MTS’ Weekly NFL picks against the spread have returned for another season! This season, noble Perry has turned the honor over to me, after the burden of going 7-9 every week became simply too much for him to bear. Things will be pretty much the same as before except that my record will hopefully be better, and I won’t offer any “weekly locks.” Each of my picks are like children to me; you can’t discuss which ones are your favorite (in front of them).
Kickoff is still a little ways away, but we’ve had a while to prepare for these matchups, so there’s no reason to delay any longer. Injury reports be damned! Here’s who to take in Week 1. And after having a read through, check out our reviews of the top five sportsbooks, where you’ll find everything you need to know to make the best bet for you.
Week 1 Picks ATS
Thursday, September 7th
Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots (-9)
With the home team dominating the annual kickoff game (12-1 straight up since 2004), the outcome of this one isn’t really in question, only the margin of victory. All summer it seemed like betting on New England was the obvious choice, but after the Julian Edelman injury … it’s still a pretty obvious choice. Whether it’s Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Rex Burkhead or someone else, the Patriots will find a guy who can make plays underneath in between downfield shots to a healthy Gronk and offseason addition Brandin Cooks. Throw in a ton of quality running backs to carry the ground game, and this will still be one of the league’s top offenses.
The Chiefs have a lot of things going for them heading into this season but a plethora of offensive weapons isn’t one of them. Beyond Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, there’s nobody the Patriots top-ranked scoring defense from 2016 needs to worry about. Last year, New England was 8-2 ATS when favored by seven or more. And for those concerned about a back-door cover, take solace in the fact that Andy Reid hasn’t learned clock management in his 25 years in the league; I doubt he picked it up this summer.
Pick: Patriots (-9)
Sunday, September 10
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington (-1)
Washington has won five straight over Philly, yet “the promise” of the Eagles means that Kirk Cousins and co. are barely favored. Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith give Carson Wentz legitimate options in the passing game, but increased downfield throws may result in even more turnovers for the second-year QB (who had 17 in 2016). I’d like Philly in this game more if Jeffery and Smith could play cornerback, which remains the Eagles’ number one area of concern. Even with Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson gone, Washington’s high-flying offense should still have success against the Eagles secondary.
Pick: Washington (-1)
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (-7)
Though it’s been eight months without meaningful football, no impartial fan is excited about this game. The Bills offense may just give the Jets a run for their money in terms of futility, especially if Tyrod Taylor has to miss extensive time following a concussion. In an NFL where you need good quarterbacking to contend, a Week 1 matchup between Josh McCown and Nathan Peterman says all you need to know about how this season will go for these two teams. If you don’t own LeSean McCoy in fantasy, there is no reason to care about this game. And since McCoy will be the only offensive player of note (once the Jets trade Matt Forte), I guess that means Buffalo has the edge?
Pick: Bills (-7)
Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions (pick’em)
The newly crowned “richest man in football,” Matt Stafford, will face a stiff test in his first game after sleeping on a bed made entirely of thousand-dollar bills. He and the Lions will face the Cardinals, a team that finished 2016 with a 7-8-1 record. While that record was a massive disappointment, their defense finished third in defensive DVOA. This year, they are led by a healthy Tyrann Mathieu and have a secondary capable of stopping the late-game heroics from Stafford which won the Lions eight games last year. Then again, Arizona’s offense may hold the ball for most of the second half if rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis and the Detroit defense can’t find a way to contain the reigning all-purpose yards champion, David Johnson.
Pick: Cardinals (pick’em)
Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans (-1)
No AFC teams received more “ready to take the next step” pieces this offseason than these two. Now we’ll get to see which one (if either) is for real. If that’s not enough intrigue, we also get to see how two young QBs will respond after breaking their legs in Week 16.
Oakland held on for a 17-10 win in Nashville last year, stymieing Marcus Mariota and the Titans’ passing game. Despite Tennessee making upgrades at receiver, it could be a similarly difficult day through the air after fifth-overall pick Corey Davis and newly acquired Eric Decker missed long stretches of camp. Of course, the Raiders run D remains porous and DeMarco Murray will see holes big enough to drive a (Vegas-bound) moving-truck through.
The Raider offense is far more reliant on deep shots from Derek Carr, even after adding Marshawn Lynch to the backfield. The Titans great weakness last season was in the secondary, so despite making some offseason moves, there will be plenty of opportunities for Carr to hit big strikes. In a tight game that’s tough to call, I’m siding with an Oakland team that has been the league’s best road bet since Carr arrived (16-9 ATS since 2014).
Pick: Raiders (+1)
Pittsburgh Steelers (-9) at Cleveland Browns
Since the Browns returned to Cleveland, they are 1-17 in season openers, losing their last 12 in a row. Now, they’ll trot out another rookie QB, Deshone Kizer, in hopes of reversing that trend. As for the Steelers? They’ll be led by the game’s most fearsome offensive trio, as well as a defense that racked up 12 sacks in two games against the Browns last year. Even though Cleveland has an improved offensive line, Kizer is going to be baffled by the blitzes Keith Butler’s defense throws at him. For Le’Veon Bell, this represents a good warm-up game after skipping the entire preseason camp.
Pick: Steelers (-9)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1.5) at Miami Dolphins
Oh fun, a matchup between two offenses with a ton of potential … that will both be undermined by boneheaded turnovers from their quarterbacks. Either Jay Cutler and Jameis Winston could single-handedly tank this game and neither team’s defense is strong enough to pick up the slack. So, knowing full well it will probably come back to bite me, I’ll side with Winston in this instance. On the road, the Bucs have been a cool 10-6 ATS since drafting Famous, and we all know there’s no home-field advantage in Miami.
