It’s often said the NFL has become a year-round sport due to the various components of its offseason. The annual release of the full schedule for the coming season certainly qualifies as one of those landmark dates on the league’s calendar, as fans and bettors get a tangible look at exactly how each team’s season might play out.
Following a 2020 season that conformed to the unique realities of playing a professional team sport during a pandemic, the 2021 campaign promises a return to what could be considered near normal. That reportedly includes the likelihood of a return to full stadiums around the country – bringing home-field edge, always a needle-moving factor in football. Additionally, a number of key players that opted out of the 2020 season due to health concerns are due back on the field.
Top US sportsbooks like DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook and BetMGM already have early lines available for NFL Week 1. There can certainly be an edge to betting early on NFL moneyline, spreads and totals if that bettor feels the lines could be set inefficiently, especially when he/she feels a particular team is being underestimated/overvalued based on the prior season/offseason developments.
Here’s a look at lines for NFL Week 1 and early betting previews from a pre-training camp/preseason perspective.
NFL Week 1 odds
Here are NFL Week 1 odds. Click on the price(s) you like below to bet now.
Thursday, Sept. 9
Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers () – 8:20 p.m. ET
While the line is rather hefty in favor of the defending champions in this season-opening clash, it would have been difficult for the schedule-makers to set the Buccaneers up with any better Week 1 opponent now that Drew Brees is in retirement. The Cowboys won’t jump off the page based on their dismal 2020, but factor in a healthy Dak Prescott into the equation, a dynamic group of receivers and what should be a considerably improved defense, and you’ve got yourself the makings of a team that stands to make one of the biggest season-to-season improvements of any club.
The Bucs not only made good on becoming the first team in NFL history to secure a Super Bowl title in its home stadium, but they followed it up by doing something almost as unprecedented in the salary cap era – they retained each and every key component of that championship squad that had a chance to go elsewhere. That means priceless continuity for Tom Brady, who was clicking in Bruce Arians’ system by season’s end, and who – much to the chagrin of the rest of the league – should have a full command of the playbook right from the jump in 2021.
Sunday, Sept. 12
Los Angeles Chargers () at Washington Football Team – 1 p.m. ET
The Chargers begin anew this season with Brandon Staley at the top, but their roster remained largely unchanged through free agency. Justin Herbert will therefore be given a chance to continue building his rapport with a group of wideouts that includes stars Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. The one major offseason personnel change for the Bolts was actually a loss, as Hunter Henry departed to the Patriots. LA did a reasonably good job replacing him with an accomplished veteran in Jared Cook and then nabbed a talented prospect in Georgia’s Tre’ McKitty in the third round this spring. The defense also gets a healthy Derwin James back after he suffered a season-ending knee injury for a second straight year in 2020.
The Football Team were the proverbial big fish in the small pond that the NFC East became last season after Prescott went down for the Cowboys. Washington won the division with a 7-9 record, and the team appears to be banking that a handful of offseason additions will be enough to propel them to the appreciably better mark it will likely take to defend that crown in 2021. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the new man under center, while the multi-talented Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries are part of a receiving corps makeover under No. 1 option Terry McLaurin. An already very strong defense didn’t need much tinkering, but the addition of veteran corner William Jackson and 2021 first-round linebacker Jamin Davis could take that unit up yet another level.
Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts () – 1 p.m. ET
This should undoubtedly be one of the marquee matchups of the early Week 1 window. The Seahawks weathered a storm of offseason turmoil surrounding franchise signal-caller Russell Wilson following an unceremonious Wild Card round upset at the hands of the Rams. That stumble sullied what was an otherwise strong season that featured a 12-4 record and NFC West crown. Seattle returns all its key pieces, with running back Chris Carson somewhat surprisingly brought back to helm the backfield and the Olympics-aspiring DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett once again set to serve as Wilson’s top two targets.
