Free NFL Bets Week 1
Welcome back football fans! We’ve waited seven long months for the NFL to come back, and now we’re just hours away from a full Sunday slate of games that actually count.
And welcome back to the 2021 free bets series. In 2020, my weekly best bets went 19-15 (55.9%) in the regular season and 24-21 (53.3%) throughout the playoffs and Super Bowl – turning a profit in our first full season of write-ups. In year two, my goal is a 58-60% win rate, which means we’ll need to turn two or three of those losses from last year into wins.
If you are looking into a tool or service to help maximize return, OddsJam allows you to shop different sportsbook odds in your location by providing real-time data from 30+ bookmakers. Here, we see the best odds on the Cowboys currently are +300 on BetMGM sportsbook. This is a really cool site. As you can always get the best line for your bets.
There will also be some exciting editions to the free bets article each week. As usual, it’ll be published on Friday or Saturday – plenty of time to get in your bets before Sunday’s kickoff. However, instead of just publishing my two best bets, I’ll be adding a two-team teaser of the week and my survivor pick of the week to help you stay alive as long as possible in those knockout pools. As always, make sure to follow me on Twitter: @mjwags23, and check out all my NFL Picks for Week 1 here.
Now that the housekeeping items are all taken care of, let’s dive into Week 1’s top plays.
Washington Football Team Line: +1 (-110)
This line is available at BetMGM and Caesars Sportsbook at the time of writing. Other books are slowly starting to flip Washington from the underdog to the favorite, but I bet this one at Washington +1 (-110), so make sure you get this one in before it’s gone from all available betting sites.
Washington and the Chargers are two teams I’m very high on, as I detailed in my preseason futures article, but I don’t expect Los Angeles to hit the ground running as quickly as Washington will. The Chargers have a completely overhauled coaching staff while Washington brings back Ron Rivera for his second year. That continuity means a lot, especially in Week 1. Rivera also had Washington playing extremely well down the stretch, and for the most part, he didn’t have a quarterback to lean on. Now he does, and while he’s not one of the premier signal-callers in the NFL, Ryan Fitzpatrick is an upgrade on anyone the Football Team started last year.
As I just mentioned, Washington ended the season on fire, but nobody took note of it because they were too busy making jokes at the futility of the NFC East, and I think that’s why this team is being underestimated in this game. Washington won five of their final seven games, and did something only the Packers did in the playoffs – lost to Tampa Bay by single digits. They return the best defensive line in the game and the third-best defense in terms of DVOA; navigating them is a tall task for a team running a brand new offense for the very first time.
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) August 14, 2021
Some may be scared off by the potential absence of Curtis Samuel, but don’t be. Coaches and writers are raving about Dyami Brown, a rookie from North Carolina, and he should be able to slide in seamlessly next to Terry McLaurin. Don’t forget, McLaurin has performed without any semblance of another wide receiver next to him for two years; he’ll be just fine.
Los Angeles will also be flying across the country, three hours ahead in time – a huge advantage for the home team – and it’s an early 1:00 PM start. We’ve also got another trend working against the Chargers: in 2020, new head coaches were 1-4 straight up and against the spread in Week 1. The only exception? Ron Rivera and the Football Team. Brandon Staley has a ton of mountains to climb on Sunday, and I think the wrong team is favored. Give me the home ‘dog Washington Football Team.
New York Giants / Denver Broncos Under 42.5 (-110)
This line is available on Caesars Sportsbook, while some other books are down to 42, 41.5, and even 41, so we’re getting a lot of value. This is the lowest I would bet this total; I would not bet it at 42, and especially not at 41.5. If your book allows you to buy a half-point to get to 42.5, do it, but don’t lay more than -130. There are a bunch of key numbers when it comes to betting the NFL, and 42 is one of them because of the many scoring possibilities that add up to 42. We want to stay above that number and take the under.
This is the lowest total on the board, which may scare off a few bettors, but don’t let it. In Week 1 last year, the lowest total on the board was 39.5 and the under-hit. In fact, the five lowest totals on the Week 1 board went 3-2 to the under, and all of them closed at 42 or below. Fans are back, so the books have inflated the totals in Week 1 knowing the public loves to bet overs, especially because of the over-estimated impact of crowd noise. We’re not going to fall for the trap.
