The NBA and NHL playoffs are rolling along. The Major League Baseball season is six weeks old with surprises aplenty, both positive (Orioles, Nationals, Dodgers, Cardinals) and negative (yeah, I’m looking at you, Angels and Red Sox!). So, of course this week I’m focusing on … the NFL? Hey, Roger Goodell threatened me with a yearlong suspension if I didn’t.
In case you missed it—and considering the amount of coverage it got, there’s no way you could have unless your head was buried in the sand or in Christina Hendricks’ cleavage—the NFL released its complete 2012 schedule a few weeks ago. Within hours, oddsmaker Jay Kornegay had Week 1 odds (sides, totals and money lines) posted at his LVH SuperBook.
Since it’s logistically impractical to handicap baseball on a week-to-week basis—and since I can’t hit a basketball bet to save my life—I figured why not peek into the NFL crystal ball and offer seven best bets for Week 1? (Consider it the wagering component to this annual Summer Survival Guide …)
Bills +5½ at Jets: Go look at what Buffalo accomplished this offseason (among other things, they retained their top wideout, signed the two best pass-rushing free agents and selected the best cover corner in the draft). Then check out how the Bills nearly pulled the upset in New Jersey last year. Now peruse the box score of Buffalo’s 40-14 beat-down of the Broncos in Week 16 last year, paying close attention to how the Bills manhandled the Jets’ prized offseason acquisition (some dude named Tebow).
Rams +9½ at Lions: Lost in the excitement of Detroit returning to the playoffs last season for the first time since the world was bracing for Y2K is the fact that the Lions lost seven of their final 12 games. True, the Rams (2-14) were an abomination in 2011, but they hired a top-notch head coach (Jeff Fisher), their quarterback (Sam Bradford) is healthy (for now), and they restocked their roster with 10 draft picks, including five of the first 65 players taken overall (we’ll ignore that half of those rookies hail from football hotbeds Appalachian State, North Alabama, Montana, Missouri Western and Abilene Christian).
Packers -6½ vs. 49ers: If you had wagered exclusively on these teams during the 2011 regular season, well, you sure as hell wouldn’t need my advice, as the Packers and 49ers combined to go 23-8-1 against the spread (nearly 72 percent). However, while all three of San Francisco’s non-covers happened on the road, Green Bay went 7-1 ATS at Lambeau Field, including six wins by margins of 26, 21, 38, 9, 30 and 14 points. Oh, and remember the 2005 draft, when San Francisco was holding the No. 1 overall pick and chose Alex Smith over lifelong 49ers fan Aaron Rodgers? You don’t? Rodgers does.
Titans-Patriots UNDER 48½: Take a guess how many times Tennessee played a game last season that featured more than 48 combined points. Wrong. The answer is once. Remove a 41-7 post-bye loss to Houston, and the 2011 Titans allowed just 16.7 points per game at home. So what did Tennessee do with its seven draft picks last month? Select five defensive players. Of course the Patriots’ offense is lethal, but in five games against quality defenses (Giants twice, Ravens, Steelers, Cowboys), New England managed just 19.4 ppg (the “under” cashed in all five contests).
Redskins-Saints OVER 51½: Robert Griffin III, indoors, on a fast track, against a depleted (and mediocre) Saints defense. Drew Brees, at home, with last year’s NFL single-season passing record in his hip pocket and a massive chip on his shoulder after getting screwed by both the NFL (bounty scandal) and his owner (no new contract). Need more? OK, New Orleans put up the following point totals in the Superdome last season (playoffs included): 30, 40, 62, 27, 49, 31, 45, 45 and 45.
Ravens -6½ vs. Bengals: For all the success Cincinnati had during a surprising 2011 campaign, it couldn’t figure out the Ravens (losing 24-16 and 31-24). Beyond that, the Bengals covered just one point spread after Nov. 6, ending the year in a 1-6-1 ATS funk. Meanwhile, the Ravens have won and covered four straight season openers. Then there’s this: John Harbaugh with six months to prepare vs. Marvin Lewis with six months to prepare. That’s like a honey badger having six months to prepare for, well, anything.
Steelers +2 at Broncos: Let’s see, we’ve got the proud Steelers … returning to the scene of their final game of last season (an embarrassing overtime loss to Tim Tebow and the Broncos) … facing a quarterback who has had four neck surgeries since he last took a meaningful NFL snap … in a nationally televised prime-time battle. And because I know you’re wondering, I looked it up: The Broncos’ backup QB is Caleb Hanie. Somewhere, John Elway just poured himself a stiff drink.