NFL Predictions Week 1: Picks and Odds Advice for Opening Schedule

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 10, 2017

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 01: Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers calling plays at the line against  the Kansas City Chiefs during a NFL game at Qualcomm Stadium on January 1, 2017 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
Leon Bennett/Getty Images

Seasoned NFL bettors know to pad the bankroll a bit going into Week 1 of a new season.

Case in point: Thursday, when the Kansas City Chiefs blew past the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Congratulations go to those who decided the Chiefs were better than most realized or the Patriots really miss names like Jamie Collins more than most would have guessed.

For those who didn't pad the bankroll on the upset, the rest of the slate provides similar chances if one knows where to look. Clearly, nothing is a given in the season's opening week, so approach each of the following lines out of Las Vegas with a grain of salt and don't be afraid to go bold.

Things will even out as the season progresses, but try to get a Chiefs-taking-down-Patriots sort of bump to start the year off on the right foot.

            

NFL Week 1 Schedule, Odds

Arizona (-1.5) at Detroit | O/U 48

Atlanta (-7) at Chicago | O/U 48

Baltimore at Cincinnati (-3) | O/U 41.5

Jacksonville at Houston (-6) | O/U 39.5

N.Y. Jets at Buffalo (-9) | O/U 40

Oakland at Tennessee (-1.5) | O/U 50.5

Philadelphia (-1) at Washington | O/U 47.5

Pittsburgh (-9) at Cleveland | O/U 47

Indianapolis at L.A. Rams (-3.5) | O/U 41.5

Carolina (-6) at San Francisco | O/U 47.5

Seattle at Green Bay (-3) | O/U 51

N.Y. Giants at Dallas (-3.5) | O/U 47.5

New Orleans at Minnesota (-3.5) | O/U 48

L.A. Chargers vs. Denver (-3.5) | O/U 43

Bold denotes predicted winner against the spread and over/under pick.

          

Pittsburgh (-9) at Cleveland | O/U 47

It's rare to see a few guaranteed hitters in the opening week of an NFL season, yet here we are, with the Pittsburgh Steelers visiting the Cleveland Browns. 

Granted, Cleveland has earned plenty of praise this offseason for steering the rebuild in the right direction under the watchful eye of head coach Hue Jackson. Much-deserved praise, too, after accumulating plenty of future-leaning assets, doing the NBA-esque Brock Osweiler deal and adding talents like Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers.

But those are all long-term factors. And Garrett isn't even going to be able to get after Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday, as NFL Network's Ian Rapoport noted:

The lack of a key presence up front doesn't bode well against the coming-out-of-holdout Le'Veon Bell. Nor does it mean consistent pressure on Big Ben.

Perhaps most importantly, the Browns will trot out rookie DeShone Kizer under center. He was electric this preseason, and wideout Corey Coleman has fallen off the radar in the minds of most, but there is a big difference between looking good against vanilla defenses in exhibitions and trying to outpace Big Ben, Antonio Brown and others.

This doesn't mean points will come easy, so bank on the under to be safe.

Prediction: Steelers 24, Browns 10

          

Indianapolis at L.A. Rams (-3.5) | O/U 41.5

This isn't some bizarro world like it might seem at times—the Los Angeles Rams deserve to sit as favorites over the Indianapolis Colts.

The Colts have low-key struggled to build a competent roster around quarterback Andrew Luck, so when Luck has to miss time, it gives teams like the Rams a fighting chance.

And the Rams would have that if Luck could suit up. Signal-caller Jared Goff should at least show signs of life as a sophomore and has new offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth in front of him and new wideout Sammy Watkins to target on every down.

New head coach Sean McVay sounds ready to put Goff through the paces against the Colts.

"I think any time that you get guys in the games, that's where you get a chance to really evaluate them," McVay said during a recent press conference. "I think we've been really pleased with what we've seen in practice—the pocket movement, the ability to work through progressions."

Those Colts will trot out career backup Scott Tolzien for his fourth start. The owner of an infamous five-interception game back in 2013, Tolzien doesn't have the arm to push the ball deep down the field to T.Y. Hilton and others in the vertical-based attack.

If this becomes a run-first affair, which it should, the Rams hold the keys to a simple win thanks to running back Todd Gurley. He has a better line in front of him and a more threatening passing game, so look for him to have a big day at home.

Prediction: Rams 20, Colts 14

           

L.A. Chargers vs. Denver (-3.5) | O/U 43

Let's loop in the team that shares the same city as the Rams, because an AFC West encounter between the Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos isn't an easy one to figure out.

After all, the Chargers welcomed Denver to town a year ago and escaped with a 21-13 victory thanks to a touchdown by tight end Hunter Henry and a handful of field goals. The meeting in Denver went to the Broncos, but only in 27-19 fashion.

Even Von Miller has pointed out that the Chargers continue to improve.

"This is probably the most talented Chargers team that I've played against," Miller said, according to Stats LLC (via ESPN.com). "The defense is a whole lot better and the offense is a whole lot better. They've revamped the offensive line, two great running backs, the tight end Henry has come along and Antonio Gates has always been good."

Denver, meanwhile, has thrown everything it has behind Trevor Siemian, the guy who completed 59.5 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions a year ago. The team even welcomed back the aforementioned Osweiler for insurance purposes. 

The Broncos are a bit of an unknown offensively. Is Siemian any better than last year? What role will Jamaal Charles play?

Such questions don't surround the Chargers: Philip Rivers threw 33 scores last year, Melvin Gordon was three yards shy of a 1,000-yard campaign and rushed for 10 touchdowns and Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams are quality threats at wideout if first-round pick Mike Williams can't go, not to mention the tandem of Henry and Gates. 

In Denver, look for the Chargers to nickel-and-dime their way up and down the field while Siemian struggles.

Prediction: Chargers 23, Broncos 18

          

Stats courtesy of NFL.com. Odds via OddsShark. 

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