With society starting to find a new normal in a post-pandemic world, anticipation for the new NFL season and each successive week will be intense. Not just because the NFL is back and fans love their football, but because more states will allow online sports betting than ever before.
However, while it will be easier to place a bet, factors outside of the X’s and O’s will still have an impact. Covid-19 could still knock a key starter out of the lineup for a couple of weeks. With the NFL looking to have fans in the stands, how much of an impact will ‘home-field advantage’ have?
Then there is the ever-present question at the start of every season. How will the latest draft picks impact their team? Can Trevor Lawrence get the Jacksonville Jaguars on track? Will Zach Wilson be the catalyst the New York Jets need. Will Mac Jones reignite the New England Patriots offense?
Between the potential impact of this year’s rookie class and the ongoing fight against Covid-19, predicting outcomes is not going to be easy. But, most of the ambiguity will hopefully get cleared up by Week One, and fans will be able to enjoy a season like no other.
NFL Week 1 Games: Opening & Current Odds
NFL Week 1 Matchup Previews
Thursday, September 9th
Cowboys: Dak Prescott is fine and ready to go for Week One against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but there is a good chance he could be without one of his offensive linemen, La’el Collins. Collins has been dealing with neck stingers and his availability is in doubt. With Zack Martin now testing positive for Covid and ruled out, it could be a long night for Dak Prescott and the Dallas offense.
Buccaneers: The defending Super Bowl champions enter the season in great shape with the starting units back on both sides of the ball. That could explain why the majority of bets are on the Buccaneers (58 percent). However, it does not explain why there is more money on the Cowboys (53 percent) than the Buccaneers (47 percent).
Sunday, September 12th Games
Vikings: While it is only the preseason, fans have to be concerned over how dreadful the offense has looked so far. To be fair, many of their best players have not been playing, but you would hope someone could lead the offense to a touchdown—but no one has. With reports coming out of camp about Cousins struggling, it could be a rough start to the season for the Vikings.
Bengals: Holding out Joe Burrow during the preseason is the right move. But with how the offense has looked, Cincinnati could be in for a slow start to the season. Not only will Joe Burrow need time to knock the rust off, but Ja’Marr Chase has struggled to get acclimated to the NFL (so far). Do not be shocked if the Bengals offense struggles against the Vikings.
Lions: Detroit has not had good luck with first-round picks. Jeff Okudah has not turned into the lockdown corner he was expected to be and has struggled throughout the preseason. This year’s selection, Penei Sewell, has not lived up to expectations either. But it does not help that the Lions had him move positions.
49ers: Kyle Shanahan says he has not decided who will start at quarterback in Week One yet. However, while Trey Lance has shown some promise, he does not look like he is ready. But, to be fair, you can chalk up some of his issues to the NFL learning curve. But Jimmy Garoppolo has not done anything to prove he deserves the job.
Steelers: Expectations are low for the Steelers this season after how they folded down the stretch last year. But fans are hopeful that the team will get back to its winning ways with rookie Najee Harris giving Big Ben a much-needed running game. However, that may be easier said than done since the Steelers are projected to have one of the worst offensive lines in the league.
Bills: After just one season of excellence, Buffalo decided to go all-in on Josh Allen. With the Steelers defense up first in Week One, they are going to need Allen to earn his paycheck. However, that could be easier said than done if he does not have his top target, Stefon Diggs. Diggs was out during the preseason with a knee injury, but he has returned to practice and should play in Week One.
Jets: The offense has looked promising under Zach Wilson in the preseason. However, while the team put a lot of work into the defense during the offseason, the unit has been hit hard with injuries. They traded for Shaq Lawson with the hope that the former first-round pick might live up to expectations.
With Jamison Crowder on the Covid list and Denzel Mims batting an injury, Wilson may be without two of his top targets.
Panthers: Sam Darnold looked good in the limited action he saw during the preseason. But looking good in the regular season is a different matter altogether. However, with the Jets defense getting ravaged by injuries in recent weeks, Darnold may be in for a relatively easy game in Week One.
Bettors certainly seem to think the Panthers will be alright. Nearly 70 percent of bets and 63 percent of the money wagered is on Carolina.
Titans: Tennessee would love to not have to rely on Derek Henry so much. But with Julio Jones and A.J. Brown entering the season a little dinged up, they may not have much of a choice against Arizona in Week One. Fans have to be relieved to see Ryan Tannehill come of the Covid list. Tannehill was one of seven players along with head coach Mike Vrabel to test positive for Covid recently.
Cardinals: Arizona’s secondary took a hit when it lost Patrick Patterson in free agency. It took another with the surprising retirement of cornerback Malcolm Butler. The team will turn to rookie Marco Wilson and/or Robert Alford to pick up the slack.
Washington: Curtis Samuel was considered a great addition for the Washington Football Team, but the same issue that hounded him in Carolina has continued to do so with the WFT—injuries. He has already had injury trouble, but Ron Rivera appears to think he will be available in Week One. But with all the time he has missed, what kind of relationship can he have with Ryan Fitzpatrick?
Chargers: Justin Herbert ignited the Chargers offense during his rookie season, but can he improve upon that success in his sophomore season? Luckily, he may not have to. With Derwin James back and a few key additions made in the offseason, the defense will be a lot better this season– which could take a lot of pressure of Herbert and the offense this season.
Seahawks: Any hopes of seeing K.J. Wright return to the Seahawks defense ended when the linebacker signed a one-year deal with the Las Vegas Raiders. Going with youth over experience could prove costly against a team like the Colts that are run-heavy and have a dominant offensive line.
