Beating the Spread 2023: Week 1

The Beating the Spread crew reveal their favorite bets for Week 1 of the NFL season.

Welcome back to another year of Beating the Spread! I’m Jake Roy, and I’ll be leading the BTS team again this season. I’m joined by two-time Beating the Spread participants Tyler Gentile and Brennan Rampe, and newcomer Jason Wolf. We’ll be here every Friday throughout the season to crown a new champion.

If you’re new to this column, here’s a brief reminder of how we’ll be doing things. Every Friday, we’ll each make five picks. They’ll either be against the spread, or on the total. Unfortunately, because we all have lives outside of football, we have to lock in the lines ahead of time, meaning we have more information than was available at the time the lines were made. I’ll always post the lines we’re using for reference, be sure to pay attention to any line movement in the event you’d like to tail. Just a half point can change the result of a bet, covering 2.5 is a lot different than 3.5.

You can play along in the comments or find us on Twitter (@Jake3Roy, @808Paperboi, @J_wolf_picks, and @PhdInNFL). Without further ado, here are the lines we’ll use for Week 1!


Week 18 Betting Lines
Away Home Line O/U
Texans Ravens Ravens -10.0 44.0
Panthers Falcons Falcons -3.5 39.5
Bengals Browns Bengals -2.5 47.5
49ers Steelers 49ers -2.5 41.0
Cardinals Commanders Commanders -7.0 38.0
Buccaneers Vikings Vikings -6.0 45.5
Jaguars Colts Jaguars -5.0 45.0
Titans Saints Saints -3.0 41.0
Raiders Broncos Broncos -4.0 44.0
Eagles Patriots Eagles -4.0 45.0
Dolphins Chargers Chargers -3.0 51.0
Rams Seahawks Seahawks -5.5 46.5
Packers Bears Bears -1.0 43.0
Cowboys Giants Cowboys -3.0 46.5
Bills Jets Bills -2.5 46.5
Staff Picks
Jake Roy (@Jake3Roy) Brennan Rampe (@Phdinnfl) Tyler Gentile (@808PaperBoi) Jason Wolf (@J_Wolf_picks)
Pick #1 Titans +3.0 Ravens -10.0 Jaguars -5.0 Ravens -10.0
Pick #2 Bengals -2.5 Jaguars -5.0 Ravens -10.0 Saints -3.0
Pick #3 Commanders -7.0 Falcons -3.5 Titans/Saints over 41.0 49ers/Steelers under 41.0
Pick #4 Panthers/Falcons under 39.5 Bears -1.0 Seahawks -5.5 Raiders +4.0
Pick #5 Bills/Jets under 46.5 Seahawks -5.5 Bills/Jets under 46.5 Packers +1.0
Record 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0




Jake Roy


Week one. With sports betting being legalized in more and more states, there’s a good chance this is your first season betting on the NFL. Let me be the first to tell you, it’s very hard. Gamblers across the nation are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed before the grind that is the NFL season wears you down and dims those eyes. I’m sure you have plenty of friends who will tell you they do really well betting on NFL football. They probably don’t. There’s little to no value betting on spreads and totals because the markets are so sharp. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun, and that’s what sports betting is all about. Don’t bet beyond your means, know when to walk away, and keep it fun. Best of luck.

Speaking of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed gamblers, why don’t we just win all our bets this season? We’ll start in New Orleans, where the new-look Saints play host to the Tennessee Titans. Week one is particularly difficult to bet on because we haven’t seen these teams play in so long. If you look at the standings, you’ll see that the Titans finished at 7-10 and probably think, “They weren’t very good”. They weren’t very good, but it’s easy to forget that they started 7-3, lost players left and right due to injury, and finished the season on a seven-game losing streak. Ryan Tannehill is healthy. DeAndre Hopkins steps in to lead the receiver room, and Derrick Henry is still Derrick Henry. The offensive line may take time to get it together, but I’ll take Vrabel’s squad plus the three. TEN +3.0

