NFL 2020: Week #1 Picks
This will be my 25th straight year to post my picks each week in the NFL. Time sure flies when you’re having fun. All of my picks have been posted at public forums. All of my results are a matter of record.
In 1995, I began posting at AOL’s sports boards. Remember those early Internet days? Then a few years later, I began posting weekly at SPORTSFANRADIO, which really attracted a following. I specialized in NFL totals.
But my really big break came 20 years ago, prior to the 2000 regular season, when Jack Wooden, who I owe a significant debt of gratitude to, hired me part-time to post picks at his website, MADJACKSPORTS. Jack’s support gave me lots of confidence and made me realize there’s a huge sports betting community out there. It also made me work harder because I knew people would be reading my stuff, and perhaps even betting on games and totals I recommended.
Now, twenty years later, I’m certainly older. Perhaps a little wiser. Certainly more experienced at the highs and lows of sports betting, which can be both exhilarating and crushing (sometimes all in the same weekend).
Before I begin this NFL season, I want to thank the many readers I’ve met, online and in-person over the years. I also want to thank Mr. Jack Wooden, a.k.a. “Mad Jack” himself, for taking a chance on me, and letting me go for a helluva’ ride.
This one’s for you, Jack.
Now, let’s talk some football.
Note 1: Be sure to visit POINTSPREADS.CA where I post lots of sports betting articles, including picks. We also do weekly videos on the NFL, which will sometimes include guests.
Note 2: Each season, I begin with a $10,000 bankroll. This season will be no different. All results will be tracked, including posts made on Thursday Night games (since I can’t always do the full write-ups each week on Thursday, instead, I post picks on that game over on Facebook. See: NOLAN DALLA FACEBOOK PAGE
Note 3: NFL weekly plays will be posted here on my page, and at POINTSPREADS.CA. I will try to have the plays posted by midnight on Saturday night.
2019 NFL WAGERING RECORD
Wins — Losses — Pushes 0 — 0 — 0
Starting Bankroll: 10,000
Current Bankroll: 10,000
Last Week’s Results: + /- $0
My Week 1 Predictions:
MIA / NWE
TOTAL — 42
Comments: Big changes in NWE…none bigger than Cam Newton replacing GOAT Tom Brady at QB. NWE still won without Brady in sporadic moments when he wasn’t playing, but this will be Belichick’s biggest test in 20 seasons. NWE also lost a league-high 8 players to COVID. That could be huge. For MIA, the Dolphins are hoping to continue the momentum from second half of last season when they not only covered a majority of games but went from a hopeless 0-8 to winning outright in 5 of their last 8 games — including a massive upset at NWE in the finale here last season which knocked the Patriots out of the home field spot for the playoffs. Dolphins, a joke early and a serious threat late, closed fast in 2019 covering in 9 of last 12 — all as an underdog. That’s enough for me to bite on them once more, in a game that should be close. Hoping this stays within a touchdown, so the play here is MIAMI +7.
CLE / BAL
TOTAL — 47.5
Comments: Cleveland entering a new season with its 9th head coach in the last 13 years. Head coach Kevin Stefanski debut for Browns. Can he turn things around? We’ll see. History hasn’t been kind to Cleveland. Since 2013, Cleveland is 10-17-1 ATS as a road underdog and here they are again in that spot versus a team many think is the 2nd or 3rd best team in the NFL. Here’s a stat: Baltimore won its last four Week 1 games by combined final score of 139-20. This includes the Ravens winning 13 of last 15 home openers (10-5 ATS). Ravens also closed the 2019 regular season winning its last 12 outright and covering 8 of their last 9. QB Lamar Jackson’s leg injury in camp is an issue perhaps, and maybe the mobile MVP candidate isn’t at 100 percent. I’d play the Ravens at -7, but not -7.5. Pass.
NYJ / BUF
TOTAL — 39
Comments: Bills have trouble in these spots, with teams they should beat. Last two years, Bills are just 3-5 ATS as a home favorite. In fact, the Jets won 27-23 and 13-6 respectively in their last two trips to BUF. Under might be tempting, but this is the lowest total on the board. Jets are healthy, have a defense that can leep this close, a healthy QB for a change, and optimism. BUF isn’t the type of team that blows out its opponents. Taking the +6.5 is the right side with the divisional underdog. Playing the NYJ plus the points.
