Our best bets for every NFL Week 1 game

By VSiN Staff  (VSiN.com) 

September 10, 2022 10:12 PM

Welcome to Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season.

Throughout the season, our VSiN experts will combine to give their best bets on every game. Check back for our best bets for Monday’s game as we get closer to kickoff.

Odds are from DraftKings (unless noted) as of Thursday night.

Baltimore Ravens (-7, 44.5) at New York Jets

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

Jeff Parles: J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS! Or, actually, J-O-E, JOE, JOE, JOE as veteran Joe Flacco gets the start for Gang Green against his former team in Week 1. The Jets were a very public play in the season win-total market after a very successful NFL draft, but things have cooled with preseason injuries to Mekhi Becton and Zach Wilson. The Jets have an absolutely brutal start to the season, so getting some early wins is critical to playing meaningful games in December.

The Ravens dealt with a cavalcade of injuries last season, including to former MVP Lamar Jackson. The Ravens are the healthiest they have been entering a season since 2019 and are the betting favorites in the AFC North. 

Bettors have been betting Baltimore in this game all summer long and I’m going against the herd here. I’m concerned about the Ravens’ new-look offensive line against an improved Jets defense, and the Jets are better off with Flacco starting than a compromised Wilson. If the Jets keep the turnover battle even or win it, they will have a shot to pull off the outright upset. Jackson should make enough plays to win this game, but the Jets will stay in it the whole way and cover the whole touchdown spread. 

PIck: Jets + 7

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins (-3.5, 46.5)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

Femi Abebefe: Is Tua good or is he bad? In that great national debate, I’d say I land somewhere in the middle. I’m optimistic about the Dolphins’ third-year starting quarterback under first-time head coach Mike McDaniel. However, with that said, I think this is way too many points.

You don’t have to twist my arm too much to bet on a road divisional underdog, especially early in the season, and now I’m getting one that’s led by the greatest head coach in the history of the sport in Bill Belichick.

This is one of those games where I think public perception has played way too much into how we feel about these two teams. Think back to May when the schedule was released and the Dolphins were 3-point favorites. If you’re just jumping into the NFL markets now, you might not have realized that the first move with the side went toward New England — taking the line down to as low as 2 at some shops.

So what has changed since then? Well, all the reports out of Pats camp have been that they’re struggling with the offense and nobody is clear on who’s calling the plays. I’m not in love with an offense directed by Matt Patricia or Joe Judge, but I think all of the New England negativity is just noise.

Conversely, the Miami Sound Machine has been pumping out positive vibes with newly acquired wide receiver Tyreek Hill holding the megaphone. Ultimately, I think the Dolphins have a high ceiling, but in Week 1, if you’re giving me 3 and the hook with the Hoodie against a first-time head coach, I have to take it.

Pick: Patriots + 3.5

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals (-6.5, 44)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

Jeff Parles: The Steelers and Bengals enter the season with their usual roles reversed. Cincinnati, the defending AFC Champions, comes in with big expectations as Joe Burrow enters his third season. Burrow was Pro Football Focus’ fourth-highest graded QB in 2021. The Bengals have a new-look offensive line with the additions of La’el Collins, Alex Cappa and Ted Karras this offseason. As we saw last season in Kansas City, it takes time for a new-look line to jell. 

The Steelers’ season win total of 7.5 is the lowest of the Mike Tomlin era. Mitchell Trubisky will be the Week 1 starter and, for all of the flak Trubisky has received in his NFL career, he is definitely an improvement over what Ben Roethlisberger was last season. The Steelers’ defense does have questions, especially at linebacker, but what they still possess is an elite pass rush, which should be able to give the Bengals offensive line a problem.

The Steelers won outright in a similar situation in last year’s opener as a 6.5-point underdog at Buffalo. Their defense flummoxed Josh Allen and the special teams scored a touchdown off of a blocked punt. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar result in this game with the Bengals dealing with big expectations for the first time in a long time. Of course, the Bengals did dominate the Steelers in both matchups last season (24-10 and 41-10), so that is the cause for concern — that this is just a bad matchup for Pittsburgh. But in the end, don’t doubt a Tomlin team as an underdog.

