With the conclusion of free agency and then the draft, we are essentially in the dead period for the NFL in the calendar year. It lasts from now until teams begin reporting to training camp in late July, although there could be a surprise player released or traded by then. So to keep your football appetite full, here’s a look at what I believe are the top five regular-season matchups of 2016 (in order of week played) along with each game’s early NFL odds.
A Closer Look At The 2016 NFL Betting Games Of The Year
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) May 4, 2016
Carolina at Denver, Week 1: The Broncos are 1-point home underdogs with a total of 43. Of course these two met in February’s Super Bowl outside of San Francisco, a 24-10 Denver win. The Broncos’ defense was the story with seven sacks and four forced turnovers. NFL MVP Cam Newton was just 18-for-41 for 265 yards with an interception and crucial fumble on which it didn’t look like he even attempted to recover it. Denver’s Von Miller was named Super Bowl MVP. He twice stripped Newton, the first time for a touchdown and the second time to set up a clinching TD. Carolina led the league with 500 points but was held to its fewest of the season, while Denver set an ignominious mark with 194 yards gained, the fewest by a Super Bowl winner. Two big stars from that game won’t be in this one. The Panther surprisingly released Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman. And of course Broncos QB Peyton Manning retired. And that’s the main question here: who will Denver’s starting QB be? Right now it likely would be Mark Sanchez. The team traded up to take Memphis’ Paxton Lynch late in the first round of last week’s draft, but he’s too raw to play in Week 1. Perhaps the Broncos still had a veteran via free agency or trade.
Green Bay at Minnesota, Week 2: The Vikings are 2.5-point underdogs. This will be their first game in their gleaming new stadium and against their arch-rivals. The last time we saw Minnesota, it lost a crushing 10-9 wild-card home game against Seattle at the University of Minnesota. Blair Walsh‘s 27-yard field goal attempt into the frigid wind hooked left with 22 seconds remaining in the third-coldest game in NFL history. Yes, the new stadium has a dome. The Vikings upset the Packers in Green Bay in Week 17 last year to win the NFC South title. Most expect the Packers to reclaim that this season with top receiver Jordy Nelson back from a torn ACL.
Cincinnati at New England, Week 6: The Patriots opened as 4.5-point favorites. Assuming Tom Brady’s four-game suspension stands, this would be his first home game. And depending on how the Patriots do in the first four weeks with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback, it might be a must-win game. That’s because after this one, the Patriots have potential losses the next two weeks at Pittsburgh and at Buffalo. These teams last played Week 5 of the 2014 season, a 43-17 Patriots home rout. In that game, Brady became the sixth quarterback to pass the 50,000-yard mark.
Houston at Denver, Week 7: Denver is -6. The big storyline here is the return of Texans QB Brock Osweiler to Denver. He played well for the Broncos last regular season when Manning was out injured, but Osweiler perhaps never got over being benched for Manning in the final game. So he jumped to Houston as a free agent this winter, and the Broncos had plenty to say about him leaving them in the dust. Now they have a major QB problem, while Houston looks to be a rising power in the AFC after winning the AFC South in 2015.
Seattle at New England, Week 10: The Patriots are -2.5. Think the Seahawks might want a little payback here? Of course these teams met in the Super Bowl two seasons ago. It was one of the great games in Super Bowl history, won 28-24 by New England when Patriots rookie Malcolm Butler stepped in front of Ricardo Lockette to pick off Seahawks QB Russell Wilson’s pass at the goal-line in the final seconds for the unlikely win. To this day, no one knows why Seahawks coach Pete Carroll didn’t hand off again to Marshawn Lynch, who has since retired.