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Red Zone Returns – Week 1

Week 1 of the NFL season is upon us so it’s time to dive into the markets and find the five best bets of the slate ahead.

Houston Texans @ Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens are one of the most intriguing teams in the NFL heading into Week 1. Expectations are relatively high with Lamar Jackson healthy and a new-look style on the offensive end being implemented. Both are reasons to be high on the Ravens to win the division ($3) and to potentially become Super Bowl LVIII smokies ($18). However, Jackson hasn’t played since December last year and new offensive schemes take time to embed and show – consistently – on the field. Notably, Jackson didn’t suit up throughout Baltimore’s preseason games either.

The Ravens deserve to be favourites and the Houston Texans are hardly a cohesive and reliable team opening an NFL season themselves. But +9.5 is a big line. Week 1 underdogs getting a head start of 8+ points are 25-9 ATS since 2003.

Will Anderson will be out to make a statement as a potential Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate ($5.20) while C.J. Stroud starts his NFL career with fairly high expectations and, interestingly, as a captain.

Underdogs are worth looking into early on in an NFL season. One this big is difficult to walk past given how much Jackson and the Ravens need to work out on the fly.

Best Bet Texans +9.5 @ $1.95*

Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets

Right, having just said “underdogs are worth looking into early on in an NFL season,” the Buffalo Bills appeal at $1.72 and -2.5.

If there is an underdog that might be overvalued this week, it’s the New York Jets.

The Bills are a proven Super Bowl LVIII contender. They’ve been one of the best teams in the NFL in recent years and Josh Allen – somehow – keeps getting better to be on the second line of betting to win the Most Valuable Player award at $8. We can rely on them to look somewhat decent early on in the year and not carry quite the same rust as a team with say, a new quarterback or a new offensive coordinator.

The New York Jets carry both into this one.

Their strength is in defence and they will make things difficult for Allen and the Bills. Still, with Aaron Rodgers coming off his worst season since 2017 and without a lot of evidence to suggest he is working well with his new teammates, we’re going with the proven commodity here.

The division still belongs to the Bills

Best Bet Bills -2.5 @ $1.90*

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Minnesota Vikings

“While the Vikings overachieved there is a good chance fans and punters overcorrect and expect too little from what is still a decent team led by a quality quarterback.” – NFC Season Preview

The Vikings won’t go 11-0 in one-score games this season. They won’t. But there is a fairly good chance they improve as a football team without seeing it reflected in their record.

Justin Jefferson is going to do his thing to be in the hunt for Offensive Player of the Year at $13. Jordan Addison is in to take Adam Thielen’s targets and give the Offensive Rookie of the Year market a shake at $17. With the offence those two can provide through Kirk Cousins, the Vikings should have more than enough points to move comfortably past the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Yes, the Vikings defence performed poorly last season and the expectation is for it to be similar in this one. But Baker Mayfield isn’t good enough to feast on it. He will produce a few nice plays but typically ends up as a net-negative quarterback. He’s a shocking 29-41-1 against the spread as a starter. There is a lot of uncertainty around most teams heading into Week 1 but we can trust Cousins and Jefferson and lot more than we can Mayfield and a Buccaneers team with a win total set at 6.5.

Best Bet Vikings -5.5 @ $1.90*

Las Vegas Raiders @ Denver Broncos

Both the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos are coming into this NFL season as though the last one never happened.

They were the worst teams in the AFC West last season and while the markets suggest more of the same in this one, both should show signs of improvement. The Broncos have to if Sean Payton doesn’t want to embarrass himself.

Denver will be better this season but it may take time to show through. As much as Payten can help Russell Wilson, the quaterback was so bad last year that expecting anything close to the old Wilson is Week 1 is a stretch.

Meanwhile, the Raiders will have Josh Jacobs in the backfield in Week 1. His presence alone means they will be competitive. Jimmy Garopollo isn’t ever going to be a great quarterback but he’s good enough to lead this Raiders team around the field. He’s an encouraging 17-5 against the spread as an underdog throughout his NFL career, too. Garopollo won’t produce anything flash but doesn’t need to against the Broncos. They should have enough to keep it within a field goal.

Best Bet Raiders +3.5 @ $1.92*

Philadelphia Eagles @ New England Patriots

Unders aren’t fun but it makes some sense here.

The Philadelphia Eagles will end up as one of the best offensive teams in the NFL this season. They will play out one of the easiest schedules in the league throughout the regular season, cruise into the playoffs and feature in the Super Bowl LVIII conversation. But with two new coordinators in place, expect a slow start to the season.

The New England Patriots, on the other hand, will not. They’re unlikely to do any of those things. Particularly the “one of the best offensive teams in the NFL” part. Mac Jones might get there in the end but his ceiling is low to start the year. Up against a strong Eagles defence, there is little hope for him to show huge promise in Week 1.

However, the Patriots are a top defensive team and have a good idea of what the Eagles are going to throw at them. Bill Belichick knows how to put a lid on the opposition’s greatest strength, too.

Points feel as though they’re going to be hard to come by in this one. A rusty Eagles offence will be made to work hard by a strong Patriots defence, and we can’t quite trust Jones and company to pile up points this week. This looks set to be a bludger.

Best Bet Total Score Under 44.5 Points @ $1.93*

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