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April 1, 2023

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Vegas pick’em: NFL Week 1 winners against the spread

Todd Bowles Week 1

Associated Press

New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles in a football game against the Atlanta Falcons on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015, in East Rutherford, N.J.

Week 1: Ravens at Broncos

Which side would you take in Ravens at Broncos?
Broncos minus-4 — 63.6%
Ravens plus-4 — 36.4%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Las Vegas is applauding NFL schedule makers’ week 1 efforts for once.

The first Sunday of NFL action is always one of the biggest betting days of the year, but over the last few seasons, it wasn’t set up ideally for sports books. The split of Sunday games was skewed strongly toward 10 a.m. kickoffs over their 1 p.m. counterparts with as many as 10 out of 12 contests carrying the early start time.

The ratio is more balanced in 2015 with the seven morning games only barely outnumbering the five kickoffs in the afternoon. Spreading out the games enhances betting action with gamblers able to devote more attention to different matchups.

Parity could provide another boost. This is the closest slate of week 1 games in the last five years with not a single betting line of more than a touchdown and an overall average of a 4-point spread.

Bettors typically fire on the more manageable spreads, and Talking Points can’t dispute the excitement.

For the second straight year, a weekly blog will run Thursday picking every game against the spread. The picks are broken out in three categories — plays, leans and guesses — and roughly in order of confidence.

Last year, I went 137-126-4 picking every NFL game through the playoffs. That beats the goal of anything above 50 percent, which will again be the aim given the inherent profitability of forcing a pick on every game.

Check below for the week 1 picks. Lines come from the best available price on the chosen side currently in Las Vegas.

Plays (0-0)

New York Jets minus-3 vs. Cleveland Browns The Jets made arguably the offseason’s most inspired coaching hire in Todd Bowles, field one of the NFL’s better defenses and went from dreadful to functional at quarterback with Geno Smith’s broken jaw clearing the way for Ryan Fitzpatrick. They’re a bet-on until further notice.

Kansas City Chiefs plus-1 at Houston Texans Metrics labeled Houston quarterback Brian Hoyer and running back Alfred Blue as among the worst players at their respective positions last season. Their problems will be exacerbated against a mostly healthy Kansas City defense that shapes up as ruthless this season.

New York Giants plus-6 at Dallas Cowboys Something about Dallas brings out the best in Eli Manning, who’s gone 7-3-1 against the spread on the road against the Cowboys throughout his career. Dallas still has little home-field advantage to speak of at 19-27 through six seasons playing at AT&T Stadium.

Atlanta Falcons plus-3 vs. Philadelphia Eagles The hubbub over the new-look Eagles has thrown this line, which was a pick’em last month, out of whack. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has never lost or failed to cover in a home opener.

Leans (0-0)

Washington Redskins plus-4 vs. Miami Dolphins Lost amid the Robert Griffin III-Kirk Cousins saga is the fact that Washington looks upgraded across the rest of the roster. New general manager Scott McClougan has a strong track record of draft picks and acquisitions producing quickly in Seattle and San Francisco.

Buffalo Bills plus-3 vs. Indianapolis Colts After averaging an eighth-best 5.8 yards per play last season and adding weapons like Frank Gore and Andre Johnson, the Colts come into the season hyped because of their offense. But the Bills’ defense was even better last season, ranking third in only giving up 4.9 yads per play, and should improve under coach Rex Ryan’s direction.

New Orleans Saints plus-3 at Arizona Cardinals The market has overcompensated for last year’s results, which saw the Cardinals go 11-5 straight-up and against the spread to the Saints’ 7-9 straight-up, 6-10 against the spread. New Orleans was only this big of an underdog once last season — in a 35-32 victory over Pittsburgh.

Baltimore Ravens plus-4.5 at Denver Broncos The Broncos seem to have more questions coming into the season than the Ravens. New Denver coach Gary Kubiak’s run-first scheme may pay dividends eventually, but looks vulnerable against a Baltimore defense that was second in the NFL in giving up 3.5 yards per rushing attempt last season.

Tennessee Titans plus-3 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Much prefer Tennessee’s rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota over Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston. That’s enough of an edge with the rest of the two teams’ rosters equally lacking.

Carolina Panthers minus-3 at Jacksonville Jaguars Losing top receiver Kelvin Benjamin for the year hurts, but doesn’t justify a 1.5-point line move towards the Jaguars in the last month. Jacksonville hasn’t won or covered in the first month of the season over the last two years.

Guesses (0-0)

Chicago Bears plus-7 vs. Green Bay Packers Not ready to side with popular opinion and automatically assign the Bears a spot among the dregs of the league. The Packers have only given this many points at Soldier Field once in the last 15 years.

Minnesota Vikings minus-2.5 at San Francisco 49ers The 49ers’ collapse began last season when they failed to cover in each of their last six games. It looks bound to continue as oddsmakers are slow to adjust downwards drastically enough.

Seattle Seahawks minus-3.5 at St. Louis Rams Seattle’s defensive front should eat up a green St. Louis offensive line. The 3.5-point spreads are gradually disappearing, so grabbing the reasonable asking price with the best team in the NFL for value.

New England Patriots minus-7 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Honestly wish Jimmy Garoppolo was still starting so the Patriots would revert to the 2.5-point favorite they were before Tom Brady’s reinstatement. Starting the season by going against gambling demigod Bill Belichick, who’s 151-113-5 against the spread as the Patriots’ coach, isn’t desirable especially not versus a defense with as clear deficiencies as the Steelers’.

San Diego Chargers minus-3 vs. Detroit Lions When in doubt, fade the team crossing three time zones to play on the west coast. The Chargers have also posted an against the spread record better than the Lions’ in each of the past three seasons.

Oakland Raiders plus-3.5 vs. Cincinnati Bengals Reference the first sentence of the above capsule. The same applies here, though backing the Raiders — 20-26-2 against the spread the last three years — requires an extra leap of faith.

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at

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