2021 NFL Schedule: Week 1 Lines, Predictions & Early Betting Picks
Even before the NFL officially announced the 2021 regular season schedule Wednesday night, online sportsbooks already began posting NFL Week 1 betting lines. Bettors will get their first taste of action Thursday, Sept. 9, as the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday Night Football. Here’s a look at all of the Week 1 odds and matchups, plus some early NFL predictions and betting tips.
2021 NFL Week 1 Lines & Betting Picks
Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers -6.5, O/U 52
Dak Prescott returns from his season-ending ankle injury and Tom Brady returns from his seventh Super Bowl victory. Money appears to already be coming in on the Bucs in this Week 1 mathcups, as some sportsbooks opened the Buccaneers as 6-point favorites before moving the line to TB -6.5 across the industry. I’m typically wary of Super Bowl hangovers, but I suspect a Brady-led locker room will be immune. More so than the possibility of Super Bowl-induced hangover, NFL bettors should watch out for the Dallas Cowboys, who enter their second year under head coach Mike McCarthy. The Cowboys offense was efficient early last season, but they just didn’t have a defense that could keep their opponents from find the end zone. The receiving core should be even better this year, as CeeDee Lamb will benefit from a season’s worth of experience. The Cowboys will surprise a lot of people, including those betting on the Bucs here. I’ll be taking the points, but I won’t be surprised if the Cowboys win this one outright.
Week 1 Pick: Cowboys +6.5
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans -2.5, O/U 45.5
Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence both make their NFL debuts, but the biggest question surrounding the Jaguars (at least in RotoGrinders’ slack channel) is whether Tim Tebow will make the Week 1 roster. The Jaguars recently signed Tebow as a tight end, and DraftKings Sportsbook was quick to open a receiving prop for the 33-year-old: Over/Under 12.5 regular-season receiving yards. Basically you’re betting on whether Tebow will make the team. But hey, that’s neither here nor there. Let’s talk about this Week 1 spread, which makes Lawrence and the Jaguars only 2.5-point underdogs in Houston. With DeShaun Watson future in question, it appears either Tyrod Taylor or Ryan Finley will get the start for the Texans. Taylor or Finley versus a rookie quarterback, even if it’s one of the best quarterback prospects possibly ever — I’m taking the Under.
Week 1 Pick: Under 45.5
Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills -6, O/U 50.5
Josh Allen opens the season in front of Bills Mafia. Allen, only 24, comes off his best year yet, throwing for 37 touchdowns and more than 4500 yards while adding eight more touchdowns on the ground. There’s no doubt the young quarterback enters 2021 as a serious contender to win NFL MVP. In fact, only two quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers, sit ahead of Allen in the NFL MVP betting market. Allen’s presence gives Bills Mafia hope to win the Super Bowl, too. Their Super Bowl odds are the third-shortest on the board. Meanwhile, at 50-1 to win the Super Bowl, no one really knows what to think of the Pittsburgh Steelers and 39-year-old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers somehow started last season 11-0 before losing five of their last six games, including back-to-back games to the Cleveland Browns. The Week 1 line is fair, but I’m inclined to lay the points.
NFL Week 1 Pick: Bills -6
New York Jets at Carolina Panthers -4.5, O/U 43.5
NFL schedule makers wasted no time in giving Sam Darnold his revenge game. The Jets traded Darnold to the Panthers in the offseason and then used the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft to select his successor, Zach Wilson out of BYU. Wilson is a dual-threat quarterback and arguably the best Rookie of the Year bet; however, excited to see Darnold with offensive guru Joe Brady, I’m backing the revenge narrative and the Over. Darnold has had some big games and pairing him with Brady could give both Darnold and the Panthers’ offense new life.
NFL Week 1 Pick: Panthers -4.5; OVER 43.5
Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans -2.5, O/U 51
The Cardinals improved to 8-8 in 2020 thanks to some stellar play from Kyler Murray, but head coach Kliff Kingsbury continues to hold this team back with sub-optimal coaching decisions. Kingsbury is a coach I will be fading more often than not, and that’s true for this Week 1 matchup against the Tennessee Titans.
NFL Week 1 Pick: Titans -2.5
LA Chargers at Washington Football Team +1, O/U 44.5
The Washington Football Team signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to a short-term deal during the offseason. The gunslinger gives Washington a solid foundation and should help receiver Terry McClaurin put up some huge numbers. Still, I’m not sure they’re ready to go toe-to-toe with the Chargers, led by reigning Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert and defensive end Joey Bosa.
Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals +3, O/U 47.5
Bengals fans are hopeful that they’ll see Joe Burrow for the first time since Week 11 when kick off the season against the Vikings. That may very well be the case, as Burrow was seen dropping back and throwing passes recently, but I still need more information about Burrow’s recovery before locking in a bet against the spread or on the point total.
NFL Week 1 Pick: Pass
San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions +7.5, O/U 46
This is another game that we need more information for placing any wagers. In all likelihood, it will be Jimmy Garoppolo, not Trey Lance, who gets the Week 1 start, but it’s no certainty. In Detroit, the Lions ended the Matt Stafford era when they traded the veteran quarterback for Jared Goff and a handful of draft picks. The Lions are rebuilding, but it wouldn’t shock me if we see a backdoor cover against the 49ers. The Lions are extremely thin at the wide receiver position, though, and they’re going to have difficulty scoring points. Combine that with 49ers’ current QB situation, and I’m happy to bet the Under.
