I have been in the fantasy/gambling game for over 10 years now. Each week, I am involved in more than a few different games/pools/bets, etc. I am constantly looking for an edge in a game or matchup whether that is in a specific NFL game or if it involves a fantasy player I own. Each week, I pick 5 games vs. the spread in the NFL. I have a few key indicators I look for right off the bat to see if any are blatant locks. After that, I start to sort through a variety of info to make sure I have made the most informative decisions I can on the 5 best matchups. Then of course, once I have eliminated the games that are too close to call, I inject a bit of my gut feeling to seal the deal. For this weekly column, I will be discussing 3 games I recommend each week. 1 will be the lock, 1 will be the upset, and the final one will be the game of the week…because let’s be honest, we all want to watch the game of the week and have a little something riding on it!
Let’s kick off week one…
LOCK PICK OF THE WEEK
Kansas City Chiefs (-9) at home vs. Houston Texans
The Super Bowl Champs are at home for the first game of the NFL season playing the Houston Texans. The same Houston Texans who were dominating them in the AFC Divisional Playoff last year 24-0 five minutes into the 2nd quarter. Also, the same Houston Texans that would go on to give up 51 points in the last three quarters to ultimately be humiliated 51-31.
Kansas City upgraded their only soft spot on offense – they got rid of an aging running back (LeSean McCoy) for a rookie (Clyde Edwards-Helaire) who is known for his explosion through the line of scrimmage. They now have youth at nearly every offensive position, and it is going to be hard for anyone to keep up with them this year. Andy Reid is one of the best coaches in the game and just signed an extension. While Kansas City did not have a great year defensively last season, they finished strong and look to keep rebuilding on that this season.
Houston is going to have a tough year. They have one of the Top 10 hardest schedules based on 2019 team records. Everyone in their division seemed to get a little better while the Texans traded away arguably their best offensive player in DeAndre Hopkins. Their only hope is if David Johnson can stay healthy and somehow revive his career to become a Top 10 RB again this season. Houston used to be known for their defense, especially on the ends with their pass rush. But those days are long gone, and they are rebuilding on defense (and offense for that matter).
This is one of those games where I have to take the Chiefs AND the over…and by Over, I think the Chiefs will score enough to cover the over themselves! This is a classic matchup of a team “firing on all cylinders” vs a “rebuilding” team. Not to mention, Houston has not been good against the spread in Week 1 lately…1-4 in their last five games. They are also just 2-8 against the spread in their last 10 Thursday games.
Bottom line – The Chiefs are better than the Houston Texans at every position. They will look to make a statement at home and will win by 10 or more again.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
Atlanta Falcons (+2) at home vs. Seattle Seahawks
When looking for upsets, the first thing I will look for is a home underdog. Home underdogs have gone 1,992-1,974 against the spread (50.2 percent) since 2003. When looking for an upset, giving me “above 50%” odds is not a bad proposition! It is actually better odds than the roulette wheel.
Seattle is expected to be good this season. Russell Wilson knows his way around an NFL line of scrimmage and the Seahawks will absolutely make this a game. But, looking at the numbers, in their last nine games, Seattle is 3-6 against the Falcons (both straight up and against the spread). They are 0-3 in their last 3 games against the spread vs. the Falcons. Let’s not forget that Seattle also in not playing with Jadaveon Clowney on defense. This will be a big hole for them on the outside of that D-line.
The Falcons were a completely different team the first half of the season last year compared to the last half…mainly due to their defense stepping up. But, looking at last season, Matt Ryan was not the normal Matt Ryan we have come to expect. Funny though…In the one game where Matt Ryan did not play (against Seattle in week 8), the Seahawks barely beat the Falcons 27-20. That was with Matt Schaub at QB. All Matt Schaub did was throw for 460 yards against them!
The two teams match up pretty well on offense when you compare the rosters. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Todd Gurley, vs Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, and Chris Carson. With it being so even on offense, and the idea that Atlanta is expected to show up on defense like they did the end of last year…I think Atlanta at home is a safe bet for the upset pick of the week. I think they could easily win the game, but at best it will be close and that favors the +2.
Side note…With Seattle being suspect on defense (especially outside), I expect Atlanta to put up some points and I expect Todd Gurley to have a nice game in his new uniform.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3.5) at New Orleans Saints
It feels like I am a teenager again playing Madden and I decided to make an All-Pro team and put them all on the Buccaneers. This team has completely turned everything around. We know that Tom Brady will be Tom Brady…While it will be a new look and new scheme for him, the offensive line is relatively just as good as he had in New England. Bruce Arians is a hell of a coach. Tampa Bay likes to throw the ball downfield. Tom has options at every position, including his favorite end zone target over the past decade in Rob Gronkowski. Pair that offense up with a fairly decent defense, and you might have a Super Bowl contender.
The Saints are always in the mix, year in and year out. They too are loaded at all offensive positions. Brees is great, but he is getting older just like Brady. These two teams will be fighting for the division title and I expect both to be in the playoffs at the end of the season.
These teams are literally mirror images of each other. With Tampa Bay being a completely reloaded team, any records against the spread go right out the window. Where the game will be won/lost will be turnovers and which defensive backfield can contain the other teams’ receivers. The Saints have a slight edge in experience when it comes to DBs, however both arguably have one of the Top 10 best backfields in the league this season.
With the line at 3.5, I have to give the 3 to the Saints for the home field, so technically, with all things being equal (which they are), I think I lean towards the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win or lose by 3 and cover the 3.5.