When you're writing about the NFL in the month of July, you really have only two options: You can write in-depth think pieces about Tom Brady's latest photos on Instagram or you can give your best bets for Week 1, and since you guys are probably tired of me writing , I'm going with option two this week.
Actually, I'm going with option two because gambling is now legal and how are you going to win any money if you don't know what my Week 1 best bets are eight weeks before Week 1 kicks off? Now, it might seem crazy to be picking games this early, but I'm going to do it, and that's mainly because all my other CBSSports.com colleagues have already done it. Over the past few weeks,, , , , and all listed their Week 1 best bets and you can read each of those by clicking on their names.
For my best bets, you don't have to click on anything, all you have to do is read below.
After Aaron Rodgers missed most of the 2017 season with a collarbone injury, I fully expect him to return with a vengeance in 2018 and that's going to start with a total dismantling of the Bears in Week 1. If I've learned one thing about this rivalry over the past two seasons, it's that the Bears have no chance to win when they're playing a primetime game at Lambeau. Last season, they lost 35-10 under the lights at Lambeau. In 2016, the Packers beat the Bears 26-10 in a home primetime game. Although the Bears lost both of those games under John Fox, I'm not expecting anything better from Matt Nagy in his coaching debut. Now, this doesn't mean I think Nagy is a bad coach, it just means that the Bears will be implementing a new offense in Week 1 and I don't expect it to do much damage against the Packers.
On the other hand, I expect the Packers to look like a well-oiled machine. I would take the Packers with the points in this game if the spread was 14, which means I'll definitely take Green Bay with the points at eight.
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The Jaguars defense against Eli Manning might be the biggest mismatch out of any NFL game in Week 1. I'm not sure if 3.5 should be the point spread or the over/under for how many interceptions Manning is going to throw against the Jags defense. Although the Giants beefed up their offensive line by signing Nate Solder and drafting Will Hernandez, the fact of the matter is that the game against the Jags will mark their first time playing together and it's hard to imagine the Giants' revamped offensive line having any chemistry yet. What this means is that Manning is going to be getting pressured all day and if you've ever seen Eli throw while he's being pressured, then you already know how ugly things could get for the Giants. It's also not going to help things that the Giants will be implementing the offense of new coach Pat Shurmur. Implementing an offense is hard enough, implementing it against one of the best defenses in the league is going to be borderline impossible.
Oh, and let's not forget about the Tom Coughlin factor here. I'm still 60 percent convinced that Coughlin only took the Jaguars job so he could slowly build a team that would help him eventually get revenge on the Giants. This is the year that revenge is going to happen.
After watching the Rams go 11-5 last season, I wasn't convinced that they could get much better going into 2018, but then they proved me absolutely wrong when they added guys like Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters and Brandin Cooks. Now, I'm not sure they're going to lose a game this entire season.
As for the Raiders, although I think Jon Gruden will eventually have some success in his return to Oakland, I don't see it happening in this game. For one, there's the Khalil Mack factor. Mack is the only true superstar on the Raiders' defense and he still hasn't participated in a single workout or practice since Gruden took over as coach. The only way Mack is going to show up to training camp is if he gets a contract extension done, and although it's eventually going to happen, no one seems to know when. If Mack misses all of camp, then the Rams are going to be able to abuse the Raiders defense in Week 1. If Mack ends up reporting, he'll still have a steep learning curve as he tries to learn the system of new Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. Basically, the Rams are going to put up a lot of points and Gruden's 1998 offense isn't going to be able to keep up.
Note: As you may or may not have noticed, my three best bets have one main theme in common: I have zero faith in any teams that just hired a new coach this offseason. So yes, this also means I'll be betting against Arizona and Indianapolis. However, my "always bet against new coaches" rule doesn't apply to the Lions or Titans because they hired Belichick disciples and obscure betting rules don't apply to Belichick or his disciples.