Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
No Confidence Picks
NE +155 @ MIA
MIN +105 vs. GB
Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
No Confidence Picks
NE +155 @ MIA
MIN +105 vs. GB
The big storyline in this game is Russell Wilson changing sides, being sent from the Seahawks, where he spent a decade as the starting quarterback and won a Super Bowl, to the Broncos, who sent a pair of first and second round picks back to Seattle along with a trio of veteran players. Both of these teams finished with a 7-10 record a year ago and the general consensus is that the Seahawks are way worse this year without Wilson, while the Broncos are way better and, there is some truth to that, as Wilson will be an obvious upgrade on the Teddy Bridgewater/Drew Lock combination the Broncos started last year, while the Seahawks are forced to turn to long-time backup Geno Smith in Wilson’s absence, but I don’t think that tells the whole story, for a few reasons.
For one, while these two teams had identical records a year ago, the Seahawks were actually a noticeably better team, finishing 16th in overall efficiency, about three points better than the 21st ranked Broncos, and that’s despite the fact that Wilson missed three and a half games with injury and was limited in three others after returning at less than 100%. The Seahawks only went 1-5 in the six full games they played without Wilson at full strength, but they had just a -11 point differential over those six games, with three of their five losses being within the seven points they are underdogs of in this matchup, so they were competitive in most of those games.
The Broncos should be significantly improved on offense over last year’s 18th ranked finish in offensive efficiency, with Russell Wilson and new offensive minded head coach Nathaniel Hackett coming in, but I would expect their defense, which overachieved their talent level to rank 10th in defensive efficiency last year, to regress this season without defensive minded head coach Vic Fangio, whose defenses have almost always overachieved throughout his coaching career. Meanwhile, the Broncos’ special teams, which were 3rd worst in the league in terms of special teams DVOA last season, figure to continue being a problem this season.
The Seahawks, on the other hand, had one of the best special teams in the league last season, ranking 4th in special teams DVOA, and that figures to continue this season. Their offense is likely to struggle without Wilson, after ranking 20th in offensive efficiency even with Wilson healthy for most of last season, and Wilson wasn’t the only veteran loss on this roster this off-season, but they’ve done a good job adding young players with upside and I think this team has more upside than people realize. In some ways, this Seahawks team reminds me of when Pete Carroll first took over, when they went 7-9 with Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst as their starting quarterbacks in his first season, before finding Wilson in the following year’s draft.
The Seahawks are unlikely to be playoff contenders, but I think they’re going to surprise some people that think they are among the worst few teams in the league and this week they have a good chance to keep it close at home with a Broncos team that is a little overrated, with the public not realizing that their defense isn’t likely to be as good as it was a year ago. The Seahawks also probably have the psychological edge, playing on Monday Night Football at home against their long-time quarterback. I’m pretty confident in taking the Seahawks as touchdown underdogs.
Denver Broncos 23 Seattle Seahawks 20
Pick against the spread: Seattle +7
The Saints are a team that didn’t make the post-season last year that has a good chance to take a step forward and make the post-season this year. However, if they do that, the primary reason is likely going to be that they were healthier than a year ago, after having the 8th most overall adjusted games lost to injury in the league a year ago, including the 2nd most games lost on offense, and, thus far, the Saints have not had much better luck with injuries, entering the season with among the most injury concerns in the league.
Already without expected starting left tackle Trevor Penning for the start of the season, starting cornerback Paulson Adebo is out this week, while top wide receiver Michael Thomas and starting safety Tyrann Mathieu are both legitimately questionable. Fortunately for the Saints, their season starts with one of their easiest games, even though it’s on the road, as the Falcons figure to be among the worst few teams in the league this season, at the start of a much needed rebuild, planning for 2023 and 2024 more than the current season.
