The 2021 NFL schedule is officially here, which means so are Week 1 lines. Some may think it’s ridiculous to start putting money down on games four months away. Even I used to be one of those ignorant gamblers. But the truth is there is value to be found in the lines that were posted on Wednesday. The first week of the NFL season is always fun, because you don’t have much to go off of. This means you could potentially have a read on a team or matchup that maybe Vegas hasn’t realized yet. I went 4-1 on my top five too-early picks last year. Below, you’ll find what I’m putting money on this year.

All NFL odds are via William Hill Sportsbook.  

Sept. 12, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Jaguars -2.5

This spread started climbing the moment it was posted, as some sportsbooks had it at Jaguars -1.5, and it is now Jaguars -2.5 at -120. Go ahead and lock this one in now. The Jaguars are a bit of an unknown with first-year head coach Urban Meyer and rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence, but I expect this team to be much better than they were last year and to be relatively competitive with everyone they face. As for the Texans, there’s a chance they won’t have Deshaun Watson under center in the season opener. This Texans team will easily be one of the worst in the league without him, and Lawrence should have a great chance to begin his NFL career with a win.

The pick: Jaguars (-2.5) 24-13 over Texans

Sept. 12, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Chargers -1.5

The Ron Rivera era started off with a bang last year, as Washington defeated the Philadelphia Eagles by 10 points after trailing by 17 in the second quarter. Washington’s elite defense will provide a tough test for second-year quarterback Justin Herbert, and Ryan Fitzpatrick has been known to start seasons hot before cooling off. Back in 2018, he became the first quarterback to throw for over 400 yards in three consecutive games — with those three games being the first three contests of the season. Washington is no longer a feel-good story about a team that made it to the playoffs despite having quarterback issues, they are a team that can compete with the best of them. Give me the upset here in Week 1.

The pick: Washington (+1.5) 30-24 over Chargers

Sept. 12, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
Point spread: 49ers -7.5

The 49ers are the biggest favorite of Week 1 and I’m jumping on it before this line gets even larger. All we are going to be able to talk about from today until Sept. 12 is the 49ers’ quarterback situation, but I think Jimmy Garoppolo gets the start in the season opener. With him motivated to retain his job and an easy opponent in the Lions, expect the 49ers to record a double-digit victory. The Lions are not going to be good this year.    

The pick: 49ers (-7.5) 28-10 over Lions

Sept. 12, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Panthers -4

Sam Darnold didn’t have to wait long for his revenge game against the Jets. Robert Saleh is an intriguing head coach and his quarterback Zach Wilson has a special arm, but are we really going to see their potential in the first game of the season on the road against a quarterback motivated to show up his replacement? Carolina has Christian McCaffrey back, a talented wide receiving corps and a young up-and-coming defense. I’m not saying Darnold will turn into the star his supporters always said he would be, but he can win this game.  

The pick: Panthers (-4) 31-24 over Jets

Sept. 12, 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Patriots -2

The Patriots hosted the Dolphins in Foxborough in Week 1 last year as well, and defeated them, 21-11. Cam Newton and the Patriots faded as the year went on, but this team should be different in 2021. Bill Belichick returns all of his defensive opt-outs and also made several notable additions in free agency. I like the Dolphins’ potential, but give me Belichick coming out and making a statement in Week 1.    

The pick: Patriots (-2) 27-21 over Dolphins

The rest of the Week 1 picks

Buccaneers 31-30 over Cowboys (+6.5)
Cardinals (+2.5) 35-26 over Titans
Seahawks (+2.5) 33-24 over Colts
Bengals (+3) 28-27 over Vikings
Falcons (-3.5) 27-21 over Eagles
Bills 30-27 over Steelers (+6)
Chiefs (-6) 31-24 over Browns
Giants (+1) 21-17 over Broncos
Packers (+3) 30-28 over Saints
Rams (-7) 27-10 over Bears
Ravens 30-28 over Raiders (+4.5)





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