Week 1 of the NFL season is a magical time for handicappers, as there is the opportunity to cash a ton of tickets. Not much is currently known about how the various teams in the league will fare this season, but there are already plenty of opinions that are currently influencing the lines.
It always takes at least a few weeks for Vegas to sort the pretenders from the contenders and adjust the point spreads accordingly, which is why you’ll want to take full advantage by playing heavy bets in the early portion of the season.
This is especially wise after you’ve identified which teams are underrated and which teams are overrated; so make sure you watch Week 1’s matchups closely.
If you are having some trouble picking out a few preseason underdogs that should have no problem covering the spread in their first game of the 2013 campaign, keep reading.
Featured is a complete list of each Week 1 matchup along with their respective point spread, followed by a closer look at three of the more under-the-radar squads getting points in Week 1.
Cincinnati Bengals (+3) at Chicago Bears
The Bengals aren’t getting proper credit for their stalwart defense, which projects to be one of the top units in the NFL this season.
It’s not a sudden change either, as this team has been steadily improving on that side of the football for years now. Mike Zimmer, the team's defensive coordinator since 2008, has been tinkering with his personnel and finally has all the pieces in place to unleash a top-ranked unit on the opposition.
Cincy should definitely be able to capitalize against a mistake-prone Bears offense that features a wildly-inconsistent turnover machine in quarterback Jay Cutler. The signal-caller has a tendency to force throws to Brandon Marshall and toss up terrible passes instead of taking a sack or throwing it out of bounds.
It’s a winning combination that should see the Bengals not only cover the three points they have been given, but outright win on the moneyline.
Baltimore Ravens (+7.5) at Denver Broncos
The Ravens may be the defending Super Bowl champions, but they are getting no respect heading into Mile High.
Since 2005, all eight defending champions were favored in the season-opening game, and only last year’s New York Giants failed to earn a “W.” For those who like trends, the defending Super Bowl champs are 6-2 against the spread during that juncture.
Considering Baltimore last traveled to Denver as 9.5-point underdogs and came away with a straight-up victory in double overtime, this team is more than capable of covering.
While the supporting cast has changed significantly, the team still has an elite coach in John Harbaugh, an elite signal-caller in Joe Flacco and plenty of great role players on both sides of the ball.
It’s not going to be easy for the Broncos to win this, let alone run away with a victory by more than one touchdown. Take the points and know that the Ravens will have no problem covering, with a good chance of winning outright.
Minnesota Vikings (+5.5) vs. Detroit Lions
The Vikings took second place in the NFC North and beat the Lions twice last year, both times by a touchdown or more. Clearly, Vegas has no faith in Adrian Peterson and the rest of the stars on this team, though, as Minnesota has been installed as a 5.5-point underdog in the opener.
While the Lions offense looks improved with the addition of running back Reggie Bush, the team's O-line is still a work in progress.
The Vikings boast a fierce pass rush and will have no problem stuffing the run and disrupting quarterback Matt Stafford, thus limiting record-setting receiver Calvin Johnson’s effectiveness.
On the other hand, Detroit’s defensive line may be capable of winning the war in the trenches. Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ziggy Ansah are just three of the behemoths that the Lions will trot out, and each of them are capable of making plays and changing games. However, it's going to be an issue if "A.D." breaks past them.
Peterson averaged six yards per carry last year and was often able to push into the second level of the defense. Considering that the Lions secondary and linebackers are mediocre at best, he’s going to have a field day in Week 1.
Unless Detroit finds a way to completely decimate the Vikings offensive line, Minnesota will simply pound the rock, keep this one close, and cover the spread.