Today's Free Picks for
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Posted at 3:45 PM EST and are subject to change.
NFL Week 1
What you see below is our early leans. Many of the selections below will stay the same and some will be moved into official plays with wagers on Sunday. However, there is also the possibility that we see, read or get a sense that something is not right with one of our selections and change our pick. There are several different criteria we use to grade a game and make it an official play and a lot of things can happen or change between Friday and Sunday. We’re intent on providing our We’ll have all write-ups (except Monday Night Football) posted on Friday but our actual wagers won’t be posted until Sunday morning between 10 AM and 12:00 PM EST
Sunday, September 11
Indianapolis @ Houston +7
1:00 PM EST. The Colts missed the playoffs last season, and so they are now on their third veteran quarterback in as many years to try and pick up the pieces after Andrew Luck's abrupt retirement. Stepping in place for Carson Wentz, who was jettisoned to Washington is Matt Ryan, formerly of the Falcons. All reports out of Indy’s camp were that Ryan is refreshed and ready to lead a “contender.” The question is, are these Colts truly in contention?
Expectations are a funny thing, which is why those teams that are expected to win, don’t always win. If every game was a straight X’s and O’s affair, we wouldn’t watch these games because they’d be no fun. The “best” team would always come out on top. In reality, that is not the case. There is so much in-game variance in these games that it’ll make your head spin. Turnovers and penalties are what dictate the outcomes, which is why taking back inflated points is a proposition that we are going to be interested in.
Houston is supposed to be the dregs this season, but if you watch them at all in the preseason, you may have seen that there appears to be a solid foundation being built under new coach Lovie Smith. Smith is a disciplined, defensive specialist. Players love to play for him. They’ll run through a wall for him. That’s our kind of coach.
The Texans have rid themselves of so much dead weight and drama after trading Deshaun Watson to Cleveland. The deal allowed them to restock their cupboard with first-round picks, who should be chomping at the bit to get a ton of playing time, which they will.
Derek Stingley Jr. was the Texans' top pick this spring and will anchor that secondary. Rookie runner Dameon Pierce also impressed in camp and will be a fine complement to second-year pivot Davis Mills. We wrote about Mills a lot last season. We trust what we saw when he was at Stanford can translate to the NFL and we would not be surprised to see him take a big year two leap under Smith. The Texans are not as bad as advertised. They are going to be a clock-grinding, tough-as-nails out. That’s the kind of team we want to get behind taking back inflated points, at home, in a division game. Recommendation: Houston +7
Jacksonville @ Washington -2½
1:00 PM EST. As a franchise, the Jaguars have wallowed in the basement of the AFC for most of their 28 years. Just typing that made us feel a little ill. The Jags are still one of the “new” teams in the league in our minds. Don’t get old, kids. Despite their nearly three-decade existence, this is a team that has won their division just three times (‘98, ‘99, ‘17), while making the playoffs on four other occasions (‘96, ‘97, ‘05, ‘07). Maybe that doesn’t sound too bad, but only one of those playoff appearances came in the last 15 years. That 2017 run feels like it was 25 years ago and not five. Time can be cruel.
Jacksonville will try and move on from the mess that was Urban Meyer, who was fired after a season that saw him score more often with coeds than his Jags did in their games. Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pederson is in, but is he going to be enough to change the culture of a team that appears to have problems that go much further than the coach's room or the general manager’s office? Jaguars executive and son of the owner, Tony Khan said the team, “Feels very different, in a good way,” under Pederson. That may be true, but one only needs to look at the drama in Khan’s AEW wrestling promotion to see his style of management. The inmates are running that asylum and it isn’t pretty. Google “AEW Fight” and thank us later.
There may be some irony in a team that has been searching for an identity off the field for years, is searching for an identity on the field in 2022. When you think of Washington football what do you think? Jokes of their former “Football Team” moniker may come to mind or perhaps, the legendary Hogs, who played under the team’s most unfortunate former moniker. Either way, both of those answers at least suggest that Washington had an identity. “Football Team,” while at first funny, actually had some charm and was a throwback to a simpler time. The numbers on the helmets were old school, distinct, and classy.
