- Need some advice before placing your Week 1 NFL bets? Look no further, as The MMQB staff is here to help with all of their top plays for this weekend's action.
The NFL season is nearly underway, and several strong value plays stand out in Week 1's action that bettors should greatly consider putting their money on. Here are our favorite bets for this upcoming weekend's games.
Los Angeles Rams (-4) at Oakland Raiders
Preparing to make a run, the Rams added talent on offense (deep threat Brandin Cooks) and defense (Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Ndamukong Suh) and rewarded their best player, Aaron Donald, with a $135 million contract extension. Jon Gruden, on the other hand, told us exactly how he feels about his Raiders roster when he traded away the team's best player, Khalil Mack, for future draft picks (note: Gruden does not feel good about his roster). The Rams led the league in scoring last season, and that unit is better this year. The Raiders ranked in the bottom half of the league in scoring defense last season, and that unit is worse this year. The loss of Mack leaves a huge void on the Raiders, both mentally and physically, and it's hard to imagine the Sean McVay-led Rams not going into Oakland and winning big. — Jenny Vrentas
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+9.5) at New Orleans Saints
Yes, the Saints are better than the Bucs—especially with Tampa starting Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. But 9.5 is a huge spread in a divisional game. The Bucs beat the Saints in Week 17 last year and have since corrected their most glaring weakness, the pass rush. If their running game can be halfway decent, this contest will be closer than Vegas expects. — Andy Benoit
Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals (-1)
Bruce Arians is gone, and we’re all pretty bummed about that. It’s important to recognize that there are some known unknowns with this Cardinals team, with first and foremost being how Steve Wilks will fare early on in his first head-coaching tenure after just one season as a coordinator. But for me, this pick comes down to the quarterback position. Sam Bradford didn’t get another monster contract this offseason because no one trusts he can stay healthy. At the moment, though, he is healthy, which gives Arizona a top-half-of-the-NFL-caliber QB to open the year.
Washington enters Year 1 with Alex Smith. Whatever you think of him and his ultra-conservative style (don’t be fooled by the increase in deep-ball attempts last season, any QB becomes aggressive when Tyreek Hill is running free 12 yards behind the defense), we can all agree that last year was his best season. He now joins a team with significantly worse skill-position players. And, even if Jay Gruden—one of the NFL’s shrewdest play designers—moves away from the offense he ran with Kirk Cousins in order to accommodate Smith’s inability/unwillingness to throw receivers open, the type of college-style, misdirection-heavy attack the Chiefs used last year no longer has the element of surprise that allowed K.C. to thrive early last season.
The Cardinals defense is still loaded with young talent. Washington has a talented group on defense too, though it's still trying to figure things out with some seemingly mismatched pieces up the middle. I’d normally be cautious about a game in which both teams are starting new quarterbacks, but it’s hard to figure how Arizona can be viewed as anything less than an evenly matched team here. — Gary Gramling
Houston Texans (+6.5) at New England Patriots
Picking against the Patriots at home in Week 1 may seem ill-advised, especially as a best bet, but this line significantly underrates the Texans. Deshaun Watson has looked completely himself this summer, and there was a six-week stretch last year where he was the best player in the league. Even with Dont’a Hightower healthy and Adrian Clayborn on the line, this is a group Watson can get to with his arm and legs, particularly with DeAndre Hopkins against a defense that ranked 26th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA against No. 1 receivers. You know how many games the Texans lost by more than a touchdown with Watson starting last year? One, and it was an eight-point loss to the Chiefs in which Watson led them to 34 points. J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus are back, giving Houston one of the best pass rushes in the league, and ensuring that this defense won’t allow very many 40-spots this season. The Patriots are short-handed, playing without Julian Edelman and with a limited-at-best Sony Michel. The Texans may not win the game, but, of course, this line doesn’t ask them to do so. All they have to do is keep it within a touchdown, something they can do on merit. Plus, the backdoor is always open with a 6.5-point line, though I don’t think the Texans will need it. — Michael Beller
Kansas City Chiefs (+3.5) at Los Angeles Chargers
I went out on a pretty big limb this week, picking the Chiefs as my Super Bowl champs in the MMQB's season predictions, so I guess I should put my money where my mouth is. Yes, they are going on the road, but I think Kansas City is the better team and this line might look a little silly with a few weeks of hindsight. A big part of picking them was anticipating Patrick Mahomes's growth during the season, but I think Andy Reid will have his team ready to play. We all remember Kansas City's electric offense putting up six touchdowns on New England last season in 2017's season opener, and the Chiefs are actually 4-1 straight up in Week 1 during Andy Reid's tenure, including wins in all three road games. The Chargers went 5-3 at home last season, but the StubHub Center doesn't strike me as a tremendous home-field advantage. I'd pick the Chiefs to win this game straight up, so I'll happily take the 3.5 points. — Mitch Goldich
Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos (-3)
This is a game where I think one team is incredibly undervalued and the other is still slightly overvalued. The Seahawks lost several key players on the defensive side of the ball this offseason, and Earl Thomas isn't a lock to play despite ending his holdout on Wednesday. If Thomas sits, keep in mind that Seattle's defense surrendered 7.77 yards per attempt (30th) and a passer rating of 100.3 (31st) after he broke his leg last year in Week 13. The Seahawks have attempted to fix their offensive line, but this is still a group that fared poorly in sacks allowed (43.0) and QB hits allowed (121) in 2017. That doesn't bode well for Russell Wilson against a Broncos pass rush that should vastly improve with the addition of No. 5 pick Bradley Chubb to pair with Von Miller. On the offensive side of the ball, the Broncos massively upgraded at quarterback, even with Case Keenum likely coming back to reality after a dreamlike year with the Vikings. Denver's offensive line has its fair share of questions, but Keenum finished seventh in passer rating while under pressure last season. Head coach Vance Joseph could really use a nice start to this campaign to cool the temperature on his hot seat, and he'll have a great shot at picking up a win here against a Seattle team that is a shell of what it was in years past. — Max Meyer