Bleacher Report's Expert Week 1 NFL Picks
Welcome back to the NFL season, a great time for everyone who loves the sport and everything that comes with it. Within the United States this year, bettors in over two dozen states will be able to place wagers on the action for added fun.
Regardless of your experience on the spectrum between a savvy risk-taker and someone who wants to make a few extra bucks, we have a team of experts who can lead you to the money.
This year, Bleacher Report has a panel of seven, which includes NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Brent Sobleski, Kris Knox and Maurice Moton along with editors Ian Kenyon and Wes O'Donnell as well as B/R Betting host of Winners Only Wednesdays, Greg Ivory.
They'll all make picks against the spread, and the majority selection becomes the consensus choice for the group. Every week, we'll provide the overall standings for the crew to help you keep track of who's on top of their game.
Without further ado, let's jump into Week 1 and start the 2022 season off on the right foot.
Lines are from DraftKings as of Wednesday, Sept. 7, at 4 p.m. ET. Check DraftKings for the latest odds info. Information on public betting trends is courtesy of the Action Network. ATS records are provided by Team Rankings.
Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Rams
Editor's Note: The Buffalo Bills defeated the Los Angeles Rams 31-10 in the Week 1 season opener on Thursday night.
DraftKings Line: Buffalo -2
In the NFL season opener, the reigning Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams will go against the Buffalo Bills, who have the best odds at +550 to win the title this year, per DraftKings. The Bills have the buzz, which likely explains why they're slightly favored on the road Thursday.
Our consensus narrowly went with the Bills, but Kenyon isn't ready to pick them over the Rams.
"This game and line is a total toss-up, and my pick would be the Bills if it were being played on a neutral field. But with the Bills traveling three time zones to play a Thursday night game? Buffalo is my pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, but give me the Rams at home in Week 1."
This year, Bills wide receiver Gabe Davis could take a big leap in an expanded role after his big-time playoff performance in the AFC divisional round against the Kansas City Chiefs, hauling in eight passes for 201 yards and four touchdowns. On the opposing sideline, the Rams signed wideout Allen Robinson II, who has recorded 1,147-plus receiving yards in two of his past three campaigns.
Prepare for a season-opening thriller.
Consensus: Buffalo -2
Score Prediction: Bills 35, Rams 31
Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets
DK Line: Baltimore -7
We couldn't find one panelist who had the guts to pick the New York Jets.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Joe Flacco will start against his former team, the Baltimore Ravens, on Sunday.
Flacco didn't look sharp in limited preseason action. He completed seven out of 12 pass attempts for 76 yards and an interception in his lone exhibition outing.
Moton thinks Gang Green's quarterback situation is its Achilles' heel going into Week 1.
"The Jets have some intriguing playmakers with rookie first-round wideout Garrett Wilson, second-year wide receiver Elijah Moore and a couple of young running backs in Michael Carter and rookie second-rounder Breece Hall, but they don't have a quarterback to get their offensive engine running this Sunday.
"Wilson is out, and Flacco isn't going to cut it at his age. The Jets defense would have to completely stifle the Ravens offense, which is a tough task with Lamar Jackson healthy."
Despite all the contract talk around Jackson, head coach John Harbaugh says the quarterback is "locked in" for the upcoming season.
Our staff gave a couple of votes to Jackson for Comeback Player of the Year, so it's no surprise that everyone went with the Ravens over the Jets.
Consensus: Baltimore -7
Score Prediction: Ravens 28, Jets 17
San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears
DK Line: San Francisco -7
This contest looks like a mismatch between a playoff-caliber team and a squad that hit the reset button after last season. However, both clubs will have a second-year quarterback under center, which may level the playing field.
The Chicago Bears' young quarterback, Justin Fields, has more starts under his belt (10) than San Francisco 49ers signal-caller Trey Lance (two). Knox dug a little deeper and highlighted the Bears' coaching staff as part of the reason to take the points in favor of the home underdog.
"I have little doubt that San Francisco will come away with the win in this one. The 49ers were within a few plays of reaching the Super Bowl in the last campaign, while Chicago is very much in the early stages of rebuilding. That said, this is a matchup Chicago led going into the fourth quarter last year, and I very much believe the Bears will have better game management under Matt Eberflus than they had under Matt Nagy.
"This will be Trey Lance's first start as 'the guy,' and it's on the road against a coach and defensive coordinator (Alan Williams) who continually found answers for Kyle Shanahan's offense (six points over the final three quarters) as the Colts' defensive backs/safeties coach last season. I'm not calling for an upset, but it's a big spread, and I think it will be closer than people expect."
If you feel confident in Lance’s ability to make early strides, a seven-point line probably isn’t going to scare you with perhaps one of the league's worst teams on the opposing sideline.
Consensus: San Francisco -7
Score Prediction: 49ers 27, Bears 16
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
DK Line: Indianapolis -7
Let's take a trip down memory lane.
Two years ago, as eight-point favorites, the Indianapolis Colts lost their season-opening road game to the Jacksonville Jaguars (27-20), who didn’t win another game in that campaign. As they do now with 37-year-old Matt Ryan, the 2020 Colts had an aging quarterback at the end of his career in Philip Rivers.
Yes, the Colts' shocking loss happened two years ago, but Indianapolis hasn't won a Week 1 game since 2013. Anyone who laid the points on this squad should be nervous about that wager.
Ivory chose to take the points with the thought that the Texans offense can move the ball on the ground and through the air.
"Home underdog in a division matchup Week 1, give me the points. Davis Mills is coming back with a year under his belt along with a run game that could feature rookie running back Dameon Pierce. I don't think this Texans team will be as bad as people may think. Look for the Mills-to-Cooks connection this game and throughout the season. Also, Matt Ryan has to prove to me he's worth laying (-7) on him before I bet that this season."
We do have good news for anyone who picked the Colts against the spread. Last season, they blew out the Texans in both outings with a combined score of 62-3.
Consensus: Houston +7
Score Prediction: Colts 26, Texans 20
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
DK Line: Cincinnati -6.5
Our panel went against the public with this matchup. Per Action Network, 67 percent of the bettors on this game have placed their money on the Cincinnati Bengals compared to 33 percent for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Our B/R crew gave the consensus nod to Pittsburgh by a narrow margin, and Ivory has a reasonable explanation.
"Super Bowl hangovers are a thing, and the fact that this line hasn't budged one bit has me thinking about going against the favorite here. (Super Bowl losers are 4-7 ATS Week 1 in the past 11 years.) Bengals like to throw the ball, and the Steelers' strength is their defense–it just makes sense this game is a close one."
A Mitch Trubisky-led offense isn’t going to excite you after his flameout with the Chicago Bears and one-year backup stint with the Buffalo Bills, but he's capable of moving the ball with Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, rookie second-rounder George Pickens, Pat Freiermuth and Najee Harris in the huddle.
If the Steelers have a decent offensive outing, which seems likely, they should at least cover a 6.5-point spread in a division matchup.
Nonetheless, Davenport, Knox and Sobleski would probably point out that the Bengals have beaten the Steelers in their past three meetings by at least 10 points—just something to think about before you place a wager on this contest.
Consensus: Pittsburgh +6.5
Score Prediction: Bengals 28, Steelers 23
Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions
DK Line: Philadelphia -4
Fresh off a series of Hard Knocks, the Detroit Lions host the Philadelphia Eagles, who finished the 2021 campaign on a hot streak, winning six of their last eight regular-season games.
Most of our panelists think the Eagles will pick up where they left off before their Wild Card Weekend loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Keep in mind that Philadelphia made a few splashy offseason moves, acquiring Pro Bowl wideout A.J. Brown, trading for arguably the league's best nickelback in C.J. Gardner-Johnson, signing edge-rusher Haason Reddick, who's logged 23.5 sacks over the past two seasons, and adding cornerback James Bradberry to shore up the secondary.
Despite all the buzz around the Eagles, Sobleski believes the Lions can play them close at home.
"This pick has nothing to do with the Hard Knocks effect. Some of us don't even watch the show. However, many saw how the team played for Dan Campbell last season. The Lions were competitive every game and never gave up despite obvious roster deficiencies. Detroit will be a tough hard-nosed team.
"The squad is strong in the trenches since it features one of the league's best offensive lines and a defensive front that now includes Aidan Hutchinson. The passing game should be improved as well with the addition of DJ Chark, plus Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds going into their second years with the squad. This isn't to say Detroit is going to win outright. The Philadelphia Eagles should be considered the favorites to win the NFC East, but the Lions are definitely improved enough to keep this contest close."
Sobleski and Kenyon may be on to something with their picks. As a home underdog, Detroit went 6-2 against the spread in 2021. Perhaps oddsmakers need to put a little more respect on the Lions this year.
Consensus: Philadelphia -4
Score Prediction: Eagles 30, Lions 24
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
DK Line: New Orleans -5.5
Going back to Week 13 of the 2019 season, the New Orleans Saints have had the upper hand in their division rivalry with the Atlanta Falcons. They've won four of the past five meetings, including winning three of them by eight points or more.