When a team defends a racist moniker (for decades) and then changes it to one that is dripping with colonialism, no matter how well-intentioned, is pretty messed up. A rebranding to “Commanders” is both bland and a total missed opportunity. For a franchise that insisted it was honoring Native American heritage and culture, the Washington football team couldn’t wait to not honor those people as soon as possible. Those people who's back the team made millions on by the way. They could have honored the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II or the legendary Jim Thorpe. If wartime heroes were something that Washington football wanted to incorporate, why not honor Red Cloud, War Chief, Crazy Horse, Cochise, Geronimo, or Sitting Bull? It’s almost like the former Redskins weren't about honoring Native Americans at all. We write all this because we do not have a strong lean on this one unless something changes.
While Commanders might be boring and white bread as f**k, it’s hard not to trust that coach Ron Rivera has finally found his man under center after bringing in Carson Wentz from the Colts. Wentz will be Rivera’s seventh starting quarterback since 2020. When you have that much instability, success is very hard to achieve. There is a fine line between winning and losing—being a playoff contender or a total disaster. For now, we’re leaning toward the former. Recommendation: Washington -2½
New England +3½ @ Miami
1:00 PM EST. Is this the year that we are going to trust the Dolphins to turn it around? In short, no. If you’ve been reading along through the preseason, you know about all the drama out of Dolphins camp surrounding new head coach Mike McDaniel. In fact, Michael Hurley of CBS Boston put it best in his lede about McDaniels, Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel is goofy.” In the story, Hurley highlights McDaniel’s silly press conference quotes about the Patriots getting their “bronze” on in the South Florida sun. On the surface, it seems like a harmless piece, but if you know what’s going on behind the scenes, McDaniel’s “goofy” nature explains a lot.
In case you missed it, McDaniel has clashed with some popular players in the Miami dressing room, namely tight end Mike Gesicki. Gesicki was the best offensive Dolphin last season and he was quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s favorite target. Gesicki was so good the Dolphins used the franchise tag on him. That $10.9 million 1-year deal is not pocket change, but it’s nothing in comparison to the safety that comes with a long-term deal. To add salt to that wound, McDaniel had Gesicki dress and play in the Fish’s first preseason game when none of the other veteran offensive starters had to. He put the man at risk for no reason in a meaningless game. Thanks, coach.
Gesicki said all the right things during training camp, but he had to have bit his tongue to not spill the beans about how he really felt. Miami turned its back on him and it expects him to play with it all on the line this season. Dude’s a pro and he’ll probably do it, but there has to be a little piece in the back of his mind carved out for the worst-case scenario. A serious injury that costs him millions.
From the top down, the Dolphins have been a mess for a long, long time. Why should we expect anything else here in 2022? The Fish have high expectations, and their new coach is making jokes at Bill Belichick's expense. How do you figure that is going to work out?
BB and the Pats need no introduction because it does not matter who suits up in New England. We know the Patriots are disciplined as hell. Any time that a Belichick-coached team is a betting underdog, we are going to perk up. When the Pats travel, it’s all business. Moreover, there are few things in this world that BB likes more than spanking the bum of a new, fresh-faced head coach, who is trying to join the club. Do not be surprised if Bellichick and company don’t have a few special plays dialed up to make McDaniel look like the clown he is. Recommendation: New England +3
Philadelphia -4 @ Detroit
1:00 PM EST. We want to trust the Lions in this spot. We really do. We’ve been Dan Campbell fans going to last season and watching him work his magic on Hard Knocks has us buying into what his Lions are selling. However, we are no longer the only ones at this party.
This market expects the Lions to take a big leap forward here in 2022, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t remind everyone that Detroit won just three games last season. Is it fair to pin potential playoff hopes on these Lions already?
