The 2012 NFL regular season kicks off this week and here are some straight up upsets and other money line value plays for Week 1. Find out what we have found, and where we have decided to place our NFL picks this opening weekend.
Well, it is here, the time of year most sports fans look forward to more than any other. Yes, the preseason and watching a bunch of backups making mistakes and playing sloppy football is over as the 2012 NFL regular season kicks off with the Dallas Cowboys visiting the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants on Wednesday night.
The NFL is easily the most popular North American sport and it attracts the largest betting volume by a landslide. Because of that, the betting lines themselves are the most efficient in the industry, making the NFL the toughest sport to beat. But that does not prevent us from trying!
The vast majority of wagers placed are either against the spread or on the totals, but our NFL picks presented here for Week 1 are all money line plays that we feel offer nice value. With spreads and totals being so efficient, there are some occasions where the money lines are less so and we hope to take advantage of those.
As you will see, we will start out with three nice upsets including the isolated opening night game, and we conclude with two games rated close to even where we feel one team has an edge. Please note that all money lines are from Pinnacle Sports.
Dallas Cowboys (+191) over New York Giants: The Giants are the Super Bowl Champions, and thus as has become tradition, they get to host the opening night game this season.. However, the Giants have a very tough first matchup here vs. a Dallas team improved enough on defense to win the NFC East, and we also expect some regression from a Giants’ team that peaked at the perfect time last year. Therefore we love the value of getting nearly 2/1 odd here on what we feel is the better team. The reason we are so high on Dallas this year is because of what should be a vastly improved pass defense. Like most opposing quarterbacks last year, New York’s Eli Manning was able to torch the Dallas secondary in two meetings while leading the Giants to the sweep, passing for 746 yards in the two games! Well to alleviate that, the Cowboys drafted cornerback Morris Claiborne out of LSU in the first round and they signed the best cornerback on the free agent market in Brandon Carr. So seemingly overnight, the Cowboys went from having one of the worst secondaries in football to having one of the better cornerback tandems in the league. Manning will not have an easy time picking on the secondary this time around and the Giants also lost running back Brandon Jacobs to free agency from a team that ranked dead last in the NFL in rushing last year.
Buffalo Bills (+138) over New York Jets: No, we are not intentionally picking on the New York teams in Week 1 (well the two that play their games in New Jersey anyway), but we feel that the only NFL team that actually plays its games in New York State is being undervalued here. This is another case where we feel we are getting great odds value on the better team as we think that Buffalo will challenge for a wild card spot this season while the Jets will struggle to finish at 8-8. Remember that the Buffalo offense was averaging over 30 points per game over the first half of last season before the Bills were severely hit with injuries. Running back Fred Jackson was putting up MVP-type numbers when he was lost for the season, wide receiver Stevie Johnson and several offensive linemen also missed time and even quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, although he played in every game, was clearly never the same after suffering a painful rib injury in November. The entire offense is healthy right now, but another key to this upset should be the defense. The Bills improved their pass rush by signing both Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, and that duo can take advantage of a shaky Jets’ offensive line that could not block anyone during a dreadful preseason.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+201) over Minnesota Vikings: First off, let us preface this by saying that the Jaguars will be one of the worst teams in football this year and have a real chance to finish with the worst record in the AFC. With that said however, they open up with what is a rare winnable game for them vs. a Vikings team that has its own problems and should not be favored by this much over anybody. The Vikings have stated publicly that Adrian Peterson is a game-time decision, but we think that even if he is active, he still may only play limited minutes and he will not be his old self. He would probably be best served by just sitting out and not playing in a game until October at the earliest. Thus, Toby Gerhart is the man in the backfield for now, and while he performed admirably at the end of last season, he lacks breakaway speed and the Jacksonville defense would be able to play pass. Vikings’ quarterback Christian Ponder struggled with his reads as a rookie last year and pass defense is actually the best aspect of a bad Jaguars’ team, as they finished eighth in the NFL in that category last year allowing a respectable 208.8 passing yards per game.
Kansas City Chiefs (+113) over Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons are the chic pick by many this year to win the NFC South, what with the Saints supposedly reeling for Bountygate and Atlanta switching to a more up-tempo offense this year that could result in career numbers for quarterback Matt Ryan and his receivers. Well, we do not expect a good start from Atlanta this year as Kansas City is a difficult venue to play in as we feel that the Chiefs are vastly underrated and just a better quarterback away from being the favorites in the AFC West. Kansas City may have the worst quarterback in the division, but the Chiefs are loaded at all the other positions and for all of his physical shortcomings, quarterback Matt Cassel has at least proven that he can be reliable as a system quarterback as he does not make many mistakes. The Chiefs get back one of the best running backs in the NFL from injury on Jamaal Charles, who looked great in preseason, and they are now very deep at running back with Peyton Hillis and Dexter McCluster also in the mix. Last year’s first round draft pick Jonathan Baldwin is developing as the perfect compliment for Dwayne Bowe at wide receiver, making for a nice young tandem with a very bright future, and the Kansas City defense was one of the best in the NFL after Romeo Crennel took over as head coach last season.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+101) over Denver Broncos: This one is all about revenge as the Steelers have had this opening date circled on their calendar after losing to the Broncos as sizable favorites in the Wild Card playoffs last season. Of course that was with Tim Tebow at quarterback for Denver and they now have one of the best quarterbacks of all time on Peyton Manning. Keep in mind though that the veteran Steelers’ defense has always defended Manning well, and that Manning was starting to lose the zip on some of his longer throws at the end of the 2010 season, even before the four neck surgeries that took away his final year with the Indianapolis Colts last year. Also look for Pittsburgh to return to the smash-mouth football that made it famous with the run-happy Todd Haley now the new offensive coordinator.