NASHVILLE, September 5, 2018 — The agony is over. The waiting is over. The National Football League is back. Football does not require hyperbole. It is the greatest game in the history of civilization. Seven months after an epic Super Bowl, life begins again. So after seven months of the business of football, let us get down to the football of football.
Here is the NFL 2018 Week 1 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by OddsShark and all times Eastern.
NFL Thursday, September 6, 2018, 8:20 p.m.
Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles (-2) —
The defending Super Bowl champions take on the previous NFC champions. The Eagles are still without Carson Wentz. Last year the Eagles barely survived a 15-10 playoff slugfest. If Atlanta has fixed their offense, they will win this game. The Eagles will have the emotion and a crowd jacked to capacity, but Atlanta has a veteran team that will not be intimidated. Plus, Nick Foles has had a rough preseason. Upset special, Falcons win outright.
NFL Sunday, September 9, 1:00 p.m.
Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens (-7) —
Last year the Bills ended an 18-year playoff drought by eking into the postseason with 9-7 record. Regression is expected, especially with Nathan Peterman at quarterback. Joe Flacco seems revitalized and will want to keep Lamar Jackson off of the field the entire season. Baltimore is simply a much better team. Ravens cover.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-4) at Cleveland Browns —
The Browns may be better than the 1-15 and 0-16 mess of the last two seasons. The Steelers may not be as good as last year’s 13-3 record. Baker Mayfield may be the real deal. Until reality changes, it is what it is. The Browns tend to play the Steelers tough at home, but emotion can only go so far with a lack of talent. Steelers win but fail to cover.
NFL Matchups: Colts and the Titans favored
Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts (-3) —
Former playoff teams have fallen on tough times. Andrew Luck is finally back on the field after missing all of last year with a separated shoulder. Andy Dalton now has more job security with A.J. McCarron being traded away. Both teams have question marks, and the Colts have a new coach in Frank Reich. Go with the home dome. Colts cover.
Tennessee Titans (-1) at Miami Dolphins —
The Titans have a new coach in Mike Vrabel. Both Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill have failed to carry their teams, although Mariota has shown flashes of brilliance. Tannehill was injured last year, and this season might be his last chance in Miami. Brock Osweiler is his backup, which excites nobody. Neither team inspires much confidence. Miami is the most exciting city in America, yet somehow the Dolphins remain the most boring football team. If Mariota gets any help, he should be able to pass his way to a road win. Titans cover.
NFL 2018: Return of the Vikings and Patriots
San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings (-6) —
Yes, Jimmy Garoppollo was undefeated as a starter last year in turning the 49ers from a 1-10 joke into a 5-0 juggernaut. The Vikings are a complete team. They had three quality quarterbacks and traded them all to put their faith in Kirk Cousins. This team wins with hard-nosed Mike Zimmer defense. At home, expect the Minnesota defense to bring Garoppollo down to earth. Vikings cover.
Houston Texans at New England Patriots (-6.5) —
The Texans collapsed last year after losing their best offensive player in DeShaun Watson and their best defensive player in J.J. Watt. Last year the Patriots completed the 17th year of one of the NFL’s longest and best football dynasties. After losing the Super Bowl, it is the Texans who have to face an angry Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. The Patriots did get shellacked in their season opener at home last year, but that will not happen this time. Patriots cover.
A New NFL Season Down South with the Saints and Jaguars
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-9.5) —
The 2017 Saints were a legitimate Super Bowl contender until being shocked by the Minneapolis Miracle. Sean Payton and Drew Brees both seem revitalized. Jameis Winston has been suspended for the first three games. The Buccaneers are a mess, and the Saints finally have a real running game to complement Brees. Saints cover.
Jacksonville Jaguars (-3) at New York Giants —
Bill Parcells games used to be Tuna Bowls. This is the first Captain Grumpy Bowl, as Tom Coughlin faces off against his old team. The Giants are coming off of a 2-14 disaster, while the Jaguars were a fourth quarter collapse away from the Super Bowl. Coughlin badly wants this one. While Saquon Barkley will take some pressure off of Eli Manning, Sacksonville will still belt Manning early and often. Jaguars cover.
