We’re less than 24 hours away from the first NFL action of the regular season. How quickly will the rust shed under the bright lights of Arrowhead Stadium? It remains to be seen, but the PFN betting team has been eagerly anticipating getting back to football and following up on a profitable rookie season in 2019. We will focus on the point spreads for Week 1 in this article, with content-specific NFL articles (totals, prop bets, etc…) coming throughout the week. Be sure to bookmark us here!
Without further ado, let’s make some money, shall we?
Week 1 NFL point spreads that the PFN betting team are targeting
Las Vegas Raiders (-3) at Carolina Panthers, Over/Under 47
Despite all the flashy names at the wide receiver and running back positions, the NFL consistently proves that winning comes down to the strength or weakness of the offensive and defensive lines. In this game, we have the Raiders, ranked as a top-10 offensive line, going against the Panthers who project as a bottom-five defensive line in 2020. That kind of disparity should allow the Raiders to create plenty of holes for Josh Jacobs while creating ample time for Derek Carr to hit his speedy receivers in stride.
On the opposite side of the ball, the Raiders and Panthers both field bottom-10 defensive and offensive lines, respectively, which shouldn’t present much of an advantage to either side.
In regards to continuity, the Raiders boast a major advantage over the Panthers due to the fact that Carolina is beginning 2020 with a new quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, a new head coach in Matt Rhule, who has never been a head coach at this level, and a multitude of new starters across the board, especially on defense. Luke Kuechly had been the anchor of that defense since 2012, and he is now gone after retiring after last season.
Can Carolina’s run defense improve?
The Panthers ranked last in the NFL in 2019 at stopping the run, allowing 31 rushing touchdowns, with Kuechly still on the roster. Without the leadership and ability to instruct from one of the game’s best linebackers, and the Panthers running a brand new defense under Phil Snow, it will take both the veterans and rookies alike time to adapt and adjust to their new assignments.
Rhule was signed to a seven-year contract, which shows the Panthers know this rebuild will take time, not something that will come together in week one, year one.
The offensive weapons in this game
Both the Raiders and Panthers have their fair share of weapons to discuss. The Raiders found a top-five tight end last year in Darren Waller, who should continue to disrupt the middle of the field, especially with the departure of Kuechly, as mentioned before.
They also have a bell cow in Jacobs, who will be venturing into his second season in an offense that loves giving him the ball early and often. The Raiders will definitely try to take advantage of the Panthers porous run defense and feed Jacobs throughout the game.
They added two dangerous receivers via the draft in Bryan Edwards and Henry Ruggs III to complement Jacobs and Waller, which could turn the Raiders into a lethal offense in 2020 if Carr can take the next step and perform at an above-average level.
The Panthers have plenty of weapons to discuss as well, including the top overall running back in the NFL, Christian McCaffrey. He has already proven over three seasons that he can post 1,000-yard seasons in both rushing and receiving.
Their wide receiver unit improved as well due to the fact that they signed Robby Anderson in the offseason — he should give Bridgewater another outlet across from their top receiver D.J. Moore. The two things that will decide whether the Panthers offense becomes even more potent will be their struggling offensive line and the quarterback play of Bridgewater, who moved from a perennial powerhouse in the Saints to a league bottom feeder in the Panthers.
Jessica’s Pick: Raiders (-3) with a lean to the over 47: The Panthers have too much going against them in a preseason-less initiation to the 2020 NFL regular season, equipped with a fully remodeled team. The stout Raiders offensive line should allow Jacobs ample space to cause damage and run the clock down with long drives. The Panthers will need to have many things click for them in Week 1 to contend with a Raiders team that is returning many starters from 2019.
New York Jets (+6.5) at Buffalo Bills, Over/Under 39.5
Here’s another game of mismatches on the offensive and defensive lines with the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills. Last year, the Jets offensive line was one of the worst in the NFL, and they will be going into 2020 with four new starters. With no preseason, it will take time for them to build chemistry and instinctually hit their blocking assignments.
On the other side of the ball, the Bills defensive line isn’t the strongest unit on the defense, but they are adequate at pressuring the quarterback as they registered 44 sacks last year, good for a top-12 finish. They allowed the 10th fewest rushing yards and touchdowns in 2019, allowed the third-fewest passing touchdowns, and were top 10 in interceptions.
New and old faces
The Bills offensive line is projected as a top-10 unit with four out of five starters returning in 2020. They are known for wearing down defenders over the course of the game and will lead the way with a three-headed rushing attack of Zack Moss, Devin Singletary, and Josh Allen.
