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Sunday’s Week 1 NFL Betting Cheat Sheet
Sunday may be Sept. 13 on the calendar but it’s Christmas Day for football bettors. We preview the Week 1 NFL action to bring you the need-to-know facts and figures in order to make a wager on the gridiron.
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears (+6.5, 49)
* Quarterback Jay Cutler will be in the eye of the storm following a season in which he threw for a career-best 28 touchdowns but was also intercepted 18 times and lost half of his 12 fumbles. Cutler is 1-11 in his career against Green Bay, including the postseason.
* Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers finished with 38 touchdowns versus five interceptions last season and he fattened those numbers in the two drubbings of Chicago, throwing for 617 yards with 10 scoring passes and zero picks.
Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans (-1.5, 40.5)
* Kansas City hopes it has upgraded on offense by adding Maclin, who had 85 receptions for 1,318 yards and 10 TDs with Philadelphia a year ago while Chiefs wideouts failed to catch a single touchdown pass. They have the edge when it comes to the men on the sidelines, as Chiefs bench boss Andy Reid is 5-0 all-time against the Texans.
* Houston has won five straight season openers, the longest active streak in the NFL.
Cleveland Browns at New York Jets (-3.5, 39.5)
* Journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, starting in place of Geno Smith, who suffered a broken jaw in training camp after getting punched by a teammate, is currently the focal point for a team that ranked sixth in the league in total defense a year ago but couldn’t make up for its extreme deficiencies on offense.
* A week ago, Cleveland shockingly traded running back Terrance West, who led the team with 673 rushing yards last season, giving Isaiah Crowell the inside track to carry the bulk of the load in the backfield. While the Browns are forecast to have one of the best offensive lines in football, they were just average rushing the ball last season and McCown was a disaster in Tampa Bay, throwing just 11 touchdowns passes and winning just once in 11 appearances.
Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills (+2.5, 45)
* Indianapolis is breaking in a pair of rookies along that line in defensive end Henry Anderson and tackle David Parry while hoping outside linebacker Robert Mathis continues to defy Father Time. “These guys are going to go and they’re going to play hard and they’re going to play tough and they’re going to play damn smart,” head coach Chuck Pagano told reporters regarding Anderson and Parry. “Feel great about that group.”
* Bills QB Tyrod Taylor is capable of making plays with his legs as well as his arm but should have both McCoy (hamstring) and rookie Karlos Williams (undisclosed) available to take on some of the pressure in the running game. “I feel like the medical staff has done a good job of preparing me so far,” McCoy told reporters. “Practicing, I’ve just been doing light loads, each day doing more and more. I feel comfortable. I’m not sure if I’ll be exactly 100 percent (on Sunday), but I feel good enough to go out there and compete.” McCoy ran for 2,962 yards and 14 TDs in his final two seasons with Philadelphia while adding 80 receptions.
Miami Dolphins at Washington Redskins (+3.5, 43)
* Ryan Tannehill has a few new weapons at his disposal as Miami welcomed the arrivals of Kenny Stills (New Orleans) and tight end Jordan Cameron (Cleveland) to add to emerging star Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews. With veteran wideout Mike Wallace shuffled off to Minnesota, coach Joe Philbin is hoping his quick-strike offense will lead to the team’s first postseason appearance since 2008. Lamar Miller amassed nearly 1,400 yards from scrimmage last season, with a career-high 1,099 coming on the ground.
* Washington WR DeSean Jackson expects to play despite being plagued by a sprained right shoulder in the preseason.
Carolina Panthers at Jacksonville Jaguars (+3, 41)
* The Jaguars expected tight end Julius Thomas to be a big part of their offense when they signed him away from Denver in the offseason, but Thomas underwent surgery on his finger Monday and will miss at least three weeks.
* The Panthers lost star wideout Kelvin Benjamin in the preseason, leaving the receiving corps suspect at best. Rookie Devin Funchess could emerge as a top target but he’s been hampered by a hamstring injury throughout the preseason, leaving veteran Ted Ginn Jr. and tight end Greg Olson as key cogs.
Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams (+4, 40.5)
* Seattle has won 17 of the last 20 meetings with St. Louis, but the three losses have come in its last five visits to St. Louis.
