NFL Preview: Week 1
Don't call it a rebuild. Welcome to Season 2 of The Father vs. The Spread
2021 record: 0-1
Preseason Record: 128-0 for all you know
Welcome to a new season of “The Father versus The Spread”. Last season saw a strong early season performance nearly come undone down the stretch before a sarcastic miracle the last week of the season pulled me back above .500: 126-125-4. Sure a coin flip would have almost been as good, but you are missing the point. I did slightly better than a coin. The less said about my playoff predictions the better. We are back for a new season. This year, home field advantage is back… sort of… and things will get a little more tricky. Week 1 is still the best week for picking games because adjustments haven’t really been made by the line setters, and most bettors still sort of blindly go by last year. Look at the Texans. A team that has traded or cut any player of value. They are OBVIOUSLY trying to lose (at the GM level. A reminder, players never play to lose). Meanwhile, you have the Jaguars, who are an NFL football team. The spread is just 3 points. By the end of the season, spreads for the Texans will be in the 20s. Last year’s week one was a coup, as I got off to a 10-5 start. Hopefully this week will be more of the same. If you are wondering, all lines will come from Draft Kings, day of the article’s release. I also want to give special thanks to new research assistant, Nathan Dewey.
We will also be introducing a new element to this year’s columns, the horribly photoshopped La Cerradura De El Padre (The Father’s Lock). We will use this beauty for the one matchup that I am most confident in (and will thus be most humiliated by when it’s wrong).
Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-8)
The Bucs failed to cover last night, thanks to Dak Prescott being 100 percent rust free (and a Godwin goal line fumble that would have covered, but c’est la vie). I don’t feel too bad about this miss. I was nervous about what Dak could do if he was ready to go, and he was. Dallas ultimately lost this game where they seemed to lose every game last year, in the margins. Beyond Greg Zuerlein leaving 7 points on the field, they got beat on punting exchanges repeatedly, failed to convert in or near the red zone, and poorly managed the time and game situation at the end of both halves. That’s how you lose a game where you outgain the opponent, have fewer penalties, run more plays, win time of possession significantly and have a three turnover advantage. It’s bad coaching. Here’s three quick takeaways as we move forward:
Dak Prescott is 100 percent healthy and ready to go. He has all the weapons he needs to put up a big year. I doubt the run pass ratio will stay that unbalanced. It was likely a reflection of how impossible it is to run on the Bucs. Still, if you bought low in fantasy, congrats.
The Dallas D is still pretty bad. They did “force” four turnovers, but almost all of them were the direct result of Tampa errors, so it’s not really repeatable. Despite those 4 turnovers and the ‘Boys keeping the ball 10 minutes longer than the Bucs did, the Dallas D still gave up 31 points.
Don’t bother running the ball against Tampa. Teams that figure this out will have a lot more success. While not every team has an offense like the Cowboys, running the ball against Tampa is a wasted down. The Cowboys ran plenty of quick hitters and screens to compensate. You can move the ball against Tampa if you throw (and your O-line doesn’t suck).
Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons -3.5
The Eagles are back with Jalen Hurts, after a tumultuous offseason that started when former head coach Doug Pederson pretty clearly attempted (and succeeded) to throw the final game of the season. Out went Pederson, and in came challenged speaker Nick Sirianni who hopes to outsmart teams by using simple schemes. Their offensive line is healthier, but their defense remains full of holes. The Falcons, meanwhile, are objectively worse after letting go of longtime superstar Julio Jones and taking the hot new thing in Kyle Pitts and doing nothing on defense. They too have a new coach, preventing us from just taking the established coach in week 1. Ultimately, I like that the Falcons get to try out their brand new schemes at home, versus the Eagles who have to start on the road. I’ll grimly take the Falcons -3.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills -6.5
I cannot believe I get to take the Bills here -6.5. The Steelers have gutted their offensive line and played like a below .500 team after week 9 last year. They are on the road, opening against a hungry Bills team that got a taste of success and want more. This might be a disaster for the Steelers, although their defense gives some hope of covering the spread. Ultimately, any comeback attempts mounted behind that offensive line are doomed to fail. I’ll stick with the Bills -6.5.
Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals +3
I was all set to take the Bengals as a surprise home dog, and then I saw this tweet. This is a VERY bad omen. This giraffe died from agitation without spending even a second behind the Bengals O-line. Now I am going to avoid the Bengals more than Kirk Cousins avoids modern medicine. Plus, I just have no faith that a bad Bengals coaching staff can get this team ready for a strong offensive team in week 1. I am going Minnesota -3.
San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions +8
Another home dog, the Lions have brand new coach Dan “Man” Campbell leading the charge with a smash-mouth variety of football for a new era. Unfortunately, that era is not being entered into with much talent. The 49ers, meanwhile, have suffered a little bit with the salary cap and have question marks at QB. After a season with an injury rate that felt like an invasion of the body-snatchers, the 49ers are hoping this year brings more luck. None of this will matter much here, however, because the nature of Kyle Shanahan’s offense is to punish aggressive defenses by catching players out of position to create numbers and space, and I think he will punish this hyped up and overly aggressive Lions team frequently for an easy win. 49ers -8.
Arizona Cardinals vs. Tennessee Titans -3
These teams are being treated as relative equals here, with the -3 representing an expected difference for the Titans being at home. The problem I have with the Titans is, that, while I do appreciate their offense being balanced and very dangerous, their defense is a true black hole. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have a balanced team, with weapons on both sides of the ball. I think the Titans are going to struggle to stop anyone, and it makes me nervous to give them any points this early in the season. For now, I am going Cardinals, although their secondary is also terrible, and they were really a bugaboo last year with up and down performances. Cardinals +3
Seattle Seahawks vs. Indianapolis Colts +2.5
I have gone back and forth on this one a couple times. The Seahawks had a tumultuous offseason, but appear to have out the drama behind them. They are running a new offense from one of the many Sean McVay disciples who are rapidly spreading around the NFL. I think that this offense with an increased tempo will help Russell Wilson, and I think they will score a lot. On the flip side, the Colts are very tough at home. Carson Wentz will surprisingly play, although it’s not totally clear now healthy he really is. Ultimately, the Colts were one of the worst teams in the league last year at stopping deep passes, and that is a bad recipe against Russell Wilson. I think this goes down to the wire, but I’ll take the Seahawks to cover (barely). Seahawks -2.5
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Washington Football Team +1.5
Another home dog here that I like, Washington is now on it’s second season with Ron Rivera. They have an elite defense, and elite defenses gave Justin Herbert fits last year (as did that haircut). The WFT also has dramatically improved their offense just by adding a competent QB to the mix. Being at home is just the icing on the cake for a team that I think is actually better than the Chargers and their very untested 1st year coach. I love a road dog and I love an experienced coach against a rookie. Washington +1.5
New York Jets at Carolina Panthers -4
This one is a last second flip. I am not even remotely confident in either of these teams. The line started out at 6 for the Panthers but has dropped 2 points over the course of the week. I do think the Panthers will be better than the Jets this year, and they are at home. Given that the line has dropped to close to treating these teams as equals, I will go with the Panthers. The Jets are rolling out a rookie QB, rookie coach, and one of the youngest rosters in the league. There is going to be a learning curve. Meanwhile the Panthers have taken on Sam Darnold. So they both have negatives. Panthers -4
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Houston Texans +3
This week’s “Game That Is On In Hell”, this matchup of shit and shittier is likely to be decided by… ah, who TF cares. This is a borderline lock as one of these teams wants to win very badly, and the other very much does not. If you are gambling on this game, you might have a problem. Jacksonville -3
Cleveland Browns vs. Kansas City Chiefs -5
This is your must watch game of the week. Last year, the Chiefs got away with having a bad offensive line week after week. It was showing up in failed spreads and surprisingly close games, even as they won, until suddenly, one more piece broke off before the Super Bowl and the whole thing fell apart. The Chiefs revamped that offensive line this offseason, and I expect them to be right back to blowing the lights off of scoreboards. Meanwhile, the Browns continue to get better. They get a second season with Kevin Stefanski’s playbook, and an improving Baker Mayfield looks to take a leap. Still, with OBJ working his way back, the defense with several new pieces still coming together and Kansas City hungry again, I think they will come up short in this one. Watch out for the Browns as the season progresses though. Chiefs -5
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots -3.5
The Patriots open the season at home against Bill Belichick’s former protege Brian Flores. Belichick has famously struggled against former assistants, scraping along around .500 (it’s bad for him). Now, he takes on a pupil with a young and hungry team, lead by second year QB Tua Tagovailoa. Tua has shown some improvement in preseason and heads into the season with a slew of new weapons at his disposal. The problem will again be a makeshift offensive line with very little talent. Meanwhile, the Pats are starting rookie Mac Jones. He has looked good, and was definitely the correct choice long term, but for this particular game, it’s going to be rough. The Dolphins defense chews up young, immobile QBs. The Pats have also been hammered by injuries in the secondary. Ultimately, I think the Dolphins defense and special teams will make more big plays than the Pats will. Dolphins +3.5
Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints +3.5
This game has been moved to Jacksonville unfortunately, due to the aftereffects of the hurricane. This is a major advantage for the Packers, who get to avoid the tough Superdome crowd. Meanwhile, the Saints are in for a rough start this season, as they have had to gut their roster due to the salary cap ramifications of years of excess spending. I think they are gonna feel some pinch this year. I expect the Packers to take advantage of the Saints starting a new QB (Jameis Winston) and missing Michael Thomas to win the opener. Also, the above clip of Jameis and Fitz (which is a show I would watch) is incredible. That is why you need a veteran QB. The “I liked it” at the end to save Jameis’ dignity was world class. Packers -3.5
Denver Broncos at New York Giants +3
I do not like the Giants here. The Broncos upgraded at QB just by ditching Drew Lock. Teddy Bridgewater isn’t amazing, but he can run an offense and get the ball to players. Meanwhile, Daniel Jones is a turnover machine that shows no signs of abating (Let’s just say the author of the above tweet and I came to very different conclusions about that video). If Daniel Jones was good, we would already know it. Instead, he’s been slightly better than Sam Darnold. While the Defense for the Giants has made steps, the overall product is nowhere near what the Broncos have. I like the Broncos to torment Daniel Jones all day. Broncos -3
Chicago Bears vs. Los Angeles Rams (-8)
The Bears have taken a heavy step backwards this offseason, cutting down their defense to add Andy Dalton, something I have bashed repeatedly in my columns. Dalton is done (also based on the above clip, Justin Fields is not ready and might even be dead), but the Bears are determined to trot him out for this game against a rejuvenated Rams squad that boasts one of the best defenses in the NFL and a much better quarterback. Plus the Rams are at home. I think this game is going to get out of hand early. Rams -8 AND this will be La Cerradura De El Padre
Baltimore Ravens vs. Las Vegas Raiders (+3.5)
The Raiders are a team that can move the ball on offense, it’s the defense that has let them down the last few years. They have added some pieces here this offseason, unfortunately at the cost of their offensive line. The Ravens are a blitz heavy team, with a strong scheme designed to generate pressure. This is more than a little problematic. The Ravens, meanwhile, have clearly been cursed by the same entity cursed the 49ers last year. JK Dobbins clearly had a premonition of the team flight crashing, and saved everyone, only for death to come hunting for the leg ligaments of everyone on the team. The Ravens are a depleted group in other areas too from last year. I don’t like them as strong road favorite. Too much can happen. Raiders +3.5