NFL Betting Criteria
If you enjoyed the Cowboys and Buccaneers game Thursday night, buckle up because Sunday's slate of games will bring plenty of excitement.
Each week, Sports Illustrated's betting analysts deliver five of their most confident picks and give some analysis on their best bet of the week.
Here's our criteria for picking games:
- All odds from SI Sportsbook
- Each analyst must pick five games games
- Three of the bets must be Against The Spread or Over/Under
- The remaining two picks (if didn’t pick all five ATS or O/U) can be on the Moneyline (but at least one of those ML picks must be on an underdog)
NFL Week 1 Best Bets
Frank Taddeo's Best Bet: New England -3
The Mac Jones era will get off to a solid start in Week 1 when the Patriots take on AFC East rival Miami in their 2021 home opener. My projections have Jones throwing for 250-plus yards and multiple scores in his NFL debut. Expect the rookie passer to bring his winning prowess from Alabama to New England and help bettors cover this field goal spread in the process.
Richard Johnson's Best Bet: Jaguars -3
The Texans are quite literally not trying to win football games this season, and with Deshaun Watson being the equivalent of a healthy scratch it's hard to imagine they'll trip into many wins the season. Yes, this is a heart pick as a Jags fan, but as bad as Jacksonville was last year and probably will be this year, they still aren't the Texans.
Jennifer Piacenti's Best Bet: Raiders +4
I hate to kick a team when they’re down, but I have to jump on the Raiders here with the points. Baltimore will be trotting out either an inexperienced or a geriatric run game—or probably some combination of the two. Without all-pro cornerback Marcus Peters, I think the perennially undervalued Derek Carr could have some success through the air in a rocking home opener in Vegas. I love Lamar Jackson, but I just don’t think he can win this one on his own.
Casey Olson's Best Bet: Packers -3.5
The line opened with the Saints as a -2.5 favorite, but with the game moving to Jacksonville after Hurricane Ida's damage to New Orleans, we now have Green Bay as the rightful favorite at -3.5. Green Bay could have covered this new line even in New Orleans, and the move to a neutral field puts this one as my top play. The Saints have gone 1-6 ATS in their last seven openers. Rodgers will probably come out and look to make a statement after the offseason drama. Record ATS has Rodgers 118-86-6 (56%) while Winston is just 31-36-3 (44%).
Bill Enright's Best Bet: Washington -1
There's a lot of hype surrounding the Chargers in 2021, and rightfully so. Second-year quarterback Justin Herbert looked incredible during his rookie season, and their defense gets some of their key playmakers back healthy. But I'm a bit cautious about a team traveling from west to east with a first-year head coach in Brandon Staley going up against a stout Washington defensive front. Washington will win outright, and the number on this game is a bit puzzling. Lay the one point and grab the well-positioned NFC East squad.
Sports Illustrated's Betting 101 series
Whether you are an experienced sports bettor or someone that is new to the scene, the Betting 101 series is perfect as a refresher course or guide to learn more. Check out our list of key terms that every sports bettor must know.
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help: