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Rick Osentoski/Associated Press
Just like that, the 2020 NFL regular season is 6.3 percent complete. And our experts are off to a potentially lucrative start.
B/R NFL correspondents Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon, Kalyn Kahler, Matt Miller, Brent Sobleski and Master Tesfatsion didn’t let you down during the first week of the NFL season, as every writer posted a winning record picking games against the spread.
Here’s where they stand.
1. Davenport: 11-4-1
T-2. Gagnon: 9-6-1
T-2. Kahler: 9-6-1
T-2. Sobleski: 9-6-1
T-5. Miller: 8-7-1
T-5. Tesfatsion: 8-7-1
Consensus picks: 9-5
Here’s their attempt at an encore.
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Aaron Doster/Associated Press
DraftKings Line: Cleveland -6
The Cleveland Browns once again underachieved in a season-opening blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens, while the Cincinnati Bengals battled hard in a relatively impressive debut for new franchise quarterback Joe Burrow in a close loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
With that in mind, only two members of our six-person crew are willing to lay nearly a touchdown in favor of the Browns when Cleveland and Cincinnati meet on Thursday Night Football.
“Can someone please explain to me what we saw during Week 1 that would lead any rational person to lay almost a touchdown with the Browns?” Davenport asked. “The Bengals weren’t great in their loss to the Chargers, but they at least showed something. The Browns were awful in just about every way imaginable against the Ravens. It wouldn’t surprise me if Burrow and the Bengals win this game outright.”
Both teams are dealing with challenging offensive changes after limited offseasons, and both are facing tough injuries (tight end David Njoku and wide receiver Jarvis Landry for Cleveland and defensive tackles Geno Atkins and Mike Daniels for Cincy). But a much worse Bengals team outscored the Browns in last year’s season series, so it’s easy to envision a close game here.
Consensus: Cincinnati +6
Score Prediction: Browns 23, Bengals 20
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Scot Tucker/Associated Press
DraftKings Line: San Francisco -7
Four out of five members of the public and five out of six Bleacher Report NFL experts are either convinced the San Francisco 49ers can bounce back strong from a disappointing Week 1 loss to the Arizona Cardinals or the lifeless New York Jets will be trampled on all season. Or both.
Regardless, there’s a heavy sentiment that the 49ers can cover a seven-point spread with no fans in the stands for Gang Green’s home opener Sunday afternoon.
“The Jets offensive line couldn’t block the Buffalo Bills defensive line, so why would anything be different here with 49ers pass-rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford?” Kahler said. “According to Next Gen Stats, the Jets’ brand-new O-line allowed a pressure rate of 44.7 percent in Week 1, the highest of any team.
“Quarterback Sam Darnold was sacked three times and regularly pushed out of the pocket, and the run game got nothing going—52 yards on 15 carries and no touchdowns. The 49ers defensive line is one of the best in the league, so this spread would have to be a lot bigger to consider taking the Jets.”
The Jets hardly showed up in Buffalo. Their defense has been gutted, and their depleted offense is in shambles. The 49ers have also been hit hard by injuries, but this is a well-coached team coming off a Super Bowl appearance. They’ll probably look to make a statement on both sides of the ball following a tough loss to the Cardinals.
Davenport: San Francisco
Gagnon: New York
Kahler: San Francisco
Miller: San Francisco
Sobleski: San Francisco
Tesfatsion: San Francisco
Consensus: San Francisco -7
Score Prediction: 49ers 27, Jets 16
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Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press
DraftKings Line: Buffalo -5.5
It’s always tempting to fade a big public favorite like the Bills, especially when they’re laying 5.5 points against an improving division rival. Buffalo can be unpredictable, while the Miami Dolphins will at least have some fans in the crowd for their home opener Sunday.
But the Bills beat the Dolphins by double-digit margins in each of their 2019 meetings and have defeated them by at least six points in five of their last six matchups. As such, our writers are almost unanimously sticking with Sean McDermott’s squad.