* St. Louis Rookie running back Todd Gurley’s ailing knee will make him a spectator on Sunday and Tre Mason (hamstring), last season’s leading rusher, could follow suit, leaving Benny Cunningham and Isaiah Pead to face Seattle’s fearsome front seven. The going should be tough as the Rams mustered a season-low 42 yards in the most recent meeting against the Seahawks.
New Orleans Saints at Arizona Cardinals (-2.5, 48.5)
* The real question with the Saints often has been the performance of the defense, which ranked 31st in total yards (384 per game) and 28th in scoring (26.5) a year ago and will have a number of rookies in key roles.
* Carson Palmer is 16-6 as a starter with Arizona, including 6-0 last season, and has won 10 of his 12 home starts with the team.
Detroit Lions at San Diego Chargers (-3, 46)
* Rivers, who has started 145 consecutive games, has been sacked at least 30 times in five straight seasons. San Diego is hoping to end that streak as it helped shore up its offensive line with the additions of tackle Joe Barksdale (St. Louis) and guard Orlando Franklin (Denver).
* Detroit, which led the league in rush defense (69.3 yards) and was second in total defense (300.9) in 2014, added defensive lineman Haloti Ngata from Baltimore, but the five-time Pro Bowler battled hamstring issues in the preseason.
Tennessee Titans at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3, 41)
* Heading into their matchup with rookie quarterback Jameis Winston’s Bucs, Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s defenses are 26-3 against rookie quarterbacks since 1995. Those defenses have allowed 24 touchdown passes, 37 interceptions while limiting the signal callers to a .551 completion percentage during that span.
* Winston could use some help from a running game that finished 29th in the league with an average of 85.9 yards last season and an offensive line breaking in a pair of rookie starters. “The linemen we’ve got, those are the linemen we’ve got,” offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter told reporters. “Shoot, I think they’re all five going to the Pro Bowl.” Running back Doug Martin gained just 494 yards while missing five games last season but once again is atop the depth chart at the position.
Cincinnati Bengals at Oakland Raiders (+3, 43)
* Jeremy Hill is coming off a season in which he registered four games with at least 140 rushing yards, joining Hall-of-Famers Eric Dickerson (five) and Curtis Martin as the only rookies to accomplish the feat. Dalton, meanwhile, became the third quarterback in NFL history to both pass for at least 3,000 yards (Peyton Manning and Cam Newton) and lead his team to the playoffs (Joe Flacco and Otto Graham) in each of his first four seasons.
* The Raiders have won six straight and 14 of 15 overall home meetings with the Bengals, including the postseason.
Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos (-4, 47.5)
* “I’m not really worried if it’s first game, last game,” Baltimore cornerback Jimmy Smith told ESPN of the 39-year-old Manning, who has thrown 31 touchdowns against one interception in outdoor contests in September since joining Denver in 2012. “He’s going to be dangerous. He’s still Peyton Manning, no matter what.” Manning (4,727 yards, 39 TDs in 2014) and the high-octane offense barely missed a step over the last two seasons until a torn quad in the final month forced Denver to rely on C.J. Anderson and its running game.
* Joe Flacco (3,986 yards, 27 TDs) saw free-agent wideout Torrey Smith head to San Francisco in the offseason while first-round selection Breshad Perriman already has been ruled out of Sunday’s tilt with a sprained right knee. Flacco still has grizzled veteran Steve Smith (79 receptions, 1,065 yards, six touchdowns), who believes he has more left in the tank as he enters his 15th season.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (-6, 51.5)
* Then-rookie wideout Odell Beckham made a national name for himself with a highlight-reel one-handed touchdown grab in the second meeting against Dallas that nearly blew up the Internet. Fellow wide receiver Victor Cruz, who suffered a torn patellar tendon last season, is unlikely to play while dealing with a calf injury, so the Giants may rely on their own backfield triumvirate of Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams and free-agent acquisition Shane Vereen. Manning threw for 30 TD passes and 4,410 yards last season to quell fears after his dismal 27-interception campaign of 2013.
* The Cowboys will sport a different look after running back DeMarco Murray, who ran away with the league rushing title last season, signed with hated rival Philadelphia in the offseason. Joseph Randle, Murray’s backup, is expected to head a committee that includes former Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden.