Week #1 — 2023 NFL Analysis and Picks
Cliffnotes: If you just want the analysis and picks, scroll down below. I’m posting an early report on Thursday, then will have all the games analyzed with write-ups and picks by Saturday.
Welcome to my website. I’m back for another NFL season. Chances are, you’ve been here before. If not, welcome!
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This is my 12th consecutive year providing free write-ups and picks for as many NFL games as I can cover. It’s my 23rd year if we go all the way back to MadJackSports in 2000. Most weeks, I cover all games. But, since this can be a very time-consuming process, I do have lighter weeks and sometimes do miss making picks. Still, if you come here each week of the season, I’ll try to provide as much information as I can. I spend most of my week reading, taking notes, and then trying to present this in a clear and concise manner.
Unfortunately, though NFL gambling has become the new national pastime, handicapping has become a sewer of confusion and disinformation. There are lots of frauds and con men out there. Most people who sell picks are lying. One rule is this: The harder they press you to buy picks, the more likely they are to be full of it. After all, winners should be self-evident. Be Warned: Don’t fall for the scams.
I don’t hype what I do. I have nothing to sell. I do this each week because writing, analyzing, and putting my real name to a pick makes me work harder. It’s added motivation. Oh, and yes — I bet these games myself.
Here’s my documented record of making NFL picks here at my website. I’ve enjoyed 8 winning seasons, and 3 losing seasons betting pro football. It’s all documented. Feel free to read old reports. The numbers are all there.
Cumulative totals in 3 losing seasons — minus $12,645.
Cumulative totals in 8 winning seasons — plus $25,316.
Net win over 11 years — plus $12,671.
2022 NFL WAGERING RECORD
Starting Bankroll: $10,000.
Current Bankroll: $12,388.
Net Gain/Loss: + $2,388.
2021 NFL WAGERING RECORD
Starting Bankroll: $10,000.
Ending Bankroll: $8,571.
Net Win/Loss: -$1,429.
2020 NFL WAGERING RECORD
Starting Bankroll: $10,000.
Ending Bankroll: $14,306.
Net Win/Loss: +$4,306.
2019 NFL WAGERING RECORD
Starting Bankroll: $ 8,398.
Ending Bankroll: $8,399.
Net Win/Loss: +$1.
2018 NFL SEASON RECORD
Starting Bankroll: $10,000.
Ending Bankroll: $14,834.
Net Win/Loss: +$4,834.
2017 NFL SEASON RECORD
Starting Bankroll: $10,000.
Ending Bankroll: $12,610.
Net Win/Loss: +$2,610.
2016 NFL SEASON RECORD
Starting Bankroll: $10,000.
Ending Bankroll: $9,784.
Net Win/Loss: – $216.
2015 NFL SEASON RECORD
Starting Bankroll: $10,000.
Ending Bankroll: $13,015.
Net Win/Loss: +$3,015.
2014 NFL SEASON RECORD (*busted in Week 11)
Starting Bankroll: $10,000.
Ending Bankroll: $0.
Net Win/Loss: -$10,000.
2013 NFL SEASON RECORD
Starting Bankroll: $10,000.
Ending Bankroll: $14,702.
Net Win/Loss: +$4,702.
2012 NFL SEASON RECORD
Starting Bankroll: $10,000.
Ending Bankroll: $13,460.
Net Win/Loss: +$3,460
I will also confess that I’ve paid out approximately $30,000 in vig (juice) on my cumulative losses over 11 seasons. Wow, that’s like the price of a new car. So, in the long run the real winner isn’t me. It’s the casino, the house, sportsbook, and bookmaker. Caveat emptor.
There’s much to take away from all this, and I’ll get into the nitty gritty of betting later on. You’ll read lots of opinions here, stories, and even see some videos. I’m proud of my overall numbers because they show a profit, but it’s an open question as to whether the return on investment is worth all the work. Sports gambling is booming across America, but new converts to this type of gambling should be aware of just how difficult it is to make money in the long run. Most gamblers claim they win. I assure you, they don’t.
I’ll try my best.
Thanks for reading, and good luck.
2023 NFL WAGERING RECORD
0 — Wins
0 — Losses
0 — Pushes
Starting Bankroll: $10,000.
Current Bankroll: $10,000.
Net Gain/Loss: +/- $0.
Last Week’s Results: 0 wins – 0 losses (- $0.)
Note that I’ll post write-ups on every game below. Please check back later for updates. By Saturday, all games will be analyzed, with my picks.
Also, be advised that I have entered and control 7 WESTGATE SUPERCONTEST entries this season. I also have entered and control 3 CIRCA SURVIVOR CONTEST ENTRIES this season. READ MORE HERE
If you want to read my SURVIVOR CONTEST thoughts, READ MORE HERE.
