Sides I Like
Browns (+2.5) over Bengals: The Browns are a team I’m looking to bet on this season. They’ve had some uneven years since they won a playoff game in 2020, but everything sets up for them to reach their potential with a very talented roster.
The biggest key is QB Deshaun Watson, who should be acclimated to Kevin Stefanski’s offense after a full offseason knowing he would be eligible to start Week 1. Although the preseason wasn’t great for Watson, the former Pro Bowler has everything around him to succeed and this is the time to buy Cleveland at modest expectations.
The Browns are catching the Bengals at the right time after Joe Burrow’s training camp was cut short due to a calf strain. Burrow avoided a serious injury and is on track to play in this game, but I can see a slow start for the Bengals offense just like we saw last year when Burrow was absent from preseason preparations after an appendectomy. I’m going to wait it out and hope the Bengals get to -3 before betting the Browns.
Buccaneers (+6) over Vikings: The Vikings finished 13-4 last year and earned the No. 3 seed in the NFC. That all looks good on the surface, but they ended the regular season with a negative point differential and ultimately lost a home playoff game to the Giants. Minnesota had plenty of good fortune last year — and that’s why they are only lined at 8.5 regular season wins in the betting market.
I haven’t gotten around to betting under their regular season win total because the number seems right, but I will look to bet against them in games where they are expected to win by margin. The Vikings only won two of their 13 games last season by more than a possession, so it’s appealing to take points with the Buccaneers against a team that tends to play close games.
The Buccaneers have very low expectations this season with a win total of 6.5 and the longest odds to win a weak NFC South. But they aren’t rebuilding and still have a roster of veterans that believe they can win. I’m hopeful new QB Baker Mayfield can play within the system and have success with two proven wide receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. If Mayfield takes care of the ball, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Buccaneers won outright.
Dolphins (+3) over Chargers: Both teams hired coordinators this offseason that will be huge upgrades for their respective teams in Dolphins DC Vic Fangio and Chargers OC Kellen Moore. I’m especially high on the Fangio hire in Miami with head coach Mike McDaniel running an offense that was explosive when Tua Tagovailoa was healthy.
I don’t believe much separates these two teams, and the Chargers have the lowest home-field advantage edge in the NFL. Last year, the Dolphins played at the Chargers on Dec. 11 and closed as a three-point road favorite in the game. The Chargers did win that matchup, but the same group of players are largely back for this game despite what the spread indicates. I don’t agree with the line move that brought this game from -2.5 to -3, so I’ll take the underdog.
Sides I’m Considering
Titans (+3) over Saints: This game would’ve been in the section above if the Titans were still a 3.5-point underdog like they were for most of this summer, but I still would consider the Titans in a game with a low total of 41. The Titans had a rough second half in 2022, but start the season healthier and in “win-now mode” as indicated by the signing of veteran WR DeAndre Hopkins. Mike Vrabel has always thrived in this underdog role, and he has a huge head-coaching edge in this game.
New Orleans head coach Dennis Allen is a good defensive coordinator, but I have questions about his in-game management. The Saints also have a new QB in Derek Carr and their favorable strength of schedule is why their win total is 9.5. I’m going to wait to see if the line returns to Titans +3.5.
Steelers (+2.5) over 49ers: These two teams have gone in different directions this offseason. Steelers backers pounded over 8.5 for Pittsburgh’s win total because they believe that QB Kenny Pickett will take a second-year leap (for what it’s worth, the Steelers recorded a touchdown on all five of Pickett’s 2023 preseason drives).
The 49ers are a team that was sold in the win total market, dropping down from 11.5 to 10.5. How ready will QB Brock Purdy be after tearing his UCL in the NFC Championship? While Purdy went 7-0 as a starter before the injury, he was helped by Kyle Shanahan’s play-calling and an elite roster that dominated against weaker opponents.
I can see Purdy struggling on the road in Week 1 against an opponent with a good pass rush. What’s holding me back from betting this game now is not taking Steelers +3 when it was available earlier in the summer. I still will likely have something on the Steelers, but I’m not rushing to bet it.
Packers (+1) over Bears: After last season, I thought I was going to be high on the Bears. They were in a great position to win the offseason after they traded the No. 1 overall pick for a package that included WR D.J. Moore. With the most cap space in the league, Chicago made several big splashes in free agency — but I still have worries about their offensive line and defense.
The Bears will certainly be improved but they are being priced to take a huge leap with third-year QB Justin Fields leading the way. While there’s an outcome where Fields reaches his ceiling and the Bears contend for a playoff spot in a weak NFC, I doubt the team can make the jump they’re expected to take.
The Packers might be undervalued now after trading QB Aaron Rodgers. They have a talented roster that they’ve built through the draft, and Jordan Love is set up to succeed after absorbing Matt LaFleur’s offense as the backup for three seasons. There’s been a lot of support for the Packers in this game, which drove the line down from +2.5 to +1.
Patriots (+3.5) over Eagles: The betting for this matchup is setting up to be a “pros vs. joes” style of game where sharp money is on the home underdog and the public is on the defending NFC champs. I do have interest in the Patriots getting over a field goal in a game where the line was as high as +5 earlier this summer.
The Patriots only have a win total of 7.5 this season, but that’s mostly due to their tough schedule. Giving Bill Belichick four months to prepare for a team is a reason I’m interested in New England. I also expect improvement from QB Mac Jones after OC Matt Patricia left town. Going from a play caller like Patricia to a proven OC in Bill O’Brien is a significant upgrade. I’m interested to see where this line goes, and I’ll likely have something on the home underdog before kickoff.
