The arrival of preseason NFL games has us thinking about when pro football contests really count. Once week one comes, we can actually feel good about betting on football again and at some point, things will be predictable enough for us to crush on a weekly basis.
Of course, we’re not there yet.
True, we could dominate with our NFL picks right away out of the gates, but week one is a tricky beast and we all know it. That first week of the NFL season often puts two stellar teams against each other and as good as some of these teams are someone has to lose.
Once you start adding home/road splits, ATS data, rivalries, injuries and various trends, gauging how to wager on that first week gets pretty problematic. Some of the games in week one are obviously not going to be easy to call, while others could be tough even though it might not stick out as much.
To us, there are five games that are especially risky. That doesn’t mean we will completely stay away or bypass trying to find an edge with them, but there is no denying the fact that they carry significant risk.
New York Giants(+4.5)
Dallas Cowboys (-4.5)
This is going to be a really difficult game to pick going into week one. Obviously, we’ve got a rivalry game out of the NFC East, but both of these teams went to the playoffs a year ago and are among the most talented and balanced squads in the league.
Dallas is expected to compete for a Super Bowl this year, but here are two wrinkles NFL bettors possibly hadn’t prepared for; the G-Men swept this series last year and the ‘Boys could be without stud running back Ezekiel Elliott to start the year due to a looming suspension.
Maybe Zeke never misses a game or perhaps the Cowboys break whatever mental hold New York has over them. Regardless, this is a rivalry clash between two very good teams. Add the bad blood and this one should probably have a tighter spread than what we’re seeing right now at Bovada and the top NFL betting sites.
Green Bay Packers (-3)
This game might be even tougher to call, as the Seahawks try to get their 2017 season started off the right away at Lambeau Field against the Packers.
These two teams absolutely hate each other and you better believe the Seahawks will want vengeance for a blowout loss on this field a year ago. Seattle was without star safety Earl Thomas at the time and with the Legion of Boom at 100% this time around, Green Bay might not find it so easy to move the ball.
Another interesting note is the return of running back Eddie Lacy, who the Packers let walk due to weight and health woes. Some payback could be in order during one of the top revenge games of the year, while Aaron Rodgers and co. understandably won’t be too keen on the idea of starting off 2017 at 0-1.
Washington Redskins (-2.5)
Another NFC East battle exists in week one, as the Eagles will travel to D.C. to take on Kirk Cousins and the Redskins. A year ago Washington was obviously better than this young Philly squad on paper, and it translated to the field with a 2-0 sweep.
The Redskins have held the upper hand in this series for a while (5 straight wins), but it’s worth wondering when the Eagles will finally rise up and end the drought. Rivalry games can go either way, while the contests between these two have actually been quite intense (decided by a touchdown or less in 4 of the last 5 games).
There is even reason to doubt the Redskins, who have shown star quarterback Kirk Cousins a lack of respect in contract negotiations. Throw in a shaky running game, oft-injured tight end Jordan Reed and the loss of reliable receivers like DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, and it’s fair to wonder if the lack of continuity will give Philly the chance it needs to strike back.
Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5)
I know we should change the record, but there is no denying one of the toughest kind of NFL games to pick is a divisional battle. That theme carries on in Cincy in week one, when Andy Dalton leads his Bengals up against the hated Ravens.
These battles are rather iconic, as both sides tend to have good coaching, elite defenses, and balanced offense. That at times leads to low-scoring, grind-it-out battles, and also makes these showdowns relative toss-ups.
This feels like another pick’em meeting, and based on how these games have gone down (decided by 8 points or fewer in 7 of the last 9 contests), that logic doesn’t seem flawed. Cincinnati has been the dominant force in this matchup lately (won 6 of last 7), but these games are too tight to feel overly confident about.
Tennessee Titans (+1)
The last week one game we want to touch is this AFC clash between the Raiders and Titans in Tennessee. Oakland feels like the easy pick at first glance, but when we look back at their amazing 2016 season, it’s interesting to note an astonishing 11 of their games were decided by 8 points or fewer.
The point? As loaded as the Raiders look on paper, a year ago they really weren’t that dominant of a team. In fact, of their 12 regular season wins, 9 of them ended up being of that aforementioned close variety.
Oakland still might be the Super Bowl contender everyone wants them to be, but in week one they’ll be on the road and facing a young Titans team that could be on the rise. I’m not saying the Titans are a lock to defend their turf here, but in a true pick’em, I’m not seeing the evidence that for sure pushes us one way or the other.
We’re not saying you can’t bet on these games, but with a month of NFL preseason action to go before they arrive, they do give us a lot to think about. Maybe the spreads will loosen up or injuries or other news will make the pictures a little clearer. Still, as things stand, these week one NFL games look borderline impossible to feel good about picking.
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