We finally made it. The NFL is back after eight long months and it did not disappoint. Everything is officially right with the world for the next 22 weeks. Each week I want a way to summarize the games, discuss the biggest storylines and look at the betting trends. So here is the first-ever Weekly Brief.
Packers season in jeopardy?
Aaron Rogers, former Jeopardy! game show host, had one of the worst games of his career. Coming off his MVP season, Rodgers and the Packers’ offense looked completely out of sync. Rodgers finished the day with 133 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. It didn’t stop there; essentially, the entire Packers team was outplayed on a neutral site The team wound up losing, 38-3, the biggest loss as a franchise since 2006. While this was just one game, the general flow and preparedness of the team are a cause for concern. Looking to next week, the Packers have a Monday night showdown with the Lions. I expect them to look a lot more like the team of 2020, with Rodgers and the offense proving yesterday was a fluke for one of the league’s best.
Steelers break the table
Pittsburgh went into Buffalo and dominated the Bills, outscoring them 23-6 in the second half. Most NFL pundits were expecting a down season for the Steelers but the defense came out and showed they are still among the best of the league. Buffalo looked all out of sorts, with Josh Allen looking more like his 2019 self compared to the player we saw last season. The main takeaway from this game was more about the Steelers’ defense than the Bills’ offense. If TJ Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick play the way they did on Sunday, Pittsburgh will be one of the teams still playing football in mid-January.
The NFC west once again looks like the best division in football. All four teams won yesterday, and each finished with a top 10 offense and defense in DVOA. Each team showed promise as they took on new looks and adjustments for the season. Seahawks’ new offensive coordinator, Shane Waldron, had the team rolling. Russell Wilson started hot with a 4-touchdown game. The Cardinals’ new-look defense received help from a familiar face- Chandler Jones. Jones missed most of the previous season but had the best game of his career yesterday with five sacks. Jones is on track to finish with 85 sacks, breaking the current single-season record of 22.5. The 49ers looked fantastic to start the game, before almost blowing a 24-point lead with 7:50 to go. The 49ers reminded the rest of the league that Kyle Shanahan is still among the league’s best play-callers. Last but definitely not least, the Rams and new quarterback Matthew Stafford put on a Sunday night show. Stafford quickly showed why the Rams traded for him hitting Van Jefferson for a 67-yard touchdown on his second pass of the game. The NFC West will once again be a bloodbath, and we are likely to see three of these teams in the playoffs.
It was a fun day for NFL rookies – the top three receivers in the draft all showed out. As Ja’Marr Chase silenced any and all critics with a 100-yard, 1 touchdown day. DeVonta Smith also had a nice day as he scored an early touchdown and showed the route running prowess we saw in his Heisman campaign in 2020. Jaylen Waddle looked great in his first NFL game scoring the go-ahead touchdown as the Dolphins beat the Patriots. While the receivers played great, the rookie QB’s did not fare as well with Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Mac Jones all facing some rookie struggles. The Jaguars offense gives me more cause for concern than the two others as Urban Meyer has not looked the part. The Jaguars need to make sure the development of Lawrence is done properly, and by the right people.
Have a day Underdogs
Betting Underdogs finished the day 11-4 against the spread, with eight of them outright winning games. Week one was full of surprises, and for those of you who bet on the Texans to go 0-17, my condolences. This goes to show that 2021 looks to have more parody, and taking the points might be the move to winning your slate.
The Injury Report
Broncos WR Jerry Jeudy was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain, and while X-rays were negative, he’s likely out for a couple of weeks. Washington quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick looks to have suffered a hip subluxation; it’s a serious injury that will keep him out for a while. San Francisco cornerback Jason Verrett tore his ACL, he has had issues staying healthy throughout his career. The 49ers also lost Raheem Mostert and Dre Greenlaw to minor injuries. Other notable injuries to 2020 first-round offensive tackles, Mekhi Becton and Jedrick Wills. Becton was carted off with a knee injury, while Wills left the game with an ankle issue. Saints corner Marshon Lattimore will need surgery on his thumb and agreed to a 5-year extension after the game and is considered week to week. Also, Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah ruptured his Achilles tendon, so his season is over.
Viva Las Vegas
The Ravens come to town as the NFL shows off its shiny new stadium in Vegas. Baltimore is (-4) favorites tonight against a new-look Raiders squad. The Ravens should dominate this game as Lamar Jackson is at his best in primetime. Take the Ravens with the spread and don’t look back. For player props, Henry Ruggs was the first receiver taken in last year’s draft. I expect him to get on track to start the season, and I am taking him to have over 34.5 receiving yards. With Marcus Peters out for the season, the Ravens will need help opposite Marlon Humphrey who usually follows bigger receivers like Bryan Edwards or Darren Waller. Ruggs is the best deep threat for the Raiders, who I expect to throw the ball lots in garbage time.