NFL Best Bets: Week 1

Last season against the spread (ATS): 35-35-3

1. Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5) vs. Cleveland Browns

During the Patrick Mahomes era — that is, since the 2018 season — the Kansas City Chiefs are a perfect 10-0 in September football games. They have outscored opponents by a composite score of 344-246, but since we are dealing with a perfectly round number we can simply move the decimal place over and see that the average score of those games is 34.4 to 24.6, which comes out to +9.8 points per game.

The 2021 Browns have nothing to do with any of the opponents the Chiefs have whooped up on over the last three Septembers, but the moral of the story is Kansas City usually comes out firing when the season starts. This year figures to be no different, since the last time the Chiefs played a football game they got fucking embarrassed by the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl. They might spend all season trying to atone for that game, but what better place to start than Week One against a team that is expected to join them in the postseason?

I think this comes down to one main thing: Kansas City spent their offseason revamping their offensive line, and Cleveland spent their offseason improving their defense — namely the secondary. While both the KC offensive line and CLE defense are going to need some time to gel and work on cohesion, I am betting that the Chiefs’ line can do it faster than essentially Cleveland’s entire unit. I can’t think of a worse matchup for a defense that’s learning how to play together than having to face off against guys like Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill.

The same argument can be made the other way, since Cleveland does have serious EDGE presence with Miles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. I side with my favorite team (which I am rarely in any rush to do) because I find it an easier ask for an offensive line to protect a QB than I do for something like eight new players to come out of the gates in sync. Particularly given that Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid have been preparing for this game for the better part of the last three months.

When these two teams played in the AFC Divisional Round in January the Chiefs were favored by 10 points. Kansas City only won by 5 points — 22-17 — but it was also the game that Mahomes got knocked out of in the third quarter with a 19-10 lead. Since the spread in this matchup is only 6 points, it leads to questions. Like, have the Browns gotten 4 points better this offseason? Have the Chiefs gotten 4 points worse? Is the answer somewhere in the middle?

Either way, give me the Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs to remind the NFL that the Super Bowl still runs through Kansas City. I think it will go under 53 points, and I think my favorite team finds a way to control their home opener.

Score prediction: Chiefs 27, Browns 17

2. Washington Football Team (+1) vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Herbert’s breakout rookie season is already leading sports bettors to paying a tax for wagering on him. Los Angeles’s 2021 over/under win total sits at either 9 or 9.5 depending on which sports book you use, while Washington’s is a mere 8.5 — exactly average with a 17-game schedule. If we apply the normal 2.5-to-3-point edge for home field advantage, betting markets are basically saying that the Chargers are between 3.5-to-4 points better than the Football Team. That just isn’t right.

We can talk about how the Chargers are probably going to have an above average offense this year, and we can also talk about how the Football Team are probably going to have an above average defense. If I was a betting man — which I am, whenever possible — I would say both of these things will be true. But then there’s the matter of head coaches, and one team has a first year head coach and the other has one who has been doing it for a long, long time. If you aren’t aware I’ll let you guess which is which, but I am taking the side that has the veteran.

Washington has a new quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and that is supposed to count for something. I don’t generally like picking teams with new players and a lot of moving parts. But Fitz is also like a hundred years old, he’s played for like a hundred different teams, and given the fact that he’s been all over the league I am guessing it won’t be as much of a factor as, say, a 25 year-old who is playing his first year in a new system. Give me the old guy. Give me the experienced coach. And give me the home team in what will probably be a weird, ugly game.

Score prediction: Football Team 29, Chargers 27

3. Detroit Lions (+8) vs. San Francisco 49ers

This feels like the most lopsided matchup in all of Week 1, yet the line has not moved even an inch since it came out at the end of March. Despite the Niners clearly being the better team, eager to atone for their unfortunate injury-plagued 2020 campaign, the hapless Lions with little offensive firepower and a defense that is rebuilding to say the least have remained 7.5-point home underdogs.

I honestly don’t have a solid justification for why I think they’ll only lose by a touchdown. It just feels like a game that either ends 49-0 or is 17-3 with two minutes left and Lions QB Jared Goff leads Detroit to a backdoor cover. I am going to opt for the latter strictly because it feels too easy to take San Francisco against one of the worst teams in the NFL.

Score prediction: 49ers 17, Lions 10

4. New York Giants (+3) vs. Denver Broncos

The Broncos have been steamed up this offseason, going from an over/under win total of 7.5 all the way up to 8.5 (and even 9 in some places). After a brilliant preseason where they went 3-0 while outscoring opponents 80-21, they open the year as 3-point road favorites? I just don’t buy it.

People seem enamored by all the Denver weaponry, but I still don’t think it means very much if Teddy Bridgewater is the one who’s going to be delivering the ball. It isn’t like I am super in love with what the Giants have to offer; I am low on their offensive line and quarterback; but Daniel Jones is in a prove-it year and regardless of whether or not I believe he’ll be playing QB for them next season, I do think he — and the Giants in general — are going to be on a mission early in the season.

Neither of these teams are playoff contenders, but the love for Denver has gone a little too far and I am going to roll with the Giants to win outright in their home opener to remind everybody that the Broncos are still the Broncos.

Score prediction: Giants 23, Broncos 18

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