NFL Week 1 Lines - Early Picks
Training camp hasn’t started. Final rosters aren’t in place. Some star players are threatening holdouts while others are in the midst of murky legal issues. There is absolutely no reason to look at the opening lines for the first week of the NFL season this far in advance.
Now let's get stuck into Week 1 Lines.
San Francisco 49ers +1 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
San Francisco had some magic at the end of 2017, closing the season on a 5-game win streak. That magic was largely due to a handsome fella by the name of James Richard Garoppolo. Jimmy G came in and quickly extinguished the 49ers dumpster fire of a quarterback situation, giving the Bay Area a glimmer of hope for the following season.
The 49ers entered the 2018 season as hyped as any team in the league. Then, in week 3, Garoppolo’s season ended with a torn ACL.
The excitement for the 49ers last season hasn’t seemed to carry over, but I think it should. Garoppolo is a solid QB surrounded by a group of talented young receivers and a bevy of passcatching backs. Their defensive line is goddamn stacked with monsters Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, and DeForest Buckner. Their coach is offensive wunderkind Kyle Shanahan. This has the makings of a very solid NFL team.
Meanwhile, the Buccaneers are just… meh. Jameis Winston is streaky at best. Their receiving corps are concerningly thin behind Mike Evans and their runningback stable is comprised of journeymen and Ronald Jones, a very raw player coming off a disappointing rookie year. Tampa Bay’s defense was bottom-barrel last season and lost two starters – Gerald McCoy and Kwon Alexander – to the Panthers and 49ers, respectively.
I think the oddsmakers are dead wrong here – the 49ers should win this game, and win comfortably.
Jacksonville Jaguars +3.5 vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The Jaguars followed up their dominant 2017 season with an absolute stinker in 2018. I mean, they lost to the Redskins starting Josh Johnson at QB. Woof.
However, this is a newer, sexier Jaguars team. They retooled with Superbowl hero Nick Foles and absolutely killed the draft, stealing arguably the top-rated pass rusher at pick 7 to bolster their already ridiculous defense. The Jaguars are primed for a big year.
I’m not here to convince you that the Chiefs are bad, because that would be asinine. Patrick Mahomes is otherworldly and Andy Reid might be the best coach in the league not named Belichick. But, the Chiefs do have some (slight) question marks – they are revamping their defense a bit and dealing with the Tyreek Hill situation. Kansas City will certainly be good, but it might take them a week or two to get there (or more, depending on Hill).
The public will be all over the Chiefs, but the smart pick here is the Jaguars with the points. This game should be close, and given Jacksonville’s defensive prowess and home field advantage, a line of +3.5 is too good to pass up.
Atlanta Falcons +4 @ Minnesota Vikings
Both of these teams had a lot of hype at the start of last season and neither came close to living up to that hype – but for different reasons.
Last season, the Vikings invested a shitload of money into their quarterback, making Kirk Cousins a very, very rich man in March of 2018. However, in doing so, the Vikings left few shekels for their OL, leaving a very, very rich Cousins to get routinely pummeled by opposing rushers. The root of Minnesota’s poor 8-7-1 record was in their offensive line.
The Falcons, on the other hand, only have Lady Luck to blame. Atlanta was bitten by the injury bug hard in 2018, losing their starting middle linebacker (and best defensive player), their starting runningback, both their starting safeties, two of their starting interior linemen, and a rotational defensive end for large chunks of the season. The Falcons were forced to field a team of numerous backup-quality players en route to a 7-9 record.
Both these teams are chock full o’ talent, but Minnesota didn’t do a whole lot to address their offensive line woes this offseason. In a very winnable game for Atlanta, getting 4 points seems like a steal.
Baltimore Ravens -4.5 @ Miami Dolphins
This line absolutely reeks of trap. I can smell the trap from miles and miles away. I can already sense the public frothing at the mouth, waiting to dump metric craploads of cash on the Ravens.
And I don’t care one bit.
The Miami Dolphins are going to be bad. So, so bad. I am legitimately questioning if they are actively trying to put together a roster that can compete in the NFL or not. They are trotting out the streakiest quarterback in the universe to throw to perennially disappointing receivers behind a patchwork offensive line. All indications point to them tanking all season long.
Meanwhile, the Ravens are a solid football team. Lamar Jackson showed flashes last season while their defense remained above-average, as it has for the past decade. Mark Ingram should bring a decent rushing game to Baltimore. Even though I think the Ravens will be about leagueaverage this season, the talent disparity between these two teams is enormous. Baltimore will steamroll Miami in week 1, as will every team that plays Miami this season.
The public will slam the Ravens line for Week 1, but the public isn’t always wrong. Don’t think about this one too much. Take the Ravens -4.5 and run.
By Luke Greenberg