“It may be a little too early to buy into the Josh Allen hype, but there’s no denying the Bills are a good all-around squad with what looks like improved quarterback play behind center,” Sobleski said. “The same can’t be said about the Dolphins, where the bad Ryan Fitzpatrick showed up last week against the New England Patriots. The Bills’ secondary is every bit as good as New England’s. Buffalo’s continued growth should come to the forefront by winning a game it’s supposed to win, and decidedly so.”
The rebuilding Dolphins look as though they’ll need more time to find their footing, while the Bills have failed to cover the spread only five times over their last 19 games. Don’t overthink this one.
Consensus: Buffalo -5.5
Score Prediction: Bills 27, Dolphins 14
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Paul Sancya/Associated Press
DraftKings Line: Green Bay -6
Once again, our NFL analysts are riding with the heavy public favorite in backing the Green Bay Packers minus six points in their home opener against the Detroit Lions.
“This one is easy, as Aaron Rodgers again proved against the Minnesota Vikings that he doesn’t need first-round wide receivers around him to be elite,” Miller said. “Rodgers is playing at an MVP level, and the Packers have one of the best pass-rushing duos in the league. The Lions are coming off a dropped pass that could have won Week 1, and I expect that to haunt them this week.”
The mental game definitely favors the Packers considering how inspired Rodgers looks, while the game-crushing drop from rookie running back D’Andre Swift could have the Lions bummed out.
But what really might have Detroit down and out is the fact key players Kenny Golladay (hamstring), Desmond Trufant (hamstring), Halapoulivaati Vaitai (foot) and Justin Coleman (hamstring) are hurt. Those injuries in the secondary could be especially problematic considering what Rodgers did to Minnesota’s weak defensive backfield last Sunday. And while highly touted rookie cornerback Jeff Okudah might make his debut for Detroit, nobody knows what to expect from him in this spot.
The Packers have failed to beat the Lions by more than three points in each of their last six meetings, but those dynamics might be a reason why Green Bay is laying only six points at home in this spot. Our group expects the Packers to blow up that trend Sunday.
Davenport: Green Bay
Gagnon: Green Bay
Kahler: Green Bay
Miller: Green Bay
Sobleski: Green Bay
Tesfatsion: Green Bay
Consensus: Green Bay -6
Score Prediction: Packers 31, Lions 20
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Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
DraftKings Line: Los Angeles -1
“The Los Angeles Rams looked better in Week 1 than I expected,” Davenport said. “They played a solid game on both sides of the ball to break in their new stadium in style. The Philadelphia Eagles, on the other hand, would desperately like a mulligan after blowing a 17-point lead in Washington. The Eagles are just too banged up on both sides of the ball right now for me to pick them against a good team, even in a backs-against-the wall situation at home.”
The injuries are indeed daunting for Philadelphia. They’re already without offensive linemen Andre Dillard and Brandon Brooks, while right tackle Lane Johnson has an ankle injury, veteran Jason Peters has an injured knee, top running back Miles Sanders is trying to get over a balky hamstring, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is still sidelined with a foot injury, and defensive linemen Brandon Graham (concussion), Derek Barnett (hamstring) and Javon Hargrave (pec and hammy) are also on the injury report.
The Rams might not be totally trustworthy based only on one strong showing against the Dallas Cowboys, but head coach Sean McVay should scheme up many ways for his offense to exploit the injury-ravaged Eagles. Plus, Aaron Donald likely checked out the tape of what Washington’s defensive front did to generate eight sacks on Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz in Week 1.
“I usually like home underdogs, but not this one,” Davenport added.
The public feels the same. It is betting heavily on L.A. to move to 2-0 and send Philly to 0-2 in front of 69,176 empty seats at Lincoln Financial Field.
