The start of the regular season always feels like an odd mix of time moving extremely fast and, at the same time, rocketing at a snail's pace. It feels like it was only a month or so ago that I was in Phoenix leading up to Super Bowl LVII, but this lull between the end of the preseason and Thursday's opener with the Chiefs hosting the Lions has felt like a presidential term.
Regardless, I'm thrilled we have meaningful football back in our lives and, just as important, meaningful football to bet on. If you're a year-round bettor like myself, you know the lonely pain that is the dog days of summer, solely betting on baseball. So to have football back, it's an extremely welcome sight to behold.
If you're a newbie following or fading my picks this season, welcome! What we do here is simple -- try to cash as many NFL bets as possible. While I'll give you my leans for every game, I'll specifically highlight my five locks of the week that I consider to be best bets. We ended the 2022 season with a strong playoff showing and we'll look to carry those good vibes into 2023.
Locks of the Week ATS: 41-45-4
All NFL odds via SportsLine consensus odds.
I typically hate giving up the hook, but I'm willing to do so here with the Falcons. I like what they've built this offseason on the defensive side of the ball, headlined by the addition of new DC Ryan Nielsen, safety Jessie Bates III and edge rusher Calais Campbell. When you add those pieces (and more) to the likes of Grady Jarrett and A.J. Terrell, there's promise with this group, which should pose problems for Carolina. Of course, Arthur Smith's offense has plenty to like as well, particularly in the backfield with rookie sensation Bijan Robinson. I thought Desmond Ridder improved with each game after getting the starting job in the back half of last season, and he has the weapons to lead a serviceable offensive attack.
In general, I don't love the vibes coming out of the Panthers at the moment. The offensive line wasn't impressive this preseason, the wide receiver unit is banged up and now pass rusher Brian Burns over a contract dispute. That's not even mentioning that quarterbacks taken No. 1 overall haven't fared well out of the gate. In fact, the last two QBs taken No. 1 overall went 0-2 SU and ATS in their first career start (Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence). I expect that trend to continue here with Bryce Young.
Projected score: Falcons 24, Panthers 17
The pick: Falcons -3.5
I'm a born and bread New Englander and I do like to think that I have a good pulse on the Patriots. If you were around last year, we faded this team a bunch in 2022, and for good reason. So, when people ask me about what I think they'll be this year, I often say they'll be a better watch thanks to the improvements they made this offseason (most notably hiring Bill O'Brien), but will likely end up with a similar record and out of the playoffs due to their tough schedule. That starts here with the defending NFC champion Eagles coming to town.
Yes, the Super Bowl loser from a year ago does historically struggle in Week 1, but I think the Eagles will be able to exploit one of New England's major weaknesses -- the offensive line. Philadelphia is a team that totaled 70 (!) sacks a season ago and there's no reason to think that the Eagles won't be able to apply strong pressure on the quarterback this season. The Patriots didn't invest much in the O-line this offseason (particularly at offensive tackle) and I believe that'll be their demise in the home opener.
Projected score: Eagles 28, Patriots 21
The pick: Eagles -4
Whenever the word "specialist" is used, that should have your antenna up. Rams star wideout Cooper Kupp had been dealing with a hamstring issue throughout training camp and Sean McVay noted late week that he and is slated to see a specialist about it. That puts his availability for Week 1 in serious doubt and makes Los Angeles' already thin offense that much more.
Meanwhile, I've been on the Seahawks' hype train all offseason (have them to win the NFC West among other futures). I like the idea of doubling down on Geno Smith after a late breakout campaign last year by extending him and adding high-upside pieces on both sides of the ball. I think this could be one of the better offenses in the league this season and should be able to outpace the Rams by a touchdown. Also, Pete Carroll has historically had his teams ready to go in Week 1, owning a 3-0 ATS record in Week 1 over the past three seasons. Seattle also covers 57% of their home games under Carroll.
Projected score: Seahawks 27, Rams 20
The pick: Seahawks -5
It's funny that we just touched on Seattle because I think the Packers are a frisky pick to be the 2023 version of the 2022 Seahawks. The club moved on from its franchise QB this offseason, which has led some to think that this could be a down year as the Packers pick up the pieces from his departure. However, Green Bay could be sneaky good this year with Jordan Love. I thought he flashed enough this preseason to give me confidence in them legitimately contending within the division in 2023. And that kicks off with an upset over the Bears in Chicago in Week 1.
Love made some high-level throws in the preseason and if second-year weapons like Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs take a step forward in Year 2, they have a solid offensive foundation also headlined by a strong O-line and dynamic running back duo in A.J. Dillon and Aaron Jones.
Also, the Bears have dealt with injuries along the offensive line this summer and were one of the worst teams to bet on in the league in 2022, owing a 5-11-1 ATS record. I think the Bears will be a far better team than a season ago, but Green Bay deflates them a bit out of the gate.
Projected score: Packers 23, Bears 21
The pick: Packers +1
Underdogs are typically the way to bet in Week 1. Over the last four seasons, dogs have covered 64% of their games to begin the season, so why not jump on the biggest spread of the week?! I think the Ravens are largely being slept on as a potential contender in the AFC, but they do have to work in a completely new offense under Todd Monken, which could see the offense have a few rough edges from the jump. With that in mind, I think this could end up being a low-scoring game, so I'll gladly hang on to double digits.
Projected score: Ravens 24, Texans 17
The pick: Texans +10
Rest of the bunch
Lions at Chiefs
Projected score: Chiefs 30, Lions 24
The pick: Chiefs -4.5