The Jets will need to rely on Quinnen Williams if they are to see any form of defensive line improvement in 2020. He had a disappointing rookie season and will need to improve dramatically for this defense to become relevant. They lack an edge rush, which will allow Allen plenty of time to target newly acquired wide receiver Stefon Diggs as well as John Brown, Cole Beasley, and Dawson Knox.
Which QB will make the difference?
You know the integral nature of quarterback play in NFL success. The Bills quarterback, Josh Allen, started slowly in 2019 and recorded three touchdowns to six interceptions through the first four games of the season. He then turned it on and went 17 and three the remainder of the season. He is going into his third season and has more weapons in 2020 than he has had his entire NFL career.
The Jets quarterback, Sam Darnold, is still wildly inconsistent going into his third year and hasn’t started more than 13 games in a season. He has yet to top 20 touchdowns in a season and was even quoted as “seeing ghosts” during the Jets/Patriots game in October of 2019. With a league-worst offensive line and head coach Adam Gase at the helm, there doesn’t seem to be much upside with Darnold at this point in his career.
Will the defense decide the game?
The final difference maker between these two teams are their respective secondaries. The Bills have a top-10 secondary led by Tre’Davious White and brought in Josh Norman to compete for a starting job as the other boundary cornerback.
Whether or not Norman can return to his elite form is something to keep an eye on. The Bills boast one of the best safety duos in the NFL with Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, so any mistakes by the cornerbacks can be rectified with this formidable duo.
The Jets have arguably the worst secondary in the NFL in 2020. Their only saving grace, Jamal Adams, was traded to the Seahawks in the offseason, and they are left with even more holes than they had in 2019. They did address the secondary by getting Bradley McDougald in the trade with the Seahawks and by drafting Bryce Hall in this year’s NFL Draft, but those players will need time to adjust to their new teams. There are more question marks than clear answers with the Jets’ secondary in 2020.
Jessica’s Pick: Bills -6.5: This game has the potential to get out of hand extremely fast, which would negate the Jets’ ability to run the ball, thus causing Darnold to need to make plays against the Bills’ top-10 secondary. The Bills would then rely on their fierce rushing attack to wear down the defense and throw over the top to Diggs when the Jets decide to stack the box. This is one of my favorite picks for Week 1. Fellow PFN capper Ryan Gosling is also on Bills -6.5 for 1 unit.
NFL point spread picks from the rest of the PFN betting team
Arizona Cardinals +8.5 | -110 for 1 unit
Might Kyler Murray prove to be the San Francisco 49ers’ kryptonite? Kliff Kingsbury added DeAndre Hopkins to the mix this offseason, and suddenly Arizona has a dangerous offensive unit. The Cardinals were swept by San Francisco by a grand total of 15 points last season, including a fluky defensive touchdown on the final play of the game in their second meeting in Week 11.
Super Bowl runner-ups are an abysmal 4-16 against the spread in their opening game the following season over the last 20 years. I grabbed the Cardinals at +8.5 the night of the schedule release, and I’d still play Arizona at the current price of +7 points in this divisional matchup.
Detroit Lions -1.5 | -110 for 4 units
The Lions offense should be highly efficient, just as they were prior to Matthew Stafford’s 2019 injury. The addition of D’Andre Swift should add the explosive runner necessary to make this offense a fearsome balanced offensive attack.
On the other side of the ball, I have little faith in recently-named starting QB Mitch Trubisky or his offensive weapons, especially if David Montgomery is held out with injury. The Lions defense was not good in 2019, but no unit improved more this offseason with the additions of Danny Shelton, Jamie Collins, Duron Harmon, Desmond Trufant, and Jeff Okudah. Expect them to stifle this Bears offense that already struggles to move the ball.
Other NFL point spread plays from Drew: Cardinals +7.5 (2 units), Titans pick ’em (2 units), Browns +8.5 (1 unit), Chargers -3 (1 unit)
Dallas Cowboys -2.5 | -110 for 2 units
Dallas is my pick for survivor pools and my pick to represent the National Football Conference in the Super Bowl. On the other side are the Rams who declined last year, and losing the amount of talent they did this offseason will decline further. There aren’t three Jalen Ramseys to cover Dallas’ lethal wide receiving corps and they will be too much for Los Angeles.
- Cincinnati Bengals/Chicago Bears ML +400 for 1 unit: Yes, Cincinnati is starting a rookie QB without a preseason to help him develop. Yes, Chicago is starting Mitchell Trubisky for some reason. But picking these two teams to win is as much about how poor I think the opponents are (L.A. Chargers and Detroit respectively) as I think those teams are good or improved.