Davenport: Los Angeles
Kahler: Los Angeles
Miller: Los Angeles
Sobleski: Los Angeles
Tesfatsion: Los Angeles
Consensus: Los Angeles -1
Score Prediction: Rams 26, Eagles 20
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Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
DraftKings Line: Indianapolis -3
Nearly our entire crew is also on board with the public’s heavy preference in the Minnesota Vikings, who are getting three points from an Indianapolis Colts squad that embarrassed itself in a Week 1 loss to the depleted Jacksonville Jaguars.
“This isn’t an easy game to pick, largely because both teams entered the season with significant expectations only to completely faceplant in Week 1,” Davenport noted. “The Vikings got shredded at home by the Packers, while the Colts were stunned by the Jaguars in Jacksonville.
“At the end of the day, this contest could come down to the two quarterbacks. While Kirk Cousins is no superstar, he looked a lot better last week than Philip Rivers. The Vikings should win this game outright, so getting the three-point cushion is just gravy.”
The Minnesota secondary is in transition, but a declining, mistake-prone Rivers might have more trouble exploiting that than Rodgers after he threw two picks and posted a sub-90 passer rating in his Colts debut.
Both of these teams are better than their Week 1 results would lead you to believe, but only Minnesota won a playoff game last season, and the Vikes should benefit from having far more continuity than Indy.
Why not put those three points in your back pocket?
Consensus: Minnesota +3
Score Prediction: Vikings 24, Colts 23
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Brett Duke/Associated Press
DraftKings Line: Tampa Bay -9.5
Vegas and the betting public aren’t giving up on Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are laying almost 10 points in their home opener against a rebuilding Carolina Panthers team that put up a fight in Week 1 despite undergoing a multitude of offensive changes.
Our panel is split down the middle on whether the Bucs are worthy of that number. They largely looked out of sync in Brady’s debut, but they were facing much stiffer competition against the New Orleans Saints.
Still, Gagnon isn’t buying it.
“Is this line a joke?” he said. “Brady looks close to shot at 43. He’s won only four of his last 10 games, just one of which came by more than seven points. I understand that the Panthers are a work in progress, especially on defense, but can this version of Brady really take advantage of that? With Mike Evans less than 100 percent, Chris Godwin now dealing with a concussion and left tackle Donovan Smith working through an ankle injury, I wouldn’t count on it.”
On one hand, Tampa Bay’s playmaker-loaded defense is likely to pose a much larger challenge to Carolina than the Las Vegas Raiders D did last week when the Panthers put up 30 points. That unit limited Alvin Kamara on the ground in Week 1 and held Christian McCaffrey to only 68 yards on 38 carries in the two 2019 meetings between these two.
On the other hand, Bridgewater lit up these Bucs with 314 yards and four touchdowns when he faced them in relief of an injured Drew Brees last season.
In other words, this might be one to avoid if you can do so.
Davenport: Tampa Bay
Miller: Tampa Bay
Sobleski: Tampa Bay
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 27, Panthers 17
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John Bazemore/Associated Press
DraftKings Line: Dallas -4.5
“I’ve been burned by the Atlanta Falcons time and again,” Gagnon said of his decision to reluctantly side with Atlanta plus 4.5 points Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. “But betting emotionally is dangerous. The reality is that the oddsmakers have accounted for the Falcons’ vulnerabilities, and we have to try to look past Atlanta’s habit of kicking bettors in the molars.”
He’s joining three of our writers on the Falcons mainly because of the state of the Dallas injury report. Offensive tackle Cam Erving has joined La’el Collins on injured reserve, and that unit already faced potential issues following star center Travis Frederick’s retirement.
An Atlanta defensive front that was a pleasant surprise with three sacks and 10 quarterback hits in the season opener could have a chance to do some serious damage there, while fresh injuries to Dallas linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee should put even more pressure on a back seven that struggled in a Week 1 loss to the Rams.
Neither team looks trustworthy coming out of Week 1, but the key matchups based on injuries certainly appear to favor Atlanta. With 4.5 points on your side, that makes the Falcons a tempting bet. Keep in mind that this team didn’t change much after going 6-2 during the second half of the 2019 campaign.