The Colts did have a big change at quarterback that was kickstarted by the retirement of Philip Rivers following a loss to the Bills in the Wild Card round. Indy opted to reunite head coach Frank Reich with the embattled Carson Wentz, whose substandard play eventually led to being usurped in Philadelphia by rookie Jalen Hurts. The ability of Reich to once again coax the best out of Wentz as he once did while mentoring him in Philly will naturally be the key to Indy’s season and in keeping up with Seattle in this opening matchup. Wentz will essentially work with the same offensive personnel as Rivers did, as veteran T.Y. Hilton was brought back. Defensively, Indy remained one of the league’s best units in 2020 but figures to have its hands full if Wilson and company arrive healthy for this matchup.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills () – 1 p.m. ET
The Steelers had what was arguably one of the more unusual seasons in franchise history in 2020, racing out to an 11-0 start before stumbling to a 1-4 mark down the stretch and then quickly getting ousted in the postseason by the Browns in a Wild Card loss at Heinz Field. There was a bit of everything responsible for the fade, including key injuries on both sides of the ball and enough questionable play by Ben Roethlisberger to prompt speculation about his future and a pay cut he had little choice but to accept this offseason. Pittsburgh will look for a bit more stability this season, and it presumably upgraded its lead running back position by an appreciable degree with the swapping out of James Conner for first round pick Najee Harris. But they’ll have a tall order in opening the season at the home of the conference runner-up in 2020. The Bills were 9-1 straight-up in Orchard Park in 2020, including the playoffs, and boasted an average margin of victory of 8.5 points.
The Bills’ significant step forward last season as a team was largely mirrored by the equally impressive strides made by quarterback Josh Allen, who posted career-best marks in every major passing category. Another incremental step forward could vault Buffalo past the Chiefs, especially if Stefon Diggs is able to somehow replicate or exceed last season’s jaw-dropping 127-1,535-8 line. John Brown was swapped out for veteran Emmanuel Sanders this offseason while the rest of the offense largely remained stationary. A talented Buffalo defense largely enjoys continuity as well.
Minnesota Vikings () at Cincinnati Bengals – 1 p.m. ET
The Vikings’ disappointing non-playoff 2020 season included a 7-9 record, but it also had its share of highlights that included the stellar play of rookie receiver Justin Jefferson and a record-setting performance from Dalvin Cook on Christmas Day. Young tight end Irv Smith also made strides, but the defense – long a hallmark of coach Mike Zimmer’s teams – faltered badly while allowing 29.7 points and 393.2 yards per game. Better play on that side of the ball, which did gain multi-time Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson this offseason, will therefore be key to any improvement. As it is, that unit will get a stiff test right from the onset of 2021 in the form of Cincy’s Joe Burrow-led attack, making this first-look spread a potentially exploitable one.
Speaking of last year’s first overall pick, Burrow looked every bit worth the investment before suffering a season-ending knee injury Week 11, ironically, at the hands of No. 2 overall pick Chase Young. Reportedly firmly on the way back to full health this offseason, Burrow will have the opportunity to reunite with former college battery mate and 2021 first-round pick Ja’Marr Chase. Chase, along with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, give the second-year gunslinger a highly potent trio. Running back Joe Mixon is reportedly fully over the foot injury that cost him the last 10 games in 2020 as well.
Jacksonville Jaguars () at Houston Texans – 1 p.m. ET
This season-opening divisional battle wouldn’t garner much attention if one were going strictly by 2020 records. However, these two squads actually should be the subject of plenty of chatter ahead of Week 1, primarily because of the men leading them under center. Top overall pick Trevor Lawrence is fully expected to be a starter from Day 1 and will be joined by another high-profile selection in running back Travis Etienne. He also gets an explosive veteran wideout in Marvin Jones, an offseason addition that will pair with 2020 breakout star DJ Chark and impressive second-year versatile weapon Laviska Shenault.
The Texans’ Deshaun Watson has had a slew of off-field trouble, and it remains to be seen if any of it will keep him from suiting up for this contest and several others. For the moment, he remains slated to helm an air attack that lost Will Fuller in free agency but still sports Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb and offseason arrival Chris Conley, who’ll face his former Jags teammates in this Week 1 game. Phillip Lindsay and Mark Ingram also arrived via free agency to pair with David Johnson, who was serviceable in his first Texans season.
Both teams’ defenses were among the league’s worst last season and there’s a fair amount of uncertainty surrounding Watson’s situation, so the narrow number in favor of Jacksonville isn’t too surprising.
New York Jets at Carolina Panthers () – 1 p.m. ET
The Robert Saleh Era begins in the Big Apple, and the good news for the long-time 49ers coordinator is he essentially has nowhere to go but up after New York bottomed out with a 2-14 mark last season. All eyes will be on rookie quarterback Zach Wilson in this matchup as – like Lawrence – he’s expected to lead his team’s offense from Day 1. He will have a talented No. 1 wideout in Corey Davis, an ultra-reliable slot man in Jamison Crowder and an explosive second-year speedster in Denzel Mims.
There’s a big change under center in Carolina as well. Gone is Teddy Bridgewater after one season despite a solid one-and-done season with the Panthers in 2020. Enter Sam Darnold, acquired via trade with the Jets, who like Wentz, is a one-time top 3 quarterback selection looking to establish himself elsewhere this coming season. Darnold gets an upgrade in receivers from what he had in his final campaign in New York, and he goes from working with what was one of the worst rushing attacks in the league to having a now-healthy Christian McCaffrey at his disposal.
