At long last ... the new NFL regular season is here! The pandemic is still an issue but at least we don't have the same level of uncertainty of games, or even the season, taking place or not. True, there are NFL players who refuse to get vaccinated which can cause some issues but all of the major North American sports leagues during the last 12 months were able to figure out how to play the games safely. Let's just hope teams don't have to forfeit which can cause some controversy.
Given that the Sunday games kickoff in just a little over 3 hours from now, I will keep this short sweet. As I have done in the past, I choose 5 teams against the spread who I feel have a great chance of covering. This is in-line with the Supercontest hosted by the Westgate Hotel in Las Vegas. Without further ado, here are those picks with brief explanations.
- San Francisco 49ers -7.5
Since last Wednesday, the line has moved -8.5 in favor of the 49ers. That is a very good thing if you are leaning towards the 49ers. After a surprising run to the Super Bowl during the 2019 season, the 49ers had a rough 2020 season with a slew of injuries and displacement thanks to California wildfires and strict COVID protocols. With a dynamic rookie QB (Jimmy G can still be a factor), an arsenal of offensive weapons (Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle), and the return of several key defensive players, the 49ers seemed poised to have a statement game right out of the gate. The Lions are in rebuild mode and I don't care if Jared Goff is behind center. Personally I think he is downgrade from Matt Stafford. Rams head coach Sean McVay made Goff the player he was with LA and called plays for him. Goff will be running for his life while the Lions porous run D is trampled by Raheem Mostert and company. 49ers win by double digits easily.
- Indianapolis Colts +3
For a team that went 11-5 the year before without terribly much personnel change to be a home dog against an equally competitive opponent is simply a slap in the face. True, Philip Rivers retired and there was uncertainty about Carson Wentz's for Week 1 (and just uncertainty about how effective he will be with his new team given his fallout from Philadelphia) all reports indicate that Wentz is fully ready for his season debut which is a testament to his will to remove any doubts about his ability to lead a team back to the promised land. Wentz constantly had Nick Foles and then Jalen Hurts look over his back and the Eagles were never quite sold on Wentz. Colts head coach Frank Reich is a quarterback by training so he will know how to groom Wentz into a Pro Bowl level QB. The Colts offensive line is arguably the best in the league and Seattle's defense proved to be shaky at various times last year. Expect Jonathan Taylor to pick up from where he left off near the end of last season. He will be a top 5 RB and he starts his 2nd year with a prolific performance at home. Count on him to run all over Seattle en route to a regular season win against one of the NFL elite.
- Jacksonville Jaguars - 3
I don't like taking a road favor with a rookie QB in his first game ever. However, we are talking about a game that features two of the worst teams in the league. Houston has been an absolute mess and unfortunately their greed for Deshaun Watson's asking price will do them in. Watson won't play in Week 1 and that will only hurt his trade value. I bet Houston wish they didn't ask for so much for their beleaguered signal caller. Whereas there is could of pessimism hanging over thr Houston Texans, there is only optimism with Jacksonville. They had been the NFL doormat since losing the AFC title game to New England during the 2017 season. However, Trevor Lawrence is probably the most heralded rookie since Peyton Manning and gets a head coach who is out to prove he be just as successful in the NFL as he was in the college game. It is not unusual for rookie QBs to come out strong in their debut and Lawrence should be OK against a weak NFL opponent. Just don't expect many wins for the Jaguars this season but they should do just fine against a worse opponent that is dealing with an identity crisis.
- Los Angeles Rams -7.5
Rams will feast on the Bears. Period. In fact, I firmly believe the Bears are deliberately throwing this game. They don't want to risk injury to Justin Fields. A blowout loss on national TV could damage his psyche even if he walks away in one piece. Aaron Donald is not one to be trifled with so you might as well let him destroy a journeyman QB in Andy Dalton. Once Bears fans see Dalton play poorly on Sunday Night Football, the calls to start Fields will only get stronger, especially with a home debut in Week 2 against Cincinnati which is a more winnable game. Going back to the Rams, they have Matt Stafford finally getting a chance to be on a winning team. I am sure he is pumped up to play under stars of Hollywood and be the toast of the town that is dying for a championship NFL team. Rams could win this game by 20 or more points and it can get ugly fast.
- Las Vegas Raiders +4.5
Much like my prediction for the Jaguars, there is reason for optimism with the Raiders who finally get to open their new stadium with fans in attendance. Sadly their shiny new venue has been closed longer than it has been open but all is different now with how we live this pandemic (which can be called an endemic). As for the Ravens, boy oh boy did the injury bug hit them hard last week. I have never seen so many players fall to season ending knee injuries in such a short time frame. Needless to say the Ravens are royally screwed and might as well thrown in the towel so that they can get Lamar Jackson some help for 2022. This is going to be a long season for th Ravens and I would not be surprised if the line moves heavily in favor of the Raiders prior to Monday Night Football. Raiders win this game outright as a home dog which, like the Colts, is a total slap in the face in their true venue debut on national TV.
There you have it! Two heavy favors (but for good reason), two home dogs, and another dog against a true dog in Houston. Good luck today and enjoy the games!