Way-too-early NFL Week 1 best bets: Forget trendy Rams, take Raiders and the points
Loaded Jaguars will cover at the Giants and other best bets for the opening week of the 2018 season
Picking Week 1 NFL games against the spread in June is asking for trouble.
Who knows who will get hurt in training camp or the preseason? But my bosses wanted my way-too-early Week 1 Best Bets.
They ask, and I give.
Just don't hold me to these – although I do like these picks with less than three months to the kickoff of the NFL season.
The Jaguars are loaded. They have so much talent on defense, which will present big problems for Eli Manning and the Giants' improved offense.
The Jaguars will choke off the run with Saquon Barkley, and then tee off on Manning. The Jacksonville offense will be better than a year ago and Leonard Fournette will have a big opener here to take the pressure off Blake Bortles, who will be efficient and make some key throws down the field.
Jacksonville will win this one easily. Lay the points on the road.
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Buccaneers (+7) at Saints
This number looks funny. The Saints have a good team coming back with a lot of rising, young stars. But Tampa Bay's roster has made huge improvements this offseason, especially on defense.
I expect that Tampa Bay defense to be much better against the pass than a year ago, which will make it tough going here for the Saints, especially without Mark Ingram to help the running game. Ingram is suspended for the first four games.
Jameis Winston has to cut down on his turnovers, which he will do with help of the improved running game with Ronald Jones. The Bucs might actually win this game, so getting a touchdown is a gift.
It was just a few years ago when these two met in the Super Bowl with the Seahawks routing Denver.
Now they are both in transition.
That doesn't mean they are headed for disaster seasons, but Seattle is starting fresh on defense, which will put more pressure on the offense. That's not a good thing against a Denver defense that still has premium talent, players like elite pass rusher Von Miller. I think the Broncos defense will play well, while Case Keenum will have a good first start for the Broncos.
Lay the small number.
The Rams are the chic, trendy pick to be a potential Super Bowl pick in the NFC. And I agree they will be a good team.
But opening on the road on a Monday night against an Oakland team with coach Jon Gruden back on the sidelines will be tough duty. I expect Gruden to get Derek Carr back playing like he did in 2016, when he was an MVP candidate.
The Rams have loaded up on defense, but they still have issues when it comes to the edge rush, which is a key in their system. I think Gruden's offense will have success because of that here.
Take the points.
The Dolphins will be better than most expect. They have a lot of turnover on their roster, but it's a good thing. The players will buy into what coach Adam Gase wants, rather than some malcontents complaining about little things. The culture change will be a good thing.
With Ryan Tannehill back at quarterback, the offense will be better. And they have some good, young talent on defense.
The Titans have a good team, and I like coach Mike Vrabel. But this is a new staff coaching on the road in an opener. That won't be easy.
I think this will be close, but I like the Dolphins plus the points at home.
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