We wait, and wait, and wait, and all of a sudden BANG!, it's upon us; NFL Week 1. We came up with three picks for Sunday, and we thought we'd share them with you, our readers.
It's here! The sacred First Sunday of this new NFL betting season. Here's our attempt at getting things off to profitable start with a trio of free picks on today's games.
Cam Can Carry Carolina
The defending NFC South champion Panthers make a short trip south to visit the Jaguars.
Carolina floundered through most of last season, then got hot at just the right time and won the division. The Panthers then beat an admittedly shorthanded Arizona squad in a wild-card game, then lost at Seattle in the divisional round in a game that was a little closer than the 31-17 final score might indicate. So Carolina is hoping to carry some of that momentum over into this season.
Jacksonville, meanwhile, went 3-13 last year, which was actually a game worse than its first season under Coach Bradley. The Jags are also just 11-19-2 ATS over the last two seasons, 3-11-1 ATS as home dogs. Jacksonville ranked 31st in time-of-possession last year and 23rd in total rushing, and we're not sure if the Jags can improve on those figures this season.
The Panthers, with QB Cam Newton entering his fifth season as the starter and what should be a stout defense, are shooting for a return to the playoffs. J'Ville, on the other hand, is still a work in progress, if we can even call it that. We like Carolina to pick up where it left off last season with a victory and a cover.
Free Pick: Panthers -3 (-105) at Heritage
Coaching Change May Rejuvenate Jets
The post-Rex Ryan era begins as New York hosts Cleveland.
After stumbling to 4-12 last year the Jets dumped Ryan and brought in Todd Bowles, who was doing good things as the DC out in Arizona. New York is also operating with a new quarterback, for the moment, as veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick (33-55 as an NFL starter, but 6-6 with Houston last year) fills in for glass-jawed Geno Smith. Heck, the old man from Harvard might even be an improvement. And he'll have an inviting target to throw to in newcomer Brandon Marshall.
But the Jets strength is still the running game and the defense; last year they ranked second in the league in net rushing at +49 yards per game, and the philosophy remains the same.
The Browns are coming off a 7-9 campaign, done in part with smoke and mirrors. They ranked 28th in both time-of-possession and net rushing (-34 per game), and four of their victories came by a total of 10 points. Cleveland found a wee bit of magic last year with Brian Hoyer at quarterback, but he got hurt, and now he's with Houston. Josh McCown, he of a 17-32 career record as an NFL starter, takes over, at least until Johnny Football gets sober.
If New York would just get back to what it was doing during the early years with Ryan, it could find success, and fairly soon. Maybe as soon as Sunday.
Free Pick: Jets -3.5 (-104) at Pinnacle
Riding the Ravens on the Road
In a rematch of a great AFC playoff game from a couple seasons ago the Ravens and Broncos hook up in Denver.
Baltimore went 10-6 last year and reached the divisional round of the playoffs before losing at New England. The Ravens ranked eighth in the league in both total offense and total defense last year, and even after losing Ray Rice they ended up averaging 126 yards per game on the ground. Baltimore is a contender once again in the AFC.
Denver went 12-4 last year but got upset at home by Indianapolis in the divisional round of the playoffs, as QB Peyton Manning looked old. The Broncos are also now operating under a new head coach, after John Fox left for Chicago, to be replaced here by former Denver QB Gary Kubiak, who just happened to serve as OC for the Ravens last season. Denver has won at least 12 games three seasons in a row, but we're not too sure they'll get there this year.
This game should be close, and giving the Ravens more than a field goal seems generous, for a game they might win outright anyway. We'll take the points here.
Pick: Baltimore +5 (-110) at Bovada