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Columns - Magazine

The Gambling Solution: Week 1

by Jeff Baldwin
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Jeremy Wardwell and Jeff Baldwin kick off another full season of The Gambling Solution as they'll be picking against the spread each week. They can use a maximum of 50 units and a minimum of 15 units on each game. They'll be picking a minimum of three games each week and a maximum of five. They'll also both be picking one over/under that will be worth 20 units. They'll both have 100 units available each week for their matchup picks to go along with the 20 units they'll use on their over/under selection.  Now, on to the picks for Week 1.






Jeff Baldwin

Record: 0-0

Units: 1,000


Jeremy Wardwell

Record: 0-0

Units: 1,000


Buccaneers at Falcons (-3) - 35 units
Buccaneers at Falcons (-3):  The Buccaneers travel to Atlanta looking to get their season off on the right start after finishing last season with six wins.  The Buccaneers are led by QB Jameis Winston who will be looking to build off of last season.  Winston's favorite target is WR Mike Evans who enters his third season in the league.  RB Doug Martin comes off a season where he finished second in the league in rushing yards as he averaged 87.6 yards/game on the ground.  The Buccaneers face a mediocre Falcons’ defense that struggles getting pressure on the quarterback.  The Falcons finished last season with a league-worst nineteen sacks.  Winston will have ample opportunities in the passing game to make some big plays down the field.  Look for Doug Martin to also have a solid game here as they'll be effective running the football.  Defensively, the Buccaneers need to key on slowing down both WR Julio Jones and RB Devonta Freeman.  One way to do that is to get pressure on QB Matt Ryan which will make it difficult for him to get into any type of rhythm in the passing game.   The Buccaneers were solid slowing down the run last season as they finished in the top-11 in the league allowing 100 yards/game.  The Buccaneers swept the season a year ago which included a 23-20 overtime victory in Atlanta.  I think Tampa plays well here again and comes away with the outright win.  The Falcons are 1-8 against the spread as a favorite in their last nine games. 
Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3

Chargers (+7) at Chiefs - 40 units
The San Diego Chargers travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in this AFC West matchup. Last year was a season of horrors for the Chargers who battled through injury after injury on the offensive line and the big blow of losing WR Keenan Allen to a lacerated kidney in Week 8. Allen is healthy again and will be QB Philip Rivers' primary target after being targeted more than 100 times in each of his first two full seasons. Despite all of the injuries on the offensive side of the ball, Rivers still managed to throw for nearly 4,800 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2015.  He should at least reach those same numbers this year with a healthy Allen and 2nd year RB Melvin Gordon having a healthy O-Line to run behind. Kansas City gave up less than 18 PPG last season and were ranked 7th in the league in total defense. In their two meetings last year, the Chiefs held San Diego to six total points while outscoring the Chargers 43-6. Those games took place in the second half of the season after injuries had already taken their toll on San Diego who lost five of their last seven. Kansas City will be without LB Justin Houston for this game and Tamba Hali will be limited due to a knee injury. CB Eric Berry missed all of training camp due to a holdout and may show some rust early on but will be fine as the game progresses. Offensively, KC will be without RB Jamaal Charles who is battling a knee injury meaning Spencer Ware will get the majority of carries with Charcandrick West also in the mix. The Chiefs lack the offensive firepower to pull away from many opponents. QB Alex Smith is the ultimate game manager but won't win many games with his arm. I really like the Chargers getting seven points in this game. With Rivers having a complete offense at his disposal and the Chiefs defense’ dinged up, I'm expecting this to be a close game.
Pick: San Diego Chargers +7

