After seven long months of waiting, the NFL is finally back.
This season is shaping up to be one of the best seasons with no easy bet for who will be crowned Super Bowl LVI Champions.
After the first preseason for two years, I will preview all 16 games.
With the odds finding their range, I shall be making betting picks for each match, including a ten-team parlay.
Cowboys: The Cowboys might be an underdog this season based on their dismal 2020. However, factor a healthy Dak Prescott into the equation, an energetic group of receivers, and what should be a considerably improved defense with new additions Micah Parsons and Damontae Kazee.
You have yourself a team that could make one of the most considerable season-to-season improvements of any franchise.
Buccaneers: Last season, the Bucs met their promise of becoming the first team in NFL history to win a Super Bowl title in its home stadium. They then followed it up by doing something almost as unprecedented in recent times – they retained all 22 starters.
That means familiarity and continuity for the coaches and Tom Brady, who couldn’t get to grips with Bruce Arians’ system until midway through the season.
The only weakness I can see is with the run game, but maybe an entire season will help Leonard Fournette find his Pro Bowl caliber form again.
The Bucs look like one of the strongest teams in the league again this year. The Cowboys should challenge Washington for the NFC East title. This game will be a battle between two potentially explosive offenses, which could turn into a high-scoring affair.
For that reason, I am taking over on 52.5 points.
Chargers: The Chargers begin this season with Brandon Staley coming in as head coach, but their roster has remained largely unchanged through free agency.
Justin Herbert will therefore be given a chance to continue building his rapport with a group of wideouts that includes stars Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.
The one significant offseason personnel change for the Chargers was the loss of Hunter Henry, who was signed by the Patriots. LA did a reasonably good job replacing him with a talented veteran in Jared Cook and then drafted an exciting prospect in Georgia’s Tre’ McKitty in the third round.
Washington: The Football Team won the NFC East last season (having been +2000 at this stage last year), with a 7-9 record after Prescott went down for the Cowboys. The team is relying on a handful of offseason additions to propel them to nine or ten wins which it will likely take to defend that crown in 2021.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is the new man under center, while the multi-talented Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries are part of a receiving corps makeover under star man Terry McLaurin. An already solid defense didn’t need much tinkering.
Still, the addition of veteran corner William Jackson and 2021 first-round linebacker Jamin Davis could help this unit become one of the best in the league.
Justin Herbert should pick up where he left off last season, but he could find it tough against this strong Washington defense. Ryan Fitzpatrick is so experienced I expect him to get to grips with this offense quickly. There is value on the over with both these teams having gun-slinging QBs.
However, I am taking the Chargers to win, and I am adding them to my parlay.
Seahawks: The Seahawks managed to hold onto franchise QB Russell Wilson following a disappointing Wild Card round loss at the hands of the Rams. That stumble ended an otherwise strong season that featured a 12-4 record and NFC West title.
Seattle returns all its key offensive weapons, with running back Chris Carson resigned to be the RB1 and DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett once again set to be Wilson’s top two targets.
Colts: The Colts will have new QB Carson Wentz starting despite having had foot surgery in early August. The Colts have otherwise retained most of their key weapons on offense.
Defensively, Indy remained one of the league’s best units in 2020, led by star linebacker Darius Leonard. I expect this defense to continue to improve, and it could carry this offense to ten or more wins.
If Russell Wilson continues his form from last season, I expect an intriguing matchup with the Colts’ defense. Seattle’s defense was good but not outstanding last year, so Wentz could find some joy in his first start for Indy.
But I am taking the Seahawks to win and cover the spread.
Steelers: The Steelers had a rollercoaster of a season, racing out to an 11-0 start before faltering to a 1-4 record down the stretch and then were beaten in the first postseason game by the Browns at Heinz Field.
Critical injuries on both sides of the ball were mainly to blame. Still, there was enough questionable QB play from Ben Roethlisberger to prompt speculation about his future, but he returns for the 18th season.
Pittsburgh will look for more consistency this season from Big Ben. They helped him by upgrading at the running back position by adding first-round pick Najee Harris and retaining their star receivers.
Bills: The Bills’ significant step forward last season was primarily due to the immense improvement made by quarterback Josh Allen, who posted career-best stats in every important passing category.
Another step forward from this offense could help Buffalo pass the Chiefs, especially if Stefon Diggs is unlikely able to replicate last season’s outrageous 127-1,535-8 stats. John Brown was replaced by veteran Emmanuel Sanders this offseason, while the rest of the offense largely remains the same.
First-round pick Gregory Rousseau joins an already stacked Buffalo defense and should improve last year’s weak pass-rushing stats.
The Steelers have lost a few rotational pieces on defense, so Josh Allen should exploit those new weaknesses. I think the Bills’ defense will be too much for Big Ben and his receivers, so we should see a pretty one-sided game. The oddsmakers have the Bills as heavy favorites.
