We are formally in week 1 of the 2021 NFL season, which means it’s time to start looking at who will be the money makers this Fall. A condensed preseason meant we had less of an opportunity to get a feel for what teams are going to look like at the start of the season, but you cannot truly evaluate an NFL team until you see them on the field when it matters. Staying cautious in the first week of any season is a safe and efficient approach to take towards gambling, and that rule certainly applies to the NFL. With it being week 1 of the NFL season, I will only be providing picks that I truly feel confident in, and that leaves us with three games to look at this week.
Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots (-3)
The New England Patriots had a lot of questions this Summer coming off of their worst season in over a decade. Cam Newton never seemed to find that elite level he was at before his shoulder injury, the weapons he had on offense left a lot to be desired, and the defensive front was flat out exposed. They seemingly have answered all of those questions. The New England Patriots’ front seven on defense is going to be scary. With the addition of guys like Christian Baramore, Matthew Judon, and Davon Godchaux, the Patriots have completely revamped defensively. Miami’s offensive line is going to have their hands full on Sunday with these guys. The Dolphins will also be missing their starting left tackle in Austin Jackson which likely means even more trouble for Tua Tagovailoa. Tua has shown that he can be thrown off his rhythm with a strong pass rush.
On the other side of the ball, Miami prides itself on defense. Led by coach Brian Flores, who won a Super Bowl with the Patriots as the defensive play-caller, the Dolphins have established themselves as one of the most talented defenses in football. Last year alone, the Dolphins had multiple players have career years and only lost a few pieces from the starting 11. New England named rookie, Mac Jones as their starting quarterback following the release of Cam Newton. Jones was one of the standouts of the entire preseason and showed enough to have coach Belichick hand him the keys. The biggest question mark will be Jones’s understanding of the playbook. New England infamously has a very complex offensive scheme, but they’ve built their current roster to fit their style of play. They have a top-five offensive line in all of football, they have a well-balanced run game with four talented backs, and two elite pass-catching tight ends. This will make it much more comfortable for Mac Jones to run the offense. They still do not have elite weapons at the receiver position but have definitely improved from last season. I like the Patriots to win 24-14.
Green Bay Packers (-4) @ New Orleans Saints
Jameis Winston is set to make his first start as the Saints‘ quarterback this weekend against the Green Bay Packers. This line had a major swing from when it opened with the Saints being 2.5 point favorites, to now four-point underdogs (as of September 6th). Even with the crazy swing on this line, I still like Green Bay to win this game pretty handily. The Packers’ defense is very good both upfront and in the secondary. They were a top-ten defense last year in terms of sacks and were seventh in Opponents Yards Per Game through the air. Jameis Winston is vulnerable to turnover trouble, and if you give Aaron Rodgers extra chances to put points on the board, there’s a good chance the reigning MVP is going to make you pay.
Jameis Winston has looked sharp in the preseason, but even if he’s playing well, he does not have very dangerous weapons to throw to. The absence of Michael Thomas leaves the Saints pretty thin at the receiver position, which means this offense lives and dies with Alvin Kamara, and Green Bay knows it. The Green Bay Packers will win 27-20.
Chicago Bears @ Los Angeles Rams (-7.5)
I have a hard time putting any stock into the Chicago Bears as long as Andy Dalton is the starting quarterback for that team. I do not imagine he will be the starter for very long, but he will be for week 1 and the Rams defense is going to eat him alive. Aaron Donald will be in Chicago’s backfield all game long and their secondary will capitalize on his blunders. Andy Dalton had a very solid career in the NFL for a long time, but the 2021 version of Andy Dalton puts a low ceiling on this team’s potential.
The Rams, on the other hand, have Matthew Stafford at quarterback now. He has finally dug his way out of the grave known as the Detroit Lions and has found a home in LA with a new coach and new weapons and a functioning front office. The Rams are a much more suitable fit for someone as talented as Stafford. This is just a game of two franchises heading in opposite directions, Rams win 31-13.
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