2021 NFL Predictions and Picks: Week 1
The 2021 NFL regular season is here.
This year will make my 10th season to make predictions and picks on my personal website. In over 2,000 picks, all posted here, I’ve enjoyed 7 winning seasons, and 2 losing seasons. I went broke one year, in 2015. Last year, my return-on-investment was about 30 percent of my original bankroll. Everything is documented — all the old reports dating back to 2012 are still here in the archives. Final report for 2020: READ IN FULL HERE
This preseason, I made my picks and finished with 17 wins and 13 losses. That doesn’t count middling on a monster teaser wheel, which crushed Week 3 with a +10 unit profit. That’s a great way to begin this season.
I will continue with this tradition. Most weekends, I’ll post my predictions and picks on Saturday, sometimes earlier, if possible. Feel free to check back, but I will have all of my selections, with analysis, posted by kickoff on Sunday. You may also wish to follow my commentary on Facebook.
Finally, I will ALWAYS post my true record and results here, after every week. Note that if you read and follow other handicappers, I suggest looking to make sure they post a season-long record. If they don’t — beware. If someone isn’t tracking their record and making it public, those picks are pretty much worthless. READ MORE HERE
Here’s to what I hope will be a great (and profitable) season.
Watch video picks here, or read below….
2021 NFL WAGERING RECORD
0 Wins — 0 Losses — 0 Pushes
Starting Bankroll: $10,000.
Current Bankroll: $10,000.
Best Bets: 0 — 0 — 0 (- $ 0.)
Last Week’s Results: +/- $ 0.
WEEK 1 PREDICTIONS AND PICKS
(all games are Sunday daytime unless otherwise noted):
Minnesota at Cincinnati
Both teams come off disappointing seasons in 2020. At least the Bengals had an excuse with promising young QB Burrow missing half the season to injury. Meanwhile, the Vikings for whatever reason – regressed. One problem with Minnesota is the lack of continuity. Klint Kubiak enters 2021 as Minnesota’s 6th offensive coordinator in six years. Hmm, that might be part of the problem. I’d like to bet the Bengals in this game at home catching points, but head coach Zac Taylor’s dreadful 6-25-1 SU record in two seasons gives me pause about backing this team until I see definite progress being made. I’m passing on this game.
San Francisco at Detroit
The 49ers are healthy again after one of the most injury-plagued seasons any NFL team has ever faced in 2020. I think that creates some added excitement for San Francisco in this game to make a statement facing one of the league’s worst teams which are now in a complete rebuilding phase. New QB, new coach and staff, new GM; supposedly, they’re going to run the ball more. Jared Goff is now under center for the Lions. If he struggled on a talented Rams’ team, then just imagine how he’s going to fare in Detroit. I’m somewhat concerned about the 49ers losing their excellent defensive coordinator (Robert Saleh now with NY Jets) but the talent disparity when the Lions have the ball is overwhelming. Detroit is going to struggle – big time. I’m not sure how long it will be before Trey Lance takes over at QB for San Francisco. But Garappolo has no excuses not to use this game as a confidence builder and solidify the trust of his teammates. I won’t lay more than a touchdown on the road, but I feel good about teasing the 49ers down to -1.5. I also see value in San Francisco on the moneyline. The Play: San Francisco teased to -1.5 on two teasers ( with Tampa Bay teased to -2 and Miami +8.5). Moneyline–San Francisco -385.
Philadelphia at Atlanta
This game is a mud pig. Two awful teams line up with new unproven head coaches after major off-season shakeups. Both coaches in this game are first-time head coaches, with new staffs. Preseason games are painful to watch anyway, but these two teams showed nothing in the summer, which typically wouldn’t be a concern but when a new regime is in charge, usually teams will produce something positive. Neither team did that, so it’s hard to foresee which of these dreadful units will win and cover. Typically, we’d jump on the dog and take points. The Eagles are getting +3. I’m hesitant to do that in this game however, because — as brutally bad Matt Ryan is in must-win games, he’s actually solid statistically in games like this he should win. The numbers: Eagles’ QB is 2nd year QB–Jason Hurts (1-3 as starter); Falcons’ QB is longtime vet Matt Ryan (113-92 SU). Ryan lacks the weapons on offense of previous season (WR Julio Jones is gone). I’m also wary of backing anything associated with the Falcons’ defense, which has been an abomination in recent years. No wagers.