I am taking the Bills to cover the spread.
Vikings: The Vikings’ disappointing 2020 season ended a 7-9 record, but it also had its share of positives that included the all-star play from rookie receiver Justin Jefferson and a record-setting performance from Dalvin Cook on Christmas Day.
Young TE Irv Smith also made improvements, but the defense – a trademark of coach Mike Zimmer’s teams – allowed 29.7 points and 393.2 yards per game. The Vikings need better play on that side of the ball to be a playoff team, which did add Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson this offseason.
Bengals: Last year’s first overall pick, Joe Burrow, looked every bit worth the investment before suffering a season-ending knee injury during Week 11 against the Football Team.
Reportedly Burrow is back to full health, and he will have the opportunity to reunite with former college wideout and 2021 first-round pick Ja’Marr Chase. Chase, along with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, give the second-year QB a highly explosive trio.
Running back Joe Mixon is reportedly over the foot injury that sidelined him for the last ten games in 2020.
The Vikings still have all their offensive weapons, and I expect their defense to improve this season massively. I think Burrow will find it hard to throw downfield and be pressured by the Vikings’ front seven.
The Vikings should have some joy against the Bengals’ average defense. You could bet the Vikings to cover the spread.
I am adding the Vikings to my parlay.
Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence will start for the Jags. He will play alongside explosive veteran receiver Marvin Jones, an offseason addition that will pair with 2020 breakout star DJ Chark and impressive second-year versatile weapon Laviska Shenault.
He will be without rookie Travis Etienne, who is out for the season. However, he will have undrafted running back James Robinson in the back-field, who was exceptional last year.
Texans: The Texans’ Deshaun Watson has had a load of off-field turmoil and is unlikely to play for Houston this season. Tyrod Taylor will lead an offense that lost Will Fuller in free agency but still has star receiver Brandin Cooks and offseason addition Chris Conley.
Phillip Lindsay and Mark Ingram also arrived via free agency to pair with David Johnson at running back to create one of the best running back rooms in the league.
This divisional matchup wouldn’t gather too much excitement given both teams were in the bottom three last season.
However, I’m expecting an entertaining match with both teams having serviceable offenses and below-average defenses. Jacksonville is the favorite for this match, and I am in agreement with the oddsmakers.
I am adding the Jags to my parlay.
Jets: Robert Saleh begins with a road trip to Carolina. All eyes will be on rookie quarterback Zach Wilson who is starting from Day 1.
He will have new addition Corey Davis, a reliable slot man in Jamison Crowder, and an explosive second-year speedster in Denzel Mims to throw to. He is also joined by fellow rookie Michael Carter, who will bolster the rushing department.
Panthers: There’s a significant change under center in Carolina as well. Teddy Bridgewater departed after one season despite a solid but not exceptional season with the Panthers. He has been replaced by Sam Darnold, acquired via a trade with the Jets.
He is a former first-round draft pick looking to have a fresh start this season. Darnold will have better receivers then he had last season in New York, and he has a fully fit Christian McCaffrey at his disposal.
These two teams are coming off relatively poor seasons and will be hoping their fortunes turn around soon. Carolina added some pieces to its defense, which is set to improve this season.
They should make it tough on Wilson’s first NFL start. Darnold will be looking for revenge on his former team and get one over on them. I believe the Panthers will cover the spread.
I am taking the Panthers to win and adding them to my parlay.
49ers: A flood of injuries, especially on the defensive, stopped the 49ers’ attempted defense of the 2019 NFC title. San Francisco stumbled to a 6-10 record, but there’s no doubting the 49ers should have a significant resurgence this season.
Jimmy Garoppolo will start for Kyle Shanahan in Week 1 but will be looking over his shoulder at first-round pick Trey Lance. Jimmy G will have a desirable trio of receivers Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and TE George Kittle.
Lions: The Lions are another team pushing for a fresh start, with Dan Campbell taking over as head coach in Detroit. The franchise traded 2009 first overall pick Matthew Stafford to the Rams for the 2016 first overall selection, Jared Goff.
Goff goes from Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp to Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman as his top two receivers after the Lions saw Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones depart in free agency.
The 49ers are expected to be back to their 2019 form this season, and if that is the case, then expect Trey Lance to sit out this year. The Lions are at the start of their rebuild, so there aren’t high expectations for this season in Michigan.
The 49ers should dominate the Lions on both sides of the ball, which will lead to a very one-sided game.
I am betting the under on 46.5 points as the Lions will struggle to put points on the board.
Cardinals: The Cardinals, unfortunately, dropped their final two games last season to finish 8-8 and out of the playoffs; yet Kliff Kingsbury’s squad still made huge improvements after a 5-10-1 season in 2019.
