NFL Predictions Week 1: Picks and Projections for Top Upsets on the Schedule

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2018

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 24:  Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants warms up with Sterling Shepard #87 of the New York Giants before their preseason game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on August 24, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Week 1 of the NFL season isn't just the best time of year for football fans—it is even better for those bettors who seek out the high-upside potential of upset picks. 

The proof happens every year. Rewind to last year, when the season started with the Kansas City Chiefs taking down the New England Patriots in the opener.

In the following Week 1 chaos, Cleveland almost took down Pittsburgh, Jacksonville thumped Houston and Minnesota blew past New Orleans, to name a few of the results. 

This year? The schedule offers some interesting angles for those on the hunt for upsets. It's easier to poke holes in the lines crafted by oddsmakers when everyone starts on the same playing field to begin the season. 

After a look at the full slate, let's point out a few upset candidates worth monitoring as the week progresses. 

        

Week 1 NFL Odds

Atlanta at Philadelphia (-3) | O/U 45.5

Buffalo at Baltimore (-7) | O/U 40.5

Cincinnati at Indianapolis (-3) | O/U 46.5

Houston at New England (-6) | O/U 50.5

Jacksonville (-3) at N.Y. Giants | O/U 43.5

Pittsburgh (-6) at Cleveland | O/U 45.5

San Francisco at Minnesota (-6) | O/U 46

Tampa Bay at New Orleans (-9.5) | O/U 49.5

Tennessee (-1) at Miami | O/U 45

Kansas City at L.A. Chargers (-3) | O/U 47.5

Dallas at Carolina (-3) | O/U 42.5

Seattle at Denver (-3) | O/U 42

Washington at Arizona (E) | O/U 44

Chicago at Green Bay (-7.5) | O/U 47.5

N.Y. Jets at Detroit (-7) | O/U 44.5

L.A. Rams (-5) at Oakland | O/U 49.5

        

Cincinnati at Indianapolis (-3) 

Gary Landers/Associated Press

Talk about a volatile pairing. 

The visiting Cincinnati Bengals consistently have what is considered one of the most talented rosters in football yet fail to meet expectations, and again they have people sleeping on them after retaining head coach Marvin Lewis for a 16th season. 

Then there are the Indianapolis Colts, a team mired in a rebuild and banking it all on Andrew Luck, a quarterback who hasn't played a game of football since 2016. 

While Luck has the upside of being one of the league's best passers and has sounded healthy while throwing most of training camp, he's already been dealing with a slight foot issue: 

Yet another issue, however minor, isn't the only reason to duck the Colts in this one. Luck will have some obvious game rust as well, as training camp and preseason timing isn't nearly the same as being under fire. 

And these Bengals put quarterbacks under fire. 

The Bengals got 7.5 sacks from Carlos Dunlap, nine from Geno Atkins and another 8.5 from Carl Lawson a season ago and only improved the unit by getting nose tackle Andrew Billings healthy and adding rookie Sam Hubbard to the rotation.

Keep in mind, too, that the defense boasts a top-10 corner in William Jackson, who should shadow T.Y. Hilton all over the field. 

This doesn't even mention the offense, which has the usual big names like A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert. But it merely has to be competent to win this one, as the assured pressure on a rusty Luck should have an upset brewing here. 

Prediction: Bengals 24, Colts 20

       

Jacksonville (-3) at N.Y. Giants

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Don't count out the New York Giants just yet. 

The visiting Jacksonville Jaguars are a hot-ticket item thanks to an elite defense led by the vocal Jalen Ramsey, which climbed right to the top of the AFC last year before falling to the New England Patriots. 

While all those points and a few others justify a road favorite, it undersells the Giants. 

Not helping the outlook for the Giants was the benching of the now 37 years old Eli Manning a year ago. But it's not like the roster was properly constructed around him or helpful in the process. 

Which changes this year. 

Odell Beckham Jr. only played in four games a year ago, but he's still the same player who hit the 1,300-yard mark at a minimum over the course of his first three seasons while scoring double-digit touchdowns.

Full health for Beckham means a better-spaced field for weapons like Evan Engram, not to mention No. 2 pick Saquon Barkley: 

This offense will operate behind a new-look line featuring Nate Solder at left tackle and Will Hernandez at guard, with the former a big purchase and the latter one of the best outright at his position in the draft. 

Given losses like Allen Robinson and with the team still rolling with Blake Bortles under center, it's hard to get behind the idea the Jaguars can keep pace on the road to start the season.

Their game is keeping it low scoring and winning gritty most of the time, but that's a tough ask to start the season while in a hostile environment. 

Prediction: Giants 20, Jaguars 17

         

Chicago at Green Bay (-7.5) 

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 25:  Mitchell Trubisky #10 of the Chicago Bears participates in warm-ups before a preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Soldier Field on August 25, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Bettors who want to risk it all on the hopes of playing with profits the rest of the season need look no further. 

The question with the Green Bay Packers isn't about Aaron Rodgers as much as it is his supporting cast. The offense added Jimmy Graham, who quietly had a superb year in Seattle a season ago, but overall the roster lost guys like Damarious Randall, Jordy Nelson and Morgan Burnett before using their first two picks in the top 50 on cornerbacks. 

Meanwhile, the Bears outright won the offseason. 

Mitchell Trubisky showed promise last year as a rookie when finally given the chance, but his top receivers were Kendall Wright and Joshua Bellamy and his offensive line otherwise faced a serious injury bug. 

This year? Trubisky will pepper Allen Robinson, second-round pick Anthony Miller and deep threat Taylor Gabriel with targets while leaning on a defense featuring breakout pass-rushing star Leonard Floyd, one of the best defensive linemen in all of football in Akiem Hicks and a guy by the name of Khalil Mack.

It all adds up to a nightmare scenario for Rodgers. He's mostly handled the Bears when healthy because the defense had a few chips but was never complete, and Chicago simply couldn't field an offense capable of keeping up. 

On paper, this has all changed. There will be some offseason rust for both parties, but the Bears clearly have constructed a roster meant to take down the Packers, and the spread here feels too big and reliant on last year's results, not an actual projection for this season.

Bettors looking for a deal will want to jump before oddsmakers possibly adjust.

Prediction: Bears 27, Packers 23

        

Odds according to OddsShark   

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