Week 1 Picks Against the Spread for Every NFL Game
The 2012 NFL season has finally kicked off, and we're all loving some football. The only way to make it better would be to nail some picks against the spread to recoup some of that beer and chip money.
The first few weeks are a great time to build a nice cushion. Las Vegas isn't entirely sure what teams are good and which ones are bad, so the lines aren't always challenging.
Conversely, the bettors aren't always sure either, which leads to some interesting selections.
Luckily, there are a couple this week that are easy money and more that trend toward the safe side.
Click through to find this year's first picks, which are capitalized for your convenience.
All point spreads are via www.bovada.lv.
Current Record: 1-0
Indianapolis Colts vs. CHICAGO BEARS (-9.5)
Andrew Luck is impressive. Just not so impressive as to overtake the Chicago Bears.
The Bears have the type of pass-rushers who can get after inexperienced quarterbacks. Julius Peppers has a track record of taking advantage of these exact situations.
If rookie Shea McClellin gets any penetration on the other side, it will be a long day for the Indianapolis Colts offense.
Things don't get better on the other side of the ball either.
The Bears can utilize Matt Forte and Michael Bush to keep Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis at bay. Additionally, the offensive line will be able to offset J'Marcus Webb's deficiencies by leaning on talented right tackle Gabe Carimi.
With a few seconds in the pocket, Jay Cutler will cut apart the Colts secondary. The deep threats of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall will create some difficult decisions since the defense can't allow Forte and Devin Hester to run wild underneath.
Laying 9.5 points is a scary proposition, but the reasoning is sound.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (-9) vs. Cleveland Browns
"This dude seriously wants me to lay another nine points?"
Definitely, and this one is even easier to swallow.
Brandon Weeden is not Andrew Luck. Additionally, the Philadelphia Eagles' pass rush is even better than that of the Chicago Bears with players like Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham.
Trent Richardson has barely practiced, so his effectiveness is likely to be limited. Gamblers don't put money on such unknowns.
The Cleveland Browns aren't devoid of any defensive talent. Joe Haden and D'Qwell Jackson are top-tier players, but they're going to need surprise contributions from others to keep Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and the Philadelphia Eagles receivers in check.
I don't see that happening.
BUFFALO BILLS (+3) vs. New York Jets
Vegas got this one wrong.
Whenever the oddsmakers make a home team a three-point favorite, they're saying that the opponents are equal. That's simply not the case here.
The New York Jets can't pass, and they won't be able to run against the stout Buffalo Bills front seven. They won't even score three points unless their defense sets them up.
The Bills offense isn't dynamic, but either Fred Jackson or Stevie Johnson should be able to make at least one play.
This AFC East clash is not must-see television. It is, however, a nice moneymaker.
Washington Redskins vs. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-7.5)
The offseason is over.
There are no more breaking scandals (hopefully), superstar holdouts or suspensions to endure. Just football.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints know how to play football, and they'll be looking to take out their frustrations on outsiders.
The Washington Redskins qualify as outsiders.
The emotional component aside, there are plenty of game-related reasons to lay the points as well.
The offense will be fine with Brees at the helm considering his arsenal of weapons has stayed mostly the same. The loss of Robert Meachem is not going to slow down the point-per-minute Saints.
As for Robert Griffin III, he is still a rookie who will be matching up against an improved defense. New Orleans added Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne on the field, along with Steve Spagnuolo on the sideline, who will bring more of a contain-and-control scheme.
Label this one another solid bet on the favorite.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-6) vs. Tennessee Titans
Remember the 2007 New England Patriots? This year's version is even better.
Remember last year's Tennessee Titans? Neither do I.
Everywhere you look screams a touchdown-plus win for the Pats.
Even if Chris Johnson regains his MVP-like form, the New England defense was better than the stats indicate against the run last season. In the playoffs, they shut down Ray Rice as well as the potent Denver Broncos rushing attack.
Its major hole on defense was against the pass. However, Jake Locker isn't ready to expose said weakness, especially when Kenny Britt is suspended for the opener.
Tennessee does have the makings of a nice defense, but it doesn't have a stop-a-historically-great-offense defense. Then again, not many teams will be able to slow down Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (+4) vs. Minnesota Vikings
These two teams couldn't be much more similarly situated.
Two maligned second-year signal-callers square off with hopes of proving their legitimacy—if possible.
Then there are the running backs.
On the other sideline, Maurice Jones-Drew halted his holdout and returned to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Not only was he not handed a new contract, he isn't even the starting running back.
Unless you're a fan of one of these two teams, there is only one way to make this game interesting. Take the points and the better defense (Jacksonville's) while hoping Blaine Gabbert doesn't suddenly remember that these games count.
Miami Dolphins vs. HOUSTON TEXANS (-13)
I hate giving 13 points, but there isn't a good reason to take the Miami Dolphins.
For starters, rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill is making his first start against a hungry Houston Texans defense.
People have targeted the Texans' pass rush, claiming the loss of Mario Williams will result in a downturn in production. However, he only played five games last year. Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin adequately filled in last year, and Whitney Mercilus will be a a scary name by the end of the season.
Additionally, the Dolphins traded away their best playmaker in Brandon Marshall, cut Chad Johnson and shipped out secondary stud Vontae Davis. These moves didn't endear the new management regime to the remaining veterans, meaning first-year head coach Joe Philbin might have already lost the locker room.
That's never good.
Meanwhile, the Texans get Matt Schaub back and will certainly unleash Arian Foster and Ben Tate to set up the play-action game.
