We’re officially popping the cap on the 2018-19 NFL Season this week. We have a full slate of 16 games for your betting pleasure and a solid group of underdogs that just might rock the NFL’s boat before it’s even left the dock.
Beginning with the Thursday Night Football contest between the Atlanta Falcons and Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, I’ve selected four solid underdogs for you to take a hard look at before laying down your NFL Week 1 cash.
Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles (-1.5, O/U: 45)
No team has looked worse in the preseason than the Eagles. The starters, especially on offense, were abysmal in the three games they played in. As a team, they never scored more than 20 points in a game and were shut out, starters included, by the Cleveland Browns in Week 3 of the exhibition season.
It’s easy to handwave what we saw and certainly head coach Doug Pederson wasn’t going to show his hand in the glorified scrimmages, but there’s plenty to worry about in Philadelphia. The problem is, the Falcons looked almost as bad through August. They too were allergic to scoring and, in the game where their starters saw the most action, lost 17-6 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
So what’s reality? We’ll find out Thursday night but when you weigh Foles’ preseason struggles and Matt Ryan’s resume, the Falcons look like a solid bet here.
Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants (+3, O/U 43.5)
The Giants are the team with plenty of talent and a new head coach that no one seems excited about. There was a team like that last year, the Los Angles Rams, and we all know how that worked out.
The Jaguars have an elite defense and Jalen Ramsey has spent all offseason running his mouth about every single player in the league, including New York’s Eli Manning. He’ll get his chance to prove his skills, and Eli’s lack thereof, lining up opposite the NFL’s best wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. If Saquon Barkley is the weapon I think he is, this game could look a lot like that that Rams vs Jaguars match up from last season. Los Angeles won 27-17.
Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers (-3.5, O/U: 47.5)
Congratulations to the Los Angeles Chargers who have, once again, won the preseason NFL Championship. As with the previous Chargers’ May-August titles, I’m not expecting this one to show up come September-December.
Does that mean I’m ready to pick the Chiefs here? Not necessarily. I’m still not sold on Patrick Mahomes coming out of the gate hot. The reports from Chiefs camp, and the preseason performances, have been all over the place. Still, if Mahomes really is the guy Andy Reid’s been selling, this could be one of the more shocking upsets of the first week.
Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals (-1, O/U: 44)
Speaking of the Chiefs, their former Pro Bowl quarterback, Alex Smith, will be slinging passes in Washington this season.
I’ve said all offseason I like this Cardinals team better than most. Sam Bradford, when healthy, is a franchise quarterback and David Johnson seems to be the most potent offensive weapon everyone has forgotten about. I honestly like the Cardinals in this game, but if we’re talking upset potential, this one certainly has it.
Smith’s strongest month of the season is consistently September. Last season Smith had KC looking like the best team in the league with a 5-0 start. That wilted, as it often does, in October, but we’re picking Week 1 upsets. Smith delivered one of those for the history books last season when he led the Chiefs to a 42-17 victory over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Kansas City opened that game as a +9 underdog.
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