NFL Week 1 Betting Previews and Picks

Welcome to our weekly previews and picks. Each week, we’ll provide you with our top football betting picks for the NFL, which will include plays on the spread, total, the best home dog on the card and a weekly teaser.

Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos

Game Line: Broncos -8, 48 O/U

The opening game of the 2013 regular season is a rematch from the divisional playoffs last January. The Broncos looked like they were going to win but a blown coverage at the end of the fourth-quarter facilitated an improbable Ravens comeback win. The rest is history.

Why that’s relevant for Week 1 is that the Broncos have had this game circled all offseason. I don’t care how many times Peyton Manning said that this is a new season and they aren’t looking for revenge during his first press conference of the new season, I don’t buy it. That loss stings and this Broncos team wants to start the 2013 season by conquering their demons.

In terms of x’s and o’s, I still think it’s hard to lay eight points with the Broncos. The Ravens defense has a lot of new parts and will probably take some time to adjust but the Broncos defense is in the same boat (even though the media doesn’t make it as big of a story). Cornerback Champ Bailey is questionable to play and with Von Miller suspended and Stewart Bradley out, the Broncos will give Nate Irving and Danny Trevathan their first regular season starts at linebacker. It also looks like undrafted free agent rookie Duke Ihenacho will get his first start at strong safety.

Those looking for NFL betting tips supporting the Broncos will be interested to know that they are 12-1 in their last 13 home openers. I see the Broncos winning but the Ravens covering the spread. Given the issues on both defenses, I see the over as the stronger play.

Free Pick: Take the Ravens +8 but the over 48 is the strongest play. Broncos 34-28.

Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints

Game Line: Saints -3, 54 O/U

Sean Payton is back manning the sidelines for the Saints, which means we should see them get back in the neighborhood of double-digit wins. What better way to emphatically state their return than to down the team that won the division last year?

In the grand scheme of things, I think the Falcons are the better team but in this particular spot, expect a charged up Superdome to fuel the Saints to a win. Much has been made of the Saints awful defense and their flaws but the Falcons have some real question marks in their secondary – especially if Asante Samuel’s thigh injury limits him in any way in Week 1. The only way to stop the Saints – particularly at home – is to get to Drew Brees but the Falcons had just 29.5 sacks last season. Of those, 10 sacks came from John Abraham, who is no longer with the team.

Look for the Saints to make a statement in a shootout.

Free Pick: Lay the points (-3) with the Saints and take the over 54. Saints 42-35.

Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers

Game Line: 49ers -4.5, 41 O/U

The highlight game of Sunday afternoon features the Packers and their potent offense against the 49ers and their stellar defense. We saw this matchup a couple of times last season as the 49ers went into Lambeau Field as an underdog on the NFL odds in Week 1 and surprised a lot of people with a 30-22 win. Then we saw a rematch in the Divisional Round of the playoffs when the 49ers hammered the Packers 45-31. By that point, we were less surprised as the 49ers had improved through the course of the season while the Packers had gotten worse. In the offseason, those trends have continued.

Aaron Rodgers was sacked a whopping 51 times last season (most in the NFL) and the Packers did nothing to improve the offensive line in front of him. The 49ers had 38 sacks last season (totaled five in the two meetings with Green Bay) and they should be able to generate steady pressure. My bigger concern is that the Packers had a total of 149 rushing yards in the two meetings and quite frankly, they are no longer good enough to go on the road to places like San Francisco and put the entire game on Rodgers shoulder.

Free Pick: Lay the points (-4.5) with the 49ers and my lean on the total would be to the over (41). 49ers 32-21.

New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys

Game Line: Cowboys -3.5, 48.5 O/U

The first Sunday nighter will see the Cowboys host the Giants in an early divisional showdown. These two teams met in Week 1 last season when the Cowboys went into New York as a road dog on the NFL lines and won 24-17. The teams also met in Week 8 but the Cowboys fell 29-24 thanks to six turnovers.

In my eyes, the Cowboys have the better of the two offenses but their penchant for turnovers and silly penalties tends to be the ultimate equalizer. However, their running game looked strong in the preseason and I see DeMarco Murray and company as being the steadying hand on offense that keeps the Cowboys away from the mistakes.

Free Pick: Take the Cowboys -3.5 to cover and the under (48.5). Cowboys 21-17.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Washington Redskins

Game Line: Redskins -3.5, 51 O/U

Operation Patience is over, which means that Robert Griffin III is ready to make his return. The Redskins might be one of the most underrated teams in the NFL as RGIII’s rehab has distracted from the fact that this team won its final seven games last year. Those who bet on the NFL should note that the team was also a healthy 9-1 with top wideout Pierre Garcon in the lineup.

The Eagles seem like a bit of a gimmick under Chip Kelly. These “let’s snap the ball as fast as we can offenses” tend to work in college football but will they really work in the NFL? If they had, there would probably be more of them already. On top of that, the Eagles have questionable personnel at the wide receiver positions, which is integral to this up-tempo passing game. Simply put, I need more points to be enticed by the Eagles in this spot given how much turnover their team has had this offseason.

Free Pick: Lay the points (-3.5) with the Redskins and take the under (51). Redskins 24-14.

Home Dog with the Best Chance to Win is…

The Cleveland Browns. Ok, fine. They are no longer a home dog (line is currently a PICK) but they’ve been a home dog since the Week 1 NFL online betting opened in the middle of the summer.

The Browns – and more specifically, quarterback Brandon Weeden – have looked solid in the preseason. I’m still skeptical of the Miami Dolphins running game and going on the road without a reliable ground game can be tough. The Browns were a three-point dog but now it’s a PICK, which I believe is an accurate and fair line. I think the Browns get it done.

Home Dog of the Week: Take the Browns at a PICK.

Most Important Injury of the Week is…

Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets. In the grand scheme of things, Sanchez playing or not playing won’t really change the trajectory of the Mean Green’s season. They’re a bad team either way. However, it does directly affect their chances for Week 1.

The Jets are a three-point home dog on the NFL point spread and while I don’t think highly of them, they might have offered some decent value considering they’re facing a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that’s looked disjointed in the preseason (they were outscored 115-66 in their four exhibition games) and has to travel across the country. However, with Sanchez out and the green – pun intended – rookie Geno Smith likely getting the nod, this is not a spot to be taking chances with the Jets.

7-Point Teaser of the Week: Pittsburgh PICK & Cincinnati +10

Our teaser of the week is going to move a couple of AFC North teams on the NFL betting odds. First, I like the Steelers to take care of business at home. Do I like them laying a touchdown? It’s not a bad idea as Jake Locker on the road tends to be a train wreck (51.9 completion percentage, 159.8 passing yards per game, 64.8 QB rating in 2012 away games). However, I like the Steelers a lot more when they only need to win the game outright – especially given their dicey running back situation.

I’ll tie them together with the Cincinnati Bengals, teasing them up to +10. The Bengals appear to be a team on the rise and were an excellent road team last season (tied for a league best 6-2). Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears are a bit of a wild card: could be good, could be bad. I see this game as a coin flip, so getting 10 points with the Bengals makes me feel good about it.

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