NFL 2021 Week 1: CDN Preview and Bettor’s Guide
LOS ANGELES — The agony known as the offseason is over. After seven months, the National Football League is back. Thank God. If ever a nation needed football, we need football right now. This Narcotics For Leatherheads column has always tried to be all about football and only football. Football is an oasis away from politics, religion, and pandemics. But as the 2021 season begins, allow me to first express a deeply personal brief exception to this rule before getting on with our NFL 2021 Week 1 CDN Preview and Bettor’s Guide.
It’s good to be alive… and ready for launching NFL 2021 Week 1 football
On August 24th of 2021, I contracted Covid. From August 26th through the 30th, I was hospitalized. I thank the staff at UCLA medical center for saving my life. I will not comment on how anyone else should live their lives. I am just grateful that I still have mine. I officially received the second of two negative Covid tests on Sunday, September 5. I ended quarantine that day.
As an American worker, I was back in time for Labor Day, a celebration of the American worker.
As a Jew, I am back in time for the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah 5782, which goes from sundown on Monday, September 6 through sundown on Wednesday, September 8.
As a leatherhead who eats, sleeps and breaths professional football, I am back in time for the start of the 2021 NFL regular season on September 9th.
I cannot imagine a world without football. I also thank God that this world still contains me. I am thrilled to be alive. Beyond that gratitude, like leatherheads everywhere, yes, I am beyond ready for some football!
I thank my doctors, my family and friends for allowing me to extend this beautiful journey called life.
I wish Jews on Rosh Hashanah may be inscribed in the book of life.
I wish the great Jewish guitarist Mark Knopfler and the rest of Dire Straits will continue to do the walk of life.
I wish we all find something beautiful in life that we are passionate about and enjoy every ounce of it. For me, this is football. The rebirth is here. Life has returned. Time for football!
Return to the stadiums. Fill up the parking lots with tailgate parties. Get together with 80,000 of your closest friends. Last year too many stadiums were empty. That must change.
Reviving religion and fellowship, both nearly lost in the pandemic
In the same way churches and synagogues need to see a revival, so do our places of football worship. The stadiums and the sports bars are ready. Invite your friends to your homes. Just get together with your closest friends and celebrate football. As a proud member of the Raider Nation, I eagerly look forward to catching the Silver and Black at the new Las Vegas Death Star when the time is right. My 50th birthday on January 9, 2022 coincides with the final regular season home game for the Raiders.
For those who have been used to 16 regular season games since 1978, change is part of life. This year begins 17 regular season games. There are 18 weeks instead of 17, with each team having one bye week. The adventure is just beginning.
On with the show!
With that said, here is the NFL 2021 Week 1 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by SportingNews.com and all times Eastern.
Thursday, September 9, 2021, 8:00 p.m.
Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-7.5) —
NFL 2021 Week 1 opens with a classic matchup. The Cowboys’ starting guard Zack Martin will miss the opener after testing positive for Covid. Yet the real storyline is that all 22 players on the Buccaneers are returning and playing. How does a team win a Super Bowl and return 100% of the starters? Then again, everything involving Tom Brady is unfathomable. The Cowboys get Dak Prescott back, but the Buccaneers have the defense, the home field, and all of the emotion that comes with starting a new season as defending champions. Buccaneers cover.
Sunday, September 12, 1:00 p.m.
Jacksonville Jaguars (-2.5) at Houston Texans —
Sunday, as usual, will be a big day, offering the majority of games played over NFL 2021 Week 1. The Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence era begins in Jacksonville. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is still engulfed in controversy. It is hard to jump on the Jacksonville bandwagon before they have played a single game, but Houston is just a mess right now. Jaguars cover.
Los Angeles Chargers (-1) at Washington Mystery Meat II —
It has been over a year, and Washington still cannot find a team name. Nevertheless, Ron Rivera led them to the NFC Least division championship last year with a losing record. Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is touted as a rock star. But the question remains as to whether he has enough help. Even if the Chargers offense is for real, so is Washington’s defense. The Chargers are one of those teams that keep receiving the benefit of the doubt before earning it. Upset special, Washington wins outright.
Seattle Seahawks (-2.5) at Indianapolis Colts —
Russell Wilson is still elite. Carson Wentz is desperately trying to prove the doubters wrong. Wentz missed much of training camp due to Covid protocols. Frank Reich will get the most out of Wentz, but Pete Carroll year after year seems to find the fountain of youth. Trust Wilson and the Seattle defense while the Colts remain an unknown. Seahawks cover.
New York Jets at Carolina Panthers (-5) —
Sam Darnold’s very first game with the Panthers is a revenge game against the Jets. The Zach Wilson era begins in New York. Jets rookie coach Robert Saleh is the first Muslim to ever be an NFL head coach. The Jets have failed with Jewish (Rich Kotite), Catholic (Lou Holtz) and Christian (Adam Gase) coaches who succeeded elsewhere. If Saleh fails, the Jets will have failed with virtually every major world religion. Then again, outside of Bill Parcells, nobody has succeeded with the Jets. The expansion Panthers in 1995 won their first game against the Jets. Saleh is a tough defensive mind, but for now the Panthers have a quarterback with a lot to prove and a healthy Christian McCaffrey to ease his load. Panthers cover.
