NFL WEEK 1: It’s time to saddle up and ride, folks: the 2022 NFL season is finally here.
The festivities began on Thursday night, with Josh Allen and the Bills routing the defending Super Bowl champion Rams 31-10 and showing the rest of the league that the path to the AFC title runs through Buffalo this season. I wouldn’t worry too much about the Rams, though– some Matt Stafford mistakes did them in, but the Stafford-to-Cooper Kupp connection that L.A. rode all the way to the Super Bowl was still very much in effect, with Kupp finishing the night with 128 yards and a touchdown on 13 receptions, and the star-studded defense should be one of the league’s top units once again.
The Bills and Rams are about as close as it gets to “knowns” in the NFL this season. There are many more unknowns than knowns, of course, and all the new faces, offseason rust, and general craziness always combine to make Week 1 a minefield for bettors. That being said, there’s an art to capitalizing on the unknown, especially when the oddsmakers themselves are largely in the dark. Here’s where I think they slipped up this week:
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals (CIN -6.5, 44.5)
Recommendation: Cincinnati -6.5 at 1.91; Cincinnati moneyline (winner) at 1.34
Mike Tomlin is an institution in Pittsburgh, and his record of consistently producing a winner is unmatched this side of Bill Belichick. But I’ll go on record and say it now: this is the year it falls apart for Tomlin and the Steelers. With an offense full of questions marks and a defense that is starting to get long in the tooth at some key positions, this Steelers team will be lucky to sniff .500. They start things off at Cincinnati, against a franchise they’ve tormented for 50 years. This Bengals team has Joe Burrow and one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses, however, while the Steelers will counter with… Mitch Trubisky. This game should be a cathartic experience for Bengals fans– a chance to watch the hated bully get bullied. Lay the points.
New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons (NO -5.5, 42.5)
Recommendation: Atlanta +5.5 at 1.91; Atlanta moneyline (winner) at 2.82
I believe that Sean Payton’s offensive acumen and play-calling expertise will be sorely missed in New Orleans, and I have serious doubts that this Jameis Winston-led Saints offense will look anything like the well-oiled machine that Payton engineered and Drew Brees helmed for so long. I’m certainly not alone in that belief, and yet the Saints are road favorites this week anyway because most observers seem to think that their opponent, the division rival Falcons, will be among the NFL’s worst teams this season.
I’d be careful about discounting Atlanta’s chances in this spot, though– the offense has some viable weapons in Kyle Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson, who torched this Saints defense for 136 total yards in Week 9 of last year, and new quarterback Marcus Mariota has a long history with head coach Arthur Smith from their time together in Tennessee. Smith has essentially bet his job on Mariota becoming the quarterback he was once drafted to be, and I have a feeling that some of the snickers will turn to shrugs once the Mariota reclamation project is complete and we see the finished product. This just feels like too many points to me– these teams are bitter rivals who always seem to play close games (2 of the last 3 decided by 5 pts or fewer), and I won’t be the least bit surprised if Atlanta wins this one outright.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Arizona Cardinals (KC -6, 53.5)
Recommendation: Kansas City -6 at 1.92; Kansas City moneyline (winner) at 1.35
Gone is All-Pro speedster Tyreek Hill from the high-flying Chiefs offense, but don’t expect things to slow down too much for Patrick Mahomes and Co. The Chiefs will still have plenty of speed and explosiveness on the field with new arrivals Marquez Valdes-Scantling, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Skyy Moore, and old reliable Travis Kelce will still be there, owning the middle of the field. Mahomes should carve up an Arizona defense that is banged up and could be missing as many the 3 starters and 5 regular contributors. On the other side of the ball, the Kyler Murray-led Cardinals offense stalled out towards the end of last season, and I’m not sure there’s enough skill position juice there to keep pace with the Chiefs… at least until DeAndre Hopkins makes his return in Week 7. This feels like a statement game for the Chiefs against an opponent who may be a tad overrated at this point.
Denver Broncos @ Seattle Seahawks (DEN -6.5, 44.5)
Recommendation: Denver -6.5 at 1.91; Denver moneyline (winner) at 1.32
The Monday nighter sets up as a classic revenge game for Russell Wilson, the longtime Seahawks QB who now takes the reins in Denver. Wilson steps into a good situation, with a solid line, a productive running back in Javonte Williams, two talented young receivers in Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy, and a new coach in Nathaniel Hackett who has developed a reputation as something of a “quarterback whisperer” and offensive guru. He’ll be facing a Seattle defense that surrendered more passing yards last season than all but one team leaguewide, and a scheme that he saw every day in practice for 10 years. I’ll be stunned if Wilson doesn’t produce a huge game here… Seattle’s only chance is getting the running game going and keeping Wilson and the Denver offense off the field. Have I mentioned that the Broncos defense ranked third in the NFL in points allowed last season? It’s going to be a long, difficult night for the Seahawks.