Forget Christmas Day, the first Sunday of the NFL season is actually the most wonderful time of the year. Fourteen games are on deck for us to sweat, and if they’re even half as entertaining as the season opener between the Cowboys and the Buccaneers, we’re in for a fantastic day of football. There’s no shortage of value on the Week 1 NFL betting slate, especially if you’re willing to squash your preconceived notions and back a greasy underdog or two. With the help of Awesemo’s sports betting tool, we’ve identified three of the best expert NFL picks against the spread wagers to target, so check out the NFL bets below.
Best NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Week 1
Cleveland Browns vs Kansas City Chiefs: Browns (+5.5)
It’s never a comfortable feeling to bet against Patrick Mahomes, but this year’s Browns squad has the ingredients to make life miserable for the 2019 champs.
Offensively, Cleveland is setup for success on the ground and through the air, as it returns all five starters on an offensive line that boasted Pro Football Focus’ highest run and pass blocking grades in 2020. Running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt form, arguably, the deepest backfield in the league, while Baker Mayfield was brilliant over the final two-and-a-half months of last season.
Mayfield posted the fourth best QB grade per PFF from Week 7 on, tossing 20 touchdowns and only three interceptions. More impressively, he did so without Odell Beckham Jr., who, by all accounts, is now fully healthy.
Defensively, last year’s depleted secondary enters 2021 in good health, and the team upgraded the unit through free agency and the Draft. Elite pass rusher Myles Garrett is now flanked by another addition, former number one pick Jadeveon Clowney, giving the Browns two of the top-20 highest graded edge rushers since 2017. They’ll test the Chiefs’ retooled offensive line from the jump, hoping to replicate Tampa Bay’s success in Super Bowl 55.
This is the highest-totaled game on the slate, and while no one expects Mahomes and KC to be completely neutralized, Cleveland has one of the few defenses capable of slowing them down.
Philadelphia Eagles vs Atlanta Falcons: Eagles (+3.5)
Our next target is the Eagles, who can be had at +3.5 by shopping for the best lines with OddsShopper.
Simply put, this line is too high, especially when you consider the advantage Philadelphia has in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Per offensive and defensive line guru Brandon Thorn, the Eagles boast a top-six O-line and D-line, while Atlanta ranks in the bottom-12 in both categories.
The Falcons are especially vulnerable on the offensive line, where they rank 31st, per Thorn. That spells trouble for Matt Ryan, who is essentially a statue in the pocket. The 36-year-old completed only 49% of his passes under pressure last season, averaging just 6.3 yards per attempt.
Defensively, Atlanta didn’t do anything to improve a secondary that allowed a league-high 293.6 passing yards per game last season, which puts Jalen Hurts in a great spot. The dual-threat QB eclipsed 335 passing yards twice in his final three 2020 starts, while also chipping in three rushing TDs.
Philadelphia bolstered its receiving corps by adding Hurts’ former collegiate teammate, and Heisman Trophy winner, DeVonta Smith — and don’t be surprised if they connect on multiple big plays. The Falcons allowed a league-high 66 explosive passing plays last season, and will struggle to contain both Smith and Hurts on the fast, Mercedes-Benz Stadium turf.
Los Angeles Chargers vs Washington Football Team: Washington (-1)
Last, but not least, of our expert NFL picks against the spread is the Washington Football Team. The best available line through OddsShopper has the defending NFC East champs as 1-point home favorites over the Chargers, after they opened as a slight underdog.
Reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert was PFF’s top-graded quarterback under pressure last season, and is expected to face plenty of heat from Ron Rivera’s defense. Washington finished sixth in sack rate and ninth in pressure rate in 2020, while ranking second in total defense.
Herbert’s passer rating was actually higher under pressure than in a clean pocket, which suggests he’s a regression candidate. In addition to a stacked front seven, the Football Team bolstered its top-six coverage unit from last season by adding William Jackson and Landon Collins.
The Football Team lacked stability at the quarterback position in 2020, but appear to have solved that problem with Ryan Fitzpatrick. The wily veteran is fresh off posting the second-highest quarterback rating of his career, and has a trio of exciting playmakers in Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson and Logan Thomas at his disposal.
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