NFL Week 1 Underdog Picks & Odds
One game of the NFL season is officially in the books, as the Rams’ title defense got off to a pretty disappointing start, getting dismantled at home by the Bills. The Bills were a road favorite against the defending champs, which surprised some, including myself, but they certainly got the job done and comfortably covered that one-score spread. However, week one is almost always rife with upsets, as we don’t really know what we’re getting with any of these teams, since we haven’t seen them on the field in about half of a year. So let’s look at some underdogs who have a chance to do what the Rams could not- cover, and maybe even win.
Browns @ Panthers Betting Odds; Sunday, 1pm ET
This was one of the main bets I highlighted in my odds spotlight over the weekend, and the line has had some absolutely ridiculous movement since then- the Panthers have swung from a 2.5 point favorite, to a 1.5 points underdog, all for no discernible reason. As I mentioned in my last pice, Carolina have a healthy Christiam McCaffrey, and a highly motivated Baker Mayfield going up against a version of his old Browns team that will have Jacoby Brissett at the helm as
Deshaun Watson begins his suspension. I truly have no idea why there has been such a surge of public money towards Cleveland, who are heading into what will likely be a very hostile road environment, but it creates a great opportunity for the savvy gambler; pounce on that +1.5 line for Carolina while it’s there, or take them to win at -104, essentially even money for a team that should be a solid favorite
Steelers @ Bengals Betting Odds; Sunday, 1pm ET
Yes, they shored up their offensive line, a much-needed change, but everything else about this Bengals team screams “regression candidate.” Furthermore, starting off their season with what figured against division-rival Pittsburgh is not what the doctor ordered as Cincy tries to stave off a classic case of Super Bowl loser hangover. The Pittsburgh defense is still very stout when healthy, Mitch Trubisky is probably an upgrade over the shadow of Big Ben, and Mike Tomlin continues to be one of the very best coaches in the business; it’s hard to see him losing by a touchdown on opening day to Zac Taylor and his crew.
That all being said, the line is Pittsburgh +6.5, which I see as a no-brainer, but if you want to go a step further, I think that the Steelers at +220 to win the game outright is very solid value. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Cincy sneak away with a close one, making the moneyline a bit iffy, but I’d be confident taking that spread of nearly a full touchdown, as the Steelers are very likely to keep this one tight all the way through
Colts @ Texans; Sunday Betting Odds; Sunday, 1pm ET
Make no mistake- Houston is by no means a good football team this year. But this is a team that has been known to sneak a surprising win or two, and the Colts are certainly liable to let a weird one slip. Signing Matt Ryan is also a very weird remedy to your team being seen as a choking hazard- but jokes aside, the former MVP is a diminished version of his peak self.
Even though he certainly has the chance to play some efficient football and get Indy to the postseason, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for him to experience some growing pains; let’s not forget that he’s joining a new team for the first time since starting his 14-year tenure as the starter in Atlanta. From a value standpoint, the +7.5 line for Houston is very intriguing, as that last half point above a touchdown is really significant. Are the Colts likely to win? Sure, I wouldn’t bet against that. But can the Texans keep it within a touchdown or less, at home against a team that might need some time to gel? Absolutely, and it’s one of my favorite bets of the week.
Jaguars @ Commanders Betting Odds; Sunday, 1pm ET
Never did I think I’d be writing about the Jaguars’ value as a road underdog, but in Week 1, all things are possible. That being said, last year’s Jags stole some games from pretty good to very good teams, and they had one of the splashiest offseasons of any team as they invested heavily in some weapons to make Trevor Lawrence’s life easier in year 2 as well as of course selecting superstar Georgia edge rusher Tavon Walker with the first pick in the draft.
And of course, they hope that the departure of Urban Meyer, who was an unmitigated disaster in the NFL, will be addition by subtraction. The Commanders, on the other hand, followed up a mediocre season by bringing in Carson Wentz, a noted king of mediocrity, and bolstering the offensive line a bit after losing Brandon Scherff. The stagnation in DC compared with the clear commitment to improvement by Jacksonville makes me feel good about the Jags’ odds to threaten the Commanders in this game, as they come in as a 2.5 point underdog. I’d certainly take that number, although buying it up over a field goal is a pretty good idea, but it’s also worth thinking about Jacksonville to win outright at the price of +120.
Packers @ Vikings Betting Odds; Sunday, 4:25pm ET
This is another really intriguing one, and like the Colts game, another case of a team that will likely be a threat in the long run, but Week 1 could be a tough proposition. In this case, it’s the Packers, who will be tasked with managing the loss of star wideout Davante Adams, and one of their complimentary pass catchers, Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Allen Lazard is the top wideout now, following a solid 2021 season, and the Packers invested two mid-round picks in the wide receiver position as well as bringing in journeyman wideout Sammy Watkins. Still, while he’s probably going to figure it out because that’s what he does, Aaron Rodgers’ adjustment to life without Davante will probably take a little bit of time.
The Vikings also invested their top two draft picks this year in improving their secondary, which could make things harder than usual for the Packers receivers. Top it off with a tough rivalry road environment for Green Bay, and the Vikings lines of +1.5 and -102 to win outright are looking pretty solid from where I’m sitting- I’d invest in either one when setting up your week one bet slip.
As you're firing up your "can't miss ML parlays" for the NFL in Week 1, keep in mind that the following favorites lost last year in Week 1 alone:
There will be AT LEAST one major upset
— Jacob Wayne (@wayne_sports_) September 6, 2022