The NFL is back folks. I’m happy to be entering my third year doing this column here at Aaron Torres Online. I am just excited to have football back. I released my first power ratings article on Thursday. We still have picks during the week.
The column this year is mostly going to feature at least five picks every week. We will have in depth previews on all of them. Things have been crazy for me over the past month. We have a new betting partner AT Online, Betfred Sportsbook, which we are thrilled to be working with.
Before we get to the picks, let's get to a few Week 1 trends.
Trends to Watch Week 1:
Betting the Underdogs:
Underdogs tend to have more value in the beginning of the season. Every team has hope, belief, and solid expectations. I think bad results are heavily weighted from the season before. We don’t get to value the improvement teams make over the course of the offseason. I really like backing teams that have a continuation with the coaching staff or the quarterback. Since 2011, teams that failed to make the postseason and are underdogs in Week 1 are 76-54-2 ATS (58.5 percent). Underdogs of six or more points in general are 43-27 ATS since 2005.
Another trend to consider first year head coaches are 7-16 ATS (30.4 percent) during the last four seasons.
Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers
Spread: Pick 'em
Everyone loves a great revenge narrative. What are the odds Baker Mayfield plays his first game in Carolina against his former team? I think Carolina is a great spot for Mayfield, and their offense fits his style of play. To start, Mayfield will be better because he is simply healthier. Mayfield played all of last season with a bad shoulder. Carolina likes to vertically stretch the field, something Mayfield has been very good at. When healthy Mayfield has had top five passing grades on throws 20 yards are more. Cleveland didn’t have a deep vertical threat. Mayfield now has two of them with DJ Moore and Robby Anderson.
Offensively for the Browns, they will be limited with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. Carolina's defensive unit will be one of the most improved units in the entire league. They get first round pick Jaycee Horn back from injury. Guys like Derrick Brown, Shaq Thompson and Brian Burns are very promising talents in the front seven. The only thing I worry about is Browns defensive end Myles Garrett’s matchup against Carolina’s rookie left tackle. I think Carolina will overcome that and Baker does just enough to lead Carolina to a week one win.
The pick: Carolina (-105)
San Francisco at Chicago
Spread: San Francisco (-6.5)
I think this is a great spot for Chicago. The Bears have talent, yet it is unproven. Like I said in my power rankings, the 49ers are built like an old school F-150 Raptor. Big and physical on both fronts. They have an elite running game, electric weapons on the outside, and they have an amazing pass rush. The only problem, they have a young teenager behind the wheel. Young Trey Lance has less than 25 career starts at QB dating back to college. When you give an inexperienced kid the wheels of a monster 100k truck, they tend to have trouble controlling the damn thing. I just don’t trust Trey Lance on the road in this spot. Chicago’s entire team has something to prove. Give me Chicago to keep it within one possession here.
The pick: Chicago +6.5
New Orleans at Atlanta
Spread: New Orleans (-5.5)
I'd really prefer to take Atlanta, but for the sake of time, I will still take the Falcons at 5.5. Atlanta lost their final regular season game to these Saints. When Atlanta wasn’t facing elite competition, they were pretty good. Marcus Mariota is a serviceable quarterback. Arthur Smith will focus on running the ball and controlling the clock.
Meanwhile, in New Orleans, Jameis Winston has been known to be unreliable on the road. Backing division underdogs in week one has been very profitable (58-36-2 ATS since 2005. While I don’t like blindly betting trends, I like the spot. New Orleans could be looking ahead to a week 2 home showdown against Tampa Bay. I’ll take Atlanta here to keep it close.
The Pick: Atlanta +5.5
Kansas City at Arizona
Spread: Kansas City (-6)
This line has steamed from KC -3 all the way to six. To be honest, I like Arizona in this spot to begin the season. KC lost their best offensive weapon and their main leader on the defensive side of the ball. Arizona will be without DeAndre Hopkins, but their addition of Kyler Murray’s former college teammate Marquise Brown will pay dividends.
KC’s pass rush struggled last year, and that is a problem when facing Kyler Murray. This Arizona team always plays with a sense of urgency in the beginning of the season. Arizona is a tough place to play at. I’ll continue to ride with the underdog trend and take Arizona here.
The Pick: Arizona (+6)
Sunday Night: Tampa Bay at Dallas
Spread: Tampa Bay (-2.5)
Has Tom Brady ever been distracted going into a football game? If he hasn’t before, I think he may now. Brady had to take a two-week absence at the beginning of training camp. Now there are tabloid reports that Brady took that leave because he was having issues in his marriage. There is a new change in Tampa with Todd Bowles being promoted to head coach. Tampa’s offensive line is thin and they will be missing Chris Godwin in this contest.
Dallas is one of the few division contenders that got worse in the offseason. I do think the players there know it’s one of their last rides. Put simply, Mike McCarthy needs to win at least one playoff game to keep his job. Dak Prescott needs to show he is worth the money.
Dallas will be able to exploit Tampa’s secondary like they did in last year’s matchup. I think Dallas, and maybe will win outright. I'll stick with the Cowboys and the points however.
The Pick: Dallas (+2.5)
Denver at Seattle
Spread: Denver (-6.5)
The Seattle Seahawks kick off their 2022 NFL season against the Denver Broncos and a familiar face from Lumen Field on Monday night. Russell Wilson plays his first game as a Bronco in the same place he called home over the last decade. It will be an emotional night. There are tons of expectations for Wilson now. Emotions will be riding high for both sides. The stories write themselves here.
Bluntly, Denver is the better team, and they should run away with this one. Seattle has two starting rookie tackles; the secondary and pass rush are lacking. Their former best player is suiting up for the other side.
However, all the historical trends just line up for Seattle here. They are a home underdog playing against a team with a new coach and new quarterback. This whole Seattle team will be motivated to show up Russell Wilson, especially the defensive side of the football. The atmosphere is going to be bonkers. Seattle has a recipe to control the game by running the football with Rashad Penny. Penny averaged over 5 yards per carry over the final month of the season. He will take pressure off Geno Smith. Wilson plays overly emotional, making a couple early mistakes to give Seattle a lead. Then in Wilson fashion, leads a miraculous comeback
from behind. Denver wins but fails to cover the number.
Give me Seattle and the points in what is going to be a wildly entertaining affair.
The pick: Seattle +6.5
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For more on the entire Week 1 slate visit Betfredsports.com