- There are lots of intriguing games on the Week 1 slate, The MMQB staff has identified its top picks to cash for this week.
The NFL season is here, and that means we'll have weekly best bets from The MMQB staff here at SI Gambling. There are lots of intriguing games on the Week 1 slate, and our experts have identified their top picks to cash for this week.
Indianapolis Colts (+6.5) at Los Angeles Chargers
Such disrespect for Jacoby Brissett! Everyone is still hung up on his 2017 stat line, when he was brought to the organization five days before the season and inserted into a broken system surrounded by a Ryan Grigson-built roster. He's talented, he has a solid supporting cast, he's had a full season learning under Frank Reich (that same Frank Reich who helped get Nick Foles up to speed in time to win a Super Bowl two seasons ago) and he should be a league-average starter this season.
On the other side of the ball, while the focus has been on Melvin Gordon, apparently few have noticed that the Chargers are going to trot out one of football's worst offensive lines (Trent Scott and Dan Feeney on the left side? Yeesh). Meanwhile, Matt Eberflus's Indy defense allowed 16.4 points per game in the second half of last season (fewer than anyone but the Bears). Plus, the Chargers are 5-8 ATS as a favorite in their little, tiny, baby-sized home stadium. This line is at least a field goal larger than it should be. — Gary Gramling
Green Bay Packers (+3) at Chicago Bears
Get your season started right. These opening games have often been sloppy, weird, or both. That's reason enough to take the points, as is the presence of one Aaron Rodgers. Add in Green Bay's surprise factor (new coach Matt LaFleur ought to have a trick or two up his recently outfitted sleeve), and suddenly the first game of the NFL season looks like one of the best bets you'll get. — Jacob Feldman
Kansas City Chiefs (-3.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
If you followed me at all in this space last year, you may remember that I’m hopelessly addicted to betting road teams. Week 1 is always tricky, because there are so many teams we have a lot to learn about. But the Chiefs are one of the NFL’s teams I’m most confident in projecting. I think they are the best team in the AFC by a wide margin. I think they will score points in bunches, even against that Jaguars defense.
I think they are going to win a whole lot of games by at least four points this season, even on the road. Last year they won by at least four points 11 times. They are going to be on a mission after losing last season’s AFC Championship Game in overtime without touching the ball, and that offense is going to pick up right where it left off, leaving a lot teams in its dust. — Mitch Goldich
Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns: UNDER 45.5 Points
It feels weird going with a total in Week 1, but I think this under is a nice value with all the hype the Browns offense has been getting this offseason. To be fair, though, I’m also extremely pessimistic about the Titans offense. Per Sharp Football Stats, the Titans ran the ball 59% of the time on first down in 2018, which was tied for the second-highest rate in the NFL, only behind the Seahawks at 64%. The problem with that is Tennessee wasn’t very efficient doing so, as only four teams had a worse success rate than the Titans’ 44% running the ball on first down (gaining at least 50% of the yardage needed for another first down). Granted, last year’s OC Matt LaFleur is now the Packers’ head coach, but this seems like the general offensive philosophy head coach Mike Vrabel is striving for, and I expect to see more of the same under new OC Arthur Smith.
If the Titans face a lot of second- and third-and-longs, that could spell trouble. The Browns have one of the NFL's top defensive lines, headlined by Myles Garrett along with offseason acquisitions Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson. That is bad news for a Titans offensive line that won’t have suspended Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan. And I don’t think Marcus Mariota is a quarterback that you can trust to make big plays when there’s pressure generated. Additionally, new DC Steve Wilks should be an upgrade over Gregg Williams.
When Freddie Kitchens took over as interim offensive coordinator last season, the Browns’ offense became much more explosive, and adding Odell Beckham Jr. can only help there. But Cleveland does have a shaky offensive line, and the Titans bolstered their pass rush by drafting Harold Landry and signing pass-rusher Cameron Wake this offseason. On the back end, Tennessee has a very solid secondary that can hold its own against Cleveland’s impressive collection of pass-catchers. It’s also Kitchens’s first game as head coach and Todd Monken’s first game as the Browns’ OC, so there may be some slight growing pains as the coaches adjust to their new roles and working together.
Every point matters when betting on a total, including field goals, and I don’t trust either of these kickers. The Browns are relying on rookie kicker Austin Seibert while the Titans just placed Ryan Succop (86.7% on FGs in 2018) on IR and signed Cairo Santos (77.8% on FGs in 2018, including 42.9% on FG attempts of at least 40 yards) to replace him.
To me, all of these factors scream under 45.5 points here. — Max Meyer