It’s so easy to bet the favorites. They’re supposed to win!
It’s a lot more fun — and I’d argue a lot more rewarding – to bet on underdogs. That’s what I’m all about, and that’s what this weekly column is all about. Each week, I’ll pick three dogs that will be barking loudly when their games end.
The only reason to bet on Week 1 is that we’ve waited more than 200 days for the NFL to return. We’re dying for some action, but we really don’t know anything. The best way to approach the unknown is to identify the overhyped, overvalued teams and bet against them. With ten home dogs in Week 1, there are plenty of opportunities to strike.
Yes, I know these seem ugly. Hold your nose and take the plunge:
Falcons (+5 1/2 ) vs. Saints
I love divisional home dogs, especially in Week 1. And here are the favored New Orleans Saints, led by Jameis Winston who is terrible against the spread as a favorite in his career. He’s going to need some time to get used to his new complement of receivers and Atlanta has an above-average corps of cornerbacks. I’m more bullish on Marcus Mariota than most, and I think he’ll use his legs to avoid that pass rush, extend plays and keep this one close. Feels like a field goal game to me.
Texans (+7) vs. Colts
Another divisional home dog. This line opened at 8½ and dropped to seven, so the money is coming in late on Lovie’s boys. Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich is traditionally a slow starter, and there’s way too much steam on Indy. The news on Friday that dynamic LB Shaq Leonard will miss the game only makes me like it more. The Houston Texans aren’t very good, but the Colts shouldn’t be favored by this much on the road against an opponent that knows them well.
Steelers (+6 1/2) at Bengals
Defense tends to be ahead of offense in Week 1, and I’ll take Mike Tomlin’s overlooked, Mitch Trubisky-led team to keep it close in Cincinnati. Tomlin revels in the underdog role, especially in divisional matchups (19-6-2 against the spread), and giving him nearly a touchdown is the gift that keeps on giving. Joe Burrow is a star, but he missed the preseason and will need a few weeks to get into rhythm with his newfangled offensive line. Does anyone believe they’ll handle their new 2022 role as the hunted well? This will be a low-scoring game, and the Steelers will stay within striking distance.