I don't know about you but I awfully missed football. Yes, this has been a fun year of baseball seeing young, uber-talented teams such as the Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, and Los Angeles Dodgers play at a very high level. I always felt that baseball should be a young's man game and the aforementioned teams have brought baseball back to the way it should be. October baseball should be very entertaining! As for basketball, it was a joy seeing my beloved Golden State Warriors beat the Houston Rockets for the 4th time in 5 seasons even though my beloved Golden State Warriors could not a secure a three-peat of the NBA title. If I had to choose a team that the Warriors would lose to in the NBA Finals, it would be the Toronto Raptors. The city deserved a title after knocking on the door to the NBA Finals so many times. Once the Raptors kicked the door down, they were destined to win it all, especially after Kawhi Leonard had one of the strongest NBA postseasons in recent memory. Good for the Raptors and their devoted fans.
Still, there is no sport quite like football. From the camaraderie that comes with tailgating to the water cooler banter regarding fantasy football, there is no sport that garners a greater sense of community and as much interest as football. The Sportsmanac blog started at this time 3 years ago and as we enter Year 4, I feel we are bound for an epic year of football prognostication. There is more data at our disposal and with the sophisticated machine learning techniques made available over the past 2 years, the Big Five Picks is bound to reap huge profits.
So onto the picks! We will go with a brief description and then bullet point form to keep things short and sweet.
- Tennessee Titans +5. The Titans go on the road to take on the upstart Cleveland Browns. This game would be a pick 'em if it took place near the end of last season. Here is why we like the guys from Music City.
Cleveland is way over-hyped. Yes, the Browns are very talented and should be fun to watch with their plethora of offensive weapons. They have the potential of finally making the postseason for the first time since 2002 after a dismal 0-16 season in 2017 and then a promising 7-8-1 finish last year. Still, Tennessee is no slouch after three straight 9-7 seasons. Something tells me that this very young Cleveland team will be in many close games so I will gladly take the 5 points.
The Titans can lose by a field or last minute TD that puts Cleveland up by 4 and we still cover. 5 points is very, very good value given that Tennessee and Cleveland are pretty much evenly matched.
- Baltimore -6.5. Yes, quite a bit of chalk but we will eat the chalk for the following reason.
- Baltimore has been very, very good at season openers for the last 3 years. The results below speak for themselves.
2016: BAL 13 - BUF 7 (Ravens home)
2017: BAL 20 - CIN 0 (Ravens road)
2018: BAL 47 - BUF 3 (Ravens home)
The Ravens covered the spread in all three of those games. Clearly Ravens head coach John Harbaugh knows how to get his defense ready for the start of the season.
- Miami is absolute trash. I would be surprised if the Dolphins win more than 4 games this season. I know that Ryan Fitzpatrick shocked a lot of people last year when the Bucs pulled off a 48-40 upset in New Orleans and then followed up that performance with a 27-21 upset of the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles. However, Fitzpatrick had a WAY more talented team surrounding him last year. This year his top WR is Davante Parker who is washed up. The other two WRs are Jakeem Grant and Albert Wilson. Neither of those players would be starters on most teams. The Dolphins are also banking on two rookies to anchor what could be the worst offensive line in football.
- Kansas City -3.5. These Chiefs are not your father's Chiefs or grandfather's Chiefs. They actually have a legitimate chance of winning a Super Bowl thanks to dynamic QB Patrick Mahomes. Why do we like them as a road favorite?
Simple ... you are getting a juggernaut offense and only have to give up 3.5 points. While the Jaguars have a strong defense, keep in mind that the Chiefs offensive talent is pretty much matchup proof. Kelce is a beast who is practically uncoverable. Tyreek Hill is a speed demon. Mahomes has a cannon for an arm who can also beat you with his legs. He has proven to be a judicious QB and should continue to thrive in his 3rd NFL season. The Chiefs O-line is very strong and will create several holes for the Chiefs' deep and talented group of RBs.
The weather in Jacksonville will be very hot and humid. Field temperature will crack 100 degrees. Such conditions favor the offense. Both defenses will be gassed but of course the Chiefs have the superior offense to take advantage of an exhausted defense.
- Detroit -2.5. Another road favorite. I know, I know. It's hard to bet against home dogs but just like the other two home favorites in our Big Five picks, the home team is not very good and will be overmatched by the road team. Here are our specific reasons why the Lions will cover.
- Rookie QBs don't fare well in their regular season debuts. This is especially true for rookie QBs who were drafted 1st overall. Think about it ... the team who had the 1st overall pick was clearly a garbage team the prior year and given that they invested a high pick on the QB position, there are probably still holes in other key positions such as offensive line and WR. Kyler Murray is a very talented QB with a bright future but history is not on his side for his NFL debut. For the last 30 years, just two rookie QBs who were drafted 1st overall won their first regular season start. Check out the list below.
1989: Troy Aikman loses to New Orleans on the road 28-0.
1990: Jeff George loses to Buffalo on the road 26-10.
1993: Drew Bledsoe loses to Buffalo on the road 38-14.
1998: Peyton Manning loses to Miami at home 24-15.
1999: Tim Couch loses to Pittsburgh at home 43-0.
2001: Michael Vick loses to San Francisco on the road 16-13.
2002: David Carr beats Dallas at home 19-10. Granted this was the 1st game ever for the Houston Texans franchise in a brand new stadium so the team was very amped up and Dallas was not good after suffering a 3rd straight 5-11 season that year.
2003: Carson Palmer loses to New York Jets on the road 31-24.
2004: Eli Manning loses to Philadelphia on the road 31-17.
2005: Alex Smith loses to Philadelphia on the road 42-3.
2007: Jamarcus Russell loses to San Diego at home 30-17.
2009: Matt Stafford loses to New Orleans on the road 45-27.
2010: Sam Bradford loses to Arizona at home 17-13.
2011: Cam Newton loses to Arizona on the road 28-21.
2012: Andrew Luck loses to Chicago on the road 41-21.
2015: Jameis Winston loses to Tennessee at home 42-14.
2016: Jared Goff loses to Miami at home 14-10.
2018: Baker Mayfield beats New York Jets at home 21-17. The Jets happened to have another rookie QB starting for them: Sam Darnold. He was selected third overall.
- Lions head coach Matt Patricia is a no nonsense coach who has learned a lot from current NFL resident genius Bill Belichick. Patricia is considered one of the top defensive minds in the game today. He will make sure his guys don't take Murray for granted.
- Denver pick 'em. This line has now moved to -2.5 after the Raiders released Antonio Brown earlier today. I can't think of a better value if you were able to lock in the Broncos as a pick 'em. Here is why you should still take them at -2.5.
The Antonio Brown saga has been a major distraction and will continue to be one when the Raiders host Monday Night Football. While getting rid of the Brown will allow the Raiders to move on, the chaos he caused the past few days will still linger. The Broncos defense is still very strong finishing with a top 5 DVOA for the 5th year in a row. They will take advantage of an inept offense on national TV.
Joe Flacco has finally moved on after being replaced by Lamar Jackson and I am sure he will be eager to settle into his new team. Flacco is good at managing the game which is exactly what the Broncos need. Run the ball, play great defense, and don't make mistakes. The Broncos should win this one easily but if the game is somehow close, you only need a FG to cover.
There you have it. Your week 1 picks that will make you money should be Tennessee, Baltimore, Kansas City, Detroit, and Denver. Consider parlaying the first three, then placing half of your profits on Detroit, and finally using the other half of your Sunday morning winnings on Denver. If our picks go 5-0, this strategy will yield a $1000 profit for just a $100 investment. Can't think of a better way to start the NFL season. Good luck!