This is my 27th year picking NFL games in The Post’s Bettor’s Guide, and right at the start, I’m going to lay it on the line — the New York Jets’ offensive line.
Joe Douglas promised Mike and Chris Darnold that he would protect their son, Sam. This past offseason, the Jets GM revamped the offensive line to the tune of four new starters — signing George Fant, Connor McGovern and Greg Van Roten as free agents and drafting 6-foot-7, 363-pound mountain Mekhi Becton.
The rough part for the Jets as they enter their opener Sunday at Buffalo is that this new order of beef has had little opportunity to marinate. There were no OTAs or minicamp, and no preseason games. The good news is that it won’t be hard for this offensive line to be an improvement over the last one.
I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Darnold in is first two seasons — when he’s had time to operate. He has enough help in Le’Veon Bell, Breshad Perriman, Jamison Crowder and others if the line can hold up against the likes of Ed Oliver, Jerry Hughes and Trent Murphy.
The Over/Under of 39¹/₂ is the lowest on the board, which tells me the oddsmakers may not think much of the Bills offense. And there will be no fans in the seats, no Bills Mafia. This looks to be a spread the Jets can cover — if the offensive line allows.
The pick: Jets, +6¹/₂.
NFL picks for Week 1
(home teams in CAPS)
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-6¹/₂) over Miami Dolphins
Nice to be able to get the Patriots at home at less than a touchdown. Intrigued by what Cam Newton can bring to the table, and this team will be looking to prove it can win without Tom Brady.
Cleveland Browns (+7¹/₂) over BALTIMORE RAVENS
Another new coach for the Browns! But maybe Kevin Stefanski will be the answer after the failures of Hue Jackson and Freddie Kitchens. He has a lot of talent and is worth a shot at more than a touchdown.
Las Vegas Raiders (-3) over CAROLINA PANTHERS
This line has gotten uncomfortably high, and yes, I’m fading a debuting head coach after backing one in the game just above. But count me as skeptical of college-guy Matt Rhule coming in off no preseason in the first game after the Cam Newton era.
ATLANTA FALCONS (+2¹/₂) over Seattle Seahawks
If a change of scenery can rejuvenate Todd Gurley, the Falcons could improve from 7-9. The Julio Jones-Calvin Ridley combo is excellent, and Matt Ryan should still have something left. It’ll be interesting to see Jamal Adams in neon green trim.
WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (+5¹/₂) over Philadelphia Eagles
In The Post’s preview section, I predicted Under 5 on the Washington Football Team’s win total. This really does appear to be a train wreck of a season ahead. But with Chase Young joining Jonathan Allen, this team could have a good defense. And I smell a rat here. As VSiN’s Point Spread Weekly points out, there’s been reverse line movement toward Washington despite a majority of bets backing the Eagles.
DETROIT LIONS (-3) over Chicago Bears
Expecting a better season from the Lions if Matthew Stafford can stay healthy. He threw for 2,499 yards in eight games. Careful on this one, as the line is “right there” and there are dueling injuries of concern with Detroit WR Kenny Golladay (hamstring) and Chicago LB Khalil Mack (knee).
Indianapolis Colts (-7 ¹/₂) over JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Philip Rivers is no dummy, as he relocated to a new home behind the best offensive line in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. The Jaguars have shed so much talent in the past few years, the latest being Leonard Fournette and Yannick Ngakoue.
Green Bay Packers (+2¹/₂) over MINNESOTA VIKINGS
U.S. Bank Stadium is one that figures to be a little less daunting without fans doing the Skol chant. The Vikings will miss Stefon Diggs, and I’m thinking Aaron Rodgers was motivated by the Packers’ drafting of Jordan Love in the first round.
CINCINNATI BENGALS (+3) over Los Angeles Chargers
Happy to take a chance on Joe Burrow in his debut as a home ’dog. He has some decent weapons in Cincinnati, and the Chargers are in uncharted territory after 14 seasons with Philip Rivers as the starter.
Arizona Cardinals (+6 ¹/₂) over SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Niners won by three and 10 points in 2019’s matchups. Willing to ante up to see what Kyler Murray can do with DeAndre Hopkins, and just how good Isaiah Simmons is.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3¹/₂) over NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Tom Brady picked a new team that is loaded with offensive weapons and likely would have won a lot more had Jameis Winston not thrown 30 interceptions last season. Great matchup with Drew Brees. The Superdome is another venue known for loud fans who will not be there.
Dallas Cowboys (-2¹/₂) over LOS ANGELES RAMS
The Rams open beautiful SoFi Stadium without fans, which is a shame, and they also have not had a chance to play even a preseason game there. Expecting a huge season from $31.4 million man Dak Prescott, who adds CeeDee Lamb to a big-time attack.
Monday Night Football
Pittsburgh Steelers (-6) over NEW YORK GIANTS: Joe Judge should be an improvement on Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur, but man this is a tough introduction for a first-time head coach, with a modest spread, to boot. The Giants D will need to find someone who can harass Ben Roethlisberger.
Tennessee Titans (-2) over DENVER BRONCOS: Von Miller’s injury just before the start of the season is a rough one for the Broncos. With LB Bradley Chubb also hurting, looks like a bad matchup against Derrick Henry and the rugged Titans.
Best bets: Titans, Bengals, Cowboys
Lock of the week: Titans (Locks 7-13 in 2019)
Thursday: Chiefs (W)
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