NFL Betting: Week 1 Best Picks and Advice

During the NFL season, Stadium sports betting analyst Nate Jacobson will break down every single point spread using lines as of Thursday morning. Here are his thoughts on the Week 1 slate.

Note: Nate will discuss all of his college football and NFL bets on the Sharp Lessons podcast that drops every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Subscribe on Spotify and Apple for episodes and follow Stadium Bets on Twitter for more sports betting content.

Sides I Like

Browns (+1.5) over Panthers: The biggest NFL line move since the schedule was released in May occurred here, as the Browns opened as a 4.5-point favorite. Deshaun Watson’s suspension and the Browns trading Baker Mayfield to Carolina are why the Panthers are now the favorite in this game.

There are a lot of narrative-driven headlines in this game surrounding Mayfield’s quest for “vengeance.” There might be some weight to that, but it doesn’t mean Mayfield will play effectively against a defense that knows all of his tendencies from seeing him in practice every day over the last few seasons.

A limited Jacoby Brissett will start for Watson, but I do trust the Browns’ offensive coaching staff to devise an effective game plan. Outside of QB, the Browns have more talent at nearly every position group, and I expect their defense to get the better of Mayfield. While I think the number for this game is fair, I really like the Browns at any underdog price in this matchup.

Sides I’m Considering

Bills (-2.5) over Rams: You can’t ask for a much better matchup on paper to open the NFL season tonight. The defending Super Bowl champions are a home underdog to the team that’s currently the consensus Super Bowl favorite. The Rams opened as a favorite in May and then the Bills became a short favorite. In early August, the Bills became a bigger favorite in this game with the news that Rams QB Matthew Stafford had an injured throwing elbow. The line looked like it could go to Bills -3, but positive news around Stafford has the line settled in this spot.

I expect a focused effort from the Bills, who had a chance to play at SoFi Stadium against the Rams in last season’s Super Bowl. I do have some worries about Buffalo’s offense without former OC Brian Daboll, but the only way I would look in this game is Bills at -2.5 or better.

Patriots (+3.5) over Dolphins: The day after the 2022 Week 1 lines were released in May, I bet the Patriots +3 in this game. I thought the Dolphins were being overvalued after their offseason acquisitions and liked the idea of Bill Belichick facing a first-time head coach in Mike McDaniel.

For most the summer, the line was Dolphins -2.5. That line moved back to -3 after the preseason concluded and jumped to -3.5 two days ago. But why? Well, the Patriots struggled on offense during the preseason and currently employ Matt Patricia and Joe Judge as offensive assistants — with no one on the coaching staff having the title “offensive coordinator.”

I still have my questions about the Dolphins to start the season with a new head coach and QB Tua Tagovailoa. I do regret making the Patriots +3 bet nearly four months ago, but I’m going to let it ride and maybe bet the Dolphins live if the Patriots get out to an early lead. Ultimately, I would have passed on this game if I didn’t make my early wager.

Steelers (+6.5) over Bengals: There have been plenty of line adjustments for Week 1 games this summer, but this has been the game with very little movement. I like the idea of picking spots to fade the Bengals coming off their improbable playoff run to the Super Bowl, so let’s start this week. Cincy was on the fortunate end of toss-up games against the Raiders and Titans before stunning the Chiefs with a huge second-half comeback in the AFC Championship Game. If the Bengals lost earlier in the postseason, I don’t think this line would be as high, so there’s some point spread inflation in the game.

The Steelers are going through changes with Mitchell Trubisky getting the start after Ben Roethlisberger retired. I would argue the Steelers are getting an upgrade at the QB position because Roethlisberger was a shell of his former self. One thing that is the same for the Steelers is Mike Tomlin as head coach, and he’s someone I like backing in the underdog role. The Steelers also have a strong pass rush that should matchup well against a Bengals offensive line that is improved, but has several new faces on it. Steelers +7 would be a strong bet for me, but I would still play it at +6 or better.

Jaguars (+2.5) over Commanders: I had more interest in the Jaguars when +3 was available. I would stay away at the current number, but I want to have the Jaguars in this section in case the number gets back to +3.

My main handicap in this game is the Jaguars are projected to improve with Doug Pederson as head coach instead of Urban Meyer. Trevor Lawrence had his struggles in his rookie season, but he was still a highly touted prospect that can take a big leap with a well-respected coach.

Speaking of Pederson, he’s facing one of his former Eagles QBs in Carson Wentz, who was traded to the Commanders from the Colts. Regardless of what you think of Wentz, the Jaguars should be prepared to face him in this game. The best of the Jacksonville numbers are gone for now, so monitor this line if you haven’t bet it yet.

Cardinals (+6) over Chiefs: I wasn’t expecting to back the Cardinals in this spot, but the overall line movement from Chiefs -3 to -6 is just too much.

I’m not very high on this Cardinals team, who stumbled down the stretch last year into the offseason, as DeAndre Hopkins was suspended six games while Kyler Murray’s unique contract addendum caused negative headlines. However, one positive for the Cardinals is that they’re 15-5-1 in Weeks 1-7 during the last three seasons, including a 7-0 start last year. So even without Hopkins, the Cardinals are in a spot in which they’ve had success. At the end of the day, it’s hard for me to justify this significant line move for KC.

Chargers (-3.5) over Raiders: The Raiders are another team I want to fade this season. They made the playoffs with a 10-7 record after beating this same Chargers team in an instant classic. But a deeper look into the Raiders calls for regression this season, as they had a point differential of -65 and were 4-0 in games that went to overtime.

The Chargers have a very talented roster and a huge ceiling this season despite missing the playoffs by a game last year. I’m aware that they won’t have any home-field advantage in this game, as the Raiders fans will fill up the stadium, but I still think the gap between the Chargers and Raiders is wider than the market is indicating. I believe this game has a chance to get to Chargers -3, and if that happens, I’ll be involved with LA.

Vikings (+1.5) over Packers: The Vikings are a team I’m buying going into this season. They lost eight of their nine games by one possession last season and hired an offensive-minded head coach in Kevin O’Connell. The Sean McVay disciple should get more out of Minnesota’s offensive talent than Mike Zimmer and his conservative coaching staff did.

On the other side, I can see the Packers getting off to a slow start as they search for Aaron Rodgers’ go-to weapon after they traded Davante Adams to the Raiders. Last season, the Packers lost 38-3 to the Saints in Week 1  before going on to finish with a 13-4 regular season record. I believe this is the best time for the Vikings to play the Packers, and Minnesota has one of the strongest home-field advantages in the NFL. I’ll take the Vikings at any underdog price.

Giants (+5.5) over Titans: The line for this game has come down from -6.5 earlier in the summer to either Titans -5.5 or -6 depending on where you shop. The Titans were the No. 1 seed in the AFC this past season, but the sell arrow has been on Tennessee since they traded WR A.J. Brown to the Eagles on draft night. Add in RB Derrick Henry’s durability concerns and not knowing how QB Ryan Tannehill will respond after a terrible playoff performance, and it’s understandable why the Titans are fade material.

There are differing opinions on the Giants going into this season. Improvement is expected moving from Joe Judge to Brian Daboll as head coach, but it wasn’t a good preseason for the Giants offense. In this game, I will look toward betting the Giants at +6 or better against a Titans team whose pass-catching options are uninspiring.

Cowboys (+2.5) over Buccaneers: Early on in the season I’m looking to fade both of these teams. The Cowboys are a prime regression candidate for this season after forcing a league-high 34 turnovers in 2021, which isn’t sustainable. But I also don’t like how the Buccaneers are entering the year with some new pieces on the interior of their offensive line and Tom Brady being away from the team for part of August.

I would need +3 to really consider the Cowboys as a home underdog on Sunday night, and there’s a chance the number will get there if the Buccaneers have a positive injury report for this week.

Game-Time Decisions

Ravens (-7) at Jets: The Ravens opened -4.5 in this game and the line eventually hit -7 when Jets QB Zach Wilson suffered an injury in the preseason. That means former Raven Joe Flacco will get the nod for New York. I do expect the Ravens to have a strong bounce-back season after an injury-plagued 2021. I just don’t want to bet them in this price range for this game.

Saints (-5.5) at Falcons: The Saints have been a “bet on” team this offseason. Their regular season win total opened as low as 7.5 and has been bet up to 8.5. I agree with the bullishness on the Saints because of their aggressive offseason moves and what should be a healthier roster this season.

On the other side, the Falcons have the lowest regular season win total in the NFC at 4.5. While the Saints were bet up in this game from -3.5 to -5.5 during the summer, Atlanta showed a pulse in preseason with new starting QB Marcus Mariota. This is a stay away game for me.

49ers (-7) at Bears: I really like the 49ers this season. Although there’s a huge question mark about second-year QB Trey Lance, I trust head coach Kyle Shanahan to get the most out of a player that the 49ers drafted after trading up to the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. San Francisco’s roster is talented and Lance would raise the ceiling for the team if he ends up panning out.

But even if Lance struggles in this game, the 49ers should have enough talent and a clear matchup advantage with their d-line against the Bears o-line on Sunday. I’m not sure if they will cover the spread because the Bears will likely play hard for 60 minutes under their new coaching staff, so I’m not going to get involved with the spread on this one.

Eagles (-4) at Lions: These are two popular teams to bet on this summer and I have tempered expectations for both of them. It’s an easy call for me to pass on this game and look to bet against these teams later on this season.

Colts (-7) at Texans: The Colts are the AFC team I’m highest on to exceed expectations this season. I thought they would’ve been a dangerous team in the playoffs if they got in last season, but losing late games as big favorites to the Raiders and Jaguars kept them out and led to another offseason move at QB. Matt Ryan comes in to replace Carson Wentz and is a clear upgrade for an Indianapolis roster with a lot of talent in other areas.

But if you have been following the betting market this week, you would notice the Texans have gotten support at +8 and +7.5 as home underdogs. I have enough financial investment on season-long bets in support of the Colts, so I won’t get involved in this game.

Broncos (-6.5) at Seahawks: After being traded to Denver this offseason, Broncos QB Russell Wilson visits his former team to start the season. This “Monday Night Football” line opened Broncos -3.5 but moved three points because Seattle’s QB situation hasn’t improved with Geno Smith in line to start. Just like the other almost-touchdown road favorites in the NFL this week, I’m going to stay away.