NFL Predictions Week 1: Odds, Picks and Projections for Opening Schedule

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2018

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees motions during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Los Angeles Chargers Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

There are few experiences more exhilarating than following your bets on the first Sunday of the National Football League season.

A bettor's fortune could change fast on Sunday afternoon, and if the right bets are made, you'll look like a geniusat least for one week.

Week 1's slate of games feature a handful of heavy favorites and four road teams with positive odds, but the real money will be made on the close lines.

Eight of the 16 contests played from Thursday to Monday feature favorites of three points or fewer, while three teams are favored by more than a touchdown.

Below is a look at the Week 1 odds and a deeper glance at a few picks that could make the first weekend of professional football a profitable one.


Week 1 Odds and Picks

Picks are in bold and made against the spread.

Thursday, Sept. 6

Atlanta at Philadelphia (-2.5)


Sunday, Sept. 9

Buffalo at Baltimore (-7)

Cincinnati at Indianapolis (-3)

Houston at New England (-6)

Jacksonville (-3) at New York Giants

Pittsburgh (-4.5) at Cleveland

San Francisco at Minnesota (-6)

Tampa Bay at New Orleans (-9.5)

Tennessee (-1) at Miami

Kansas City at Los Angeles Chargers (-3)

Dallas at Carolina (-2.5)

Seattle at Denver (-3)

Washington at Arizona (Even)

Chicago at Green Bay (-7.5)


Monday, Sept. 10

New York Jets at Detroit (-6.5)

Los Angeles Rams (-4.5) at Oakland

Odds obtained from OddsShark.


Saints Cover Largest Spread of Week 1

The Saints will face plenty of competition from their NFC South rivals in 2018, but Week 1's clash with the Buccaneers will be the exception.

The reigning NFC South champions come into Sunday as the heaviest favorite for good reason, as the Saints will be facing a depleted Buccaneers team.

Even if Jameis Winston were on the field, the team would have a hard time keeping up with the Saints, who have plenty of offensive weapons surrounding Drew Brees.

Brees will be without running back Mark Ingram because of suspension, which will put more pressure on Alvin Kamara. But even if Kamara isn't as involved in the passing game as he usually is, there are other options, specifically Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr.

CARSON, CA - AUGUST 25:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints sets to pass in the first quarter of the pre-season game against the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center on August 25, 2018 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Image
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Brees is 16-9 in his career against the Buccaneers, and with two passing yards Sunday, he will record 7,000 against an opponent for the second time, with the Falcons being the first. Tampa Bay's defensive production from a year ago doesn't inspire confidence in the underdog, either, as it had the worst passing defense in the NFL.

While a 9.5-point line could turn away some bettors, all signs point to a convincing victory.


Darnold Leads Jets to Surprising Victory in Detroit

Every once in a while, you need to throw a bold prediction up against the wall and hope it sticks. That's what we're doing here with the Jets in Week 1, as rookie quarterback Sam Darnold leads them past the Lions.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 30: Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets warms up prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles during the preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 30, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Ge
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Jets are 6.5-point underdogs, which is a good bet if you think they'll just be competitive during the first game of the Darnold era.

While this might be a stretch of a stat to rely on when betting, each of the last three games between the Jets and Lions has been decided by one score, with the Jets coming out on top in two of those.

Darnold's lack of experience may be a negative on the road, but at least there won't be much tape for Detroit to game-plan against. Todd Bowles and Co. named him the starter over veteran Josh McCown for a reason, and he'll show why at Ford Field.

Darnold doesn't have to outperform Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, but he must make smart decisions and avoid turnovers. If he is able to provide consistent play under center, he will keep the Jets close and give them a chance to win outright in the fourth quarter.


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference.


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