The Saints are favored by 5.5 points in this matchup, but, my calculated line has the Saints favored by 8, even taking into account the injury uncertainty with Thomas and Mathieu. There isn’t enough here for the Saints to be worth betting at less than 100% against a healthy Falcons team, but, if Thomas and Mathieu play, I could take the Saints with at least some confidence. That confidence would be less if Thomas and Mathieu are both out, but I suspect the line would drop to 4 in that circumstance, so the Saints should be the pick for pick ‘em purposes regardless.
New Orleans Saints 23 Atlanta Falcons 16
Pick against the spread: New Orleans -5.5
We’re not getting significant line value with the Buccaneers as 2.5-point road favorites in Dallas this week and, in fact, my calculated line is Tampa Bay -1, meaning we’re actually getting a little line value with the Dallas, but that’s pretty insignificant line movement and Tom Brady led teams have been close to automatic covering the spread in his career when he basically just needs to win to cover, going 57-28 ATS as underdogs of favorites of fewer than three points. I would need Chris Godwin to play for the Buccaneers to be worth betting, but there’s a good chance he does.
As much as the Buccaneers have gotten attention for their injury situation, with a pair of offensive line starters going down for the season, the Cowboys are going to start the season without left tackle Tyron Smith and Michael Gallup, after already suffering significant losses this off-season, with Amari Cooper, Randy Gregory, Connor Williams, and La’El Collins no longer with the team. The Buccaneers should win this game by at least a field goal or more. I’ll update this pick before gametime if Godwin ends up playing.
Update: Godwin is expected to play, so I think the Buccaneers are a safe bet this week, as the healthier team over a banged up Cowboys squad.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30 Dallas Cowboys 24
Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -2.5
The Bears traded a future first round pick to move up in the 2021 NFL Draft to select Justin Fields as their quarterback of the future. Fields is now going into his second season in the league, which is typically when teams like to load up their roster around a promising young quarterback to try to surround him with as much talent as possible, taking advantage of his cheap rookie contract. However, instead of building up a roster that ranked 18th in overall efficiency last season, the Bears took the opposite approach, stripping this roster of expensive veterans, most notably Khalil Mack, and saving a significant amount of cap space for 2023 and beyond, currently a league leading 104 million under next year’s cap.
The teardown also didn’t net them a net first round pick, which they already lacked, having traded it to move up for Fields the previous year. The result is a roster that is one of the worst in the league, despite a promising young quarterback under center. To open the season, the Bears will host a 49ers team that is talented enough to make the playoffs, but I’m not sure the 49ers are healthy enough right now to cover this 7-point spread, even against a team like the Bears.
Already having lost a pair of offensive line starters this off-season in Laken Tomlinson and Alex Mack, the 49ers will also be without Daniel Brunskill in this matchup, while their secondary will be without top cornerback Jason Verrett and top safety Jimmie Ward. Meanwhile, their top offensive player George Kittle seems to be on the wrong side of questionable after not practicing all week and would likely not be the same if he did play, while unproven quarterback Trey Lance is coming back from a finger injury and making just his 3rd career start, having yet to show he’s not a downgrade on Jimmy Garoppolo. I have the 49ers calculated as 5-point favorites, so we’re getting some line value with the Bears, although not enough to be confident betting them.
San Francisco 49ers 23 Chicago Bears 17
Pick against the spread: Chicago +7
The Packers were likely to see their win total regress regardless in 2022, needing to go 6-3 in games decided by 8 points or fewer to go 13-4 last season, finishing with just a +79 point differential (10th in the NFL) and a 11th ranked overall efficiency. A high winning percentage in close games is tough to sustain long-term, with even Aaron Rodgers winning just 56.6% of the games he has played in his career which have been decided by 8 points or fewer. However, on top of that, the Packers will be dealing with the loss of Davante Adams on offense, while Rodgers is now going into his age 39 season and would have been unlikely to repeat two of the best seasons of his Hall of Fame career even if Adams didn’t leave.