Here’s the WESTGATE SUPERCONTEST LINES listed below. I’ll rely on these numbers most of the time my handicapping analysis. However, when I see outlier numbers, I will pounce on those and advise readers.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2023
1 CHIEFS* 5:20 PM 2 LIONS +4.5
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2023
3 FALCONS* 10:00 AM 4 PANTHERS +3.5
5 RAVENS* 10:00 AM 6 TEXANS +10
7 BENGALS 10:00 AM 8 BROWNS* +2.5
9 JAGUARS 10:00 AM 10 COLTS* +5
11 VIKINGS* 10:00 AM 12 BUCCANEERS +6
13 SAINTS* 10:00 AM 14 TITANS +3
15 49ERS 10:00 AM 16 STEELERS* +2.5
17 COMMANDERS* 10:00 AM 18 CARDINALS +7
19 BEARS* 1:25 PM 20 PACKERS +1
21 BRONCOS* 1:25 PM 22 RAIDERS +3.5
23 CHARGERS* 1:25 PM 24 DOLPHINS +3
25 EAGLES 1:25 PM 26 PATRIOTS* +3.5
27 SEAHAWKS* 1:25 PM 28 RAMS +5.5
29 COWBOYS 5:20 PM 30 GIANTS* +3
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2023
31 BILLS 5:15 PM 32 JETS* +2.5
UPDATE: This week’s picks in the contest (see # of tickets I placed):
ENTRIES BASED ON LEVELS OF CONFIDENCE. 35 SPOTS. NUMBER INDICATES # OF TICKET/ENTRIES I INCLUDED THESE TEAMS:
CAR – 3
JAX – 2
TAM – 2
ALL OTHER TEAMS -0
UPDATE: SurvivorSweat (log on and follow, it’s free) posted the official results for Week #1 survivor picks. Here they are:
Now, let’s get to my write-ups for NFL Week #1 (unless otherwise noted, all write-ups and opinions are my own):
Carolina at Atlanta
Line: Falcons -3.5
– I’m playing lots of underdogs in Week #1. The reason for this are (1) historical data, and (2) simple common sense. After a long offseason, most teams have undergone changes in both personnel and coaching. Hence, randomness increases early in the season with no reliable recent data. Note that in the last five seasons, Week #1 and Week #2 underdogs have covered 59 percent of the time (89-62-2 ATS). Road dogs are even stronger, hitting 61 percent since the start of the 2018 season (56-35-2 ATS). So, betting dogs seems like a winning angle, all other things being disregarded. Oh, and add Detroit to the mix, so dogs/road dogs are 1-0 so far this season.
– One stat that shocks me is the impressive ATS record of rookie QBs early in the season. Such QBs are just 14-26-1 SU but a very profitable 27-14 ATS, which is 66 percent covers (credit VSiN for this stat). What these numbers tell us is — the college-to-pro leap for QBs isn’t as severe as it once was, and they don’t struggle as much with the transition. This may because to many college programs now use pro set offenses. Perhaps offseason prep is also more advanced nowadays. Fading rookie QBs and coaches used to be an automatic angle. Not anymore.
– Panthers QB Bryce Young was the top draft pick and will get a chance to show his talent early. He knows this stadium well (in Atlanta) having played a number of big games here with the Crimson Tide. If there’s any defense a rookie QB wants to face, it’s probably a team like the Falcons, inside a dome. Carolina’s offense with Young is probably helped by Frank Reich as the new coach. The Panthers hope the learning curve for Young will be short. I can’t predict how Young will fare, but his pedigree is solid and he’s probably as good a QB as anyone taking this field on Sunday. For Atlanta, second-year QB Desmond Ridder will start. He was 2-2 in his four starts last season.
– Atlanta was a covering machine early in the season in 2022 (6-0), but then faded badly, going 3-9 ATS the rest of the way. Some analysts are optimistic about the Falcons this season, and perhaps they compete in a weak division. Nevertheless, there’s lots of unproven talent on both sides of the field in this matchup. Carolina also went 6-2 ATS in the second half of the season in 2022 (and 8-3 ATS after firing the previous coach). In a divisional game, with two young QBs, and many question marks, I like getting the hook on the FG with the underdogs.
Carolina +3.5 (Risking $220 to win $200)
Houston at Baltimore
Line: Ravens -9.5
– Previously, I said to play underdogs in Week #1. However, I’m not sure about Houston, even with the large number of points they’re getting as a road dog. This is Demeco Ryans’ first game as an NFL coach (he’s the 4th head coach in four seasons in Houston). Houston is also starting rookie QB C.J. Stroud. One would think the Texans’ situation is similar to the Panthers’ with significant turnover in the offseason. However, Baltimore appears to be a much tougher test for this crop of rookies, facing a team expected to compete in the stacked AFC, and QB Lamar Smith now healthy and under a new lucrative contract. Houston might improve and be worth betting as the season progresses, but it would take at least 10+ points for me to nibble on the bait.
– Baltimore was on a record-setting tear as a preseason demon, but then lost their last two exhibition games, which is unusual for Harbaugh’s team. It’s hard to say what, if any, impact this “mini-losing streak” has on the Ravens. In past years, Baltimore’s intensity in the preseason seemed to carryover into the early weeks. For instance, in the last seven years the Ravens are 6-1 ATS in Week #1….and 5-2 ATS last their last seven home openers, and in the last three years, Baltimore scored 38-36-38 points in those home openers. It’s also worth noting that QB Lamar Jackson is 46-19 SU as an NFL starter.
– Since I’m not enticed by their team or the total, instead I will make three prop bets on this game and all involve the Ravens’ solid rushing attack. Ravens RBs rushed for 10+ yards on 14.2 pct. of 352 carries last season — which was best in NFL. The Texans allowed 10+ yards on 15.8 pct of carries to opposing RBs last season — worst in the NFL. I presume Baltimore’s game plan will factor this in, and we’ll see lots of running by the Ravens. Given the high spread, it’s unlikely they’ll have to throw much anyway (as in playing from behind). The Ravens rushed the ball on 48 pct. of plays from scrimmage last season — fourth-highest in NFL. The Texans allowed 5.3 yards per carry last season — which was fourth-worst in NFL. The Ravens averaged 5.6 yards per carry on 1st Down last season, which is a whopping YPG average — that’s best in the NFL. The Texans allowed 5.4 yards per carry on first down last season — tied for third-worst in NFL. Run the ball Control the clock. That’s the plan. The last thing Baltimore wants to putting Lamar Jackson under new contract in jeopardy with lots of rushing and passing. Look for the Ravens to try and run the hell out of the ball on Sunday and that should play into some positive rushing props.
