The preseason games are done, the rosters are set and the players are champing at the bit. The 2013 National Football League season begins in just a few hours with one of the marquee games of the weekend starting off the season. Five months from now, one of these 32 teams will lift the Lombardi Trophy…determining which one it is, well, that’s why they play the games!
Each week of the NFL season, we will break down the matchups and give you a bit of info to perhaps enjoy some extracurricular activities with the games. With that, let’s get started with the big matchup of the weekend (home teams are in CAPS, lines from the Mirage in Las Vegas and the choice for the game in BOLD).
Baltimore Ravens (+7.5) vs. DENVER BRONCOS
The MLB’s Baltimore Orioles wouldn’t change a night game in Crabcake City to allow the defending Super Bowl champion to open the season at home on Thursday night (as has been the tradition over the last few years), so the Ravens have to hit the road to take on a team they barely vanquished in the AFC playoffs last year.
Even though their offense bears little resemblance to last year’s team, look for Ravens QB Joe Flacco to keep this one close and for the Ravens to cover the spread, although they might not win. No team likes to come out and throw their entire playbook on the field in the first game, so the scoring will be down also.
New England Patriots (-10) vs. BUFFALO BILLS
How this one made the board is beyond me. The Bills are starting rookie QB E. J. Manuel (after dallying with the thought of undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel taking the start against the Pats), which means Dark Hoodie (AKA Patriots head coach Bill Belichick) will have a field day sending his defense out to feast on the Bills O and quarterback Tom Brady to dice the Buffalo D. It’s not going to be pretty on the shores of Lake Erie.
Tennessee Titans vs. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-7)
Although the Steelers are going to have difficulties running the ball, they still have Ben Roethlisberger at the helm and an adequate defense. “Big Ben” alone will be enough to cover the seven point spread against the woeful Titans.
Atlanta Falcons (+3) vs. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Technically an upset by the line, it is a bit of a surprise to see the defending NFC South champion as the underdog against a team that didn’t crack .500 in 2012. There’s just too much offense on the Falcon side of the equation – even with Drew Brees reunited with head coach Sean Payton – to see the Saints taking this one down.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3) vs. NEW YORK JETS
A similar situation to the Patriots/Bills game above. The Jets are starting rookie QB Geno Smith, which should be a disaster against a stout Bucs D. Get ready for a long season, Jets fans, as head coach Rex Ryan might not make it to the midpoint of the season in that position.
Kansas City Chiefs (-3.5) vs. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
A battle between the two worst teams in the NFL last year, the Chiefs have at least shored up their team in the offseason. New QB Alex Smith and head coach Andy Reid (among other changes) have brought a new life (at least for this weekend) to Kansas City football. The Jaguars, not so much. This could be a huge rout for the Chiefs if Reid’s offensive machinations have been absorbed by the team.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. CHICAGO BEARS (-3)
This could be one of the more entertaining games of the weekend. The Bengals, a playoff team the last two years, will give the revamped Bears a fight but will come up short in the end. Just don’t see the Bengals coming into Soldier Field and knocking off a strong Bears offense led by Jay Cutler, Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall, and a Bears D that is still potent.
Miami Dolphins vs. CLEVELAND BROWNS (Pick ‘em)
The Mirage has this game as even up and, in that case, you have to give the edge to the home squad. Although the offenses are pretty much equal, the Browns defense is a step above the Dolphins D, which should swing the game in their favor.
Seattle Seahawks vs. CAROLINA PANTHERS (+3.5)
This is one of those “West Coast teams traveling to the East Coast” matchups that you have to look at when taking into consideration a wager. Traditionally, West Coast teams do not do well when playing the 1PM game on the East Coast due to the time differential (those West Coast bodies think it is 10AM). Although I do expect the Seahawks to win this game, I do expect the Panthers to cover the spread.
Minnesota Vikings (+4) vs. DETROIT LIONS
This one is an oddity to me in looking at the line (the Lions are favored?). The Lions were one of the huge disappointments in 2012 and, other than adding RB Reggie Bush, they didn’t do much to improve the team. The Vikings still have the cyborg known as RB Adrian Peterson in the backfield and he should have a big day on the synthetic turf at Ford Field.
Oakland Raiders vs. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-10)
The Raiders are a team in disarray once again and this isn’t the best matchup to start the season with. Raiders QB Terrell Pryor will get his first NFL start against a strong Colts D and Colts QB Andrew Luck should dissect the porous Raiders D for an early season W. While ten points is quite a bit to give up, the Colts should cover it fine.
Arizona Cardinals (+5.5) vs. ST. LOUIS RAMS
This is another head-scratcher from the Mirage oddsmakers. The Cardinals will be vastly better at QB this year with Carson Palmer under center, the Cards D has been strengthened and new head coach Bruce Arians brings the magic he used as the interim coach in Indianapolis last year to the desert. To think that the Rams – who lost their thunder in RB Stephen Jackson in the offseason, leaving QB Sam Bradford with a bare cupboard – can top Arizona is a bit of a reach.
Green Bay Packers vs. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (-4)
Another matchup of playoff teams from 2012, the 49ers should take this one as they did last year. The Packers RB situation is a bit iffy and, even though they have QB Aaron Rodgers, he may spend the afternoon running from the 49ers D. Colin Kaepernick, beginning his first full season as the starting QB in San Fran, should be able to get the Niners by the Pack and cover the spread.
New York Giants vs. DALLAS COWBOYS (-3)
The Giants just don’t have the offensive firepower to keep up with the Cowboys, at least to start the season. Their RB corps is in disarray and, other than WR Victor Cruz (who didn’t play at all in the preseason), QB Eli Manning doesn’t have a lot of options. The Cowboys should cover this one easily as they look to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (-3.5)
The Redskins are looking to defend their 2012 NFC East championship and there’s no better way to do it than beating a division rival in Week 1. It’s going to take some time for new Eagles head coach Chip Kelly’s fast-break offense to gel and, with nothing on defense to slow down a grinding Redskins offense led by Robert Griffin III, the Redskins should take this down at home.
Houston Texans (-4) vs. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
The final game of Week 1 pits a Houston team with a host of offensive weapons and one of the top defenses in the NFL against the rebuilding Chargers. This one is a no-brainer in picking the Texans to trample the ‘Bolts under the California sun.
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