivers to lead the offense — it’ll be Tyrod Taylor under center with rookie Justin Herbert the heir apparent.
With no preseason games, OTAs or minicamps, there won’t be anything regular about this season once it kicks off.
I wouldn’t be surprised if there are moments in this matchup when it feels like a preseason game, and that’s not something that likely translates into a ton of scoring. Let’s take a closer look at the total and how these teams match up.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Tyrod Taylor show starts Sunday in Cincinnati. How long he can hold his job will be determined by how well he and the Chargers perform out of the gates — Los Angeles has Herbert waiting in the wings after the Chargers selected the Oregon product with the sixth overall pick in the draft.
Outside of drafting their quarterback-in-waiting, the Chargers spent much of the offseason shoring up their personnel in the trenches. The Chargers traded with the Panthers for guard Trai Turner and signed free-agent tackle Bryan Bulaga from the Green Bay Packers. While tackle Russell Okung was shipped out in the Turner trade, Los Angeles will try to fill that void with Sam Tevi.
It’s unclear whether Tevi will be the long-term solution at that position considering he graded out as the 61st-highest OT by Pro Football Focus. The fact he’s even getting the starting job suggests to me the Chargers are less likely to be a passing team because a squad needs a more skilled player than that at the left tackle position.
Expect the Chargers to attack the Bengals with their run game. The Bengals finished last in the league with 148.9 rushing yards allowed per game last season. While it’s true that opposing teams often held a lead against Cincinnati and racked up rushing yards in the later quarters, the fact is the other team still gets the chance to stop them by playing defense. The Bengals still gave up 4.7 yards per carry to the opposing team, so I’m not sure if it matters much when opposing teams gained their rushing yards.
Cincinnati wasn’t going to stop them.
Running backs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler split time as the feature back despite Ekeler averaging 4.2 yards a carry compared to Gordon’s 3.8. With Gordon now off to Denver, Ekeler figures to be the primary ball carrier. He’ll be backed up by Justin Jackson, who recorded 29 carries and averaged 6.9 yards per carry.
Last season, the Chargers ranked 21st in the league with an average of 21.1 points per game. They also posted 62.3 plays per game, ranking 23rd. I don’t expect the Chargers to all of a sudden run more plays with Taylor than they did with Philip Rivers at the helm. Los Angeles’ offseason moves on the offensive line signals more of a run-first approach with some Taylor running plays likely mixed into the call sheet. In Taylor’s last start, he only had six passing first downs.
I expect the Chargers to give the ball to their running backs and keep the clock moving in this game.
They finished 22nd in the league in red-zone scoring last year under Rivers, and I don’t see how Taylor turns that around in one season. Note that the Bengals secondary was often beat over the top last year with plays of 20 or more yards. The Bengals were ranked 28th in the league in the category, per NFL.com, but they ranked third in the red zone with opponents only scoring 49% of the time.
On the injury front, the Chargers will be without former All-Pro safety Derwin James after tearing his meniscus in a non-contact drill. Mike Williams remains limited with a shoulder sprain but underwent a limited practice on Wednesday, while center Mike Pouncey is still battling a hip injury that kept him out of practice entirely.
Like other NFL teams, the Bengals had their first practice with pads on Aug. 17. Prior to that, live contact was barred under the new training camp agreement. It’s certainly unlikely for a team’s franchise QB to take any hits in practice, but preseason games against an opponent are another story.
Burrow has actually been hopeful the Bengals coaching staff would allow him to take a few shots during practice for game simulation. While he’s unlikely to get his wish, it would be natural to expect some happy feet in the pocket on Sunday until the signal-caller gets settled.
In preparation for Week 1, the Bengals treated their second intrasquad scrimmage of training camp like it was the third game of the preseason under the normal schedule.
