The 2018 NFL football season is about to start, as the ribbon-cutting game comes to us on Thursday night. Among the games on the NFL betting markets in Week 1, some stand out as better moneyline plays than others.
Even in the pros – not as much as college football – Week 1 can be a volatile and confusing week in which some new players make mistakes, which create surprising results.
Which games figure to be less immune to those kinds of surprises? Here are four choices for your consideration, with two favourites who should take care of business and two underdogs who might surprise and win outright.
The Saints, even at –455 at 888Sport at home, with Drew Brees continuing to lead the New Orleans offense in a comfortable environment, are hard to turn down against the Bucs.
Tampa Bay had a scandal-filled offseason and are coming off a 2017 season in which they did not come together. The Bucs were supposed to be a young team on the rise but it’s hard to say if they’ve improved.
Worst yet, the -355 underdogs be without starting quarterback Jameis Winston, who is suspended for the first three games of the season.
New Orleans has the better quarterback, the better skill position players and the better coach. When one team can claim advantages – and clear ones – in those three areas, it is hard to argue that this is a bad moneyline bet.
This is probably the safest pick of the week, and the side that most people will be using for their survivor pool.
The Cincinnati Bengals (+138) head to Indianapolis after a strong preseason. While the exhibition games often mean very little, seeing the Bengals perform well – after enduring a tumultuous season – is a good sign.
The offensive line is improved, the running game looks like it’s in good hands with Joe Mixon and the receiving corps looks slightly better. All of those things should help out Andy Dalton significantly.
But the bigger edge that the Bengals should have in this game is their defense. In particular, their defensive line is very strong with Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, while the Colts offensive line is a question mark. Yes, Andrew Luck is back for the Colts but it doesn’t look like he’s 100 percent just yet.
The Bengals are on the road in this spot, but they might be the better team. Look for them to earn the win in this spot and spring a small upset on the Colts, a –167 favourite.
The Jets have Sam Darnold under center in his NFL debut. Rookies usually get baptized by fire in the NFL and playing a road game on Monday night in Detroit doesn’t figure to be a particularly easy test for Darnold, but the Detroit Lions look like one of the NFL’s weaklings.
Few teams looked worse than the Lions in preseason play, as they scored 17 points or less in three of their four contests. Their lone win came when the backups dug them out of a big deficit in Week 3.
Although it’s exhibition play, the concern is that the problems from last year don’t appear to be fixed. Matt Stafford is still playing behind a leaky offensive line and there is no running game. That could be a problem against an underrated Jets unit.
On defense, the Lions, a –290 favourite at Karamba, didn’t look so hot, giving up 30 or more points in three of their four preseason games. Their pass rush generated just 35 sacks last year and it’s unclear how that figure improves.
All of that adds up to a spot where Jets should be in this game. That’s why we’ll take a shot with the juicy +225.
For our second Monday Night Football pick, we’ll roll with the favourite Rams at -215.
There is a fear in Raiders fan circles and around the NFL that Jon Gruden is out of his depth as an NFL head coach.
That might be a strange thing to say about a Super Bowl champion head coach, but many insiders think that Gruden no longer understands the NFL and the value of players after spending roughly a decade away from the sidelines.
His trade of Khalil Mack to Chicago seems to reinforce that view. His trade for Martavis Bryant, who was cut this past week, does more of the same for the +170 underdogs.
Los Angeles, on the other hand, has assembled a superstar-laden roster with only one goal in mind: the Super Bowl. This seems like a mismatch on paper.