Week 1 NFL Locks of the Week
Week 1 is probably the greatest time in all of Football. Every team has an equal chance of winning the Super Bowl, and every bettor has a great slate of games to bet on. After months of needing to wager on basketball, baseball, and (I shudder) preseason football, we can finally place wagers on the ultimate competitive sport.
Throughout the course of season, I will have a series where I pick my three best point spreads each week. I will give you an in-depth analysis on each game and interpret the data to give you my opinion on which side of the line to wager. I cannot promise results, but I can promise detailed research and facts to support my opinion.
I will keep track of my record throughout the season, and I hope to hit 55-60% on the season. That’s enough to be a professional gambler, considering the vig. Without further ado, here are my three Football Locks of the Week. (Odds courtesy of Footballlocks.com)
Kansas City Chiefs (-4) @ Jacksonville Jaguars
The Kansas City Chiefs are one of the most potent offenses in the NFL. While I love the pieces on the Jaguars defense, they do not have enough high-end players to cover the speed of the KC offense. In their matchup last year, Travis Kelce caught 5 balls for 100 yards, Sammy Watkins caught 6 balls for 87 yards, and Tyreek Hill caught 4 balls for 61 yards. They Chiefs were also able to run the ball with Kareem Hunt at 4 YPC. The Kansas City offense has only gotten better, adding the speedy Mecole Hardman out of Georgia and a shifty Lesean McCoy from Buffalo.
While the Jaguars cornerbacks AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey are outstanding, I don’t see them being able to keep up with the speed of the KC offense. The Jaguars defense allowed 194.3 passing yards per game, 107.7 rushing yards per game, and 15.3 PPG in 2018. The Chiefs surpassed all of those average totals in their matchup last year. Given Andy Reid’s record with extra time to prepare (16-3 after bye weeks and 8-3 in opening day road games) and the explosiveness of the Chiefs offense, the Jaguars will have trouble limiting the Patrick Mahomes.
On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs defense has gotten remarkably better. They traded for Frank Clark this offseason (13 sacks and 1 INT in 2018), Tyrann
Mathieu (89 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 INTs in 2018), and Beshaud Breeland (2 INTs and 1 TD in 2018). They’ve gotten faster on defense and can more easily create pressure with Frank Clark and Chris Jones rushing the passer. They will also be going against a Jaguars offense that is barely improved.
While Nick Foles is better than Blake Bortles, it won’t show. Nick Foles has shown he cannot excel outside of the comforts of the Eagles’ RPO system. In his last starting job outside of Philadelphia, he threw for 2,000 yards, 7TD to 10 INT at 56.4% completion in 11 games before being benched. His weapons include Leonard Fournette (who averaged 3.3 YPC in 2018), Dede Westbrook (a marginal slot receiver), and Marquise Lee (torn ACL in 2018). Their offensive coordinator is John DeFillipo, who is known for his passing offense. When working with Kirk Cousins in 2018, he had the quarterback throw the ball over 600 times on the season. Nick Foles can’t sustain that number of pass attempts, and this will cause a rift between DeFillipo’s offensive philosophy and Foles’ skillset.
Whether the Jags commit to that passing offense, or change the system to fit Nick Foles, the Jacksonville offense is destined to fail. Trust the Chiefs and Andy Reid is the matchup. This could be a blowout from the start. I see Kansas City winning this by at least two TDs and Foles having a mediocre performance.
Score: Chiefs 31 – Jaguars 17
Los Angeles Rams (-3) @ Carolina Panthers
Everyone is still hung up on the Rams Super bowl meltdown and Todd Gurley’s knee arthritis. The Rams will be one of the best teams in 2019, with or without Gurley. In the four games before the Super Bowl without Todd Gurley playing significant snaps, CJ Anderson averaged 20 carries for 117 yards and one TD per game. Whether Todd Gurley or backups Malcom Brown and Darell Henderson play, the Rams run game will be phenomenal, especially against a Carolina defense that ranked 12th in rushing yards per game and 15th in total yards per game. Carolina’s only significant additions to the run defense this offseason was adding rookie defensive end Brian Burns and signing LB Bruce Irvin to a one-year deal. The Rams are set up to pound the rock.
