A lot of playoff teams from last year come into this year with either relatively the same roster, or even better. Not many of the top teams are expected to fall out of the playoff race this season. The rich got richer this offseason, especially the New England Patriots.
A few rookies are already in impact roles like Deshone Kizer who was named the starting quarterback in Cleveland and players like Myles Garrett, Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey should make an impact in Week 1 of the season.
Can Aaron Rodgers defeat Russell Wilson for a third time in a row?
Will the Colts get blown out in Los Angeles without Andrew Luck?
We pick ever NFL game against the spread and throw out a few upsets in Week 1 of the 2017 NFL season.
Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots (-8.5) – My pick is New England Patriots
I had a rule last year that I would take the New England Patriots every time they were less than a double-digit favorite. It worked nearly every time. I honestly think this year’s team is even better than last year. They are without Julian Edelman for the season, but they have two guys with the skills (Danny Amendola & Chris Hogan) that can step in without much difference. Kansas City Chiefs will be without Spencer Ware for the year, but they do have a few other guys like Charcandrick West, Kareem Hunt and C.J. Spiller to fill the void. The Chiefs may very well be a playoff team this year, but the Patriots are just on a different level than the rest of the AFC.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans (-5.5) – My pick is Jacksonville Jaguars
This is a bit of risky pick since Jacksonville has a new head coach and still has Blake Bortles as their starting quarterback. The Jags have nailed the last few drafts, so it is going to show up on the field at some point, right? Leonard Fournette may not immediately be a beast, but he will be better than the last dozen running backs they’ve had in Jacksonville. The Texans will start Tom Savage and I’m not sold on him. I worry about Houston’s offense this season. Their defense is very good, but they could be stuck in a rut like they were two seasons ago. They lost a lot of low-scoring games after their defense came through, but the offense couldn’t get on the board. I expect some big plays from Jacksonville’s young playmakers on offense and defense. I have to take the points.
Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans (-2) – My pick is Oakland Raiders
I don’t know what is about the Raiders, but they are one of the best road teams in the NFL. In their last 12 road games, are 9-3 against the spread. The Titans are an improved team and could be in the running in the AFC South, but I just love me some Derek Carr. The additions of RB Marshawn Lynch could be a game-changer for Oakland. They are my pick to win the AFC West. I have to take the points in this game.
Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions (+1.5) – My pick is Arizona Cardinals
Carson Palmer is one of my fantasy picks this week for a good reason. The Lions defense isn’t very good and the Cardinals have so many targets for him. Matthew Stafford had a great season in 2016 and earned a HUGE payday for himself. The NFC North will be tight race again, but I don’t expect them to hang with the Packers or even the Vikings this year. RB David Johnson will be the key to an Arizona cover. He’s so versatile will keep the Lions defense guessing all day.
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins (+1) – My pick is Philadelphia Eagles
This game should be pretty damn close. They know each other so well and NFC East games are notorious for coming down to the final minutes of the game. Both teams overhauled their receivers this offseason. I like Philly’s additions much better (Alshon Jeffery/Torrey Smith). Washington’s addition of Terrelle Pryor, and the loss of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, is a huge downgrade. Pryor disappeared once the opposing team’s top cornerback started to cover him. If you take the wide receiver situation into consideration with Washington’s underwhelming backfield, I have to take the Eagles in this game.
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (-8.5) – My pick is Buffalo Bills
I don’t feel great picking Buffalo to win by double-digits, but I’m forced to take them. When I look at the Jets depth chart, I feel for all the Jets fans out there. They have such a depressing roster. It’s just a bunch of guys who have been there awhile and just ‘over it’, and retreads that failed their way down to the Jets. Buffalo QB Tyrod Taylor passed the NFL concussion protocol and will start against the Jets. My gut (and all the data) tells me to take the Bills to cover…and that’s what I’ll do.
Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears (+6.5) – My pick is Atlanta Falcons
This is another game that the other team just forced me to take the cover. The Bears do have some nice pieces on the team, but the Falcons offense is just too stacked. Bears starting QB Mike Glennon had some rough moments this preseason. He did finish strong, but many Bears fans want rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky to start right now. I don’t expect this game to be a blowout, but it could happen if Atlanta jumps out to an early lead. The Falcons are a strong road team and are 8-1 ATS in their last nine road games. I am taking Atlanta to cover in Chicago.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (+8.5) – My pick is Cleveland Browns
I know what you’re thinking…”you’re picking the BROWNS?!”. Yes, I’m more or less taking the points in a divisional game. It’s hard for any team to cover a nine-point spread against a divisional foe. The Browns offense may not be much, but I am intrigued by their defense. The addition of rookies Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers has me thinking we shouldn’t sleep on their defense. They also have Danny Shelton and Jamie Collins, so they will give the Steelers offense fits. The Steelers relied heavily on RB Le’Veon Bell late last season. Bell held out the entire preseason and I never like a player who sits out due to a contract dispute. They never arrive in prime football condition. I have to take the points here.
