NFL Predictions Week 1: Safe Bets to Cover the Spread

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2013

Jamaal Charles will run all over the Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday.
Jamaal Charles will run all over the Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Once the NFL season zooms back into full swing, fans will receive a fierce reminder that there are no sure things.

We'll just have to get as close as possible with these sturdy favorites, who have all the makings to leave Week 1 undefeated.

Will Cam Newton stand face-to-face with league's toughest defense and come out smelling like roses? It's plausible. Could Blaine Gabbert put on a Tom Brady mask and four touchdowns? Crazier things have happened. 

Will a battered Mark Sanchez limp on the field with the New York Jets down a score, point to Darrelle Revis and promptly fire a game-winning touchdown to the man the All-Pro corner is assigned to cover? Probably not.

Note: All betting lines via Vegas Insider


Seattle Seahawks (-3.5) at Carolina Panthers

With all due respect to the Panthers, it seems like they are receiving far too much attention.

Had a few breaks gone their way, Carolina could have easily reversed their 7-9 record. The Panthers fell just short against some premier teams, including a four-point less against the Seahawks in Week 5 that would barely beat this week's spread.

That was before Pete Carroll unleashed Russell Wilson, who completed 19 of 25 passes for 221 in game-manager mode but coughed up two interceptions.

From that point forward the rookie recorded 21 passing touchdowns to a mere four interceptions.

All the hype for the Panthers banks on them to carry over their four-game winning stream from the waning weeks of 2012 into the blossoming beginnings of 2013. It doesn't always work that way. Case in point: the 2011 Panthers, who won four of their final six bouts before starting the following season at 1-6.

And Seattle's defense is the same old smothering unit that stymied Cam Newton last season. Look for this prominent Super Bowl contender to pound some respect out of the oddsmakers.

Prediction: Seahawks 23, Panthers 16


Kansas City Chiefs (-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars

Hey, this Kansas City squad looks pretty good. Pretty good is good enough to beat the Jaguars. 

Before losing his starting job to Colin Kaepernick, Alex Smith completed 70.2 percent of his passes, earning a 104.1 quarterback rating. Matt Cassel completed 58.1 percent of his throws last year, so Smith offers a nice upgrade that will please Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe.

What better way for Smith and Andy Reid to wet their feet than against a defense that ranked 30th last season in yards allowed per contest. Good news for Charles: The Jaguars are especially inept at stopping the run. Let the track meet ensue.

Jacksonville's offense has the potential to not be abysmal with a returning Maurice Jones-Drew, but Kansas City boasts a quietly stout defense led by Brandon Flowers, Tamba Hali and budding star Eric Berry. 

In what would have been a pivotal battle for the No. 1 pick last year, this opening matchup provides the Chiefs a chance to flex their newly earned muscles.

Prediction: Chiefs 20, Jaguars 9


Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.5) at New York Jets

Does Vegas just feel bad for the Jets, or are they still skeptical of Josh Freeman?

It's perplexing to witness a Jadeveon Clowney contender steer so close to a decent football team with a new stud protecting the secondary. Yet the Jets don't trail far behind the spread against a Tampa Bay squad on the upswing.

Identifying its paper-thin pass defense as a glaring deficiency, the Buccaneers grabbed Revis from the Jets, whose only strength lied in his ability to keep aerial assaults at bay.  

New York's rush defense faded last season, surrendering 133.6 yards per game through the ground. Have you met Doug Martin? How about a returning Carl Nicks to pave the path for the sophomore rusher?

If Tampa Bay wants to emerge from a crowded NFC with a playoff spot, it better take care of business this Sunday against a flimsy opponent.

Prediction: Buccaneers 23, Jets 10