LV / CAR
TOTAL — 47.5
Comments: Major changes all over the roster and sidelines for CAR, including Teddy Bridgwater at QB which could be an upgrade in terms of stability. Head coach Matt Rhule makes his debut for Panthers. No one expects much from them this season, which might play favorably early on. Meanwhile, the franchise move from Oakland to Las Vegas was most unusual, especially in the age of COVID with no open practices or public events. Raiders were a mess on the road the last few seasons, so I’m not confident laying points with a team that seems uncharacteristically laying points as a visitor. I see the better wager as the UNDER on a very high total, especially given how Bridgwater tends to be a short-yardage passer and may slow down the pace of scoring. Raiders defense was terrible in 2020, but they may not need that much to stop a revamped CAR offense that will be playing its first game together as a starting unit. Play UNDER 47.5
SEA / ATL
TOTAL — 47.5
Comments: Many cappers are betting on Seattle here, which seems like the far better team. Perhaps they are, but I like ATL to keep this close and cover, if not win outright. Consider the Seahawks woeful road record in openers, losing 11 of its last 13 as a visitor in September. Meanwhile, ATL won its last three home openers, by margins of 11, 7, and 4 points. Yeah, SEA is a Super Bowl contender, and ATL is likely to hover around the .500 mark. But the Falcons are also a veteran team, making a fresh start, with experienced coaches, playing at home in a game they desperately want to begin to avoid the disaster that was the 2020 season. The pick is ATL +2.5.
PHIL / WASH
TOTAL — 42.5
Comments: New coach Ron Rivera is probably a good fit for WAS, but this team is a mess — from inept ownership, to revolving door of coaches, to one of the worst offenses in recent years, to lackluster public interest (unheard of for Washington, historically). It will take time to make the WAS team relevant again, but I’m not convinced PHI is the play laying points on the road given how little time this unit has played together. Some OL injuries and a forecast for rain lead me to believe the UNDER will be a better wager, especially since we get a fairly high number given the woeful WAS offense. WAS lost five in row and seven of last eight home openers. The world will be on the road dog, but I’ll move another direction and take UNDER 42.5.
CHI / DET
TOTAL — 43
Comments: DET was riddled with injuries last season, including to QB Matt Stafford who missed several games. I know this seems like an overreaction, but I’m tossing out their 4-12 record. I see this as a different team now, and so does the public, since the Lions are a nearly FG favorite. DET is historically strong in this spot, winner of six of its last nine home openers in the Stafford era. Yet, oddly enough, for all his problems, CHI QB Trubisky owns a passer rating of 132.56 in three career meetings against Matt Patricia’s Lions, totaling 866 yards (on 68-for-91 passing) with nine touchdowns and just one INT. I like both the OVER 43 in this game and DET -2.5.
INDY / JAX
TOTAL — 45
Comments: Since when is INDY deserving of laying -8 on the road in a division game? Explain that. Okay, the Colts face JAX, forecasted to be the NFL’s worst team in ’20. But that’s still a big number to cover with little preparation, lots of intangibles, and a major turnover at the most important skill position. Phillip Rivers hasn’t resembled a top-10 QB in at least three seasons, lacking leadership and desire, it seems, in critical crunch-time situations. He’ll have a better supporting cast in INDY, but it should take a few games for Rivers to get cozy in new surroundings. It’s hard to make much of a case for JAX, but a few surprises:
— JAX did cover 9 of last 14 AFC South home games.
— Home side has won 9 of last 10 in this series.
— JAX won 6 of last 9 games with IINDY, including wins in last 4 games played here — three by 20+ points!
Hold your nose and take a home division dog. JAX +8.
GB / MIN
TOTAL — 45
Comments: Under head coach Mike Zimmer, MIN is 26-10-1 ATS as a home favorite. That’s a staggering number. Home advantage will be neutralized in most games this weekend, but I still favor the home favorites here, against a team that’s probably overrated. The Vikings are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 NFC North home games. Vikings also won/covered their last five home openers. Some concern that MIN is on its 5th offensive coordinator in six years. UNDER had hit in 9-2 last 11 in this series. I’ll take both MIN -2.5 and UNDER 45, looking for the Packers to struggle as they did in last season’s opener at CHI.
Now, on to the later games, plus Sunday night and Monday night…..
AZ / SFO
TOTAL — 48
Comments: Defending NFC Champs, stacked on defense but some questions about range of the offense, especially with the passing game. Of course, SFO deserves to be laying points, perhaps even a number close to a TD, but the game line might not have adjusted for how ARZ might have improved, given so many weapons on offense and a healthy team entering 2020. ARZ stole star WR Hopkins in off-season trade, which now figures to be even more of a pass-threat. Cardinals are also an impressive 9-5-2 ATS in their last 16 games as a road underdog, not bad for a team that hasn’t gotten much respect from bettors since Ariens’ departure. Meanwhile, the publically popular 49ers are just 7-15-2 ATS in the last 24 games as a home favorite. In fact, 4 of the last in this series were decided by 3 points. There’s also a compelling “bet against the Super Bowl loser angle — as the runners up often struggle the following season. I love ARZ getting +7.