NFL Week 1 Pick: Under 46
Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons -3.5, O/U 46.5
Julio Jones trade discussions are reportedly still taking place, but that doesn’t keep oddsmakers from making the Atlanta Falcons 3.5-point favorites as they host the Philadelphia Eagles inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium. With or without Julio, this is going to be the most popular game to stack for NFL DFS. So who will come out on top in the battle of the birds? Both teams have new head coaches and are ready to bounce back after a pair of disappointing seasons, but someone has to lose in Week 1. Luckily I don’t have to make that decision yet. I’ll wait until we know what jersey Jones will be wearing.
NFL Week 1 Pick: Pass
Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts -2.5,
The Seattle Seahawks and Russell Wilson had their fair share of drama during the offseason, but all seems ok in Seattle at this point. With Wilson at the helm and D.K. Metcalf catching passes, the Seahawks will have a potent offense that can beat defenses over the top. In Indianapolis, Carson Wentz gets a second chance and hopes to return to MVP form. That’s a big request, however. My expectations are much lower for Wentz, who was ultimately benched in Philadelphia for rookie Jalen Hurts. I don’t have a lot of faith in Wentz, which is why I like the Seahawks as road underdogs in Week 1.
Week 1 Pick: Seahawks +2.5
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs -5.5, O/U 52.5
If you read many of my columns last year, then you won’t be surprised to hear I’m taking the Chiefs -5.5 and that it’s my favorite NFL Week 1 betting pick of the slate. The Chiefs started 2020 6-2 against the spread before going 2-9 ATS in their final 11 games (playoffs included). In 2019, the Chiefs stormed out of the gates to cover their first three games, and the year before that, 2018, they started the season by covering the number in eight consecutive games. I point all that out because I believe the Chiefs are a great team to bet early in the schedule, but not so great to bet later on. See, Kansas City comes out hot, gets a comfortable lead in the standings, and then puts away their tricks as they preserve themselves for the playoffs. Rinse and repeat. The three-headed monster made of Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill is surely hungry after an embarrassing loss in the Super Bowl. As such, I expect them to feast on the Browns during the season opener. If there’s one bet to lock in now, I say it’s this one.
NFL Week 1 Pick: Chiefs -5.5
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots -2, O/U 45.5
The New England Patriots extended Cam Newton another year but drafted Alabama quarterback Mac Jones in Round 1. Who will start in Week 1? Who knows. The Dolphins are a solid team, both defensively and offensively, though the latter’s production largely hinges on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. If he exceeds expectations, don’t be surprised if it’s the Dolphins, not the Bills, who win the AFC East. Of course, for their division title hopes to come to fruition, they need to win go to Foxborough and win outright. I’m betting they do just that.
NFL Pick: Dolphins ML +115
Denver Broncos at New York Giants +1.5, O/U 42.5
Oddsmakers took extra time before posting a line for this matchup and the one below, presumably because we still don’t know where Aaron Rodgers will be come Week 1. If he’s not a Packer, then Denver sounds like the most plausible destination for the reigning NFL MVP. However, I think the Broncos can cover this spread without him. If they acquire Rodgers, they become ever larger favorites. With that said, I don’t hate locking in the Broncos -1.5 right now.
NFL Week 1 Pick: Broncos -1.5
Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints +3, O/U 45
I’m not expecting any clarity about the Rodgers situation until after June 1, and as a disgruntled Packers fan I have very little interest in thinking about Packers football until I’m assured of Rodgers’ return. Judging by this Week 1 line, it’s apparent oddsmakers think Rodgers is as good as gone, which doesn’t make me feel very, er, assured. There’s also murkiness in the bayou, as Saints head coach Sean Payton has a quarterback decision to make following the retirement of Drew Brees: start Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston? Whatever the case, I’m going to pass until hopefully the Packers and Rodgers work out their issues.
NFL Week 1 Pick: Pass
Week 1 SNF & MNF Lines
Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams -7, O/U 45
Oddsmakers are fully aware that the Rams defense will be a lot for either Andy Dalton or rookie Justin Fields to handle. After all, the Rams led the NFL in scoring defense and total defense, allowing merely 18.5 points and 282 yards per game, respectively. The Rams offense should get a boost this year thanks to the arrival of Matthew Stafford. This game is interesting, but it’s not so interesting that I can’t wait to see how things go on the first NFL Sunday of the season.
NFL Week 1 Pick: Pass
Baltimore Ravens at Oakland Raiders +4, O/U 51
Ok, this game is a little more interesting, at least for my NFL betting purposes. I’m still a believer in Lamar Jackson despite some of his struggles in 2020. The Ravens did add depth at receiver by snagging Sammy Watkins, and Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews should be ready to have their best seasons yet. As for Las Vegas, I’m no believer in Jon Gruden or Derek Carr. Yes, they have some big playmakers on offense, like Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller, Henry Ruggs, and now John Brown, but the Ravens defense was one of the best defenses in 2020. Don’t expect that to change.
NFL Week 1 Pick: Ravens -4