Football! It's here! I've been covering the NFL for a decent period of time -- allegedly I'm old at this point -- and it's easy to get jaded going through the motions of an offseason. But when the kickoff arrives, it hits like a ton of bricks. Summer is over and it's time to spend the next several months doing nothing but watching an oblong, inflated piece of pig butt bounce wildly around a giant piece of grass. There's nothing better.
This season, I'll be putting my best bets up on SportsLine (use promo code "Pick" and get your first month for $1) so make sure to subscribe. There will be a heater at some point, let's hope it happens out of the gate.
Speaking of which, I love the dogs on this slate. The Falcons could beat the brakes off the Panthers, but it's way more likely that game comes down to a field goal. The Chiefs kickoff game is a total wild card -- I love Kansas City but wait if you do too because the line is plummeting.
Every year we see a bunch of underdogs win outright in Week 1 and there are multiple overreactions across the board before things self correct a bit after a few weeks. I think if you're unsure, this week is the week to take the underdogs.
Commanders first half -3.5
Most everyone will be fading the Cardinals in the first week. It's a little too obvious? But Washington should be rocking this weekend I like the first half line for the Commanders much better than the full game line, if only because of how fans are reacting to Josh Harris' purchase of this team. Arizona is trotting out Josh Dobbs to start this game and could be short of several skill-position guys. Washington has a legit defense and this is a must-win for Ron Rivera thanks to having a new boss. Sam Howell is a better quarterback than most of the world thinks and he lays it on the line with a surprisingly bruising rushing skillset. Arizona got some preseason hype thanks to an aggressive coaching approach, but this roster just isn't there right now.
The 49ers received exceptionally good news on Wednesday when Nick Bosa signed his record-breaking contract (even if it's just on par with Aaron Donald, that says all you need to know) which makes it ~quite~ odd to see the line move in the opposite direction. Pittsburgh's now just getting two points in this Week 1 matchup. I wouldn't have a problem if this game was a pick 'em; the Steelers have an elite coach, a young would-be franchise quarterback who's flashed this preseason, plenty of weapons, an improved run game and a defense that's trustworthy. Getting points at home to open the season is an easy look, even if the 49ers possess one of the best rosters in the NFL. San Francisco's just 2-3 in Week 1 games the last five years
Unlike the dog above, this sure feels likes a massive coaching mismatch. Mike Vrabel is the most underrated coach in the NFL, a guy who gets the absolute most out of a minimal Tennessee roster. Everyone's been touting the reunion of Dennis Allen and Derek Carr as the logic for New Orleans being the consensus favorite in the NFC South and yet no one's mentioning their 0-4 record together. Vrabel's record as an underdog in the early part of the season is outstanding and the Saints are overvalued thanks ot a decent preseason performance.
Panthers (+3.5) at Falcons
I'm very, very high on the Falcons this season but this is too many points for a Frank Reich coached team, largely inflated by the poor performance from the Panthers offensive line this preseason. That unit's a concern for sure with rookie Bryce Young under center and Adam Thielen/D.J. Chark banged up. But Atlanta doesn't have the edge rushers to get after Young in a quick-hitting offensive system that should run the ball better than we saw. Brian Burns should be a go for this game and while Atlanta ultimately might be the better team, this particular matchup might not be the best for Atlanta, especially laying the hook here with a well-coached team sporting a stout defensive front.
The Rams are considered has-beens by just about everyone covering the NFL this year. The Cooper Kupp injury situation -- he's already ruled out for Week 1 -- does not help. But Sean McVay has a pretty outstanding record against Pete Carroll since taking over this franchise, going 7-5 with only a single loss by more than the spread for this Week 1 matchup. Matthew Stafford is healthy, Cam Akers is ready to roll and Aaron Donald -- in my opinion -- comes out of the gates scorching. Seattle has done wonders with its roster post Russell Wilson; Pete Carroll and John Schneider deserve all the credit in the world, but the first week of the season very rarely indicates a full year. Seattle will be good but the Rams may catch them here.