- Vikings/Cowboys/Seahawks/Saints ML parlay +750 for 0.5 unit: These four teams are not overwhelming favorites to win but I think they all will. Minnesota and New Orleans can stamp their authority in the NFC North and NFC South by beating key division rivals to start the season.
- Super contest parlay (Browns +8.5, Seahawks -1, Jaguars +8, Cowboys -2.5, Bengals +3) | +2500 for 0.5 unitAll five of my super contest picks. Cleveland gave Baltimore fits last year and will be better under a more competent coach, and they did win in Charm City a year ago. Taking the Jaguars and the points is a product of two factors. First, Gardner Minshew did better than most people realized last season. Second, my belief that Philip Rivers was the wrong move for Indianapolis and that he’s done as a good quarterback in this league.
Houston Texans +9.5 | -110 for 1.1U
Texans Moneyline l +340 for 0.5U
Will Fuller to score a TD l +185 for 0.5U
This is mostly a bet on Deshaun Watson. I think we see an even more explosive offense in Houston this year with the subtraction of Deandre Hopkins. The Kansas City Chiefs have a better defense than most think, but we saw the Texans go into Arrowhead and beat this Chiefs team last season. I like this all the way down to (+7.5), as well as a “sprinkle” on the moneyline/ Watson is far too good to be a (+340) dog to anyone.
I also like Will Fuller to score a touchdown at +185. It was +210 at FanDuel before the news broke that Brandin Cooks could miss this game. I believe it should be priced closer to +100.
Las Vegas Raiders (-2.5) l -115 for 1.15U
I was able to get this before it moved to a consensus (-3) across the board. At less than three, I liked it as a bet on continuity. Carolina has “too much new” for an offseason as unique as the one we just saw. Carr knows this system and should be able to execute on the road against a brand new Carolina defense. This young unit is in for a rude awakening, facing off against a top-5 offensive line in the league.
I also like the additions the Raiders made to their defense, as I highlighted in my Raiders win the total article. That doesn’t bode well for a Panthers offensive line which got worse over the offseason. At the current spread of (-3), I don’t like it much at all. I would rather take Carolina at that point. If you were able to bet the Raiders before it hit (-3), you could aim for a middle if the spread reached (-3.5). That means you take the Panthers (+3.5) and hope the game lands on three to win both bets. However, I would stay away at that point.
Green Bay Packers Moneyline l +132 for 1U
While regression is coming for the Packers, I don’t think it arrives this week. Green Bay has continuity on their side, while the Vikings and Kirk Cousins lost their offensive coordinator and best receiver on the team. I expect them to have trouble moving the ball through the air against this stout Packers defense. The pass rush should also be able to overwhelm an offensive line that finished 14th in Football Outsiders adjusted sack rate metric.
I don’t think the Packers meet as much resistance moving the ball as I expect the Vikings do. Minnesota lost several good starters on defense, and while they traded for Yannick Ngakoue, this should be a worse unit this season. The loss of Linval Joseph leaves Minnesota vulnerable up the middle, which doesn’t bode well for the run-heavy tendencies Green Bay has.
I think the Packers are better than the Vikings this year. I’m not giving any credence to home field this season, so give me the better team at a “plus” price.
Los Angeles Rams Moneyline l +130 for 1U
This is another situation where I am betting on the team with a continuity advantage. While the Dallas Cowboys were tied with the San Francisco 49ers for the highest yards per play differential in 2019 (+1.3), the Rams had the fifth-highest mark (+0.6) in a down year. I mostly agree with the spread, which is why I’m taking a stab at the moneyline.
I expect it to be a close game, in which I trust Jared Goff and Sean McVay to be on the same page in crucial situations more than I do Dak Prescott and Mike McCarthy.
Cleveland Browns +7.5 l -105 for 1.575U
While the Baltimore Ravens were terrific last season, the Cleveland Browns made far more improvements than their AFC North rivals. Based on last year’s yards per play differential, Baltimore should be a five-point favorite. Yet, we get Cleveland at over a touchdown despite being far better than they were last season.
Keep in mind, a worse version of Cleveland defeated the Ravens last year in a blowout in Baltimore. This pick goes against my continuity angle, but I don’t see any way Kevin Stefanski is a worse coach than Freddie Kitchens. I don’t mind a “sprinkle” on the Browns moneyline either if I can get it at +300 or greater. That said, I’m sticking with the spread for now.