After a long seven months, the National Football League is back on our television screens – thank goodness for that. On Thursday night, defending Super Bowl champions New England Patriots suffered a shock home defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs and we could be set for an unpredictable opening week of matches...
That being said, I’m here to try and hone in on a few bets to look at before Sunday’s evening fixtures get underway. Here are a few of my leading fancies ahead of the weekend.
Chicago Bears vs ATLANTA FALCONS
The Bears showed glimpses of promise during preseason but it would be foolish to read too much into their victories over the Arizona Cardinals and Tennessee Titans. Chicago laboured to a 3-13 record last season and another difficult campaign lies ahead. It is hard to place too much faith in quarterback Mike Glennon and the Bears still have plenty of issues to sort out.
Meanwhile, Atlanta will still be smarming after their embarrassing Super Bowl collapse and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the Falcons send out a statement of intent here. Kyle Shanahan departed for the San Francisco 49ers but Steve Sarkisian is a capable offensive co-ordinator and Atlanta’s potent attacking unit can continue to flourish.
TIP: Falcons to win @ 2/5
Cleveland Browns vs PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Like the Bears, Cleveland are also in a spot of bother at quarterback. Defence may ultimately be the difference in winning a Super Bowl but in the regular season, a reliable play-maker at quarterback is essential. The Browns recently traded away two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden to... the Steelers and he will be desperate to make a positive impact.
This could be a one-sided affair. In Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers are blessed with one of the strongest offensive units in the NFL and Cleveland lack the talent to slow Pittsburgh down. If Mike Tomlin’s side take an early lead, it could get very ugly in front of the Dawg Pound faithful.
TIP: Steelers to win by seven points or more @ 4/6
GREEN BAY PACKERS vs Seattle Seahawks
On paper, a difficult one to predict. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers were almost invincible at Lambeau Field a couple of years ago and Mike McCarthy’s men may be about to regain their mojo on home soil. With an improved defensive unit and a strong receiving corps on offense, Green Bay have the tools to challenge for Super Bowl glory.
But then again, so do the Seattle Seahawks. The NFC West champions had their issues last season but still managed to win their division; they are going to be back at their best in next to no time. Improving the offensive line was a must in free agency and Seattle do look much stronger on paper – this is a tough place to win in Week One though...
TIP: Packers to win @ 3/5
San Francisco 49ers vs CAROLINA PANTHERS
Once again, we have another weak home side facing an improved visiting team – and I can only see this going one way. The 49ers are still rather weak in most key areas, particularly at quarterback and on defence, so they may struggle to break down what looks like a pretty firm Panthers unit.
Cam Newton simply cannot play as poorly as he did last season – it just can’t happen. Just two years ago, this Carolina side reached the Super Bowl and another playoff run could be on the cards. Starting with a convincing win here will be huge for momentum and the NFC South side look well priced to win by at least five points.
TIP: Panthers to win by five points or more @ 9/10