Minnesota Vikings (-3) at Cincinnati Bengals —
Joe Burrow showed promise before a knee injury ended his rookie season. Mike Zimmer teams normally run the ball and play defense, and last year the defense was uncharacteristically subpar. Zimmer used to be an assistant coach with the Bengals. Kirk Cousins does not have the high division expectations as in years past, but he has enough talent to get the Vikings off to a winning start against a growing Cincinnati team. Vikings cover.
Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans (-3) —
Ryan Tannehill is out of Covid protocol. Derrick Henry is still a beast with the ball. Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray showed flashes of excitement last year, but their flash is not a match for Tennessee’s brute power on the ground. Mike Vrabel has a hard-nosed team that will grind out ugly wins. Titans cover.
San Francisco 49ers (-7.5) at Detroit Lions —
Jared Goff is underrated while Jimmy Garoppolo seems to get little respect. Both these quarterbacks went to a Super Bowl, yet Goff was drummed out of town and Garoppolo is trying to fend off Trey Lance. Kyle Shanahan has effectively used both quarterbacks as well as his tight ends. The 49ers have too much firepower, and their defense is healthy after struggling through injuries last year. The spread is high, and Goff knows the 49ers. 49ers win but fail to cover.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills (-6.5) —
Will the Steelers be the team that started 2020 at 11-0 or the team that collapsed to 1-4 along with a humiliating home playoff exit? The Bills are young and hungry after making it to the AFC Title Game for the first time in 27 years. Ben Roethlisberger could be in his final season while Josh Allen’s upside is just beginning. Mike Tomlin never gets his due, but Sean McDermott has a brutal defense. Big Ben could be fresh but he will get knocked around. Bills cover.
Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons (-3.5) —
Both teams are rebuilding. Only three years after winning it all, the Eagles got rid of their coach, their quarterback, and anything resembling an identity. The Falcons traded away Julio Jones. Matt Ryan can still play. Falcons win but fail to cover.
Sunday, September 12, 4:00 p.m.
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5) —
The Browns are no longer losers. Baker Mayfield is for real. Nick Chubb can pound the rock. The defense is back. The Dawg Pound is back. The pride is back. Now for the reality check. Patrick Mahomes is a superhuman freak of nature. Walrus Andy Reid is still a play-calling maestro. The Chiefs have speed at all the offensive skill positions. The offensive line is a question mark, but Mahomes at home will not be stopped. Cleveland will win football games, but not this one. Do not be fooled by the close playoff game last year. Mahomes was injured. Chiefs cover.
Green Bay Packers (-4) at New Orleans Saints —
Aaron Rodgers is back while pinball wizard Drew Brees is retired. Bruce Arians could not tame Jameis Winston, but maybe Sean Payton can. Former top pick Winston got the starting nod over phenom Taysom Hill. Winston throws plenty of touchdowns to both teams, and will not be given a long leash by Payton. Rodgers spent the offseason complaining about not being given enough help, but he had the NFC Title Game at home and failed to deliver. His prima donna antics will be magnified if the Saints win. The Saints still have Alvin Kamara and plenty of weapons. As great as Brees was, Payton is not going to take his foot off of the gas. Upset special, Saints win outright.
Denver Broncos (-3) at New York Giants —
Teddy Bridgewater starts over Drew Lock. Von Miller is back and healthy. Vic Fangio might be in a make or break year. The Broncos defense should return to form but the offense is a question mark. This is it for Daniel Jones. Either he wins games or he becomes the next Dave Brown. The players bought into Joe Judge’s fire and brimstone and went 5-2 down the stretch after a 1-8 start. Saquon Barkley is back healthy, leaving Jones out of excuses. Go with the Denver defense until Jones proves himself. Broncos cover.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-2.5) —
The Patriots went 7-9 last year after winning the AFC East for like eight billion straight years. While Cam Newton is gone in favor of rookie Mac Jones, the real issue was the Patriots defense. Several key cogs opted out last year and return this year. Brian Flores has returned the Dolphins to respectability, but Tua Tagovailoa remains a question mark. At home, betting against the Evil Hoodie Bill Belichick would be suicide. Do not try it. Belichick is returning to basics, which means running the ball and playing defense. Patriots cover.
Sunday, September 12, 8:00 p.m.
Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams (-7) —
Red Rifle Andy Dalton starts over Nick Foles and rookie Justin Fields. None of that matters. The Rams are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Sean McVay traded for Matthew Stafford. Aaron Donald is still a wrecking machine anchoring the defense. The Rams are a complete team on a mission. They will not be slowed down on opening night at home under the bright lights of their new stadium. Rams cover.
Monday, September 13, 8:00 p.m.
Baltimore Ravens (-4.5) at Las Vegas Raiders —
Now we arrive at the concluding game of NFL 2021 Week 1.
The Ravens have their star quarterback Lamar Jackson and their stud head coach John Harbaugh, but do not sleep on the Raiders this year. Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock gave Derek Carr some explosive offensive weapons. Josh Jacobs is a bruiser. The offense is every bit as loaded as the unit that went blow for blow with Kansas City twice last year, nearly sweeping them. The weak link for the Raiders for the last several years has been the defense. Especially the secondary. Gus Bradley is widely respected, and if the Raiders improve on defense, they will be a force.
Football is about emotion, and this will be the very first game at the new Las Vegas Death Star with fans in attendance. The Black Hole will be out of control. On Monday Night Football with the Al Davis torch being lit, go with the emotion and the home crowd. Upset special, Raiders win outright.