The Falcons have a new starting quarterback in Marcus Mariota, who went No. 2 overall in the 2015 draft behind Saints signal-caller Jameis Winston. They're both trying to extend their respective careers in a starting role, but Moton thinks the latter has a far better pass-catching group.
"Winston could have Michael Thomas, who's expected to play Sunday, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport via the Pat McAfee Show. The two-time All-Pro would join five-time Pro Bowler Jarvis Landry and rookie first-rounder Chris Olave to form a strong receiver unit. Of course, running back Alvin Kamara will continue to contribute on the ground and as a pass-catcher out of the backfield.
"Meanwhile, Mariota will likely feed tight end Kyle Pitts, who led the Falcons in receptions (68) and receiving yards (1,026) last season, but the team isn't completely sure about rookie first-round wideout Drake London's status. They need him at or near 100 percent to compete with the Saints' new-look offense."
London suffered a knee injury in the team’s first preseason game on August 12 and missed practices up until Monday. Head coach Arthur Smith said the wideout is "progressing." Even if London suits up, don't expect much from him after a little more than three weeks on the sideline.
With former defensive coordinator and now head coach Dennis Allen making the executive calls on game day, the Saints' fourth-ranked scoring defense from the previous campaign should fare well against the Falcons.
Offensively and defensively, New Orleans has a clear edge.
Consensus: New Orleans -5.5
Score Prediction: Saints 30, Falcons 21
Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers
DK Line: Carolina -1.5
Motivated in a revenge game against his former team, Baker Mayfield could have one of his best performances with wideouts DJ Moore and Robbie Anderson on the perimeter and running back Christian McCaffrey in the backfield.
Furthermore, the Cleveland Browns will start Jacoby Brissett in place of Deshaun Watson, who is serving an 11-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy.
On top of that, Cleveland will likely have to lean heavily on running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt with only one established wideout in Amari Cooper.
Yet Knox believes Cleveland can win this contest in the trenches.
"Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said that knowledge can be 'overrated,' but the Browns know that Baker Mayfield doesn't perform well when pressured. I'm high on rookie tackle Ikem Ekwonu, but getting his first career start against Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney is tough. Aside from the NC State product, I don't think Carolina's line is substantially better than the unit that surrendered 52 sacks last season.
"I'd expect both quarterbacks to have a tough go of it in this one, and I like Cleveland's RB rotation more than McCaffrey in a sloppy, physical, gritty game. The Browns pull off the upset and buck their horrendous trend of losing season openers as an expansion team.”
Our crew gave Carolina the consensus nod, though this game could go either way.
Consensus: Carolina -1.5
Score Prediction: Panthers 23, Browns 20
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
DK Line: Miami -3.5
The New England Patriots lost their first two road games against the Miami Dolphins (both by at least nine points) following quarterback Tom Brady's departure to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Even more worrisome for the Patriots is the fact that they've turned over the offensive play-calling to former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and quarterbacks coach Joe Judge—with head coach Bill Belichick as the overseer—and the offense struggled mightily thus far.
In two preseason games, second-year quarterback Mac Jones completed 13 out of 21 passes for 132 yards and an interception. Moreover, he didn't play well against the Las Vegas Raiders' backups in his final exhibition game.
Meanwhile, under a new coaching staff, Tua Tagovailoa had a solid showing through the exhibition period, completing 12 out of 15 pass attempts for 179 yards and a touchdown. He'll benefit from the Dolphins' speed and explosiveness at the wide receiver position with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle on the perimeter.
This offseason, the Patriots let their top cornerback, J.C. Jackson, walk in free agency, and they released boundary cornerback Malcolm Butler with an injury settlement.
New England isn't built to keep pace with Miami. The entire B/R panel believes the Patriots will lose their third consecutive road game to the Dolphins.
Consensus: Miami -3.5
Score Prediction: Dolphins 24, Patriots 16
Jacksonville Jaguars at Washington Commanders
DK Line: Washington -2.5
The Jacksonville Jaguars fired head coach Urban Meyer after one messy season, and Doug Pederson can provide a breath of fresh air to their locker room.
Ironically, Pederson helped develop Carson Wentz, who is now the Washington Commanders' starting quarterback. With the new head-coaching hire, the Jaguars should see significant growth in Trevor Lawrence over the course of the 2022 term, which is, in part, why four of our experts took Jacksonville.
However, Kenyon doesn’t think the Jaguars will flip the switch right away, and he has higher expectations for Washington after its upgrade from Taylor Heinicke to Wentz at quarterback.