Kyler Murray’s had a breakout year in his second season, with the help of DeAndre Hopkins, who lived up to the reputation he’d built in Houston. Arizona added another explosive weapon for Murray with free-agent addition A.J. Green; Kingsbury’s offense could prove to be an excellent way to revive his career.
In the back-field, Kenyan Drake was replaced by James Conner, who will be rotated with Chases Edmonds.
Titans: The Titans returned to the playoffs last season, and Ryan Tannehill proved his impressive 2019 season was no fluke. Derrick Henry had a historic 2,027-yard, 17-touchdown season.
However, 2020 still ended in heartbreak for Tennessee with a first-round exit at the hands of the Ravens. The defense was frequently at fault for Mike Vrabel’s team last season. They added free-agent signing Bud Dupree this offseason to address their pass rush problems.
However, the most notable offseason move was the addition of Julio Jones to play alongside A.J. Brown. This has added to the narrative of this offense being one of the scariest in the league.
This game should be an offense-dominated affair. Both teams boast explosive receivers and franchise QBs. Both defenses had their problems last year, but the Cardinals look like theirs is the stringer of the two on paper. I think these teams will hit over of 54 points.
However, I am picking Arizona to win narrowly and I’m adding them to my parlay.
Eagles: The Eagles do have plenty to be hopeful about at quarterback, as Jalen Hurts showed that he has a high ceiling after being handed the opportunity to replace Carson Wentz.
He will enter the season as the No. 1 QB and have a new weapon in college teammate and reigning Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith. Hurts also has the top tight end duo Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz as red-zone threats.
Miles Sanders and rookie Kenneth Gainwell should be able to support Hurts with a strong ground game.
Falcons: Matt Ryan showed that he is still a top QB, throwing for 4,581 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. He has Calvin Ridley but no Julio Jones in his receiver room this season.
However, he has been given a significant upgrade at the tight end position in the form of No. 4 overall pick Kyle Pitts. Ryan also will be under new offensive-minded head coach Arthur Smith – who helped lead Tannehill’s career reignite in Tennessee.
These two teams will hope that their new additions can help turn their franchises around coming off disappointing seasons. Both teams have more potent offenses than defenses, so this could turn into a high-scoring game. I think the teams will hit the over on 48.5 points.
However, I think the underdog Eagles will produce a win on the road, so I am adding them to my parlay.
Dolphins: The Brian Flores Era has started with a bang since he took charge. Flores had Miami at 10-6 and within an inch of the postseason last year, if it wasn’t for a devastating loss to Buffalo in Week 17.
All eyes will be on Tua Tagovailoa as he begins his first full season as a starter. Dolphins fans will hope Tua and rookie Jaylen Waddle can rekindle their chemistry from their Alabama days. Waddle will join fellow new arrival Will Fuller to give the Fins receiver room a needed upgrade.
Patriots: The Patriots experienced a reality check in 2020, finishing with a losing record for the first time since 2000 and failing to win the division and make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
In this game, the Pats will rely on rookie Mac Jones, having released Cam Newton during the preseason. The Pats added numerous players during the offseason, including receivers Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor and TEs Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. That gives Mac Jones plenty of quality targets.
The Dolphins lost this game last year with a 21-11 scoreline in the season opener. Both teams have made significant moves to strengthen their offenses since then.
However, I think the winner of this game is down to whichever of the two young QBs plays better. I think Tua will have the upper hand, with a season under his belt, the experience will show out.
I am picking Miami to win this game and they go into my parlay.
Browns: The transition to Kevin Stefanski couldn’t have gone any better last season. Not only did Baker Mayfield find his 2018 form, but he also had a career-best season.
Additionally, Cleveland managed a winning record for the first time since 2007 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Ironically the Browns were beaten in the postseason by the Chiefs, but not before upsetting the Steelers at Heinz Field in the Wild Card round.
The offense remains largely unchanged, but the defense could somehow be even better with offseason additions Jadeveon Clowney, John Johnson, and hyped-up rookie linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
Chiefs: The defending AFC champs, Kansas City returns almost all its key pieces, but they lost their No. 2 receiver with the departure of Sammy Watkins. Watkins had 129 catches and eight touchdowns over the 34 regular-season games he played for Kansas.
Reid will look to Mecole Hardman and other complementary pieces to make up for Watkins departing.
Kansas City are seeking revenge this season after their crushing defeat in the Super Bowl. The Browns want to give the Chiefs a taste of their own medicine for kicking them out of the playoffs.
The Chiefs’ offense against the Browns’ defense should provide a tasty and high-scoring matchup. The Chiefs are favorites to win this game.
So, I am betting the over on 54.5 points.
Packers: Finally the saga ended! The Packers were indeed able to hold onto future Hall-of-Famer Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers reported to training camp and will play for Green Bay this season, but it will be interesting to see how the relationship between Rodgers and head coach Matt LaFleur is after the offseason drama.
