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.
Now that the schedule has been released let’s take a look at the matchups and NFL betting odds for Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season.
NFL Week 1 Games: Opening & Current Odds
NFL Week 1 Matchup Previews
Thursday, September 9th
Cowboys: According to all reports, Dak Prescott’s ankle is doing just fine and should not be an issue for the Cowboys and their quarterback going forward. However, the status of another star’s ankle is up in the air—Amari Cooper.
An ankle injury may force him to miss the start of training camp. It has been described as an “irritation” and does not sound serious. Moreover, Dallas rarely plays its star players during the preseason anyway, so Cooper should be good to go come Week One.
Buccaneers: Tampa Bay fans may be a little concerned after hearing Tom Brady talk about dealing with a knee injury throughout the season last year. Could that be the first chink in the armor for Brady? It was bad enough to need surgical intervention, so could it be the beginning of the end for Brady?
Probably not. Players deal with injuries all of the time. News of Brady’s has garnered more attention because of his age. But until he shows signs of wear and tear on game day, fans should not be worried.
Sunday, September 12th Games
Minnesota Vikings (-3) At Cincinnati Bengals (+3), September 12
Vikings: The Minnesota pass rush should get a nice boost this season with the return of Danielle Hunter. According to reports, he has recovered from the herniated disk that ended his 2020 season. When asked, he has categorized himself as being 100 percent. In addition, he has passed his physical and is expected to be ready for Week 1.
Newly signed defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson will join him.
Bengals: Bengals fans are eager to see their star quarterback get back on the field this season, and it looks like there is a good chance it happens in Week 1. The team has yet to say whether he will be available in Week 1.
But according to reports, he has cleared every hurdle during rehab and is on track to play in Week 1.
San Francisco 49ers (-7.5) At Detroit Lions (+7.5), September 12
Lions: The Lions have expressed some interest in free-agent running back Todd Gurley. While he could potentially be an asset to the offense, with how he has played the last two years, it is hard to say whether his addition is worth taking reps away from D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+6.5) At Buffalo Bills (-6.5), September 12
Bills: Buffalo may be trying to bring in another weapon for Josh Allen— tight end Zach Ertz. The Eagles tight end has been the subject of trade rumors in recent weeks, and the Bills have emerged as a possible landing spot. Last season, the Bills tight ends barely accounted for 400 receiving yards.
Ertz has accounted for well over 400 yards in seven of his eight seasons. Last season, when he only played in 11 games, he only had 335 yards.
Jets: There is a lot of wide receiver talent on the Jets roster, but the team may be in danger of losing its most reliable player—Jamison Crowder. According to reports, he has been out of OTAs because he and the team are working on contract-related stuff. Crowder will count $11.375 million towards the cap this season.
There have also been rumors he may be used as a potential trade piece or could even be cut—which would be foolish. It is good that they want to get Denzel Mims and rookie Elijah Moore more involved. But with a rookie quarterback, it is better to have too many receivers than not enough.
Cardinals: Trade speculation has continued to circulate about outside linebacker Chandler Jones. Jones was a no-show for minicamp but did show up for Picture Day. He has made it no secret that he wants a new deal heading into the 2021 season (the last year on his current contract).
Losing him would undoubtedly impact the defense. But at 31 years old and coming off a season where he only played in five games, the Cardinals may think he is not worth the trouble anymore.
Los Angeles Chargers (-1) At Washington Football Team (+1), September 12
Chargers: It is not unusual for quarterbacks to regress in their second season. With a new offense this season, Justin Herbert is certainly a candidate for the dreaded “sophomore slump.” But, according to tight end Jared Cook, it sounds like he is well on his way to mastering the offense:
“…I’ve seen some quarterbacks his age in this offense that just don’t get it. What I see from him is that the corrections that he’s making aren’t big ones, but the little ones that he makes, he picks up on them fast…”
For the fifth straight season, the Colts will have a different Week 1 starting QB, this time recently acquired Carson Wentz from Philadelphia after he bellyached about being benched in favor of Jalen Hurts. Wentz has been reunited with head coach Frank Reich, who was his QBs coach in Philly. Maybe Reich can get Wentz turned around, for Wentz narrowly missed quarterbacking for the hat trick last year for most fumbles, interceptions and times sacked.
