2021 Week 1 Betting Preview

Justin Dunbar previews Week 1 of the 2021 NFL Season from a betting perspective.

What’s that I hear in the background? That’s right; it’s the start of another NFL season! It’s funny how time flies by, right? I know that’s the phrase to say, but does it apply here, really? It feels like a thousand years ago, in my opinion, that the Chiefs and Bucs were playing in the Super Bowl. That being said, I will agree that training camp and the preseason flew by at a rapid pace.

Today, let’s take a look at the Week 1 slate! Every week, I’ll be providing my personal projections on the outcome of each game, and then contextualizing what to do with that information: best bets, teasers, parlays, survivor picks, and much more!

These projections start in a mathematical sense in a process more laid out here; using projected PFF grades to decipher the true talent of every team. From there, I utilized those projections to establish each team’s offense and defense rank, which allowed me to derive how talented each team is compared to the average team with a neutral field. Adding in an adjustment for home field, and, what do you know, each game had a projection! The combination of the foundation of it starting objectively, and then the mixture of subjective analysis to make it less of a “blind” projection, will hopefully lead us to where we want to go. You can consider these, based on the subjective touch, predictions instead of pure projections, but, hey, it gets us in the same place!

Enough rambling; it’s time to get to the point of this article! Let’s completely preview Week 1 from a betting perspective! As they say, everyone’s in first place right now! Well, they’re also all in last place, but we’ll let that slide. What bets should you be looking to make this week? Let’s take a closer look.

All Stats via Pro Football Focus

Week 1 Personal Projections

Best Bets

NYJ (+5.5) at CAR


Are getting the better quarterback here as a 5.5-point underdog? I believe so. Whereas Sam Darnold has been, even by independent metrics, one of the worse quarterbacks in the NFL, Zach Wilson was this year’s second overall pick and enters a better situation than Darnold ever had. A coaching change and improved supporting cast could help the Jets improve significantly from their last-place finish; don’t buy into their struggles last year as a reason to expect such offensive incompetency once again when everything within the offense has changed.

The Panthers, who ranked 26th in PFF defense-grade and have a very young, inexperienced group on that side of the ball, aren’t the biggest of tests for Wilson. I struggle to see much of a difference between these two teams, and would rather side with the team with more of an “unknown”. Really, I don’t think we should be surprised if the Jets outright win this game. Think of this less, though, as being high on the Jets, and more so on fading Carolina. I don’t think PFF’s fourth-lowest graded team last year merits being 5.5-point favorites.

If anything, though, with such a low point total, the chances of this being a closer game improve. Thus, even if the Jets lose, it’s likely they can d so while staying within the 5.5 points or securing a backdoor cover. You’re simply getting too many points to work with here.


ATL (-3) vs PHI


Oh great, here comes Justin trying to get you to buy into the Falcons again! I continue to believe that Atlanta, with one of the league’s softest schedules, a dramatic coaching improvement, and improved regression in one-score games, should have a much higher win total than 7.5. Yet, I don’t need to argue that here.

Instead, I’ll make the case very clear: Matt Ryan versus Jalen Hurts. Whereas Ryan ranked in the top-1o last year in PFF passing grade (82.2), Hurt was significantly more ineffective with a 57.5 PFF passing grade, 4.6% turnover-worthy play rate, and 65.1% adjusted completion rate. His rushing ability does wonders for his fantasy projection, but not so much for winning football games. Until further improvement is seen, it’s hard to bank on him at any point this season, making me a) comfortable streaming Atlanta’s defense in deeper fantasy leagues and b) betting against him.

With the Falcons, you’re getting the significantly improved offense for a team due for positive regression performing in the red zone, particularly with the hire of former Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. Originally favored by 3.5 points, this number has come down, which is significant; it’s no longer crossing a key number. While that’s the case, feel free to pounce on this opportunity!

Best Teaser

BUF (-0.5) vs PIT

SF (-1.5) at DET


If you like betting on the major offensive advantage, then you’ll want to side with the Bills here. They were a top-five offense projected to finish there once again this season, whereas Pittsburgh ranked in the bottom-ten in yards/play and has only downgraded in terms of their offensive line. Furthermore, the Steelers will be looking to replace multiple starting cornerbacks, and already likely will struggle from the defensive regression they started to show at the end of last year. Good defenses used to beat good offenses, but that’s not the case anymore. In what can be teased down to a pick’em, I’ll gladly side with Josh Allen and a potent Buffalo passing attack. Meanwhile, the 49ers are a tough bet as 7.5-point favorites, yet what if we could change that? Most expect this to be an utter mismatch, and if that’s the case, I’ll gladly tease them down to get past multiple key numbers.

Best Parlay


NYJ (+5.5) at CAR

ATL (-3) vs PHI

MIN at CIN (Under 47.5)

TEN (-3) vs ARI


I already touched on the first two bets here, so I’ll address the latter two. In Joe Burrow’s first game back since tearing his ACL and MCL, it is expected that he and the Bengals’ offense struggle to get back into form, especially after offseason reports weren’t optimistic about their progress. The Vikings, meanwhile, ranked in the top-five in yards/play, yet just 13th in points/game despite red-zone success; they are content being conservative in fourth-down situations. If Minnesota establishes a lead (they’re favored for a reason), then this becomes a very slow-paced game, and 47.5 isn’t a small total. With the way Cincinnati’s offense is trending, it might be best to not expect too much from them, making this a total to bet the “under” on.

Right now, the Cardinals, who ranked just 21st in PFF coverage grade, are set to start Robert Alford and fourth-round rookie Marco Wilson at their outside cornerback spots facing off against AJ Brown and Julio Jones. Um, that’s not ideal. In what is expected to be a high-scoring game, a higher margin of victory becomes more likely, and there is little to suggest the Titans won’t thrive offensively in this game. If so, that will be a ton of fun to watch and a perfect part of your parlay.


Survivor Pick(s)





Would you prefer “the sure thing” or try to hit on a team you might not use later on? If you want a sure bet, the 49ers being 7.5-point favorites despite being on the road tells you all you need to know; they’re widely expected to win in Detroit this week. Their schedule isn’t the easiest later on, so I wouldn’t feel as hesitant to “waste” them as I normally would be. That being said, the Falcons are also a great bet to win against the Eagles (I mean, they should be if they’re going to cover as three-point favorites!), and it’s unclear if you’ll have them as a survivor pick later on. Personally, I’ll probably take my chances with Atlanta, but I understand playing it safe with the 49ers here.


Parting Bold Predictions


Jets Win By Multiple Scores

Titans Score 5+ Touchdowns

Falcons Defense Scores More Than Eagles Offense


Remember, these are BOLD predictions! All of these align with my previous betting picks, but allow us to get a bit spicy here! Enjoy an exciting week of football, and please remember to bet responsibly!


(Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire)

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