Cowboys (-3.5) over Giants: Dallas is the Week 1 favorite that interests me the most, although it’s more of a play against the Giants — as they’re a team I expect to regress after overachieving in 2022. New York’s win total opened at 8.5 and is currently 7.5, so I’m not the only one selling Brian Daboll’s squad after they went 9-7-1 and won a playoff game. New York locked up QB Daniel Jones to a long-term contract after Daboll unlocked his potential but I wonder if he will live up to that money.
On the other sideline, I have questions about the Cowboys with how their coaching staff is assembled with Mike McCarthy now calling plays. I do like that they added Brandin Cooks to help out fellow WR CeeDee Lamb, and getting rid of Ezekiel Elliott will lead to more carries for Tony Pollard. I’ll bet on the Cowboys if the line returns to -3 by Sunday night.
Lions at Chiefs (-4.5): The point spread for this regular-season opener was Chiefs -7 for most of the summer. A month ago the number ticked down to 6.5 and it appeared that would be the closing number. Things changed on Tuesday when Chiefs TE Travis Kelce hyper-extended his knee at practice, and his status for this game is now unclear. If you wanted to bet the Lions, I would stay away because you could’ve bet them at better numbers. I do have interest in taking the Chiefs at the lowest number possible if both Kelce is ruled out and DT Chris Jones continues his holdout.
Panthers at Falcons (-3.5): The Falcons have been a trendy team for professional bettors, who bet their win total up from 8 to 8.5 earlier this summer. While I still have questions about second-year QB Desmond Ridder, the Falcons have built their offense to fit Arthur Smith’s run-first system and they bolstered their defense through free agency. Atlanta also has a soft schedule — especially the first 10 weeks — and plays in a division with a vulnerable favorite in the Saints.
The Panthers hired a new head coach in Frank Reich and traded up to No. 1 to draft Bryce Young to lead the franchise. This is a tough spot for the rookie QB on the road in a game with a total of 39.5. I had some interest earlier in the summer in betting the underdog, but I respect the support for the Falcons and will stay away from this game.
Texans at Ravens (-10): This is the game with the biggest point spread of the week. There seems to be a renewed energy behind the Ravens this season as QB Lamar Jackson was signed to a long-term deal and Georgia OC Todd Monken was hired to run the offense. They’ll have a chance to continue the momentum against a Houston team breaking in a lot of new parts.
New Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans is tasked with turning around a franchise that fired each of their last two head coaches after just one season. The Texans should improve as the year goes on but getting this matchup in Week 1 on the road isn’t ideal for a rebuilding roster that’s fielding rookie QB C.J. Stroud. I don’t feel comfortable laying this many points early in the season, but it’s the only way I could look if I had to bet this game.
Jaguars (-5) at Colts: The line for this game was originally Jaguars -4 but it moved up as the Jonathan Taylor saga unfolded. The Pro Bowl RB will not be available for this game, which hurts Indy because he would be a nice player for rookie QB Anthony Richardson to have by his side. The Jaguars are the odds-on favorite to win the AFC South as they look to build on a strong 2022. It’s tempting to back the Colts, especially if this line climbs, but I want to see Richardson play before betting anything Indianapolis related.
Cardinals at Commanders (-7): Every season there seems to be a team free falling and the early betting market just can’t keep up with how bad they will be. This year that franchise is clearly the Cardinals, who have a win total of 4.5 and are a touchdown underdog to a Commanders roster whose win total is 6.5. Arizona has both a new coach and GM, and is expected to start newly acquired Josh Dobbs at QB after they cut presumed starter Colt McCoy.
Not much is expected of the Commanders this season as they start second-year QB Sam Howell, but the vibes are high in the nation’s capital because of an ownership change for the franchise. As bad as the Cardinals are expected to be, I just don’t want to lay this many points with Washington.
Raiders at Broncos (-3.5): The line for this game opened Broncos -3.5 and went up throughout the summer as pessimism grew surrounding the Raiders. There was some worry about newly signed QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s health and star WR Davante Adams expressed his concerns about the team. Also keep in mind that head coach Josh McDaniels didn’t perform well in his first year with Las Vegas.
But the line has dropped due to the injuries piling up in Denver’s WR room. The Broncos usually have a strong home-field edge in the first two weeks of the season, which is why they’d normally be my only choice here. However, I want to see how Russell Wilson and Sean Payton coexist before showing conviction on Denver.
Rams at Seahawks (-5.5): The Rams have a reputation of being competitive under Sean McVay, but it appears they are paying the price for not building through the draft. LA’s win total opened at 7.5 in April and was steadily bet under until it moved to 6.5. That’s a very low number for a team two seasons removed from winning the Super Bowl — but it makes sense if you look at the lack of depth on their roster.
I thought early in the season might be the best time to bet on the Rams, as they have QB Matthew Stafford, WR Cooper Kupp and DT Aaron Donald back after injury-plagued campaigns in 2022. But now Kupp is dealing with a hamstring injury that will keep him out of this game.
The Seahawks are a team I’m looking to bet against early in the season after they greatly overachieved in 2022. This could’ve been an opportunity to bet against Seattle as a big favorite, but I want to know the status of Kupp before deciding what’s next.
Bills (-2.5) at Jets: I’m very excited to watch this matchup on Monday night, but I’m torn on what side to bet on. The Bills have been as low as a pick’em for this divisional showdown but now sit as the favorite because of the uncertainty surrounding the Jets’ shaky offensive line. Don’t forget that the Bills were one of the highest-rated teams in the betting market for most of 2022 and they return all of their key pieces. I need more time to think about this game.
Nate will discuss all of his NFL and college football bets on Stadium Bets. Check out the new show across Stadium’s OTT and OTA channels and subscribe on Spotify and Apple for podcast episodes. Don’t forget to follow Stadium Bets on Twitter for more sports betting content!