Bengals (-2.5) at Jets - 35 units
The Bengals open up the season visiting MetLife Stadium as they take on the Jets.  The Bengals come off a tremendous 12-win season capturing the AFC North.  However, the Bengals suffered another playoff loss as they fell to the Steelers at home.  This isn't the same Bengals team from a year ago that will start the season.  Offensively, the Bengals will be without TE Tyler Eifert who is still recovering from an ankle injury, and WR Marvin Jones who signed with the Lions in the offseason.  WR A.J. Green will be a target monster this year as QB Andy Dalton will look to him early and often.  Rookie slot WR Tyler Boyd is expected to start as the Bengals are high on this rookie from Pittsburgh.  Defensively, the Bengals lost some key players to free agency including Reggie Nelson and Leon Hall.  They will also be without LB Vontaze Burfict as he is serving the first of his three game suspension.  As for the Jets, they'll be led offensively by QB Ryan Fitzpatrick who has his two favorite receiving weapons back in WR Brandon Marshall and WR Eric Decker.  They also added RB Matt Forte in free agency who will give them consistent play both in the running and receiving game.  The Jets’ defense is a solid group.  They'll be able to contain the Bengals’ power running game and keep RB Jeremy Hill in check.  RB Giovani Bernard does create mismatches in the passing game so the Jets need to limit his big play ability.  I expect the Jets to play well on both sides of the ball in this contest.  I'm going to side with the home team here as the underdog Jets win this game outright.
Pick: New York Jets +2.5
Packers (-5.5) at Jaguars - 30 units

The Jacksonville Jaguars play host to the Green Bay Packers at EverBank Field. Green Bay is coming off a 10-6 season in which they were knocked out of the divisional round of the playoffs by the Arizona Cardinals. QB Aaron Rodgers will be going up against a vastly improved Jaguars’ defense. Jacksonville, who missed the playoffs for the 8th straight year improved their secondary by bringing in CB Prince Amukamara and Safety Tashaun Gipson. They will look to stop WR Jordy Nelson who returns after missing all of last season.  Nelson didn't play in the preseason but will certainly be an upgrade for the Packers who averaged more than 30 PPG in 2014 with Nelson healthy and 23 without him last year. RB Eddie Lacy is clearly motivated by this being his contract year and will look to start off strong against the Jaguars. He will find difficult sledding against one of the better defensive fronts in the AFC. The addition of defensive linemen Malik Jackson and rookie Dante Fowler Jr. to a linebacker corps led by Paul Posluszny and Telvin Smith will cause issues for the Packers as they try to get their offense on track after not playing together as a full unit all preseason. The Jaguars have an offense loaded with potential. QB Blake Bortles showed flashes of brilliance last year but too often was prone to turnovers as he led the league in interceptions. Part of the issue was the team’s struggles in the running game, scoring only three rushing touchdowns by running backs. This caused Bortles to often try to force passes to his talented receiver group. Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns combined for 2,400 yards and 24 touchdowns last year and will be the primary targets in 2016.  Jacksonville brought in RB Chris Ivory to pair with T.J. Yeldon and provide a red zone presence the team was missing last season. Even with the improvements the Jaguars have made, I don't see them in the same class as Green Bay. Rodgers and the Packers will scuffle early on but will eventually win by a touchdown in a high-scoring game.  
Pick: Green Bay Packers -5.5

Lions at Colts (-3.5) - 30 units
QB Andrew Luck will be hoping this year is much different than last season as he started only seven games because of injuries.  The Colts’ offensive line was a major weakness last season, and it doesn't look like it has improved.  Luck will once again feel the pressure from opposing defenses so this offense may have revert to the short to mid-range passing game in order to keep their quarterback healthy.  The Colts suffered a major hit to the line in the preseason as they lost G Jack Mewhort to an injured knee.  The only silver lining here is they thought he was lost for the season, but received good news that he's only projected to miss a few weeks.  If Mewhort somehow does suit up versus the Lions, you have to wonder how effective he'll be given the type of injury he suffered.  The Colts also lost CB Vontae Davis in the preseason as he has ligament damage in his ankle.  This is a tremendous loss to their defense as Davis is one of the top cover corners in the league.  The Lions will look to take advantage of these injuries.  The Lions’ offense no longer has the luxury of WR Calvin Johnson as he retired in the offseason.  All this means is WR Golden Tate and free agent signee WR Marvin Jones will need to step up and make plays.  TE Eric Ebron appears to be on track to suit up on Sunday.  Ebron has been recovering from an ankle injury sustained in training camp.  QB Matthew Stafford will have plenty of opportunity in the passing game as he faces a vulnerable Colts’ secondary.  The Lions have some quality pass rushers on defense so look for them put a lot of pressure on Luck and disrupt the Colts’ passing game.  The Colts will be unable to overcome the Davis injury and woeful offensive line play as the Lions go into Indianapolis and pull off the upset.
Pick: Detroit Lions +3.5

