The 2014 NFL regular season begins on Thursday after what seemed like a never-ending offseason. We are awarded for our wait—impatient as it was—with the return of our favorite teams to the gridiron. Although, we aren't the only once excited for the return of football—oddsmakers have been hard at work determining spreads for the league's opening week.
Betting on Week 1 of the NFL season can be a rather risky endeavor. Sure, we remember how each team fared in 2013, and we received a fair glimpse of what every squad has to offer, but are we really sure about their true potential?
The best we can do at this point is take an educated guess. Vegas spreads aren't meant to make it easy on us, so let's predict each game's winner based on its current odds and highlight a few contests that should be considered locks.
|NFL Week 1 Odds and Picks|
|Green Bay Packers||+6/-6||Seattle Seahawks||Packers|
|New England Patriots||-5/+5||Miami Dolphins||Patriots|
|New Orleans Saints||-3/+3||Atlanta Falcons||Saints|
|Oakland Raiders||+5.5/-5.5||New York Jets||Jets|
|Cincinnati Bengals||+1.5/-1.5||Baltimore Ravens||Bengals|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||+10/-10||Philadelphia Eagles||Eagles|
|Buffalo Bills||+7/-7||Chicago Bears||Bears|
|Cleveland Browns||+6.5/-6.5||Pittsburgh Steelers||Steelers|
|Washington Redskins||+3/-3||Houston Texans||Redskins|
|Minnesota Vikings||+4/-4||St. Louis Rams||Vikings|
|Tennessee Titans||+4/-4||Kansas City Chiefs||Chiefs|
|Carolina Panthers||Even||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Buccaneers|
|San Francisco 49ers||-4.5/+4.5||Dallas Cowboys||49ers|
|Indianapolis Colts||+7.5/-7.5||Denver Broncos||Colts|
|New York Giants||+5/-5||Detroit Lions||Lions|
|San Diego Chargers||+3/-3||Arizona Cardinals||Chargers|
|Sean O'Donnell's Picks|
Games based on Bovada odds, courtesy of OddsShark.com, and are current as of 10 p.m. ET on Monday.
Week 1 Locks
Washington Redskins (+3) vs. Houston Texans
Neither of these teams fared well in 2013—that much is a fact. However, one of these two teams improved in a big way over the offseason, and that would be the Redskins.
Since last season, Washington has made several positive changes. The team brought in a quarterback-friendly coach in Jay Gruden who is sure to help the progression of a now-healthy Robert Griffin III, strengthened the offensive line and acquired a big-play threat in DeSean Jackson.
Not many people realize the Redskins owned the league's ninth-ranked offense last season because of its scoring struggles—the team ranked 23rd in that department. Expect these changes to result in more points on the board.
Perhaps the team's quarterback put it best, via Sports Illustrated:
While Houston certainly has a defensive front that would give opposing quarterbacks nightmares, the team is completely unsettled on the offensive side of the ball. The Texans' struggles stemmed from poor quarterback play last season, and we can expect that trend to continue given the fact the team just traded for Ryan Mallett on Sunday.
With an additional three points in their favor, expect the Redskins to put up enough points to come away with a win in Houston.
Tennessee Titans vs. Kansas City Chiefs (-4)
Last season under head coach Andy Reid, the Chiefs made an enormous turnaround, finishing with an 11-5 record and a playoff berth. Quarterback Alex Smith and running back Jamaal Charles were two big reasons for the success of the team.
Smith looked as efficient as ever, passing for a career-high 3,313 yards and 23 touchdowns against just seven interceptions. While he managed the game, Charles received the bulk of the workload, compiling 1,980 yards from scrimmage and 19 total touchdowns.
Needless to say, Reid's offensive scheme fit perfectly with both players. Don't worry about the team's lack of receivers either, according to NFL analyst Benjamin Allbright:
On the other end, Tennessee comes into the season with a quarterback who has been iffy at best when healthy and a shaky running back situation—Shonn Greene isn't exactly an explosive option and rookie Bishop Sankey hasn't earned time with the starters due to ball-security issues.
Defensively, the Titans finished the 2013 season ranked 20th against the run and gave up 108 rushing yards and a score to Charles when these two teams met last season. Tennessee lost that game at home by a score of 26-17.
There's no reason to think the Titans will do any better on the road in 2014.
Buffalo Bills vs. Chicago Bears (-7)
The Bears are expected to be contenders this season in their second year under head coach Marc Trestman and with a healthy Jay Cutler. Chicago's offense took flight last season thanks to a trio of playmakers in Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte.
Due to their efforts, Chicago's offense finished the season ranked eighth in the league and second in scoring to only Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. This team proved it could be as dynamic as any under the first-year coach. Expect more of the same this season.
So, what about defense? Well, that was a different story. The Bears couldn't stop the run in 2013, and although they were slightly better against the pass, they gave up an average of 29.9 points per game.
We should expect that to change this season thanks to a revamped defensive line featuring ends Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston and a healthy Jeremiah Ratliff in the middle. Increased pressure in the backfield will improve this defense by leaps and bounds this season.
Trestman gave a brief response in regard to Allen's expected impact this year, via Zach Zaidman of the Chicago Bears Radio Network:
That's not good for the Bills. The team is young and still attempting to get its offense, which features a developing quarterback and rookie wide receiver, up and running. While we should expect better from the Bills than their 22nd-ranked scoring offense from a season ago, the team just isn't there yet.
Buffalo does have a nice defensive front, but the loss of linebacker Kiko Alonso for at least the first six games of the season will hit hardest in Week 1 as adjustments continue to be made while attempting to stop a prolific Bears offense.
Don't hesitate to roll with Chicago here.