“I wouldn’t spend a dollar on either of these teams this weekend,” Gagnon cautioned. “But that doesn’t change the fact the Falcons are the safer bet right now.”
Consensus: Atlanta +4.5
Score Prediction: Cowboys 28, Falcons 27
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Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press
DraftKings Line: Tennessee -9
Do you believe in (Minshew) magic? The vast majority of the public and all but one of our writers feel strongly enough about Gardner Minshew II’s sophomore debut that they aren’t willing to lay well over a touchdown in favor of the Tennessee Titans this weekend.
“It’s impossible to know after one game whether the Jaguars’ upset of the Colts was a miracle fluke, or if Minshew is going to be that efficient on a consistent basis,” Kahler said. “But the Titans are coming off an ugly road win, and this spread seems too high to pick the Titans in this case.”
Indeed, the Titans and Denver Broncos made a lot of mistakes Monday night in Colorado. Now, the Titans are returning home on short rest for a home opener in front of nobody (or one lucky couple) against a team that has nothing but good vibes after Minshew completed 19 of 20 passes in an upset Week 1 victory over the Colts.
Throw in that Corey Davis (hamstring), Kenny Vaccaro (illness), Vic Beasley Jr. (knee), A.J. Brown (knee), and Jadeveon Clowney (hip) are all hurting for the Titans, and this seems like a no-brainer.
Kahler also notes that when a team is laying that many points, the margin for error is so high that a struggling placekicker becomes a major deterrent.
“Titans kicker Stephen Gostkowski is a real concern here,” she said. “He left 10 points on the board for the Titans on Monday night before redeeming himself with the game-winner. Knowing those struggles on points that should be gimmes, I don’t see how you could pick the Titans here.”
Consensus: Jacksonville +9
Score Prediction: Jaguars 21, Titans 20
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Justin Edmonds/Associated Press
DraftKings Line: Pittsburgh -7.5
The other team from that late Monday night mess has to travel to play the seemingly rejuvenated Pittsburgh Steelers on short rest on the road, but the majority of our writers at least feel the Broncos can bounce back to enough of an extent to lose by a touchdown or less Sunday at Heinz Field.
“I really liked what I saw from the Denver offense for much of the night against a pretty strong Tennessee defense,” Gagnon said. “The Steelers admittedly present an entirely different challenge on that side of the ball, but the New York Giants defense wasn’t a great litmus test for a post-injury Ben Roethlisberger and Co.”
The Broncos are extremely banged up following the loss of Von Miller and more recent injuries suffered by starters Courtland Sutton, Phillip Lindsay and A.J. Bouye. But their offensive backfield is deep, they could get Sutton back this week and rookie second-rounder KJ Hamler has a chance to make his debut as well.
The Steelers were already without strong vet David DeCastro before losing starting offensive lineman Zach Banner to a season-ending knee injury Sunday, and key offensive players James Conner (ankle), Diontae Johnson (toe), JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee), Alejandro Villanueva (illness) and Stefen Wisniewski (chest) all missed practice time Wednesday.
“The Steelers’ bread and butter is forcing turnovers, but rising Broncos quarterback Drew Lock hasn’t thrown an interception on any of his last 112 passes,” Gagnon added. “Throw in Denver’s still-talented defensive front and the state of Pittsburgh’s offensive line, and this isn’t a great matchup for a heavy favorite that will be playing in front of no fans.”
Consensus: Denver +7.5
Score Prediction: Steelers 24, Broncos 10
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Seth Wenig/Associated Press
DraftKings Line: Chicago -5.5
As for the team that the Steelers picked apart Monday night, our crew is confident the New York Giants can rebound from a poor Week 1 showing against a Chicago Bears team that probably shouldn’t be laying more than five points against anybody in a fan-free home stadium.
“If this were straight up, I’d take the Bears to win,” Miller said. “But when factoring in spreads, the Giants are good enough to close the 5.5-point difference. Quarterback Daniel Jones looked very good outside of a few mistakes Monday night against Pittsburgh, and the Giants have the talent to keep this one closer than most expect (including Vegas).”
One factor to consider: Where would this line stand had the Bears not rallied back to beat the untrustworthy Detroit Lions? That comeback counts for something, but can you count on it again? Through three quarters last week, the Bears trailed the Lions 23-6. At that point, Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was 12-for-26 with 153 yards and a 65.1 passer rating, and the offense had averaged only 4.4 yards per play.
The Bears have Detroit’s number, but now a depleted defense has to deal with Jones and Saquon Barkley, who should be fired up following a rough outing against the mighty Pittsburgh D. With top Chicago pass-rushers Khalil Mack (knee) and Robert Quinn (ankle) both nursing injuries as well, this has the look of a close game.
Davenport: New York
Gagnon: New York
Kahler: New York
Miller: New York
Sobleski: New York
Consensus: New York +5.5
Score Prediction: Giants 21, Bears 20
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Scot Tucker/Associated Press
DraftKings Line: Arizona -6.5
The Washington Football Team pulled off a stunning comeback with 27 unanswered points against the Philadelphia Eagles, but that apparently wasn’t convincing enough for the majority of our experts to back the WFT with 6.5 points on its side Sunday against the much-buzzed-about Arizona Cardinals.
“Washington won’t have the same advantage it had against the Eagles when it faces the Cardinals,” Sobleski said. “First, the Cardinals offensive line isn’t in tatters. Second, Kyler Murray is far more mobile and dynamic working in space compared to Carson Wentz. As such, the Cards will neutralize Washington’s impressive front, and Arizona is further along in the other phases of the game.”
The vibe surrounding Washington might understandably cause you to shy away from laying nearly a touchdown, but it should indeed be more difficult for that defensive front to break through as frequently as it did when it sacked Wentz eight times.
And while the Dwayne Haskins Jr.-led Washington offense has flashed in each of his last three starts, the underrated Arizona defense allowed only 18 first downs and two third-down conversions while holding the defending NFC champions to 20 points in Week 1.
In almost every way, this will be an entirely different challenge for the Washington Football Team.
Consensus: Arizona -6.5
Score Prediction: Cardinals 23, Washington 14
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Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press
DraftKings Line: Kansas City -8.5
Our group is back on board with substantial public favorites by backing the Kansas City Chiefs—in this case unanimously despite an 8.5-point spread against a Los Angeles Chargers squad that is also 1-0.
“Let’s not pretend that these two teams are in each other’s league just because they’re technically tied atop the AFC West,” Gagnon said. “This line isn’t in the double digits because of that fact, but the Chargers probably should have lost Sunday to a team that went 2-14 last season.
“The Bolts have a strong pass rush—which rarely means much against Patrick Mahomes and the K.C. offense—and a solid secondary, but there isn’t a lot else going for this team right now. Playing at home in a new stadium that truly belongs to the Rams and won’t have any fans shouldn’t help, especially considering that they lost six of their last seven home games in 2019.”
The Chiefs were quite banged up coming out of their season-opening blowout victory over the Houston Texans, but they’ve had an additional three days to rest, and head coach Andy Reid is a legend with extra time to prepare.
Plus, the Los Angeles offensive line is a mess as well, bridge quarterback Tyrod Taylor doesn’t have the game-changing ability to take advantage of Kansas City’s injuries in the secondary, and top Bolts pass-rusher Joey Bosa is dealing with a triceps injury.
Our predictors are on the lookout for a late-afternoon blowout at SoFi Stadium.
Davenport: Kansas City
Gagnon: Kansas City
Kahler: Kansas City
Miller: Kansas City
Sobleski: Kansas City
Tesfatsion: Kansas City
Consensus: Kansas City -8.5
Score Prediction: Chiefs 31, Chargers 14
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Nick Wass/Associated Press
DraftKings Line: Baltimore -7
“This spread would have to be a lot bigger for me to even consider taking the Texans,” Davenport said of Sunday’s marquee late-afternoon matchup between Baltimore and Houston. “The last time these teams met, the Ravens dominated every facet of the game in a 41-7 rout. The Texans are likely too good to get blasted like that again, especially at home, but last week’s loss to Kansas City exposed some concerning problems. Meanwhile, the Ravens looked fantastic against the Browns.”