Player Prop: J.K. Dobbins OVER 59.5 rushing yards [-115] (Risking $115 to win $100)
Player Prop: Gus Edwards OVER 28.5 rushing yards [-110] ( Risking $110 to win $100}
Player Prop: J.K. Dobbins to have more rushing yardage than Dameon Pierce [-120] (Risking $120 to win $100)
Cincinnati at Cleveland
Line: Bengals -2
– Cincinnati QB Joe Burrow made headlines this week, becoming the highest-paid player in NFL history. The other headline was that he might not start in Week #1 due to injury. Late-week reports say he will play. Burrow didn’t play a snap in the entire preseason. We presume he’s healthy and ready to go. That said, it’s always risky betting on a team that relies so much on a skill/condition of one player. What influences me to take the Bengals as underdogs isn’t so much Burrow’s situation, but rather the overall impressive results posted by Cincy under head coach Zac Taylor. Even with a Super Bowl loss (2021) and a bad call from another AFC title (2022), Cincy still might not be getting the proper respect they deserve. All the talk and hype seems to be on KC, BUF, MIA, and even the NYJ as the AFC favorites. However, it’s CIN that’s made football bettors the most money in recent years. The Bengals ATS record has been scorching the last two seasons, going a whopping 27-13 ATS. Yet, they’re laying only -2 this Week #1?. The Bengals also went 7-2 ATS on the road last regular season, even though they played their worst game at Cleveland in an embarrassing 19-point loss on MNF. I don’t see that repeating itself, this time.
– Cleveland is still Cleveland. Perhaps the past offseason with fewer distractions helps inconsistent QB Deshaun Watson following his highly-publicized off-the-field troubles. It’s hard to say. However, Watson hasn’t played at an effective level in three seasons. When he finally became the starter in Week #12, the Browns didn’t improve offensively – scoring just 27, 10, 13, 10, 24, and 14 points in their closing six games (Cleveland went 3-3 in his starts). Every team in the AFC North upgraded themselves in the draft and with free agents. Some are touting the Browns’ front office for finally not screwing things up. But we’ve heard that before, haven’t we?
– Even though the home division rivalry usually screams to play the dog, I don’t think the betting public is giving Cincinnati enough credit. They’re not being categorized as an elite team, but they should be. Give me the better team, the better organization, the better coach, and the better quarterback laying just -2 to their cross-state nemesis.
Cincinnati -2 (Risking $220 to win $200)
Jacksonville at Indianapolis
Line: Jaguars -5
– My initial thoughts were as follows: I don’t care who the Jaguars are playing. If they’re laying -5 as a road favorite, I’ll take the other side. I’ll continue doing this until one of two things happen — 1. the Jaguars show me they truly belong in the class of teams laying this kind of chalk, or 2. I go broke. I simply don’t believe in the Jaguars, at least not yet. But….
– Casting doubts aside, Jax was a money train in the second half of last season. They covered 6 of their last 7 games, pulled out a miracle comeback in the first round of playoffs, and enter the season with renewed optimism even though they finished with only a 9-8 record. The key stat is—Jax showed steady improvement and is favored to win the AFC South again.
– Meanwhile, it’s hard to find many bright spots with the Colts, especially with my money. A new coach, new rookie QB, new OC, and many of the same players who stumbled to a miserable 4-win season, including 7 straight losses to end the ’22 season. I don’t know what Indy sees in QB Anthony Richardson, who they made as the 4th overall pick in the draft. He started only a fraction of games in college and his completion percentage was 53 percent. He’ll be behind an OL that couldn’t pass protect (second worst in sacks allowed), so he’ll be using his legs to buy time. Richardson is the 7th Colts starting QB in 7 seasons. That’s astonishing inconsistency. Aside from Michael Pittman, I just don’t see any talent on this team, especially with RB Jonathan Taylor a holdout.
– An interesting stat I didn’t expect– the home team has won the last 11 games in this divisional series. I wanted to bet the Colts. But I can’t do it.
Tampa Bay at Minnesota
Line: Vikings -5.5
– I like Tampa Bay getting the points here, despite their obvious changes and problems. The reason for this pick is — it’s a fade against Minnesota. The Vikings personify what it means to be lucky. They went undefeated, a perfect 7-0 in games decided by 8 points or fewer last season, which gives us confidence they win games that are tight, but they hardly blow out teams, either. The Vikings were just 7-10-1 ATS last season, including non-covers in 5 of the final 6 games. Of course, Tampa Bay stank worse than a dead skunk against the spread as well, last season. Even though they “won” their pathetic division and made it into the playoffs, the Bucs were still a miserable underachiever and money burner. However, much of their problems stemmed from being a favorite in most weeks, due mostly to the (Tom) Brady factor and his history as a winner. Now that Brady is retired, and the Bucs went through some offseason turnover, bettors have flipped against Tampa Bay. Expectations are now low. But what I see is a market overreaction. I’d have the Vikings -3.5 as my line, so getting +5.5 clearly has value.
