After Dallas’ upset of the Giants on Wednesday night, Sunday saw the new NFL season kickoff for real with a 13-game slate.
Kickoff was accompanied by three additional upsets, with Washington, San Francisco and Tampa Bay all proving oddsmakers wrong.
San Francisco’s 30-22 victory in Green Bay was perhaps the most impressive of all. The Niners entered the game +5 dogs and still managed to do what so few teams achieve: win at Lambeau Field. Washington’s win over New Orleans, on the back of an impress debut from Heisman award winner Robert Griffin III, was the biggest surprise, eclipsing a +9 point spread. Meanwhile, Tampa edged out Carolina in what was always going to be a tight game.
Week 1’s not over yet, either. Monday Night Football returns tonight with a doubleheader, starting in Baltimore (7PM ET) before moving on to Oakland (10:15 PM ET). Both games are early divisional contests, meaning everything’s to play for from the first whistle. That means plenty of opportunities to make a few more bets before the focus shifts to Week 2.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens
The Bengals arrive in Baltimore as +7 underdogs. While most point spreads have been fairly close this weekend, the one touchdown difference in this game stems not only from the expected ‘rustiness’ of teams in Week 1, but also from Cincinnati’s surprising 2011 season as well as the uncertainties surrounding the Ravens defense following the loss of Terrell Suggs for the season.
Baltimore’s strength has always been defense. Last season the Ravens were second in the league against the rush and fourth against the pass. Losing Suggs as a prominent pass-rusher and run-stopper could be a major turning point.
Cincinnati is no slouch on the defensive side of the football either. The Bengals ranked in the top ten in points allowed, pass defense and stopping the run. As with any AFC North battle then, you can expect this one to be a pound-and-ground type of game. The over/under sits at 41 ½. The pair combined for an average of 45 points-per-game last season, so factoring in rustiness on the offensive side of the ball and tough defensive talents, this figure is unlikely to be breached. Take the under then.
Whilst some favor the Bengals over the Ravens this season, Baltimore has the edge in the opener. A raucous crowd will fill M&T Bank Stadium, making it difficult for the Bengals offense. The Ravens will also be playing in honor of Art Modell, the team’s former owner, who passed away last week. Emotions will run high, but Baltimore will take a close game.
San Diego Chargers @ Oakland Raiders
The second installment of Monday’s doubleheader will see San Diego make the trip up the Californian coast to Oakland.
Both teams finished 2011 with an 8-8 record, which was good enough for a three-way tie with Denver. Neither looked particularly appealing throughout the year.
2012 starts with both Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer looking to rebound from subpar seasons. Rivers threw a career-high 20 interceptions to go alongside 27 touchdowns. Throughout his career, Rivers has generally thrown an interception every five quarters, so last season’s tally is practically astronomical. Palmer meanwhile ended up in Oakland after demanding a move from Cincinnati. In 10 games, Palmer threw 13 touchdowns and 16 picks. Again, these numbers were a mile away from what we’re used to seeing. Both will hope a fresh start clears up that matter.
Oakland enters the game as -1 favorite. You might think the narrow lead comes from home field advantage but the Raiders were 3-5 at home last season, a record mirrored by the Chargers road record. Somewhat fittingly, both won their respective road fixtures in the head-to-head last season.
Take the Chargers in this one. Rivers needs to prove himself more than Palmer, while the Raiders look like they could be propping the division up come January. The over/under is 47 points. Whilst these two teams are offensive minded and pretty lax on defense, it’s a little too early for both teams to rack up the points, so take the under.