Week 1 of the NFL schedule is quickly approaching and teams and coaches are fine-tuning their games, looking to peak just before the season opener.
Some NFL teams have been consistent strong starters while others have stumbled out of the gate each year. Here are the best and worst bets in the first three games of the season over the past three years:Quickest starters
Houston Texans (7-2 SU, 7-2 ATS over first three games since 2010)
The Texans were a profitable 3-0 SU and ATS through the first three weeks of the 2012 schedule, taking cake-walk wins over Jacksonville and Miami before holding off the Broncos in Denver in Week 3. This season, Houston plays two of its first three contests on the road – at San Diego on Monday night in Week 1(-3) and at Baltimore in Week 3 (+2.5) – bookending a home date with Tennessee in Week 2 (-7.5).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-4 SU, 7-2 ATS over first three games since 2010)
The Bucs started 1-2 SU last year but covered in all three of those games, prompting a profitable year for Tampa Bay bettors, who finished 10-5-1 ATS. The Buccaneers were underdogs in losses at New York and Dallas in Weeks 2 and 3 and opened the schedule with a home win over Carolina. Tampa Bay kicks off 2013 with a road trip to play the Jets (-2.5), at home to the Saints in Week 2 (+1.5) and at New England in Week 3 (+7.5).Atlanta Falcons (6-3 SU, 6-3 ATS over first three games since 2010)
The Falcons are classic fast starters but have fallen on their faces at the end of the season and playoffs. Atlanta was 3-0 SU and ATS to open 2012 thanks to some short spreads, winning at Kansas City as a 1-point fave, beating Denver at home as 3-point chalk and knocking off the Bolts on the road as a field-goal dog. The Falcons’ first three weeks of 2013 feature an opener at New Orleans (+2.5), a home game vs. St. Louis (-7), and a visit to Miami in Week 3 (+1).
Slowest startersPhiladelphia Eagles (5-4 SU, 2-7 ATS over first three games since 2010)
Philadelphia’s struggles in 2012 were well documented by the media, going 2-1 SU and 0-3 ATS versus the likes of Cleveland, Baltimore and Arizona in the first three weeks. The Eagles only managed to come through for bettors three times all season. This time around, Philly visits Washington (+4.5) on Monday night in Week 1 then is back home to host San Diego (-2.5) and Kansas City (-3) on Thursday Night Football. With a new head coach and system in place, the Eagles could be doomed for another slow start.
Denver Broncos (3-6 SU, 3-6 ATS over first three games since 2010)
Even with Peyton Manning under center, the Broncos couldn’t avoid a third straight 1-2 SU and ATS start to the season in 2012. Denver needed an epic comeback versus Pittsburgh in Week 1, and lost at Atlanta and vs. Houston the following weeks. Peyton & Co. have another tough go-around to open 2013, hosting Baltimore in the Thursday night opener (-8.5), visiting the Giants for the “Manning Bowl” in Week 2 (-1) and welcoming Oakland to Mile High on Monday night in Week 3 (-13.5). That’s a lot of chalk for Broncos bettors to deal with.New Orleans Saints (4-5 SU, 3-6 ATS over first three games since 2010)
New Orleans is putting 2012 in the rearview, opening the schedule in the shadow of “Bounty Gate” with a 0-3 SU and ATS blemish. The Saints didn’t have the biggest uphill climb either, losing to Washington, Carolina and Kansas City. Sean Peyton is back on the sideline and game planning for a Week 1 home showdown with Atlanta (-2.5), a trip to Tampa Bay in Week 2 (-1.5), and a home date vs. Arizona in Week 3 (-7.5). Books are expecting big things in the Big East this year.Other notables:
Carolina Panthers (2-7 SU, 3-6 ATS)
San Diego Chargers (5-4 SU, 3-6 ATS)
San Francisco 49ers (4-5 SU, 5-3-1 ATS)
Cincinnati Bengals (5-4 SU, 5-3-1 ATS)