We kick off our 2015 NFL picks with a simple rule: If it's Week 1, we're betting on the New England Patriots. They'll be hosting the Green Bay Packers Thursday night.
The blessed day has finally arrived – it's our first football pick of the 2015 season here at the home office, and we couldn't be more delighted. I'm even dressed for the occasion in my Brett Favre Green Bay Packers jersey, which we've deemed safe (?) to bring out of mothballs now that Favre is in the Packers Hall of Fame. And a fitting occasion it is, too: The Packers visit the New England Patriots this Thursday night (7:30 p.m. ET).
Don't worry about the jersey affecting our impartiality. We're definitely recommending the Patriots for your NFL picks this week; they're only laying three points at home as we go to press, which is close enough to an even matchup on neutral ground, yet there's nothing neutral about the critical betting angle we'll be using.
Thursday's contest features two of the very best head coaches in the NFL: New England's Bill Belichick and Green Bay's Mike McCarthy. However, when it comes to preseason games, Belichick's teams have enjoyed more success. How much more isn't entirely clear: Some sources have Belichick with a 38-34-1 ATS career record in exhibition play, while others have him at 40-29-2 ATS. McCarthy checks in at 18-17 ATS.
The gap widens dramatically when you narrow your focus to Week 1 of the preseason. Since taking over the Patriots in 2000, Belichick has gone 9-4-2 ATS in these games, while McCarthy's Packers are 2-7 ATS since his arrival in 2006. That's why we're so amped up about picking New England in this situation.
Air Ryan Flies Again
There are a few concerns coming out of Foxborough, though. Injuries have been a problem, including at quarterback, where the Pats have cut ties with Matt Flynn and signed up Ryan Lindley – yes, that Ryan Lindley – to act as the third-stringer behind Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo. Flynn has been dealing with elbow problems and had yet to practice with New England this year.
Too bad. As dedicated Packers fans will be aware, Flynn has been a strong preseason QB over the years, mostly while backing up Aaron Rodgers. Lindley? He was actually pretty good for the Arizona Cardinals in 2013, when they went 3-1 SU and ATS in exhibition play, but quite awful in 2012 when the Cards went 1-4 SU and 0-5 ATS. And Lindley's only got a few days to get up to speed with the Patriots playbook.
As for the Packers, they've got Scott Tolzien, Matt Blanchard and Brett Hundley listed under Rodgers on the depth chart. Tolzien had his best preseason by far last year when Green Bay went 3-1 SU and ATS – with the only loss coming in Week 1, naturally. Blanchard has only gotten a little taste, though, and Hundley is a rookie, so without Flynn on either sideline Thursday, we'll stick with the Patriots. May the prolate spheroid be with you this year.
Free NFL Pick: Take the Patriots -3 at GT Bets