The 2021 season opens on Thursday, Sept. 9 with the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers playing at home, which is also the site where they lifted the Lombardi Trophy in February. There’s a case for both sides of this spread. Tampa is the stronger overall team but will have the distraction of coronating its championship. Dallas will be at full strength but it will only be Dak Prescott’s first game after a difficult leg injury.
The champs opened as nearly a touchdown favorite and the total is among the highest for the opening week. At the moment, we’d probably side with Dallas and the under thanks to the lack of execution that can be present on opening night.
SUNDAY, SEPT. 12 (1 P.M. ET)
Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts (, O/U
Carson Wentz was supposed to be reunited with Frank Reich and play a central role in helping this loaded Colts roster get back to the postseason following Philip Rivers’ retirement. And despite the many doubters, we were ready to back Wentz as a bounceback candidate and Indianapolis as a team to watch out for in the AFC. While the latter may still eventually be true, it will be much tougher at the start following Wentz’ foot injury and subsequent surgery.
In the mean time, it looks like Jacob Eason, a fourth rounder in 2020, will be under center against the visiting Seahawks in Week 1. Russeell Wilson and the Seahawks opened as 2.5-point underdogs but the line has since flipped, making the road team the favorite. Even though the Colts’ roster is one of the very best in the legue, Eason’s first NFL game action is a tough spot to back Indy, even with three points. It’s a stay away game until we see more from the young QB.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills (, O/U )
Buffalo and its explosive offense is coming off an appearance in the AFC title game and is looking to establish itself as a contender once again. They’ll be favorites of almost a touchdown against the Steelers and their elite defense, though the total is set pretty high for these two teams.
Mike Tomlin’s clubs have an excellent track record when it comes to covering the spread as an underdog, so that may be one reason to be on the Steelers here. That said, Buffalo averaged 30 points per game at home in 2020, good for third in the NFL. They’re going to score on Pittsburgh and it’s going to be up to Big Ben to keep up. We’d look toward the over here and if this gets to seven or more, it may be worth a play on Pittsburgh.
San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions (, O/U )
New Lions head coach Dan Campbell and quarterback Jared Goff debut together as underdogs against San Francisco at Ford Field. The 49ers lost both coordinators in the offseason but still have Kyle Shanahan at the helm and a much more talented roster than Detroit. San Francisco opened as the largest favorite of the opening week (-7) and despite being on the road, there should be nothing wearing about the Niners. They should win with ease, though must beware of the hook as the spread grows to -7.5.
Los Angeles Chargers at Washington Football Team (, O/U )
The Washington Football Team looks to build on its NFC East title from last season, even if they did only win seven games in the process. Ryan Fitzpatrick currently sits atop the depth chart at QB and on the other side will be Justin Herbert, the 2020 offensive rookie of the year. Despite being on the opposite side of the country with a new head coach, Los Angeles opened as the slight favorite.
This will pit an elite WFT defense against a dynamic Chargers offense but we’re siding with the away team’s talent level on the short line. The public may be all over Los Angeles as well but after losing seven games by one score in 2020, we think the Chargers get a close win to begin 2021.
New York Jets at Carolina Panthers (, O/U )
You couldn’t draw up a storyline better than this one. After trading Sam Darnold to Carolina in the offseason, the Jets are taking on their former QB in the opening week of the season. Under center for Gang Green will be Darnold’s replacement, No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson. The Panthers opened as 4.5-point favorites and it’s hard to see anyone rushing to back the Jets here, so that number may only grow as the game nears. Especially with Christian McCaffrey back in the fold and healthy for Carolina. The truth is that this game has more questions than answers, and you should probably look elsewhere in Week 1.
Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons (, O/U )
The Eagles enter 2021 with Jalen Hurts firmly under center and a new head coach Nick Sirianni. It may come as a little bit of a surprise that they only opened as +3.5 underdogs on the road but maybe less so once you consider that it’s Atlanta’s first game with Arthur Smith at the helm. Both teams are looking to vault out of their last-place positions from 2020.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans (, O/U )
Jacksonville, with No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence possibly playing in his first game and Urban Meyer making his coaching debut, would be an underdog in almost any other circumstance. But they drew Houston and wound up opening as two-point favorites. There are far more questions than answers surrounding the Texans, who have a new GM and head coach in 2021, plus a quarterback situation that is yet to be resolved.
Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals (, O/U )
The Bengals opened as 3.5-point underdogs at home against Minnesota in Week 1 but are expected to have QB Joe Burrow back following his ACL injury last year. Joining him on the Cincinnati offense is his old running mate and top-five pick Ja’Marr Chase. They face another former LSU star in Justin Jefferson and game-breaking RB Dalvin Cook.
Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans (, O/U )
The AFC South champion Titans are hosting the Cardinals as slight favorites to open the season. Arizona found itself on the precipice of the postseason last year but came up short, as Tennessee did against Baltimore in the Wild Card round. The Titans enter the season with a new offensive coordinator and on defense will have to contain Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins.
SUNDAY, SEPT. 12 (4:25 P.M. ET)
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (, O/U )
This matchup will bring back memories of the AFC playoffs and Patrick Mahomes II sustaining an injury, plus the near-upset for Cleveland. The Browns look to build on their first playoff appearance since 2002 while AFC champion Kansas City dusts itself off following the Super Bowl defeat and enters the season as the favorite once again. This total opened as the highest of Week 1.
Denver Broncos at New York Giants (, O/U )
Despite being on the road, the Broncos opened as slight favorites in Week 1. Denver passed on replacing Drew Lock in the draft but it did trade for Teddy Bridgewater, so it remains to be seen how that situation unfolds. Big Blue gets all-world RB Saquon Barkley back and hopes to compete in an NFC East that could be wide open once again after having a chance at the postseason going into Week 17 last year.
Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints (, O/U )
There are still some question marks surrounding this matchup. It does appear that Green Bay will have Aaron Rodgers in uniform this season, as well as Davante Adams, so that’s good news. And it’s also the reason why the opening line of Saints -3 has flipped the other way. But exactly how the future Hall of Fame QB and Matt LaFleur get past last year’s NFC title game is a question woth asking. There are plenty of unknowns on the other side as well, with Jameis Winston replacing Drew Brees under center for New Orleans and any impact it can have on the overall productivity of the offense.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (, O/U )
The Patriots managed to go 7-9 despite injuries and a lack of roster talent, but the personnel has gotten a huge overhaul in the offseason. Cam Newton is back but added to the unit are tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, along with a host of defensive pieces. Miami is sticking with Tua at QB and added two weapons in the first round of the draft, but it’s New England who is in the familiar position of being the favorite. The Dolphins are losing All-Pro cornerback Xavien Howard, and that’s sure to have an impact in some way.
SUNDAY, SEPT. 12 (8:20 P.M. ET)
Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams (, O/U )
The first Sunday primetime game of the year will feature the Rams hosting the Bears as one of the biggest favorites of the week. Even though the Bears traded up for Justin Fields, their top QB is Andy Dalton at the moment. The Rams will also have a new QB after trading for Matthew Stafford after he played 12 seasons in Detroit. Los Angeles, along with San Francisco, is the favorite in a competitive NFC West. The Rams opened as touchdown favorites at home in this one.
MONDAY, SEPT. 13 (8:15 P.M. ET)
Baltimore Ravens at Las Vegas Raiders (, O/U )
The Monday Night Football schedule opens with one game rather than the pair we’ve been accustomed to. Las Vegas will welcome fans into its new stadium for the first time as Baltimore comes to town as favorites. Baltimore has made the playoff in all three seasons with QB Lamar Jackson while the Raiders haven’t reached the postseason to this point in Jon Gruden’s tenure. The Ravens opened as 4.5-point favorites in the spring and the number has remained in that range.