Our Picks for Who Covers the Spread This Weekend

  • NFL football is back.
  • The Buccaneers and Cowboys kick off the action in Tampa Bay on Thursday night.
  • Once again, we’re picking every game of the week against the spread.

Football is back.

The Buccaneers and Cowboys kick off the NFL season on Thursday night in Tampa Bay.

To celebrate, we’re once again picking every game against the spread, hoping to enjoy some good ol’ fashioned gambling — and maybe make some money.

Take a look below at our best bets against the spread for Week 1 of the NFL season (* indicates home team).

Dallas Cowboys (+8.5) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers*

Since 2013, Tom Brady has been 5-3 in season openers, but just one win was by more than a touchdown. There’s a concern to be had about the Dallas Cowboys — this is Dak Prescott’s first game back from injury, and he will be without guard Zack Martin on his offensive line after he tested positive for COVID-19. Still, the Cowboys should have enough firepower to keep this close.

Philadelphia Eagles (+3) over Atlanta Falcons*

Jalen Hurts scrambles to make a play.

Jalen Hurts.

AP Photo/Chris Szagola

This is a tough pick between two teams with relatively low expectations for the 2021 season. My favorite bet from this game is not on the Eagles but on Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts to go over 39.5 rushing yards, which is his current total on DraftKings. He could make that up in one big play.

But if we’re picking a side here, I will back the Eagles, as I am a homer.

San Francisco 49ers (-7.5) over Detroit Lions*

The vibes in Detroit are pretty terrible this year. Imagine being Jared Goff — shipped out of Los Angeles in exchange for what everybody sees as an upgrade. Maybe he comes out playing with a fiery vengeance. However, it feels much more likely that the 49ers, who were torn apart by injuries last season, come back fully healthy and ready to stomp on a lesser opponent.

Buffalo Bills* (-6.5) over Pittsburgh Steelers

Buffalo is walking like a true AFC contender. They’ve taken the mantle of favorites in the AFC East after 20 years of New England dominance, and quarterback Josh Allen is one of the most popular picks in Las Vegas to be named NFL MVP. They face off against an aging Ben Roethlisberger that already looked pretty old last year. Circle the wagons.

Arizona Cardinals (+3) over Tennessee Titans*

These are two teams that could come through as somewhat surprising contenders. Last year, Kyler Murray started the season by rushing and throwing for at least one touchdown in eight of the Cardinals’ first nine games. This feels like a close game, but Kyler and the points feel like a better bet.

Washington Football Team* (+1) over Los Angeles Chargers

This game is probably a stay-away on any other week, but it is the first week of the NFL season. We are all entitled to one silly bet on Ryan Fitzmagic.

Carolina Panthers* (-5.5) over New York Jets

Matt Rhule and Sam Darnold discuss a play during the preseason.

Matt Rhule and Sam Darnold.

AP Photo/Nell Redmond

In Matt Rhule’s first season as head coach of Temple in 2013, he went 2-10. In his second season, he went 6-6. By his third, the Owls were 10-2 and playing for a conference championship. Then at Baylor, Rhule went 1-11 in his first season, 7-6 in his second, and 11-1 in his third, with a spot in the Big 12 title game and Sugar Bowl.

With the Panthers, Rhule went 5-11 in his first season. Don’t be surprised to see those wins jump this year as he has shown an ability to turn things around pretty fast.

Seattle Seahawks (-2.5) over Indianapolis Colts*

Russell Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Carson Wentz played terribly last year and was traded despite having an untradeable contract. He is now in his first season with a new team. Also, he’s not vaccinated. I am not going to overthink this one.

Cincinnati Bengals* (+3.5) over Minnesota Vikings

Joe Burrow showed flashes of brilliance last year before an injury cut his season short. Heading into 2021, he’s armed with a trifecta of wide receivers — Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, and Ja’Marr Chase — that, for my money, is the most exciting young group in all of football. If Burrow can stay upright behind the Bengals offensive line (an admittedly big “if”), he and the Cincinnati offense should put on a show this year.

Jacksonville Jaguars (-3) over Houston Texans*

If the vibes are bad in Detroit, they are atrocious right now in Houston. Though he won’t be playing, Deshaun Watson is still on the team despite facing 22 lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct. The team is still dealing with the fallout of the terrible reign of Bill O’Brien, which left their franchise devoid of both talent and draft picks. They are undoubtedly “rebuilding” but somehow have one of the oldest rosters in the NFL. Things could not be worse.

There are so many red flags betting Jacksonville here. It’s a rookie quarterback and a first-year NFL head coach making their NFL debut on the road as favorites. Every rule in the gambling book says to grab the other side. Still, if I have to pick, I’ll back the Jaguars. But probably best if most bettors just let this game go on without a wager.

Green Bay Packers (-3.5) over New Orleans Saints*

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers.

AP Photo/Matt Ludtke

Aaron Rodgers is coming off an MVP season and seems geared up for another screw-you season before leaving Green Bay for greener pastures. New Orleans has turned to Jameis Winston as the successor to Drew Brees. Winston is probably a better passer than he’s given credit for, and if he keeps his turnovers to a minimum, he could be in for a big year. I just don’t think that big year starts with a win over Aaron Rodgers.

Cleveland Browns (+5.5) over Kansas City Chiefs*

When Cleveland and Kansas City met in the postseason last year, the Browns did an impressive job containing the Chiefs offense, holding them to just 22 points. This game looks more likely to be a shootout than a slugfest, but Baker Mayfield and the Browns should have enough horsepower to keep pace and could have one of the best defenses in the league behind them this year.

Miami Dolphins (+3) over New England Patriots*

This one feels like a toss-up. Mac Jones could be in for an offensive rookie of the year type season, but I’d like to see it in a game before we anoint him as the next great thing.

New York Giants* (+3) over Denver Broncos

This year, the Broncos should be a better team than the Giants, but ultimately, this is a game between two mediocre-to-bad teams playing too early in the season for anyone to be sharp. Take the home dog or stay away entirely.

Los Angeles Rams* (-7.5) over Chicago Bears

Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford at training camp.

Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford.

AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo

The Los Angeles Rams spent like $6 billion on a new stadium, and now they finally get to host some fans in it. Playing in primetime, expect them to run up the score on the Bears.

Las Vegas Raiders* (+4) over Baltimore Ravens

Like the Rams, the Raiders opened up a new arena last year but couldn’t fill out the bowl in Las Vegas. You can expect the Raiders to show up and make good on their true debut in Sin City, even facing a tough opponent in the Ravens.

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