The Packers will get top cornerback Jaire Alexander back from injury, but offensive tackles David Bakhtari and Elgton Jenkins remain questionable to return from torn ACLs and may not be 100% even if they do play and they also have players like De’Vondre Campbell, Preston Smith, and Rasul Douglas who could struggle to repeat by far the best season of their careers. They should still be the favorites to win the NFC North, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Vikings seriously challenge for the division crown, depending on injuries.
The Vikings have finished just 7-9 and 8-9 over the past two seasons, but missing key personnel on defense has been a big part of the problem, particularly Danielle Hunter, Michael Pierce, Anthony Barr, and Cameron Dantzler. Hunter and Dantzler could easily be healthier in 2022 though, while Pierce and Barr have been replaced by comparable talents and healthier players in Harrison Phillips and Jordan Hicks, with edge defender Za’Darius Smith also being added in free agency, a potentially huge addition if he too can stay healthy. Meanwhile, their offense figures to be better in 2022 with better coaching getting more out of all their talent.
Unfortunately, we’re not getting quite enough line value with the Vikings as mere 1.5-point home underdogs for them to be worth betting against the spread, but it’s worth noting that Aaron Rodgers’ career QB rating drops off about 10 points on the road as opposed to at home, a significantly bigger gap than the average quarterback, and the Vikings should be considered slight favorites in this one, so there’s some value taking the Vikings for a small bet on the money line at +105. The Vikings are also the pick against the spread for pick ‘em purposes.
Minnesota Vikings 24 Green Bay Packers 23 Upset Pick +105
Pick against the spread: Minnesota +1.5
The Titans finished last season at 12-5, with the AFC’s best record and #1 seed by virtue of tiebreakers, but they ranked just 19th in team efficiency, benefiting from a 6-2 record in one-score games and a +4 return touchdown margin, two things that would be tough to maintain long-term. They especially struggled without AJ Brown last season, which is a problem because they traded him this off-season and, while they have Robert Woods and Treylon Burks to replace him, they still figure to miss Brown significantly.
On top of that, they lost a pair of starting offensive linemen and, while Derrick Henry will probably be healthier this season, he figures to not be nearly as productive as he’s been in the past, given his age, workload, and the declining talent and blocking around him on this offense. They’ll also be without top edge defender Harold Landry, who is out for the season with a torn ACL. If the Titans had just brought back last year’s exact team, they would be unlikely to match last year’s 12 wins, given that they benefited from things statistically they won’t be able to rely on going forward, but the Titans are also noticeably less talented on paper than a year ago, so they could easily be worse in efficiency this season than the 19th ranked finished they had last season, which would make them significantly below average.
The Titans are favored here by 5.5 points, which might seem like a lot of points for a team that I just described as below average, but the Giants might be one of the few teams that deserves to be underdogs of this many points in Tennessee, especially with the Giants missing their top two edge defenders Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux with injury. We’re still getting a tiny bit of line value with the Giants according to my calculated line, but not nearly enough to take them with any confidence. This is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.
Tennessee Titans 22 New York Giants 17
Pick against the spread: NY Giants +5.5
The Texans won just four games last season and they were even worse than that suggests as their only win in which they won the first down rate battle was their week one home victory over a Jaguars team that finished with an even worse record at 3-14. In their other victory over the Jaguars, Texans lost the first down rate battle by 8.02%, only winning the game because they overperformed on third down (10/18 vs. 3/14), which is not as predictive as early downs. In their upset wins over the Chargers and Titans, the Texans won the turnover battle by 3 and 5 respectively, but lost the first down rate battle by 2.86% and 9.47% respectively.
Meanwhile, most of the Texans’ losses were not close, coming by an average of 17.2 points per game, leading to the Texans ranking dead last in overall efficiency, over five points worse than the next closest team, with their defense and offense both ranking dead last in efficiency. They might not have had the worst record in the league last season, but they’re still probably starting from a lower base point than any team in the league. They should be better by default this season, but I would be surprised if they weren’t among the worst teams in the league this season and they’re likely to continue getting blown out by most above average opponents.