For Seattle, QB Russell Wilson will be looking for another fast start. He had three games with a passer rating above 130 last season, all in Weeks 1-3, before he and the offense buckled behind relatively weak line play. It seems the Colts have enough big-play defenders to keep Wilson on the run in DT DeForest Buckner and stupendous OLB Darius Leonard.
Broncos: Injuries played a role in last season’s struggles for the Broncos, but it looks like the team should get two guys back this season. Courtland Sutton, who tore his ACL in Week 2 last year, and Bradley Chubb (bone spurs in his ankle) are not expected to go on the PUP list but are also not expected to be ready to go when training camp starts.
Jacksonville Jaguars (-2.5) At Houston Texans (+2.5), September 12
Jaguars: According to Jags passing game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, it is too early to name a starting quarterback. Gardner Minshew was the starter last season, but with the team drafting Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 pick, Lawrence has been the presumed starter.
But not yet, according to Schottenheimer. Fans should not be too concerned, though. It is not unusual for coaches to make it appear as if a rookie has to earn a spot the world already knows he has.
Falcons: Longtime star wide receiver Julio Jones is no longer on the roster, which means the team will need Calvin Ridley to step up and become the new No. 1. So, when news of his foot surgery became public, fans were likely a little concerned.
But from what has been said, the injury was something minor he had been dealing with since last season. He is expected to be fine for training camp.
Chiefs: The addition of Kyle Long to the offensive line was one of the highlights of the offseason for the Chiefs. But it looks like Long’s comeback journey has already hit a snag. Long suffered what has been called a “lower leg injury” earlier this month that could keep him out of training camp. He is not expected to miss Week 1, but he is not a lock to make it back, either.
Browns: According to reports coming out of minicamp, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. appears to have recovered from the knee injury that ended his 2020 season early. He is supposedly running full speed, making his cuts, and leaping without issue.
His return could make the Browns’ offense more dynamic in Week 1 against the Chiefs.
Miami Dolphins (+2) At New England Patriots (-2), September 12
Dolphins: Dolphins fans may be a little concerned about their quarterback after hearing him say that he did not know the playbook all that well last season. But head coach Brian Flores covered for his QB when asked about Tagovailoa’s comments:
“Honestly, I just think he’s comparing last year to where he is right now — and I get it. I understand that”
The question now is how the betting public should take this revelation. Does this mean he did not look great at times last year because he did know what he was doing? Or does it mean that his game will be exponentially better this year since he is more familiar with the playbook?
Patriots– As for the Patriots, the word on rookie quarterback Mac Jones has been nothing but good coming out of OTAs. According to reports, he appears to be getting the various nuances of the Patriots offense down. The talk has been so positive that some are wondering whether he might be the Week One starter.
If he is, there is a chance he could have an all-time great wide receiver to work with—Julio Jones. The Patriots are now the betting favorite to land Jones. If they do, it would not be shocking if the public were to gain a little confidence in New England.
Bears: If Bears fans are looking forward to seeing Justin Fields take the field in Week One against the Rams, it sounds like they will be disappointed. According to reports, it sounds like the Bears will stick to their word with Andy Dalton. They told him he would be the starter, and it looks like they intend to stick to that—at least for Week One.
Head coach Matt Nagy had talked about using the same approach the Chiefs used with Patrick Mahomes. That would mean sitting Fields for the year and starting Andy Dalton for this season.
Packers: The impasse between the Packers and Aaron Rodgers does not appear close to ending anytime soon. Rodgers has given no indication he is going to budge off his position. There has been no indication that the team has engaged in any trade talks, either.
As for Jordan Love, he has been making the most of the reps with Rodgers not attending minicamp. While he has looked great in stretches, in others, not so much.
Ravens: The Baltimore Ravens are planning on doing something different with Lamar Jackson this season—they are going to have him play under center more. So far, they have had him working out of the pistol formation to better use his athleticism.
But it sounds like they want to see him progress as a quarterback and work under center more—which may or may not be good for Jackson and the Ravens offense. Jackson’s biggest asset is his athleticism, which will be marginalized if they try to turn him into a traditional, drop-back passer.
Then again, since he has taken fewer snaps under center than any other quarterbacks since his rookie season, having him work from under center more may not mean he will be doing it a lot.