Seattle at Indianapolis
Two playoff contenders with glaring weaknesses in key areas matchup in one of the most intriguing games of Week 1. Seattle is currently the 3rd betting choice in NFC West, which is a first to be so disrespected in the Pete Carroll era. So, the Seahawks could be a little bit undervalued. For me, this is a strong BET AGAINST situation fading anything associated with the Colts’ offense. That means betting on Seattle -2 and playing the game UNDER the total 50.5. Fragile Carson Wentz who has steadily been declining in performance (acquired in a crapshoot deal with the Eagles) will be Colts’ 4th starting QB in the last four years–and that’s IF he’s healthy. Wentz held a clipboard the entire Colts’ training camp. Given the unproven new QB and offensive system, look for the Colts to run the ball more than usual. Indy does field a solid defense. In what I hope will be a close, low-scoring affair, I’ll bet on MVP candidate Russell Wilson to be the difference and win a rare two-bet combo on both the side and the total. The Play: Seattle -2 and UNDER 50.5
Jacksonville at Houston
Wait. Did I already use the phrase “mud pig?” Well, let’s recycle that term and stamp it onto this game, as well. All eyes are on college convert Urban Meyer making his NFL debut. Rookie QB Trevor Lawrence will face his easiest test — the Jags couldn’t possibly open up against a weaker opponent. Still, I’m not buying the hype. I want to see some results first. Sure–the Texans offseason was a train wreck. They’re at the bottom of everyone’s expectations. So, that might make them a good buy at +3. Seriously, should the Jaguars really be laying -3 on the road in their first game? I see this as a clear case of the betting public will be on the Jaguars but a contrarian like myself will back the Texans. Houston will start Tyrod Taylor for the first game of the season as scandal-plagued Deshaun Watson will not see action. Taylor isn’t anyone’s ideal starter. But he’s taken snaps and understands what it’s like to play in the NFL. In a game with many question marks, I like the home team getting points. I love fading hype. Also note that even though Houston has been awful the last few years, they have defeated the Jags six straight times, so they are winning in the trenches where it counts. The Play: Houston +3.
Pittsburgh at Buffalo
One look at Buffalo and the instant reaction is — this team is loaded. Bills are laying -6.5 in the season opener versus Pittsburgh, coming off a 12-4 season that ended in terrible disappointment (a wipeout loss to the Browns in the playoffs). We know Buffalo will be good, really good. The Steelers are a question mark. The offensive line looks to be a mess. This was one of the worst rushing teams in the NFL last season–that problem must be fixed, which I predict plays into Pittsburgh running the ball more in this game. That’s enough to keep me off the OVER 49. But do think it plays into a good opportunity to bet the first half to go UNDER 24.5. The Bills might wear down their opponent and the Steelers revert to a 55-pass attempt game. Early on, however, the game plans for both teams will be different. Bills solid defense should frustrate the Steelers, and I hope for a little rust from the Bills in the opening half. So, the play is 1H UNDER. The Play: First Half UNDER 24.5
NY Jets at Carolina
Typically, a new head coach, a rookie QB, combined with an opener on the road is not a positive scenario for a win or a cover (see Jacksonville game). Carolina QB and former Jet Sam Darnold faces his old team in this game, but that’s not much of a positive. I have no interest in laying -4 with the Panthers, who have just as many unknowns. As tempting as the Jets are grabbing +4, I’m not going to spend much time on this game. I see nothing that tempts me other than a lean to the Jets. Pass.
Arizona at Tennessee
The key here is possible Titan’s lack of game preparation. No team was hit as severely by COVID during training camp (head coach, 9 players, 2 assistances — missed extended time the last few weeks). I think all of this likely created a more cautious camp than usual, and the one thing the Titans really needed was work on upgrading a really bad defense. Titans have become one of the NFL’s best OVER teams, boosted by a powerful running game and better-than-expected results from QB Ryan Tannahill. I do look for some regression this season. Titans might still have talent to win a pathetically-weak division, however the Cardinals provide a real test. This is a make it/break it year for coach Kingsbury and his staff, who are expected to score points and at least be competitive if they don’t make the playoffs. They’ll surely have a hard time making a move in the brual AFC West so these games out of vision become critical. I look for a high-scoring game but that’s reflected in the O/U (52), so I can’t pull the trigger on the OVER . The optimal play given Arizona’s obvious offensive talent, the Titans’ bad defense, and some prep questions is taking the Cardinals with the points. I’m also hoping JJ Watt will spark some improvement on the Cardinals’ defense. Arizona is inconsistent, but credit them for being good under Kingsbury in this spot–last 2 years, Arizona is 6-3-1 ATS as road underdogs. The Play: Arizona +3
LA Chargers at Washington
A strange betting stat few may be aware off — backing rookie coaches ATS on the road in their first game is a significant winner the past 20 seasons and is on a 19-9-1 ATS run since the start of the 2014 season. With more betting markets open, fueling misperception on the favorites and lines that will be even more inflated, this becomes a great contrarian betting opportunity (see 7 such situations the first 2 weeks of this season). However, looky here: The Chargers (new head coach) are favored. Huh? Will Brandon Staley’s highly-touted defense be as sturdy now that he’s a head coach? Of course, everyone is high on the Chargers QB Justin Herbert, with good reason. He’s looked spectacular. But he also faces a tough Washington defense on the road, where he was just 1-3 SU last season. For Washington, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, in his 17th season, will be starting for an NFL-record 9th team. If he can play as well in 2021 as last season, Washington could be a force. Fitz looked horrible in the preseason, which should be a concern. I’m also a believer in Ron Rivera in these types of games, which he seems to win more often than not. Way too many conflicting signals here, so I’m going to pass on the side. With two solid defenses, UNDER 44 is tempting. That’s a lean, not a bet. I’ll pass on this game.
