The Chip Kelly experiment continues as new starting quarterback Sam Bradford takes over one of the NFL’s best offenses. Kelly, of course, is well known for his offensive innovations and has helped the Philadelphia Eagles to back-to-back 10-plus win seasons. The Eagles get a chance to continue and get back to the postseason when they open Monday Night Football with a trip to the Georgia Dome to face the Atlanta Falcons. Bradford, who has missed the better part of the past two seasons with knee injuries, is finally healthy enough and is in command of the up-tempo Eagles offense. He is surrounded by a wealth of talent including last year’s NFL rushing leader RB DeMarco Murray. Jordan Matthews and rookie Nelson Agholor give Bradford youth but ample talent at the wide receiver positions. Eagles vs Falcons odds favor Philadelphia on the road by a field goal (-3) while NFL picks for week 1 on the over/under total are set at 55½.
The former Rams QB, Bradford was the 2010 Offensive Rookie of the Year after starting all 16 games. He then played in roughly half of the team’s next 64 games suffering knee injuries in consecutive seasons. The Eagles opponent, Atlanta, welcomes new head coach Dan Quinn, former defensive coordinator in Seattle. Quinn’s first task will be improving a defense that finished dead last in the league in total yards allowed per game (398.3). Quinn and the Falcons selected undersized hybrid LB/DE Vic Beasley of Clemson in the first round and acquired Adrian Clayborn in the offseason to help. Along with LB Justin Durant, the defense should improve at least enough to take some of the pressure off of the offense. If Atlanta is going to have any chance of covering the spread as home underdogs in Eagles vs Falcons odds, the defense must be able to slow down the potent Philly offense.
Quarterback Matt Ryan enjoyed his fourth straight 4,000-yard season last year, but he and the rest of the Falcons offense must work under new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan this season. There have been some struggles with the new zone-running based offense and problems with the offensive line have not helped. Atlanta has actually beaten Philadelphia the past two times that the two teams have met. Ryan threw for seven touchdowns in those two meetings. It is doubtful he will have that kind of success Monday night. Look for Philadelphia to have a lot of offensive success against a struggling Atlanta defense. The week 1 season opener (Monday, September 14th) between the Eagles and Falcons can be seen live on ESPN at 6:55pm EST from the Georgia Dome.
The New York Giants would love nothing more than to start the 2015 season with a win over their NFC East division rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys will be looking to win back-to-back division titles for the first time in over a decade. No team in the division has repeated in 11 years. The Giants winners of two Super Bowls in the 2000s, have not tasted much success lately and last season was dreadful. After starting the season 3-2, the Giants running game and defense disappeared on the way to seven straight losses. The club did finish the season 3-1 but must address their running game and a defense that allowed 395.3 yards per game in 2014. Giants vs Cowboys odds in Vegas favor Dallas by nearly a touchdown (-6) while NFL predictions for the week 1 total have been set at 52.
New York will be without the services of Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul who injured a hand over the summer in a fireworks accident. Pierre-Paul finally met with Giants representatives after missing all summer team activities and preseason training camp. His status is still uncertain. New York will also be without the services of star wide receiver Victor Cruz, who is still not fully recovered from a patellar tendon injury suffered last October. What the Giants do have is QB Eli Manning and WR Odell Beckham Jr., the NFL’s breakout star of 2014. In just 12 games, OBJ had 1,305 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns. Manning, despite the Giants inability to run the ball, still enjoyed a decent 2014 season tossing 30 touchdowns compared to just 14 interceptions. Manning will need to control his turnovers in week 1 if New York is to cover the spread as underdogs in Giants vs Cowboys odds.
Dallas, which has beaten New York four straight times, will rely on the arm of quarterback Tony Romo who led the NFL last year with a passer rating of 113.2. The ground game may suffer some as last year’s leading rusher, also the league’s leading ground gainer, DeMarco Murray is now in Philadelphia. Murray will be replaced by Darren McFadden, Christine Michael, Lance Dunbar, and Joseph Randle. Romo will still have WR Dez Bryant as his top receiving target. Bryant, who just signed a five-year, $70 million deal in the offseason, led the league in receiving touchdowns last year with 16. The Cowboys defense will be without DE Greg Hardy until late October and LB Rolando McLain will miss the season’s first four games due to suspension. Still, the Cowboys should have enough to win its fifth straight over the Giants.
