Week 1 is typically one of the more difficult weeks to handicap for two reasons.
The first is obvious: we know next to nothing about most of these teams. Players change teams, draft picks replace veterans, schedules change, coaches change. In short: everything is different. It’s a new season.
The second is less obvious: these lines and totals have been posted for weeks. The majority of them have moved significantly since they were released, which means many have lost their value. Sharps and pros tend to jump on high-value online betting lines right away, unlike the public who tends to wait until game day to place bets. Sharps and pros cause the lines to move because they are wagering with significantly more money than the average bettor.
There are still some lines in the market that hold enough value to warrant a last-minute wager, and I’ve identified a few that fit the bill.
And before we begin, make sure to check out our NFL Expert picks, and follow me on Twitter where I post weekly prop bets. We started the year 2-0 after cashing the over on David Johnson’s (45.5) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s (49.5) rushing yards on Thursday night.
Bills (-6.5) vs. Jets
The Bills are better than the Jets in every possible facet of this game. Firstly, I trust Sean McDermott infinitely more than I trust Adam Gase to have his team prepared to play.
Secondly, the Jets are really banged up. They’ve got a 10-man-long injury list, and they haven’t played a single live snap of football yet. Most of their injuries are on offense as well, including questionable tags for each of their top-four receivers and one of their best offensive linemen, Alex Lewis. Combined with Adam Gase’s poor track record as a play-caller and real dearth of weapons for Sam Darnold, the lack of practice time is going to cause New York to be really out of sync in the opener. They’re also not built to come from behind, especially against Buffalo’s defense which was the second-best statistical unit in the NFL in 2019, so if the Bills jump out to a lead and force the Jets to air it out, I feel confident in them preventing a backdoor cover from the Jets.
Josh Allen’s accuracy has been a concern, but the Bills are a run-first team, so they’ll be able to move the ball without issue against a Jets defense that no longer has Jamal Adams or C.J. Mosley. I expect the addition of Zack Moss to be huge for their scoring production, which I don’t think is factored into this 6.5-point-spread at all. Frank Gore was Buffalo’s red zone back last year, seeing 23.8% more touches inside than 20 than Devin Singletary. Gore turned those 26 touches into just 1.6 yards per carry and two touchdowns. More efficiency in the red zone will help the Bills cover one of the larger Week 1 spreads.
Rams/Cowboys Over 51.5
I’m leaning towards overs this week, and this line is my favorite. Defenses haven’t made a live tackle in eight months, and after a similarly-shortened offseason due to a lockout, Week 1 in 2011 saw a ton of points. Over 47 points-per-game, in fact, which is nearly three points-per-game higher than the rest of the 2011 season. I also expect fireworks right out of the gate on national television from two high-profile teams breaking in a brand new stadium in Los Angeles.
Both of these teams are built around their fast-paced offenses. Dallas was sixth in the NFL in scoring last year and second-fastest in seconds per play; Los Angeles was 10th in scoring and third in seconds per play. The Cowboys added an offensive-minded head coach in Mike McCarthy and spent their first-round pick on WR CeeDee Lamb, which creates a terrifying arsenal for Dak Prescott.
Although the Rams lost Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks, they’ve still got the brightest offensive mind in football, Sean McVay, running the show. He’ll be the most prepared of any coach on Sunday, and he knows how much his quarterback thrives at home. Jared Goff has played in just one more home game than road game in his career, but he’s thrown for over 800 more yards and completes his passes at a 64% clip, compared to just 60% on the road.
Each team also welcomes a new defensive coordinator, and again, without any live reps, I expect the defenses to be out of sorts, running a new scheme on the fly against two offenses who play an up-tempo style. The Rams also lost over half of their defensive starters from a season ago, so Prescott will have his choice of which new face he wants to exploit first.