Week 1 Best Bets
I’m back for another season of my weekly Best Bets column. Last year, I had what some would call a career year. My NFL picks finished first against the spread in Tallysight’s rankings against 250+ experts in the industry, while my straight-up picks took first place in Fantasy Nerd’s annual accuracy competition against 50 top NFL analysts. This season could go a few different ways. I could expand on my winning streak and start a Patrick Mahomes-like dynasty of dominance against my peers, or I could fizzle out like an athlete who achieved greatness one time but was never the same again—ala Nick Foles. I think I’ll land somewhere in between, and I’m okay with that.
In addition to writing about my best bets, I will share my simulation model’s picks for each game for the straight-up winner, against the spread pick, over/under, and moneyline pick. Be advised I don’t go with my model on every pick. I use it in conjunction with two of my other models, and they don’t always align with each other. But, it’s a great starting point for my research each week.
Last season, NFL road underdogs were very profitable, winning more than 54% against the spread. I’m going to continue to ride that train by picking three road underdogs this week.
Buccaneers +6 at Vikings
Like everyone else, I watched “Quarterback” on Netflix, and now Kirk Cousins is my new favorite player. But, as much as I want to see him win, I don’t think Minnesota can replicate what they did last season when they won eight games after trailing in the 4th quarter. The Vikings’ offense ranked 6th in total yards in 2022, but was 31st in yards given up to opponents. They averaged 5.5 yards per play but gave up 5.9 yards per play. You don’t see that often from a winning team, much less from a team that went 13-4.
On the other hand, Tampa Bay is counting on Baker Mayfield to lead an offense that was only scoring 18.2 points under Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time. That does not seem to bode well for the Bucs’ chances, even with a new offensive coordinator, Dave Canales, calling the plays. However lacking they may be on offense, Tampa still has a very solid defense and should be able to contain the Vikings enough to keep the game close.
Packers +1 at Bears
Aaron Rodgers may have left Green Bay, but unfortunately for Chicago, he didn’t go to the Windy City. I understand the Bears are favored because it’s still unknown how Jordan Love will perform leading the Packers’ offense after starting only one game in his career. But unless Justin Fields underwent a complete off-season transformation, I’m not convinced he’s the man who can lead this Bears team to a winning season. He wasn’t good passing the ball last year. DJ Moore should help improve his quarterback rating, but unless Fields is more accurate, no WR is going to make that much of a difference.
Both teams have excellent rushing offenses and should put up big numbers on the ground. The key will be which team can make big plays through the air. That’s where I think the Packers have the advantage. While Love lacks experience, he hasn’t been bad when he has played. Green Bay has some talented young receivers in Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, and I think Love will have success throwing to them against a weak Bears defense.
This will be one of the more interesting games of the week as it tells us a lot about two young teams struggling to find their identity. Ultimately, I think Green Bay has the better shot to come out on top this time.
Raiders +4 at Broncos
The Broncos need this game. Sean Payton almost has to win to keep his credibility after the smack he talked about the Broncos’ coaching last season. Can Russell Wilson return to his old self and revive the Denver offense? I’m not sure he can recapture his previous success, but I do think the Broncos will be an improved team. They have a lot of weapons on offense. Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, and Marvin Mims make up an above-average receiving corp. Tight end Greg Dulcich flashed last season and could turn into one of the top players at his position. Their run game is solid with Javonte Williams and Samaje Perine in the backfield. The biggest issue was their offensive line, and they addressed that in the offseason with free agency. Wilson shouldn’t have to run for life like he did last season when he was the most sacked quarterback in the league.
The Raiders acquired Jimmy Garoppolo, one of the perpetually most most-underrated QBs in the NFL. He has a 40-17 record as a starter and a 2-1 TD:INT ratio. I think he’s a better fit in Las Vegas’ offense than Derek Carr. With Josh Jacobs, Davante Adams, and Jakobi Meyers, the Raiders have the potential to be potent on offense. On the other side of the ball, the defense should be improved with Maxx Crosby, Chandler Jones, and first-round rookie Tyree Wilson shoring up the defensive line.
My model has this as one of the closest games of the week. I think Denver will win a close one, but the Raiders will keep it within 4 points.
Doug Burrell finished 2022 as Fantasy Nerd’s Most Accurate Expert in NFL Picks and Tallysight’s #1 ranked expert Against the Spread Expert out of 200+ experts. He is a veteran, a runner and an avid fantasy sports enthusiast since 1999. You can reach him on Twitter @dougwburrell.
Doug is a veteran, an avid runner, and works as a copywriter. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and three dogs. You can reach him on Twitter @dougwburrell.