Some notable takeaways were that the Bengals continued to struggle in the red zone just as they did last season (ranked 30th in the league) after their opening drive stalled. Burrow even threw a pick in the scrimmage, but to be fair, he was without top wideout A.J. Green and starting running back Joe Mixon. Burrow finished the game 19-of-34 passing with one touchdown.
I’m not sure how that scoreline will translate to a Chargers defense led by Joey Bosa, but my guess is that it won’t be to the Bengals’ benefit. The Chargers ranked 13th in the league last season in points allowed (21.6 per game). Not only will they be going up against a first-year quarterback, but Bengals tackle Jonah Williams will make his first NFL start after the 2019 first-round pick missed all of last season due to a shoulder injury.
With Rivers now gone, expect the Chargers to lean heavily on the defense this year. They’ve used some of the available cap space with the Rivers departure to further improve their defense, and that could mean a long day at the office for Burrow and Co.
While it might take some time for the Bengals defense to catch up with the Chargers, many pundits feel they took a giant step forward. The Bengals spent almost $150 million in free agency on eight players, with six of them playing on the defensive side of the ball.
The marquee name was obviously defensive tackle D.J. Reader (86.7 PFF rating) from the Texans for $53 million. They also boosted their secondary by adding cornerbacks Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander and safety Vonn Bell. They also poached linebacker Josh Bynes.
The Bengals then used the draft to add four more players to their defense, including two linebackers in the third and fourth rounds in Logan Wilson from Wyoming and Akeem Davis-Gaither out of Appalachian State. In the fifth round, they took Khalid Kareem out of Notre Dame and grabbed another linebacker in the seventh round with former Purdue Boilermaker Markus Bailey.
The Bengals now have tremendous depth on defense and a bunch of hybrid backers who can cover in space. This game won’t be a picnic by any stretch for Taylor, and I fully expect the Bengals to be disruptors in his backfield.
As far as injuries are concerned, the Bengals are banged up in the middle of their defensive line with both tackles — Geno Atkins and Mike Daniels — listed as questionable for this week. Atkins is dealing with a shoulder injury, while Daniels has an issue with his groin. Both players did not participate in practice Wednesday.
This might not be a sexy matchup on paper, but if you like hard-nosed, hit-you-in-the-mouth defense, then this game’s for you. I think both coaching staffs will be somewhat timid to start this game as both teams look to establish the run.
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor will have to figure out the right play-calling on passing downs without getting his quarterback exposed to a Bosa-led pass rush. I think the Bengals’ defense will be a surprise going into this game, and I expect them to create real problems for Taylor and Co.
Rather than picking a side in this game, I’m going to hone in on the total. It opened up at 44, and it’s now sitting at 42 at most shops.
PICK: Under 42 (play down to 41.5)
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Cardinals vs. 49ers Odds
Raheem Palmer: The 49ers held a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and were just six minutes and 13 seconds away from winning Super Bowl 54 before giving up 21 unanswered points to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in a disappointing 31-21 loss — yet another meltdown for a Kyle Shanahan-coached team.
You might remember just three years ago, when Shanahan was the offensive coordinator of the Falcons team that blew a 28-3 third-quarter lead to the Patriots in Super Bowl 51.
Now the 49ers are tasked with avoiding the Super Bowl hangover as they open up the 2020 season at home against their NFC West rivals in the Cardinals.
Oddsmakers opened the 49ers as 7.5-point favorites with an over/under total of 46.5, but the side has since been bet down to -6.5 while the total has been bet up to 48. So where is the betting value in this matchup? Let’s find out.
The Cardinals took an offense that was ranked eighth in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA and made it even scarier with the addition of All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. They got rid of dead weight in running back David Johnson, allowing Kenyan Drake to flourish and putting together a star-studded trio of receivers in DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk.
With this being quarterback Kyler Murray’s second year in head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s system, this could be one of the top offenses in the league.
If there’s a weakness when it comes to Arizona’s offense, it’s their line. They were 22nd in adjusted line yards, with Murray getting sacked 50 times, mostly because he held onto the ball too long. You can expect Murray to improve upon this in his second season.
