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Between the Lines: Week 1 Edition

Every Monday during the NFL season, I’ll be comparing game spreads to my own power ratings and giving my perspective on whether I think the betting lines are accurate or not. Paying attention to the NFL market is one the single most important aspects of successful wagering. With all the variance and volatility of pro football, placing a bet on the most advantageous side of a number is often the only difference between a winning or losing ticket. Learn to keep a close eye on line movement, and look forward to our Betting the NFL with Ryan Reynolds and Chris Farley podcast, where we break down each game and investigate these lines twice a week.

One huge narrative to watch for is Week 1 underdogs. Right now, 10 of the 16 games present underdogs at home. If that remains the case by kickoff, that would be the most home dogs in Week 1 since the 1978 season. Can the dogs get it done and cover, or are the road favorites deserving of their commanding opening spreads? Let’s get to it!

All lines are consensus numbers across the U.S. Sportsbooks as of Monday morning.

Bills at Rams (+2.5)

Many moons ago, the Rams – the returning Super Bowl champions – were naturally favored at home in their opener. Not anymore. Stafford’s elbow concerns and a Bills’ team that looks poised for a big season has moved this line in favor of Buffalo. We agree with the movement. I have this game at Bills -2, and if you like the Bills, you’re still getting the benefit of betting on the favorite under the number 3, which is a key number. If you like the Bills, I’d take it now; there’s a chance that number moves up by kickoff. If you like the Rams, I’d wait.

Ravens at Jets (+7)

This number is big for a Week 1 line, but I think it’s right. The Ravens were decimated by injuries last year, and it’s a prove-it season for Lamar. I expect Baltimore to come out buttoned up and aggressive. The Jets are starting the aging Joe Flacco at quarterback, and I don’t see one matchup where they have an exceptional advantage. Baltimore’s a deserving big road favorite.

Eagles at Lions (+4)

This game is really tough. There’s a lot of hype on both of these teams, and yet, the Eagles are favored on the road by more than a field goal. I have this set at Eagles -3. All of these lines are mere perception – remember that – and at this point it’s hard to have a bullish take on either team. We’ll see if one of these franchises shines Week 1; right now, it’s just potential.

Colts at Texans (+8) 

This is one of the more surprising lines of NFL Week 1, in my opinion. I have the Texans as 5.5-point dogs at home, giving me one of the bigger power rating disparities of Sunday. I probably have the Texans rated higher than the sportsbooks. Much of that has to do with a defense that I think will play more tenaciously than people think, and Davis Mills is not a bad quarterback. He can keep this close. The jury is still out on Matt Ryan playing for Indianapolis, too. We’re all just assuming the Colts will be firing on all cylinders right out of the gate? I’m not so certain.

49ers at Bears (+7)

I could argue this line being higher, which is kind of scary. One of the most talented rosters, with a stable head coach, take on one of the most talent-poor rosters with a new head coach at home. I don’t have a line on this game that I’m confident enough to tout here, but let me ask you this: should the Ravens and 49ers be equally favored in their respective matchups this Sunday? Or is one team subject to a higher chance of not covering? It’s a good comparison that may help you weigh if it’s worth making a wager here. The Ravens and 49ers both check out as pretty solid teaser legs and survivor picks, however.

Steelers at Bengals (-6.5)

I have this as Bengals -3.5, which is a pretty significant disparity. I know Cincinnati is coming off a Super Bowl appearance but a lot of things bounced their way last season. Joe Burrow is the real deal but this is an AFC North rivalry and the Steelers are typically very good as underdogs. With a defense that can win games (we’ve seen that plenty before) by themselves and plenty of talent on offense, Pittsburgh doesn’t deserve to be near-touchdown dogs in their opener.

Saints at Falcons (+5.5)

I have this game pretty close to where the number lies. The Saints are 4.5-point favorites according to my power ratings, but that’s only because I’m giving Atlanta a modicum of credit for simply being at home. I’m not sure it’ll matter that much. The Falcons are thin in nearly every position group and the Saints could have one of the best defenses in football. Still, it’s a divisional game. I have no strong take on the line here.

Browns at Panthers (-2.5)

The Baker Mayfield revenge game… except I don’t think Baker will make much of a difference for Carolina. I’m a well-known Baker hater, so excuse my bias here, but the Browns are still a significantly more talented outfit than the Panthers. I have this as Browns -1.

Patriots at Dolphins (-3)

Tua is somehow 3-0 against Bill Belichick, and the Patriots famously flounder when they travel to Miami. Instant winner for the Dolphins, right? Eh. I have this game as a pick-em. Belichick is really tough to plan against at the start of a season and Miami probably still has some kinks to work out behind their new head coach Mike McDaniel. I think sportsbooks are ignoring some key intangibles in this contest.

Jaguars at Commanders (-3)

This is a really tough game to handicap, too. Certainly Jacksonville will be better, right? Then again, Carson Wentz – who played under Doug Pederson – is now the Commanders’ starting quarterback. Is he seeking revenge? Is Pederson? Washington as 3-point favorites at home is right, and you could argue it could be slightly more points against a Jaguars team that hasn’t shown us anything with this roster. Still, something tells me the Commanders will be as clumsy as any squad this season. No real take on the line for me.

Giants at Titans (-5.5)

The era without AJ Brown begins in Tennessee, and I think that could make a big difference. Still, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel always has his guys playing hard and overachieving, and the Giants are one of those teams – take it from a fan – that are incredibly hard to trust. New York was also one of the worst teams against the spread last season. No significant thoughts on the line in this contest; I think it’s about right. 

Chiefs at Cardinals (+4.5)

Wait a second – the Cardinals started off their 2021 season winning seven straight games! And now they’re 4.5-point underdogs at home in Week 1. I’ll put it this way: I have this as Chiefs -3, it’s still Mahomes and Andy Reid, but no result would surprise me in this one. Arizona could overachieve, and so could Kansas City. Line value still has to favor the home dog. Watch the line movement on this game all week; I think it could be all over the place.

Raiders at Chargers (-4)

The Los Angeles Chargers take on their divisional rival in Week 1, and both teams have exciting new toys to display in this showdown. I have this as Chargers -3.5, showing some tiny inherent value on the Raiders. Just like a lot of the aforementioned teams above, Brandon Staley and an ultra-talented Chargers team still have a lot to prove, but the Raiders might not have the defensive prowess to slow down Justin Herbert and his supporting cast at home. 

Packers at Vikings (+1.5)

Minnesota is being hyped as a team who could look a lot better this year, especially under a revamped offense and new head coach Kevin O’Connell, but they’ll still have to get by big brother to prove their value in Week 1. This line is right. Sportsbooks need to give Aaron Rodgers and the Packers the credit they deserve, but the Vikings are in a great position to burst onto the scene and prove they’re a true contender in the NFC North. This should be a close battle, as the line indicates.

Bucs at Cowboys (+1.5)

Will Tom Brady look the same in Week 1? Will Dallas’ offensive line hold up with all of its injuries? There’s a lot of questions heading into Sunday Night Football. I have this as the Bucs -2.5, so slight disagreement here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it moved to Tampa’s side before kickoff. Brady and a very formidable defense probably isn’t getting built into the line enough at this juncture. Watch this line as the week goes on.

Broncos at Seahawks (+6.5)

The final game of the week presents another controversial line. Russell Wilson takes on his former team, in Seattle, and yet the Seahawks are still nearly touchdown underdogs. Wow. I think the Broncos could be really good this year, too, but I have this game at Denver -4. I’d expect the Seahawks to be a little feistier than advertised here.