NFL spreads always provide an interesting take on the public perception of NFL teams as a week progresses, but Week 1 spreads are the most interesting as they provide insight on how teams are viewed after a grueling offseason of changes.
Week 1 features plenty of quality matchups on tap, but some games have lopsided expectations.
Spreads can be hit-or-miss, and Week 1 is no exception with so many variables to consider. For a multitude of reasons, here are a few of the favored teams that will end up failing to meet the lofty expectations of the spreads.
Note: All odds courtesy of Vegas Insider.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions (-5)
On paper the Detroit Lions have a dominant defensive line with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley plugging the holes and controlling the trenches. Add in home-field advantage and the spread favoring Detroit makes sense.
Except fans heard the same thing a year ago and witnessed drastically different results.
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson had his way with the Lions and their supposedly dominant front seven. In two games Peterson rumbled for 273 yards and a touchdown.
More of the same could be in store for the Lions here in Week 1, especially after losing defensive end Cliff Avril and attempting to plug the hole with a rookie in Ziggy Ansah.
Minnesota will also have a respectable passing attack to account for with rookie Cordarrelle Patterson and veteran Greg Jennings, so Detroit's chances of covering the friendly spread are slim to none.
The Vikings held the explosive Detroit offense to outputs of just 13 and 24 points last year in two victories. Minnesota has improved more over the offseason and will give Detroit yet another headache.
Prediction: Vikings 27, Lions 20
Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos (-7.5)
Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos and Joe Flacco's Baltimore Ravens are quite familiar with one another after the two sides did battle twice last season to significantly different outcomes.
Week 15 saw Manning and Co. blow out the Ravens in Baltimore, 34-17.
The second matchup went a bit differently. In typical Manning fashion, his team lost in the divisional round of the playoffs to Baltimore in a double-overtime thriller, 38-35.
Both teams have changed considerably since that date. Manning has an exciting new weapon in Wes Welker, but his defense has lost Elvis Dumervil to Baltimore and Von Miller to suspension.
Baltimore lost veteran leadership on defense but added Dumervil and a host of other defenders to actually improve on the unit that won a Super Bowl last season.
It's tough to bet against Manning, but if his defense struggles, he does as well. Running back Ray Rice, who carried the ball a total 42 times against Denver last season and notched 169 yards and one touchdown, figures to have a big impact on a defense missing two stars.
The Baltimore defense should go a long way in counteracting Manning. Last season his offense put up over 30 points in 11 games. Baltimore surrendered over 30 points just four times on what was a slower unit a year ago.
With offseason additions and subtractions taken into account, expect more of a game that resembles the playoff contest than the Week 15 blowout. Manning will win at home in the regular season like always, but it won't be by a wide margin.
Prediction: Broncos 27, Ravens 24
New England Patriots (-9.5) vs. Buffalo Bills
To be fair to the oddsmakers, this spread was primarily the result of undrafted free agent quarterback Jeff Tuel looking like the starter with first-round rookie E.J. Manuel's health in question.
Or was it?
Either way, the Bills have officially announced Manuel is the starter per ESPN's Adam Schefter, and Manuel himself says he has expectations to beat the Patriots:
Doug Marrone announced today that QB EJ Manuel will start Week One against the New England Patriots.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 4, 2013
"We're going in to win. That is my expectation." - @BuffaloBills QB EJ Manuel on facing the Patriots— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) September 4, 2013
That changes everything. Manuel was outstanding in the preseason, throwing for 199 yards and two touchdowns while completing 79 percent of his passes in two games.
Pair him with elite running back C.J. Spiller, who gained a total of 1,703 yards last season, and New England could be in some trouble. The Patriots gave up 3.9 yards per rush last season and ranked near the bottom of the league in defending the pass.
Spiller himself carried the ball just 17 times against the Patriots in two games last season but totaled 103 yards in the limited role. Spiller's role won't be as limited against New England in Week 1 with a rookie quarterback under center.
It's hard to imagine a rookie quarterback out-dueling Tom Brady, but expecting Brady and Co. to go into Buffalo and win by almost 10 points is a bit much.
Prediction: Patriots 35, Bills 28
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