Two of the league’s premier franchise clash in a Week 1 matchup that NFL fans will keep their eye on. Baltimore, Super Bowl champions in 2012, and Denver, winners of four straight AFC West Division titles, square off in a season-opening Sunday game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Ravens vs Broncos odds for the week 1 AFC conference battle have Denver favored at home by 5-points against Baltimore while NFL picks for week 1 on the over/under are posted at a high scoring 48½. Despite those four straight division championships, the Broncos dumped head coach John Fox, now the head man in Chicago. Gary Kubiak, the former offensive coordinator in Baltimore, is the head coach in Denver and has adapted his zone run-based offense to future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.
The 18-year veteran is finally healthy (a quadriceps injury hampered him in 2014) and the Broncos have a plan in place for resting the five-time league MVP throughout the season. Manning still has plenty of weapons surrounding him including wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryious Thomas. Both Sanders and Thomas recorded over 1,400 yards receiving in 2014 and are primed to do it again. The Broncos did lose one of the game’s better receiving tight ends in Julius Thomas, but gained former Raven Owen Daniel. The Broncos running game will undoubtedly be better as Kubiak brings his philosophy to a capable set of backs led by C.J. Anderson, Montee Ball, and Ronnie Hillman. Both Hillman and Ball suffered injuries last season, so having depth at the position, which Denver does, is a key to covering the point spread as favorites in Ravens vs Broncos odds. Baltimore will be Baltimore again in 2015 featuring a run-stopping defense, a strong ground game, and the heady play of veteran Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco. The Ravens lost All-Pro nose tackle Haloti Ngata, but last year’s first-round draft pick Timmy Jernigan appears ready to take over.
The linebacking corps is solid with Terrell Suggs and Courtney Upshaw on the outside and future star C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith on the inside. The Ravens secondary is solid and is going to have to play well against arguably the league’s best quarterback and one-two receiving tandem if they are to cover the spread as five point underdogs in NFL picks for Ravens vs Broncos odds. The last time Manning faced the Ravens, he threw for 462 yards and seven touchdowns. The Ravens offense still has Justin Forsett (1,266 yards, eight TDs) and 15-year veteran wide receiver Steve Smith, who is coming off a season where he caught 79 passes for 1,065 yards. They will also have first round draft pick Breshad Perriman but not for the season opener. Perriman suffered a sprained knee in the preseason. Regardless, the Ravens will still have to face a very good Denver defense led by DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. The week 1 season opener (Sunday, September 13th) between the Ravens and Broncos can be seen live on CBS at 4:25pm EST from Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis will try once again to get to the postseason. His main goal, of course, is to win in the playoffs, something the Bengals have failed to do in each of the last four seasons. A trip back begins Sunday when Cincinnati travels to Oakland to take on the Raiders. The Bengals will once again feature one of the NFLs more physical defenses and this year they will have LB Vontaze Burfict back from an injury. The front four is solid and Burfict and middle linebacker Rey Maualaga gives Cincinnati one of the league’s best front sevens. The Bengals defense will have to slow down an improving Oakland offense. That being said, Bengals vs Raiders odds have listed the road team as -3½ point favorites with NFL predictions for week 1 on the over/under total are posted at 43.
First-year head coach Jack Del Rio will look to second-year quarterback Derek Carr, rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper, and veteran Michael Crabtree to get the Oakland offense started. Carr became just the seventh rookie to throw for over 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. Latavius Murray will start at running back giving the Raiders a guy who averaged 5.4 yards per carry over his final six games last year. Oakland can only get better on offense. They ranked dead last in total yards per game with 282.2 last year. If not for lowly Jacksonville, the Raiders would have scored the fewest points in the league too. Oakland wound up with just 253 points for the year. This all bodes well for Cincinnati which went 10-6-1 a year ago. The Lewis' squad will need to start the season off with a win in Bengals vs Raiders odds especially since they play in what is arguably the toughest division in football, the AFC North. Cincinnati is one of seven teams that have won 40 or more games over the past four seasons.
While the Bengals have won in the regular season, they have failed miserably in the postseason. Cincinnati is 0-7 since beating the old Houston Oilers back in January of 1991. While the Bengals will rely heavily on their defense, they are pretty good on the other side of the ball. Jeremy Hill rushed for 1,124 yards last season as a rookie and wide receiver A.J. Green recorded another 1,000-yard season even though he missed three games with a toe injury. Andy Dalton is a solid QB who, like his team, has performed admirably in the regular season and then faltered in the playoffs. His quarterback rating is nearly 30 points lower in the in the postseason than the regular season. Dalton and the rest of the Bengals will look to get back to business in Week 1 against the Raiders in an effort to make it back to the postseason for the fifth consecutive year. The week 1 season opener (Sunday, September 13th) between the Bengals and Raiders can be seen live on CBS at 4:25pm EST from O.co Coliseum.
