After Thursday night footballs repeat of SuperBowl 50 the rest of the NFL contenders come roaring back to action today with the opening weekend of the season. The next 5 months promise to be as action packed and unpredictable as ever and I can’t wait!
This unpredictability though is at its height in week 1 which makes picking games a minefield. Teams have new players, new coaches and new schemes which can often dramatically change their performance from one season to another. The 4 preseason games each team plays often do little to make things clearer. Coaches are often reluctant to show off their schemes and even risk their star players. Looking at the last 10 years of games the 18 teams who had perfect preseason record went on to post a win-loss total of 130-158!
With that in mind I always best to start out the season with smaller stakes and safer handicaps until teams have shown their hand a little bit. With this in mind here is where I see the value this weekend.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Win @ 1/1 vs Atlanta Falcons (1800 KO)
While it’s hard to see anybody beating Carolina in the NFC South division of the Panthers where to falter these would be the teams that could potentially pip them. The Panthers defeat on Thursday night just makes what was already a massive divisional clash all the more important.
The Falcons got off to a flier last season winning 6 of their opening 7 games leading to many believing they were playoff bound. They then proceeded to lose 6 games on the trot including both games against the Bucs as those chances went up in flames. I feel like this Atalanta team might regress a bit this season. For me Matt Ryan is an overrated QB and not a very good fit for this offence. His star man Julio Jones has been bothered by an ankle injury all week and may not be 100%. The defence has Desmond Trufant but not a hell of a lot else!
There was much to like with the play of Bucs QB Jameis Winston last season and I like him to move it up a level this season. He is capable of making plays on his own but has the security of great wideouts in Evans and Jackson and a strong running game and all backed by a solid defence. I see these as two team moving in opposite directions this season and I’m happier to take the one I feel is on the way up to win this outright. If you like to security of the handicap the line has moved for Tampa getting 3 points down to 2.5 at time of writing.
Houston Texans (-4.5 Handicap) @ 10/11 vs I Chicago Bears (1800 KO)
Brock Osweiler will get his first start since moving for the Broncos on the off-season . It’s hard to see this Bears defence putting him any undue pressure while Lamar Miller has the potential to be a dynamic new piece of the offence. With the strength of this J.J. Watt led defence this could easily turn into a blowout.
New Yorks Giants Win @ 1/1 vs Dallas Cowboys (2125 KO)
The Cowboys would have been handicap favourites here before Tony Romo succumbed to yet another injury. Rookie Dak Prescott has now been elevated to starter and while he’s looked flawless in preseason this will be the real deal. Ultimately Eli Manning and his receiving Corp should be able to take advantage of a weak Dallas secondary and win this matchup outright.
These three will add up to a better than 6/1 accumulator while my preferred double would be combo of Tampa and Houston.
Best of luck