The fact that Gang Green will roll out a rookie QB and Darnold gets a crack at his old teammates makes this line another very noteworthy one to potentially jump on, although Carolina was just 2-6 at home straight up and ATS in 2020.
San Francisco 49ers () at Detroit Lions – 1 p.m. ET
An avalanche of injuries, especially on the defensive side of the ball, conspired to help do in the 49ers last season in their attempted defense of the 2019 NFC title. San Francisco stumbled to a 6-10 mark, but there’s no doubting there could be a major bounce-back season in store with the blessing of better health. There could be a quarterback controversy with Jimmy Garoppolo now tasked with holding off No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance. Whoever does assume the starting role will have an enviable top trio of targets consisting of Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle.
The Lions are another team getting a fresh start, with Dan Campbell now the man in charge in Motown. However, his arrival is overshadowed by an even more monumental change under center. The franchise moved on from 2009 first overall pick Matthew Stafford, shipping him to the Rams for more recent first overall selection – Jared Goff. While Detroit gets a younger, less beat-up arm, the move is seen as much more favorable for Stafford from a player standpoint. Goff goes from Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp to Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman in terms of his top two wideouts after the Lions saw Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones depart in free agency. They also chose not to bring back Danny Amendola.
It’s worth noting that San Fran was 7-1 straight up and 6-2 ATS on the road with an average margin of victory of 8.4 points and ATS +/- of +6.8 points during its much healthier 2019 campaign, making this line possibly a bit on the smallish side.
Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans () – 1 p.m. ET
The Cardinals disappointingly dropped their final two games last season to finish 8-8 and out of the postseason, but there were still strides made by Kliff Kingsbury’s squad after a 5-10-1 season in 2019. Kyler Murray’s development took a major step forward in his second season, while DeAndre Hopkins lived up to the stellar reputation he’d built in Houston. Arizona made one of the more intriguing free agent offensive additions in multi-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green this offseason, and Kingsbury’s offense could prove to be an excellent vehicle through which to revive his career. In the backfield, Kenyan Drake was swapped out for James Conner in a move that could prove to be a wash. The same may not be able to be said at one corner spot, where the more inconsistent Malcolm Butler came over from the Titans to replace franchise stalwart and perennial Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson.
The Titans were back in the playoffs this past season, Ryan Tannehill mostly proved his excellent 2019 run was no mirage, and Derrick Henry cemented his place in NFL history with a 2,027-yard, 17-touchdown season. But 2020 still ended in disappointment for Tennessee in the form of a first-round exit courtesy of the Ravens. Defense was frequently an issue for Mike Vrabel’s squad a year ago, with the free agent signing of Bud Dupree one of the notable moves this offseason to address that deficiency. Matters were much better on the other side of the ball in 2020, and Tennessee will get to show off their shiny new toy, Julio Jones, in this one.
Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons () – 1 p.m. ET
These two once-proud NFC franchises clash in Atlanta to open the season, and each is looking to put together a resurgent season after combining for just eight wins a year ago. The Eagles do have plenty to be hopeful about at quarterback, as Jalen Hurts more than held his own after getting an opportunity to replace Carson Wentz. Having gained valuable experience over the final five weeks of the season, he’ll enter training camp as the presumptive No. 1 and will be reunited with college teammate and reigning Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith. For the moment, Hurts also has top tight end duo Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz back in the fold, although the latter could be traded at some point before Week 1. The likes of Miles Sanders and rookie Kenneth Gainwell are among those that could support Hurts with a strong ground attack.
There’s no young buck under center in Atlanta as grizzled vet Matt Ryan showed he had more than enough life left in his arm last season while throwing for 4,581 yards and 26 touchdowns. He’ll once again operate with Calvin Ridley, but he gets a significant upgrade at the tight end position in the form of No. 4 overall pick Kyle Pitts. The Florida product earned the distinction of being the player selected highest at his position in league history with eye-popping measurables and excellent numbers over his final pair of college seasons. Just as important, Ryan gains a talented offensive mind in Arthur Smith – who helped lead Tannehill’s career renaissance in Tennessee – as his head coach.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots () – 4:25 p.m. ET
The Brian Flores Era is going about as well as owner Stephen Ross could have hoped when he took a chance on the first-time head coach two off-seasons ago. Flores already had Miami at 10-6 and within an inch of the postseason last year, and they’ll kick off a campaign they hope will lead to the franchise’s third playoff appearance since the 2008 season. All eyes will naturally be on Tua Tagovailoa as he begins his first full season as starter, and just as recent fellow prominent selections at the position – Burrow and Hurts – he’ll also be renewing acquaintances with a receiver he previously enjoyed great success with in college. Jaylen Waddle will join fellow new arrival (via free agency) Will Fuller to give the Fins the outside speed they’ve sorely lacked for some time.
