Surprises in the NFL odds are rare, especially in Week 1 of the season when everyone comes fully prepared after several months of practice and training. Nonetheless, nothing is ever cast on stone in the NFL—injuries, suspensions and offseason transfers lead to drop-backs, playing at home can be a motivation for underdogs to back loudly, and every once in a while, success comes unexpectedly when the right talent meets opportunity. Aptly put, chance favors a prepared mind. And going by a combination of such—and many other—factors, we believe the following teams are worthy of your consideration in Week 1’s NFL betting lines and odds as candidates for upset wins over the weekend.
Colts at Bills, Sunday, September 13, 2015 at 1:00 PM ET, CBSPICK: BILLS (+2.5)It’s never a good thing to bet against nature or luck, especially when the team in question has a quarterback named Andrew LUCK. The Colts are considerably better in the defense than last year (at least on paper) and the Luck will be operating with a set of razor-sharp weapons like Frank Gore, Andre Johnson and T.Y. Hilton. On normal occasions, that should be able to get them the win against the Bills. But then, this is not a normal game and the Bills are no longer the ordinary team from 2014. Boasting of one of the best defenses in the league, a new (and proven) tactician in head coach Rex Ryan, and a highly motivated QB in the explosive Tyrod Taylor (who will be looking to exploit his hot targets in players like Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin and Charles Clay); Buffalo is more than capable of treating us to a spectacular upset win over Indy.
Panthers at Jaguars, Sunday, September 13, 2015 at 1:00 PM ET, FOXPICK: JAGUARS (+3)No disrespect to Cam Newton and the Panthers, the NFC South Champs, but based on Jacksonville’s decent showing in exhibition games and Carolina’s shaky preseason, we definitely fancy the Jags sticking it out at EverBank Field for a narrow win over the visiting Panthers. The fact that Julius Thomas is hurt means that the receiving core of Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee need to be on their best for second-year QB Blake Bortles to be effective. But considering Newton will also be without star receiver Kelvin Benjamin, hence will be relying on the shaky trio of Ted Ginn Jr., Corey Brown and Greg Olsen on the offense, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Jags eke out a narrow win over Carolina, or at least keep the game close for an ATS win.
Saints at Cardinals, Sunday, September 13, 2015 at 4:05 PM ET,PICK: SAINTS (+2.5)Nearly everyone I know has jumped on Arizona bandwagon and Bruce Arians, the reigning coach of the year, banking on him to lead the Cards to victory over New Orleans. Personally, I don’t blame them. I mean, Carson Palmer was 6-0 in all his starts last season before suffering a season-ending injury. With Palmer healthy and Arizona boasting of a 7-1 record at home last season, it totally makes sense to trust the Cards. However, what many people don’t know is that, as long as future Hall of Famer QB Drew Brees is still in New Orleans, the Saints will always be a team capable of pulling big surprises. Yes, the Saints lost Jimmy Graham, but with a good number of capable targets surrounding him (including Mark Ingram who tallied 964 rushing yards and 9 TDs last season), Brees has enough weapons to use. Not to mention, at the tail-end of last season, the Saints went 0-5 at the Superdome, but 4-0 on the road in their last 9 games, underlining their seriousness when playing away from home. Added to the fact that the Cards will be playing without two crucial starting offensive linemen in Bobby Massie and Mike Iupati, New Orleans fans have sufficient reasons to hope and believe that an upset could be in the offing against the Cardinals this Sunday.
Ravens at Broncos, Sunday, September 13, 2015 at 4:25 PM ET, CBSPICK: RAVENS (+4.5)Even with the never-ending criticisms thrown his way, I have always loved and defended Joe Flacco to the end of the planet and back, and I’ll continue to do so because I do believe he ranks up there among the best arms in the league. It should therefore come as no surprise to you (and other Baltimore fans) that I am trusting him to do something special against the Broncos this week. No doubt, the Ravens were poor in the preseason, and the Baltimore franchise has lost a ton of talent this offseason (including a couple of Flacco’s favorite targets), but the Broncos are not as perfect as many peg them to be. It is one thing to hope for a storybook ending to Peyton Manning’s career and believe that coach Gary Kubiak is the right man to coach Denver, but it is another to turn a blind eye to Manning’s regression towards the tail-end of the 2014-15 season. All factors considered, this will be Denver’s game to lose, but in the event that Manning is not up to the task and Kubiak’s run-oriented offense fails live to its hype, then there’s no reason why Flacco and the Ravens cannot fly away with the win or, at the very least, cover the many points awarded to Broncos as home favorites.