The NFL season officially kicks off on Sept. 6, which means real football is fewer than two months away. With that in mind, it's time to continue our weekly series of
As the headline of this series indicates, we are very much aware that these bets are, in fact, way too early. July is way too early to begin thinking about regular-season games. At the same time, July is also way too boring. Training camp is still a few weeks away. The only real notable NFL news coming out at this juncture pertains to legal issues (see: ), contract standoffs (see: ), suspensions (see: ), and injuries (see: ). To put it another way, most of the news coming out at this point in the calendar isn't what we'd classify as fun.
So, let's have some fun by looking ahead to actual meaningful football. Likeof colleagues me, I humbly submit my way-too-early best bets for Week 1 of the 2018 NFL season.
This might not be taken seriously considering I picked against the Eagles all throughout the postseason and was wrong every single time. But allow me to explain why I believe the Falcons will cover the spread against the Eagles in Philadelphia on opening night, which will surely turn into yet another Super Bowl celebration. For me, this comes down entirely to the Eagles' quarterback situation.
If Carson Wentz is able to play after tearing his in December, he likely won't be at full strength. And the Falcons would make for a difficult first game back. The Falcons are coming off a somewhat disappointing season that still saw them make the playoffs with a 10-6 record. This is a good football team that should only improve now that Matt Ryan and Steve Sarkisian have had an entire season to work out the kinks that come with transitioning to a new offense. If Wentz sits and Nick Foles plays, the Falcons will be playing against pretty much the same team that they should've beaten in the divisional round of the playoffs. Remember: If not for a and the Falcons would've ended the Eagles' Super Bowl run before it even had a chance to really begin.
I'm not saying the Falcons will beat the Eagles. But I am saying they're capable of hanging with the defending champs. Look for the Falcons to cover the spread by losing by only a field goal. The Eagles are a great team, but the Falcons are a good one too.
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Saints (-7) vs. Buccaneers
If I had to pick one best bet, this would be it. Even with Jameis Winston, the Buccaneers would likely come up significantly short against the Saints in New Orleans. Without Winston, who was Ryan Fitzpatrick is still Ryan Fitzpatrick and Drew Brees is still Drew Brees. The Buccaneers' defense finished last season ranked dead last in DVOA and the Saints' offense ranked second in DVOA, so look for Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas to run wild.after the NFL's investigation into his alleged sexual assault of an Uber driver, the Buccaneers will almost assuredly get blown out by a Saints team that is on the shortlist for Super Bowl contenders.
This is just too much of a mismatch.
The 49ers might be everybody's favorite sleeper and they very well might end up living up to the enormous expectations that Jimmy Garoppolo's arrival created, but they're going up against a Vikings team that has a case to be named the league's most talented team from top to bottom. They just went out and got an actual good NFL quarterback in Kirk Cousins, who will be throwing to one of the league's top WR duos in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Their defense -- the second-best defense by DVOA last year -- remains intact.
Meanwhile, the 49ers are coming off a 6-10 season that ended with a five-game winning streak courtesy of Garoppolo. Except, when you look at who the 49ers beat in those five games, you see teams like the Bears, the Texans sans Deshaun Watson, the Titans, the Jaguars the same day they clinched the AFC South, and the Rams when the Rams were resting their best players before the playoffs. Garoppolo and the 49ers have yet to face a team like these Vikings in Minnesota. Will Richard Sherman be at full strength after Can the 49ers overcome the absence of middle linebacker Reuben Foster, who ? Will Garoppolo really look like the wizard he was when he's up against the Vikings' defense in a hostile atmosphere?
I'm not optimistic. Great teams cover the spread. And that's exactly what the Vikings are. The 49ers might be on the rise, but they're not a great team yet.
The Chargers, one of the most talented teams in football, get the pleasure of facing Patrick Mahomes in his second-ever NFL start. Mahomes will likely end up becoming a better quarterback than Alex Smith, but at this point in their careers, he's got a significantly lower floor than Smith and as a result, there's a much better chance the Chargers, with their abnormally scary defensive front, will be able to induce a poor performance out of the Chiefs' new quarterback. Jumping on the Chargers' bandwagon is never fun, but I'm doing it here. Look for the Chargers to throttle the Chiefs and their new young quarterback who lacks experience.
Bears (+8) at Packers
The Bears probably won't end up becoming 2018's version of the Rams, but they're good enough to lose to the Packers by only a touchdown. Mitchell Trubisky was and he did that without any competent receiving targets. Now, he's got Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Anthony Miller to go along with two good running backs in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen and two up-and-coming tight ends in Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen. But the most important addition is head coach Matt Nagy, who will provide Trubisky with an offense designed for the modern age. Don't overlook their defense either.
The Packers are undoubtedly a better team, but eight points is too much over a much-improved Bears team that the Packers won't have any film on. Look for the Bears to hang around with the Packers and don't discount the value of garbage-time scores.