The Patriots experienced a rare humbling in 2020, finishing with a losing record for the first time since 2000 and failing to win the division and make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Cam Newton appeared to be an awkward fit to helm New England’s passing game most of the season, but he was brought back this offseason on a one-year deal. However, New England also invested first round capital in Mac Jones, who doesn’t figure to vault over Newton in time for this game but could do so at some point in 2021.
The Dolphins notably dropped a 21-11 decision to the Pats on the road in last year’s opener, but Miami could make a case for being the better squad top to bottom coming into this Week 1 affair. This is a line that could certainly seem some movement the other way by the time this game kicks off.
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs () – 4:25 p.m. ET
The Browns left no doubt that former head coach Freddie Kitchens was a notable part of their problem in 2019, as the transition to Kevin Stefanski couldn’t have been more stark, in a positive way. Not only did Baker Mayfield revert back to 2018 form, he played at a career-best level. Additionally, Cleveland managed a winning record (11-5) for the first time since 2007 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2002. The Browns were ultimately ousted from the postseason by the very Chiefs they’ll face in Week 1, but not before they notched their first playoff win since 1994 by upsetting the Steelers at Heinz Field in the Wild Card round. The offense remains essentially the same, but the defense could be even better with key offseason additions Jadeveon Clowney, John Johnson and dynamic rookie linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
The defending AFC champs for the second consecutive season, there’s little doubt Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes and company are still smarting from their Super Bowl thumping at the hands of the Buccaneers. KC returns almost all its key pieces, but they could have a No. 2 receiver problem following the departure of Sammy Watkins. While it’s true Watkins missed 14 games in three seasons with the Chiefs, he did have 129 catches and eight touchdowns over the 34 regular-season games he did suit up for KC. Reid will look to get by with the lightning-fast but still-developing Mecole Hardman and other complementary pieces behind Tyreek Hill and Mahomes’ 1-A target, Travis Kelce.
The 5.5-point opening spread seems to be a sign of respect for Stefanski’s squad, but it’s also worth noting the Chiefs dropped two games outright at Arrowhead last season.
Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints () – 4:25 p.m. ET
Each of these two teams’ quarterback situations is a topic of plenty of intrigue. The Packers apparently have a very unhappy future-Hall-of-Famer in Aaron Rodgers on their hands. It is still more likely than not that Rodgers is under center for Green Bay come this game, but any change to that would naturally have a significant impact on this line, which already positions the Pack as underdogs. If Rodgers does indeed return, he’ll enjoy strong continuity on his side of the ball from last season.
As for the Saints, they are working with a post-Drew Brees quarterback room that consists of Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill as their top two candidates. The two are expected to wage battle this summer for the first crack at the impossible task of filling Brees’ cleats. That said, both players have the talent to thrive in an offense that will once again feature elite pieces in Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. Meanwhile, the defense was already one of the league’s best defensive units last season and returns largely intact.
One interesting note regarding the early line is the fact that the Packers did steal a wild 37-30 win in New Orleans last season, although that naturally came without the very pertinent factor of fans in the stands.
Denver Broncos () at New York Giants – 4:25 p.m. ET
The Broncos primarily made headlines this offseason for one big reason – the quarterback position. Despite investing a second round pick in Drew Lock just two Aprils ago, Denver was known to be actively seeking out competition for the talented-but-inconsistent quarterback this offseason. That finally arrived in the form of veteran Teddy Bridgewater, who was acquired via trade from the Panthers on the eve of this year’s draft. Whichever of the two wins the summer QB competition will have the benefit of the returning Courtland Sutton, who missed all but one game last season with a knee injury, and a bevy of young pass catchers that includes Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler. In the backfield, rookie second round pick Javonte Williams will join veteran Melvin Gordon for what should be a formidable 1-2 punch.