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (-3) – My pick is Cincinnati Bengals
I just never could get a feel for the Ravens at all last season. They would win four games in a row, then lose the next four or five. Cincinnati wasn’t the most dependable team either, but played well when Andy Dalton had all his weapons. Both teams did rather well against the spread last year, but would also lose games against teams they should have beaten. Cincinnati is a very good home team and it will be a factor on Sunday. Baltimore is 1-4 ATS in their last five games in Cincinnati. The Bengals defense will hold the Ravens to less than 17 points. I’m taking the Bengals to cover at home.
Indianapolis Colts at Los Angeles Rams (-3.5) – My pick is Los Angeles Rams
As a Colts fan, the thought of QB Scott Tolzien starting in place of an injured Andrew Luck, is just depressing. The Colts offensive line is young and learning on the job. They had a year together as a unit, but I don’t have much faith in the right side of the line. The Rams front-seven is scary and could pressure Tolzien in nearly every passing play. I hate the Colts traveling to the West Coast with a backup QB. I need to find what the Colts are against the spread when either Luck or Manning isn’t under center. That number must be laughable. I need to work on gathering that info for next week. The Colts are still trying to build depth under their new general manager. Depth will be an ongoing issue for Indy this season. I’m taking the Rams to cover at home.
Carolina Panthers at San Francisco 49ers (+5.5) – My pick is Carolina Panthers
The Panthers unexpectedly regressed last year. They were a monster team in 2015, but the ball didn’t bounce their way in 2016. They had offensive line issues and Cam Newton stayed in a various levels of injured all season. They didn’t do much to improve the team this offseason. Carolina hopes they learned from last season’s failures. San Francisco is a team that is a long way from being a playoff contender. The Niners will be starting QB Brian Hoyer, his sixth stop of his career. He’s not the long-term fix, but he will get the team through the season. If they can rely on RB Carlos Hyde to get 20 carries a game, they could upset a few teams this season. I just don’t think the upset will happen this week, so I’m taking Carolina to cover on the road.
Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers (-3) – My pick is Green Bay Packers
I’ve enjoyed this rivalry the last few years. It all started when Golden Tate caught a hail mary to win the game, also known by Packers fans as the ‘Fail Mary’. Aaron Rodgers has had the upper-hand the last two games against Seattle (both at home). The Packers have nearly all the same pieces on offense as last year with an additions of TE Martellus Bennett. I have a feeling Rodgers will target him a lot this season. On paper, Seattle has arguably the best defense in the NFL. They did look beatable in many games last year. They are another year older and the Legion of Boom could start to lose a step. I’m not saying it will happen, but it’s a possibility. I also worry about Seattle’s offense. Russell Wilson struggled when teams started double-teaming WR Doug Baldwin. He did target TE Jimmy Graham a lot more last year. Seattle is missing a solid #2 wide receiver. The Seahawks will need to have success on the ground to pull the safety in to cover the run. Baldwin will be double-teamed until the backfield (or Wilson himself) get off to a good start early in the game. I have to take the Packers at home to cover.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (-4) – My pick is Dallas Cowboys
The Giants expected to not face Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott due to his six-game suspension, but it is currently set to start in Week 2. There is a lawsuit out there that could delay it even longer. Dallas comes into the season with just about the same roster that made the playoffs last year. Their offensive line is the best in the league and no matter who is carrying the ball, they will have success on the ground. The Giants pass rushers will have trouble in the trenches and I don’t see them pressuring QB Dak Prescott much on Sunday. There is also injury concerns with WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall. QB Eli Manning needs them 100% to beat Dallas. I expecting this line to be a point or two higher, so I’m taking the Cowboys to cover at home.
New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings (-3.5) – My pick is Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings had a solid season a year ago. They leaned on their defense a lot and didn’t win pretty. They started the year 5-0 and then went 3-8 to end the season. The Vikings are expected to challenge for a Wild Card spot, but need their defense to carry the load. The Saints were able to acquire RB Adrian Peterson this offseason. It’s funny that his first game is against his former team. They hope to use him and Mark Ingram to get the ground game going to help QB Drew Brees find some receivers open down the field. The Vikings secondary will blanket the Saints receivers in this game. I am scared of the half-point, but I’m taking the Vikings to cover at home on Monday night.
Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos (-3.5) – My pick is Denver Broncos
The Chargers have high expectations coming into this season, their first as the Los Angeles Chargers. I like a lot of the players on the team, but I see an 8-8 team. DE Joey Bosa is really the only stud on the roster. I need to see Melvin Gordon stay healthy all season and crack a 1,000 yards. If that happens, the Chargers could be in the playoff race. Denver surprised a lot of people when they were still pretty darn good without l Manning. QB Trevor Siemian did struggle against AFC West teams and his passing percentage began to dip as the season progressed. With a season under his belt, Siemian should avoid some of the mistakes he made last year. Once again, the half-point scares me, but I’m taking Denver to cover at home.
*These picks are for entertainment purposes
Sweetbob’s NFL picks against the spread record in previous seasons:
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob