NFL Week 1 picks, predictions & best bets from NFL expert Jared Smith: Target the total in Buccaneers-Cowboys

Sep 9, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) runs the ball against Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Lavonte David (54) during the second half at Raymond James Stadium.

I’m thrilled to return for year 2 of my written NFL journey with Pickswise!

This process started back in February, when I reflected on the 2021 NFL season with a full recap of my personal results. I also vowed to make adjustments for 2022, one of which being decreasing the overall volume of NFL wagers I put out on a weekly basis.

Last year my NFL best bets went 54-49-2 and finished down 3.75 units (-2.77% ROI). That’s 105 total wagers in 22 weeks if you include the regular season and playoffs, an average of 4.77 “best bets” per week.

When you zoom out and consider there are only 285 games in the entire season including the playoffs, it’s hard to fathom nearly 40% of them being “best” from a betting perspective. I don’t know exactly how many “best bets” this column will churn out in 2022, but I can promise you it will be significantly fewer than 105.

You can still expect at least one “best bet” every week, clearly stated at the end of each column along with how much I’m risking, the odds of each bet, and which sportsbook the bet was placed at. This information is also readily available on my betting spreadsheet under the NFL tab.

There will also be a section in this column dedicated to analyzing the teaser market and you can likely expect at least one 6-point teaser every week.

Each column will continue to include meaningful market and matchup analysis, including topical trends and angles to consider. The endgame is always empowering you to make your own informed wagering decisions and develop your own strategies.

Besides contract incentives in Week 18, I will leave the prop betting to our experts led by PropHolliday and ClevTA, two exciting new additions to the Pickswise NFL roster this season.

Enough babble. Onto the analysis.

How to approach betting Week 1: Do the trends matter?

I love Week 1 trends. Call me a sucker, or a square, but I think they offer a hair more value than trends in other weeks of the season. Let me explain. Well first of all we have no other data to go off. The preseason is useless, and last year’s data is even more irrelevant. Secondly, there are certain teams and coaches that have a knack for starting slow or fast.

Take Kliff Kingsbury for example, who is 42-20 in Weeks 1-7 as a head coach dating back to his time with Texas Tech. The narrative makes sense. Kingsbury is an inventive guy with an aggressive mind on offense, but is bad at making in-game and in-season adjustments. His teams tend to start fast, but then tail off dramatically as more of his scheme is on tape for opposing coaches to break down. In Weeks 8 and beyond, Kingsbury’s record dips to 17-45.

Another trend I’ve kept a very close eye on in recent years has been the continued decline of home-field advantage. This applies to not only Week 1, but throughout the entire season as well. In fact, the adage of getting 3 points for home field advantage is now a thing of the past in the eyes of oddsmakers.

“I’m closer to 2 than 3 but it depends on the team of course and who they’re playing,” said Westgate Senior Risk Supervisor Casey Degnon. “For the TNF opener I expect Bills mafia out in force, so to me that number is much more 1.5 than 3. I do expect some positive regression but not something I’d try to blindly tail coming into the year.”

The data agrees with Degnon as home teams in Week 1 are just 54-69-3 ATS (44%) since 2014. Here are some other interesting Week 1 trends for you to consider before placing your bets:

  • Super Bowl loser is 9-13 SU, 4-18 ATS in the last 22 seasons

  • Underdogs divisional matchups are 58-35-3 ATS (62%) since 2005

  • Home underdogs in divisional matchups are 13-2 ATS (86.7%) and 14-in 6-point teasers (93.3%) since 2012

We’ll have NFL picks and predictions for EVERY game this season!

Teaser Time: Targeting home divisional underdogs

I will adhere to 4 simple rules with betting 6-point NFL teasers this season as we try and extract as much value as possible from the price we are paying:

1) Tease through multiple key numbers (3 and 7 are ideal; 6, 10, and 14 are also acceptable)

2) Don’t tease through zero (games don’t land on 0, so you’re paying for value you aren’t receiving)

3) Target games with low totals (usually 47 is a good ceiling, likely pass on anything over 50)

4) Don’t lay more than -120 (Draftkings and Caesars are the only 2 books I know of that offer this price)

Keeping those rules in mind, there are 3 games I like this week from a teaser standpoint. I will be betting them in two separate teasers, using my top selection as key, and pairing it with each of the other two.

