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NFL Week 1 Picks, Leans and Player Props

Trevor Lawrence

Trevor Lawrence

Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

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My three best bets are now out, but what happens if you don’t like any of them? It’s kind of like when your Mom would cook dinner and you hated what she made, so she would tell you, “You can starve.” Every now and then Mama Dukes would cave and make something you actually wanted, so I guess I can dish out a few more looks.

*Note: You have heard me say shopping around is pivotal, especially in futures betting, so make sure you look to see what book is offering the more favorable odds.

Plays I like (Official Plays)

Baltimore Ravens (-6.5) @ New York Jets | Over/Under 44.5

In three years of Lamar Jackson starting as QB for the Ravens, the team has won two opening games in vicious blowouts (both over 30 points) and dropped a nail biter to the Raiders last season scoring 27. Presumably, Baltimore scoring a poop ton of points against 2021’s worst scoring defense (29.6 PPG) is in the cards.

We know I’m not the biggest L Jax believer, but I do recognize the things he does well and what he can take advantage of in the form of hilarious mismatches. In their first eight games of last year, Balty notched 27 points in five games, averaging 27.6 PPG. In 2022, we could see a big leap from this team despite the departure of breakout number one wide out Hollywood Brown. Although QB1 made improvements as a passer last season, the DNA of this offense is to run the rock. 145.8 rush YPG was third best in the NFL last season, which bodes extremely well against the Jets’ fourth-worst run defense (138.3 YPG). And of course, Mark Andrews, who is coming off a season where he notched a line of 107/1,361/9, should still be running roughshod in the middle of the field.

On the other end, the Ravens get all their horses back as well (maybe minus CB Marcus Peters). While their run defense once again was elite last season (84.5 YPG, which ranked first), the secondary got ransacked by injuries and COVID, which led to them having literally the worst pass defense in the NFL (278.9 YPG). If that wasn’t enough of a reason to smile, the Jets will start Joe Flacco in a “revenge game” with the legendary Zach Wilson out the first month. The Jets will also be without LT Duane Brown, which could cave the left side of the line. There are a ton of mismatches across the board.

Baltimore was my pick to win the AFC North, and it would be a nice boost to not only win Week 1 but drop a 40 bean on Gang Green. Under HC John Harbaugh since 2008, the Ravens are 10-4 SU/ATS in Week 1. Although they might be missing LT Ronnie Stanley, CB Marcus Peters and RB J.K. Dobbins, I think Baltimore comes out flying to make a statement. Jackson is now betting on himself after negotiations on a contract fell through for the season, so I think he’s coming out firing this year.

Prediction: Ravens cover (-6.5)

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Jacksonville Jaguars @ Washington Commanders (-2.5) | Over/Under 43.5

A disgustingly gross matchup on the board!? But is it really though? We have two teams projected to not do a whole lot in 2022, but this first game could set the tone for the rest of the season and maybe even start something in two brand new eras of football.

The Jags scrapped that super creep HC Urban Meyer and brought in Big Daddy Doug Pederson to run the show. With his Super Bowl cache, Dougie P knows what it takes to run a winning franchise. Jacksonville has the best “can’t miss” QB prospect since Andrew Luck in Trevor Lawrence. They spent like a drunken sailor during the off-season to put some strong pieces in place like WR Christian Kirk, TE Evan Engram, LB Foye Oluokun and CB Darious Williams. Not to mention, they get back their 2021 1st round pick in RB Travis Etienne fresh off a Lisfranc injury (foot). Even though it was a rough season for the Jags last year, it seems like they are poised to take the next step. Drawing a Washington defense that struggled mightily last year (25.5 PPG, which was eighth worst) and will be without Chase Young seems like a great way to start off.

On paper, Carson Wentz was fine last year with his 27 TD/ 7 INT ratio. As usual though, he shrunk in the big moment. Who could forget in the last game of the season in 2021 where the Colts (14-point favorites) needed a win to secure a playoff spot, Wentz just crapped the bed with two turnovers and no ability to move the rock down the field. In Washington, he inherits a solid overall roster with some good offensive weapons. I believe it likely takes him a little more time to adjust than it will Pederson to the Jags. It’s difficult for me to believe in or side with the Prince Harry doppelganger.