Did you find any reasons to take the Dolphins? Didn't think so.
St. Louis Rams vs. DETROIT LIONS (-7.5)
Vegas might get lucky on this game.
Based solely on instinct, the pick is easily the Detroit Lions despite giving up just over a touchdown. Yet with a little reflection, it isn't so simple.
The first few weeks of the season always provide a few surprises as we learn what's what. The St. Louis Rams could be a bit of a surprise this year.
The secondary boasts Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins manning the corners, which bolsters Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers and Chris Long up front. Throw in James Laurinaitis, and the defense is sneaky good.
That still won't overcome the offense. Its lack of receiving threats means St. Louis won't be able to exploit Detroit's undermanned secondary and keep pace with the explosive Lions.
I know I said the Rams might have a good defense, but they aren't going to stop the Lions from getting at least 24 points.
This pick seems pretty safe.
Atlanta Falcons vs. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (+3)
One of the most intriguing games of the first week will take place at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Atlanta Falcons have been good-but-not-great for years and are looking to ascend to Super Bowl contention.
The Kansas City Chiefs get back three key players from injuries and like their head coach Romeo Crennel.
The key difference will be that the Chiefs can run the ball and protect the passer against a weak Falcons pass rush. Conversely, Kansas City's pass-rushers won't be scared enough of the aging Michael Turner to slow down en route to Matt Ryan.
Both teams want to make a statement, so this game will stay close. Ultimately, this is a take-the-points-and-cross-your-fingers matchup.
San Francisco 49ers vs. GREEN BAY PACKERS (-5)
The San Francisco 49ers are not winning 13 games in 2012. The logic has already been espoused by Grantland's Bill Barnwell, but suffice it to say that they won't cause nearly as many turnovers as last year.
And they certainly won't be victimizing the Green Bay Packers in that manner.
Aaron Rodgers has risen through the ranks to become a chief of surgery. After stewing all offseason about being bounced by the New York Giants, you can rest assured he will take out his frustrations on the 49ers defense, regardless of how good it is.
The Niners brought in some playmakers for Alex Smith. They just didn't make the most crucial of moves: finding a quarterback. Until I see otherwise, I am not a believer in Smith.
CAROLINA PANTHERS (-3) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Before the injuries, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would have probably been the pick. However, the losses of Da'Quan Bowers, Davin Joseph and possibly Arrelious Benn will be too much to overcome.
The Carolina Panthers might not have Jonathan Stewart, but they're so deep in the backfield, who's going to notice? De'Angelo Williams and Mike Tolbert are more than capable of picking up any slack.
The Bucs will find that Carolina has a vastly improved defense and will have difficulty controlling the tempo if Panthers linebacker Jon Beason plays well.
The Bucs are an up-and-coming team; they just won't be able to get over the hump this week.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (-3) vs. Arizona Cardinals
Don't you love it when Vegas makes mistakes? Now is the time to make them pay while they are undervaluing the Seattle Seahawks.
It's possible the oddsmakers could be simply overvaluing the Arizona Cardinals, but they won't have a job long if that's the case.
Anyway, one team has a quarterback, while the other doesn't. One (hopefully) has Marshawn Lynch; the other has Beanie Wells.
The Cardinals do have Larry Fitzgerald. However, if no one can get him the ball, he might as well be a falling tree in a remote forest.
Lastly, Seattle's defense is another sneaky-good unit that has flown under the radar.
Do not be frugal with your wager here. You'll regret it.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (+1.5) vs. Denver Broncos
This game has an endless supply of questions to be answered, which is never a good thing when it comes to gambling.
Peyton Manning has shown he's still an NFL quarterback, but what is his ceiling?
Can the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line hold up against anyone?
The list could go on for days.
However, we do know a few things.
Ben Roethlisberger is in his prime and is in a groove with Antonio Brown. Other offensive weapons include Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace (who will start). Lastly, the Steelers also have an evergreen defense, meaning you can always count on it.
The only things we know for sure with the Denver Broncos is that they have Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil and an aging Champ Bailey.
Take the points.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. BALTIMORE RAVENS (-6)
If this game were to happen later in the season, the points would be much more intriguing.
However, the Monday Night Football kickoff game will finally reveal what the Baltimore Ravens have been buzzing about all summer: the no-huddle offense.
Joe Flacco appears confident and excited about taking the next step in a lengthy progression. Considering he has Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin and Jacoby Jones on the outside with Ray Rice underneath, how could he not be?
Despite the Ravens' use of the new system in the preseason, there will be plenty of surprises in store for the Cincinnati Bengals that they won't be prepared for.
The Bengals have a nice team. They just don't have the offense to keep pace with the offensive Ravens.
That felt weird to type.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (+1) vs. Oakland Raiders
Another game filled with questions, but this one boils down to Philip Rivers versus Carson Palmer.
It doesn't get much simpler than that.
Rivers struggled in 2011. However, he now has a healthy Antonio Gates to go along with Robert Meachem, Malcom Floyd and the most underrated acquisition of the offseason—Eddie Royal.
The San Diego Chargers are sans Ryan Mathews, meaning they will have little to no rushing attack with Ronnie Brown and Curtis Brinkley sharing carries. But in the end, their defense will push them over the top.
Quite frankly, Carson Palmer has given nothing to evoke any confidence in his current abilities. Even if Darren McFadden can stay healthy, Palmer will have to make plays and not turnovers, something that he is no longer capable of.
In today's NFL, a competent signal-caller is crucial.
That's why, any chance you get to take the points and bet against Palmer, you do it.