But defensively is where the Cardinals really struggle. Although they have a solid core of defenders in All-Pro safety Budda Baker and pass rusher Chandler Jones, this is still a team that was 25th in points allowed (26.6 per game) and was 18th in defensive DVOA.
Arizona also struggled with takeaways, picking up only 17 all season, among the fewest in the league.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers come into this season hoping to shake off that Super Bowl hangover. Only three teams — the 1971 Dallas Cowboys, 1972 Miami Dolphins and 2018 New England Patriots — have won the Super Bowl after losing the previous season, and only eight have managed to return to the big game.
In the last five seasons, we’ve seen three teams — the 2019 Los Angeles Rams, 2017 Atlanta Falcons and 2016 Carolina Panthers — miss the playoffs altogether.
San Francisco’s road back to the Super Bowl has become tougher with the loss of WR Emmanuel Sanders in free agency and Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who they traded to the Colts.
Historically, defense is less consistent year to year than offense. Thus, defensive regression is imminent for a 49ers team that was sixth in takeaways in 2019 with 27 and had just seven takeaways the year before. The 49ers finished fourth in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA with the second-ranked pass defense.
Buckner’s departure will mean Nick Bosa will face double teams on nearly every passing down. And while Richard Sherman was an elite corner in 2019, he’s not getting any younger. Plus, there are question marks about Emmanuel Moseley and Ahkello Witherspoon, who will be competing for the second starting cornerback spot.
On offense, Shanahan is a play-calling savant, but he’ll have his work cut out for him given the injuries to wide receiver Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, both whom are questionable for Sunday’s game (find the latest updates on both in our Week 1 NFL Injury Report).
George Kittle is still one of the best tight ends in the league, and the 49ers have a solid running game with Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman. Nonetheless, how far San Francisco goes will depend on the success of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who produced solid numbers in this first full season as a starter last year, throwing for 3,978 yards with 27 touchdowns with a 102.0 QB rating.
If the defense, regresses they’ll need Garoppolo to shoulder more of the load.
The loser of the Super Bowl is 4-16 against the spread (ATS) in the last 20 openers the following season. You could argue that the 49ers enter this season overvalued. They played in eight one-score games in 2019, winning five of them. Teams who win many one-score games typically experience regression the following year.
Despite having an elite defense, Arizona proved fully capable of scoring on San Francisco last season, covering both games as a double-digit underdog. Both games also went over the total, with the Cardinals scoring 25 and 26 points in each of the two meetings.
With regression from the 49ers, second-year growth from Murray and the addition of Hopkins, I see this as a spot in which the Cardinals can cover and possibly win outright. I like Arizona + 7, which you can still get at William Hill, and you can sprinkle a small percentage of your wager on the moneyline (DraftKings has the best price at +255).
In addition, I anticipate a high-scoring game, as my model makes this number 48. Unfortunately, all value has been sucked out of the total at this point. Oddsmakers opened the total 46.5, with some stray 45.5s in the market, and I was fortunate to grab the best of the number early in the summer. If this drops on game day, though, look to play the over along with the Cardinals.
PICK: Cardinals +7 [Bet now at DraftKings]
PICK: Cardinals ML +255 [Bet now at William Hill]
Buccaneers vs. Saints Odds
Raheem Palmer: The new-look Tampa Bay Buccaneers led by Tom Brady open up the 2020 season on the road against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
Oddsmakers opened the Saints as 6-point favorites, marking the first time in five years that a team with Tom Brady on it is an underdog. Given the rarity of this scenario, the line was immediately bet down to -3.5.
With all the new additions, are the Buccaneers overvalued?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers replace Jameis Winston with a three-time MVP and six-time Super Bowl winning quarterback. The biggest impact the change will make may be the most important: Turnovers.