Buccaneers (+3) at Falcons - 30 units
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons square off in an NFC South duel inside the Georgia Dome. After a promising rookie season in which he threw for 22 touchdowns and rushed for another six, QB Jameis Winston will look to lead Tampa Bay to their first winning season in six years. Winston will lead the Bucs against a Falcons team that went 8-8 last year but did very little to improve in the offseason. Tampa Bay is loaded offensively with WRs Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson as well as RB Doug Martin who was second in the league in rushing yards last year. Martin should have a big game in this one. Last season, Atlanta allowed more than 105 rushing yards per game and gave up the most rushing touchdowns in the league with 20. The Falcons will need a solid performance out of QB Matt Ryan who has historically put up good numbers but has failed to live up to his potential as a winner. The Falcons are limited offensively after stud receiver Julio Jones who will get his numbers but the addition of Mohamed Sanu failed to move the needle for a team that struggled in the red zone last year and ranked 21st in the league in scoring. RB Devonta Freeman struggled in the second half last year, averaging 50 yards per game in the last seven. These teams have split their last 10 matchups with the Falcons dropping both games to Tampa Bay last season. I like the Bucs getting three in this one with a solid chance at the outright win. They are more talented on both sides of the ball and Winston with a year under his belt is poised to have a huge season starting with this game.
Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3

Vikings at Titans (Total: 41 points) - 20 units
The Vikings head to Tennessee as they start their defense of the NFC North crown after finishing with 11 wins.  The preseason hasn't been kind to the Vikings as they recently suffered a major hit to their team in losing QB Teddy Bridgewater for the season.  Bridgewater's injury triggered the Vikings to bring in another quarterback as they pulled off a trade with the Eagles for QB Sam Bradford.  It is not known whether Bradford or QB Shaun Hill will start versus the Titans, but regardless of who is behind center the offensive game plan will be the same.  A heavy dose of RB Adrian Peterson is expected as the Vikings will look to control the clock and play great defense.  The Titans will have a similar type of game plan as they'll want to establish the running game with RB DeMarco Murray.  The Titans will also want to get rookie RB Derrick Henry involved after his impressive preseason.  The Titans’ offense will have their work cut out for them moving the football as they face a very good Vikings’ defense.  I'm not expecting a lot of points in this contest.  Look for this game to stay under the posted total.
Pick: Under 41
Vikings at Titans (Total: 41 points) - 20 units
The Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans open the season in Tennessee at Nissan Stadium. Heading into 2016, Minnesota had aspirations of a deep playoff run. However, when starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater shredded his knee in practice, those aspirations turned to desperation and the team traded for Sam Bradford. Shaun Hill had been Bridgewater's backup but it is still unclear who will start in this one for the Vikings. Regardless of who starts, Adrian Peterson will be the focus of the Minnesota offense. In 2015, Minnesota ranked 29th in the league in offense, averaging less than 23 PPG while Peterson led the league in rushing and rushing TDs. The loss of Bridgewater will allow teams to key on shutting down Peterson. WRs Stefon Diggs and Laquon Treadwell could actually benefit from having Bradford under center in the long run but for this game, I don't see the Vikings having a cohesive offensive game plan with the sudden loss of their starter. Tennessee doesn't have an imposing defense by any stretch but they will be able to keep the Vikings from putting up big numbers. Minnesota has one of the best defenses in the league and held opponents to 19 PPG last season. After ranking 30th in the league offensively last year, the Titans brought in DeMarco Murray and drafted Derrick Henry to help QB Marcus Mariota who battled various injuries throughout his rookie year. Despite the improvements on offense, the Titans will struggle against the aggressive Minnesota defense. The posted total of 41 will be safe in this one. Neither team is strong on offense and with the Vikings being so good defensively, the Titans will have a hard time moving the ball all day.
Pick: Under 41

Editor's note: Both Jeremy and Jeff started with 1,000 units as they go head to head all season long.

You can follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffBaldwin4 and Jeremy @jdwardwell5.

Jeff Baldwin
Jeff Baldwin has written Rotoworld's 'Gambling Solution' on Season Pass since 2011. He can be found on Twitter @JeffBaldwin4.