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NFL Football Predictions: Week 1 Opening Line Report and Picks
by Alan Matthews

With preseason games over, there shouldn’t be any injuries that will affect these lines by the time games kick off. There could be a few surprising releases, however. The Niners, for example, released three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Darnell Dockett on Friday despite just giving the former Cardinal a two-year, $7.5 million deal with $2 million guaranteed. All rosters must be cut down to 53 players on Saturday.

For what it’s worth, the NFC is a -140 favorite already over the AFC for Super Bowl 50. And I do believe the NFC is deeper than the AFC. Here are three games that caught my eye for Week 1. It’s just a coincidence all three home teams are underdogs.

Packers at Bears (+6.5, 50): The debut of new Bears head coach John Fox here. And Chicago is going to be really lousy this year. Perhaps No. 1 overall pick lousy. Go under on any wins total you find. It’s 6.5. The offensive line is terrible. Ditto the defense. First-round pick Kevin White, a receiver out of West Virginia, might miss the season. And No. 1 receiver Alshon Jeffery hasn’t played at all this preseason with some mystery calf injury. Yet all the Bears still say that he’s “day-to-day.” They also said that about White before he had shin surgery. Even if Jeffery plays in this game, and I’m starting to doubt that because he’s also not practicing, he obviously won’t be 100 percent.

The Packers lost No. 1 receiver Jordy Nelson for the season and almost saw disaster with No. 2 Randall Cobb in the third preseason game as it was feared he suffered a broken collarbone. But Cobb says he will play Week 1. Last season, Cobb caught 91 passes for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. Aaron Rodgers owns the Bears as it is, and Chicago’s secondary might be the NFL’s worst. This could get ugly and is my favorite play of the week even though Bears are biggest home dogs of Week 1.

Key trend: Bears 2-8 against the spread in past 10 as home dog in series.

The pick: Packers, and get it before it rises to 7. Go “Over.”

Dolphins at Redskins (+3.5, 43.5): Every day, it seems something new embarrassing comes out of Washington. You have the GM’s wife tweeting a sexual remark about a reporter. Now there’s some issue with leaving tickets at will-call for season-ticket holders and some $50 envelope fee. Seriously, Dan Snyder, sell this team. It’s a joke now. As for on the field, it’s Kirk Cousins who gets the start against Miami at quarterback, and Robert Griffin III isn’t even his backup as he recovers from a concussion. It’s Colt McCoy. Cousins will have his moments, but he turns the ball over all the time.

Top receiver DeSean Jackson says he will be good to go for Week 1 despite not playing in the preseason due to a shoulder injury. It’s the Dolphins debut of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. I am pretty high on the Fins this year. I liked them to win the AFC East before the Tom Brady suspension was overturned. I still think it’s possible, but at a minimum Miami should be a wild-card team as long as Ryan Tannehill stays healthy.

Key trend: Skins 3-6-1 ATS in past 10 as home dog of at least 3.5 points.

The pick: Dolphins and “Under.”

Colts at Bills (+2.5, 46): The Tyrod Taylor Era begins in Buffalo as he beat out Matt Cassel (who might be released by the time you read this) and E.J. Manuel for the starting QB job I read a great article on Grantland ranking which NFL head coaches had the worst quarterbacks in his career. Buffalo’s Rex Ryan was near the top of the list. He was stuck with Mark Sanchez, past-his-prime Michael Vick and Geno Smith with the Jets. Now he has to pick between that lousy trio in Buffalo? Yet Bill Belichick lucks into Brady. Taylor hasn’t started a game that counted since playing for Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl following the 2010 against Stanford.

His opposing QB that Jan. 3, 2011, night? None other than Andrew Luck, his opposing QB here. The big question for this game is whether Buffalo running back LeSean McCoy will play. He suffered a small hamstring tear in practice on Aug. 18. Thus some combo of rookie Karlos Williams, Bryce Brown and/or Boobie Dixon would share carries if McCoy can’t go, and all those guys had injury problems in camp. So Taylor might have to beat the Colts with his arm, and that’s not a good thing.

Key trend: Bills 7-3 ATS in past 10 as home dog.

The pick: I’m not paying attention to that trend. Colts and Under.