DP knows his former QB Wentz like a book, so it seems plausible there will be some tricks up his sleeve. I’m expecting a solid season from Jacksonville with a new coach and new pieces. They showed up on several occasions last year, so I think they will do it again. Keep the points, I don’t need them.

Prediction: Jags win outright (+125)

Leans (Not Official Plays)

Houston Texans +7.5 (-120) vs. Indianapolis Colts

Yesterday, you saw my column about how Week 1 divisional home dogs cover at a 78.3% clip since 2015. The Texans fit that description with two other teams. While I am a huge Matt Ryan guy that believes the Colts make it far this season, I think they are laying just a bit much here. The Colts have lost eight consecutive openers which is the longest current streak in NFL. Even though I believe Indy wins, I think it is by six or seven points. Since 2019, Indy is only 25-24 ATS under HC Frank Reich. I would look out for some early haymakers by the Texans featuring Dameon Pierce and Brandin Cooks.

Pittsburgh Steelers +6.5 (-102) @ Cincinnati Bengals

Obviously, the Big Ben era is over in the Steel City, but the Mike Tomlin one is still going strong. Pittsburgh has never had a losing season under Tomlin in 15 years. Aside from that, he has dominated Cincy with a 22-8 SU; 20-10 ATS record. He is on a three-game losing/covering streak against Bengals. With Mitch Trubisky as the current signal caller, he provides some much-needed mobility at the position which could mitigate the deficiencies of the weak O-line. The skill group is strong, and the defense is capable. Additionally, I’m projecting the Bengals to be fighting that Super Bowl hangover. The Steelers might catch Cincy sleeping the way they did Buffalo in the opener last year.

Philadelphia Eagles -4.5 (-114) @ Detroit Lions

If you have ever seen The Wolf of Wall Street and remember that scene with Matthew McConaughey talking about how nobody knows if stocks are going up, down or in circles, that’s what has been going on with this line. A ton of movement and even late action drove Philly up to -4.5 or even 5 in some places. While I do expect a playoff season from Detroit, I also think Philly is in for a big year as well. Taking out the fact that the Eagles cracked Detroit last season 44-6, they matchup way better in the trenches. And not for nothing, I need to see the Lions in action before I start betting on them. Detroit is still figured to be one of the bigger public dogs in Week 1. I don’t like catching the wrong side of a steam train, but I think the Eagles are the correct side here.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers ML (-136) @ Dallas Cowboys

I just got back from Tampa earlier this week (my former home) and put out a video from outside Raymond James Stadium on NBC Sports Edge social accounts. The quick version is I think the Bucs nab the W for the second straight season. The reason being they have a more complete roster at the moment despite missing a few offensive linemen, the questionable status of Chris Godwin and Tom Brady just returning from sabbatical. Dallas is missing OT Tyron Smith, which by the numbers reduces this offense in scoring and production. While it would not surprise me to see Dallas win, Tampa Bay is still the better team.

Player Props (Official Plays)

Jalen Hurts O45.5 (-115) rush yards @ Detroit Lions

In nine games last season, Hurts eclipsed 46 yards on the ground while also notching 44 in two other contests. The Lions bottom-five rush defense (135.1 YPG) probably somewhat carries over into this season, which doesn’t exactly bode well against the top rushing offense from last year (159.7 YPG). Expected to manhandle Detroit in both trenches, it gives Hurts a good chance to repeat the 71 rush yards he notched against the Lions last time out. I would play this out to 48.5 yards.

Lamar Jackson O291.5 pass + rush yards (-115) @ New York Jets

Lamar was an “over” passing yards machine for the first five games of 2021, hitting in all of them. On certain books, you will be able to find a combo number of passing + rushing yards at 291.5, which to me is extremely generous against the Jets. Even without Hollywood Brown, Baltimore is still going to be able to move the ball through the air on NYJ - the third worst pass defense last season (259.4 YPG). Furthermore, the running game is a mess for the Ravens right now with no Gus Edwards and possibly no JK Dobbins. Jackson is likely going to handle about 10 or so carries. Lastly, the Ravens probably control the clock and the ball the entire game. Jackson starting off a contract year on fire sounds good to me. This is playable up to 296.5 yards.