Denver at NY Giants
I’m high on the NY Giants this season. I think they eclipse the projected 7-game win total. Why? First, they’re much healthier this season and get star RB back. If nothing else, Barkley keeps defenses honest. Moreover, the Giants are in the second year of everything –coaching, OC, DC, starting QB, and with a bad season behind them, NYG will surprise a few teams. What really make me pull the trigger on Giants at home here is the gross lack of respect bettors are showing for the dog. Denver is talented, especially on defense, but this is a league based on QBs and passing the ball. And Denver is starting yet another retread. I like Teddy Bridgewater in the backup role and it’s hard to argue with his record as a starter (now on his fourth team). But should he and his teammates be laying a FG here? I don’t think so. Give me the home dog and the upset-minded Giants. I’ll also grab the points in the first half, since both teams might play a bit more conservatively in the opening few frames. The Play: NY Giants +3 and First Half: NY Giants +1.5
Green Bay at New Orleans (Note: Game moved to Jacksonville)
The intangible here is Hurricane Ida last week, which caused the Saints to lose a home game and may have upset their preparations. I heard many serious bettors in Las Vegas ran to the windows (or online) and hammered the Packers. So, the line is now up to Green Bay -3.5. Okay, so – I’ll bite the contrarian apple. New Orleans is a veteran, deep, talented, well-coached team. They also have protocols in place that didn’t exist back in 2005 when a similar thing happened with Katrina. I think the market is way overreacting here. So, I’m betting the Saints. Many bettors forget New Orleans was 12-4 last season and won the division despite a falloff in play from now-retired Drew Brees. New starter Jameis Winston is derided for his interceptions and it will be interesting to watch him transition to a Sean Peyton system. I’ve written elsewhere I think the Saints are very dangerous and will easily surpass their 9-win projection. Admittedly, the Saints have been a horrid team ATS in September, but I’m still backing the dog. Surprising Stat: New Orleans is thought of as a finesse dome team, but the Saints are a fabulous 17-6 ATS in last 23 games on natural grass (Jacksonville is a real field, not the rubber grass shit). Green Bay is a one-dimensional team — all passing offense and Aaron Rogers’ struggles in Florida heat have been well documented. I think bettors are overthinking this. In a toss-up game, grab the +3.5 points. The Play: New Orleans +3.5
Cleveland at Kansas City
Here’s another big “Game of the Week.” The Browns haven’t won a season opener since 2004 (3-5-1 the last nine openers)….while QB Patrick Mahomes and coach Andy Reid have both been unbeatable in openers. Not only are they 3-0 together in Week 1, but they’ve averaged 37 points per game in those three wins. Oh, and Patrick Mahomes has never lost a game in the month of September in his career (10-0). I can’t fade those numbers. But I do like the Browns +3.5 in the first half which is lots of points to give a solid team. The Chiefs started out slow in many games last season and eventually wear down defenses with all their multi-threats. Early on in games, however it’s been a different story. I look for the loaded Browns to be in this game at halftime. I’m not sure what to expect on a game lined at KC -6. Super Bowl losers from the previous season have a hangover effect, losers ATS of 14 of 18 against the number in Week 1. So, the play here is taking the points early on, and hoping the Browns play up their their potential at least for the first few quarters. The Play: First Half: Cleveland +3.5
Miami at New England
Obviously, the storyline here is the first NFL start for rookie QB Mac Jones. How long will it take him to blossom and is he the real deal? Josh McDaniels (Pats OC) is perhaps the real key here. He’s placed his faith in Jones (no doubt, McDaniels was likely the catalyst for the dump Newton-start Jones decision) but probably sees this as a long-term prospect. I’m not sure if this decision was made to win right here and now. Fact is, Miami is the better team coming into a new season. Second-year QB Tua Tagovailoa (6-3 as a starter) should improve, but there’s also some concerns about his long-term prospects Miami comes off 10-6 record. What they do in this game could tell us a lot about what to expect from them this season. Miami should win it, and taking +2.5 is tempting. That would be my play on a side. The stronger lean here is to tease Miami up to +8.5. I think there’s enough supporting evidence to do exactly that. The Play: Tease Miami to +8.5 (with San Francisco -1.5)
Chicago at LA Rams (Sunday Night)
The Rams should roll here. The line jumped from -6.5 to -7.5 upon the announcement Andy Dalton will be starting for the Bears. QB Fields is already on the sidelines warming up. Keep your helmet on, Justin. It won’t be long. I can’t imagine a worse spot for Dalton. He had plenty of helpful tools around him in Dallas last year and certainly should have performed better than the dismal showing he posted. This is a warm body QB on what’s an even worse team now. Look for the Chicago offense to continue struggling Meanwhile, the Rams appear loaded just about everywhere. New Rams QB Matt Stafford never really got the chance to shine in Detroit and now he’ll have a chance to show he belongs in the elite class of QBs. I expect Stafford will rise to the occasion. LA Rams laying -7.5 is enough to make me skip the play, but that’s probably the correct side. Add the first real home game in the new stadium for the Rams and that’s probably worth a point or two, also The total at 46.5 also looks about where it should be though I lean slightly to the UNDER. No pick in this game.