The Rams are also set up to throw the ball. With Cooper Kupp back in the fold, the Rams have a trifecta of talented receivers in Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp. Carolina ranked 18th in passing yards per game last year, while the Rams offense ranked 5th in passing yards per game. The Panthers do not have the corners to cover all three receivers and McVay’s offense can use ghost-motion and sweeps to fool the rookie defensive end on the outside. While Luke Kuechly is a formidable LB, he won’t be able to make up for the Panthers’ lack of help in the secondary. I expect the Rams to be able to use their dominant running game to set up play action and gain huge chunk plays.
While I expect the Panthers offense to improve with another year of Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore in the fold, I believe they can be easily locked down by Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. Cam Newton also sustained a foot injury in the third preseason game against the Patriots. While he is expected to play and be fine, the injury may limit Newton’s mobility and take away his greatest asset: running. I expect Aaron Donald and Dante Fowler Jr to suffocate an immobile Cam in the pocket and force errant throws. I love Christian McCaffery as a player, but even he won’t be able to salvage this offense against a Wade Philips-led defense.
I expect the game to start out a little slow, but for the Rams to run away with it in the end. Newton will have a multi-turnover game and the Rams will look as dominant as they did early last season. Bet the Rams to cover.
Score: Rams 33 Panthers 20
Philadelphia Eagles (-9) vs Washington Redskins
The Eagles may be the most complete team in the NFL. Carson Wentz is finally healthy (fingers-crossed) and back in the lineup. Despite his injury last season, Carson Wentz still threw for over 3,000 yards and a 3:1 TD-INT ratio at a 70% completion percentage in only 11 games. When upright, Wentz is one of the best young QBs in the game.
His weapons also have gotten an upgrade. He’s gotten a true downhill RB in Jordan Howard, who garnered 935 yards rushing and 9 TDs last season for the Bears, and shifty 2nd round pick Miles Sanders, who averaged 5.8 YPC last year in college. He finally has a true deep threat is Desean Jackson, a red-zone monster in rookie J.J. Arcegea-Whiteside, and a reliable number one receiver in Alshon Jeffrey. He also has Zach Ertz (116 catches in 2018) and Dallas Godert (4 TDs in 2018) at tight end. The offensive line also received an upgrade with 1st round pick Andre Dillard at tackle. The Redskins defense will not be able to stop the Eagles offense.
On the other side, the Eagles defense will feast on the Redskins offense. The Redskins offensive line will be without their LT Trent Williams and forced to defend Fletcher Cox, Derek Barnett, Mailk Jackson, and Brandon Graham. Their starting RT is Ereck Flowers, who may be the worst starting tackle in the league. Just ask NY Giants fans if you don’t believe me. The Eagles defense had 44 sacks last year (8th best in the league), while the Redskins offense gave up the same number (12th worst in the league). Case Keenum will be running for his life while trying to play catch-up.
Speaking of Case Keenum, he is not a good quarterback. He is now on his 4th team in five years. Last year, he threw for 18 TDs to 15 INTs in a Broncos offense that actually had good weapons. This year, his starting running back is 34-year-old Adrian Peterson and his number one receiver is Paul Richardson, who caught 20 balls for 262 yards last year. Their other weapons include three injured running backs (Derrius Guice, Chris Thompson, and Bryce Love) and rookie/second year players of whom you likely never heard (Terry McLaurin, Trey Quinn, Kelvin Harmon). Their only decent weapon is TE Jordan Reed, who is almost always injured. The Redskins offense has nothing going for them, while the Eagles defense has a viable starter at each position.
I know that nine points is a lot to swallow, but the Redskins are going to be really bad this year. The talent disparity between these two teams is wider than the distance between their two cities. Bet the Eagles with confidence, as it could be over rather quickly for Washington.
Score: Eagles 38 Redskins 10