NFL Week 1 Betting Angles: 3 Underdogs To Consider

Written By Eli Hershkovich on September 11, 2022
Week 1 NFL Best Bets

With NFL Week 1 odds approaching kick off, plenty of spreads are already on the move. As the betting market continues to make a dent, let’s sift through my Week 1 NFL best bets. They include a trio of underdogs against the spread.

Click on any of the odds below to place a wager.

$10,000 NFL Pick’em Pool! Compete for huge prizes by entering our FREE season-long NFL contest. It’s not too late to play!

Indianapolis Colts At Houston Texans

Since 2009, divisional home underdogs in Week 1 are 19-5 ATS. No, that’s not a trend you should blindly bet. But it justifies the notion that the road favorite’s market rating could be a step too high, especially while gauging the opposition’s familiarity with a scheme or personnel.

The Colts fit that mold in their own right, particularly on defense. For starters, they’ve transitioned from Matt Eburflus — their former defensive coordinator-turned-Bears coach — to Gus Bradley, who drove the Raiders’ pressure-driven defense in 2021 after manning the Legion Of Boom in its early stages. Nevertheless, they struggled grappled to limit the opponent’s passing attack, surrendering a dropback EPA that was below league average.

Indianapolis did reel in two key assets for Bradley in the form of 10-year defensive back Stephon Gilmore while fortifying its pass rush via edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue. But the latter piece came at a costly price, dealing away Rock Ya-Sin — their top coverage corner from last season — in the process.

On top of that, the Colts were aided by the league’s second-most turnovers forced (33). Variables like that usually don’t carry over to the following season, considering they’re exposable through the air with much of the same secondary intact.

I’m not high on the Texans, slotting them at No. 29 in my power ratings. But the continuity of sophomore QB Davis Mills and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton should weave together some success. Mind you, veteran wideout Brandin Cooks and second-year man Nico Collins, who was one of the NFL’s more explosive wide receivers as a rookie (per Sharp Football Analysis), are legitimate threats versus Bradley’s Cover-3 scheme.

To make matters worse for Indy, All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard (back) — one of the premier run-stoppers at his position — will reportedly miss Week 1.

That isn’t to say that Indianapolis’ offense, now led by ex-Falcons QB Matt Ryan, won’t light up the scoreboard against an even more so leaky Houston defense. It doesn’t mean that the spread isn’t inflated, either.

This line could certainly climb back to +8.5 on game day (which was available earlier in the week). Still, I was fine with playing Houston above the key number of a touchdown for my Week 1 NFL best bets. That spread is on the odds board, as of Wednesday.

New York Giants At Tennessee Titans

This spread was trickling away from Giants +6 in late August, and BetMGM is still the lone sportsbook with that spread available. I jumped on board, yet each team has reported critical injuries since then.

For one, Pro Bowl edge rusher Harold Landry, who was the Titans’ sack-leader (12) in 2021, is out for the year with a torn ACL. That leaves Tennessee without three of its starting linebackers from a season ago, which is a notable against Brian Daboll’s 11 personnel looks. All of their current linebackers struggle in coverage, too.

Beyond Kristian Fulton, Mike Vrabel’s secondary also displays plenty of unproven pieces, including second-round pick Roger McCreary on the outside. Trusting Daniel Jones is a tough ask, but New York’s top skill position players appear to be relatively healthy (including wideout Kadarius Toney) after suffering the league’s third-worst injury luck a campaign ago.

On the flip side of the ball, New York defensive end Azeez Ojulari (calf) and first-round pick Kayvon Thibodeaux (knee) may miss the season opener. The Titans lost a pair of valuable run blockers on its offensive line, but those departures are mitigated a bit if Ojulari and Thibodeaux are out. Should they suit up, though, the Giants will have an edge at the line of the scrimmage and would be in position to stymie tailback Derrick Henry.

I don’t anticipate this line going lower than +5 — if it even reaches that number — given New York’s defensive wounds. Consider waiting on the betting market’s next move if you’re unable to nab a +6. This matchup is a buy-low, sell-high spot, as Tennessee is bound to take a step back.