Green Bay still hasn’t strengthened its receiving group or offensive line. However, they were able to keep Aaron Jones to partner with A.J. Dillon at running back and retained all of their key pieces on defense.
Saints: As for the Saints, they start the post-Drew Brees era with a QB room that consists of Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. Winston will get the Week 1 start against the Packers.
Alvin Kamara was re-signed, but the Saints will be without Michael Thomas in this one as he recovers from ankle surgery. The Saints have also managed to keep all of their essential defensive players.
Both these teams have had QB drama over the offseason. The Saints will use this season to see if Winston can merit the new QB1 position, whereas Rodgers knows that this will be his last season with Green Bay. The Packers are favorites for this game, and I agree with the oddsmakers.
I am adding the Packers to my parlay.
Broncos: The Broncos primarily made headlines this offseason over their QB situation. Despite investing a second-round pick in Drew Lock just two years ago, Denver was known to be actively seeking out competition for the talented but inconsistent quarterback this offseason.
The competition came in the form of Teddy Bridgewater, who was acquired via trade from the Panthers. Bridgewater will start Week 1 for Denver and will be helped by the returning Courtland Sutton, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, and an exciting young pass-catching group that includes Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, and KJ Hamler.
In the back-field, rookie second-round pick Javonte Williams will join veteran Melvin Gordon for what should be a formidable running back room.
Giants: The Giants finished with a 6-10 record while putting up just 280 points. Many injuries were to blame for their troubles, the worst being Saquon Barkley’s multiple knee ligament tears in Week 2. Barkley is back and will play against Denver.
The Giants also improved at receiver with the free-agent addition of Kenny Golladay and the drafting of Florida’s Kadarius Toney.
This duo will pair with Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, and Evan Engram to give QB Daniel Jones plenty of explosive targets. This will be a make-it-or-break-it-year for Jones in New York.
The Giants’ defense will likely sit in the bottom quarter of the stats table come to the end of the coming. However, if Jones can sort out his QB play, this offense could be one of the best in the league. The Broncos will hope that Teddy Bridgewater is the final piece in the puzzle. I think Jones will struggle against this top Denver defense.
So, I am taking the Broncos to win and adding them to my parlay.
Bears: The Bears endured another frustrating season in 2020, with their 8-8 finish helping to trade Mitchell Trubisky. Andy Dalton has been brought in to bridge the gap at QB, with Justin Fields being taken in the first round of this year’s draft.
Dalton will start this game and have top wideout Allen Robinson back, who has been franchise tagged. This defense hasn’t lost any significant players, so it should be strong again.
Rams: The Rams swapped Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford plus a few first-round picks. Stafford should be an upgrade over then inconsistent Goff, and the only question is how quickly he’ll build up chemistry with top targets Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, DeSean Jackson, and tight end Tyler Higbee.
The back-field will be weakened this year, with Cam Akers suffering a torn Achilles, which has ended his season before it began. Darrell Henderson, who rushed for 624 yards on 147 carries in 2020, will likely receive the most carries for the Rams this season.
If Stafford beds in quickly, then the Rams should be the dominant force in the NFC West. The Bears will be trying to close the gap to the Packers in the NFC North. The Rams look like the better team on paper, but anything can happen in the NFL, especially in Week 1.
I am taking the under on 46.5 points, with both teams’ solid defenses coming out on top.
Ravens: The Ravens had a Wild Card victory over Tennessee last season, but they came up two games short of the Super Bowl when they lost to the Bills the following week.
The Ravens’ passing game continued to be the one offensive weakness last season, but the Ravens added veteran Sammy Watkins and rookie Rashod Bateman during the offseason. The back-field is suddenly a big problem with Mark Ingram leaving for Houston, and three would-be starting RBs were injured in the preseason.
Baltimore has signed Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray, and Le’Veon Bell in response to their problems behind Lamar Jackson.
Raiders: The Raiders managed an 8-8 record last season. Entering the fourth year as head coach, Jon Gruden will rely again on Derek Carr to lead the offense. The team has a deep and explosive group of pass-catchers. This was further strengthened during the offseason with the addition of John Brown and Willie Snead IV.
Meanwhile, Josh Jacobs will lead the back-field, which was bolstered by the signing of Kenyan Drake. However, the defense, which allowed 29.9 points per game last season, will hope the offseason acquisitions of Yannick Ngakoue and Casey Hayward will lower that unpleasant stat in 2021.
The Raiders are banking on Carr consistently playing at a high level and their defense significantly improving. The Ravens will again rely on Lamar Jackson to create big plays and lead them back to the playoffs.
The Ravens are favorites for this game, and I think Jackson will dominate the Raiders’ defense.
I am adding the Ravens as the final selection in my 10-team parlay.