aNewDomain — Hundreds of millions of dollars are bet domestically on NFL games each season. That doesn’t even count the totals wagered on off-shore sites that help users skirt the law that makes sports gambling (technically) legal only in Nevada.
That means a few of you who regularly read aNewDomain also enjoy putting down a few bucks on pro football. In order to continue giving the people what they want, we’re kicking off a weekly look at each game with expert commentary on which way to go if you feel like making a bet or two.
We use the term “expert” as loosely as possible.
Let’s get this party started with the traditional Thursday night opener. All odds provided by vegasinsider.com and times listed are Eastern.
New England -7 vs. Pittsburgh (Thursday, 8:30 p.m., NBC)
It’s hard to stress how much more comfortable we would be with a 6.5 point line. With Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell suspended the first two games of the season, give the edge to the Patriots in what should be a high-scoring game.
Green Bay -7 at Chicago (Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX, DTV 709)
As much as we want to go with the home dogs in this rivalry game, we have to choose the Pack; Green Bay is 8-2 against the spread in its last 10 games with the Bears. The Packers scored 93 points in two games against Chicago last season.
Houston -1 vs. Kansas City (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS, DTV 706)
This is strictly a home-team play. Texans will miss running back Arian Foster for at least a couple of weeks but their defense is among the more physical in the league. J.J. Watt often means the difference in Houston games.
Cleveland +3 at New York Jets (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS, DTV 707)
One of the toughest calls on the board this week since neither of these teams will be any good this season. Hold your nose and take the points.
Indianapolis -3 at Buffalo (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS, DTV 705)
While it’s really tempting to go with the Bills given the hoopla of coach Rex Ryan’s first game, let’s temper that enthusiasm with facts. The Colts were a league-best 12-6-1 (counting playoffs) ATS last season. The key to Indianapolis’ game and season will be whether the offensive line can keep quarterback Andrew Luck upright and if the Colts’ defensive line can pressure the opposing QB.
Miami -4.5 at Washington (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS, DTV 708)
A season of promise for the Dolphins starts on the road against one of the more dysfunctional teams in the league. Money has been on Miami’s side, pushing the line from 3.5 to 4.5. With Kirk Cousins starting at QB for the Redskins, taking the Dolphins and laying the extra point won’t matter.
Jacksonville +3.5 vs. Carolina (Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX, DTV 710)
The Jaguars are the league’s most consistent underdog. Before they were actually favored against the Titans in Week 16 last season, they were on the wrong side of the line an amazing (and depressing) 42 consecutive weeks. We think this one will be close, probably a three-point win for Carolina.
St. Louis +4.5 vs. Seattle (Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX, DTV 711)
Not much to glean from the recent series history. These teams have split their past 10 games against each other ATS. Take the points and hope the Rams can play the way they did in a 28-26 home win against Seattle last October.
Arizona -3 vs. New Orleans (Sunday, 4:05 p.m., FOX, DTV 712)
Last season seemed like the beginning of the Saints’ slide to mediocrity. They went 7-9 and traded tight end Jimmy Graham in what was surely driven by salary cap issues. The Cardinals went 8-1 straight up with Carson Palmer at QB last year and we will see more of the same in this season opener.
Detroit +3 at San Diego (Sunday, 4:05 p.m., FOX, DTV 713)
The Chargers were one of the league’s bigger surprises last season, finishing 9-7 and barely missing the postseason. So we’re naturally going with the Lions. San Diego is 31-24 in season openers but just 2-8 ATS in its last 10 games.
Tampa Bay -3 vs. Tennessee (Sunday, 4:25 p.m., CBS, DTV 716)
NFL schedule makers proved to have a good sense of timing by matching up the top QBs taken in the 2015 draft: Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston and Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota. The Titans were a league-worst 3-12-1 ATS last season. The Bucs were 7-9. Go with Tampa.
Oakland +3.5 vs. Cincinnati (Sunday, 4:25 p.m., CBS, DTV 715)
The Raiders looked respectable at home last season, winning their last three there. Oakland is capable of winning five or six times in 2015 and we think this is a prime opportunity. The Bengals were 4-5 ATS on the road last season counting the playoffs.
Baltimore +5 at Denver (Sunday, 4:25 p.m., CBS, DTV 714)
This seems like a lot of points to give a Super Bowl contender like the Ravens. Just ask Sports Illustrated. The magazine has Baltimore meeting Seatle in the big game. These aren’t the same teams that opened the 2013 season when the Broncos rolled 49-27. This one will be much closer.
New York Giants +6 at Dallas (Sunday, 8:30 p.m., NBC)
This is one of our favorite spots to play the Giants: underdogs on the road against Dallas. The Cowboys, as always, have been collecting a good share of money as the favorite, pushing the line to six. While the Giants have lost four in a row in the series, they have covered in four of the past five games against their bitter rivals.
Philadelphia -3 at Atlanta (Monday, 7:10 p.m., ESPN)
A coaching change could improve the Falcons’ fortunes. Dan Quinn brings a successful pedigree from Seattle, where he served as the Seahawks defensive coordinator. Atlanta is 10-22 straight up in the past two seasons and the Eagles have a little too much talent for the Falcons, especially this early in the season.
Minnesota -2.5 at San Francisco (Monday, 10:20 p.m., ESPN)
Wearing their alternate black jerseys won’t be enough to help the 49ers in the Monday nightcap. If the NFL were an elevator, the Vikings would be hitting the up button, the 49ers the down.
Image credits: Steven Gostkowski courtesy of Andrew Luck courtesy of Jeffrey Beall, All rights reserved; Steve Smith Sr. courtesy of Keith Allison, All rights reserved.