No disrespect to Thursday’s high-quality matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears to kick off the 2019 season — the NFL’s 100th — but most fans (and especially the betting community) have their eyes focused on Sunday’s full slate of games to officially the get the campaign underway.
We all know how it goes: February ends the NFL season, which then sends us into a seven-month twilight zone without any football whatsoever on our television screens. And then when we finally do get to football, we have to deal with an incredibly long preseason, and every year we have the same annoying debate: Should we cut the preseason down to two weeks? We know it’ll never happen, but it’s nice to pass the time until we get to kick-off.
But the moment has arrived! We’ve finally gotten to regular season football! For half of the league and their fan base, they’ll be experiencing glory after a Week 1 win, while the other half will be stressing to not hit an 0-2 start. In the betting realm, there will be one group that will see nothing but dollar signs with profitable bets, while another group will be counting their losses towards a potential rebound in Week 2. No matter what group you belong to, even more than one, the sport and atmosphere of football is absolutely magical, and it’s finally back on Thursday, and back in full-force on Sunday.
Before we get into my predictions for the first week’s biggest games, here are my top five Week 1 power rankings entering the regular season: (Also be sure to check out my 2019 NFL season preview where I predicted the New England Patriots to repeat as Super Bowl champions.)
Speaking of the Super Bowl, the long path to the big game is about to begin for all 32 teams across the National Football League, and it all starts with Week 1. Let’s go over some of the biggest games of the first week, as well as my betting prediction for each game that we preview. After that, we’ll be looking over the betting odds for the rest of the slate, released by the football betting sites.
ANALYSIS: We already know the obvious story line of this game, it’s one of the biggest rivalries in the NFL and it’s the square off to kick off the 100th season of the league, okay, cool. But there’s more here. Not only is the Green Bay Packers offense (still led by Aaron Rodgers) supposed to be massively improved this season, but their defense is grabbing some headlines too after stealing away safety Adrian Amos from the Chicago Bears during free agency, and that would be just one part of a renewal of their ‘D’. In my NFC North preview, I would take the Bears to repeat as champions, but you can fully expect the Packers to have an opinion about that one, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the ‘Green and Yellow’ take back the division. As far as Week 1 is concerned, even though I’m taking Chicago to win the division, you have to ride with a fresh and healthy Aaron Rodgers in Week 1 — just take last season’s opener as an example.
ANALYSIS: I’m going to go ahead and say it now: Place the Kansas City Chiefs on upset alert. We could seriously be looking at a scenario where the Chiefs start out with a 0-1 mark to begin the season. We already know what Kansas City is capable of with their potent offense led by NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes, and we also know the weaponry he has around him in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. However, after a dominating showing in 2017 and a follow-up poor performance in 2018, the Jacksonville Jaguars are aimed at bringing back an elite defense for 2019 — this is especially true considering they have Josh Allen now, who has the ability to rush quarterbacks like Mahomes at a productive level. When you mix that together with what’s already on board with a threatening secondary led by Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville has the potential to have the best defense in the league. Not just that, but their offense has cranked up the potency as well with the addition of quarterback Nick Foles, and don’t forget running back Leonard Fournette who they can use for clock management and to keep Mahomes off of the field a good chunk of the game. If the Jaguars utilize all of their tools correctly, we’ll be looking at a major upset in Florida this weekend. Don’t be surprised to see the Chiefs get caught off guard in Week 1.
ANALYSIS: Both teams come into the new season with four similarities: 1. Both have relatively new stadiums that are very impressive with the swagger. 2. They’re both extraordinarily difficult to predict exactly how they’re going to do in 2019. 3. They both have a lot of reason for an optimistic attitude entering the new campaign. And 4. They both play in some of the toughest divisions in the National Football League. There’s also a fifth similarity as well, and that’s the fact that both teams need to have successful 2019 seasons after failures last year. With that being said, you can expect a pretty evenly-matched game between the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings. As far as who to place a bet on, you have to ride with Atlanta. Even though the Falcons are on the road in this game, as it stands right now, they have both the better quarterback in Matt Ryan and the more productive defense. Expect a massively close game for sure, but I’ll personally ride with the ATL in a battle of potency.
ANALYSIS: There’s a lot of unknowns with each team entering Week 1, but with this game in particular, there are a boat-load of them. With the Carolina Panthers and their quarterback Cam Newton, they’re dealing with his sprained foot. Even though the Panthers are sure that Newton will be in action, you have to be curious about how much of their normal game plan they’ll be able to implement. With the Los Angeles Rams, head coach Sean McVay hasn’t gave any word whatsoever about what kind of offense we could be looking at for 2019, so in other words, Luke Kuechly and the rest of the Carolina defense has limited film and information to work with to shut down the Rams’ productivity. Despite all of the unknowns, however, you can expect a high-scoring affair with fireworks left and right from both teams. As far as the victor, as long as the Los Angeles Rams keep the turnovers to a minimum, they should be able to pull out the win.
ANALYSIS: On paper, it looks like we’re looking at two different teams here. For the Cleveland Browns and their quarterback Baker Mayfield, it looks like they’re on their way to the postseason. For the Tennessee Titans and their quarterback Marcus Mariota, it looks they’re on a continuing decline. However, the reason why this game is so interesting is because everything about the Browns is just speculation at this point. We don’t know exactly how Cleveland will be under first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens, and there’s also the possibility of Mayfield suffering a sophomore slump. With that being said, it’s fair to question whether or not the Browns can meet the expectations with wins, especially to begin things to get off to a good start. As far as their Week 1 contest against the Tennessee Titans, I expect a rowdy Cleveland fan base with a lot of optimism to make it a crazy atmosphere that will make it hard for the Titans to obtain a victory in. As a result, I have the Browns pulling out a win, but I think they get things started off on an ugly note.
ANALYSIS: This could have easily been our Thursday night primetime game to get the season started for us, with both teams having the big opening event and getting a full week of rest at that. Instead, they’ll have to settle for another primetime slate on Sunday night with a little less rest attached to it. Coming into the new season, both franchises are aiming to replace lost stars and other effective players that made exits from the rosters, and with both having aging quarterbacks, both teams are sure to utilize their running attacks a lot more in 2019. But let’s be honest, even though that may be vital to Ben Roethlisberger and his game, we already know that Tom “G.O.A.T.” Brady will be just fine and putting up his usual MVP-caliber numbers. With the Patriots having that leverage, you have to take New England to beat Pittsburgh, again. And Brady to beat Roethlisberger, well, again. There’s no rivalry here, ladies and gentlemen.
ANALYSIS: Speaking of aging veteran, yet still elite quarterbacks, you have Drew Brees down in New Orleans, but the Saints know that they’re running out time with the 40-year-old. And this season will be a challenge to that. New Orleans knows that they need to get off to a good start to begin the campaign, and a first-place schedule in one of the toughest divisions in football is at the helm of their challenge. On top of that, they’re also in the talent-flooded NFC conference. But here’s the good news for the Saints: On the defensive side of the ball, they’re completely massive on the line, and that’s going to be a massive hurdle for the Houston Texans and their weak offensive line to get over — as a matter of fact, I expect this to create major problems for Houston throughout the entire game. It’s a whole new meaning to “Houston, we have a problem.” And it gets even worse: The Texans are on the road, and at the Superdome out of all places. Put the Houston Texans on blowout alert, because this one could potentially become ugly.
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