NFL Week 1 early lines and thoughts

By Adam Burke  ( Managing Editor) 

September 3, 2023 01:00 PM


2023 NFL season kicks off with Week 1 schedule

The 2023 NFL season has finally arrived and the Week 1 schedule is dripping with intrigue. Lines have been up for a very long time, but now that we’ve navigated the preseason and gotten to game week, we’re going to see some deep pockets and influential money moving these numbers around. The vast scope of legalized sports betting also allows the public to have some say in where these lines go, but that isn’t going to happen until game day when the overwhelming majority of the public betting handle comes in.

Limits increase now that game week is here and will continue to increase as kickoff approaches, which will create a lot of line adjustments, as bettors and bookmakers go head-to-head for the first of 18 times during the NFL regular season.

While I grant that it is a bit misleading to refer to this as an “Early Lines” article, it will be one going forward and it’s important to get into that rhythm. Each Sunday, I’ll be doing an Opening Line Report of sorts with some early thoughts on the games I like and some of the more interesting games.

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Here are some Week 1 thoughts:

(odds as of 9/3, 11 a.m. PT)

Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5, 47.5) at Cleveland Browns

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

Every game in Week 1 has some sort of compelling element to it, but this one definitely stands out. The calf injury suffered by Joe Burrow in the preseason largely put this line on hold, as a little bit of speculative Browns money hit the board, but now we’re mostly back to -2.5, which is where it was throughout the summer. An improved Deshaun Watson would make the Browns an extremely dangerous team, as the rest of the roster is quite strong.

With Burrow progressing well and seemingly in line to start, will this be a game that reaches -3 or is -2.5 going to be the stopping point? The total is also getting a lot of Over play to this point. Sharp bettors that want to bet the Under will probably get the best of the number on Sunday, so they’ll exercise patience before playing.

San Francisco 49ers (-2.5, 41) at Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

No team’s stock went up more in the preseason than Pittsburgh’s. Kenny Pickett looked great and the Pittsburgh first-team offense looked downright explosive. We all know that Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season and I’m sure he doesn’t intend to start now. What we also know is that the 49ers might have the best roster in the NFL outside of the quarterback position and you have to respect that.

The sportsbooks are likely to have a lot of teaser liability on the Steelers +8.5 (likely with Browns +8.5 or even Jets +8.5), but there will also be 49er bettors under a field goal. Brock Purdy’s training camp did not go well, but it is important to note that the 49ers were the full -3, even with the uncertainty about Purdy’s status, for a good bit over the summer and even into the second week of August.

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears (-1, 43)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET

The Bears have been one of the most polarizing teams throughout the offseason, as some believe that this team could truly take a huge leap and get to at least eight wins. Others see the worst defense in the NFL from last season and a quarterback who takes a lot of abuse - you can guess which side I’m on.

The Packers had a really impressive preseason and people are leaning closer towards Jordan Love being a DUDE than being a dude, so this is a line that has gradually crept down since the teams reported to camp in late July. It wouldn’t be surprising to see PK or even Packers -1 as we move throughout the week in my opinion. I think there’s a lot more positive buzz for Green Bay.

Early NFL picks I like:

Admittedly, I have not locked in anything for Week 1 of the NFL yet, but there are a few games that I have my eye on. I’ll be curious to see how the markets react to these games.

Houston Texans (+10, 43.5) at Baltimore Ravens

Maybe the Ravens are just going to come out and ride the wave of a positive offseason with Lamar Jackson and some newcomers at wide receiver to a blowout over the Texans, but this isn’t that bad of a Houston roster. C.J. Stroud’s first NFL start is undoubtedly going to feature some growing pains, but 10 is a big number in Week 1, when everybody is trying to get up to game speed and iron out the wrinkles. 

If nothing else, Houston should be quite a bit improved on defense with DeMeco Ryans at the helm and offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik comes from the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree, so I’m sure there will be some creative play design that isn’t on film yet. I think Houston can keep this respectable.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings (-6, 45.5)

I think the only question about this game is how quickly the line gets to -7. There are a lot of people low on the Vikings because of their clear regression signs after winning 13 games with a -3 point differential and 11 one-score wins, but “Operation: Caleb Williams” is in full effect for the Buccaneers. 

The Vikings defense could take a huge step forward with new DC Brian Flores. They still have Justin Jefferson. This is not a primetime game, so they still have Kirk Cousins. Meanwhile, the Bucs have Baker Mayfield and a lame-duck head coach in Todd Bowles. Bowles won’t be the guy to bring Williams along, so this is a complete waste of a season for the Bucs and they have embraced it.

Maybe the Bucs do shock and surprise, but the Vikings play the Eagles on a short week next week, which places ever more emphasis on getting the win in this one.

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