NFL Afternoon Games at 4:00 p.m.
Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers (-3) —
Every year the Chargers are a trendy pick, and every year they fail to deliver. They no longer get the benefit of the doubt until they prove it. The Chiefs shipped out Alex Smith and are trusting the franchise with Patrick Mahomes. Andy Reid is used to four yard West Coast Offense dink and dunk passes. Mahomes is a raw talent with a cannon of an arm. His accuracy is in question. The Chargers always start slow. Even with a rookie quarterback, Kansas City has too many playmakers. The Chargers will find a way to make a late mistake, whereas the Chiefs find ways to win. Upset special Chiefs win outright.
NFL Matchups: Watch for the Redskins and the Panthers
Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals (Pick) —
Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer have retired. The thrilling Cardinals are gone. As for the Redskins, they substituted exciting Kirk Cousins for boring Alex Smith. Nobody wins ugly like Smith, but he showed last year that he can actually throw a football more than four yards. Will Jay Gruden take the shackles off of him, or force him into dink and dunk West Coast efficiency and an early playoff exit? Smith is smart with the football and has earned the benefit of the doubt. Redskins win.
Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers (-3) —
Dallas regressed last year as Ezekiel Elliott was suspended for 6 games. Now Dak Prescott has his security blanket back. The Panthers still have Cam Newton. They also have Ron Rivera coaching a solid defense. The biggest transition for Carolina came at the ownership level. Team founder Jerry Richardson was forced to sell the team in the offseason after an NFL investigation caught him making bigoted remarks. With a new owner, Everyone in the organization is playing for their jobs. At home, give Carolina the nod. Panthers cover.
Clash of the NFL titans: Bronco’s vs Seahawks
Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos (-3) —
Both of these teams are question marks. With Richard Sherman gone to rival San Francisco and Cam Chancellor retired, the Legion of Boom is over. Denver’s issues are on offense. Paxton Lynch has been cut. Brock Osweiler has left denver for the second time. Case Keenum was brought in to lead the team. Nobody knows if Vance Joseph can coach. Even John Elway is feeling a very low heat. Russell Wilson has less help on offense than Von Miller does on defense. Go with the home field and the defense. Broncos cover.
NFL Sunday Night 8:20 p.m.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-7.5) –
Matt Nagy coaches his first game. Mitchell Trubisky is supposedly improved. The big news is Khalil Mack joining the Bears. He may be the best pass rusher in the game, but Aaron Rodgers is still among the league’s best passers. Mack could not fix an entire defense himself in Oakland, and he will not in Chicago either. At home, Rodgers has a more talented team than the Bears do. Packers cover.
NFL Monday Night Football: September 10, 7:10 p.m.
New York Jets at Detroit Lions (-7)-
Every quarterback since Joe Namath has been described as the next savior. Now Sam Darnold has to try and break the 50-year drought since Gang Green won it all with Namath. The Lions start a new coach in Matt Patricia. Matthew Stafford should have little difficulty dissecting the Jets defense in what could be a long year for Todd Bowles. Lions cover.
NFL Late game doubleheader for Monday Night at 10:20 p.m.
Los Angeles Rams (-4.5) at Oakland Raiders –
The Rams look like a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Aaron Donald received his monster contract and stayed. Khalil Mack received his elsewhere. The Raiders are loaded on offense and a mess on defense. How they plan to stop Jared Goff and Todd Gurley is a mystery. However, Derek Carr is now healthy. He led the Raiders to a 12-4 record in 2016 with a pathetic defense.
With Marshawn Lynch pounding away and Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson at receiver, Carr could win a shootout. One game rarely tells us about an entire season, but this game could. Give Carr one chance at home. Oh, and Jon Gruden returns. Let’s see what Chucky can do with his offense. Upset special, Raiders win outright.