Pick: Buccaneers (-1.5)
Atlanta Falcons (-7) at Chicago Bears
This will be a nice early test for the Falcon offense sans Kyle Shanahan. The Chicago defense is poised to do some damage this season, with a powerful front seven that’s been shutting down the run and harassing QBs all preseason. But even if Chicago can slow down last year’s top offense and keep Atlanta under 30 points, Mike Glennon and co. won’t be able to keep pace. The Bears were already thin at the receiver position before losing Cameron Meredith for the year. Now, they really only have Jordan Howard in the run game to rely on.
Oddly enough, this game has one of highest over/unders of the week (51). With only one of these offenses capable of consistently producing points, I’d suggest the under to go along with a Falcons cover.
Pick: Atlanta (-7)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans (-5)
After briefly looking like they could make the right decision, the Jaguars ultimately decided to forfeit this game — and maybe the season — by keeping Blake Bortles as their starting QB. No defense has made him look more Bortlesy (a new adjective for awful) over the past three years than the Texans. In six games, Houston has sacked him 24 times, picked him off eight times (taking three back for scores), and won each game by an average of nearly ten points. The rest of the Jags team is promising, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable backing them until at least Chad Henne is running the offense (which could be as soon as halftime of this game).
Pick: Texans (-5)
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5)
The 2017 Raven defense is really good. But are they going to get any help from the offense out of the gate? John Harbaugh promised that Joe Flacco would be ready to start Week 1, but having missed all of camp, will he be ready to produce with an offense full of new pieces? In recent years, Cincinnati hasn’t been kind to Flacco even when he was at his healthiest. The Bengals have quietly owned this rivalry in recent years, winning six of the last seven. (I say “quietly” because truly nobody cares about this rivalry. So if you want a reason to start caring, back the stripes.)
Pick: Bengals (-2.5)
Indianapolis Colts at Los Angeles Rams (-3)
This game is currently off the board at most books, since both teams will likely be missing their best players. Andrew Luck still isn’t practicing, and Aaron Donald has yet to budge on his contract holdout. But as dominant as Donald can be on defense, it’s no question which absence has the bigger impact. Last season, when Luck missed a start against the Steelers in Week 12, the Colts were throttled (28-7) in a game where their punter turned out to be the best quarterback on the team. Pat McAfee is gone. Scott Tolzien is somehow not. If Jared Goff can’t get his first career win against a Colts team without Luck (and top corner Vontae Davis), that’s immediate grounds for release.
Pick: Rams (-3)
Carolina Panthers (-6) at San Francisco 49ers
Surprisingly, the Niners have the NFL’s longest active Week 1 win streak, victorious in six-straight season openers. Despite being poised for another dismal season, San Francisco has a decent chance to keep that streak alive. Kyle Shanahan offenses have had success against Carolina in the past, and we still aren’t sure what state Cam Newton’s shoulder is in: his only two passes of the preseason were within three yards of the line of scrimmage. Meanwhile, Brian Hoyer has a tendency to start the year strong before falling apart near the end. Case in point: he has a career passer rating of 88.9 in the month of September, compared to 69.1 in December.
All eyes will be on the Panthers’ rookie running back, Christian McCaffrey, including those of linebacker Reuben Foster, who is poised to make some big plays in his first NFL season. The 49er D has enough talent up front to keep this one close if Newton’s still not ready to make big-time throws.
Pick: 49ers (+6)
Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers (-3)
The home team has won the last six meetings between these perennial NFC powerhouses, with Green Bay dominating Seattle, 38-10, last year. That game marked the only time in 2016 the Packers secondary looked good, forcing Russell Wilson into a career-high five interceptions. Naturally, Green Bay invested some money, as well as draft capital, into fixing their most glaring need this offseason, adding Kevin King and Josh Jones, and bringing back Davon House. Same goes for the Seahawks, who added Luke Joeckel and others to their offensive line, but Seattle’s moves don’t look like much of an improvement on paper. While Wilson can make plays behind a patchwork line, Aaron Rodgers will make more thanks to adequate blocking.
Pick: Packers (-3)
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (-3.5)
The Giants managed to secure a season sweep of the Cowboys last year and that was with Ezekiel Elliott playing both games. Without the dynamic running back, more responsibility falls on Dak Prescott’s shoulders, which is just how New York wants it: their elite defense held Prescott to a 58.6 passer rating in two games last season. Don’t expect too much from Eli Manning and the Giants’ passing offense though. Big additions to the receiving corps (WR Brandon Marshall, rookie TE Evan Engram) didn’t lead to promising preseason showings because of New York’s incompetent tackle play. But against a lacking Cowboys pass rush, the Giants should have enough success to cover this one, even if OBJ isn’t over an ankle injury.
Pick: Giants (+3.5)
Monday, September 11
New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings (-3.5)
Though it will be billed as Adrian Peterson’s return, don’t be surprised if AP doesn’t garner many carries in this one. In a crowded backfield with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, as well as a passing offense that racks up 5,000 yards a season, there may not be many opportunities for “revenge.” What viewers should be curious about is how an overhauled Saints defense looks. After years of crapping away one of the league’s best offenses and finishing 7-9, Marshon Lattimore and the New Orleans D has looked promising this preseason. While the preseason isn’t supposed to count for much, it does give me confidence that they can limit the Vikings lethargic, checkdown-heavy offense.
Pick: Saints (+3.5)
Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos (-3.5)
If you love seeing quarterbacks get maimed, you’ll want to stay awake for this one. Both teams boast a frightening pass rush and suspect pass protection. However, only one of them has a six-time Pro Bowl QB under center. Philip Rivers may not get much time to make plays, but when he does, he’ll find Keenan Allen. This will be the healthiest these unlucky Chargers will be all season, so if there was ever a time to back them, it’s now. After all, they’ve covered in five straight season openers.
Pick: Chargers (+3.5)