Week 1 NFL Picks: Our 2 Favorite Bets For Sunday’s Late Window
Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Kliff Kingsbury, Kyler Murray
Editor’s note: Picks for 1 p.m. ET games have been moved to the bottom of this file.
The 2020 NFL season is finally upon us.
Whether you’ve been following all the offseason news or are just now tuning in, our crew has you covered with their favorite Week 1 picks, including two for the late window.
Week 1 NFL Picks
Sean Koerner: Bengals +3 vs. Chargers
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: CBS
The lack of preseason may mean most rookies get off to a slow start in 2020. That likely won’t be the case for Joe Burrow, who is one of the more polished rookie QBs we’ve ever seen — I think had we seen him in preseason action, the public would’ve started buying into the hype and this line would have been bet down to 2 or 1.5 by now.
My main concern for Burrow is the Bengals’ offensive line. He doesn’t need the unit to become elite, but he does need them to improve from their 31st mark in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate metric from a year ago. Getting 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams back this year should help enough there.
The Bengals added DJ Reader and Vonn Bell over the offseason to bolster their run defense, which they’ll need an instant return on their investment against a Tyrod Taylor-led Chargers offense.
This line should be closer to Chargers -2, and it’s essential to lock in such a critical number at +3 before the market moves. I would not bet it past there.
Stuckey: Cardinals +7 vs. 49ers
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX
I expect a jump in production from Kyler Murray in his sophomore year. Murray just needed to clean up his decision-making in the pocket and that comes with experience. He also now gets a new toy on the outside in DeAndre Hopkins.
The offensive line dealt with a lot of injuries last year but it some continuity to build on for a group that actually had decent advanced stats when it came to pass blocking. That’s a must against the 49ers defensive front that can generate pressure without blitzing as well as any team in the NFL. It also helps to have a mobile quarterback, which the 49ers struggled to contain at times in 2019.
The Arizona defense should also be improved after taking Isaiah Simmons in the draft and beefing up its linebacker corps to help address a glaring weakness of covering tight ends.
The secondary really struggled last season and the loss of Robert Alford hurts — but Patrick Peterson is ready to rock in a contract year and Byron Murphy got valuable experience as a rookie that should translate to more success in his second year. The task also isn’t that tough this week against a San Francisco wide receiver group that has been decimated by injuries.
You know Kyle Shanahan will have a dominant rushing attack every year, but San Francisco has some interior offensive line injuries and the Cardinals actually were okay against the run last year.
The 49ers won both meetings last season but both came down to the final minute. I think we see another close game, so I’ll gladly take a touchdown here. If you’re into trends, divisional underdogs catching 7 or more have been a good bet historically.
1 p.m. ET Games
Click on a pick to skip ahead to that analysis.
Matthew Freedman: Seahawks -1.5 at Falcons
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET | TV: FOX
Now that Jason Garrett is no longer running a team, Dan Quinn tops my personal “Bet Against Him No Matter What” rankings.
During Quinn’s five-year tenure as the Falcons head coach, opponents are 44-36 against the spread (ATS), and 38-26 ATS if we remove the Kyle Shanahan-spurred 2016 season, good for a 15.1% return on investment (ROI) and an A- grade in BetLabs.
It’s just gravy on the betting biscuit that opponents are 4-1 ATS (58% ROI) against the Falcons in Week 1 over the past half decade. Historically, Quinn is not a fast starter.
As for the Seahawks, quarterback Russell Wilson is 68-53-7 ATS (9.5% ROI) in the regular season for his career. If you actually need extra incentive to fade Quinn and the Falcons, there it is.
But what about the whole idea of a West Coast team traveling east and playing an early game? Am I worried about that with Seattle?
With the Seahawks, head coach Pete Carroll has had 22 East Coast games with a start time of 1 p.m. ET: He’s 12-7-3 ATS (21.4% ROI) in those games.
The Falcons enter the year with Pro Football Focus’ No. 30 secondary, while the Seahawks in 2019 were No. 4 in pass offense (per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric).
I would be this the Seahawks to-2.5 (-110).
[Bet Seahawks -1.5 at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]
Mike Randle: Packers-Vikings Under 45.5
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET | TV: FOX
This bitter NFC North rivalry has played to this under in six of the past seven games.