Patrick Mahomes O2.5 pass TDs (+145) @ Arizona Cardinals

In all four of Patty Mahomes’ Week 1 starts, he has totaled 13 pass tuddies to ZERO picks. Furthermore, he has notched at least three passing scores in each game. Even though KC’s offense is sans Tyreek “T-Hilly” Hill, they will still be going up against the Arizona defense that allowed the eighth most passing scores in 2021. And with the Chiefs getting cracked from -3.5 to -6, the books are expecting them to put up some points. I would play this down to +120.

Kirk Cousins O1.5 pass TDs (-135) vs. Green Bay Packers

I’ve been in on Kirk Cousins and the Vikings since May, but I’m not exactly thrilled with all the love they have been getting over the past month and a half. In any case, Minny draws an exceptional opportunity to make an early statement that they are in fact the team to beat in the NFC North. For that to happen, Cousins must be sharp in new HC Kevin O’Connell‘s air raid system. Last year, Captain Kirk hit two passing scores in 12 of his 16 contests, which included a three-piece tuddy biscuit against the Packers. Even against a strong defense, if Minny wants to win they will have to air it out. This is playable up to -155.

Tom Brady O38.5 pass attempts (+102) @ Dallas Cowboys

*Checks stats from Week 1 of last season* Oh, that’s right, TB12 threw the rock 50 times on the Cowboys last year. In fact, Brady attempted 39 passes in 11 of his outings, with three others finishing at either 36 or 37. Nobody has had more pass attempts than Tommy Boy in the last two seasons (62 more than second closest- Justin Herbert), so why would we think it stops now? We should still expect a higher scoring game, which means a lot of passing. Brady is live for another 50-attempt game against the Cowboys defense. I would play this number up to 39.5.

Jonathan Taylor O95.5 rush yards (-115) @ Houston Texans

JT was my first pick on one of my fantasy teams, so this is also a proud fantasy owner writing this. Taylor destroyed Houston in both contests last year hitting 143 and 145 yards, respectively. Even with a great and capable QB in Matt Ryan at the helm, this is still a run-first offense. Taylor is probably looking at least 18-20 carries against a porous Texans’ run defense that allowed the second most rush yards (142.2 YPG). Furthermore, the books have Indy as a 7/7.5 favorite, which indicates they believe the Colts will be moving the ball and scoring a ton. If they have a big lead in the second half, it will be clock milking time for JT. We’re getting a great number here in this butter matchup. I would play this up to 100.5 yards.

Alvin Kamara TD (-130) @ Atlanta Falcons

AK41 and Jameis Winston didn’t get a whole lot of time to play together last year. Because of that, I decided to stay away from his yardage totals. One thing we know Kamara is good for in his career is getting in the endzone. In 73 career games, he has 67 TDs. Surprisingly, only three have come against the Falcons (none as a receiver). One thing I do know for sure is the Atlanta Falcons. Their horrible defense (aside from Grady Jarrett and A.J. Terrell) is always live to allow monster games from any opposing offense. It seems more likely without Drew Brees that the Saints will be trying to run more often, especially in the red zone. The Saints should put up 30 a piece on this defense, and it would shock me if Kamara, who scored in three of his last four games against ATL, fails to find the end zone. I would play this number out to -145.

May your weekend be filled with Espresso Martinis, Sunday gravy, and LOTS of winners!

Fantasy football guru Matthew Berry has joined the team and his two shows have you covered all season long. Spend weekdays at noon with the Fantasy Football Happy Hour and then, every Sunday at 11am getting ready for kickoff with the Fantasy Football Pregame. Watch both shows live on Peacock and catch replays for the weekday show on the NFL on NBC YouTube channel.