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I never used to gamble, but my good friend Rob Trueba turned me onto this two years ago. And I have to say, I’m not too bad a picking the winners/losers of a game and betting on the spread.
Putting my money on the line has also forced me to train my eyes to see what to look for regarding the strengths and weaknesses of a team and where/how they match up to make the best prediction of an outcome.
Also, I just love writing about the NFL in general.
So without further ado, I reveal to you my five picks of Week 1.
WEEK 1: Picks of the WEEK
— SUNDAY 1 pm: Texans @ Ravens. TEXANS +9.5/10
I have a fondness for these Texans, and that’s because they won me a bunch of money last year. Just keep taking the points for the Texans, especially when it’s nearing double-digits. The Texans were 4-1 last year when the spread was 10+ points. It’s nearing or at that margin already, depending on where you check. These 2023 Texans are better than last year’s Texans, as far as the roster goes. Rookie QB C.J. Stroud looked sharp in the preseason (as long as he has protection), Dameon Pierce is a weapon at RB, and the defense has been retooled a bit with the addition of 1st-round rookie LB WILL ANDERSON to combine with linebacker Denzel Perryman, and defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins. Their cornerback situation isn’t too bad either, based on passer rating allowed.
On the other side, the Ravens defense gave up a lot of yards through the air last year and failed to make a stop for a win in some of those games that came down to the wire.
The Ravens have added a lot of firepower for Lamar Jackson — 1st-round WR Zay Flowers, Odell Beckham Jr., and Rashod Bateman returns from injury, and tight end Mark Andrews is still around. However, the Texans were 11th against the pass last year and 32nd against the run. So perhaps the Texans can slow down the Ravens’ new passing attack, which would lead the Ravens to go back to their traditional way of running the football. This could lead to a more ball-control, low-scoring game. Jackson is also playing in a new offense that is supposed to cater to his strengths and has not played a snap during the Ravens 2023 preseason, so look for some rust, as we saw during the Chiefs/Lions Thursday Night game.
Many speculate that this offense asks Jackson to be responsible for and play in a style he’s never played before. There has been talk about throwing away the playbook wristband and Lamar getting to the line early to read the defense and call an audible if need be. I expect the Ravens to win at home, but if there is some rust in a new offense, this game can be closer than outsiders think.
— Jags @ Colts — 1 pm. Jags -4.5
This is simple. The Jags are just better than the Colts right now. They are further along in their rebuild, have a generational talent in Trevor Lawrence at QB, who is just getting better every day, and come back to win a playoff game down 27-0 last year. Top this with the addition of WR Calvin Ridley, and this is an offense that should be able to steamroll a Colts secondary that was horrible last year and did little to fix that heading into 2023.
The Colts don’t have star running back Jonathan Taylor for this game, they don’t have WR’s that can stretch the field, 1st round rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson has all the athletic gifts but cannot connect on a pass over 15 yards because of his inaccuracy… and their offensive line is highly suspect. And if I’m going to hate on Anthony Richardson some more to quell the hype, the National media gives him…. He appeared in 2 preseason games and had a passer rating of 39.2 & 50.6.
— Panthers @ Falcons — 1 pm. Falcons -3.5
This is similar to the Jags/Colts game. The Falcons are further along and have revamped their defense. This is the same defense that gave the Miami Dolphins offense and all their weapons trouble in their joint practices and even in their preseason game in Miami. Some may not believe this defense is for real, but I think the Falcons will pressure rookie quarterback Brice Young in this game and make his life even harder than it looked like in the preseason — And we all saw how much duress he was under in those games. Falcons have D-linemen Grady Jarrett and Calais Campbell on the interior and top-tier safety Jesse Bates III.
The Falcons are at home; they like to run the ball, and they just selected Alabama running back Bijan Robinson in the first round of this season’s NFL draft, which will just be icing on the cake they want to serve.
I’m not the biggest fan of Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder. But if he can move the chains and limit the mistakes, the Falcons have enough going for them on paper to pull away in this game.
— Packers @ Bears — 4:25 pm. Packers +1
The Bears have a lot of newfound excitement entering 2023. They’ve added defensive lineman, linebackers, and stud wide receiver D.J. Moore in a trade with the Carolina Panthers. Quarterback Justin Fields can possibly break out this season if he can find a way to be protected and utilize his physical talents efficiently.
However, I believe Packers quarterback Jordan Love is being underrated. Since 2021, his passer rating has significantly grown from 68.7 to 112.2 in 2022. Also, his completion percentage has jumped from 58.1% to 66.7% over that time. Love is getting better and better, and it looked sharp coming off the bench last year and during this preseason. He’s a quarterback that needs to start being respected. His wide receiver corps is young but talented, and Christian Watson is becoming a big-time playmaker for this offense.
The Packers’ secondary could be a little shaky. Still, their linebacking unit is strong, and their defensive front has some notable returners, which could cause havoc to a Bears offensive line that has been poor over the last few seasons. Star cornerback Jaire Alexander will probably shade Bears wideout D.J. Moore, and I would expect that linebacker unit to spy Justin Fields and limit his legs.
This game will be a revealing chapter in the Packers/Aaron Rodgers saga. Were the Packers right to move on from Rodgers for Love? Or was Rodgers right to move on from the Packers based on his former lack of weapons and offensive troubles?
— Monday Night Football: Bills @ Jets. JETS +2.5
AARON RODGERS, Garrett Wilson, running backs Breece Hall & Dalvin Cook. But not only that — DEFENSE DEFENSE DEFENSE—is led by a really good secondary and a monstrous defensive line that can get after the quarterback and disrupt plays in the backfield.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen is a top quarterback in the league, he can put up numbers, but he can also be a weakness and hamper the team. He can play up to competition; he can play down to competition. And last season — he played recklessly, held onto the ball for too long at times, played overly aggressive, and didn’t make the safe plays that were there. Allen was looking for the home run too many times and not taking the safe plays that were there. If Allen plays like that against this defense… look for sacks and turnovers, which could be the defense in this game.
DID YOU KNOW?
When it comes to Allen versus the JETS last season in 2022…
Allen’s completion percentage: 56%
PASS TD/INT ratio: 1-2
SACKED — 8 times
Bills PPG: 18.5 (which was the fewest against any opponents last season)
I’m taking the home team — JETS +2.5