Each week, we break down some of the underlying mismatches in the NFL, hoping to give you an inside edge when handicapping the schedule. Here are three of the biggest betting mismatches from Week 1:
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (-3, 54)
Falcons RB Steven Jackson vs. Saints dinged-up defense
Atlanta will waste no time getting their new offensive weapon in the mix, handing off and tossing short to RB Steven Jackson Sunday. Jackson’s smashmouth style will take full advantage of a hobbled Saints defense that is missing key cogs in the linebacker corps.
New Orleans, which is also making a switch to the 3-4 defense under new coordinator Rob Ryan, is without linebackers Jonathan Vilma, Victor Butler and Will Smith, and their backups have been hindered by injuries all offseason. The Saints were dead last in the NFL in rushing defense in 2012, laying down for 147.6 yards per game.
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins (-3.5, 51.5)
Eagles diminutive WRs vs. Redskins strong secondary
The Eagles are coming up short in the wide receiver department in more than one way. Philadelphia, which lost taller WRs Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn this summer, has a serious height disadvantage. The Eagles are left with 5-foot-9 DeSean Jackson, 5-foot-8 Damaris Johnson, and 6-foot Jason Avant as real receiving weapons. Six-foot-3 WR Riley Cooper is better served as a blocker because of his lack of speed.
Washington has tinkered with its secondary after being gashed by the pass last season. The Redskins are hoping FS Brandon Meriweather will be able to go, but even if he can’t Washington should lean on its size advantage in the secondary. Only two Redskins CBs are under six feet – standouts DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (-3.5, 48.5)
Giants’ lack of LB coverage vs. Cowboys TE Jason Witten
The Giants know Dallas TE Jason Witten all too well. The future Hall of Famer has long been a thorn in New York’s side and totaled 167 yards on 18 catches the last time he faced the G-Men. That familiarity with Witten won’t help the Giants linebackers, who were exploited in coverage this preseason, watching the Jets and Patriots pick apart their LBs with passes underneath.
On top of that, New York will assign S Ryan Munday to Witten Sunday night, his first Week 1 start and just his fifth overall career start. Fellow S Antrel Rolle told the media Witten won’t catch 18 passes again. Sure, but you can at least pencil him in for seven or eight. That’s more than enough touches to do damage.