Meanwhile, the Eagles are flying under the radar. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has been criticized for being nothing more than a fantasy football flash in the pan, whose skills don’t translate to the pro game. The Philadelphia defense was raked over the coals for getting blasted in their final preseason game in Miami, 48-10. While that result matters not in real life, it’s resonating in the market so it matters.
The Eagles had a disappointing 2021 after posting a 9-8 mark and being quickly disposed of in the Wild Card round by the Buccaneers in a 31-15 blowout. On the surface, the season may have been a failure, but when you consider the Eagles went 3-6 to start the year before winning six of their last eight games to sneak in, it wasn’t so bad. The winning tone set late in the year figures to serve the Eagles well here in 2022.
We’ll leave you with this note. While all things are not equal, when these two teams played in Detroit on Halloween night, the Eagles were a modest 3-point favorite. Philly would go on to roll the Lions by a 44-6 score that flattered the hometown Lions. Detroit would not score until the 7:14 mark of the fourth quarter when the score was 41-0. The Eagles dominated every facet of the game. First downs, total yardage, time of possession. All of it. It was not a turnover-fueled victory either, as the Eagles were just +1 in that department. It was a total washout. We understand it was just one game. Maybe it means nothing, however, expecting the Lions to be on the Eagles level 10 months later might be a bit spendy. Recommendation: Philadelphia -4
Green Bay @ Minnesota +1½
4:25 PM EST. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers and Super Bowl aspirations. That might just be enough to entice this market to pounce on them here spotting what looks to be a short road price. For some perspective of just how this market sees these two teams, Green Bay’s Super Bowls odds are 12-1, the Vikings—40-1. A quick look at the odds to win the NFC North shows the Packers are favored at -200. The Vikes are +275. These numbers do not add up. The point-spread posted here in Week 1 suggests that the Vikings have a great shot to win this game. Sometimes in the business, you have to play numbers and not teams. The books are hanging a proverbial carrot here.
While the Packers have #12, we’d like to know who exactly he’s going to throw the ball to after the departure of Devonte Adams. Adams left for the Raiders despite the Packers matching that huge offer. Dude was on a championship contender and just had to get the hell out of Wisconsin. Why? In Adams’ place is a motley crew of rookies and veteran castoffs from other teams. Randall Cobb is a fan favorite, but his time has long passed. Sammy Watkins is a never was. As for the Packers' first and second-year WRs, we all know the disdain Rodgers has for them. Sure, he’s praised rookie Romeo Doubs, but he is the exception, not the norm. Just ask Amari Rodgers.
We are not going to spend too much time on this game, but know this. The Vikes are as talented as any team in the NFC. They have arguably the best wide receiver (Justin Jefferson) and running back (Dalvin Cook) in the NFL, as well as a capable, competent quarterback in Kirk Cousins. There are a dozen owners in this league that would sell their grandchildren for an offensive start like that. The number dictates the play here. We trust the Vikings are going to be ready to play. Recommendation: Minnesota +1½
Kansas City over Arizona +6
4:50 PM EST. Patrick Mahomes needs no introduction here, but the rest of the Chiefs offense minus Travis Kelce might. Out is Tyreek Hill, who bolted for the big money in Miami. In is Marquez Valdes-Scantling, formally of the Packers. That’s a downgrade. We are about to find out what happens when you take away one of the most dynamic wide receivers in the game from your franchise pivot.
We are going to move on right to the Cardinals because this is where this game gets interesting. For those that do not know, Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury was the man who recruited Mahmoes to Texas Tech and coached him there. Kingsbury knows Mahomes inside and out. He’s the one that arguably developed Patty into the player he is today. That might be laying it on a little thick, but you get our point.