Baltimore at Las Vegas (Monday Night)
Baltimore won/covered its last five season openers. Maybe their preseason success (19 straight wins) carries over. Ravens beat up on the Raiders their last meeting, so this matchup certainly favors the birds for many reasons. What about emotions? This is the first game at Las Vegas Stadium with real fans. Should be rockin’ atmosphere but will that be enough with Raiders’ numerous deficiencies? This is a really bad defense that failed to improve in the offseason. The offensive can score points but Las Vegas will also start 3/5 new players on the offensive line in Week 1. I think that’s the key. Baltimore can frustrate teams with their defense and between a clear advantage on that side of ball, QB Lamar Jackson’s skills, and (yes I must mention this) the best kicker in the NFL, I’m laying points with the road dog. Note that you must get -4 to make this play. Not -4.5. I also lean strongly to the UNDER, which is 51. I’ll take that for a small play. The Play: Baltimore -4 and UNDER 51.
THIS WEEK’S FINAL BETS (Lay amount/win amount):
TEASER: Tampa Bay teased to -2 with San Francisco teased to -1.5 ($240/$200)
TEASER: San Francisco teased to -1.5 with Miami +8.5 ($240/$200)
MONEYLINE: San Francisco -385 vs. Detroit (BEST BET) ($1,140/$300)
SIDE BET: Seattle -2 vs. Indianapolis ($220/$200)
GAME TOTAL: Seattle/Indianapolis UNDER 50.5 ($220/$200)
SIDE BET: Houston +3 vs. Jacksonville ($220/$200)
FIRST HALF TOTAL: Pittsburgh/Buffalo UNDER 24.5 ($220/$200)
SIDE BET: Arizona +3 vs. Tennessee ($220/$200)
SIDE BET: NY Giants +3 vs. Denver ($220/$200)
FIRST HALF SIDE: NY Giants +1.5 vs. Denver ($220/$200)
SIDE BET: New Orleans +3.5 vs. Green Bay ($220/$200)
FIRST HALF SIDE: Cleveland +3.5 vs. Kansas City ($220/$200)
SIDE BET: Baltimore -4 vs. Las Vegas ($220/$200)
GAME TOTAL: Baltimore/Las Vegas UNDER 51 ($220/$200)
= 14 wagers. (screen shown for some online wagers, some bets are made with live tickets)
NOTE–Thursday game writeup was here (posted to FB). Got a push in the teaser number:
Dallas at Tampa Bay (Thursday Night)
The main question for Dallas is the health of QB Dak Prescott’s shoulder. Prescott is coming off two serious injuries. He hasn’t taken a game snap in 11 months (went out of the season due to injury early last year). Now, in his first game back, he has to face against one of the best defenses in football. According to late reports, he will likely have to do that with one of his best offensive lineman out (Zack Martin). Preseason games might not matter, but Dallas’ 0-3 record and lackluster showing this summer also didn’t inspire much confidence. Is it too early to call the Mike McCarthy hire another dumb Jerry Jones’ mistake? On the other side of the ball, Tampa Bay looks loaded. They also get to possibly feast on a terrible Cowboys’ defense that surrendered a whopping 473 points last season, worst in franchise history (60 years). History is also on the Bucs’ side. In the last 18 years, the defending Super Bowl champs are 12-4-2 ATS in Week 1 the following year. The Bucs laying -8 is probably the right side if you must bet this. But for me, that number is a little too high. Just in case Dallas makes a game of this, and/or Brady starts showing some rust at his age, I’ll instead opt to tease Tampa Bay from -8 to -2. That requires -120 in vig. The Play: Tampa Bay teased to -2 (with San Francisco teased to -1.5).