Pick: Steelers + 6.5

San Francisco 49ers (-7, 40) at Chicago Bears

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

Wes Reynolds: Neither Trey Lance nor Justin Fields, both first-round picks in the 2021 NFL draft, began last season as starting quarterbacks, but now the respective jobs are theirs. Clearly, Lance has the better situation and more weapons than Fields (although tight end George Kittle is likely to miss the opener with a groin injury). However, this is only his third career start (1-1 in 2021). 

Lance will also be facing a different Bears defensive scheme brought in from Indianapolis by new coach Matt Eberflus and new defensive coordinator Alan Williams. The Bears’ defense converts from a 3-4 to a 4-3 with a Cover 2 look. The Bears kept their defensive looks relatively vanilla in the preseason, so Lance will have to be sharper with his second and third reads, which he still struggles with. 

Meanwhile, Fields just doesn’t have a great deal of talent around him. Pro Football Focus rates his receiving corps 32nd out of 32 teams and his offensive line 31st. That is bad news against a 49ers defense that was top five in 2021 for opponent points per game (20.6, No. 5), yards per game (311.8, No. 4), and yards per play (5.1, No. 4) under new defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans. Ryans’ group should be even better in his second season as DC. 

In light of the league’s renewed emphasis on calling illegal contact this season, it can be scary to take an Under in a game with the lowest total on the board. However, the Bears’ receivers are not likely to get much separation and Fields will be pressured heavily by a 49ers front that was No. 3 in the NFL in sack percentage. Also, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan may be a bit more run-heavy in Lance’s first game as the permanent starter. 

Pick: Under 40.5 (BetMGM)

New Orleans Saints (-5.5, 42.5) at Atlanta Falcons

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

Adam Burke: How about a player prop to mix things up? 

This one is a little chalky, but the Saints appear to have the makings of a dynamic offense with Michael Thomas back, rookie Chris Olave catching balls and a healthy Jameis Winston, who was strong in seven games last season with a 14-3 TD-INT ratio. We’ll see if the Saints are able to convert at a high rate in the red zone, but they should move the ball against the Falcons.

Lutz missed all of last season following core muscle surgery, but he’s a very accurate kicker at 86.6% on field goals and 97% on extra points for his career. He should be on target after a strong preseason.

Pick: Wil Lutz Over 6.5 Points (-130)

Philadelphia Eagles (-4, 48.5) at Detroit Lions

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

Femi Abebefe: In what I’ve dubbed the “Offseason Darlings’ Bowl,” I’m very interested to see which side the betting market favors between these two teams. 

On the Detroit side, it’s easy to be impressed with how they’ve built this team along the offensive and defensive lines. I think general manager Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell have a good thing going — in the future. 

Unfortunately for the Lions, the future is not right now. In fact, I think the Lions end up being that popular underdog that gets taken to the woodshed Sunday. This matchup heavily favors the Eagles due to their ability to run the ball. Last season and throughout this preseason, Detroit struggled getting off blocks and stopping the run.

Well here comes the best offensive line and run game in the NFL motoring into Motown. Due to their overall roster strength, the Eagles have the potential to be the bullies on the block this season and beat up on inferior teams. By any measure, the Eagles are far superior to the Lions. Thus, I’m not going to overthink this one.

Pick: Eagles -4

Indianapolis Colts (-7, 45.5) at Houston Texans

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

Femi Abebefe: I really tried to avoid this game, but after the recent line move making this a 7-point spread, I have to get involved. It’s always a dangerous proposition laying points with a divisional road favorite early in the season, but I just don’t understand how this line isn’t at least 7.5 or 8.

Texans quarterback Davis Mills did well for himself late last season and might have a place as a consistent starter in the NFL, but did we forget this is still probably the most talent-poor roster in the league? I’m also not in love with Lovie Smith as the head coach after what we saw during his time in Tampa Bay (no need to mention his tenure in college football).

My handicap for this game comes down to the quarterback change in Indianapolis. I can’t stress enough how big of an upgrade Matt Ryan will be for the Colts after having Carson Wentz behind center a year ago. Ryan hasn’t lit the world on fire recently, but I think that was due to the horrific situation in Atlanta.