The first and second overall picks in the 2015 NFL Draft will meet for real this time as the Tennessee Titans travel to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 of the new season. Jameis Winston, who went No. 1, takes on the Titans and new quarterback Marcus Mariota, No. 2, as both teams try to create a winning identity. The two top draft picks met in the preseason but now meet in the regular season in a match-up of the previous two Heisman Trophy winners. Tennessee Titans vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers odds have listed the home team as field goal (-3) favorites while NFL picks for week 1 have the over/under total set at 41. Both teams believe they have selected their quarterback of the future but, as history has shown, rookie quarterbacks have a tough time getting started…even the best ones.
In 2012 Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts accounted for four turnovers in a loss in his first start. Both Sam Bradford (2010) and Matt Stafford (2009) turned the ball over three times in their inaugural NFL starts. What could help both quarterbacks would be a solid running game, but neither team finished in the upper half of the league in rushing yards per game last season. Tampa Bay’s leading rusher a year ago, Doug Martin, didn’t even eclipse 500 yards and the Bucs will start two rookies on the offensive line on Sunday. Still, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has confidence in his front five, a unit that gave up 52 sacks a year ago. Things are not much better for Mariota and the Titans. Bishop Sankey may lose out to Terrance West as the starter at running back and neither is a household name. West was recently acquired via a trade with Cleveland. Regardless, the Titans running game is not one of the league’s elite and is a key factor when handicapping Titans vs Buccaneers odds.
If at all possible, the Titans will try to distract and disrupt Winston with a myriad of pressure on defense. Long-time Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau joined the Tennessee staff after last season and will do his best to put together the type of defense that he is known for. The Hall of Fame player and coach built some of the league’s best defensive units in both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Sunday’s NFL picks for Tennessee Titans vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers odds are not just about Winston and Mariota, but there is not much more news for two franchises that have not frequented the playoffs over the past decade. Tampa Bay won a Super Bowl XXXVII in a rout over Oakland following the 2002 season. The Buccaneers have reached the postseason just two times since. Tennessee has been to the playoffs just twice (2006 and 2008) in the past decade. The week 1 season opener (Sunday, September 13th) between the Titans and Chargers can be seen live on CBS at 4:25pm EST from Raymond James Stadium.
The Detroit Lions went 11-5 last season thanks to a defense that ranked near the top of almost every statistical category. Detroit was No. 1 against the run yielding just 69.3 rushing yards per game. A big part of that defense is gone now that Ndamukong Suh is now in Miami. The Lions defense is a question mark as they head into Week 1 of the 2015 season when they travel to face the San Diego Chargers. Detroit will have Ziggy Ansah, who had 7.5 sacks, and Jason Jones on the outside and they did sign veteran Haloti Ngata from Baltimore in the offseason to play inside. The linebacking corps remains the same led by DeAndre Levy and the secondary is solid. Despite having a potent offense, the questionable defense is the main reason why Detroit Lions vs San Diego Chargers odds have Jim Caldwell's squad posted as 3-point road underdogs while NFL predictions for week 1 over/under total are listed at 46.
The Lions defense will face one of the league’s better quarterbacks in Philip Rivers and a formidable group of receivers. Rivers threw for over 4,200 yards and 31 touchdowns last year. His top target is still veteran tight end Antonio Gates (69 receptions, 821 yards, 12 TDs). That being said, Rivers will be without the services of Gates for the first four games of the season serving a suspension from testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. A key factor to the home favorites covering the spread Detroit Lions vs San Diego Chargers odds will be the emergence of rookie running back Melvin Gordon. The first round pick out of Wisconsin is big, fast, shifty, and durable. He will help open up the passing game with his running ability. Gordon is also a capable receiver.
The Chargers will have to control one of the most powerful offenses in the NFL. Quarterback Matt Stafford enters his seventh season running the Lions offense that features the league’s top receiver in Calvin Johnson, a very good No. 2 WR in Golden Tate, and capable tight ends in Eric Ebron and Brandon Pettigrew. Detroit went to the draft to get a replacement for Reggie Bush. They picked up former Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah, who should pair well with Joique Bell. If the Lions defense is up to the task, Detroit should be off and running in its quest for an NFC North title. The week 1 season opener (Sunday, September 13th) between the Detroit Lions and San Diego Chargers can be seen live on FOX at 4:05pm EST from Qualcomm Stadium.
