Spring is in the air, the grass is growing, the leaves are budding, and the birds and bees are getting busy. A perfect time to start thinking about fall football.
The NFL dropped the 2023 regular season schedule Thursday with the hype and excitement of a Taylor Swift-Beyonce combo album, and with it came the rollout of 2023 NFL odds.
There used to be a time when a select handful of sportsbooks would open NFL spreads for every game on the schedule, but now, just about every mainstream operator is posting lines from Week 1 to Week 18 (which is madness).
Even with Opening Night still 100+ days away, I can’t help but look ahead to the Week 1 odds as well as the first three weeks of NFL betting action. I single out some of my favorite NFL bets to make now, expecting these closing numbers to look very different on game day.
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Best Week 1 bets to make right now
Jacksonville Jaguars (-3.5) at Indianapolis Colts
This spread is already ticking to Jaguars -4 at some books and that’s an underrated key number in NFL betting. I’m snatching Jacksonville -3.5 now as this spread will move fast through -4 to -6, depending on how Indianapolis looks in the preseason.
We either have glorified backup QB Gardiner Minshew or rookie passer Anthony Richardson making the start for the Colts against a Jacksonville defense that thrives on causing chaos. The Jaguars pass rush finished 2022 with the fourth highest pressure rate and a league-high 77 QB knockdowns.
Adding to that chaos will be an Indy offense running its first full-speed game under new head coach and former Philadelphia offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, who is hoping to turn Richardson into the next Jalen Hurts.
Jacksonville has a high ceiling in Year 2 under Doug Pederson. Pederson’s offense added WR Calvin Ridley — we forget how good this guy is — to a unit that ranked No. 8 in EPA per play last season. The Jaguars hung 24 and 27 points on Gus Bradley’s defense last year and will hit the ground running in Week 1.
Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos (-3)
As far as early movement goes, the Week 1 market has seen a drop from Denver -4 to as low as -3 since Thursday night. Bettors still have a bad taste in their mouths from the 2022 Broncos, but I believe in Sean Payton and Denver’s dominance in home openers.
First off, trends are like butt holes: everybody’s got them and they’re usually full of hot air, but you occasionally find a solid pattern backed by a narrative that makes sense. Here’s one...
The Broncos are 20-3 SU and 14-5-4 ATS in home openers since 2000, helped along by the energy-sapping thin air at Mile High that tests the early-season conditioning of visiting teams. Payton boasted one of the best home-field marks during his time in New Orleans and will have that built-in edge in Denver.
Las Vegas kicks off the Jimmy Garoppolo era in Week 1 and we’ll find out fast if he’s just a system quarterback against this sound Denver secondary. The Broncos defense was the backbone of the team in 2022 with no help from the offense, owning the 10th-ranked DVOA.
The initial line move is wrong. Thanks for the slimmer spread. Denver -3.
Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers (Over 49)
The total for this fun AFC opener is bouncing between 49.5 and 50.5 points across the industry. I love the Over for a few reasons, mainly because we’re getting these two talented teams at full strength. That’s something we didn’t see much of from Miami or L.A. last season.
The Dolphins are in Year 2 in Mike McDaniel’s system, which was awesome when all the pieces were in place. Tua Tagovailoa continues to grow with his top targets Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle and new wrinkles to this playbook will be a mystery to the Bolts defense in Week 1.
And speaking of the Chargers, I’m projecting big things for Justin Herbert (like MVP big) and this offense under new OC Kellan Moore. Herbert had a painfully-short tether under former OC Joe Lombardi, yet still amassed the second-most passing yards. With the former Boise State QB calling the shots, Herbert’s yards per attempt will eclipse his modest average of 6.8 from 2022.
Some are shy of high totals in Week 1, with teams working off the rust and getting their first full-speed reps, but when it comes to tall totals in the first week of the regular season, those numbers are big for a reason.
This Over/Under opened as low as 48.5 points at some sharper online markets and has climbed as high as 50.5 since Thursday. You can still get Over 49 -110 as of Sunday.
Best Week 2 bets to make right now
New York Giants (-4) at Arizona Cardinals
The season win totals state that the Cardinals are going to be crap this coming season, with their total at 4.5 victories. Things will look especially bleak after Arizona loses at Washington in Week 1 (set as 5.5-point road underdogs).
The Giants have high expectations in Year 2 under Coach of the Year winner Brian Daboll. New York opens the 2023 slate in a Sunday Night Football home date with Dallas and oddsmakers have that division dance pegged as a closer one, with the G-Men getting +2.5. A win at home over Big D isn’t out of the picture.
This Week 2 spread in Arizona is already teetering on the key number of -4. A push to -4.5 would then set the market moving fast, blowing through dead numbers and running closer to -6 by the time September 17 comes around.
Remember, Arizona won’t have Kyler Murray for most of — it not all of — the season, leaving QB duties to Colt McCoy or rookie Clayton Tune. Buy Big Blue at -4 now.
Seattle Seahawks at Detroit Lions (-2)
Everyone loves the Lions. Just look at the opening spread for the 2023 kickoff contest between Detroit and Kansas City. The early market moves on the underdog made the Chiefs cheap touchdown chalk and even has some books to KC -6.5.
As for Week 2, the Lions will have a mini-bye to prepare for their home opener in 2023, having played at Kansas City the Thursday prior. They’re also hosting a Seattle team headed East for a 1 p.m. ET kickoff — 10 a.m. PT back on the West Coast.
The Seahawks were a shocker last year, playing well above expectations with a 9-8 campaign and a spot in the postseason. Seattle got a big bonus in veteran QB Geno Smith finding the fountain of youth, which helped offset poor defensive play. I’m calling for regression in 2023.
With Detroit holding a special place in the heart of the betting public — a 23-11 ATS record under Dan Campbell will do that — don’t sleep on this spread at -2, especially with those situational angles. I could see this closing on the other side of a field goal by Week 2.
Best Week 3 bets to make right now
Philadelphia Eagles (-6) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Getting the Eagles under a touchdown in Tampa Bay is a gift from the gambling gods in Week 3. Super Bowl hangover be damned. Philadelphia is the best two-way team in the NFL and has multiple ways of winning this game against a Bucs franchise that’s suffering through the post-Brady era.
I mean, as it stands, Baker F-ing Mayfield is QB1 in Tampa right now. You want to bet on Baker against a defense that led the league in sacks, ranked No. 2 in pressure rate, and actually got better in the offseason? WELL, DO YOU?
The Buccaneers could be staring down an 0-3 start when this Monday Night Football contest comes around in late September, so this spread will climb — regardless of what the Eagles look like in their opening two games.
There was a time when you couldn’t run on the Bucs defense. That time is over, as Tampa Bay allowed six foes to roll for 170+ rushing yards last season. Philly’s dynamic attack will expose a lack of depth to the Bucs’ D and easily win this by a touchdown or more.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+1.5) at Las Vegas Raiders
There’s a lot of love going around the AFC North: Cincy is sexy, Baltimore has Lamar back, and even the Browns are stacked with talent... but what about Pittsburgh?
The Steelers are not to be slept on after a second-half surge in 2022 that extended Mike Tomlin’s winning ways and had this team flirting with the playoffs. Pittsburgh has a chance to make waves with two home games (vs. San Francisco and Cleveland) to start the 2023 slate, before heading to Sin City in Week 3.
The Raiders run the risk of a poor start, having to play at Denver in Week 1 (see above) and then at Buffalo in Week 2. The current Week 3 spread has the Silver and Black laying -1.5 but this line could easily jump the fence ahead of this Sunday Night Football showcase on September 24.
Pittsburgh went 7-2 SU and ATS in the final nine games of the 2022 regular season, owning the 11th-ranked total DVOA in that span with only three teams playing better in terms of EPA: Kansas City, San Francisco, and Detroit. When healthy, this is a Top 3 defense and QB Kenny Pickett picks up where he left off with a solid sophomore season in 2023.