Optimism abounds in early September. Every team besides the Rams has a bagel in the loss column and every bettor is at most down a few units from Thursday Night Football (bet responsibly!). TheLines staff is ready to try to crush it this year with our weekly best bets, starting with NFL Week 1.
Each week, several members of the staff will select their favorite play of the week. I’ll compile them here along with best available prices. Readers can then decide if any are worth following. Let’s dive in.
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TheLines Staff NFL Week 1 Bets Grid
Favorite Week 1 Bets
Stephen Andress: Eagles -3.5 (-114) At Lions
Fast forward one year later, and not much has changed for this Lions offense, other than some HBO Hard Knocks publicity. And the Eagles defense looks even stronger — EDGE Haason Reddick, DT Jordan Davis, CB James Bradberry and CB Chauncey Gardner Johnson count among the notable additions.
Plus, the strength of the Lions offense, the offensive line, is banged up. Guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai starts the season on IR, back-up guard Tommy Kramer (back) did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and star center Frank Ragnow (groin) went from limited Wednesday to DNP Thursday.
When the Eagles have the ball, they bring an offense that posted these ranks from Week 8 onward last year:
- fifth in EPA/play
- seventh in success rate
- seventh in dropback EPA
- fourth in rush EPA
- first in rush success rate
Jalen Hurts quietly operated with a positive completion percentage over expectation in the second half of the year and gets a top-five graded WR in AJ Brown in 2022. Oh, and the Eagles offensive line remains a consensus top-two unit. It faces a Lions defense with consensus bottom-seven grades for the front seven and secondary.
I had a hard time finding what not to like about the Eagles’ matchups here. So I bet it -3.5 (-114) and would still bet it at -4 (-110).
Eli Hershkovich: Texans (+7.5) Vs. Colts
I broke down all my NFL Week 1 bets earlier in the week, but the Texans are at the top of my card — for better or worse. The betting market is a little too high on the Colts for my liking. Especially given the fact that their defense — which includes much of the same personnel — heavily relied on the second-most turnovers forced last season (33).
Moreover, they tied for the league’s eighth-most yards per play allowed (5.6).
I’m fairly low on Houston overall, but Davis Mills & Co. possess the skill position players necessary to expose Indianapolis while keeping things close on the scoreboard.
As long as you can grab +7.5 or better, Houston is worth a wager.
Brett Gibbons: Browns (+105 Moneyline) At Panthers
With all of the offseason nonsense going on with the Cleveland Browns, their Week 1 line against the Carolina Panthers has been all over the place. The Browns opened as a -3.5 favorite with Baker Mayfield as their QB. Now that Mayfield’s gone (to the other team!) and Deshaun Watson’s suspended, the Browns fell to a +2.5 road dog.
Fast forward a few weeks and this game’s a PK in many spots. Those with patience can get a better number no matter which way you’re betting, and I chose to bet the Browns ML +105.
Cleveland is better in every facet of the game with the exception of the most important at QB. But how big really is the gap between Jacoby Brissett and Mayfield?
Turns out, not that big. Since 2019, Mayfield ranks 23rd in QB EPA (min. 500 snaps) while Brissett sits at 28th. In success rate, Mayfield ranks 27th while Brissett ranks 30th. Between them are the likes of Jared Goff and Taylor Heinicke.
With a better OL, a more talented defense, and a huge advantage in coaching, does fewer than five spots of difference in QB play over the last three seasons warrant a five-point flip?
I don’t think so, and neither does the market leading up to kickoff.
John Haslbauer: Ravens (-7) At Jets
NFL Week 1 tends to bring its fair share of surprises, seeing new personnel and coaching changes manifest for the first time. So with so much speculation across the slate, I tend to gravitate towards the extremes, which leads me to Ravens -7 as my favorite bet of the week.
The Ravens are favored ahead of last year’s AFC champions to win the North this season, while the Jets are comfortably positioned to finish last in the AFC East. With that, the Ravens join the Colts and the 49ers as the biggest favorites in Week 1, each around -7. Of that group, Baltimore carries the fewest question marks entering this season, with a roster and coaching staff largely unchanged.
Unlike the Colts and 49ers, the Ravens will have the luxury of facing a backup QB in Joe Flacco, one with whom the organization has great familiarity. The Jets O-line already begins the year laden with injury concerns, a daunting sign for a pocket QB like Flacco. The Ravens ranked No. 1 against the run in 2021 and seem poised to break this game open with playmakers on both sides of the ball.
I believe Baltimore should be the biggest favorites on the Week 1 slate. I’m happy to back them on the spread and as my survivor pool pick of choice to open the season.
Mo Nuwwarah: Bears (+7) Vs. 49ers
My handicap for this game is as simple as it gets. Usually, I have some roster matchups or stats or coaching tendencies I’m looking at to find an angle.
No, I’m looking at one thing and one player here: Trey Lance. Maybe the kid is ready to come out and light the NFL on fire after limited first-year action a la Patrick Mahomes. But, he’s going to have to show me first. I just can’t abide by QB who has never thrown a meaningful NFL pass laying -7 on the road against a professional team.
Lance accrued all of 178 NFL snaps last season. None of those snaps showed anything especially promising. This after playing against future farmers and insurance salesmen at North Dakota St.
Yes, the Bears stink. And yes, the 49ers have an awesome roster. But a QB can singlehandedly alter the balance here, and I think it’s likely the Bears have the better one. Getting a touchdown at home, that’s enough for me.
Evan Scrimshaw: Packers (-1.5) At Vikings
The Vikings are one of the buzzier teams this season. They boast a new offensive minded head coach, making people think that there might be more to a Kirk Cousins-led offense than ever before. Throw in the Packers trading Davante Adams, and you get this line.
Give me Green Bay every day.
The Packers have a better defense than almost any time in the Rodgers era, and should get stops against Cousins. Even if Rodgers’ weapons aren’t elite, the two-time defending NFL MVP has made bad receiving corps into elite offenses before. Here, he’ll do it again.
Good luck with your Week 1 NFL bets!