Two of the NFC’s favorites will face each other in Week 1 of the 2015 NFL season. The New Orleans Saints, expected to win the NFC South, and the Arizona Cardinals, a favorite in the very strong West division, will match up with each other on the league’s first Sunday. Head coach Bruce Arians has quietly put together one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the NFL taking the Cardinals to the playoffs last season for the first time since 2009. Arians was named the league’s Coach of the Year as a result. What is even more impressive about the Cardinals success last year is that they did it playing three quarterbacks. Hopefully, they don’t have to do that again. Carson Palmer returns healthy after a knee injury ended his 2014 season prematurely. Even with a healthy Palmer behind center, New Orleans Saints vs Arizona Cardinals odds only favor the home team by just a field goal (-2½) with the over/under total at 48.
Looking past the season opener, Arians and the Cardinals will need Palmer to stay healthy because the drop-off to No. 2 QB Drew Stanton is noticeable. Arizona upgraded the offensive line by adding Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati to help ensure that Palmer plays all 16 games. Running back Andre Ellington returns after an injury as well and the Arizona running game will also help take pressure off of Palmer and the passing game. The Cardinals finished 31st in rush offense last year, something that will need to improve if they are to contend with Seattle for the NFC West title. For those looking to bet on New Orleans Saints vs Arizona Cardinals odds, it is important to note that Vegas currently has 62% of the NFL picks for week 1 taking the Cards laying the points at home.
In New Orleans, Drew Brees returns for his 15th NFL season. He and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger led the NFL in passing yards last year with 4,952. Brees also threw for 33 touchdowns against 17 interceptions. He lost his number one target in TE Jimmy Graham in free agency, but has one of the most unheralded groups of receivers in the league. Marques Colston, Brandin Cooks, and Nick Toon give Brees ample targets in the passing game. The Saints beat Arizona, 31-7, the last time the two teams met back in 2013. Arians has the Cardinals on a different level now, which will make a New Orleans victory even tougher this time around. The week 1 season opener (Sunday, September 13th) between the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals can be seen live on FOX at 4:05pm EST from the University of Phoenix Stadium.
The New England Patriots will begin the quest to defend their Super Bowl title from last year when they square off with the Pittsburgh Steelers on what has become the traditional Thursday night opener of the National Football League season. Both teams will be missing some key players though. It looked as if New England would have to start week 1 without All-Pro quarterback Tom Brady for the first four games of the season due to the "DeflateGate" scandal in which the Patriots were accused of tampering with game balls during last year's AFC playoffs however that will not be the case. Brady will be suited up and behind center for Thursday's season opener after Judge Richard Berman nullified the NFL's imposed suspension last week. As a result, Pittsburgh Steelers vs New England Patriots odds in Vegas currently favor Brady and the Pats at home by a touchdown (-7) while NFL predictions have the over/under total posted at 52½.
Offseason suspensions have also affected the Pittsburgh Steelers who will play without star running back Le’Veon Bell. The third-year pro was suspended for an arrest on drug charges prior to last season. Initially, Bell was to miss three games, but the suspension was reduced to the first two contests of the 2015 season. Without Bell, the Steelers will work former Carolina RB DeAngelo Williams more. Williams was added in the offseason to give Pittsburgh some added depth at the position. Behind Williams, the Steelers have the speedy Dri Archer and rookie Josh Harris. Another major factor playing into Pittsburgh Steelers vs New England Patriots odds is the fact that WR Martavis Bryant, who is expected to have a breakout second season, will also miss the week 1 opener on Thursday due to suspension.
The 6-4 Bryant has 4.4 speed and has had a great training camp. It was found that he violated the league’s substance abuse policy and will miss the first four games of the season. Still, the Steelers offense will revolve around quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the passing game as it did a year ago. Roethlisberger led the NFL in passing yards a year ago and WR Antonio Brown led the league in receiving yards. The bigger question in NFL predictions for those betting on Pittsburgh Steelers vs New England Patriots odds is how the once vaunted "terrible towels" defense will respond without its architect, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau who is now in Tennessee, and without former stars Troy Polamalu and Jason Worilds, both of whom retired. The week 1 season opener (Thursday, September 10th) between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots can be seen live on NBC at 8:30pm EST from Gillette Stadium.
The St. Louis Rams can no longer blame their woes on injuries to quarterback Sam Bradford. In a somewhat surprising off-season move, the Rams sent Bradford and a first-round draft pick to Philadelphia for QB Nick Foles and a first-round draft pick. Foles, who had success in Philadelphia, takes over a Rams unit that was 28th in the league last year in total offense. With the help of new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr., Foles looks to change that. The St. Louis offense struggled last year after Bradford suffered another knee injury. Rotating quarterbacks left the offense inept and led to a 2-5 start. With stability at the position and some serious weapons, the offense should be much better in 2015. That being said however, Vegas Super Bowl predictions aren't giving the Rams much of a chance to lift the Lombardi trophy listing St. Louis as +5000 longshots to win the championship.