Ryan will now be protected and be able to lean on a run game that’s led by the Offensive Player of the Year favorite, Jonathan Taylor. The Colts’ defense also got some good news with Shaquille Leonard practicing in full early in the week. Regardless of whether Leonard plays or not, I just can’t see this number only being a touchdown. Give me the Horseshoe.

Pick: Colts -7 

Jacksonville Jaguars at Washington Commanders (-2.5, 44)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

Adam Burke: This bet largely depends on how you think this game will play out. 

There’s a player prop on Antonio Gibson set at 58.5 rushing yards. Gibson went over that number in nine of the 16 games he played last season. Washington won seven of those games. As we know, there’s a high correlation between rushing success and game state. If a team has the lead, they are more likely to run the ball. If they are trailing, they are more likely to throw.

Gibson had at least 60 yards in all seven of Washington’s victories and had five of his highest-volume games by carries in those wins. Washington is a slight favorite against Jacksonville. I think the Commanders will be a little cautious with Carson Wentz in his Washington debut, so even if the game result isn’t favorable, Gibson should still get a good bit of work, especially with Brian Robinson Jr. sidelined.

Pick: Antonio Gibson Over 58.5 Rushing Yards (-115)

Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers (Pick’em, 42)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

Adam Burke: It’s the “Baker Mayfield Revenge Game,” and while Browns QB Jacoby Brissett has had some good and bad moments in the NFL, the Panthers’ Mayfield, with a new team, new OC and newly repaired shoulder, doesn’t seem like that much better of an option.

If you stacked the rest of these rosters side by side, the Browns are the better team. This game could certainly swing either way given the line movements and all of the extenuating circumstances. One thing that seems very unlikely, however, is that the Browns get soundly beaten. Although most sportsbooks are down to a pick’em, you can still get the Browns + 1.5 at a couple of shops, which means you can put them into a 6-point teaser and take the Browns north of a touchdown at + 7.5.

The game plan from Kevin Stefanski and Alex Van Pelt is sure to be run-heavy, and the Browns absolutely have the depth of talent at running back to achieve success with that mindset. Brissett shouldn’t be put into too many situations where he can actively hurt the team, and he’s taken good care of the ball throughout his career with only 17 interceptions in 1,208 pass attempts.

I think the Browns may very well win outright, but with a low total and the chance to tease through the key numbers of 3 and 7, some additional security isn’t a bad idea. The Browns pair perfectly with the Vikings in a teaser.

Pick: Browns + 7.5 (BetMGM)/Vikings + 7.5 Teaser

Green Bay Packers (-1.5, 47) at Minnesota Vikings

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET

Adam Burke: For the first time in a while, the Packers feel really vulnerable. Aaron Rodgers is going to have to find a new No. 1 target without Davante Adams, who accounted for over 34% of the team’s receiving yards, over 30% of the receptions and nearly 30% of the targets. The 123 catches for Adams last season were almost 2.5 times the receptions of Aaron Jones and nearly three times the total of the closest wide receiver.

There is a renewed sense of hope and optimism in the Twin Cities with first-time head coach Kevin O’Connell and a roster that looks poised for big things. It was clear that Mike Zimmer’s voice had run out of steam, as even the defense fell off during an 8-9 season. The hire of GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah should also have a big impact on the day-to-day preparations of the Vikings, as their advance scouting and personnel evaluation will improve.

The Packers went 13-4 last season, but Expected Win-Loss using point differential had the team around 10.4-6.6. Many are looking for some regression with a new offensive coordinator and a team that overperformed relative to the advanced standings metrics. The Vikings lost a lot of close games and blew a bunch of leads last season, something that should get better with what I believe to be an improved coaching staff and front office.

Maybe the Vikings don’t put it all together and win here, but we can take them from + 1.5 to + 7.5 in a 6-point teaser alongside the Browns, crossing through that all-important 3 and 7 corridor. The total has come down a bit, suggesting a lower-scoring game, which makes adding points to the underdog that much more enticing.

Pick: Vikings + 7.5/Browns + 7.5 (BetMGM) Teaser

Kansas City Chiefs (-6, 54) at Arizona Cardinals

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET

Femi Abebefe: While many nationally have been ready to pounce on the alleged demise of the Chiefs, the betting market is doing the opposite. It’s important to note that this line opened with the Chiefs as 3-point favorites in May. I thought that line was pretty fair.

