Week 1 NFL Picks: Safest Bets for League's Opening Slate of Games

Alex BallentineFeatured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2013

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 29: Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks passes against the Oakland Raiders at CenturyLink Field on August 29, 2013 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The first week of the NFL season means a lot of uncertainty around the league, but that doesn't mean there are no sure picks to lock up this week. 

Whether they are consistent franchises that find ways to win regardless of turnover in the offseason or teams that figure to be so awful that you can feel comfortable picking against them even this early into the season, it's still possible to find some value this week. 

While you can take your best stab at any of the games around the league, these teams pan out to be the safest picks to cover the spread this week. 

Note: All lines via Bovada. 


Indianapolis Colts (-10.5) over Oakland Raiders

You want to ensure success with your picks this season? Pick against the Raiders. Every time. 

The Raiders are easily the least talented team in the league. They didn't do anything particularly well last season and finished the year by losing eight of their last nine games. 

The offseason didn't do much to improve this team. The only notable move was bringing in Matt Flynn to replace Carson Palmer, but it's Terrelle Pryor who will be the starting quarterback in Week 1 when Oakland travels to Indianapolis. 

Pryor is in his third year in the league but will be making just his second career start. This is one of the biggest spreads of the week, but Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton should have no problem putting up the necessary points to cover. 


St. Louis Rams (-4.5) over Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals underwent a serious face lift this offseason. Gone are head coach Ken Whisenhunt and the never-ending quarterback carousel of sadness made up of Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley. In their place are coach Bruce Arians and QB Carson Palmer. 

Those improvements aside, there are still plenty of questions out in the desert. Palmer may be a small upgrade over those quarterbacks, but he still threw 14 interceptions and only won four games as the starter for the Raiders last season. 

Throw in concerns about the running game after losing first-round pick Jonathan Cooper for the season due to a broken leg, and this could be another long season for the Cardinals. 

Making this pick even safer is the fact that the Rams beat the Cardinals both games last season by 14 points, including a 17-3 win in St. Louis that ended the Cardinals' 4-0 start. 


Seattle Seahawks (-3.5) over Carolina Panthers

There's a reason that the Seattle Seahawks are considered to be the No. 2 team in the NFL, according to Matt Miller's NFL power rankings. They are loaded on both sides of the ball and coming off a season when came a few plays away from the NFC Championship Game. 

Now they enter Year 2 of the Russell Wilson era with the same ferocious defense and another year for the young quarterback to mature. 

While it's always a questionable move to take the road favorite, it's not often that one of the top teams in the NFL is giving up less than four points to a team that went 7-9 last season. 

The Panthers have a reason to be optimistic about the season. They did finish on a four-game win streak in 2012, but playing the physical Seahawks is not something to look forward to.