The Cardinals’ stock is down for many reasons, most notable—injuries to their defense and the suspension of star WR DeAndre Hopkins, who is serving six games for PEDs. Those absences might be significant, but they have also no doubt been factored into a line that opened with the Chiefs spotting just a field goal in the desert. Now, this line has been inflated to the price you see today. The injury chasers are out. As an aside, the Chiefs have their own problems on defense and will be starting rookie Trent McDuffie at CB1, which will likely see him lined up across from Arizona’s newest speedster.
This is a “next man up” league. Rarely do we fear an injury or loss of any player. Even the starting QB. Last we checked though, Kyler Murray is upright and healthy and he’s got a new toy with the uber-fast Marquise “Hollywood” Brown coming over from Baltimore. Brown likely can’t wait to run in an offense that will allow him to show what he can do with a real quarterback that can air it out (full offense to Lamar Jackson). Brown is tailor-made for Kingsbury’s Air Raid. Run, Hollywood, run. Recommendation: Arizona +6
Las Vegas @ LA Chargers -3½
4:25 PM EST. “Hate Week” might not be what it used to be with both the Chargers and Raiders no longer residing in San Diego and Oakland, respectively, but this is still one of the more bitter rivalries around. The Raiders managed to write another chapter and pour a little fuel on that fire after sending the Chargers home packing with a playoff spot on the line in Week 17. Vegas would take a 35-32 win and head to the Wild Card round. The Chargers went golfing.
The bitter defeat might be a blessing in disguise for the Chargers. Vegas was only able to play one more week after dropping the Wild Card game to the Bengals. In the offseason, the Raiders cleaned house of their interim coaching staff and started anew with former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels taking over. Meanwhile, the Chargers are now in year two under Brandon Staley. L.A. arguably has the best offensive line in the AFC led by left tackle Rashawn Slater and center Corey Linsley—both Pro Bowlers last season. Staley has surrounded quarterback Josh Herbert (one of the best in the league) with a full complement of players to ensure his success.
The defense is included in that, as too many times last season, it was a unit that gave up big plays. In the offseason, the Chargers picked up Khalil Mack in a trade and then signed Pro Bowl cornerback J.C. Jackson. That’s a good start.
When one bets on sports, one always has to be acutely aware of the nhumber. The Chargers opened at -3½, which is what we call a favorite friendly number. The reason for that is because to the uninclined, taking back a “hook” (half point) on a key number like three is going to be an appealing play. Market perception is that this is going to be a heated, tightly played affair. That furthers the enticement of a price in this range. When one figures the pooch can win, those points are going to look mighty tasty. However, we do not see it that way.
The Raiders were lucky last season, the Chargers were very, very unlucky. The Chargers made some moves, but they didn’t make a splash as Vegas did with Devonte Adams. We’re going to trust the Chargers' steady hand approach and consistency on offense is going to suit us well in Week 1. LA is by far the better team here. In a few weeks, we’ll be looking back on this game and wondering how they could have been so short-priced. Recommendation: L.A. Chargers -3½
NY Giants @ Tennessee -5½
4:25 PM EST. Stop us if you’ve heard this one. The Giants are rebuilding. Again. This time it’s under Brian Daboll as head coach, who comes over from Buffalo. Daboll is a coaching vet and was actually with the Patriots way back in 2001 when Titans’ coach Mike Vrabel was a star linebacker. Daboll inherits a mess in Jersey, with the G-Men stuck in the swamp. Quarterback Daniel Jones, who we liked at Duke, has yet to find his footing.
Perhaps it’s not fair to criticize a three-year pivot, but unlike the old days, there is little time for development, and when one sees other, younger QBs finding success, that pressure to succeed becomes overwhelming. In Jones’ defense, he’s never had the chance to grow because the Giants change regimes with the season. Big Blue has burned through three general managers and eight head coaches over the last eight years. Unfortunately for Jones, the G-Men might be looking for a new quarterback, too, as they declined his fifth-year option for 2023. Dude is playing for his livelihood. That’s a lot of pressure.
