Patriots in for a fight against Texans

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To quote former President Gerald Ford, albeit in a far different context, “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.”

While Ford was referring to the resignation of Richard Nixon in the wake of the Watergate coverup, his quote applies to the seven month drought of no meaningful NFL football. That drought ends this Thursday as the last team to be victorious in a game that counted – the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl 52 – take the field in their attempt to successfully defend their title as they face one of the three teams they defeated in the post season, the Atlanta Falcons.

This rematch of their Playoff game, won by the Eagles 15-10, kicks off the first week of regular season play, a week that will conclude with what has become a recent tradition of a double header next Monday night.

In between will be a baker’s dozen of games on Sunday and shortly all 16 games will be previewed with either a Side or Totals (Over/Under) betting suggestion provided.

Just to recap, my forecast was for the NY Giants, Minnesota, New Orleans and San Francisco to win the four NFC Divisions with New England, Pittsburgh, Houston and Denver to win the AFC Divisions. The Wild Card teams were predicted to be Green Bay and the LA Rams in the NFC; Jacksonville and the LA Chargers in the AFC.

My forecast for Super Bowl 53 has the Houston Texans defeating the Minnesota Vikings (dealing the Vikes their fifth Super Bowl loss in five trips) with a hard earned 23-17 win with Texans QB DeShaun Watson earning Super Bowl MVP honors.

The Lines and Totals noted in the following previews are courtesy of the Westgate SuperBook as of Monday evening.

Thursday

Atlanta +2 at Philadelphia (45): For much of the summer the Eagles were favored by 3.5 to 4.5 points but the line has declined in line with the expectation that presumed starting QB Carson Wentz would not be ready for the opener. Indeed last season’s Super Bowl hero Nick Foles will start this contest. Although the offenses receive most of the attention it is worth noting both defenses have played well the past few seasons, especially versus the run. UNDER

Sunday

Pittsburgh -4 at Cleveland (45): Pittsburgh continues to be the class of the AFC North but age is starting to take a toll on QB Ben Roethlisberger. Holdout RB Le’veon Bell still has not reported and thus is likely to miss the opener. Still, the Browns will have to prove they are ready to be competitive. The defense should remain a strength; last season their defense against the run improved by over a yard per game, allowing 3.4 yards per rush after allowing 4.6 ypr in 2016. UNDER

San Francisco +6 at Minnesota (46): Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer is a sterling 44-21-1 ATS, which makes it challenging to go against the Vikes. But the Niners’ overall performance last season indicates further strides will be made this season and they do not have to win this game for us to cash a ticket. SAN FRANCISCO

Cincinnati +3 at Indianapolis (47): Andrew Luck returns as QB for the Colts after missing last season and longtime NFL backup QB Frank Reich takes over as coach. Cincinnati is off two straight losing seasons and will be challenged to reach .500 with a tough schedule. The situation calls for a play on the reinvigorated Colts in their first game under their new head coach with a pair of road games up next. INDIANAPOLIS

Buffalo +7 at Baltimore (40): The Ravens have the potential to challenge for a Wild Card and have improved each of the past two seasons after dropping to 5-11 in 2015. Although there will be some opening week surprises this does not handicap as one. BALTIMORE

Jacksonville -3 at NY Giants (43): Much of the Jags’ success can be attributed to having hired former two time Super Bowl winning coach with the Giants Tom Coughlin as head of football operations, which adds extra intrigue to this game. With a now balanced offense and a defense that can now be more aggressive against Jags QB Blake Bortles an upset should not be a surprise. NY GIANTS

Tampa Bay +9.5 at New Orleans (49.5): Tampa’s defense is a concern whereas the Saints were much improved last season. The Saints are likely to be aggressive early and force Tampa to play from behind. But laying nearly double digits can be very hazardous to the bankroll and if the Saints are able to exploit the Tampa “D” early the better play should be on the Total. OVER

Houston +6 at New England (51): These teams played a wildly entertaining game last season with the Patriots winning, 36-33. The combination of QB Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick, who continually make the right decisions at the right time, makes it difficult to call for an outright upset although that is clearly possible. Rather than get greedy let’s be content with what seems to be a generous number of points. HOUSTON

Tennessee -1.5 at Miami (45): Miami’s offense has been below average over the past three seasons and shown a tendency to be heavily penalized, which thwarts drives on offense and extends them on defense. I have both teams marked as “play against” this season, at least during the first half of the campaign. This could be one of the dullest games of the week. UNDER

Kansas City +3.5 at LA Chargers (47.5): The Chargers had an excellent pass defense last season and should challenge the relatively untested Mahomes, who has plenty of potential but is still raw. Considering their recent lack of success the intense Rivers will be especially motivated to end that losing streak in what are extremely favorable conditions. LA CHARGERS

Seattle +3 at Denver (42): Seattle appears to be in a state of decline. Denver has been upgraded at QB with the signing of Case Keenum and their defense has been among the league’s best for the past several seasons. It’s a matchup of teams headed in opposite directions asking for a team with a solid home field advantage to win by more than a FG. DENVER

Dallas +3 at Carolina (42.5): Carolina QB Cam Newton is a playmaker with a more than capable supporting cast. Until the Cowboys can demonstrate a balanced offense that can have success with their passing game to take the pressure off RB Ezekiel Elliott the Cowboys will be difficult to support. CAROLINA

Washington +1 at Arizona (44): It will take time for new QB Alex Smith to get comfortable in the Redskins’ offense that has had to deal with RB injuries over the summer. The defense has allowed over 345 yards per game in each of the past four seasons and has been especially vulnerable to the run. ARIZONA

Chicago +7.5 at Green Bay (47.5): The Bears might employ a methodical offense to churn out yards and keep Aaron Rodgers on the sideline while also relying on their defense to keep this game competitive. Fewer possessions usually mean fewer scoring opportunities which lead to a lower scoring game. UNDER

Monday

NY Jets +6.5 at Detroit (44.5): The Jets will start rookie QB Sam Darnold while veteran Matthew Stafford returns for the Lions. Despite three winning seasons in his four seasons as coach, including two Playoff appearances, coach Jim Caldwell was let go and replaced by former New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Both defenses have been pretty much average over the past few seasons. Detroit may have a couple of edges in this game, including Patricia’s familiarity with the Jets personnel and his success with Belichick in facing rookie QBs. DETROIT

LA Rams -4 at Oakland (49.5): The Raiders appear to be a team in transition if not in turmoil. The trading of Khalil Mack, one of the top defenders in the NFL, deals a major blow to a defense that overall had been below average the past few seasons. Rams are much better prepared to start the season than are their hosts. LA RAMS

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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