Finally. The opening weekend of the NFL is here and here are the games I like Sunday.
New Orleans (-3.5) at Atlanta (O/U 51.5) – Word has it in Atlanta that this game is considered one of the biggest in a long time in town. The reason? Coming off of last year’s horrible season, the Falcons believe this is a big time measuring stick for them. The Saints are favored to win the NFC South and come in with both a high-powered offense and an aggressive defense.
Atlanta has receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White back in the best shape they’ve been in recently but is there a replacement for Tony Gonzalez? I like the confidence shown by Mike Smith’s team but I think the Saints come in and cover. I also like the over in this one as well.
Cleveland (+7) at Pittsburgh (O/U 41.5) – Brian Hoyer may be the starter in Cleveland but I have a strong feeling we’ll see Johnny Manziel at some point on the field in Pittsburgh. It might only be in a package or two but I still think he makes an appearance. The reason is simple; the Steelers have a lot of new faces on defense and if Manziel can come in and confuse them with bootlegs and play-action then Browns’ coach Mike Pettine will take it.
The bad news for Cleveland is that Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger is 17-1 all-time against the Browns and he’s 9-0 at home in Heinz Field. Pittsburgh will be without receiver Lance Moore which means I think they rely on the running game more often. I like the Browns getting the points but I like the Steelers to win a close game. Take the under as well.
Cincinnati (+1) at Baltimore (O/U 43) – Andy Dalton enters the season opener with an 0-3 record in Baltimore which explains his Bengals being one-point underdogs. Both teams are featuring new offensive coordinators. Hue Jackson is in Cincinnati and Gary Kubiak is in Baltimore. Kubiak will look to re-establish the running game for the Ravens while the Jackson will plan to make Dalton a more efficient passer.
The Ravens are still re-tooling their defense while Cincinnati as a few new faces as well including rookie cornerback Darqueze Dennard. I expect an extremely close game but I like the Ravens and I like the over.
Carolina (+3) at Tampa Bay (O/U 38) – This has been the most interesting line of the week as the Panthers have gone from a three-point favorite to a three-point dog and it’s all because of Cam Newton. The Panthers’ QB didn’t practice all week but did run with the first team on Friday. I really like the Bucs this year a team to watch because of their big receivers and new coach Lovie Smith.
A lot of people think the Panthers are prime for a setback this year and I happen to be one of them. They are thin at receiver and the defense has lost some pieces from last year’s team. I like the Bucs to cover and I like the under.
Indianapolis (+8) at Denver (O/U 55.5) – This one almost seems too easy despite the suspension of Wes Welker. The Broncos have had several long months to stew over their horrible performance in the Super Bowl and now they get Peyton Manning’s former team at home in primetime. In last season’s opening game, Manning threw for a record seven touchdowns.
While both teams have made some upgrades defensively I think the Broncos are primed for a big performance in their home and season opener. I like the Broncos to cover and I like the over as well.