The Jets are going to be a tough watch this year. I’m rooting for the tank as much as anyone, but suffering through a quarterback carousel that features Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, and Christian Hackenberg is going to be brutal. Having said this, I thought it’d be fun to write a weekly column where I give my five best NFL picks against the spread. Feel free to send me any insults and/or death threats when I inevitably go 0-5.
Philadelphia -1 at Washington
The Eagles are my sleeper team to surprise people and make a serious run at the playoffs in 2017. Although Philadelphia lost to Washington twice last season, both contests were competitive, one score games. With their offensive line fully intact and the weapons they added this offseason, I think Carson Wentz is due for a breakout year. Not only is the offense improved, but the defense could potentially be as good, if not better than it was last season. The unit finished 4th in defensive DVOA in 2016, and they just added Ronald Darby, Chris Long, Tim Jernigan, and Derek Barnett. In my opinion, Philadelphia is the better team in this game, and they only have to lay one point. I think the Eagles take care of business on the road and win 27-21.
Tennessee -2.5 vs. Oakland
Outside of New England, Oakland seems to be the popular pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this year. With Derek Carr, Beast Mode, and Amari Cooper, the Raiders will certainly be fun to watch, but I’m not sure they are good enough to duplicate the success they had from last year. Oakland had nine games in 2016 that were decided by a touchdown or less, and the team went 8-1. In 2017, I’m not sure their defense will be as capable of protecting a lead in one score games. Tennessee, on the other hand, is an ascending team. With the additions of Corey Davis and Eric Decker, the Titans offense can make a real jump to be one of the top units in the league. I think this game is a shootout, but ultimately Oakland’s defense won’t be enough to stop Mariota and the Titans. I’ll take Tennessee to win 28-24.
LA Rams -3.5 vs. Indianapolis
I normally wouldn’t be thrilled about laying points with Jared Goff, but it feels like a safe bet against this banged up Colts team. Andrew Luck is out, and to label Scott Tolzien as a significant downgrade at QB would be an understatement. Additionally, Vontae Davis and Ryan Kelly have been held out of practices lately due to injuries, and their status for Sunday’s game is in question. Even with Aaron Donald holding out, the Rams defense is still going to be solid, especially with newly hired Wade Phillips as the defensive coordinator. On offense, Todd Gurley could have a monster game against the subpar Colts front. He’ll take the pressure off Goff, who finally has some nice weapons to throw to in Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp. It might not be pretty, but the Rams are healthy and have the better roster in this matchup. I expect them to win their home opener comfortably 20-10.
Seattle +3 at Green Bay
The Seahawks are absolutely loaded this year. Yes, their offensive line is a weakness, but with Russell Wilson fully healthy, the unit will be just fine. Seattle’s defense, however, will be more than just fine, and it has the potential to be the best in the league. When Earl Thomas got injured last season, the Seahawks lost their leader in the secondary and the defense was never the same. Now, the Legion of Boom is healthy, and the Seahawks just added Sheldon Richardson to what was already one of the best front sevens in the NFL. Playing in Green Bay is always difficult, but I think Seattle’s pass rush is going to give Aaron Rodgers problems. After getting blown out by the Packers last season, I like the revenge angle for the Seahawks in this one. Seattle wins in a close game, 26-24.
LA Chargers +3.5 at Denver
These two teams feel very similar, so I’m just going to take the points in this matchup. Everyone knows how good the Broncos defense is, but Joey Bosa’s emergence last season made the Chargers defense a real threat. Between Bosa and Melvin Ingram, the LA pass rush should have no problem getting past a mediocre Denver offensive line. Another issue for the Broncos is the questionable status for Demaryius Thomas, who has been dealing with a groin injury. I think the Chargers defense and run game can keep this game close enough to cover the spread, but ultimately the Broncos hold on to win 21-20.
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