While he has not been practicing, it appears that offensive lineman Duane Brown will play.
Colts: The Colts got a gift with Carson Wentz’s foot injury only knocking him out for training camp and the preseason. They got Quenton Nelson back as well, but it looks like Wentz will be without his best wide receiver to start the season, T.Y. Hilton. With Sam Tevi on the IR and Eric Fisher dealing with Covid, it is unclear who the starting left tackle will be against the Seahawks.
Giants: The Giants did a good job of finding Daniel Jobs some better skill position guys to work with during the offseason. But they failed to do one very important thing—improve the offensive line. According to PFF, the Giants have the worst offensive line in the league entering the 2021 season—which could mean Daniel Jones will be running for his life early and often.
However, the Giants defense is solid and will keep the G-men from getting blown out in this one.
Broncos: With a healthy Von Miller and Bradley Chubb ready to go, life could become hard for Giants QB Daniel Jones behind a relatively poor offensive line. However, while the Denver D may give the Giants fits, Teddy Bridgewater is going to have a real test on his hands against the Giants D.
Texans: All the talk has been about Deshaun Watson, but the Texans are not going to be as bad as many seem to think they will be without him. Watson fans have been hoping for a miracle since the Texans had yet to name a starting quarterback for Week One. But head coach David Culley announced on Monday that Tyrod Taylor would start (as expected).
Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence has shown some of the potential that made him a No. 1 pick during the preseason. Luckily, the defense he will face in Week One will be a lot like what he saw during preseason action. His outlook would be better had Travis Etienne not been lost to a season-ending injury, but James Robinson and Carlos Hyde should give the Jags a decent run game.
Neither team is poised to have a promising season. Both had lackluster defenses last season that gave up right around 26 points a game and neither team did much to improve their defense. However, both are guided by first-year head coaches with offensive backgrounds—which could mean fireworks in Week One.
Jalen Hurts is talented, but he does not have much to work with other than Zach Ertz and DeVonta Smith. Matt Ryan is easily the better of the two quarterbacks and has much more to work with (Kyle Pitts, Calvin Ridley, and Russell Gage).
More bets have been placed on the Eagles (55 to 45 percent) but more money has been put on the Falcons (52 to 48 percent).
Browns: Cleveland fans know better than to get too excited about their team, but it may be hard not to get excited headed into the 2021 season. On paper, the team looks like a legitimate contender on paper. Of course, looking like one and being one are two different things. But if they can play up to their potential, the Browns can hang with anyone.
Chiefs: But the Chiefs are not just “anyone.” They have the most explosive offense in the NFL and a defense that can best be described as good enough. However, their rebuilt offensive line has been hit hard with injuries already—which could mean trouble against a defensive front that includes Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.
Dolphins: Rumors have run rampant in recent weeks that the Dolphins are trying to pry Deshaun Watson away from the Houston Texans. Team owner Stephen Ross is said to “really want” Watson. But if you listen to head coach Brian Flores, Tua Tagovailoa “is our quarterback.” But the rumors will probably not die until Tagovaloa gives his detractors a reason to stop spreading them.
Patriots: Cam Newton was expected to be the man for the Patriots this season—until he wasn’t. But Bill Belichick apparently feels good going with rookie Mac Jones as his starter going forward (and releasing Newton). With one of the best offensive lines in the league, Jones should have plenty of time to pick apart the Miami defense. Damian Harris will probably have a big day as well.
Bears: The Bears are going to have their hands full against a talented Rams team in Week One—but they may have an ace up their metaphorical sleeve. Chicago’s roster is the oldest in the NFL with an average age of 27. It will take all the experience every veteran on the roster can muster to get the better of the Rams in this one.
Rams: The 2021 Rams will easily be the best team Matthew Stafford has played on since entering the NFL. His offensive line is one of the better ones in the NFL. The wide receiver room is stocked with talent, and Darrell Henderson and Sony Michel should give the Rams a good run game. Factor in their defense and it is not hard to see the Rams in the Super Bowl.
At the least, they should dominate the Bears in Week One.
Packers: With Aaron Rodgers under center and Drew Brees not under center for the Saints, you would think Green Bay would be more than a four-point favorite. While it is not shocking 70 percent of bets have been placed on the Packers, it is shocking that the money is split 50/50 between the two teams.
Saints: Jameis Winston has officially won the QB1 job for the New Orleans Saints, but that does not mean we have seen the last of Taysom Hill. Fans can expect to see him continue to play the same role he has had in recent years. However, if Winston struggles with turnovers like he did in Tampa Bay, the hook will come out pretty quick.
But the bigger question in week one may be whether the team can focus on the task at hand while the city deals with the fallout from Hurricane Ida.
Ravens: The Ravens have talked about trying to build a better passing attack. But with Miles Boykin and rookie Rashod Bateman on the IR to start the season, that may be easier said than done. After losing J.K. Dobbins to an ACL injury, the Ravens may be forced to lean on Lamar Jackson more than they should.
Raiders: With all of the injuries the Ravens are dealing with, the stage may be set for the Raiders to pull off an incredible upset in Week One at home. But that means trusting a rebuilt offensive line and some young receivers to make plays against one of the better defenses in the league.
It is not hard to understand why there has been an increase in bets and money on the Raiders in the last week. But it is also not hard to understand why 74 percent of the bets and 64 percent of the money is on the Ravens.