The Titans have been a model franchise under Vrable, winning two straight AFC South titles and taking home the AFC’s top seed in 2021. The loss of WR AJ Brown will sting, but all reports say rookie Treylon Burks has all the tools to fill that role. The Titans also added Robers Woods from the Rams, who had got lost in the bromance between Matt Stafford and Cooper Kupp. Derek Henry figures to be healthy and ready to run behind an offensive line that features one of the best tackles in the game in Taylor Lewan. Right guard Nate Davis is pretty darn good, too.
Of the Super Bowl contenders this season, the Titans might be the least “sexy”. They don’t have a flashy, high-profile pivot and they lost his favorite target. We get it. That perception though just might have the defending AFC South champs undervalued and underappreciated. The loss to the Bengals last year has to sting. Blowing the #1 seed figures to be plenty of motivation to leave nothing on the table in 2022. These Titans are going to eat. Recommendation: Tennessee -5½
Tampa Bay @ Dallas +3
8:20. Does anybody really want to talk about this football game or should we focus on the big story—Tom & Gisele? Just kidding, you know what’s important to us.
So, Gisele isn’t going to be at the game Sunday night and everyone is rightfully freaking the f**k out. She’s been at every game Tommy Boy has played. We know because we watch and you can’t get away from here. She’s always up in the luxury suites, chomping popcorn and minding the children. If you’ve watched any Patriots or Buccaneers games from start to finish in the time they’ve been married, you know what we’re talking about. Gisele is easily the most recognizable “football wife” on the planet. She’s been with Tommy every step of the way. She’s put in her time. When her husband said he was going to retire to spend more time with their kids and help out more at home, so she could focus on her multi-million dollar modeling empire, she believed him. Women are funny.
It took Brady about two weeks of being home with the little brats before he had to get the f**k out of there. If you work on the road, maybe you’re a truck driver, work on the rigs or just have to commute for a few days a week, you know the feeling. It’s an itch you can’t scratch. Life at home is so much different than one on the road, regardless of profession. Football is no different.
Once you are forced to not only spend time with your family but play Mr. Mom, shit gets real. Real fast. Turns out taking the kids to school or picking them up from their activities isn’t very thrilling. Neither is having to feed, cloth, and clean up after the little buggers day in and day out. Have you seen kids today? They are very needy. In our day, your pop would give you a brick and a smack on the back of the head before kicking your ass outside until dinner. Where were we supposed to go? It didn’t matter as long as we weren’t in the way. Want to ride your bike two towns over? Cool. Play on the train tracks? No problem. Want to take the subway downtown? Here are two bits, and another smack. Now get the f**k out of my hair.
Alright, let’s get to the old man in the room. Tomas Edward Brady Jr. just turned 45 years old. In life, he’s still a pup, on the football field, he’s a f**king fossil. The decline for Brady may have started in 2020, but it was amplified last season. Dude looked every bit of the aged gunslinger that stayed one round too long at the OK Corral. Wisely, Brady retired. Unwisely, he unretired and created the mess off the field discussed above.
Brady is a brand and with that, he still has respect in this market. Memories are short. Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time, but he is not great anymore. Nobody that competes at the highest level of athletics is at their physical best the older they get. It’s the law of diminishing returns. Wayne Gretzky was pretty good, but if you slapped a pair of skates on #99 at the age of 45, slapped on the ass, and sent him out there, Wayner would've gotten eaten alive. Brady turned 45 in August. He’s supposed to be home with the kids.
The Cowboys are younger, hungrier, and arguably way more talented than these Buccaneers. We don’t have to list their stars. You know who they are. If Week 1, there are bound to be some bad numbers posted. We don’t know anything about these teams other than what the analytics, prognostications, and preseason tell us. The Cowboys have been perennial underachievers, they are a team the market loves to hate. That hate will grow once the ‘Boys knock Brady on his ass and make him wish he was in his easy chair. Recommendation: Dallas +3
Leans & analysis (Risking 0 units - To Win: 0.00)