The Buccaneers had a league-high 41 giveaways, with 30 interceptions and a record-breaking seven pick sixes. Brady threw 29 interceptions combined over the past four seasons.
Turnovers aside, it remains to be seen if Brady will be an upgrade over Winston in other areas.
Father Time waits for no man, not even Hall of Fame quarterbacks. It caught up to Peyton Manning. It eventually caught up to Brett Favre. Quarterbacks age 40 and up tend to face steep and dramatic declines.
Last season, Brady declined in every statistical metric, including completion percentage (60.8%), passer rating (88.0), touchdowns (24), touchdown rate (3.9) and he had the lowest DVOA of his career (2.4% per Football Outsiders).
Receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans combined for 2,490 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2019, arguably making them the best receiving combination in the league. The Bucs also added Rob Gronkowski as well as running backs Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy to bolster an offense that already has Ronald Jones, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard.
After 20 seasons in Foxborough, Brady is learning a new offense and integrating many new pieces in a season with limited training camp and no preseason. It remains to be seen if Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and Brady fit together stylistically, or if Brady has enough in the tank to properly utilize all the weapons around him.
Defensively, the strength of the Bucs is their front seven with Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Ndamukong Suh. They led the Buccaneers to a top-ranked run defense last season, holding opposing ball carriers to 3.3 yards per carry. But the Bucs still ranked fourth in points allowed, largely due to teams capitalizing on a secondary that struggled to defend deep passes finishing 30th in passing yards allowed (270.1 yards per game).
The Bucs are starting one of the youngest secondaries in the NFL this season with rookie Antoine Winfield Jr., Jordan Whitehead, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Carlton-Davis who are all under the age of 24. The lack of experience makes it tough to know what to expect from the unit but it’s certainly something to keep in mind going forward.
New Orleans Saints
I can’t stress this enough: Continuity will be key season. I’m personally bullish on teams that returned the same core. It helps when you’re the Saints and arguably have the best roster in the NFL.
They finished second in Football Outsiders’ total DVOA metric last season, Brees is still playing like a Hall of Fame quarterback, and Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara are still amongst the best at their position.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Saints gave up 21.3 points per game and ranked eighth in defensive DVOA. They’re stacked with edge rushers like Cameron Jordan, Marcus Davenport and Trey Hendrickson, and defensive tackles like Sheldon Rankins, David Onyemata and Malcom Brown. In the back end, they return two-time Pro Bowler Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins.
The Saints addressed one of their glaring weaknesses this off season by signing Emmanuel Sanders, a receiver who can take some attention away from Thomas. With Teddy Bridgewater gone via free agency, the signing of Winston is underrated as it allows the Saints to use Taysom Hill in creative packages without worrying about an injury to their back up quarterback.
I think this line is short. Oddsmakers opening this line Saints -6 says a lot about their perception of these two teams. With the Bucs seeing inflated point spreads due to their popularity, this is a team I’ll be looking to fade early and often.
This may not be the prevalent sentiment among most football fans, but I have to pose the question: Are we sure that 43-year-old Brady is a 2.5-point upgrade over Winston?
Two seasons ago, I’d agree with the line move. But after watching Brady go from above-average quarterback in the first half of the 2019 season to a below-average quarterback towards the end, I’m not so sure.
Brady’s second- half Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement (-25) and DVOA (-12.6%) were nearly identical to Winston’s (-32 DYAR, -12.6% DVOA), per Football Outsiders, which means bettors are essentially paying a premium for Brady’s name and not his production.
As a whole, I’m not expecting the explosive Buccaneers offense we saw in 2019 and I think we see Evans and Godwin take a huge step back while this team finds its chemistry. Evans is questionable with a hamstring injury — you can check our Week 1 Injury Report for updates — which would likely move Lattimore onto Godwin if Evans doesn’t play.
Tampa’s young secondary should be exploitable for a Saints offense that goes into this year knowing it’s Super Bowl or bust.
PICK: Saints -3.5