NFL 6-Pack: Week 1 NFL Picks Against the Spread

The NFL season is finally here and with it comes Week 1 NFL Picks Against the Spread. Aaron Marcotte and I will be here every Friday with our three favorite picks to make the 6-pack. Make sure you check back each and every week to see who we like. 

As you can see below, Aaron improved on his 2017 record in 2018.

Aaron’s thoughts:

In 2018, we were up 3% overall to improve the win-rate to 57%. As you can see, my top pick each week is far more accurate than the other two at 68%. I’m not sure if it was my own biases flipping the switch last year, but I went from 23% to 67% on my third/final picks.

I give you my top 3 each week, but if you want to play the numbers of the numbers, then maybe just take my top pick each week and go nuts! Otherwise, keep riding the (small sample size) trend of 2 years and receive a free seasonal pick set that wins 60% of the time!

One more thing before we get into week 1. The guys at FakePigskin wanted to get out some early bets/thoughts on this year’s Super Bowl. Brian’s pick (Dallas) still looks good. Kyle’s pick (Atlanta) still looks good. My pick was the Colts. I shouldn’t have to go on record here to tell you that’s not my pick anymore, but nevertheless here it is. You can read those full articles here and here.

Outside of my Super Bowl pick that is now awful, I’ve reconsidered a couple other picks due to injuries and news. I still love my Seattle pick at +3000, but they are now down to +2800. Houston at +3600 was a hell of a deal considering they are now +1800. I’m not feeling as confident there with the poor offensive line and the defense getting older and slower. Final thought: I’m flip-flopping on the Chargers. I don’t think they hit 10 wins… 8-8 or 9-7 best case.

Let’s turn our attention to Week 1. The lines for Week 1 seem to have more to do with what everyone saw at the end of last season and less to do with where they see these teams going. As you will see Aaron and I come down on opposite sides of two games so fade or follow at your own risk.

Also remember, our picks are made in order of confidence. The first pick is our most confident and the third pick is our least confident.

Kyle’s picks:

Carolina Panthers +2 vs Los Angeles Rams

The Carolina Panthers are short favorites this week at home against the defending NFC Champions.

The Panthers offense should be really good with Cam Newton, Christian McCaffery and company. 

The Rams offense on the other hand has a ton of questions. What version of Todd Gurley will we see on Sunday? Can Jared Goff perform better on the road. As you can see below, Goff was not the same QB on the road last season as he is at home.

Goff had issues reading defenses and teams started to make adjustments down the stretch by waiting for the last few moments to show their defense so Sean McVay can’t help the QB get to the right play call.

While ultimately I think the Rams will be fine, I think the Panthers will do enough in Week 1 to not only cover but get the outright win at home. I expect their offense to score plenty and obviously Vegas does too with the total set at 50. Their defense will make plays at key times to get the job donw.

I’m taking Carolina on the money line as the spread is under 2 but understand if you want a little more wiggle room.

Pick: Panthers +2

Miami Dolphins +6.5 vs Baltimore Ravens

This line is screams to take the home dog. The Ravens were a playoff team that is facing a Dolphins team that was an absolute mess a season ago. That said, giving the home team basically a TD is too much. The Ravens are one of my favorite regression teams as every season multiple teams miss the playoffs after making it the season before. I expect Cleveland and Pittsburgh to be really good and for the Ravens to struggle more in year two of Lamar Jackson.

Even if you like the Ravens to be good this season, you know they are a team built on ball control and a strong run game. They should possess the ball, control the clock and keep it relatively close.

With the world on the Ravens, getting 83% of the bets, I will be on the Dolphins here. I think parlaying the Dolphins +6.5 with the under also make a ton of sense if you want to get aggressive. I expect both teams to struggle offensively in a game you will likely want to avoid watching.

Pick: Dolphins +6.5

Jacksonville Jaguars +3.5 vs Kansas City Chiefs

I expect more weirdness in Florida in Week 1. The Kansas City Chiefs are a legit Super Bowl contender and I expect them to be in the mix come seasons end. However, I think this spot is great for Jacksonville.

