Best bets for Week 1 of the NFL season
Wes Reynolds is on VSiN Tonight (9 p.m.-12 a.m. ET / 6-9 p.m. PT) and will be posting his weekly college football and NFL best bets for us. He is also one of the hosts of our Long Shots golf betting podcast. He also writes weekly golf previews
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(odds as of September 9, 9:35 a.m. PT)
DeMeco Ryans makes his debut as Texans head coach with CJ Stroud, a rookie quarterback on the road. On the surface, this would appear to be a disaster against a perennial playoff team like the Ravens. However, since 2002, rookie head coaches are 56-39-2 (58%) ATS in their first-ever road game.
Lamar Jackson is just 5-14 ATS as a favorite over the last two seasons. He is also working with a new offensive coordinator as Todd Monken comes in from winning consecutive national championships at Georgia.
One could argue that Jackson has the best set of weapons that he has ever had in Charm City with the addition of rookie receiver Zay Flowers and Odell Beckham Jr.
John Harbaugh is also 7-1 ATS at home in season openers, so he has his teams ready early and often.
While Houston will have some growing pains with Stroud running its offense, the defense should throw immediate improvement for a team that ranked dead last against the run (170.2 yards per game). Sheldon Rankins, Denzel Perryman, and Jimmie Ward, plus first-round pick Will Anderson are four new solid run-stoppers for the Texans' defense.
Ryans was part of the staff for a 49ers defense that in 2019 held Jackson to his fewest passing yards (105) and yards per attempt (4.57) of his MVP season, so you would expect a good defensive game plan here from the Texans.
I personally bet this at +10, and that number may show again before game time on Sunday, but I made this number 8 and will take the extra premium against what was a bad team last season.
The market tends to price what they saw last just like bettors tend to bet what they saw last. Keep in mind that Week 1 underdogs of eight or more are 25-9 ATS (74%) since 2003. Moreover, teams that missed the postseason and open as Week 1 road dogs are 64% ATS since 2011.
Bet: Texans +9.5 (Bet to +8)
Just two years ago, the Tennessee Titans were the # 1 overall seed in the AFC. They also started 7-3 last season, and then the bottom fell out and injuries buried them in what was a seven-game losing streak to end the season. Now Tennessee is healthy, especially on defense, and Ryan Tannehill is in the final year of his deal and playing for either an extension in Nashville or somewhere else.
Meanwhile, Derek Carr, who played nine years in silver and black for the Raiders, is looking to start anew wearing black and gold in New Orleans. Carr is also coming off his worst completion percentage (60.1%) since his rookie season and now is working with his fifth offensive coordinator (Pete Carmichael) in ten seasons. While the Saints have one of the easier schedules this season, they also have a roster that is aging.
The Saints also have a head coach in Dennis Allen, whose 7-10 mark last year was the best of his career. That is a distinct disadvantage against Mike Vrabel, who is 23-15-1 ATS for his career as an underdog which includes a mark of 22-9-1 when the spread is +3 or higher. In fact, Vrabel has a winning record (20-19) outright as an underdog for his career.
While Jacksonville is the rightful favorite in the AFC South, the Titans are being dramatically undervalued in the market. I personally bet this game at +3.5 over the summer and would still bet at +3.
Bet: Titans +3