We’ve finally made it to Week 1! With some huge matchups to begin the season, Nick Ballistreri gives his 5 best bets.
2019 Regular Season Record ATS: 60-50-3
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens
Pick: Browns +8
I don’t want this to be taken as a knock on the Ravens. I think they’ll have another incredible season, win the AFC North, and potentially make a Super Bowl run.
But last season was an anomaly. The Ravens and Lamar Jackson were so dominant that their starters rarely played in the 4th quarter, en route to a 14-2 record. Who was one of those losses to? The Cleveland Browns.
The Cleveland Browns are much improved from a season ago, mainly because of their coaching change. Freddie Kitchens rightfully only lasted a season, and he was replaced by Kevin Stefanski, who was great as offensive coordinator of the Vikings.
The Ravens win this game, but the Browns make Baltimore sweat in a close one. The Browns offense, believe it or not, has the firepower to go score for score with the Ravens.
Las Vegas Raiders at Carolina Panthers
Pick: Over 47.5
I’m pretty bullish on the Panthers this season, at least offensively. Teddy Bridgewater is an immediate upgrade over Kyle Allen, the team signed Robby Anderson as a deep threat this offseason, and oh yeah, CMC is still in the building.
For Las Vegas, the offense is filled with young and talented offensive pieces. First round pick Henry Ruggs will be a star in this league, and Bryan Edwards has been turning heads in camp. Josh Jacobs proved a year ago that he is going to be a stud back for a long time. The ball is in Derek Carr’s court.
This game is at toss-up for me, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see either team win it. For me though, the over is too obvious. A season ago, the Panthers had a horrific defense, and while they made some moves in the draft to right that deficiency, they’re still a below average unit. Both of these teams are going to put up points in a high-scoring, fun, Week 1 game.
Los Angeles Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals
Pick: Bengals +3.5
I’m relatively bullish on the Bengals this season. They were better than their record indicated a season ago and added the #1 pick in the draft, Joe Burrow. I expect Burrow to put up some good numbers as a rookie this season, and if the Bengals weren’t in a stacked division, they could be a sleeper this season.
The Chargers are pushing off an inevitable rebuild by starting journeyman quarterback Tyrod Taylor over their #6 pick, Justin Herbert. This team just isn’t very good. There are pieces on offense such as Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen, and the defense has solid pieces on each level, but I don’t trust Taylor to make enough plays in this game. The Bengals score just enough to cover this one.
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers
It seems everyone is bullish on the Cardinals this season. Young quarterbacks tend to make a huge jump in year 2, and Kyler Murray fits the bill. Add in the improved play of Kenyan Drake, and the addition of DeAndre Hopkins, and this offense could prove dangerous.
That being said, the 49ers will be no pushover. They still will have one of the league’s best defenses in the league, but defenses tend to translate less season to season than offense, and nobody is going to argue that the 49ers have a great offense.
I’m taking the 49ers to win this game, but the Cardinals to cover in an entertaining opening game in the NFC West. Teams tend to start slow after losing a Super Bowl, and the 49ers will have their hands full dealing with their hangover, and Kyler Murray’s electric play.
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Football Team
Pick: Eagles -6
It still feels weird writing out “football team.” Washington needed to revamp their brand, and they weren’t ready to pick a name yet. Weird, but I understand it.
Back to the game at hand. The Eagles have a decided advantage at quarterback, with Carson Wentz playing against Dwayne Haskins. Expect the Eagles to get off to a hot start with their improved offense, and their defense should fluster this young Football Team’s offense to give the Eagles a leg up in this NFC East matchup.