NFL

Scott’s Seven NFL Picks: Week 1

By Scott Kacsmar

The NFL is officially back after the Lions upset the Chiefs on opening night, setting the stage for what should be a wild season with so many new competitors looking to dethrone Kansas City.

Each Friday, we will be posting seven NFL picks that we are including in our bets for the weekend. These can be prop picks, spreads, totals, alternate lines, moneylines, etc. We want to share more unique angles for good bets instead of just telling you to pick a 7-point favorite to win at home with -350 moneyline odds. You can play the picks separately or parlay your favorite choices together.

Note: Picks are ranked in order of confidence (highest to lowest).

1. Eagles-Patriots: Jalen Hurts Returns to the End Zone

Despite missing two full games, Jalen Hurts had a prolific dual-threat season in leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl last year. Including the playoffs, Hurts set records for quarterbacks by becoming the only player to rush 200 times in one season, and his 18 rushing touchdowns were also a record.

Hurts scored on the ground in 12-of-18 games, including each playoff game. With 3 rushing touchdowns in the Super Bowl, he would have been the MVP of that game had the Eagles gotten the ball back with more time and he could have scored again.

He is a unique talent, and he is the team’s best goal-line option, especially after Miles Sanders left for Carolina. The Eagles have a new offensive coordinator, but they should keep the deadly effective quarterback sneak they perfected last year. Bill Belichick has long been supportive of the sneak, but even his defense will be unlikely to stop it when they know it is coming.

With Hurts at better than even money to score, he is a good value pick this week.

Scott’s NFL Pick: Jalen Hurts Anytime Touchdown Scorer (+120 at FanDuel)

2. Cardinals-Commanders: Eric Bieniemy Completes a Great Weekend

Admit it, you can already see the headlines. After the Commanders wipe out Arizona with Sam Howell running Eric Bieniemy’s offense to perfection, people are going to say the Chiefs messed up by not keeping him. Of course, there are many things at factor here like how bad the Cardinals are, how good Detroit might be, and those pesky dropped passes on a night without Travis Kelce.

But for at least this week, Sam Howell should look better than Patrick Mahomes. With the Cardinals lacking talent at all levels, and likely running Jonathan Gannon’s scheme that can be picked apart by a quick, short passing game, look for Howell to throw a couple of touchdown passes to his intriguing cast of skill players. This may be the best value you get on Howell over 1.5 touchdown passes all year, so take it now.

Scott’s NFL Pick: Sam Howell Over 1.5 Passing Touchdowns (+154 at FanDuel)

3. Texans-Ravens: Baltimore to Rattle C.J. Stroud Early

The Ravens are a 10-point favorite against Houston, which is easily the biggest spread in Week 1. But as Baltimore fans and bettors should know well, this team has a nasty ability of making games closer than they should be at the end.

Last year, the Ravens were the sixth team in NFL history to lead by double digits in each of their first 10 games. But they were only 7-3 during that run. The other teams to do that were a combined 49-1. Baltimore ended up blowing 5 multi-score leads last year.

This is why our favorite pick in this game is the first-half spread. The Ravens should make life difficult for Houston rookie C.J. Stroud, who lacks weapons around him. Baltimore’s offense should also be much improved with a healthy Lamar Jackson, who has a new offensive coordinator that will open the offense up, and Jackson has more weapons than ever.

Trust the Ravens to roll early, but instead of dealing with the final spread being double digits, just take them to be leading by a touchdown or better at the half.

Scott’s NFL Pick: Ravens -6.5 First Half Spread (-110 at FanDuel)

4. 49ers-Steelers: Week 1 Upsets Old Hat for Mike Tomlin

After winning in Buffalo (2021) and Cincinnati (2022) the last two seasons in Week 1, the Steelers winning at home as a 2.5-point underdog to the 49ers would be a minor upset in comparison.

The 2022 Steelers were the first team since the 2006 Ravens to not allow more than 17 points in their final 7 games of the season. They also led the NFL in third-down conversion rate (54%) in those final nine games where they went 7-2 and rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett threw just one interception. Pickett led his offense to a touchdown in all 5 preseason possessions in August as the young Steelers look to improve significantly on offense.

But with a healthy T.J. Watt, the Steelers have a defense with talent at all levels to show Brock Purdy, who is still inexperienced at the position and has to prove his rookie success was not a fluke after having elbow surgery.

The Steelers have been guilty of playing down to the competition in the past, but they also know how to play up to it. In his career, coach Mike Tomlin is 15-4-3 ATS as a home underdog, easily the best record in the NFL. He is also a league-best 13-9 SU in these games, including a 4-2 record since 2021.

We are trusting the Steelers to make Purdy’s 2023 debut a difficult one as they pull off another upset to start 1-0.