Green Bay prioritized rushing the ball by spending their second-round draft pick on Boston College plodder A.J. Dillon. In head coach Matt LaFleur’s first season, the Packers lowered their passing percentage from 67.5% (first overall) in 2018 to 59.8% (16th overall) in 2019. Minnesota lost explosive wideout Stefon Diggs and looks to continue its zone-blocking scheme under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, who served as offensive advisor last season.
Both teams will struggle with pass protection, reducing the chance for big-play opportunities. The Minnesota offensive line enters 2020 ranked 23rd by Pro Football Focus, and Green Bay needs to contend with the Vikings’ newly-acquired Yannick Ngakoue (eight sacks in 2019).
In last year’s 23-10 Packers win at Minnesota, the Vikings totaled three sacks and forced three turnovers. Three of the last four games in this rivalry have been decided by seven or fewer points.
The Packers were the fifth-slowest team in pace per Football Outsiders in 2019. They’ll bring a ball-control game plan designed to keep their suspect run defense off the field.
I would bet this down to 45.
[Bet Under 45.5 at BetMGM and get an INSTANT $500 deposit match.]
Brandon Anderson: Colts -8 at Jaguars
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET | TV: CBS
It’s hard to know exactly what to expect heading into the new NFL season with no preseason, but all signs point to continuity being huge early in the season as teams learn to play together.
The Colts certainly don’t look like a team with great continuity considering the best players on both sides of the ball are new in Philip Rivers and DeForest Buckner. But the Colts return all five starters from the best offensive line in the league and rank fifth in percentage of offensive snaps returning and ninth on defense.
Rivers has also played with these coaches before, helping the learning curve immensely.
The Jaguars are going in the opposite direction and sure seem to be doing their best to tank this season. They’ve moved on from Yannick Ngakoue and Leonard Fournette along with several other starters, and new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has revamped the offense.
Everything in Jacksonville screams change.
The Colts are trending in the opposite direction. Last year, they were a chic Super Bowl pick before Andrew Luck’s shock retirement, and with Rivers in tow, I expect them to be right back in the mix again with a shot to win 12 games and make a run.
This is the easiest game on Indianapolis’ schedule all season, so I’m undaunted by the -8 line. Colts in a runaway. I’m happy to play up to -9.5.
[Bet Colts -8 at FanDuel and get a $1,000 risk-free bet.]
Raheem Palmer: Bears +120 at Lions
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET | TV: FOX
The Lions have become public darlings with the return of Matthew Stafford, as their Week 1 spread was bet up from an opener of -1.5 to -3 earlier this week.
It makes sense on the surface: In his first season with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Stafford passed for 2,499 yards and 19 touchdowns with a 106.0 passer rating in eight games.
But like most seasons, passing isn’t the problem for Detroit. It’s everything else.
The Lions did little to improve a passing defense that ranked 28th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA and featured a dreadful pass rush. In a year when continuity will be key, the Lions will start six new defensive starters in Week 1, with standout corner Darius Slay replaced by Desmond Trufant and rookie Jeff Okudah.
Detroit’s defense has been the magic elixir for all of Mitchell Trubisky’s struggles. Trubisky is 3-0 lifetime against the Lions with nine touchdowns, 74.7% completion percentage, a 132.4 passer rating, 9.5 yards per attempt and just one interception — among his best marks against any team. I expect his dominance to continue Sunday afternoon.
On the other side of the ball, the Bears still have an elite defense. Although their turnover differential regressed in 2019, altering their perception, they were still 10th in defensive DVOA and fourth in points allowed. They now add OLB Robert Quinn, who should be an upgrade over Leonard Floyd to pair along with Khalil Mack to pressure the quarterback.
This improved Bears pass rush faces a Lions offensive line that gave up 43 sacks and was 19th in adjusted sack rate last season.
Between the market’s perception of Trubisky being off this week, the Lions defense being a cause for concern and the Bears defense giving them the opportunity to win any game, I believe there’s value on Chicago in this spot.
I liked the Bears at +3, which is no longer available, but you can sprinkle a small percentage of your wager on the moneyline.
BJ Cunningham: Panthers +3 vs. Raiders
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET | TV: CBS
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.
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.
Meanwhile, 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, so it will hopefully free up McCaffrey more so everything doesn’t fall on his shoulders.
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.