Since Feb. 2, there has been a void in every NFL fan's life. That void is finally about to be filled on Thursday night when the Seattle Seahawks host the Green Bay Packers.
Excitement is teeming, but the action is still days away after the final preseason games were played last Thursday. For bettors, the fun begins earlier in the week as they look to figure out which games they plan to place money on to come away with a profit.
Between the opening game, the remaining prime-time matchups and a bevy of other close contests, there are a myriad of intriguing lines from which to choose. While it's just Week 1, one of the biggest lines is already in the double digits between the Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Before the openers get started for each team, here's a look at the early lines, spreads and projections for Week 1 of the NFL season.
|Green Bay at Seattle||Seattle (-3.5)||-255 (SEA)/+205 (GB)||46||Seattle|
|New England at Miami||New England (-1.5)||-210 (NE)/+175 (MIA)||46.5||New England|
|New Orleans at Atlanta||New Orleans (-1)||+105 (NO)/-125 (ATL)||51.5||New Orleans|
|Oakland at NY Jets||NY Jets (-4.5)||-210 (NYJ)/+175 (OAK)||39.5||Oakland|
|Cincinnati at Baltimore||Baltimore (-1)||-135 (BAL)/+115 (CIN)||43||Cincinnati|
|Jacksonville at Philadelphia||Philadelphia (-11.5)||-600 (PHI)/+450 (JAC)||53||Jacksonville|
|Buffalo at Chicago||Chicago (-4.5)||-270 (CHI)/+220 (BUF)||48.5||Chicago|
|Cleveland at Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh (-5)||-220 (PIT)/+180 (CLE)||40.5||Pittsburgh|
|Washington at Houston||Even||-145 (HOU)/+125 (WAS)||45.5||Washington|
|Minnesota at St. Louis||St. Louis (-3)||-220 (STL)/+180 (MIN)||44||St. Louis|
|Tennessee at Kansas City||Kansas City (-5.5)||-250 (KC)/+200 (TEN)||43.5||Kansas City|
|San Francisco at Dallas||San Francisco (-5.5)||-180 (SF)/+150 (DAL)||50.5||San Francisco|
|Carolina at Tampa Bay||Even||-145 (CAR)/+125 (TB)||39||Carolina|
|Indianapolis at Denver||Denver (-7.5)||-315 (DEN)/+255 (IND)||55||Indianapolis|
|NY Giants at Detroit||Detroit (-5)||-185 (DET)/+155 (NYG)||47||Detroit|
|San Diego at Arizona||Arizona (-3)||-165 (ARI)/+140 (SD)||44.5||San Diego|
*All betting information courtesy of OddsShark.com.
Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks (-3.5)
The rematch from one of the most controversial games in NFL history is nearly here. But with the two teams growing in huge ways since the last matchup, the Seahawks are the clear favorite at home.
On the heels of a Super Bowl win, Seattle comes into the season with the best defense and a top-tier offense to match. Though there haven't been any meaningful games yet, Russell Wilson has looked prepared for another great year during the preseason.
NFL on ESPN provides a look at his stats during the early going:
Russell Wilson's 2014 preseason: -78.6 comp % -437 pass yards -3 TD -0 Int -3 Rush TD He's READY! pic.twitter.com/INPmBkOSV7— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) August 30, 2014
Being ready has been a necessity for Wilson throughout his career, something he spoke about with Will Brinson of CBS Sports:
Russell Wilson: “There’s only one thing I’m afraid of and that’s not being prepared.”— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) August 31, 2014
While Wilson was solid last season, the reigning Super Bowl champion hardly has anything to prove. As for the man on the other side, Aaron Rodgers will look to reclaim his place near the top of the NFL quarterbacks this year.
After playing in just nine games during the 2013 season, Rodgers made a comeback late in the year to lead the team to the playoffs. But going against a stout Seattle defense, his dominance on the field will be tested right out of the gate at CenturyLink field.
In what could prove to be an evenly-matched contest offensively for the two teams, the defense and location will be the difference. Thanks to the complete defensive corps and an intimidating environment, expect the Seahawks to create separation and cover the 3.5-point spread.
Prediction: Seahawks 24, Packers 20
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (-5)
Both teams may have struggled throughout the preseason, but the Pittsburgh Steelers come in with more confidence and experience. They also face a quarterback who has played in just 18 games over a five-year career in Brian Hoyer.
The Cleveland Browns signal-caller won the job in the offseason over rookie Johnny Manziel, for Week 1 at least. Despite the division rivalry, Hoyer notes he'll always have a special place in his heart for the Steelers, per Scott Petrak of the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram:
#Browns QB Brian Hoyer is diehard Cleveland fan, but appreciates Steelers for giving him shot in 2012 after he had been cut by Patriots.— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) August 31, 2014
#Browns Hoyer: I'll have place in heart for Pittsburgh. gave me a job when 31 other teams wouldn't. But I'm on the right side of rivalry now— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) August 31, 2014
But after going 3-0 with Cleveland last season in three starts, Hoyer will face his toughest test against rival Pittsburgh. That also means going toe-to-toe with Ben Roethlisberger, who comes into the season ready to turn his franchise around.
Despite missing the playoffs last season and a rough preseason for Roethlisberger, he remains confident about the upcoming year. He spoke about the team's struggles and facing the Browns in the opener, per Alan Robinson of the Tribune Live:
The preseason is just that. It's for kind of getting the chance to look at things, different reads. We move guys around to see where guys could best fit. It's the preseason. We've stayed healthy, and that was the most important thing.
You see some different stuff, different players (with the Browns), but still three down (linemen) and mixing some nickel stuff in. I don't want to give away everything I've seen in case they change stuff up, but nothing that is glaring right now (because they have) a new coach.
Why not remain confident with the recent string of success against the team? The Steelers swept the Browns last season and have won three straight against their rivals.
During that streak, Pittsburgh has won each contest by an average of 14.3 points and hasn't allowed the Browns to score more than 11 points since Nov. 25, 2012. Given that recent dominance over Cleveland, look for much of the same from the Black and Gold.
Prediction: Steelers 23, Browns 13
San Francisco 49ers (-2.5) at Dallas Cowboys
One of the lone home underdogs, the Dallas Cowboys have a staunch test against the San Francisco 49ers. With an explosive offense intact, both teams will look to exploit the other's defense in the season opener.
Which matchup is the biggest lock in Week 1?
As many already know, the Cowboys were a horrid defense last year. They cut DeMarcus Ware, who signed with the Denver Broncos. Dallas then lost Sean Lee for the season due to a torn ACL in OTAs, and cornerback Orlando Scandrick was suspended for four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
On the Niners defense, there are a myriad of issues as well heading into the opener. NaVorro Bowman was placed on the PUP list, missing at least seven weeks, and Aldon Smith has been suspended for the first nine games of the season.
Needless to say, both teams come in with issues on the defensive side of the ball. But with the depth for the Niners and a slightly more dynamic offense, expect the 49ers to run away with this game.
With a 2.5-point spread, expect the Niners to open up a much bigger lead against the Cowboys' porous defense. Though Big D has an offense that includes both Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray, the defense on the other side still offers more of a threat than its own.
Prediction: 49ers 35, Cowboys 27
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