The Jaguars get this game at home which is a huge advantage. They also have upgraded from Blake Bortles to Nick Foles under center. While Foles is far from a Hall of Fame QB, he is a massive upgrade.

The Jacksonville defense is really strong and should rebound from their late season woes from last season. A healthy Leonard Fournette is a good thing at this point and while we don’t know which WR will be the guy this season they have four names that can contribute in the passing game.

While I think Jacksonville has a legit shot at getting the outright win at home, I will gladly take the 3.5 points to ensure I cash my ticket when the Chiefs make a game winning field goal as the clock hits zeros.

Pick: Jaguars +3.5

Patrick Mahomes
Peter G. Aiken – Getty Images

Aaron’s picks:

Kansas City Chiefs -3.5 @ Jacksonville Jaguars

The Chiefs were good last year. Like, really good. The Jags weren’t, but they likely weren’t as bad as their record showed. Still, the Chiefs won 12 games last year. Do you know how many they won by only 3 points? Just one. They beat the Ravens 27-24. In their 4 losses, they lost by 3, 3, 1, and 7 to top caliber teams. Now they are another year into the system with every single key person back.

The Jags on the other hand can make the case that they will be improved significantly from last year. They have improvements to their line, Nick Foles now at QB, and a healthy defense. This defense was still top 5 across the board last year, after finishing as a top 2 defense in 2017. I’m not worried about their defense though. I’m worried about their pass catchers. Nick Foles is a huge upgrade to Bortles, but this receiver core is banged up and there are no experienced NFL tight ends on this squad. If, and when, Kansas City gets on the board, Jacksonville is going to struggle to keep up.

Pick: Chiefs -3.5

Los Angeles Rams -2 @ Carolina Panthers

Back to back road favorites… I know, it’s risky. However, we’re talking about the Super Bowl contending LA Rams here. A 13-win team that dominated other teams just as much as the Chiefs did last year. They locked up Aaron Donald and Jared Goff who are both starving for another run to the SB. Cooper Kupp is back and looking mighty athletic according to reports. Gurley should be fresh after not playing to end the season last year or this pre-season. This team is healthy(ish) and ready to make a splash, disproving the Super Bowl loss hangover.

The Panthers have some excited, young players that are expected to breakout this year in D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel. McCaffrey’s workload is supposed to be limited this year, but that would not be good for this team. He’s one of the best playmakers in the league and is going to have to really shoulder the load in this game to keep it close. I expect Newton will either be less than 100% or slightly hesitant to run after his pre-season foot injury. This could take away the scariest part of Cam’s game. He’s still a competent passer, but Olsen isn’t the spry chicken he used to be. His safety valve could put him at risk more than anticipated. I think Carolina is going to be a great team this year, but it may take a few weeks to start gelling with all of the new additions on defense.

Pick: Rams -2

Cleveland Browns -5.5 vs. Tennessee Titans

This is not me hopping aboard the Browns-to-the-Super-Bowl train. This is me fading the Titans early and often. Not only did the Browns play an extremely difficult early season schedule last year, but they also went through a coaching change mid-season. That’s not easy to recover from, let alone succeed through. The Browns started 2-6-1 last year, then won 5 of their last 7 games. In the games that they didn’t win, they played the Steelers, Saints, Raiders, Chargers, Bucs, Steelers, Chiefs, Texans, and Ravens. That’s some talented company outside of the Raiders and Bucs.

The Titans 2018 story was a different story. Their start was up & down, but they finished very strong. The Titans are a good team, especially when they can rely on their running game, aka Derrick Henry, to control the game for them. They are not good in shootouts or high pace-of-play games. From @MikeTagliere’s Week 1 Primer, Henry only averages 44 yds/gm when the Titans are underdog (compared to 102 yds/gm as the favorite). Vegas is projecting the Browns to win this, the eye-test says Mayfield is going to come out firing, and the Titans are going to try to play catch-up and fail.

Pick: Browns -5


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