NFL Spread Picks - Week 1 Undervalued Road Favorites

Steelers Team On The Football Field

Matthew Jordan

Friday, September 9, 2016 12:29 AM GMT

Friday, Sep. 9, 2016 12:29 AM GMT

As of this writing there were six road teams favored in Week 1 of the 2016 NFL season. It's possible another away team or two could be favored by Sunday. Here are my top three undervalued road favorites on NFL spread picks.

Week 1 Handicapping A Challenge
Week 1 is easily the toughest of them all to handicap in the NFL because you just aren't sure what some teams are. The Super Bowl favorites are all those clubs that return the vast majority of their veteran starters -- specifically, quarterbacks. But uncertainty is surrounding the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos after QB Peyton Manning retired. The New England Patriots won't have Tom Brady, perhaps the greatest QB in league history, for the first four weeks of the season.

And an argument can be made that winning on the road in Week 1 is when it's toughest. Coaches can't really prepare their players for the noise, etc., in the preseason. Sure, teams play two road preseason games every year, but fans are into those and starters are barely on the field. Young teams or those with new coaches are often wise to bet against on the road in Week 1 because everything is still new.

Last year in Week 1, road teams were 8-8 ATS. Road favorites who covered were Kansas City at Houston, Green Bay at Chicago, Miami at Washington, Carolina at Jacksonville, and Cincinnati at Oakland. Throw out the Dolphins and what do all those winners have in common? They all won double-digit games and reached the playoffs.

 

Minnesota Vikings vs. Tennessee Titans (+2.5)
This line was as high as  Vikings -3.5 but has dropped below a field goal on NFL spreads because of the season-ending injury to Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Coach Mike Zimmer still hasn't announced whether veteran journeyman Shaun Hill or Sam Bradford, who was just acquired last weekend in trade from Philadelphia, would start. Zimmer added he's not going to say publicly before the game,  nor should he. Certainly, the quarterback is the most important player on the team, but you also need to examine the entire roster. The Titans have won five games combined the past two seasons. While they might have the edge at quarterback in second-year Marcus Mariota, he's still basically a rookie as Mariota has yet to play a full 16 games. The Vikings are far better at nearly every other position, especially on defense. And it's not like Nashville is the toughest place to play in the NFL.

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Green Bay Packers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (+4.5)
Green Bay is the favorite to win the NFC title this season yet is only a 4.5-point favorite over a Jaguars team that hasn't won more than five games since 2010? I can tell you why that is: the Jaguars are a chic playoff pick in the AFC this season even though they were 5-11 last year. True, Jacksonville has a ton of young talent and this could eventually be a good team. But the Jags are counting a lot on first- and second-year players. In addition, Jacksonville won't have much of a home-field advantage in this one as the Green Bay faithful will certainly be traveling en masse to northeast Florida. Let me put it to you in a simpler term: would you bet on Blake Bortles to beat Aaron Rodgers in anything? Also, the Packers’ six wins in Week 1 of the regular season are tied for the fourth most in the NFC and the seventh most in the NFL since 2006. Over the last two seasons, the Packers are a combined 6-2 against AFC opponents.

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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Washington Redskins (+3)
This is the Monday night opener and one of three games that feature playoff teams from 2015; the others are Panthers-Broncos and Patriots-Cardinals. A terrific head-to-head matchup in this one between Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown, the NFL's best receiver, and Washington cornerback Josh Norman. He was a Pro Bowler and key part of Carolina's defense last season but was allowed to walk away in free agency. The Redskins haven't won on Monday in Week 1 since 1993. The Steelers won't have top running back Le'Veon Bell due to a three-game suspension, but DeAngelo Williams is a more than capable replacement. He led the team with 907 yards and 11 scores last year with Bell hurt/suspended. Pittsburgh could have the NFL's best offense this year. Washington, meanwhile, was a surprise winner of the NFC East last year behind QB Kirk Cousins' career season. But in reality, he only had a hot 10-game stretch. I tend to think he's the guy who was turnover-prone before that. The Redskins also have arguably the worst group of running backs in the NFL. Pittsburgh has won five straight in this series and will make it six while covering the NFL spread.

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