Eli’s Week 1 NFL Best Bets: 2 Underdogs To Consider Against The Spread

Written By Eli Hershkovich | Last Updated
NFL Best Bets

With NFL Week 1 odds approaching kick-off, the betting market continues to make a dent. Unlike typical weeks during the season, where point spreads, moneyline odds, and totals generally begin to shift on Mondays and Tuesdays, these prices have been open for business since mid-May among NFL betting sites. There’s still value to be had, though. Let’s examine my Week 1 NFL best bets —  comprised of two underdogs ATS.

Click any of the odds below to place a bet at the best sports betting sites. The following prices are the best odds available in your state.

FREE Politics Pick’em Contest! Make your picks in our elections game and compete for $25 in prizes.

Cincinnati bengals at Cleveland browns

I’ve been waiting to wager on Browns odds since spreads were initially released in mid-May. Some bettors, including my Beat The Closing Number co-host Mo Nuwwarah, have even pulled the trigger on Cleveland within AFC North odds at .

When Joe Burrow suffered a calf injury in late July, Cleveland was shortened to as low as +105 among ML odds. Per the table above, its price has risen back up to with Burrow expected to start under center. He’s listed at the top of the NFL MVP odds board with the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen.

Heading In Opposite Directions?

While Bengals odds are among the Super Bowl betting favorites, there are a pair of glaring concerns. Losing Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell, Cincinnati’s safety tandem over the last three seasons, is near the front of the list. Additionally, 45% of their opponents’ dropbacks last year stemmed from quarterbacks who ranked No. 30 or worse in EPA. It was equivalent to the NFL’s highest rate. These variables could prompt a setback for Lou Anarumo’s top-10 pass defense.

One of those matchups actually came against Browns QB Deshaun Watson. After serving a 12-game suspension, Watson produced the second-lowest EPA per dropback among qualified QBs. That said, Watson should feel more comfortable in Kevin Stefanski’s system at this juncture. It’s plausible that he rediscovers some of his Pro Bowl form, too. If so, Cleveland’s offense is certainly undervalued by the betting market.

Moreover, Cleveland is 4-1 straight up versus Burrow. Keep in mind that I’m not citing this record as a trend. Much of its success came via applying pressure without blitzing. Couple that factor with an improved defensive front, following the acquisition of edge rusher Za’Darius Smith. Burrow has historically struggled in that regard, churning out a well-above-average percentage of pressures into sacks over the last two years.

Granted, All-Pro cornerback Denzel Ward remains in concussion protocol. His absence may force Cleveland to deploy second-year corner Martin Emerson Jr. alongside Greg Newsome II. It’s plausible that new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz could try more three-safety looks with McLeod, Grant Delpit, and Juan Thornhill as well. Nevertheless, Ward will reportedly fully participate in practice on Friday. Check back for the latest on his status, as Ja’Marr Chase will have a field day if Ward sits.

Remember to join TheLines.com’s free Discord channel, and sign up for instant notifications when our staff members place a wager. There, you’ll find Browns +2.5 for the first of my NFL best bets — plus my entire futures portfolio.

  • Editor’s note: Ward was taken off concussion protocol Friday while safety Juan Thornhill (calf) is listed as questionable.

You can subscribe to the audio-only version of the show on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings

After opening the offseason as touchdown favorites, Minnesota Vikings odds () have dipped a single point. As expected, the betting market has taken into account that the 2022 NFC North champs are set up to undergo some regression. Their NFL win totals are priced at .

Let’s begin with the obvious. The Vikings won 13 games with a negative point differential. They went 11-0 in one-score games. Not only did Minnesota pace the league in wins over expected — based on both point differential and fourth-quarter win probabilities — it also exceeded it at the highest rate the NFL has seen in the last 22 years.

Therefore, the Buccaneers ranking percentage points ahead of the Vikings in projected total DVOA (No. 25) shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Trust The “Gunslinger”?

Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores is a surefire upgrade over Ed “two-high shell” Donatell, considering Minnesota ranked No. 21 in EPA per dropback allowed last year. Baker Mayfield, the newly minted Bucs signal caller, would theoretically have his hands full with the variety of looks Flores gives him every snap. The former No. 1 overall pick accrued the highest percentage of pressures converted to sacks among qualified QBs in 2022 (30.8%).

However, will Minnesota generate enough pressure? It’s unlikely — even against an offensive line that underwent an array of changes, including Tristan Wirfs moving from right tackle to protecting Mayfield’s blind side. Wirfs was arguably the league’s best at his position last season. But given his talent, there shouldn’t be much trepidation despite opposing a quality pass rusher in Marcus Davenport.

If this notion comes to fruition, Mayfield and a talented receiving core will have their way with the Vikings’ untrustworthy secondary. In Mayfield’s short stint with the Rams, he helped deliver a slightly superior offensive DVOA (-2.8%) over the final five weeks than Kirk Cousins did with Minnesota (-3.1%) throughout the entire campaign. Mayfield has a myriad of experience within this scheme to boot. It’s operated by first-year offensive coordinator Dave Canneles, who most recently guided Geno Smith to a career revival.

In short, the system utilizes pre-snap motion, more QB movement, and running plays with a line-friendly zone-blocking technique. It’s eerily similar to his days in Cleveland. Given Mayfield’s promising outlook — backed by a far more reliable defense — Bucs +6 is the second of my NFL best bets for Week 1.

Promos for NFL best bets

If you’re in a state with legal sports wagering, TheLines has you covered with the best sportsbook promo codes. Just click on any of the following promos and bonus codes to get started.

UP TO $1,000
In Bonus Bets
First Bet Safety Net up to $1,000, or Bet $5, Get $150 in Bonus Bets
Sign Up, Deposit and Play Today in VA!
Gambling Problem? Call or TEXT 1-800-Gambler 21+
Use Bonus Code: THELINESVA
up to $1,500
In Bonus Bets
Up to $1,500 in Bonus Bets if Your First Bet Doesn’t Win*
*Bonus Bets Expire in 7 Days. One New Customer Offer Only. Add’l terms
21+. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER
Use Bonus Code: THELINES
$1,000 FIRST BET
On Caesars
Up to $1,000 Back as a Bonus Bet if Your Bet Loses
Stream NFL Games In-App for Free
21+ Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER
Use Promo Code: THELINES1000
Bet $5
Get $150
Win or Lose
Bet $5 Get $150 in Bonus Bets Win or Lose
Available on Desktop, Android & iOS
To Claim: Click Play Now
Up to $100
Bonus Bet
Up to $100 Back if Your First Bet Doesn’t Win
Get Your Bets Boosted
To Claim: Click Play Now
$500 BONUS
2nd Chance Bet
Up To $500 in Bet Credits
ONLY 1x Play Through!
Use Exclusive Bonus Code: LINESRIV

21+ at most sportsbooks; gambling problem? Call or text 1-800-GAMBLER