NFL odds also have the St. Louis Rams +2500 to win the NFC Conference and +900 to win the NFC West division. In an effort to bolster the offensive production, the Rams went out and took a risk by drafting Georgia RB Todd Gurley in the first round. Gurley is coming off a knee injury but is the kind of back who is a game-changer. He is big (6-1, 222) and possesses great speed and vision. The offensive line was mediocre last year, but St. Louis added former Detroit guard Garrett Reynolds and drafted 6-7, 321-pount tackle Rob Havenstein out of Wisconsin. Both should start and pave the way for Gurley and last year’s leading rusher Tre Mason (765 yards on 179 carries). Whether or not Foles and Gurley will be able to provide enough points to cover weekly NFL odds is still up for debate.
Head coach Jeff Fisher was successful in Tennessee using a ball control offense and a tough, physical defense. The Rams defense was actually very good during the second half of the season last year. Minus giving up 37 points to Odell Beckham and the New York Giants, the Rams gave up just 32 points over four games at the end of the season, including back-to-back shutouts over Oakland and Washington. Much of that defense returns including all three starting linebackers and seven of the top nine defensive linemen. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year and second on the team with 9.0 sacks. Defensive end Robert Quinn led the team with 10.5. St. Louis added DT Nick Fairley from Detroit and outside linebacker Akeem Ayers from New England in the offseason. The talent is there for the Rams to be an elite defense but not enough to defy Super Bowl predictions as longshots. However, they may have a shot at a winning record and possibly a 2015 NFC West title.
Rams Update (9/12/15): St. Louis are now +5000 favorites in Super Bowl predictions, +2800 to win the NFC Conference and +700 to win the NFC West.
It has been the most miraculous turnaround of the past five years. The Arizona Cardinals hired Bruce Arians just two years ago and have 21 wins to their credit. The Cardinals went 11-5 last season, finished second to Seattle in the NFC West, and earned a wild card berth in the playoffs. A repeat performance is likely if Arizona can stay healthy. Even if they do not, it is possible that Arians and his staff can work the same magic they worked in 2014. Sportsbooks certainly think so with Vegas Super Bowl predictions cautiously listing the Cardinals as +2500 favorites to win the championship, +1400 to win the NFC Conference while NFL odds have Arizona at +400 to win the NFC East. Quarterback Carson Palmer, now 35 years old, is aging and coming off injuries that cut his season short. Arizona started the season 9-1 last year but after Palmer’s ACL tear faltered down the stretch with backup QB Drew Stanton.
The Arizona Cardinals won only two of their last six games. It didn’t help matters that starting RB Andre Ellington was lost for the season in December. Arizona averaged a paltry 81.8 yards per game. Regardless, hopes are high once again in terms of Super Bowl predictions as a healthy Palmer returns as does wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and John Brown. While Fitzgerald (32) is no longer an elite receiver, he is still a very capable No. 1… if he has the QB that can get him the football. The former Pitt All-American was on track for another 1,000-yard receiving season before Palmer was lost for the year. The running game, as well as pass protection, gets a boost with the addition of Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati. The Cardinals also signed A.Q. Shipley to start at center and drafted 6-5, 307-pound offensive tackle D.J. Humphries out of Florida. Arizona also added Northern Iowa running back David Johnson (6-1, 225) to try and take some of the pressure off of Ellington.
Arizona did lose some key contributors to its fifth-ranked scoring defense. First and foremost was the loss of coordinator Todd Bowles who became the new head coach of the New York Jets. Linebacker Larry Foote retired, defensive end Darnell Dockett signed with San Francisco, and cornerback Antonio Cromartie is now a Jet. The Cardinals did add linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and LaMarr Woodley to offset the loss of Foote, but will count on DE Calais Campbell to become a force on the defensive line. Arizona generated just 35 sacks last year and will need to do better if they are to compete for the 2015 NFC West title. Campbell had seven and team-leader Alex Okafor had eight. Arians has done a masterful job of resurrecting the Cardinals to make a run in Super Bowl predictions. His best coaching job may need to come this season as the Cards have two dates with Seattle and must play the entire AFC North, arguably the toughest division in NFL odds.
Cardinals Update (9/9/15): Arizona are now +3300 favorites in Super Bowl predictions, +1600 to win the NFC Conference and +500 to win the NFC West.