Week 1 NFL Picks: 3 Upset Alerts

Matthew Jordan

Friday, August 29, 2014 1:52 PM GMT

You will never see huge spread discrepancies in Week 1 of the NFL season because the sportsbooks are just like you and I: Not sure of exactly what each team is quite yet. 

There is only one double-digit favorite on the board: Eagles -10 at home against Jacksonville.

So I'd argue that the Jaguars winning would be the only true "upset" of the week, although Green Bay going into Seattle and winning would come close. But that's what makes handicapping Week 1 interesting. It's much the same in college football -- just witness Texas A&M's destruction at South Carolina as a 10.5-point dog on Thursday night. College football is often even tougher in Week 1 because there's much more turnover.

Don't pay the slightest attention to the NFL preseason. The Detroit Lions were the most dominant team in the 2008 preseason. We all know what the Lions did that year when it mattered. Also don't overreact to what happens in Week 1, either, when it comes to jumping on Week 2 odds or for futures props.

I will say a Week 1 victory is important as less than 10 eventual Super Bowl winners have dropped their opener. Here is a look at three games where I think the underdog will cover. NFL odds courtesy of BetOnline.

 

Cincinnati Bengals (+2.5) at Baltimore Ravens
Alas, it doesn't appear as if this line will move to +3, if anything it might drop by kickoff.

Of course Baltimore will be without starting running back Ray Rice for this game and also the quick Week 2 turnaround against Pittsburgh. If the Ravens drop both of those, they can probably forget about winning the AFC North with two division losses off the bat. Bernard Pierce is a solid No. 2, but he suffered a mild concussion in the Ravens' third preseason game. He should be fine to play, but what if he gets dinged up again? Then Baltimore will have to go into full pass mode and that's just not what Joe Flacco is built for.

In addition, Baltimore's three top cornerbacks, Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith and Asa Jackson, have been bothered by injuries in camp. Webb is the star of that group and he hasn't practiced in nearly a month. He is expected to this week, but what kind of game shape will Webb be in? That's great news for those fantasy owners of Bengals No. 1 receiver A.J. Green.

These teams split two meetings last year. The Ravens won at home 20-17 in overtime despite allowing a 51-yard Hail Mary TD pass from Andy Dalton to Green at the end of regulation. Baltimore was outgained 364-189 and turned the ball over three times. So did the Bengals. They played again Week 17 in Cincinnati and the Bengals rolled to eliminate Baltimore from the playoffs.

Rice did little in both games last year. Dalton, who looked very good this preseason, struggled more against Baltimore than any team, completing 45 of 87 for 555 yards, four touchdowns, seven interceptions and five sacks. Flacco was 50-for-86 for 332 yards, three TDs and five picks in the two games.

The home team has covered the past four in this series, but I believe that ends.

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Miami Dolphins (+4.5) vs. New England Patriots
Miami is the second biggest home dog behind Dallas (+5 against San Francisco). I'm honestly not sure why this line is north of a field goal. This is called "Patriots Syndrome." It's why teams like the Yankees or Notre Dame are often overpriced simply because of the uniform they wear.

The Dolphins should have swept New England in 2013. In Week 8 in Foxboro Miami dominated the first half in taking a 17-3 lead in which the Patriots had just 59 yards. I say the Fins win that game if kicker Caleb Sturgis doesn't miss a 46-yard field goal on Miami's first possession of the second half. New England then scored a touchdown on the next possession. Tom Brady was awful in the game, going 13 of 22 for 116 yards, a TD and a pick.

In Week 15 in south Florida, Miami won 24-20 to end a seven-game skid in the series. Ryan Tannehill had the best game of his career, perhaps, throwing for 312 yards, three TDs and no picks. Brady threw for 364 but it took him 55 attempts. He was picked off in the end zone in the final seconds.

I wonder how healthy/effective Rob Gronkowski will be 10 months after ACL surgery. Plus the Patriots' offensive line underwent a late preseason shuffle with the trade of guard Logan Mankins.

New England has covered just one of its past seven road games. The home team has covered the past four in this series.

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San Diego Chargers (+3.5) at Arizona Cardinals
With all due respect for BetOnline, if you want to back the Chargers, as I do, I would shop around because this line is at 3.5 at some sportsbooks. So that's why I put that number above instead of the 3 that it's listed at BetOnline. This is the final game of Week 1, the Monday nightcap.

The Arizona defense was terrific last season, including No. 1 against the run. That unit will take a major step back. The team's top two linebackers, Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington, are gone or out for the season. So is very good defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. It appears defensive back Tyrann Mathieu won't be ready for Week 1 after his season-ending injury in 2013. Coach Bruce Arians said the former "Honey Badger" had to play in the preseason finale to play Week 1 and Mathieu didn't. Those were easily four of the team's best defenders last year.  The Cardinals will stick Patrick Peterson on top Chargers receiver Keenan Allen, but that means likely big games for the likes of San Diego's Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, Antonio Gates and/or Malcom Floyd.

Interestingly, these two closed out the preseason against one another Thursday. Think either coach showed a single thing/play that will be used in this Monday night game?

The Chargers have covered their past five road games, while the Cardinals have failed to cover their past four Monday night NFL games.

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