It’s unclear if the Colts are an above average opponent though. They finished last season ranked 12th in overall efficiency and upgraded their quarterback situation going from Carson Wentz to Matt Ryan, but they also lost a pair of offensive line starters and will start the season without their top linebacker Shaq Leonard, one of the best players in the league at his position. We’re still getting a little bit of line value with the Colts, calculated as 7.5-point favorites, but not nearly enough for them to be worth betting with any confidence. This is a pick for pick ‘em purposes only.
Indianapolis Colts 24 Houston Texans 16
Pick against the spread: Indianapolis -7
The Chargers are one of my top contenders for the Super Bowl, bringing back every key player from an offense that ranked 3rd in offensive efficiency last season and drastically improving a defense that ranked just 24th in defensive efficiency a year ago by adding cornerback JC Jackson and edge defender Khalil Mack, both among the best players in the league at their respective positions and huge upgrades on the players they are replacing.
The Raiders made some splashy additions as well, adding edge defender Chandler Jones and wide receiver Davante Adams, but they also lost top cornerback Casey Hayward and they’re starting from a lower base point, having a -65 point differential to +15 for the Chargers last season, only sneaking ahead of the Chargers for a playoff spot when they won their final four games by a combined 12 points and went 4-0 on the season in overtime games.
That being said, I am not going to be betting on the Chargers this week, for a few reasons. For one, JC Jackson is out with injury, so the Chargers’ new look defense won’t be at full strength. Even still, I have the Chargers six points better than the Raiders in my roster rankings, but they will essentially be playing a road game in their home stadium in this game, with the vast majority of fans in attendance likely to be Raiders fans. They’re also in a potential look ahead spot with a Thursday Night Football matchup with the Chiefs on deck, with favorites covering at just a 44.0% rate before Thursday Night Football historically.
This line is also higher than some might realize, with the Chargers favored by 3.5 points and 1 in 4 games decided by three points or fewer. For this reason, favorites of 3.5 points cover at a lower rate than any other favorites, 46.8%, as odds makers will often use 3.5 to trap bettors into betting the favorite, with bettors not realizing how high the line actually is. I’m still taking the Chargers for pick ‘em purposes because they’re a significantly better team even without JC Jackson, but I would need this line to drop down to three for the Chargers to be worth betting.
Los Angeles Chargers 26 Las Vegas Raiders 20
Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -3.5
The Lions have a good chance to take a big step forward on offense this season, but the biggest reason for that is that their offensive line should be healthier than a year ago, when their top two offensive linemen Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow both missed most of the season, and, unfortunately offensive line injuries remain a concern for the Lions in week 1, with right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai and his backup Tommy Kraemer both out and center Frank Ragnow considered a gametime decision and unlikely to be 100% even if he plays, after barely practicing all week.
The Lions are likely to be one of the worst defenses in the league again this season, so if their offense can’t be effective, it will be hard for them to be competitive and, particularly if Ragnow can’t play, the Lions’ chances of being effective on offense take a big hit with their offensive line at less than full strength. Making matters worse, they’re facing an Eagles team that could be one of the better teams in the league this season, getting better on both sides of the ball this off-season, after finishing 9th in overall efficiency and making the post-season in 2021.
The 2021 Eagles particularly played well against below average teams like the Lions, going 9-2 against non playoff qualifiers, with their wins coming by an average of 16.4 points per game, including a 44-6 victory in Detroit. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll blow the Lions out again, but my calculated line has the Eagles favored by seven and if Ragnow is ruled out, that would shoot even higher. This line is currently at -4.5 and I’m not sure if there’s enough line value for the Eagles to be bettable if Ragnow plays, but, depending on his status and where this line ends up, this could easily end up being a bet and the Eagles are the pick for pick ‘em purposes regardless.
Philadelphia Eagles 27 Detroit Lions 20
Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -4.5