NFL picks for Week 1 from Matt Youmans

September 9, 2023 09:42 AM

NFL picks and predictions for Week 1

A team takes on the personality of its coach, and Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel is a no-nonsense tough guy. He’s a former linebacker who knows the value of stuffing the run and winning the game by grinding it out.

The Titans are not sexy and never viewed as a public team, but there’s something to like about a bunch of junkyard dogs. It makes sense that Vrabel’s coaching record as an underdog is among the NFL’s best. He’s 23-15-1 ATS as a dog, including 22-9-1 when getting three or more points, and 20-19 straight up.

Vrabel and the Titans are getting three points Sunday at New Orleans, so you know what's coming with this bet.

Tennessee went 12-5 and was the AFC’s No. 1 seed in 2021, yet it’s easy to forget that. It’s easy to forget because the Titans were sidetracked by injuries last season and lost their final seven games to finish 7-10. Jacksonville barely won the AFC South and won a playoff game, so now the public is all over the Jaguars as the next big thing.

I have three bets on the Titans to win the division, which is a two-horse race, at +400, +425 and +450, and also played their season win total Over 7.5. The ‘dog role fits this team.

Veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill, bogged down by injuries in the second half of last season, is back for his last dance in Nashville. He’s not the franchise’s quarterback of the future, but he is the present. The Titans can win with Tannehill running an offense powered by running back Derrick Henry, who’s still going strong after rushing for 1,538 yards last season, and a physical line. The passing attack will be more of a threat with the addition of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

Tennessee ranked No. 1 in run defense (76.9 ypg) last year and its defense looks improved. The Titans have what it takes to spoil quarterback Derek Carr’s debut with the Saints.

Pick: Titans +3

My playlist is all about underdogs this week. I even added a teaser with two dogs — Browns +7.5 with Jets +8.5.

NFL Odds | NFL Betting Splits | NFL Matchups

Here are my other top plays for Week 1 (home team in CAPS):

STEELERS (+2.5) over 49ers — While recovering from an arm injury, quarterback Brock Purdy missed most of San Francisco’s offseason. In his brief pro career, Purdy has not faced anything as tough as Pittsburgh’s defense on the road. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is 15-4-3 as a home ‘dog. Tomlin used the preseason wisely by playing his starters and going 3-0, and what his team did in August should carry over to September. 

Raiders (+3.5) over BRONCOS — Denver’s new duo of coach Sean Payton and quarterback Russell Wilson did not look dynamic in the preseason. The Broncos have suffered injury setbacks with multiple receivers, so Las Vegas’ soft secondary should not get too exposed. The Raiders, who swept the Broncos last season, have the ability to outscore a lot of teams. Josh Jacobs, the NFL’s leading rusher last season, is behind a better offensive line, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo can lean on Davante Adams to make big plays.

PATRIOTS (+4) over Eagles — It’s about time to find out if Bill Belichick still has it. He has had months to prepare the New England defense for Jalen Hurts and the Eagles, who struggled on the road last season by narrowly defeating the Bears, Lions, Cardinals, and Colts. The Patriots defense ranked sixth in rushing (105.5 ypg) and 11th in scoring (20.4 ppg) a year ago. Belichick brought back Bill O’Brien as offensive coordinator, and O’Brien will get quarterback Mac Jones back on track. However, the Philadelphia defensive front might dominate a mediocre New England offensive line, so that’s a concern.

GIANTS (+3.5) over Cowboys — Dak Prescott has won 10 straight starts against the Giants, but it’s time for that trend to end. Giants coach Brian Daboll has improved his team in all areas and also has a significant edge against Mike McCarthy on the other sideline. The home ‘dog is live in the Sunday night opener.

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