Plays are rated 1 to 5 units in order of confidence. 5 is a top rated play.
- Cardinals -1 at Lions (released Wednesday), 3 units.
- Giants +4 at Cowboys, 1 unit
- Eagles -1 at Redskins, 1 unit
- Teaser: Texans +1/ Steelers -2.5, 2 units
- Teaser: Falcons PK/Rams +1.5, 1 unit
Under 39.5, Jaguars vs Texans
Under 40.5, Jets vs Bills
Over 48, Cardinals vs Lions.
Cardinals -1 at Lions: The Cardinals come into this season off a disappointing 2016 campaign that saw the offense drop off significantly after an NFC Championship run in 2015. The offense suffered from a poor offensive line, an tired Carson Palmer arm, and John Brown missing time to sickle cell disease. The team was also forced to release Michael Floyd after a DUI arrest midseason. John Brown is now healthy and Palmer’s arm looks much stronger behind an offensive line that has made some improvements.
The Lions are coming off a 9-7 season and a playoff visit but lost in those numbers are the fact that they needed 8 comebacks in the 4th quarter for those 9 wins. They also had one of the worst defenses in the NFL:
- Lions allowed teams to complete 45.5 % of 3rd downs, 31st in the NFL
- Lions defense had just 26 sacks last season, also 31st in the NFL
- Lions allowed 72.7% of passes to be completed, by far the worst in the NFL. The next worst was the Cowboys who allowed 67.1% of passes.
When you look at their defensive numbers it’s clear to see why they needed to comeback in the 4th quarter in 8 of their 9 wins. More importantly the Lions had an 0-6 record when facing playoff teams, losing all of those games by 7+ points by a margin of 12.2 ppg. They also finished the season 0-5 ATS and lost 3 of those 4 games by double digits, giving up 161 yards to Thomas Rawles in a 26-6 playoff loss in Seattle. The Lions made some offseason moves in free agency and in the draft to patch up some defensive holes but nothing that will be game-changing, especially for Week 1.
By no means do the Cardinals have a strong offensive line (they are ranked 17th this season by Pro Football Focus and were 26th last season) but the Lions defense is a good matchup for the Cardinals. Bruce Arians has vowed to call more plays that allow Palmer to get rid of the ball quicker so he stays protected and this bodes well vs. the Lions. Larry Fitzgerald will be matched up vs DJ Hayden in the slot who has struggled the past few seasons and is 4 inches shorter than Fitzgerald. David Johnson should also have a lot of success versus a bad run defense that is now without linebacker DeAndre Levy after being released due to lingering knee issues.
This is a 1PM ET game which is tricky for the Cardinals traveling cross country and losing 3 hours. They haven’t had much success in this position recently as they lost last season to the Panthers 30-20 and the Bills 33-18 in this situation, but Week 1 allows them to prepare a little extra for the time difference and the Cardinals also went to Detroit in 2015 and won 42-17. Bruce Arians is 3-0 ATS vs. the Lions as the coach of the Cardinals and has expressed a lot of confidence for this offense heading into 2017.
Expect a big day for David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown on offense. The Cardinals defense is strong and gets Tyrann Mathieu back after missing 6 games last season.
Official play: Cardinals -1. 3 units
Giants +4 at Cowboys: The Giants have had the Cowboys’ number the past few years, winning 3 of the last 4 matchups the past 2 years. It would have been a clean sweep had the Giants not thrown away one of those games late in the 4th quarter in a 27-26 loss in 2015. The Giants match up well with the Cowboys offense – there aren’t many teams in the NFL who handle the physicality of the Cowboys’ offensive line but the Giants’ defensive front led by Jason Pierre Paul, Oliver Vernon, and Damon Harrison can go pound for pound with them and showed it last season in both victories.
Ezekiel Elliot will play in this game after a very fortunate court hearing concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to suspend him this season. In 2 career games vs the Giants he rushed for 107 yards on 24 carries in a 12-10 December loss and just 51 yards on 20 carries in a 20-19 opening day loss in Dallas last season. Dez Bryant struggled in both games last season vs the Giants as Janoris Jenkins held him in check and held him to a combined 2 receptions for 18 yards in the two games. The Giants defense is just as strong as it was last season and with another season together one could make the argument that they could be even better this season. The same can’t be said for the Cowboys defense who ranked 25th in the NFL last season against the pass and lost two of their best players in the secondary when Barry Church and Morris Claiborne left during free agency. The Giants upgraded their offense by signing Brandon Marshall and drafting Evan Engram so the Giants got stronger in areas that can explot the Cowboys’ weaknesses. Odell Beckham Jr. is listed as Questionable for this game and hasn’t practiced since an ankle injury on August 21st but reported Friday night that he is feeling “A lot better and has a long evening of rehab.” There is no guarantee that he plays but it should be noted that 70% of players on the Giants last season who were listed as Questionable ended up playing. With or without OBJ, the Giants have enough offense with Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram to exploit the Cowboys secondary and walk out of Dallas with a victory. Eli Manning has a 6:1 TD:INT ratio his last 3 games in Dallas and should continue his strong play on Sunday despite the Dallas crowd being riled up for a primetime game where they will celebrate Ezekiel Elliot’s suspension being dropped. Look for the Giants to cover in a close Sunday Night Football game.
