It’s here! It’s here! I can’t believe it! It’s here!
The 2021 NFL season kicks off this weekend and already, we have the potential for an offensive show in Kansas City where Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns visit the Chiefs. But, don’t go anywhere yet, because defenses can play a role in the OVER/UNDERs bets in Week 1 too.
The Rams bring their dynamic defense to Sunday Night Football where they face the Bears in Los Angeles while the Seahawks trip to Indianapolis could turn to the defensive side of the ball where the Colts opening with Carson Wentz as their quarterback.
Wentz and Ryan Tannehill of the Titans were in primary outbreaks of COVID-19 in their locker rooms, but these players will be back in time for their Sunday matchups.
Oh, and may I editorialize real quick before my five OVER/UNDER plays of the week?
The players on the Titans and Colts are shouting examples of why the NFL is giving vaccine mandates as this is the primary way for society to rid itself of the wretched COVID-19 plus players need to play and be responsible for their teams.
Truthfully, they don’t have the freedom to put their teammates and other personnel in peril just like people in society don’t and shouldn’t have the freedom to put their families, friends, and others in peril with vaccines available. Simply, this is a health issue, not a political issue, and all hands need to be on deck in the NFL as well as the global society.
On to Week 1….
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs – September 12
My Pick: OVER 54.5 (-110)
Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield hook up in what could be the top game of the opening week of NFL play. The Chiefs led the NFL last season in passing at 303.4 as Mahomes threw for 4,740 yards with 38 touchdowns and six interceptions. He sees a Cleveland Browns’ pass defense that was 22nd in the NFL and gave up 247 yards per game through the air.
This is our chance to remind the NFL just how special this team is right out of the gate. We broke down this Sunday’s matchup in the latest episode of Defending the Kingdom.
🎙: https://t.co/y8zmxeOkIs pic.twitter.com/7JqvmFxL0K
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) September 9, 2021
Keeping Clyde Edwards-Helaire healthy and making him factor in the offense makes the Chiefs better and makes Mahomes even more of the best version of himself with his ability to balance the pass with the run. This is also the best version of being able to accentuate weapons like Travis Kelce at tight end, Tyreek Hill, and Mecole Hardman on the outside.
Cleveland’s corners Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome, II, are going to be in for a rainstorm of footballs out of Mahomes hands as this is a reason to pull the OVER on this game.
Cleveland wants to keep the ball on the ground with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in change-up mode. Odell Beckham, Jr., is questionable at this point as he and Jarvis Landry can pile up points in the passing game.
Kansas City’s defense only recorded seven interceptions last season, so that is an order of emphasis for them and potentially the ability of Cleveland to control the football and then strike for the big play with Baker Mayfield finding Beckham or Landry makes this another huge reason to bet the OVER.
Mayfield is coming off last season’s 26 touchdown passes and only eight picks, so he has maybe the most confidence he has had coming into a season.
The total has gone OVER in Kansas City’s last 5 Week 1 games
The OVER has also been the call in 14 of KC’s last 20 September affairs
5-1 with the OVER in their last 6 games as a home favorite between 3.5 – 10 pts
Los Angeles Rams at Chicago Bears – September 12
My Pick: UNDER 49 (-110)
Talk about the Rams, you start with the defense where last season, they led the league by allowing only 281 yards per game and recorded 14 interceptions. Pressure up front is the key to forcing those turnovers as Aaron Donald had 13.5 sacks and Leonard Floyd checked in with 10.
Since March 18, many have been wondering what the Rams offense will look like with QB Matthew Stafford…
It all starts Sunday ⤵️
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) September 10, 2021
Bears coach Matt Nagy named the immobile Andy Dalton the starting quarterback over the dynamic rookie Justin Fields. The pressure the Rams brings will force Nagy to go with Fields at some point in this game. The idea of the stalwart Rams front and the speed on defense is a major reason why the UNDER is almost a given in this game.
Chicago’s David Montgomery ran for over 1,000 yards last season, but the Rams limited opponents to 93.1 on the ground, third in the NFL. If they don’t get sustainability from the running game, the Bears’ chances to score are tough on offense.
It’s the opener for Matthew Stafford in LA as he has been given a new lease on life after spending 12 years in Detroit where the Lions’ offensive line was no where near an entity as he was sacked on average 32 times per season. Different day and different team in Los Angeles as he has a solid front, led by tackle Andrew Whitworth.
Los Angeles did the smart thing in picking up Sony Michel from the Patriots after the injury to Cam Akers. Now as Darrel Henderson, Jr., is the starter, his output may improve with Stafford throwing to the likes of Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Van Jefferson. Chicago was 11th in total defense at allowing 345 yards per game. They only had 18 takeaways which was a problem whenever the offense struggled last season.
The total has gone OVER in 5 of the last 7 Bears’ games
The UNDER has been the call in Chicago’s last 5 games vs. NFC West opposition
The UNDER is 4-0 in the Bears’ last 4 games as an underdog of 10.5 or more pts
The UNDER has been the call in 11 of the Rams’ last 15 outings
The total has also gone UNDER in the last 8 Los Angeles Rams home games
The total has also gone UNDER in 6 of the last 8 meetings between these teams
Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons – September 12
My Pick: OVER 49 (-110)
Feathers will fly in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday. The question is will the Falcons or Eagles fly?
This is the first game of the Nick Sirianni era in Philadelphia so the way they will attack in a real NFL game will reveal itself after showing nothing in the preseason. Eagles QB Jalen Hurts takes on his first season as the starting quarterback and the Eagles are looking to work to get him in position to make plays down the field.
That’s why they drafted Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith out of Alabama.
Smith’s elite speed on the perimeter will be a self-check for any defense in the league, especially with Hurts on the roll-out of the pocket or the scramble. He needs a big season out of Miles Sanders at running back where he ran for 1,635 yards last season.
Atlanta rebuilt and revamped its defense under new defensive coordinator Dean Pees. The Falcons, usually a connoisseur of the 4-3 defense, come into 2021 in a 3-4 defensive set which will emphasize the attack mode.
The attacking mentality of end Grady Jarrett and Dante Fowler at linebacker will be a key. The Falcons have three new people in their defensive backfield with safeties Erik Harris and Duron Harmon and corner Fabian Moreau.
Flip it over and the venerable Matt Ryan is back at quarterback. With Julio Jones off to Tennessee and now Calvin Ridley is set to take over as the go-to receiver as he caught 90 balls for 1,374 yards and nine TDs. He was targeted 143 times so the Falcons are looking to kick up that percentage between catches and targets.
The Eagles remade their secondary, as well as Rodney McLeod, is not expected to play which will leave an inexperienced unit facing Ryan, Ridley, and rookie tight end Kyle Pitts.
Darius Slay has to be the man vs. Ridley on the perimeter. Philly had 49 sacks a year ago, about three per game, this has to be the focal point of the Philadelphia defense with 16.5 of those coming off of defensive linemen Fletcher Cox, Derek Barnett, and Javon Hargrave.
This is a good position to play the UNDER because we don’t really know if either of the running attacks will get untracked which will release talented pass rushes on each of the quarterbacks. Hurts can play out of the pocket through which is an advantage Philadelphia. In addition, if you look below, the betting trends are squarely UNDER.
The UNDER has been the call in 7 of Philadelphia’s last 10 games
The total has gone UNDER in 7 of the last 8 games between these teams in Atlanta
Both Philly and the A-T-L were 9-7 vs. the OVER/UNDER last season
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Atlanta’s last 7 games
The total has gone UNDER in 8 of the Falcons’ last 10 games vs. the NFC East
The UNDER has been the play in each of the last 5 Eagles-Falcons games
Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts – September 12
My Pick: UNDER 50 (-110)
The catch on this game is Russell Wilson can finally hit the field and hopefully, fans and media will set aside this “issue” of whether “RussDangerous” will be a Seahawk or not. Wilson looks forward to this matchup with the Indianapolis Colts with not only the great D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, but first-round pick Dee Eskridge and Gerald Everett, whom came over from the Rams in the off-season.