– The Bucs were the NFL’s worst rushing team last season. That placed all the pressure on Brady to win games. He started to show age down the stretch and the change at QB is probably a good thing for this team that’s still loaded in the receiver corps. Baker Mayfield gets one more shot to make it with a new team (his third) and while the Bucs have serious holes to fill, he may have his best wideouts with this roster. Veteran QBs in new systems also do well, sometimes. I say there’s still some talent in the tank for this former #1 draft pick and Mayfield will help to keep the Bucs in this game and keep it closer than the line suggests. Seattle’s ex-OC comes into the mix, as well. and reports are he’s rebuilding confidence with the new core group of skill players.
– I don’t like relying too heavily on last year’s numbers but the Vikings ranked #31 on overall defense last season, including 28th in points allowed. They were one of the worst 1st quarter teams in the NFL, but also led the league in 4th quarter scoring. Perhaps Vikings QB Kirk Cousins starts slow, and finishes strong. This has to figure into handicapping this game, as I’ll be making wagers on the dog early, and for the entire game. Last three years, Minnesota is a woeful 7-12 ATS as a home favorite, despite their winning record. I’m hoping for another close game.
First Quarter: Tampa Bay +1.5 [-130] (Risking $130 to win $100)
First Half: Tampa Bay Team Total OVER 9.5 [-120] (Risking $240 to win $200)
Tampa Bay +5.5 [full game line] (Risking $220 to win $200)
Tennessee at New Orleans
Line: Saints -3
– Both teams were major disappointments last season. The biggest change since then is the Saints’ acquisition of free agent Derek Carr at QB. I think this is a great fit for New Orleans. Raiders’ fans are about to find out the hard way that the problem in Las Vegas wasn’t Carr, despite his lackluster career W-L record. I think Carr will do well in this new system and fresh surroundings. That said, I’m betting against the Saints this week as I think they’ll get off to a slow start. In what I predict will be a close game, give me a FG.
– Some data points: Titans are 7-3 ATS in their last ten road openers / Last 3 years, Tennessee is 9-4-1 ATS as a road underdog / QB Ryan Tannehill is 80-68 as an NFL starter / Since 2015, Titans are 19-14-1 ATS vs NFC opponents/ Last two years, Titans are 7-5-1 ATS in games with spread of 3 or less. Bettors have historically underestimated Tennessee, which doesn’t win games in a fancy manner, but more often than not under head coach Mike Vrabel has given their backers the money (career record 50-37-1). Another data point in favor of the Titans….Tennessee suffered a losing record in 2022, but the previous 6 seasons had all been winning records. So, most of this veteran roster is accustomed to winning, and being somewhat forgotten by betting markets as a contender. I don’t think Tennessee is a playoff team in 2023, but there’s enough talent here to be around .500 and keep things close in most games.
– It’s also worth pointing out that New Orleans has been a dismal September team, even when they were among the NFC’s elite. Perhaps it’s the brutal New Orleans heat, but the Saints are often dreadful early in the season. Saints are just 2-7 ATS the last nine seasons in their season opener. Last season in coach Dennis Allen’s first year, New Orleans failed to cover ATS in its first three games.
– The Titans were decimated by injuries last season. Just how big a deal were those injuries? Bettors might have forgotten that the Titans were 7-3 after 10 games in 2022 and looked to be heading for another playoff birth, before injuries hammered this team and they dropped their final seven games, four of which came in one-score contests. If the Titans are healthy, they should at least be competitive.
– A big part of that downslide was QB Tannehill, who missed 7 games, but he’s back healthy again. He’s not in the elite class of QB, but he doesn’t usually make many mistakes, either. The Titans are known for running the ball, with Derrick Henry taking the heavy workload. Henry has been the most dominant running back in the NFL for half a decade. He led the NFL in both rushing touchdowns and rushing yards in two of the last four seasons. He has also tied the NFL record for 200+ yard rushing games in a career, and only three players in NFL history have more yards per attempt than Henry through their first seven seasons and they are all Hall of Famers. RBs typically don’t last, but Henry has defied age and there’s probably enough left in the tank to put up similar numbers. Having Tannehill healthy again should take some of the pressure off Henry, who was the Titans only threat for opposing defenses and even with keying in on him, produced respectable numbers. Saints were a bad rushing defense last season (ranking 24th) and lost 4 starters from that unit. So, this Saints’ defense remains questionable. LATE COMMENT: One more thing about RB Henry….his projected carries in this game is 18.5 so we assume that many touches unless the Titans fall behind and abandon the run (Note: Tennessee never abandons the run, even when behind). His YPC was 4.4 even with injuries last season. Assuming those numbers repeat here, we can chalk up Henry’s rushing yardage to be 81.4 yards, so we’re getting a bit of value (2.9 yards) based purely on the metrics.
– Full disclosure: I’m a longtime New Orleans Saints fan. I never let team allegiances influence by handicapping. Nonetheless, I saw nothing from rookie HC Dennis Allen last season that proves he belongs in the ranks of head coaching. Until Allen proves he’s capable, I’m glad to back the guy on the opposite sideline who has been a proven winner over the course of his career. I’m glad to take a veteran team, with the NFL’s best RB, capable of rebounding from last year’s injuries, and getting points versus a team with a new QB in a new system with an unproven head coach and staff. It might not mean much, but Tennessee has also won the last three times they played in the Superdome, despite New Orleans fielding some excellent teams.
Player Prop: Derrick Henry OVER 78.5 rushing yards [-115] (Risking $115 to win $100)
First Half: Tennessee +1.5 [-115] (Risking $115 to win $100)
Tennessee +3 (Risking $220 to win $200)
San Francisco at Pittsburgh
Line: 49ers -2.5
– All the contrarian stars in the sky line up for a home underdog cover in this game. First, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is a staggering 53-30-3 as an underdog over the course of his coaching career. For whatever reason, Tomlin gets more out of his players when they play good opposition than any coach in the last 20 seasons. Since 2018, Steelers are 7-1-1 ATS as a home dog.
– After a rocky start, Pittsburgh won and covered in 6 of its last 7 games last season and we saw continued improvement as the season progressed. Pittsburgh is also 10-3-1 ATS in last 14 games when spread was 3 or less points, again, some indication Tomlin and his staff are coaching well in these situations.
– We’ll soon see if second-year QB Kenny Pickett is the answer in filling now-retired Roethlisberger’s giant shoes. He’s 7-5 SU as an NFL starter, which instills some confidence. Steelers were a perfect 3-0 in preseason, as Tomlin openly stated he wanted to instill a “winning attitude” heading into this new season. Meaningless, maybe. But in a science where every factor must be weighed, I’m giving this a a bit of weight.
– San Francisco is a tough team to fade in terms of talent, but this looks to be the right spot to do so. We saw the 49ers crumble in one of the most ill-prepared and embarrassing conference championship games in history when SFO was down to the ballboy taking snaps in the second half at PHILA (yet another mismanaged personnel move by Kyle Shanahan). I’ve never seen an offense and staff flat out quit in the middle of a game, but that’s exactly what happened. So, what did the 49ers do this past offseason after being exposed as a void at the QB position with Brock Purdy vulnerable to injury? Answer: They shipped off BOTH of their backup QBs and are now left with Nancy Pelosi on the bench (I had to make at least one political joke). So now, it’s “all in” on Purdy, who better stay healthy or else the 49ers end up looking like the Packers in the 1965 NFL championship game (dated reference, but somebody out there will connect the dots). Like many fans and bettors, I was shocked at Purdy’s skills and leadership. All he did was win games, and he looked damn good doing it down the stretch at SFO covered in 9/11 to close out 2022. That said, this has been a loooong offseason, especially coming back from a serious injury. Questions do remain as to whether he can “do it again.” Maybe he will. However, I’m glad to take a solid opponent that showed resilience of their own with a definite home field East Coast advantage, and GETTING POINTS.
First Half: Pittsburgh +1.5 [-125] (Risking $125 to win $100)
Pittsburgh +2.5 (Risking $220 to win $200)
Arizona at Washington
Line: Redskins/Washington Football Team by 7 (I know, but I hate the nickname Commanders)
– Please rename the national capital team the “Pigskins.” Just do it. It’s perfect. JUST DO IT (credit NSA retiree, Corky Parks). Okay, if that’s not an option then keep the name Washington Football Team. It’s unique. It’s appropriate. ANYTHING but Commanders, which carries the foul stench of Dan Fucking Snyder.
– I bet this game a month ago at WASH -5.5. Trouble is, now the line is -7. That’s like saying, there’s one more mountain range to cross. This line movement is huge. But I’m still going to bet it, albeit not for a big amount but for a standard investment.
– Most analysts side with Washington to win its home opener. Arizona enters the 2023 regular season with the lowest expectation of any NFL team. The Cardinals’ projected win total is only 4.5 games, the lowest of any team. Confidence in Arizona plummeted even further three weeks ago when rookie head coach Jonathan Gannon (who?) announced veteran backup quarterback Colt McCoy had been cut. That likely means Joshua Dobbs is likely to start for the injured Kyler Murray. Some say the Cardinals are intentionally tanking already. Not sure about that. However, I see a clusterfuck for a while in Phoenix. With a new GM, greenhorn head coach, new offensive and defensive coordinators, an unproven quarterback, and a defense that ranked 31st in the NFL last season in points allowed, this is a total rebuilding year for the Cardinals.
– Meanwhile, Washington did manage to stay competitive most of last season, finishing with an 8-8-1 record. The Commanders also shed their clown-dick owner, who has long been a distraction. This is probably head coach Ron Rivera’s last chance to prove he’s the right fit with Washington, and throughout his career many have underestimated his coaching abilities. The bottom line is — Washington is favored by a touchdown for very valid reasons. Washington’s defense is also massively underrated, finishing 3rd in the NFL in yards allowed last season. That’s even more of an indication that Cardinals are likely to struggle.
– I don’t think Washington’s offense will have to do much to win and cover The 2022 5th-round pick QB Howell gets his 2nd NFL start here. Howell won his first and only NFL start 26-6 against the Cowboys last season. He’s as big a mystery as the rookie starting for Arizona. However, Washington simply has a better surrounding cast. I’ll go ahead and lay a TD here, even though the play isn’t nearly as strong as getting it a few weeks ago. I’m also going OVER on Washington’s team total of 22.5 points. I see the Pigskins using this game as a confidence builder and if they’re ahead, they’ll keep on the offensive pressure.
– I’m not sure if it means much, but Arizona has struggled in this stadium historically. Maybe the west-to-east travel or changing weather conditions. Cardinals lost their last eight visits here; their last win in Washington was in 1998 (and most of the Washington teams weren’t very good).
