NFL Picks Week 1: Vegas Odds Not Worth the Gamble from Opening Slate

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 3, 2014

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning reacts during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the New England Patriots, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
John Minchillo/Associated Press

Foolish bettors throw money into the fire pit that is Week 1 of the NFL season.

As one can probably guess, the cash is never seen again.

So it goes regarding the NFL's opening week, which provides bettors a wealth of information to go by but none of it from on-field results other than meaningless exhibitions.

Some spreads are sure things, but even more so than other weeks of the season, there are a few bets that even the bravest of bettors should steer clear of unless losing money is the goal.

Below, let's take a gander at the full slate and highlight the games to downright ignore regardless of how the spread moves in the coming days.

NFL Week 1 Picks Against the Spread

Matchup Spread Pick ATS Reason
Green Bay at Seattle (Thurs., Sept. 4) Seattle (-3.5) Seattle Seahawks don't lose at home, and Aaron Rodgers has to break in a new center.
New Orleans at Atlanta New Orleans (-1) New Orleans Drew Brees has more weapons than ever, and that Rob Ryan defense will be nothing short of improved.
Minnesota at St. Louis St. Louis (-3) Minnesota Mike Zimmer defense, no Sam Bradford and Adrian Peterson? Easy.
Cleveland at Pittsburgh Pittsburgh (-5) Pittsburgh More no-huddle for Ben Roethlisberger means plenty of scoring.
Jacksonville at Philadelphia Philadelphia (-11.5) Jacksonville Chip Kelly's offense is too much for a mediocre Jacksonville defense to handle.
Oakland at NY Jets NY Jets (-4.5) NY Jets A Rex Ryan defense awaits Derek Carr's debut.
Cincinnati at Baltimore Baltimore (-1) Cincinnati Andy Dalton seems to have improved, and Geno Atkins is healthy. No Ray Rice for Baltimore.
Buffalo at Chicago Chicago (-4.5) Chicago The Bills are a mess, and Marc Trestman's offense won't skip a beat.
Washington at Houston EVEN Washington Unless Ryan Fitzpatrick can out-gun RGIII, this one may get ugly.
Tennessee at Kansas City Kansas City (-5.5) Tennessee See analysis below chart.
New England at Miami New England (-1.5) New England Rob Gronkowski's return threw Miami's chances out the window.
Carolina at Tampa Bay Carolina (-3) Tampa Bay Lovie Smith will get the most out of an elite defense while a hobbled Cam Newton struggles.
San Francisco at Dallas San Francisco (-2.5) San Francisco Defense will keep Tony Romo and Co. in check.
Indianapolis at Denver Denver (-6) Denver Indianapolis has done little to improve an already leaky defense from a season ago.
NY Giants at Detroit (Mon., Sept. 8) Detroit (-3.5) NY GiantsSee analysis below chart.
San Diego at Arizona (Mon., Sept. 8) Arizona (-3) Arizona Forced to pick, home team with a great defense seems the likely bet.
ESPN, odds via Odds Shark.

Odds via Odds Shark as of 1 p.m. ET, Sept. 3.

Games to Avoid

NY Giants at Detroit

Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

Talk about a contest that could go either way in a rather wild manner.

On one hand, Detroit seems like a runaway favorite, especially at home. One year removed from throwing for 4,650 yards and 29 touchdowns, quarterback Matthew Stafford has a new tight end in first-round rookie Eric Ebron and a sure-handed wideout in Golden Tate, who only opens things up more for Calvin Johnson.

Then again, the Detroit defense is a work in progress that may give up too many points. The staff will rely on 34-year-old Rashean Mathis at corner, and his partner in crime will be Darius Slay, who, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), ranked as the No. 92 overall player at his position last year.

That Detroit offense needs time to build chemistry, too. Head coach Tom Coughlin and the Giants were no slouches when it came to upgrading their defense this past offseason, either, bringing on corners Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond—the former came in at No. 6 last season at PFF, the latter at No. 33.

Of course, the Giants offense is headed by last year's interceptions leader, Eli Manning. The line in front of him also happens to be a mess, as Rotoworld's Adam Levitan illustrates:

It's a fair point to bring up, and even Manning himself does not sound confident about the new offense in place, per Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News:

I think we're still trying to get it exactly the way we want it. It's a work in progress. It's not the final product right now. There's definitely room for improvement. And that'll be a season-long situation—which is, I think, normal. That's not a bad thing.

One can use such information to justify a bet in Detroit's favor. That's likely how the game will go given the fact Megatron exists, but Manning's propensity for a huge game, along with Victor Cruz, is always there.

In other words, expect Detroit to squeak one out at home, but don't feel comfortable putting meaningful cash on the outcome.

Prediction: Lions 27, Giants 26

Tennessee at Kansas City

One of the opening week's most boring affairs also happens to be one of the contests to avoid at all costs.

Arrowhead Stadium is a very difficult place to nab a win, but Tennessee is very much a wild card this year if quarterback Jake Locker can stay healthy.

That, of course, has always been the issue for the Titans signal-caller, who hasn't played in more than 11 games in any of the past three seasons. To his credit, though, Locker was sharp last year in seven games, completing a career-high 60.7 percent of his passes for 1,256 yards and eight touchdowns to four interceptions.

Even better, a stud wideout corps that features Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter returns although the loss of running back Chris Johnson to the New York Jets hurts.

Perhaps best of all, the underrated Tennessee defense is headed by coordinator Ray Horton, one of the NFL's absolute premier defensive minds. As Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean notes, the man has had all offseason to prepare for Andy Reid's attack:

Remember, that's an attack that will be without No. 1 wideout Dwayne Bowe and starting tackle Donald Stephenson, both due to suspensions.

But just as Horton is a defensive mastermind, so, too, is Reid on the opposite end. Even without critical pieces, quarterback Alex Smith—who has completed better than 60 percent of his passes in each of the past three seasons, with a high of 70.2 in 2012—will take care of the football and ride star back Jamaal Charles.

Again, the home team seems the safe bet if one absolutely has to make a call. Charles is the best player on the field and can will the team to a victory, but there is enough evidence in either direction to encourage bettors to search elsewhere for profitable investments. 

Prediction: Chiefs 17, Titans 14

Note: Stats courtesy of

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