Week 1 NFL Picks: Bad Beats and Football…That’s What America Does

A renowned poet once said, “Turn up the music, turn down the lights…It’s about damn time.” After a long, hot summer, it’s about damn time for some NFL football and that age old tradition of cheering on fantasy teams, juggling eight different 1:00 P.M. games and sweating out a few backdoor covers. There’s something uniquely American about satiating our gluttonous appetite for football, chicken wings and losing money every weekend that can’t be replicated by any other pastime (sorry baseball). With that in mind, I’ve decided to open the year with some “American” themed tiers for this opening NFL weekend.

Photo Courtesy of Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Tier 1: Self-Evident Truths

49ers -6.5 over Bears

Chargers -3.5 over Raiders

Chiefs -5.5 over Cardinals

The hardest thing about betting on week one is trying to decide what you know, what you think you know, and what you know you don’t know. This is important because, as Mark Twain said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” This is just a prime setup to go 0-3 in this tier for the week, but here are a few things I think I know for sure: the Bears are going to be bad; the 49ers are going to be good; the Chargers have a chip on their shoulder after last year, and ditto for the Chiefs. The Chargers and Raiders met in a classic “loser leaves town” match in Week 18 of the 2021 season and the Raiders came out on top. The Chargers have had all offseason to stew on that. They also have a better quarterback, a better offensive line, and a better roster in general. This is my safest bet of the weekend. The oddsmakers are just daring us to bet the 49ers and Chiefs as road favorites, as they are with several other teams this week. The Trey Lance Era will officially start at Soldier Field on Sunday, and he couldn’t have a softer landing to start. He won’t need to do much for San Fran to win this game by a touchdown. Pat Mahomes may not have Tyreek Hill to throw to anymore, but he still has Travis Kelce and is an otherworldly talent in his own right. Plenty of people want to fade the Chiefs this year, but this isn’t the week. Kansas City has a better coach and a better quarterback, plus Arizona hasn’t exactly had the most reassuring offseason either.

Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press

Tier 2: Old Faithful

Titans -5.5 over Giants

Ravens -6.5 over Jets

Broncos -6.5 over Seahawks

American tourists can always count on a visit to Old Faithful to be worth their while, in a similar manner we can always count on the New York football teams to be something between a dumpster fire and a slow-motion trainwreck. The Jets already have an injury at the quarterback position and take on a Baltimore team that is hungry coming off an injury-plagued 2021. The Giants had a good 2022 draft and made a good coaching hire, which are both signs of changing directions for a franchise that’s largely been adrift since 2012. But they still employ Daniel Jones as their starting quarterback and, outside of Saquon Barkley, he doesn’t exactly have the most reassuring arsenal of skill players at his disposal. The Giants will make strides this year, but a road trip to Tennessee won’t be the week they show progress. The other thing we can faithfully rely on is the NFL schedule makers to set us up for maximum viewing pleasure. Russell Wilson goes home to Seattle on the first Monday night game of the season and I’d bet the farm that he will be chomping at the bit to put up some points.

Photo Courtesy of Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

Tier 3: Swing States

Eagles -3.5 over Lions

Rams +2.5 over Bills

Jaguars +2.5 over Commanders

Saints -5.5 over Falcons

Just like the swing states determine the presidential election, these swing games will determine whether you end Sunday night with a smile or a frown on your face. The Bills and Lions have become something of media darlings over the offseason, with the Bills becoming oddsmakers Super Bowl favorites after their instant classic with the Chiefs in the AFC divisional round and the Lions making their appearance on Hard Knocks. I consider myself mildly on the bandwagon for both teams heading into the season (more so the Bills than Lions), but I think week 1 is a prime opportunity to fade both. The Rams will be celebrating their Super Bowl victory at home and Aaron Donald will make life difficult for Josh Allen. The Eagles were a playoff team last year and still have a talent edge over the Lions. Jacksonville is another team that the media seems to like to have a bounceback season after excising the cancerous Urban Meyer presence in the organization and I like them to beat the Commanders to open the season. This also brings me to my first special bet recommendation: Carson Wentz or Trevor Lawrence to pass for 300+ yards (+250). The Commanders defense were supposed to be a defensive-minded team last season and disappointed on that front in a major way. For Jacksonville to win games this year, Trevor Lawrence will need to be “the man” which means likely throwing for at least 300 yards. On the flip side, if they are playing from behind, he will be playing catch-up, which also means likely throwing for 300 yards. The Saints-Falcons line is firmly in the “Vegas zone”, which is tough, but I like the Saints defense against a Falcons offense that only has two real threats.

Photo Courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Tier 4: Seward’s Folly

Patriots +3.5 over Dolphins

Vikings +1.5 over Packers

Cowboys +2.5 over Bucs

You may not know that the Alaska purchase was colloquially and derisively called “Seward’s Folly” as it was happening. First, that’s extremely rude to Alaskans. Second, Alaska has brought some vital things to this great union: guaranteeing that Texas isn’t “the biggest” at everything, bringing our statehood to a nice round “50” improving the national flag’s aesthetic in the process, and producing the third greatest SNL political parody. (Side Note: The definitive ranking of SNL political characters: 1. Phil Hartman’s Bill Clinton 2. Will Ferrell’s George W. Bush 3. Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin). Anyway, betting on these games might be folly. On the one hand, I think it could be a set up for disaster to rely on the Vikings to beat the Packers or the Cowboys to win any game you count on them to. On the other hand, this is a great opportunity for the Vikings to snatch one from the Packers with a brand-new receiving corps that Aaron Rodgers has no game reps with and the game in Minnesota. Likewise, this is Dallas’s time to take down Tom Brady after a bizarre offseason and with an offensive line already facing significant turnover. Continuing in the “folly” theme, anytime you consider betting the Dolphins over the Patriots in a game with actual stakes, just remember me telling you that would be a foolish thing to do.

Photo Courtesy of Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez

Tier 5th Amendment

Panthers -1.5 over Browns

Steelers +6.5 over Bengals

Texans +7.5 over Colts

I plead the 5th on giving you any recommendations about what to do with these games. Can I interest you instead in a few more specials to augment your gambling weekend? I can? Great! Special #2 for the weekend: Nick Chubb and Christian McCaffrey combine for 200+ yards rushing (+300). It’s entirely possible that the Panthers will want to ease McCaffrey back into action after an injury plagued 2021, but they also have a new quarterback and will want to make things as easy on Baker Mayfield as possible. In a similar vein, the Browns will likely ride the running game as much as possible through Deshaun Watson’s suspension, so I am going to be hunting Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt rushing specials throughout their first 11 games. Special #3: Any 4 of Deebo Samuel, Michael Pittman, Rashod Bateman, DeVonta Smith or Brandon Aiyuk to score a touchdown (+1000). At 10/1 odds, I really love this bet. Bateman, Samuel and Aiyuk play two of the worst teams in football this weekend and I think there’s a strong chance they all score. That leaves either Michael Pittman or DeVonta Smith to score who, by the way, play two more of the worst teams in football. Yeah, I know I bet the Texans to cover against the Colts, but that isn’t because I think they will win outright or keep the Colts from finding the end zone.

Cover Photo Courtesy of AP Photo/AJ Mast

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