Washington Team Total OVER 22.5 [-115] (Risking $230 to win $200)
Washington -7 (Risking $220 to win $200)
Green Bay at Chicago
Line: Bears -1
– I’m passing on this game. I don’t see anything stands out as a betting edge. Moreover, both teams enter the season with way too many questions to bet either one with confidence. Line is insignificant at -1. Uncertainty on both offenses with both teams at QB. Packers historical trends are impressive in this one-sided “rivalry,” but probably meaningless here given new QB Jordan Love takes over a new era in Green Bay. Chicago has been horrid both SU and ATS. Bears are a woeful 9-25 SU and 13-20-1 ATS in the last two seasons. QB Justin Fields can light up a defense with his legs, but is that enough in today’s pass-happy NFL? Fields has pulled off some monster rushing numbers, yet is only 5-20 SU as an NFL starter. Last four years, Chicago is 5-7-1 ATS as a home favorite. Chicago is also a terrible 1-8 ATS in their last nine home games when playing against division rivals.
Las Vegas at Denver
Line: Broncos -3.5
– Here are two more bitter division rivals that went through a major overhaul during the offseason. Las Vegas remains stuck with a major question mark at head coach. I’m not sure Josh McDaniels is going to be around at season’s end given his 6-11 SU record in his debut season and little that inspires confidence heading into 2023. This season, most forecasts pick the Raiders to finish fourth in what’s admittedly a tough division. McDaniels hopes making the switch at QB from Derek Carr (shipped to New Orleans) to Jimmy Garoppolo improves the offense. At best, this looks like a lateral move. Las Vegas’ problem remains a 28th-ranked defense that can’t stop anybody.
– Denver suffered a horrible ’22 season in what was expected to be a breakout year for QB Russell Wilson. The Broncos were one of the NFL’s most inept offenses, due in part to Wilson lacking in leadership qualities and coming into camp overweight and even seemingly unmotivated. A horrible former Broncos coach didn’t help matters. Now, Denver has upgraded the brain trust with Sean Payton, who gets credited as the architect of the Saints glory years with former QB great Drew Brees. We can assume Payton will eventually turn the Broncos around, which has lost 10+ games in 5 of their last 6 seasons. However, I’m not sure everything will click opening week in the first game. I’m expecting a close fight, where the half point could come into play. So, I’m taking the Raiders plus the points for a small bet.
– Broncos finished dead last in the NFL in scoring last season. Payton’s presence will help, especially with a veteran QB in Wilson. But should Denver really be laying -3.5 points here with so many unproven qualities? Looks to me too many assumptions are being made here in hoping Payton immediately makes Denver into New Orleans Mach II. Maybe it eventually happens, but I don’t think the offense will correct its ineptitude instantly.
– One Raiders’ player who doesn’t get nearly enough credit is kicker Daniel Carlson. He’s got some stunning numbers, which are overshadowed by the kicking god in Baltimore. Look at Carlson’s FG numbers the last three seasons….33/35 (2020)….40/43 (2021)….and 34/37 (2022). That’s an average of two made FGs per game, and just 8 missed attempts in three seasons. Given the game is at Mile High Stadium, which is a kicker’s paradise (60 yarders are routinely attempted) plus some expected sluggishness by Garoppolo leading a new offense (hoping for some stalled drives in the red zone), I’m going OVER the Raiders FG prop, which is 1.5 successful FGs priced at plus money (+115). That’s one of the most attractive play props on the board this week.
Player Prop: Daniel Carlson (PK) to go OVER 1.5 successful field goals [+115] (Risking $200 to win $230)
Las Vegas +3.5 (risking $110 to win $100)
Miami at LA Chargers
Line: Chargers -3
– I’m taking Miami +3 just because I see a coin flip where anything could happen. So, give me the points, especially capturing the key number. In fact, this looks like the most entertaining game of the week, though the MNF opener might also qualify.
– Some fans might be surprised in knowing Tua Tagovailoa finished as the NFL”s highest-rated passer last season. He’s been injured off an on in his first few seasons, but when healthy has performed as well (actually better) than most QBs in the league. He’s 21-13 SU as an NFL starter. Tagovailoa also played his worst game of the season at the Chargers last year, a 23-17 loss (though he had an ankle injury), which I think could play into a little extra prep time and motivation this time around. I also like Miami’s performance on artificial turf, going 12-7 ATS on road playing on rubber grass.
– Recall the Chargers’ epic meltdown in their playoff loss last season. They blew a 27-0 lead at Jacksonville. I’m not sure that has any impact here, but it’s got to be on the minds of some players, especially if the LAC build a lead. One thing I don’t like about the Chargers and offseason changes was bringing in Kellen Moore from Dallas to be the new OC. Before Moore arrived, this was already the NFL’s 3rd best passing attack (but 30th in rushing), so what’s Moore brining to the sidelines that was lacking? If anything, this could be a disruption to Justin Herbert (25-25 SU as an NFL starter), who is clearly in the top-5 of elite QBs but has lacked a solid supporting cast.
– Brandon Staley isn’t going to win any coaching awards. His Chargers are 6-7 ATS as a home favorite, and just 6-12-7 ATS in games with spread of 3 or fewer points. The Chargers are just 2-4 ATS in their last six home openers.
– The total looks to be an easy OVER, which concerns me because the total is dropping for some reason. I’m not sure why the total has bounced around all week, zig-zagging from 52 to 53.5 and now down to 51. It’s even juiced down to -105. I’ll throw caution to the wind and dust some sugar on the OVER 51. Some injuries to the Dolphins’ defensive secondary scares me on the Miami side, which also means Herbert could put up some big numbers. I expect both teams to have success through the air. Can I get a 30-28 Chargers win here and please cash both tickets?
