One of the great things about Week 1 is there's a doubleheader on Monday night. Here are my parlay spread picks for Monday Night Football's NFL odds.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Washington Redskins (+3)
The Steelers are one of six road favorites in Week 1 and it didn't work out well on Thursday night for one of them as Carolina was +3 at Denver and lost 21-20 (at least the 'under' hit as I recommended). This is one of three games in Week 1 featuring playoff teams from last year and they all are AFC vs. NFC; the others are Panthers-Broncos and Patriots-Cardinals. While I think those first two could be previews of Super Bowl LI this February, I can't say that about this game. A lot of handicappers like Pittsburgh to win the AFC (I'm one of them) and the Steelers are +550 second-favorites to win the conference behind New England (+300). Pittsburgh really needs to take advantage of the fact that the Patriots are without Tom Brady for the first four games. So let's say the Patriots are 2-2 with Jimmy Garoppolo.
If Pittsburgh wins this game, there's no reason it can't be 6-0 when it hosts New England in Week 7. The Steelers will be favored in every game until then: Week 2 vs. Bengals, Week 3 at Eagles, Week 4 vs. Chiefs, Week 5 vs. Jets and Week 6 at Dolphins. So win that New England game and the Steelers should be in the driver's seat for the AFC's top seed. Remember that Pittsburgh is without Le'Veon Bell, perhaps the best all-around running back in the NFL, for the first three games. But DeAngelo Williams was great last year with Bell hurt/suspended, rushing for 907 yards and 11 TDs on 200 carries. It does appear that Steelers projected No. 2 receiver Markus Wheaton will miss this game due to a shoulder injury. He moved up to No. 2 with the season-long suspension of Martavis Bryant.
The Redskins went worst-to-first in the NFC East last year, but I believe are more likely to finish last than first in 2016 -- although the division looks weak again with rookie quarterbacks starting in Philadelphia and Dallas. No NFC East team has won consecutive division since the 2001-04 seasons (Philadelphia). Kirk Cousins might have been the NFL's best quarterback the second half of last season, but was that a fluke? His career prior to that would hint so. The Redskins chose to let Cousins play this year on the franchise tag and make him prove it again before signing him to a long-term deal. Washington's secondary was a weakness last year, but the Redskins signed Carolina Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman, and he's already yapping about how good he and the secondary will be. Certainly, he will be shadowing Steelers star receiver Antonio Brown for parts of Monday's game. Norman allowed the lowest passer rating of NFL corners when targeted last season. You can bet a prop at sportsbooks NFL Odds on whether Brown gets over 125 receiving yards at -110 for yes-only.
Los Angeles Rams vs San Francisco 49ers (+2.5)
The Rams play their first meaningful game back as L.A.'s team for the first time since Christmas Eve 1994. But they won't be doing it with the presumed future face of the franchise, No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff, the quarterback from Cal. Goff started as a freshman at Cal but won't be playing for a while for the Rams. After a very uneven preseason, Goff won't even dress on Monday. Second-year Sean Mannion will be the No. 2 behind starter Case Keenum. If both get hurt? The emergency QB is punter Johnny Hekker. The last No. 1 overall QB pick to not start Week 1 was Oakland's JaMarcus Russell in 2007 -- for obvious reasons. The last No. 1 overall QB pick to not play at all his rookie year was Cincinnati's Carson Palmer in 2003. The Bengals wanted him to learn all season behind Jon Kitna, who actually was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2003. But things worked out quite well for Palmer. Keenum started down the stretch last year for the Rams after they gave up on Nick Foles. The Rams are going to be one of the most run-heavy teams in the NFL with Todd Gurley.
There's no real research I can do to show what the worst Week 1 quarterback matchup this decade has been, but if it's not this one featuring Keenum against former Jaguars first-round bust Blaine Gabbert, I'd be surprised. Gabbert took over for Colin Kaepernick around midseason last year and Gabbert had his moments. Supposedly there was a QB battle in camp between Kaepernick and Gabbert, but injuries to Kaepernick rendered that decision moot for new head coach Chip Kelly. Incidentally, ESPN is planning on showing the national anthem before this game (usually doesn't) because of the news value surrounding Kaepernick. The 49ers will have top running back Carlos Hyde for this game. He suffered a concussion in the team's final preseason game but has been cleared. He's going to be a bell cow this season if he can stay healthy. But the Niners won't have arguably their best pass-rusher in linebacker Aaron Lynch as he's suspended the first four games. Lynch recorded 38 tackles and tied for the team lead with 6.5 sacks last season, his second in the NFL. The 49ers and Rams split last year, each winning at home.
NFL Free Picks: Parlay both home dogs here. Cousins was way better at home than on the road last year and the Steelers are a bit short-handed. The Rams are just 6-9 in September under Coach Jeff Fisher and the Niners have won five straight season openers.