NFL season has officially arrived, as Thursday night’s Eagles v Falcons game kicked off a Week 1 full of possibility and opportunity. We look forward to what will (hopefully) be another profitable season, and we’ll be posting our Best Bets every week here at Fansbet. Here are a few worth considering from this week’s slate:
Tennessee Titans @ Miami Dolphins, Sunday 9th September, 18:00
Miami is projected by many to be among the worst teams in the AFC, but I believe the Dolphins are going to be dangerous, particularly early in the season.
All eyes are on Ryan Tannehill as he returns from a knee injury that cost him all of 2017, and I firmly expect a fast start from Tannehill— he’s intimately familiar with Adam Gase’s up-tempo offense, and he’s surrounded by speed at the skill positions, even without DeVante Parker, who will miss Sunday’s game with a hand injury.
Facing a Tennessee defense that couldn’t stop the pass last year and completely rebuilt its secondary in the offseason, I think we’ll see a crisp, clean performance from Tannehill and the Miami offense in this game.
On the other side of the ball, Titans QB Marcus Mariota will be adjusting to new coordinator Matt LaFleur’s offense while facing a beefed-up Miami pass rush that now features 2-time Pro Bowler Robert Quinn in addition to sack specialist Cameron Wake.
Factor in what’s sure to be a hot, humid South Florida summer day, and you get an idea of what Mariota will be dealing with as he attempts to rebuild his reputation after failing to meet expectations last season. I like Miami’s chances here as a slight home ‘dog.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday 9th September, 21:05
Most expect these to be the top two teams in the AFC West this season, with the Chargers in particular generating some Super Bowl buzz.
And though the Bolts have a long history of underachievement and have already been nicked by some hard-luck injuries, there’s no denying that the roster is stacked— the Philip Rivers-led offense returns basically intact after ranking 4th in the NFL in total yards per game last season, and the defense is uber-talented, with pass-rushing terrors like Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram in the front seven and a secondary that features one of the best corners in the league in Casey Hayward.
The Chargers started 0-4 last season, and though they won nine of their final 12 games they could never quite dig out of the hole and wound up narrowly missing the playoffs.
With a veteran team returning, expectations high and the taste of disappointment still fresh, I expect these Chargers to put extra emphasis on the first few games of 2018.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, will be breaking in a new quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, and though the team is apparently high on Mahomes and feels he will be a long-term upgrade over Alex Smith, this will be just his second career NFL start, and it will be on the road against one of the NFL’s best defenses. As a bettor, I don’t much like the sound of that. Expect the Bolts to start this season on the right foot with a relatively comfortable win.
Seattle Seahawks @ Denver Broncos, Sunday 9th September, 21:25
The Legion of Boom is no more, as Kam Chancellor has retired, Richard Sherman has signed with another team, and a few of the anchors up front— guys like Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril— have also departed. But if you’re expecting a Seattle defense with a few new faces to totally unravel, you may wind up disappointed.
Long-time stalwarts like like Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, and Earl Thomas return, and talented young players like Frank Clark, Dion Jordan, and Shaquill Griffin seem ready to step into larger roles.
This Seattle D might not be a top-5 unit anymore, but I bet they’re closer to top-5 than bottom-5 this season. And this week they face a Denver offense that was utterly punchless in 2017, averaging fewer points than all but five teams leaguewide.
To fix this issue, the Broncos gave $18 million to quarterback Case Keenum this offseason— a guy who had put together a decidedly mediocre NFL career and was settling into a role as a long-term backup before being thrust into the starting role in Minnesota last year and responding with what was by far his best season as a pro.
I’m thoroughly unconvinced that the addition of Keenum (and others, like rookie running back Royce Freeman) will turn the Denver offense into an effective unit. And though the Broncos should be solid defensively once again, they’ll have their hands full with a Seattle offense led by Russell Wilson, who has developed into one of the NFL’s very best quarterbacks. I think the wrong team is favored here.
New York Jets @ Detroit Lions, Tuesday 11th September, 00:10
The Matt Patricia era begins in Detroit on Monday night, and from the looks of it the Lions couldn’t have drawn a much better opponent— the Jets were 5-11 last season, losing 6 of their final 7 games, and they’ll be going with rookie Sam Darnold at quarterback, who is set to become the youngest starting QB in NFL history at 21 years, 97 days old.
Plus, the Jets weren’t just bad in 2017, they were the type of team that was blown out frequently, with 8 of their 11 losses coming by 7 points or more.
The Lions return a potent offense led by Matt Stafford, who ranked 3rd in the NFL in passing yards and 4th in passing touchdowns last season and will once again be joined by the elite wideout tandem of Golden Tate and Marvin Jones.
The Detroit defense has not been particularly good over the past couple of years, but the unit has some elite pieces like end Ziggy Ansah and corner Darius Slay and should improve under the guidance of Patricia, one of the league’s most respected defensive strategists.
And we must stress again that this week’s opponent ranked 28th in total offense last season, averaged fewer than 19 points per game, and will be led by a 21-year old rookie quarterback.
So while the Lions are notoriously unreliable and will be dealing with the uncertainty that comes with a new coaching staff, they’re the clear favorites in this matchup and a good bet to cover the 6.5-point number.
*all odds are subject to change