Miami +3 (Risking $110 to win $100)
Miami / LA Chargers OVER 51 [-105] (Risking $210 to win $200)
Philadelphia at New England
Line: Eagles -3.5
– I rarely read other handicapping advice prior to game day. I ignore it all, not because I’m smarter or better than they are at capping games. No, I simply want to reach my own conclusions. Then, I tend to check things out and inevitably will make some adjustments (injuries, facts I haven’t thought of, etc.). Moreover, I NEVER follow the so-called “handicappers” on television. Most of them will corrupt your thinking and live in echo chambers. Most are great fades. They’re hired because they’re entertainers. Now, all this said, I happened to channel surf accidentally across an interesting fact on TV, this week. It’s pretty remarkable if your’re thinking about betting on this game. The angle I saw is this — Super Bowl losers (from the previous season) are a woeful 3-16-1 ATS in Week #1 of the following season. That sucks! What an incredible stat! Philadelphia nearly won last year’s Super Bowl and many expect them to return against this year, especially given the relative weakness of the NFC teams. Nonetheless, fading Super Bowl losers has been like minting money for the last two decades (I should also note that Cincy last season performed very well, but also failed to cover in Week #1). This tells us Philadelphia should be bet against this week.
– Trouble is, New England looks like a very mediocre team coming into ’23. Since GOAT Tom Brady’s retirement, NWE is 25-25 SU. Replacement QB Mac Jones is 16-16 SU as an NFL starter. That’s .500, in other words mediocre. Not bad, but not good either. Where NWE is said to be improved is on defense. For NWE to make a run in a very tough AFC East, the defense will have to become one of the conference’s best. NWE doesn’t have the offense to outscore opponents. I sure don’t like Bill O’Brien now the OC in Foxboro. That could be a hot seat all season long. Defensively, we’ll see if this unit is improved right away since Philadelphia is such an explosive multi-dimensional offense. If the Patriots can hold PHILA in the 20s, they might have a shot to win this one.
– Sunday will be “Tom Brady Day.” I don’t know if that’s added motivation, or a distraction. Perhaps the later. I just don’t know if this is going to help a volatile situation in New England. Oftentimes, these celebrations occur in midseason, and often during MNF, which is a reset button for struggling teams (such as when legendary jersey numbers get retired). I’m not sure hosting the tribute in the first game was a smart move. In fact, I think Brady being in the house takes some of the shine off the team on the field. But this is purely a guess.
– Last 3 seasons, PHILA is just 4-10 ATS as a road favorite and 1-4 ATS in their last five road openers. PHILA has also performed poorly in non-conference games, going 6-10 ATS in last 16 games vs AFC opponents. What really stands out though is the Eagles losing both coaches/offensive and defensive coordinators who took new head coaching jobs after last season. That could be a disruption on both sides of the ball, though the talent on the field is still there, and then some.
PASS-NO BETS (but I might change my mind and make wagers on game day)
LA Rams at Seattle
Line: Seahawks -5.5
– Initially, I was going to take the Rams plus the points. The reasons were simple — the impressive record of underdogs in Week #1, a division rivalry matchup, and finally some possibility the Rams might be a bit more eager to bounce back following the injury-plagued disaster of a season that was 2022. But as I read more about the Rams it doesn’t appear they’ve fixed their numerous problems. LAR’s best player, Cooper WR Kupp (hamstring) is out for this week. That hurts the offense. The OL was a mess with injuries, and still looks weak. Meanwhile, the Rams’ defense has gone through a major overhaul and is untested. The Rams reportedly and very quietly attempted to trade QB Matthew Stafford during the offseason, but there were no takers. Questions remain as to his health and condition. The Rams are not the type of team I want to back, especially given how poorly they’ve performed since their Super Bowl win, which now seems like an eternity ago.
– Seattle has always enjoyed a strong home field advantage, arguably the best in the league. While the Seahawks have regressed to the mean somewhat in recent years, they remain feisty in season openers. Since 2003, Seahawks are 18-2 SU and 15-5 ATS in home openers. Seattle surprised lots of analysts and gamblers last season by playing better than was expected. We’ll see if they can continue making strides. The matchup hosting the Rams looks to be perfect punching bag to instill confidence. That said, I’m passing on making any wagers on this game for now.
Dallas at NY Giants
Line: Cowboys -3.5
– I’ll make this one short, since I’m up against it on time (oh, and my laptop died in the middle of making a post and I lost what I’d written — I hate it when that happens!) Cliffnotes — the Giants are worth a look especially as home dogs getting the hook on a FG. We’ve discussed dogs early in the season. Add division rivalry, and the resurgence of Big Blue and this isn’t the same NYG punching bag that’s been a bottom dweller in the NFC East for the last several seasons. However, Dallas has dominated this series which makes me shy away from making standard sized wagers. Instead, I’ll go smaller, but still take the underdog. Dallas lost it’s OC (Moore went to LA Chargers). I wasn’t high on Moore, but that still could be an adjustment, especially early in the season. Brian Daboll did an outstanding job with the Giants last season, but this team also got incredibly lucky in a few games (translation–opponents committed costly turnovers, etc.). I remain uncertain about Daniel Jones, though he did finally show flashes of brilliance in their playoff run last year. The Giants should stay with the Cowboys, so I’ll take them on two small wagers.