"It would be quite the statement for new Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson to come in and earn a road win in his first game, but that's unlikely to happen facing an improved Commanders team in Week 1. Carson Wentz may not be a top-12 QB, but he's certainly an improvement over what Washington has been putting out there in recent years. This game should not be a blowout, but I would expect the Commanders to cover at home against last year's worst team in the NFL.”
The Jaguars turned over its coaching staff, though we must note that they covered the fewest spreads (25 percent) as a road team last year.
Consensus: Jacksonville +2.5
Score Prediction: Jaguars 24, Commanders 21
New York Giants at Tennessee Titans
DK Line: Tennessee -5.5
Daniel Jones probably has one more shot to prove he’s the New York Giants' franchise quarterback. Fortunately for him, Big Blue hired one of the league's best coordinators in Brian Daboll, who had a hand in Josh Allen's rise.
Though offensive coordinator Mike Kafka will call the plays, Daboll will likely provide input on the offensive side of the ball, which gives this Giants club a chance to shock a lot of teams in 2022.
O'Donnell sounds skeptical of the spread, which encouraged him to break away from our group's consensus.
"The fact that the Titans aren't favored by more points in this game is very interesting. The Giants haven't won a season opener since the 2016 season. That's a real stat, but a hardly remarkable one for anyone who has watched Big Blue bumble, stumble and fumble their way to double-digit losses in four of the last five seasons since that Week 1 win.
"It's unreasonable to expect an outright Giants victory, but there is reason to believe they could overperform in Brian Daboll's head-coaching debut enough to cover the spread against a Tennessee team that oddsmakers clearly aren't super confident in right now."
Perhaps O'Donnell has a point, and oddsmakers should be bearish on the Titans. In 2021, Tennessee went 3-4 as a home favorite. But most of our experts expect a healthy Derrick Henry to run all over a Giants defense that ranked 25th against the run last season.
Consensus: Tennessee -5.5
Score Prediction: Titans 27, Giants 19
Kansas City Chiefs at Arizona Cardinals
DK Line: Kansas City -6
According to Action Network, this spread opened with the Kansas City Chiefs as a three-point favorite. Bettors went heavy on the road team, and the line has widened, which pushed Davenport into the underdog's corner.
"To be clear, this pick is neither an endorsement of the Cardinals nor an indictment of the Chiefs. The Cardinals may well turn into a pumpkin after Halloween again, and maybe the Chiefs are about to pull a Mark Twain—reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.
"But over the first seven games of the past two seasons, the Cardinals are 12-2. They won the season opener both years on the road. And while the Chiefs may not be as vulnerable as some have made them out to be, there are legitimate questions surrounding the team. Even if you don't think Arizona will win outright, six points at home is a lot for a team with its early season track record of late."
With that said, the majority of our crew didn't budge on the Chiefs. In recent years, the Cardinals have started hot, but they're going into Week 1 without three-time All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins, who's serving a six-week suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.
Wideout Marquise Brown played with quarterback Kyler Murray at Oklahoma in 2018, but he's not a comparable talent to Hopkins.
Patrick Mahomes doesn't have Tyreek Hill anymore, though tight end Travis Kelce along with wideouts JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mecole Hardman and Skyy Moore may be a handful to defend in the passing game.
Consensus: Kansas City -6
Score Prediction: Chiefs 34, Cardinals 27
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
DK Line: Green Bay -1.5
Bettors break a sweat when they see tight spreads between division rivals in a matchup that comes with multiple variables.
For starters, the Minnesota Vikings have a new coaching staff led by Kevin O'Connell, who may push the tempo offensively. They'll face a Green Bay Packers team that must adjust without two-time All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams, whom the club traded to the Las Vegas Raiders in March.
We have no idea how either club's offense will perform in the first week after significant changes, but O'Donnell is one of the few with a clear vision for both squads.
"The Vikings held serve at home against the Packers a season ago, and the question marks around Aaron Rodgers' supporting cast are too great for my liking, even for the two-time reigning MVP. I see these two teams heading in opposite directions in 2022, so much so, in fact, that Minnesota is my pick to win the NFC North. The Vikes will get off the mark in the first-ever game of the Kevin O'Connell era thanks to an offense that will be better than the Packers."
Contrary to O'Donnell's thoughts, the overall group thinks the Packers will fare well without Adams on the road against their rivals. Rodgers doesn’t have an elite perimeter playmaker, but head coach Matt LaFleur could transform his offense into a ground-heavy attack, which doesn’t bode well for a Vikings defense that ranked 26th against the run in 2021. He called running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon 1A and 1A in the backfield.
Sure, Za'Darius Smith can rush the passer, but the Vikings may need more than the addition of nose tackle Harrison Phillips to stop Jones and Dillon.
