Week 1 NFL picks against the spread: Rams a lock over Raiders

Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

With Thursday night’s appetizer fully digested, it’s time to move on to the main course.

The Philadelphia Eagles raised a Super Bowl banner before beating the Atlanta Falcons in what was an eerily similar replay of last year’s divisional showdown between the two teams.

On Sunday (and Monday), the NFL gets into full swing with 15 games on the docket, and with them comes the most gratifying and frustrating part of this sport: the betting.

And we’re here to help with that.

Below you’ll find picks against the spread for each game on the slate. So read on, and keep checking back throughout the season as we’ll be doing this on Friday each week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-9.5)

The Pick: Saints
Drew Brees. Alvin Kamara. Michael Thomas. Those are just three of many reasons to be excited about a Saints team that beat the Bucs by 20 points in New Orleans last season.

Pittsburgh Steelers (-4.5) at Cleveland Browns

The Pick: Steelers
Even without Le’Veon Bell, it’s hard not to pick Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers here on the road against a Browns team that is a relative mystery right now.

Houston Texans at New England Patriots (-6)

The Pick: Texans
Last season’s Deshaun Watson-Tom Brady showdown gave us the game of the year, and I like the Texans keeping it close again in Foxborough.

San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings (-6.5)

The Pick: Vikings
With Jimmy G. at the helm, the 49ers have been a trendy pick this off-season. But the Vikings may be the class of a tough NFC and it’s hard to go against them at home this weekend.

Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens (-7.5)

The Pick: Ravens
The Ravens are a candidate for most-improved team this season, while the Bills have serious concerns at quarterback and along the offensive line. It’s a big spread, but I’m going Baltimore.

Tennessee Titans (-1) at Miami Dolphins

The Pick: Dolphins
The Dolphins may be slept on this week, while the Titans are a relative unknown after changing coaching staffs despite last season’s playoff appearance. Got to take the home team here.

Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts (-2.5)

The Pick: Bengals
A line in the Colts’ favour throughout is a bit surprising given the low expectations in Indianapolis, so the Bengals are a quality upset pick on the road this weekend.

Jacksonville Jaguars (-3) at New York Giants

The Pick: Giants
Maybe the toughest game to pick this weekend. The Jags were oh-so-close to the Super Bowl last season, but questions remain about the quality of the offence. The Giants have a new coach and revamped run game featuring Saquon Barkley. I’m going with New York at home.

Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers (-3.5)

The Pick: Chargers
Alex Smith is out; Patrick Mahomes is in. And that means the Chiefs are a big question mark entering Week 1. The Chargers, meanwhile, are among the teams in a weaker AFC that could emerge as the conference’s best and finished last season with five straight home wins.

Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers (-3)

The Pick: Panthers
With little in the way of receiving options and major injury concerns along the offensive line — once the Cowboys’ greatest strength — Dallas could experience some trouble early on this season. Carolina by three is very reasonable here.

Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos (-3)

The Pick: Broncos
Many are low on the Seahawks this season, but I don’t know if I’m buying that. I expect Seattle to compete… but still lose to Denver, who should be better with Case Keenum and have a potentially dominant defence.

Washington at Arizona Cardinals (-1)

The Pick: Washington
Is there a pair of teams in the league that we know less about than these two? I’m intrigued by what Jay Gruden and Alex Smith can do offensively, so let’s go with Washington.

Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-7)

The Pick: Bears
The Bears could be the next Rams and Eagles: a team with potential to take big strides, led by an offensive-minded coach and a second-year quarterback. I like Chicago to keep it close in what could be a high-scoring clash on Sunday night against a very rich Aaron Rodgers.

New York Jets at Detroit Lions (-6.5)

The Pick: Jets
Sam Darnold makes his NFL debut in the Motor City in the first game of the Monday night double-header, and I’m banking on the rookie to live up to the hype against a Lions team that was just 4-4 at home last season.

Los Angeles Rams (-4) at Oakland Raiders

The Pick: Rams
The Rams look, on paper at least, like a team that could do some serious damage this season. Jon Gruden’s Raiders, on the other hand, have some concerns. The Rams are the no-doubt pick despite playing on the road.

All point spreads via Covers.com

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