Let’s start with the Giants. Their offensive line is abysmal, and Daniel Jones isn’t talented enough to go into Russell Wilson mode and take matters into his own hands. 4for4 and PFF both rank the Giants as the worst offensive line in football, and DVOA ranks Jones as the second-worst starting quarterback in the league ahead of only Tyrod Taylor. Sure, they’ve got weapons, but it’s impossible to use them if there’s no time for a play to develop. The Broncos defense was already good and it got better with the return of Von Miller and key additions like Patrick Surtain II, so expect pressure to be in Jones’ face all afternoon long.
That could potentially be a major problem with the Broncos looming https://t.co/MfDlD19RtO
— Matt Lombardo (@MattLombardoNFL) September 6, 2021
Speaking of New York’s weapons – have any of them actually played yet? Kenny Golladay has been hurt all camp and didn’t take a single preseason snap. Neither did Kadarius Toney, nor Saquon Barkley – who still won’t see a full workload in this one, by the way. Evan Engram and Darius Slayton got banged up in the preseason finale, too. This offense was already bad last year – 27th in offensive DVOA, 31st in points per drive, and 31st in total scoring – and despite additions to the skill positions, they failed to address their biggest weakness which is the line. Even if the line manages to hold up, it’s going to take a ton of time for all these pieces to get in sync, so don’t expect any sort of offensive explosion from the Giants, especially against a formidable Denver defense.
On to Denver – they’re starting Teddy Bridgewater. He’s got weapons as well, but he’s never been a deep ball thrower and certainly wasn’t last year despite being in an offense run by Joe Brady in Carolina. He averaged 7.1 air yards per attempt, just 19th in the NFL, and his offensive line isn’t exactly going to give him tons of time. Denver’s line finished 25th in the league last year per PFF, and is projected to finish 21st this year. The Giants defense is actually a solid one – they’ve got a strong secondary and some intriguing edge rushers, and they finished in the top-half of the league in points per drive last year (14th). With Denver traveling all the way east, I expect them to be a little sluggish to start as well, and once they do get in sync, look for them to utilize short-to-intermediate, high-percentage passes to chew clock and methodically move the ball down the field.
This line is going to dry up very quickly, so make sure you’re able to secure the half-point hook at 42.5.
Two-Team Teaser of the Week: Los Angeles Rams -1.5 / San Francisco 49ers -1.5 (-110)
My books normally have a standard teaser price of -110, -120, or -125. I wouldn’t recommend playing this at anything lower than -120. There are a few great teaser options this week, but these are my two favorites.
San Francisco will play Detroit, and Detroit is really bad – plain and simple. They’re breaking in a new coach, and I outlined above how new coaches fared in Week 1 last year. They’re also breaking in a new quarterback in Jared Goff who has possibly the thinnest wide receiver group of any quarterback. I just don’t see how they move the ball in this one. They’ll want to run it, but the 49ers won’t let them. San Francisco was ninth in run defense per DVOA last year and fourth in yards allowed per drive. I also can’t see Detroit’s defense, which was dead-last in DVOA, finding a way to slow down all these weapons the 49ers have to offer. Don’t be deterred by Jimmy Garoppolo starting, he’ll be just fine.
As for the other side of this teaser, what is going on with the Bears? Who’s starting under center? Either way, we can find a ton of positives. If Andy Dalton gets the nod, well, we get to watch the Rams defense swallow Andy Dalton whole. And if Justin Fields starts, which I don’t expect him to, keep in mind that a rookie quarterback hasn’t won in his NFL debut since David, not Derek, Carr all the way back in 2002. The Rams are at home, they’re in primetime, they have last year’s number four overall defense which was also first in points and yards allowed per drive, and they’ve got Matthew Stafford now. A quarterback who can actually run Sean McVay’s offense the way it’s designed to be run.
Survivor Pick of the Week: San Francisco 49ers
When it comes to survivor pools, take it week to week. Don’t worry about ‘saving’ teams for later in the season, because that’s when you get burned. Survive and advance, it’s the name of the game. The Niners should roll right over a Detroit team that’s completely bereft of talent; it doesn’t matter that they’re on the road.
Mike is an avid sports bettor and fantasy football player, and has been writing since 2013. He previously worked for NBC Sports Philadelphia and Alliance Football Focus, and currently contributes to BettingPros as a featured writer. Mike is a resident of New Jersey, a graduate of Rider University, and currently works as a research analyst. When he isn’t searching for his next wager or watching the New Jersey Devils, Mike enjoys spending time with his wife, his dog and his two cats.