Consensus: Green Bay -1.5
Score Prediction: Packers 26, Vikings 23
Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers
DK Line: Los Angeles -3.5
Our crew certainly factored in injury news when they came to a consensus on the Las Vegas Raiders for this contest.
According to NFL Network's Taylor Bisciotti, Los Angeles Chargers cornerback J.C. Jackson isn't expected to play in Sunday’s game against the Raiders. He hasn't practiced since undergoing ankle surgery. Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller should be licking their chops going into this contest.
Yet Davenport makes a strong case that the Chargers can overcome a big-time loss on the back end of their defense.
"Little surprised to see this is a contrarian opinion shared only by me and the voices in my head, but that's cool—they said I'm right. In our most recent power rankings here at B/R, the Chargers were the highest-rated team in the AFC West. They were also the consensus pick to win the division. Now, maybe that hype isn't justified. But if you believe it is, laying 3.5 at home isn't that tall a hill to climb.
"Yes, the Bolts will be short cornerback J.C. Jackson. But the Raiders' offensive line is a massive question mark heading into Khalil Mack's first game opposite Joey Bosa. That new-look Chargers pass rush is going to wreak havoc. Los Angeles is going to avenge the Week 18 loss that kept it out of the playoffs last year with a double-digit win, and by Monday, Josh McDaniels will have pulled the radio out of his SUV.”
If Derek Carr's offensive line gives him just enough time in the pocket, his pass-catchers could feast on the Chargers secondary, but as Davenport points out, Mack and Bosa could wreck this game at the line of scrimmage.
Also, don't forget Justin Herbert threw to two wideouts in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, who recorded 1,138-plus receiving yards last season. They’ll test new Raiders cornerback Rock Ya-Sin and second-year cover man Nate Hobbs.
Consensus: Las Vegas +3.5
Score Prediction: Chargers 35, Raiders 34
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys
DK Line: Tampa Bay -2.5
We saw this matchup for the 2021 season opener, and the two teams battled down to the final seconds in a 31-29 thriller. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won that game, but they didn’t cover an 8.5-point spread at home. This year, oddsmakers closed the gap between the two clubs, giving the Buccaneers a field goal on the road.
After a brief retirement, Tom Brady is back under center with wideouts Mike Evans, Chris Godwin (if healthy), Julio Jones and Russell Gage on the perimeter. Under new head coach Todd Bowles, who replaces Bruce Arians, the Buccaneers offense should continue to put up points. Remember, Brady still has continuity with offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich.
Four of our seven experts picked the Buccaneers, so they're the consensus pick, but Sobleski provided a compelling case to go in the other direction.
"Realistically, the Buccaneers should be a much better team by the end of the season than at the beginning. Chris Godwin's status for their Week 1 contest remains in question. The offensive line will start a rookie at left guard in Luke Goedeke after being forced to revamp the entire interior. Akiem Hicks and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka are taking over for Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul, respectively. And Tampa Bay's special teams are suspect as well.
"Dallas can take advantage of the Buccaneers' transitory phase by exploiting those potential areas of concern, particularly with stunts and movement along its defensive line to create interior pressure on Tom Brady. Micah Parsons could have a field day just by moving all over the defense and exploiting Tampa Bay's interior weaknesses."
In addition to Sobleski’s points, the Buccaneers went 3-6 against the spread as a road favorite last year.
Consensus: Tampa Bay -2.5
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 32, Cowboys 28
Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks
DK Line: Denver -6.5
This week, the Denver Broncos have garnered the highest percentage of bets (89 percent), per Action Network. They're probably a popular pick in survivor pools as well.
In his first game since the Seattle Seahawks traded him to the Broncos, Wilson goes back to his old stomping grounds to face his former team in the Monday Night Football spotlight. He's not selling T-shirts like Baker Mayfield, but this game probably means a lot to him at the start of a new career chapter.
Wilson will head back to Seattle with a strong supporting cast that includes wideouts Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, plus two running backs who can catch out of the backfield in Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon III.
Quarterback Geno Smith has high-quality playmakers with wideouts DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett on the perimeter, but he's started in just five games since his 2015 term with the New York Jets.
In 2021, Smith filled in for Wilson, who underwent surgery on his finger, and didn't throw for more than 209 yards in any of those games. Though not all his fault, he had an underwhelming showing in the preseason, completing 59 percent of his passes without a touchdown throw in three exhibition outings.
With little faith in Smith to lead an upset, all of our panelists chose the Broncos with great confidence.
Consensus: Denver -6.5
Score Prediction: Broncos 38, Seahawks 17
Preseason statistics are provided by CBS Sports.
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