Welcome to Chuck’s Choices, formerly NFL Best Bets, where we humbled the point spread in 2014 to the tune of 51-30 for a winning percentage of .629. The staff (comprised of me, a Desert Tortoise named Steve, and my upstairs neighbor Kennedy) was surprised and delighted to finish the season with such a strong record, and was mostly proud that we did not have a losing week.
Many people ask me what the secret is to picking winners in the NFL. It is a simple thing I discovered late in 2013. I do NOT bet on these games. I have no control over what Steve and Kennedy do with this information, but the minute I decide to bet even a $5 parlay on my picks of the week, they will go down harder than RGIII on a straight drop-back against the Detroit Lions’ defense. There is something to be said about making picks against the spread without the threat of losing my hard-earned cash. It is the fun of sports gambling without the risk.
With that being said, I must give fair warning that wagering on Week 1 of the NFL season is almost as risky as betting on the pre-season. Even though we think we know much about these teams, it is a good idea to forget almost everything you saw in the four “practice” games. In Week 1, it is perhaps most important to look at trends and motivation. It is also a time to look at biases that still exist from last year which may not hold true as the new season starts.
Without further ado, and we could all do with a little less ado in our lives, here are Chuck’s Choices for the very first weekend of the NFL season in 2015. As always, the home team is in ALL CAPS.
NEW YORK JETS (-3.5) over Cleveland—I cringed when I saw that extra half point added to the line on the Jets side late in the week. Nonetheless, I am taking New York in my eliminator challenge this week, and will hope my instincts are good enough that they are a touchdown better than the Browns. We will see a lot of RB Isaiah Crowell for Cleveland and Chris Ivory for the Jets, but the difference is crafty veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick for New York. He has some good targets in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, and the other side does not. This should be a low-scoring game, but the LV over/under (39.5) reflects that. According to R.J. Bell at Pregame.com, since resuming the franchise 16 years ago, the Browns are 1-15 straight up and 4-12 against the spread in season openers. Jets by 10
UNDER 49 Green Bay at CHICAGO—Each of these teams has suffered key losses over the summer to players who were vital to their offenses. The Packers are without standout WR Jordy Nelson for the season due to a knee injury, and WR Randall Cobb is nursing a sprained AC joint. He will play, but admits his shoulder is still sore and he has been practicing on ways to fall on it that won’t create further damage. On the Bears’ side, first-round draft choice Kevin White is probably out for the season with a stress fracture in his shin and WR Alshon Jeffrey still is not 100 per cent with a bad calf. WR Eddie Royal, who was expected to carry much of the load, is bothered by a hip injury. All of this adds up to one thing—a heavy dose of the running game by both teams. More running plays mean more time taken off of the clock, and fewer big plays. A steady dose of Eddie Lacy for the Pack and Matt Forte for the Bears will keep the final total under the number. Packers 17-14
ST. LOUIS (+4) over Seattle—If there is one thing Rams Coach Jeff Fisher is maniacal about it is beating the teams in his division. The Rams have beaten the Seahawks in St. Louis twice in the past three years, and in the other game Seattle escaped with a 14-9 win. Sure, the Seahawks may have one of the premiere defenses in the league, but the Rams’ “D” is pretty darned good, too. This one will be hard-fought to the end, with a field goal making the difference either way. Might as well call the upset. Rams by 3
UNDER 48 Baltimore at DENVER—I wanted to pick the Broncos to cover the 4-and-a-half-point spread, but I have to see if Peyton Manning is still winging touchdowns like always, or if there is more of an emphasis on the running game in the Mile High City this year. The thing that is most certain in this game is that the Broncos have a great defense this year and the Ravens are in the first year of a new offense under former Bears Coach Marc Trestman. Baltimore may adapt to the new system after four or five games, but I don’t expect much from them right out of the gate—especially in the altitude against a relentless defense led by a linebacking corps of Von Miller, Brandon Marshall, Danny Trevathan and Demarcus Ware. The Ravens might shut down Peyton Manning. The Broncos will shut down Joe Flacco. Broncos 21-10
Minnesota (-2.5) over SAN FRANCISCO—The only positive note coming from San Francisco during the off-season has been the journey of Australian Rugby player Jarryd Hayne to make it in the NFL. There have been nothing but great stories coming out of Vikings camp. Adrian Peterson comes off of a year without any bumps and bruises. Teddy Bridgewater can only get better in his second season. The Vikings have been virtually injury-free. One of the riskiest things in a handicapper’s life is taking a road favorite on Monday night. The 49ers present no case for the home dog in this contest. Vikings by 17
(Point spreads are courtesy of Westgate Las Vegas, as posted on Sportsmemo.com)