Official pick: Giants +4, 1 unit
Eagles -1 at Redskins: The Redskins won both games last season vs the Eagles but Carson Wentz will have a number of new weapons on offense after the Eagles signed Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in the offseason to strengthen a passing game that couldn’t move the ball at times last season. The Redskins ranked 26th in the NFL last season against the pass and outside of Josh Norman they have a lot of questions on defense. The Eagles come into 2017 with one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and should give Wentz ample time to find the right mismatches. Torrey Smith has looked good in preseason and Wentz will look for him matched up against a below average secondary when Jeffery is covered by Norman. The Redskins gave up the most yards to tight ends last season so Zach Ertz should have his opportunities to score in this game. The Eagles running game has question marks but the Redskins ranked 28th vs. the run in 2016 so that should hide one of the only weaknesses the Eagles have.
The Eagles improved their defense by signing CB Ronald Darby to play behind a front 7 that put a lot of pressure on quarterbacks last season and helped the Eagles defense rank 9th in the NFL in interceptions. The Redskins lost DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in free agency and signed Terrelle Pryor to help make up for their losses. They will rely on Jamison Crowder to fill the #2 WR spot and will of course lean on Jordan Reed at the tight end position. The Redskins’ timing on offense was choppy at times this preseason and understandably so after losing two of their best weapons.
It’s never easy winning a divisional road game but the Eagles match up well with the Redskins and should walk out of Washington with a victory on Sunday
Official: Eagles -1, 1 unit
Teaser, two team: Steelers -2.5, Texans +1: The Steelers are 7-2 ATS their last 9 games vs. the Browns and Ben Roethlisberger is 21-2 lifetime against them. The Browns will certainly be an improved team this season and DeShone Kizer will lead the Browns to a few big victories this season but this is a tall task for him on opening day against a Steelers roster that is the best they’ve had in over 5 years. The Browns #1 draft pick Myles Garrett has been ruled out for this game with a sprained ankle and the Steelers should set the tone in this game for a victory.
The Texans will be playing in front of the city of Houston at a time when the fans desperately need something to rally around. It’s been a devastating couple of weeks for Houston residents and the Texans organization has vowed to dedicate this season to the city of Houston. Blake Bortles is 2-20 on the road for his career and has an 0-6 lifetime record vs the Texans, losing three of those games by double digits. The Texans #1 ranked passing defense will pressure Bortles all day.
Official: Steelers -2.5, Texans +1 teaser. 2 units
Teaser, two team: Falcons PK, Rams +1.5:
The Falcons come off the devastating Super Bowl loss to play a Mike Glennon-led Bears team who ranked near the bottom of the NFL in almost every statistical category on offense in 2016. Super Bowl losers have not fared well against-the-spread in Week 1 but the Falcons have more than enough talent to overcome any sort of potential hangover for this game and should walk out of Chicago with a victory.
The Rams play home vs a Colts offense that will be without Andrew Luck and C Ryan Kelly. Scott Tolzien will get the start at QB for Indianapolis and brings a career 2 TD/7 INT stat line into this game on the road. The Rams defense will attack Tolzien early and should make things easier for Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, and Sammy Watkins on offense.
Official: Falcons PK, Rams +1.5 teaser, 1 unit
49ers +5.5 vs Panthers: The Panthers should have a big rebound season after a disappointing 2016 season but the 49ers have quietly improved a lot this offseason. They got an upgrade at Head Coach by signing Kyle Shanahan after he led the Falcons offense to a Super Bowl appearance and one of the best statistical seasons in NFL history. Carlos Hyde and new 49er Pierre Garcon have looked very sharp this offseason and Brian Hoyer is a serviceable QB that should benefit from Shanahan’s coaching. The Panthers got much better on offense this season by upgrading their offensive line and adding speedy Christian McCaffrey in the draft. McCaffrey can beat any defense in the NFL with his speed and Kelvin Benjamin looks very strong in the preseason but Cam Newton is coming off shoulder surgery and Ron Rivera has been very careful this preseason with the amount of times he has let Cam Newton throw down the field. The Panthers offense should be explosive this season but it’s likely to take them a few games for Cam to get his arm back to full strength and the 49ers subtly have one of the best front 7’s in the NFL led by NaVorro Bowman, Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and newly acquired Alabama star Reuben Foster. Panthers likely get the straight-up win but the 49ers keep it close.
Under 40, Jets vs Bills: Two teams with abysmal offenses and solid defenses. If this game tops 40 it’s probably because the Jets offense turned the ball over too many times and gave Buffalo great field position.
Under 39.5, Jaguars vs Texans: Two very good defenses will be on display and it will be very difficult for the Jaguars to top 17 points in this game. This game can stay in the teens.
Over 48, Cardinals vs Lions: The Lions allowed teams to complete 73% of passes last season, by far the worst in the NFL. The Cardinals should put up close to 30 points on them and force the Lions to play catch-up. The Cardinals went OVER in all 8 of their road games in 2016.
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