The Giants were certainly impacted by the malaise that afflicted the entirety of the NFC East last season and Big Blue finished with a 6-10 mark while putting up just 280 points. Plenty of injuries contributed to their troubles, the biggest being Saquon Barkley’s multiple knee ligament tears in Week 2 versus the Bears. Barkley should be ready to roll for training camp, and New York also upgraded at receiver with the free agent addition of Kenny Golladay and the drafting of Florida’s Kadarius Toney, a duo that will pair with Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and Evan Engram to give quarterback Daniel Jones a “no excuses” pass-catching corps. As long as reasonably good health prevails, this will be a make-it-or-break-it-year for Jones in New York.
The Broncos open as road favorites despite their 5-11 mark from a year ago, although Denver was notably 5-3 ATS on the road in 2020. This line could certainly see some movement based on whether Lock or Bridgewater is named the starting QB in Denver this summer.
Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams () – 8:20 p.m. ET
The Bears endured another frustrating season in 2020, with their 8-8 finish helping to terminate the Mitchell Trubisky experiment once and for all. Andy Dalton was initially brought in to serve as a stopgap quarterback, but precisely who he’d been serving as a bridge to wasn’t clear until Chicago nabbed Justin Fields in the first round of April’s draft. Dalton is probably the odds-on favorite to start this game unless he’s injured or proves wholly inadequate in the preseason, but it’s not likely Fields has to wait until 2022 to log his first NFL start. Whoever is under center will have top wideout Allen Robinson back.
The story of the Rams offseason was the swap-out of Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford, with the latter finally escaping Detroit after a mostly miserable decade-plus in the Motor City. Stafford should be an upgrade overall, and the only question is how in-synch he’ll be with top targets Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and DeSean Jackson, along with tight end Tyler Higbee. The backfield will once again feature Cam Akers, who took control of the starting job in the latter portion of the regular season was stellar in two postseason games, and Darrell Henderson, who certainly proved capable of a complementary role last season. The defense, led by Aaron Donald in the front and Jalen Ramsey on the back end, should once again be a strength, although losing safety John Johnson could hurt.
The Rams were 5-3 ATS during their first year at SoFi Stadium without fans but only sported an ATS +/- of 0.7 points, so it will be interesting to see how they perform under normal conditions beginning with this game.
Monday, Sept. 13
Baltimore Ravens () at Las Vegas Raiders – 8:15 p.m. ET
The Ravens were able to atone for a surprising divisional-round loss to the Titans in 2019 by notching a Wild Card victory over Tennessee last season, but Baltimore still came up two games short of the Super Bowl when it was ousted by the Bills the following week. The Ravens’ passing game continued to be the subject of much scrutiny last season but it did make two quality imports this offseason in veteran Sammy Watkins and rookie Rashod Bateman. The backfield is down one longtime member in Mark Ingram, but JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards proved more than capable of handling the non-Lamar-Jackson running game last season. The defense should also continue to be one of the league’s best this season, returning all of its key players.
The Raiders made a one-game improvement over the prior year last season, but that only got them to 8-8. Entering the fourth year of his second tenure with the franchise, Jon Gruden will once again rely on Derek Carr to helm the offense, even after there were rumblings the team was willing to move on from this offseason. The team certainly has acquired plenty of offensive talent for Carr in recent drafts and also added a pair of veteran pass-catchers in John Brown and Willie Snead this offseason, while the Josh Jacobs-led backfield was bolstered further by the acquisition of Kenyan Drake. However, the defense, which allowed the third-most points per game (29.9) last season, will hope the offseason additions of Yannick Ngakoue and Casey Hayward make a major impact.
Opening spreads vs. current spreads
Here we will look at how the Week 1 spreads change in the weeks and days leading up to the start of the 2021 NFL season. NFL Week 1 odds shown here are from DraftKings Sportsbook.
|Game matchup||Opening Spread||Current Spread|
|Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Buccaneers -6||Buccaneers -6|
|Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons||Falcons -3||Falcons -3.5|
|Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans||Jaguars -2||Jaguars -2.5|
|LA Chargers at Washington||Washington -1.5||Washington -1|
|Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans||Titans -2.5||Titans -2.5|
|Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts||Colts -1.5||Colts -2|
|Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills||Bills -4.5||Bills -5.5|
|San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions||49ers -6.5||49ers -7.5|
|Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals||Vikings -2.5||Vikings -3|
|New York Jets at Carolina Panthers||Panthers -4.5||Panthers -4.5|
|Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints||Packers -1||Saints -1|
|Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots||Patriots -2.5||Patriots -1.5|
|Denver Broncos at New York Giants||Broncos -1||Broncos -1|
|Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs||Chiefs -6.5||Chiefs -6|
|Chicago Bears at LA Rams||Rams -6||Rams -7|
|Baltimore Ravens at Las Vegas Raiders||Ravens -4.5||Ravens -4.5|