What a crazy and exciting way to kick off the NFL season!
It was a nail-biter of an ending in the inaugural game of the 2021-2022 NFL season last Thursday when Tom Brady led the Bucs down the field to secure a 31-29 victory over the Cowboys, spoiling Dak Prescott’s return in the process.
Sunday’s slate of games was no different. The Cleveland Browns gave the defending AFC Champion Chiefs a scare until Patrick Mahomes worked his magic and led Kansas City to a 33-29 comeback win. Meanwhile, QB Joe Burrow returned to the field for the Bengals, capping off a 27-24 victory in overtime, and Ben Roethlisberger showed he still has plenty of talent left in the tank as the Steelers stunned the Bills in Buffalo’s home opener.
Matt Stafford made his Rams debut on Sunday night, firing up the crowd at SoFi Stadium with an impressive 34-14 win in Los Angeles over the Bears. Yet, opening weekend was not complete without a thrilling OT victory in Vegas where the Raiders upset Lamar Jackson and the Ravens on Monday Night Football.
It was a week for the underdogs as 12 covered the spread and 9 managed to win outright. It just goes to show how unpredictable Week 1 is in every season.
Now, with a game under every team’s belt, which squads will bounce back after a disappointing Week 1, and which teams will prove their win was not simply a fluke?
Here are our five best bets against the spread on which teams will cover and perhaps pull off another upset victory:
Steelers -6 over Raiders
One of my NFL betting rules has always been to wager against the winner of the Monday Night Football game for several reasons. For one, the public will be pounding the Raiders in this matchup after watching Las Vegas defeat the Baltimore Ravens in a highly entertaining overtime win. However, the public may fail to realize that the Ravens were down several key players in the matchup, including CB Marcus Peters and RB Gus Edwards. Now, this team will have to go up against a Steelers squad that just spoiled the Bills home opener and secured their first win of the season on the road.
Second, after the hype quiets down, this is a Raiders team who will have to play on short rest and travel cross-country to play Pittsburgh in an early matchup on the east coast.
Many bettors may think this is easy money with the Raiders, but I will side against the public and take Big Ben and the Steelers to rack up the points on offense. With a potent wide receiving core of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool, this may edge up to a comfortable double-digit victory for the home team.
Panthers +3 over Saints
Here’s another overhyped team entering Week 2 – the Saints. Sure, everyone just tuned in to watch New Orleans embarrass the Packers on America’s Game of the Week on Fox. However, Aaron Rodgers played one of the worst games of his career in the contest, and it was clear from the onset the Packers did not look focused or ready to play. The Saints did a good job capitalizing on poor turnovers. After all, Jameis Winston added 5 TDs to his stat sheet while throwing for only 148 yards.
This week, the Saints will have a more difficult matchup with a revamped Panthers squad that seamlessly took care of the Jets last weekend. Sam Darnold put on an impressive showing, throwing for 279 yards and a TD in the win. RB Christian McCaffrey also began his 2021 campaign hot as he totaled a combined 187 yards in the matchup.
I love betting on overreactions to teams benefitting from their opponent’s poor outing. That is not to say that the Saints are a terrible team, but I do not foresee them having the same luck as they did against an unfocused Packers squad. They may pull off the road victory, but I do not see this division matchup being decided by more than a field goal. Take the home team to cover.
Titans +5.5 over Seahawks
This matchup marks another public overreaction to Week 1. The Titans are coming off of an embarrassing 38-13 throttling courtesy of the Arizona Cardinals – an outright upset I predicted last week. The Seahawks, meanwhile, took care of a banged-up Colts squad, winning on the road 28-16.
However, the Seahawks will face a much more potent offense in this contest, led by RB Derrick Henry and wideouts A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. Expect Henry to take advantage of Seattle’s lackluster run defense and pound the ground while QB Ryan Tannehill will improve upon his outing last week and connect with his offensive weapons.
Seattle is a dangerous team at home, especially with Russell Wilson and the wideout tandem of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett spearheading the offense. Still, I believe Tennessee will rebound from their poor home opener and at least make it close on the road. Take the points.
Bills -3 over Dolphins
After last week’s dismal performance against the Steelers, the Bills left many bettors scratching their heads (including those who picked Buffalo in their Survivor pools). Now, Josh Allen and company have a great opportunity on the road to defeat their division foe in the Dolphins when they travel to Miami this weekend.
The Dolphins had some luck on a late fumble by the Patriots on Sunday to edge out with a 17-16 victory, but they now must go up against the defending AFC East Champions, who are eager to get back into the winning margin.
The Bills may have fallen flat last week against the Steelers, but they will be motivated to put that loss behind them, especially against a division rival. Look for Buffalo to go up early on the Dolphins and not let up until the game is final. Lay the points.
Packers -10.5 over Lions
Green Bay played one of its worst games in the Aaron Rodgers era last weekend in Jacksonville. Given the team’s and their QB’s history coming off a loss, especially an embarrassing one like that, it is pretty safe to say they will focus on proving all their critics wrong in their upcoming matchup against Jared Goff and the Lions.
In a primetime affair on Monday night, expect Rodgers to come out firing with Davante Adams and Randall Cobb being the beneficiaries of the action. The Lions made things interesting late in their contest against the 49ers but ultimately fell short. Unfortunately, now they will have to face a hungry Packers squad in Lambeau. This double-digit spread may seem high, but I honestly do not think it is high enough. Expect Green Bay to roll to victory easily behind Rodgers with an MVP-caliber performance.