The (Under) Dogs Are Barking: Week 1

Photo Credit: Douglas DeFelice (USA TODAY Sports)

Excited to be back for a second season. If you’re new here, welcome! Every week, I find three NFL underdogs that I’ll be backing. I make it a rule to only choose dogs of three points or more, so I had to throw out three small puppies I like this week, the Browns, Steelers, and Jets.

Last year I finished the season 32-23-4, after limping to a 1-6 record the final two weeks of the regular season. Some of these won’t look pretty. But when you’re betting the dogs, sometimes you just have to hold your nose and believe.

Patriots +4 vs. Eagles

See what I mean? The Eagles are primed for another Super Bowl run and the Pats look destined for the AFC East cellar. But Bill Belichick will have his defense ready, having game planned for months.

Meanwhile, the Eagles will wear the heavy crown of the hunted and will be led by new coordinators on both sides of the ball. Their defense has a couple intriguing rookies, but lost key guys like Javon Hargrave, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White. They’ll be fine, but they’ll get better as the season goes along. Look for New England to pound the ball on the ground and keep this one within a field goal.

Titans +3 at Saints

Tennessee might be one of the most boring teams in the NFL and the last time we saw them, they were limping to the finish on a seven game losing streak and missed the playoffs for the first time in five years.

Their defense remains very strong, particularly up front and they’ve rebuilt their offensive line, which was their Achilles heel last year. Derrick Henry is healthy and should be productive especially with the addition of WR DeAndre Hopkins, who will keep the Saints defense honest. Historically, it takes Derek Carr a little while to feel comfortable in a new offensive system, and he won’t have Alvin Kamara, who begins his three-week suspension.

Finally, Mike Vrabel gives the Titans a big coaching edge and they are always profitable as road dogs. Look for them to steal a win on the road to open the season.

Buccaneers +5½ at Vikings

This is like taking candy from a baby. Everyone has the Bucs dead and buried now that Baker Mayfield has replaced Tom Brady. They probably won’t win a lot of games this season, but they’ll be competitive. Their defense will make things tricky for the Vikings, whose starters sat out the preseason and might need a little while to get going against a very good secondary and a stud up front in Vita Vea and a great linebacker group. Remember, this unit has not been on the field together, with injuries to T.J. Hockenson and Jordan Addison.

Meanwhile, everyone will be watching Brian Flores’ new-look defense, which features a stable of unproven corners who have to deal with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Flores will try to fluster Mayfield with a lot of blitzing, but Baker is actually not bad against the blitz. Sure, he’ll throw a couple up for grabs, but are the Vikes’ youngsters ready to take advantage? Feels like a game Minnesota wins, but not handily.

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Photo Credit: Douglas DeFelice (USA TODAY Sports)

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