Then all of the injuries started to happen for the Cardinals. As I sit here on Thursday, wide receiver Rondale Moore, defensive lineman J.J. Watt and pass-rush specialist Markus Golden are all questionable. In my opinion, if those guys are unable to suit up, a move through the key number of 3 would make sense.

However, I can’t believe this number has reached the key number of 6. I get that the vibes have been bad in the desert this offseason with quarterback Kyler Murray’s homework clause (that had to be taken out of his new extension) and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ suspension, but this has gone too far.

Just look at the other home teams this week that are catching six points or more. That list consists of the Jets, Bears, Texans and Seahawks. I’m not even high on the Cardinals this year, but there’s no way they should be rated among that group. If you’re going to hang + 6, I have to bet it. 

(Tip: Maybe wait until closer to kickoff to see if you can get an even better number due to general Cardinals pessimism.)

Pick: Cardinals + 6

Las Vegas Raiders at Las Angeles Chargers (-3.5, 52)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET

When these teams met for a Week 18 classic in Las Vegas, the Raiders prevailed 35-32, and their offense will be better with wide receiver Davante Adams. 

The Chargers, who ranked 23rd in total defense and 30th against the run last season, wrote a big check to sign free-agent corner J.C. Jackson from the Patriots, but Jackson is sidelined after ankle surgery, so it’s a bad time to face Adams, slot receiver Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller. 

It’s imperative to put pressure on Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, and the Raiders are more capable of that after adding former Cardinals edge rusher Chandler Jones, who lines up opposite Maxx Crosby. Derek Carr has the playmakers to outduel Herbert in a shootout.

Pick: Raiders + 3.5

New York Giants at Tennessee Titans (-6, 44)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET

Adam Burke: The Giants got a lot of hype late in the summer and into the preseason. It’s a huge year for Daniel Jones with free agency looming, but he has the chance to have success because of a talented group of skill-position players and some actual football minds on the sideline.

The Giants are going in the right direction with Brian Daboll, Wink Martindale and new GM Joe Schoen and his staff, who made some strong personnel decisions in free agency and the draft. This game in Nashville feels like a new beginning for the team and for Jones, who has a vastly improved offensive line and a healthy group of backs and receivers.

Meanwhile, the shine seems to have come off of the Titans for a lot of people. Derrick Henry is back and presumably in great shape after lightening his workload considerably in 2021 due to a foot injury, but there are major questions long-term at quarterback and now at wide receiver with AJ Brown in Philadelphia. Perhaps first-round pick Treylon Burks is a dude, but it may take some time for him and Ryan Tannehill to sync up.

The Titans’ defense made such a huge leap from 2020 to 2021 that I wonder about the sustainability of the stats, as Tennessee went from 5.9 to 5.4 yards per play allowed and shaved almost a touchdown off on a points-per-game basis. With a low-scoring expectation and 6s available in the market, the Giants are in a great spot.

Pick: Giants + 6

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5, 50.5) at Dallas Cowboys

Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET

Femi Abebefe: It might be the “square” move to back a Tom Brady-led team in prime time, but sometimes it’s hip to be square. Any line in this game with the Bucs favored by less than a field goal is a bet for me.

Now it hasn’t been the greatest offseason for the defending NFC South champions. Tampa has been hit hard by the injury bug, particularly on the offensive line. Normally that’d keep me from backing a team, but I think the matchup so heavily favors Tampa that I like them in this spot.

While the Bucs have issues up front, they dodged a bullet by getting offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs back from injury earlier in training camp. The only projected starter on the offensive line who will miss Sunday’s game is center Ryan Jensen, who suffered a knee injury in early August.

Tampa has had time to prepare for that absence, and on the other side of the ball, they might be better than ever — especially early in the season. The Bucs’ stout run defense got even better with the addition of defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. This talented front seven will be going against a Cowboys offensive line that is still trying to figure out how to replace offensive tackle Tyron Smith.

Dallas has way too many holes in the wide receiver and offensive line groups to be able to consistently move the ball against Tampa. I see this being a low-scoring, close game, and if that’s the case, I feel a lot more comfortable backing Brady and Bowles over Prescott and McCarthy.

Pick: Buccaneers -2.5

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