Vikings +2 to +8 vs Packers

This is my favorite teaser spot of the week as it perfectly checks all of our boxes. Short underdog through both key numbers in a relatively low total game. I think Kirk Cousins is undervalued in the market compared to Aaron Rodgers and both teams match up pretty well against each other.

Minnesota’s strength on offense is on the outside but Green Bay has an elite secondary that can neutralize the likes of Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. The Vikings have two elite defenders on the edge with Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith (who comes over from the Packers) that should get enough pressure on Rodgers. The shroud of mystery behind Kevin O’Connell’s scheme is still in place as he makes his debut as head coach for Minnesota. Rodgers is just 6-8 ATS in his career against the Vikings on the road, the only team in the NFC North he has a sub-.500 record against.

Falcons +5.5 to +11.5 vs Saints

This game also matches all of our vital criteria, but only goes through 1 key number which is why it’s in the second slot. However we make up for that with a very low total, the lowest of the week in fact. Most of the matchups and narratives favor New Orleans, which is why they are laying nearly a touchdown on the road. But I can make an argument for some hidden value with Atlanta in the secondary, which has the potential to be one of the better units in the league with A.J. Terrell alongside Casey Heyward.

It’s also worth noting this will be the first time the Saints have had to prepare for a mobile quarterback in Atlanta since the days of Michael Vick. I think Arthur Smith’s offense will improve a little bit in season two, and the Falcons do enough to stay in this game.

Texans +8 to +14 vs Colts

This game also has a relatively low total, but it doesn’t move through any vital key numbers, so it should be downgraded a bit. However in this case I’m willing to ignore that because Indy is one of those aforementioned teams that is notoriously slow starting.In 4 seasons under Frank Reich the Colts are 0-3-1 ATS in Week 1.

There’s no denying how lopsided this series has been in recent years. The Texans were outscored 62-3 in two games last season, but I bet a lot of guys in Houston’s locker room remember those embarrassing performances as well. The matchups mostly favor Indy, but I like the athleticism in the Texans secondary against a Colts receiving group that is a tad thin and unproven outside of Michael Pittman. Matt Ryan also becomes the 6th different QB to start in Week 1 over the last 6 seasons in Indianapolis, a dubious trend to say the least.

If Houston can keep Jonathan Taylor relatively in check, they can absolutely keep this game within two scores and exercise some Dameons (see what I did there) against their divisional rival.

Get our best prop bet for Thursday Night Football this week!

Week 1 Best Bet: Bucs/Cowboys Under 51 -110 (risk 1.5u at Caesars)

This is the most landed on total in the NFL over the last five seasons, so I would use it as a line in the sand for where to buy in. Thou shall not bet under 50 or 50.5. It’s very reasonable to expect Tom Brady’s lengthy absence from training camp to have an impact on the tempo of this game, and I might even add a first quarter or first half under bet before it’s all said and done.

“I hate betting against Brady, but I could see a slow-ish start especially if their defense is playing well on the other side of the ball,” added Degnon.

Even if Brady was in midseason form, I don’t see either offensive line creating a ton of movement, especially Tampa who is very banged up at center and right tackle. The strength of the Cowboys defense is on the edge with Demarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons, who both should have ample opportunity to create havoc in the backfield.

There are also some questions at OL and WR for Dallas, and I can see the Cowboys having early struggles of their own against an elite Tampa defense. If you haven’t bet this yet and missed 51, I would wait until Sunday night as the public loves to hammer the primetime over, which could push this number higher.

Week 1 portfolio:

Bucs/Cowboys u51 -110 (risk 1.5u at Caesars) *Best Bet*
6-point teaser -120: Vikings +8, Texans +14 (risk 1.2u at Caesars)
6-point teaser -120: Vikings +8, Falcons +11.5 (risk 1.2u at Caesars)

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