First Half: NY Giants +1.5 (Risking $110 to win $100)
NY Giants +3.5 (Risking $110 to win $100)
MONDAY GAME WRITE-UP STILL PENDING — CHECK BACK LATER
Detroit at Kansas City (Thursday)
Line: Chiefs -5
– The 2023 NFL regular season kicks off Thursday night and this looks to be a spectacular matchup. The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs will host the Detroit Lions, a Cinderella team many are expecting to make a huge leap forward this season. In fact, both the Chiefs and Lions are favored to win their respective divisions and make the playoffs. Nonetheless, this is a matchup of historical opposites. Kansas City has been atop the NFL pyramid for several years and has hosted the last four AFC championship games, leading to two Super Bowl victories. Meanwhile, Detroit has been on the opposite side of the success and failure spectrum for three decades as a long-suffering franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game in 31 years. However, everything is now subject to change. It’s a new season, and anything is possible.
– The Lions are the sexy team coming into the 2023 season. Optimism is certainly justified. NFL purists have to love third-year head coach Dan Campbell and the confidence he’s building in Detroit. Bettors also have to admire Campbell’s heavy reliance on analytics, such as going for it on 4th down when most coaches would not be so aggressive. Campbell makes the Lions fun to watch and as a fan, I am in awe of what he’s doing.
– However, as a bettor, I think the Lions are getting too much credit in this spot. Remember, this was a 9-8 SU team last season. They had no trouble scoring points, but the Lions also surrendered massive chunks of yardage both through the air and on the ground. Detroit’s defense ranked dead last #32 overall — 29th vs. the run and 30th vs. the pass. Kansas City is NOT the offense the Lions want to face right out of the gate to open a new season.
– If any other Super Bowl champion were opening up the new season AT HOME versus a NON-playoff team from the previous season, that line would be -7. Maybe higher. Hence, the number at -5 tells us bettors are sipping the Lion Kool-Aid. I’m not knocking confidence in Detroit for the full season. What I am fading is the high expectation that this unproven team unaccustomed to playing in games like this is going to keep it within a touchdown. My line here is -7. At -4.5 (early line), the Chiefs clearly had value. Now at -5, the value is still there. At -6, it’s less so. At -7, this game would be a pass. You can tell I’m picking the Chiefs to cover.
– I won’t get into all the player matchups and data points. All I really have to do is post the comparison between quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff. These are the games where Mahomes usually excels, so long as he’s at 100 percent. I think Goff could have a big year, but he’s not in Mahomes’ class. I also will take Andy Reid’s 129-52 SU record as coach of the Chiefs. Anytime I can lay this low a number with what’s indisputably the NFL’s #1-2-3 team, I’m going to do it.
– Some betting data (courtesy of Cnotes at MadJackSports):
— Detroit is 10-6 ATS as a road underdog since the start of 2021
— With Dan Campbell as head coach, Detroit is 12-21-1 SU and 24-10 ATS
— Detroit is 5-16-1 SU in its last 22 road openers
— Jared Goff is 57-48 SU as an NFL starter but only 12-19 SU with Detroit (he played for Rams previously)
— Last 20 years, the defending Super Bowl champion is 11-6-3 ATS in Week 1 (following year)
— Last three years, Kansas City is 10-13 ATS as a home favorite
— Last seven years, Kansas City scored 33+ points in all their Week #1 games
— Kansas City is 7-0 SU and 4-3 ATS in its last seven home openers
— Patrick Mahomes is 75-19 as an NFL starter
— In the last three years, the under is 15-9-1 in Kansas City home games
– Injury factors….KC TE Travis Kelce is questionable, which is big news. Still, I think the Chiefs score points and win, with or without him. As of Thurs. morning, some reports say he’ll suit up. I presume if he suits up, he plays. At the very least, Kelce on the field is a great decoy. Nonetheless, this has to be factored into any wagering. UPDATE-Kelce is out. Line dropped to -4.5.
– My wagers will be on Kansas City as the favorite. I also like the Chiefs to go OVER their team total, which is 28.5. Note the stat above that Kansas City typically comes out of the gate fast. See: Last seven years, Kansas City scored 33+ points in all their Week #1 games. I see no reason why Kansas won’t match those results here, given Andy Reid’s coaching history, and the fact the Chiefs are facing such a poorly-ranked defense. The Kansas City team total is 28.5, (-115).
Kansas City -5 (Risking $220 to win $200)
Kansas City Team Total OVER 28.5 (Risking $230 to win $200)
Yes, Kansas City was OUTPLAYED tonight. But they were badly OUTCOACHED. What in the hell was Andy Reid thinking going for it on 4th down and 25 from midfield with ALL 3 timeouts remaining in a 21-20 game?
I really want to know the answer. I DEMAND a fucking answer. What can possibly explain this, and why weren’t the announcers jumping out of the press box wondering what’s going on here?
Kansas City’s wide receivers were garbage, tonight. Utter shit. A total drop show. Embarrassing. Meanwhile, Detroit just won its biggest game since the turn of the century. Massive respect.
Still, I’m sitting here babbling and shaking, trying to pick my jaw off the floor after seeing a good (supposedly) smart team going for it on 4th and 25 with 2:10 left on the clock and all three timeouts. W. T. F. ??????
So, earlier in the game Andy Reid kicked a field goal on 4th and 2, kicked another field goal on 4th and 3, and punted on 4th and 4 twice ——– all so that he could go for it on 4th and 25 ??????
WHAT THE FUCK !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Seriously, I’ve NEVER seen that before. That was astonishingly stupid! There can be no possible justification for such a horrendous decision. NONE!
NOTE: MORE GAMES (ANALYSIS AND PICKS) TO COME.