Scott’s NFL Pick: Steelers ML (+118 at Caesars Sportsbook)

5. Titans-Saints: Scripting Derek Carr’s Debut in New Orleans

The Saints are a great bet to hit their win total over (9.5) because of an easy schedule that does not feature any of the top 10 teams in preseason Super Bowl odds. In addition to a huge schedule advantage, they have the most established quarterback in the NFC South in Derek Carr, and he should have the best defense of his career after having a defense with the Raiders that ranked, on average, 26th in points per drive allowed.

This is a good opponent for the Saints to open with, because the Titans are still not designed to have a ton of success passing the ball. DeAndre Hopkins should help as should the development of some second-year players, but trading A.J. Brown was a huge mistake that they will likely continue paying for this year.

But in Carr’s career, he has a better record in games that are close than games that are not close, making him the ultimate “win close or lose big” quarterback. Carr faced Ryan Tannehill’s Titans last year and it was a 24-22 Titans win after the Raiders’ rally came up short in the final quarter despite outscoring the Titans 9-0.

Carr has the most fourth-quarter comeback wins (28) in a player’s first 9 seasons. The Titans were a league-worst 0-6 at comeback opportunities in 2022. That should regress to the mean this year, but for this matchup, let’s take the better passing team and defense to win the fourth quarter for Carr’s debut.

Just as he would probably script it.

Scott’s NFL Pick: 4th Quarter Winner 3-Way No Push – New Orleans Saints (-105 at FanDuel)

6. Panthers-Falcons: Which Running Back Scores for His New Team?

Zig when others zag. You might see this phrase often this season as we try to go against the grain on purpose, because the NFL is often weird like that. You may have thought the Lions would have defeated the Chiefs without Travis Kelce and Chris Jones, but did you expect the Detroit offense to only score 14 points against the defense missing easily its best player?

Another highlight from that game was the fan excitement over rookie back Jahmyr Gibbs, who had far fewer snaps than veteran David Montgomery despite looking solid. The Atlanta Falcons may take a different approach with Bijan Robinson, the favorite over Gibbs for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Robinson has the best odds (-135 at FanDuel) of any player to score a touchdown in this game with Carolina, but we are looking at the other side of it.

Frank Reich comes from Indianapolis where he had Jonathan Taylor, who scored 29 rushing touchdowns in his first two seasons. Now he has Miles Sanders, who had a career year with the Eagles. Sanders infamously had 0 touchdowns on 163 touches in 2021, but he scored 11 times last year. The Falcons have an inexperienced defensive coordinator (Ryan Nielsen) in his first game and a ton of new starters on defense from different teams thrown together. Trust that Reich will use his best back on goal-line situations and back the better value in Sanders to score a touchdown in this game. Robinson may score too, but we’ll take the higher odds.

Scott’s NFL Pick: Miles Sanders Anytime Touchdown Scorer (+155 at FanDuel)

7. Bills-Jets: Rodgers and Allen Play a Classic

For the final pick Monday night, this ranking last is not for lack of confidence but an admission that this is 100% from the gut and should be a coin flip pick.

I like the over 23 in the second half as these rivals turn a dull start into a memorable debut game from Aaron Rodgers with the Jets.

Even in the last meeting, a 20-12 win by Buffalo, 25 of the 32 points were scored after halftime. Now you enter Rodgers, Allen Lazard, Dalvin Cook, and the coordinator (Nathaniel Hackett) he won his last two MVP awards with in Green Bay, and the Bills are getting a much stronger challenge this time from the New York offense.

Buffalo’s offense is obviously still one of the best, and the team added another tight end weapon in Dalton Kincaid, who should be able to stretch the field a bit more than Dawson Knox. They still have Stefon Diggs too, even if Sauce Gardner can help limit his production.

When Peyton Manning made his debut in Denver in 2012, he trailed Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh 10-7 at halftime before winning 31-19 (33 points after halftime). When Tom Brady debuted in New Orleans with the 2020 Buccaneers, he played poorly in a 34-23 loss, but there were 33 points scored after halftime in that game against Drew Brees.

Rodgers debuting with his new team against Allen is the closest thing to those matchups in NFL history. The expectations are high for Rodgers to dramatically change this team’s fortunes this year. Again, this is from the gut and built on the idea that the Jets brought in Rodgers to put up points and go toe-to-toe in games like this with Allen.

Hopefully it will be an enjoyable game to end the week. We have a lot to learn this year as 15 starting quarterbacks have no more than 15 starts with their current team. But Rodgers to the Jets is the biggest story of them all, and he gets a huge test right away in Week 1.

Scott’s NFL Pick: Bills-Jets Over 23 Second Half Total (-105 at FanDuel)

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