.@DangeRussWilson makes magic happen 🌟
Find out which @NextGenStats powered by @awscloud could make the difference when we take on the Colts this weekend. pic.twitter.com/wnhm4HDPWy
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) September 9, 2021
A healthy Chris Carson will make this offense all the more better at running back. He played in every game last season, but once again, he struggled with injuries as he had only 681 yards in 16 games.
DeForest Buckner and Denico Autry provide a rush up front where they combined for 17 of the Colts’ 40 sacks last season. The big story is going to be how Indianapolis covers the Seahawks’ weaponry with Rock Ya-Sin and a questionable Xavier Rhodes sitting in as the corners.
Colts QB Carson Wentz brings himself back on the field after he had covid and was absent. The Colts run game behind Jonathan Taylor bears watching as he has been capitalized with 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. The Colts spread the ball among nine receivers last season as T.Y. Hilton once again led in catches with 93 and yards with 762.
Seattle’s defense trying to get back to a presence like the famed “Legion of Boom”.
Defending Wentz could be interesting for the Hawks who haven’t allowed the Eagles more than 17 points in five meetings against him while going 5-0 in those games. The ‘Hawks’ defensive front has to be aggressive against the solid Colts’ offensive line.
Jamal Adams will be looking for his own retribution on Sunday as he looks to bounce back from his injuries of a year ago. This defense is a different unit when he is on the field. Look for big seasons out of Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright after the Seahawks had a tough season last year against the run at some points but all of that leveled out.
The Colts finished 10-7 with the OVER last season
The total has gone OVER in 9 of Indy’s last 13 games
The total has gone OVER in 5 of the last 6 Colts-Seahawks games
Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans – September 12
My Pick: OVER 52.5 (-110)
Call the neighbors and make sure their TVs are set on this one because there looks like plenty of offensive fireworks are in store with Cardinal QB Kyle Murray and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins against Tennessee QB Ryan Tannyhill, running back Derrick Henry, and new wide receiver Julio Jones.
The Arizona offense will pose problems for Tennessee’s defense with the ultra-elusive Murray finding Hopkins, who caught 115 passes for 1,407 yards as he had 17 plays of 20-plus yards and 627 yards after the catch. Kenyan Drake’s ability to run against Tennessee’s defense will be a huge factor in this game.
Defensively, the Titans gave up 120 yards on the ground last season, so we will see where that number goes against Drake who is finally healthy. Janoris Jenkins and Kristian Fulton will key the secondary against Hopkins and Christian Kirk. Kevin Byard returns after leading the Titans in tackles last season.
They need a physical push from their defensive front to be able to handle Henry and the Titans’ offensive line. Henry’s rushing effort last season demolished defenses in going over 2,000 yards as he looks for a solid start against the Cards’ rush defense that allowed 125 yards per game.
J.J. Watt comes into Arizona in free agency which is a great thing because the Cardinals lost leading sack Hasaan Reddick to the Panthers.
Both of these teams can throw points on the board, but the big thing will be Tennessee moving the ball on the ground which will open up Tannehill and with Jones, and don’t forget A.J. Brown. The OVER is the call because of potential points on the board through Murray and Tannehill.
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Arizona’s last 7 games
The total has gone UNDER in Arizona’s last 6 road games
The UNDER has also been the call in 11 of their last 13 games played in Sept
The OVER has been the play in 7 of Tennessee’s last 9 games
The total has gone OVER in 11 of Tennessee’s last 15 games at home
They have enjoyed the OVER in 6 of their last 7 games against NFC opponents
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