TB / NOR
TOTAL — 48.5
Comments: Game of the week for most fans. Powerhouse and proverbial NFC favorite Saints versus rejuvenated Bucs with GOAT at QB. Brees-Brady. Wow, doesn’t get much better than this. Tom Brady suits up in first game with TB. Bucs’ coach Arians had been doing a good job rebuilding, but pressure to win is suddenly now with 43 year old under center. Some concern that Arians is 5-11 ATS in last 16 games as a road underdog. I’d normally fade the high expectations in TB, but NOR is a notoriously slow-starting team, even at the Superdome. They simply don’t cover in Sept. games. NOR might bulldoze most of the opposition, but I can’t back them with real money here, given some concerns about their history in addition to the home field crowd noise in New Orleans all but gone. Pass.
SNF: DAL / LAR
Comments: Much-anticipated home opener for Rams, but lots of question marks after a mediocre season and widespread perception this is a “soft” team. The LAR did get pushed around last season, taking a huge step back from the Super Bowl season in 2018. They could be the last-place team in this division. Or, they might contend, if things come together. I have major concerns about the LAR, but few on DAL, which on paper is one of NFL’s best teams (but always underachieves). New coach in DAL, but same offensive coordinator. In an underrated personnel move, money kicker Zeurlein came to Dallas from the Rams and makes DAL even stronger. Since 2014, Dallas is 15-9-1 ATS as a road favorite. DAL also covered 10 of its last 13 road openers. In last year’s massacre between these two, DAL destroyed LAR with 260 rushing yards in their 44-21 win. Home opener excitement will be nonexistent for the Rams which could use a boost, so I’ll take DAL -2.5 which seems to have better personnel.
MNF: PIT / NYG
TOTAL — 46
Comments: Head coach Joe Judge debut for New York. Ex-Dallas bust-out Jason Garrett is the new OC. Tempting to play road favorite here given NYG question marks, but better play is likely the total. Steelers went UNDER in 12 of 16 games last season (almost all of it minus Roethlisberger) and are now UNDER 17-6 their last 23 since late 2018. Should be a run-based attack with NYG, plus fewer weapons on offense than usual for Steelers. Total looks too high. Playing UNDER 46 here.
MNF: TEN / DEN
TOTAL — 41.5
Comments: DEN LB Von Miller may be out for season, and that news moved the line a few points. That’s the worst possible news for a team that will need every healthy body to stop a potent TEN attack. QB Tannehill was the NFL’s top-rated last 10 games pf 2019 after knocking Mariota to the sidelines and captaining his team into the playoffs. Titans also have one of the best running games in the league. That should be too much for DEN, which won’t have the tools to keep up, if TEN scores their usual number (average 30 pts last season). Look for TEN to dominate the time of possession and wear down DEN, which is traditionally a very good early season home team. But this isn’t the opponent they want to face. Home fans also neutralized, which helps the visitor. TENN gets my money at -2.5.
MY BEST BET OF THE WEEK
LAC / CIN
TOTAL — 42
Comments: Rookie QB Burow gets the nod at QB, without having played in a preseason game. Never taken a snap. That’s usually a good fade. Last two years, Bengals are woeful 5-10-1 ATS at home. CIN is also 2-7 ATS in last nine games as a home underdog. LAC might be the play, but they have some concerns, as well — especially on offense with Rivers’ departure and Tyrod Taylor getting the start. I don’t see where the points will come from that justifies a 42 in this game, especially since LAC defense is pretty good and could very well shut down CIN, which is virtually an expansion level team at this point. UNDER 42 is my recommendation.
Final Official Plays (15 Wagers):
Miami +7 vs. New England — $330 to win $300
Las Vegas/Carolina UNDER 47.5 — $440 to win $400
NY Jets +6.5 vs. Buffalo — $330 to win $300
Atlanta +2.5 vs. Seattle — $275 to win $250
Philadelphia/Washington UNDER 42.5 — $385 to win $350
Detroit -2.5 vs. Chicago — $165 to win $150
Detroit/ Chicago OVER 43 — $330 to win $300
Jacksonville +8 vs. Indianapolis — $440 to win $400
Minnesota -2.5 vs. Green Bay — $275 to win $250
Minnesota/Green Bay UNDER 45 — $220 to win $200
Arizona +7 vs. San Francisco — $330 to win $300
Dallas -2.5 vs. LA Rams — $330 to win $300
Pittsburgh/NY Giants UNDER 46 — $220 to win $200
Tennesee -2.5 vs. Denver — $440 to win $400
LA Chargers/Cincinnati UNDER 42 — $550 to win $500