Baltimore at Denver -8.5
Early thoughts: Reports of the Ravens’ demise have been greatly exaggerated. They’ve done a great job of filling the holes that were created early in free agency (including stealing Elvis Dumervil from Denver). They have Terrell Suggs returning to full health. And a full season of Jim Caldwell and Bryant Caldwell should allow Joe Flacco to maintain some of his gains in performance from last year’s post-season.
They’ll come into this season with more of a chip on their shoulder than any defending Super Bowl Champion in recent memory and defending Super Bowl champs usually do well week 1. The Ravens are on the road year, unlike defending champs usually are week 1, but that might give them an even bigger chip on their shoulder, being forced to go on the road by the Baltimore Orioles, who created a scheduling conflict.
Denver, meanwhile, lost Elvis Dumervil this off-season and might have lost Von Miller for the first 4 games. They add Wes Welker and Louis Vazquez offensively, but at the same time it’s unlikely that Manning will further improve on what was arguably the 2nd best season of his career in 2012, even with a stronger supporting cast. He’s a 37-year-old with a recent injury history. The Ravens might not win, but I love getting more than a touchdown with them coming into the place where they won last January.
New England -7.5 at Buffalo
Early thoughts: Patriots usually fare well week 1 and could be extra motivated to shut up doubters and I love betting against rookie quarterbacks week 1 (they went 1-3 ATS last season).
Tennessee at Pittsburgh -7
Early thoughts: Pittsburgh is a much better team at home than on the road and may be an overall underrated team this season.
Atlanta at New Orleans -3
Early thoughts: Sean Payton is back and New Orleans is still a very tough place to win. They won all 9 games here in 2011.
Tampa Bay -3 at NY Jets
Early thoughts: No strong lean. Might just go with NFC supremacy on this one.
Kansas City -3.5 at Jacksonville
Early thoughts: The Jaguars better get used to teams beating them by 4 or more because it’s going to happen an awful lot this season. Kansas City is a much improved team and should have no trouble here.
Cincinnati at Chicago -3
Early thoughts: Andy Dalton is 1-11 in his career against eventual playoff teams. I don’t know if the Bears are an eventual playoff team, but that wouldn’t surprise anyone and they’re certainly the type of team Dalton has issues with.
Miami -2 at Cleveland
Early thoughts: Miami is a little overrated off of their off-season. There are very few teams they should be road favorites against and Cleveland is not quite one of them. I don’t know if I’d put money on it though.
Seattle -3 at Carolina
Early thoughts: Carolina might be my play of the week. They’re my breakout team this season and Seattle still has all sorts of issues on the road, especially since this game will be at 1 PM ET. If they can lose to Miami, St. Louis, Arizona, and Detroit on the road in 2012, they can lose to a Carolina team that could easily win double digit games if they plan like they did to close last season.
Minnesota at Detroit -3.5
Early thoughts: These two teams are going in opposite directions this season. The fact that I have to give up more than a field goal with the Lions here only solidifies my belief in that. The odds makers know what’s up.
Oakland at Indianapolis -7
Early thoughts: Indianapolis won all of 2 games by more than a touchdown last season, but they’re an improved team this season and while I don’t think they’ll match their win total from last season, they should be able to beat one of the league’s worst teams by at least a touchdown.
Arizona at St. Louis -5.5
Early thoughts: I have these teams with the same win projections, so I’d take the points if I had to.
Green Bay at San Francisco -3.5
Early thoughts: I feel like the Packers have just been stewing on that post-season loss to the 49ers all off-season, especially the way the read option destroyed their defense. This is a big game for San Francisco too, but I love getting more than 3 points with Aaron Rodgers, who is 6-1 ATS as an underdog of more than a field goal in his career.
NY Giants at Dallas -2.5
Early thoughts: The Giants are a better team in the first half of the season than the second half team and cover on the road more than any other team in the league. Eli Manning is 13-5 ATS as a road underdog in his career. I think Dallas is the better team though, especially if Jason Pierre-Paul is out.
Philadelphia at Washington -5
Early thoughts: No strong lean. Might just take the points, but I wouldn’t put any money on it.
Houston -3.5 at San Diego
Early thoughts: This is the annual absurdly late week 1 game. San Diego has a serious advantage for that reason. This game will run from 9:15 to past midnight for the Texans.