Yes, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has become one of the most clutch players in the league. With him under center, Houston is almost always alive. In fact, Watson didn’t lose any of his first 31 NFL starts by more than a score. But since then, he and the Texans have lost that blowout-proof vest. Houston’s last four losses have all come by 14 or more points—a run that started with that disaster in Baltimore and also includes playoff and regular-season defeats at the hands of the Chiefs.
The Texans’ problems with those elite teams can’t be overlooked here, especially if you can still push here with a one-touchdown Baltimore victory.
Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley missed practice Wednesday with a hip injury, but so did Texans right tackle Tytus Howard (ankle), receiver Brandin Cooks (quad), Duke Johnson (ankle) and J.J. Watt (hip).
“Ravens win this one by double digits, and people start saying mean things about Bill O’Brien on the radio in Houston,” Davenport concluded. “OK… meaner things.”
Consensus: Baltimore -7
Score Prediction: Ravens 31, Texans 20
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Danny Karnik/Associated Press
DraftKings Line: Seattle -4
With an easy Week 1 win over Miami, the New England Patriots reminded the football world that they can’t completely be counted out. But how much stock do we put into a win over a rebuilding Dolphins squad that is adjusting to major changes on the fly?
In the eyes of the majority of our pickers, not enough to justify predicting the Pats will stay within a field goal of the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night in the Pacific Northwest.
“Cam Newton looked like his old self leading the Patriots in Week 1, but Russell Wilson is at an entirely different level starting the season,” Sobleski said. “But it’s more than that. Unlike the Patriots, the Seahawks defense has two difference-makers in Jamal Adams and Bobby Wagner. And as good as Newton is, he didn’t receive a ton of help from the Patriots’ skill-position talent in Week 1.”
Newton and Pats coach Bill Belichick were able to take the Dolphins by surprise with their offensive approach in Week 1, but the Seahawks have now had a chance to review that tape and prepare for what appears to be an option-heavy New England offense. The defensive talent and overall experience in Seattle should help with that.
And while Wilson might not be as effective against a strong New England secondary as he was in Atlanta, his career 128.5 passer rating against the Pats indicates he won’t be intimidated by Belichick and Co.
Oh, and in the Wilson era, the Seahawks are 16-3 straight-up and 13-5-1 against the spread in home prime-time games.
Davenport: New England
Kahler: New England
Consensus: Seattle -4
Score Prediction: Seahawks 27, Patriots 20
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Butch Dill/Associated Press
DraftKings Line: New Orleans -6
The mighty New Orleans Saints have started 2-0 only once in the last seven seasons. They generally looked shaky in a Week 1 victory Sunday, and now they’ll be without superstar wide receiver Michael Thomas on the road against the 1-0 Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football.
But four of our six panelists are still laying six points with the Saints, who could benefit from the fact standout Las Vegas right tackle Trent Brown is dealing with a calf injury.
“Even without Thomas, this game will be all New Orleans over Las Vegas,” Miller said. “Look for Sean Payton’s squad to come out running the football and the Raiders to struggle on Monday night.”
The Raiders did fare well against Christian McCaffrey last week, but that doesn’t guarantee a repeat performance from a defense that is adjusting to a number of personnel changes, lacked consistency last season and still surrendered 30 points in Carolina. Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara are too good not to light up the Raiders after struggling against a much more talented Bucs defense in Week 1.
Davenport: Las Vegas
Gagnon: Las Vegas
Kahler: New Orleans
Miller: New Orleans
Sobleski: New Orleans
Tesfatsion: New Orleans
Consensus: New Orleans -6
Score Prediction: Saints 28, Raiders 21
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