Green Bay Packers At Minnesota Vikings

Kevin O’Connell’s team represents one of my NFL futures, so this wager isn’t surprising for my Week 1 NFL best bets.

As much as ex-Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer exhibited inadequate in-game decision-making, which O’Connell should immediately upgrade, he guided a defense that generated the sixth-highest pressure rate. It wasn’t enough to cover up their defensive back concerns, though. Despite cornerback Cameron Dantzler’s upside, the Vikings yielded the eighth-highest yards per pass attempt last season.

However, the Packers are in a transition period at wide receiver. Albeit the pronounced presence of four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers, losing Devante Adams to the Raiders shouldn’t be taken lightly. In Adams’ last six games against the North Star State, he delivered 39.0% of Green Bay’s total receiving yards. The Packers also lost Marquez Valdes-Scantling to free agency, and they’ll likely be without Allen Lazard (ankle) — their current No. 1 wideout.

Green Bay offensive linemen Elgton Jenkins (knee/pectoral) and David Bakhtiari (knee) could possibly miss this NFC North battle as well. If that’s the case for one or both of them, Ed Donatell, who comes over from Denver to run Minnesota’s defense, should successfully supply his own form of pressure, thanks to a healthy Danielle Hunter and ex-Packer Za’Darius Smith.

Keep in mind, Billy Turner and Lucas Patrick — both versatile pass-blockers who provided depth — left the “Green and Gold” in the offseason.

Defensively, Joe Barry’s front-seven wasn’t issued much support after gifting the league’s second-highest EPA per carry in 2021. Given the impression that Minnesota is expected to operate in 11 personnel more often (noted in my futures guide), along with Dalvin Cook’s efficiency from that formation, O’Connell’s rushing attack should be well situated to open things up for Kirk Cousins & Co. through the air.

I’d back this side down to a pick’em for my Week 1 NFL best bets. The Vikings are worth a look as a teaser leg (as long as it’s bumped up to +7.5), too.

Additional Week 1 NFL Best Bets

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS AT WASHINGTON COMMANDERS

Unfortunately, we’re continuing down the road of betting gross teams. Up next, Carson Wentz and the Commanders.

The Jaguars underwent a significant coaching upgrade, as Doug Pederson is the de facto replacement for Urban Meyer. Although sophomore QB Trevor Lawrence will reap the benefits in the long-term, his offensive line — questionable at best outside of left tackle Cam Robinson and and ex-Washington right guard Brandon Scherff — is up against one of the league’s finer defensive fronts. That’s even without edge rusher Chase Young (ACL).

Assuming the Commanders can deliver a higher pressure rate than they did in 2021 (24.2%), it’ll reduce the amount of pressure on their suspect secondary. Beyond Kendall Fuller and William Jackson III, the rest of their cornerbacks have combined to appear in a grand total of 14 games.

You’re certainly taking a risk because of that notion, along with the fact that the entire unit severely underperformed a campaign ago. Safety Kamren Kurt (thumb) was ruled out on Friday as well. Still, I’m expecting the former to win out in this matchup in particular.

Moreover, Lawrence’s counterpart (if you can stomach wagering on Wentz) possesses an offensive line that’s above league average. It should allow he, Terry McLaurin & Co. to take advantage of a secondary that surrendered the second-highest dropback EPA last season after corner C.J. Henderson was dealt to Carolina.

I was hoping for bettors to hit Jacksonville even more over the course of the week, yet I’ll settle for Washington under a field goal. For what it’s worth, I have the Commanders a few spots ahead of the Jaguars in my power ratings.

For more on Week 1 NFL best bets, Super Bowl 57 odds, and the like, subscribe and listen to my brand-new betting podcast, “Beat The Closing Line.”

Eli Hershkovich Avatar
Written by
Eli Hershkovich

Eli Hershkovich is a lead sports betting writer with TheLines and Catena Media, formerly with Audacy and The Action Network. His goal is to provide you with data and information to lead you to winning bets. Eli is an avid college basketball gambler — among many other sports — and still hasn't forgiven Virginia for ruining his 2018-2019 Texas Tech futures.

View all posts by Eli Hershkovich