It takes time to get in a rhythm as a gambler. I’ve been doing this long enough to the point where I know a trap when I see one. Luckily for Vegas, I’m still dumb enough to eat the cheese. If I asked my mom to look at the board and make a pick, she probably wouldn’t understand how to read the board and would tell me to leave her alone. On the off chance she did know what I was talking about, she would say something like. “They’re coming off an AFC Championship appearance and they’re only laying 2.5 points? With that offense? Give me Joey B and the Bengals. Who Dey!”. That’s a lot of words to say everyone and their mother is going to be on the Bengals. Everyone loves the Bengals, it’s going to be a public pick, but I can’t stay away. There hasn’t been a ton of hype out of Browns’ camp this offseason, and Deshaun Watson struggled in pre-season. I know I’ll regret this next week, but I’ll ride with the rest of the country. CIN -2.5

The first game of a new season in any sport is always exciting for fans. It’s a clean slate, everyone starts with the same record – this could be the year. Unless you’re an Arizona Cardinals fan. Sorry, Arizona, but there isn’t a single player on the roster that inspires much hope. Putting that roster on the field on Sunday is as close as you can get to openly declaring “we’re tanking” without putting a giant neon that says “we’re tanking” outside the stadium. They’re without Kyler Murray for at least this game. Even when he was playing, the Cardinals were bad. The offensive line couldn’t pass-protect if the pass rushers were wearing roller skates. Meanwhile, the Commanders actually have some talent. They have a great front seven featuring Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, and (maybe) Chase Young. They’re playing at home for the first game of the post-Dan Snyder era. I don’t love laying a big number this early in the season, but I hate the Cardinals that much more. WAS -7.0. The Commanders also make a great teaser leg, if you’re into that kind of thing.

An NFL Sunday is a grind. It’s hard enough to sit on the couch all day, rooting for your team, eating appetizers, and tracking multiple fantasy scores. Add in gambling throughout the season and it’s basically an Olympic sport. Sometimes, you need a bet you can place, forget about, and collect your winnings. The Panthers and Falcons in the early window up against seven other games is the perfect spot for that. Bryce Young and Bijan Robinson are exciting rookies worth watching, but outside of that, there aren’t a ton of reasons to tune into this one. We should see lots of running the football, conservative play calling, and punts. I’ll take the under. CAR/ATL U39.5

Let’s wrap up the week with Monday Night Football. It’s the perfect time to take a step back and get back to the basics. As a Patriots fan, that means doubting the Jets. Let’s pump the brakes with the Jets a little bit. I’m not saying they’re going to be bad, but it’s going to take a little time. Hard Knocks made the Jets look like a surefire Super Bowl winner, but they have their issues. The offensive line is full of question marks, and the Bills can get after the quarterback. Aaron Rodgers is smart enough to not panic under pressure, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy to move the ball. The Jets’ defense was one of the best in the league last season and should be just as good. Sauce Gardner is a year older, Quinnen Williams is a monster, and they invested a high draft pick in Will McDonald. They’re going to make life difficult for offenses all season long. Both meetings between these two last season were low-scoring slugfests, I think we’ll get a repeat of that in week one. BUF/NYJ U46.5


Tyler Gentile


Fading a rookie Quarterback making his first career NFL start feels like a decent proposition, wouldn’t you say? Anthony Richardson is a fantastic prospect, but until he shows he can throw an accurate ball, it’s difficult to trust this team. Out of 200 NCAA QBs last season, Richardson was 133rd in passing accuracy. Without Jonathan Taylor around to be the bell-cow, how are they going to move the ball exactly? Run QB draws the entire game? I don’t see this going well for them in Week 1 especially when factoring in how weak their secondary should be. Trevor Lawrence should carve them up given the bevy of weapons he has. JAX -5.0

You know what’s better than fading a rookie QB making his first start? Fading a rookie QB with a rookie head coach on the road. C.J. Stroud did not look good in the pre-season and there’s a high probability that DeMeco Ryans will revert to an ultra-conservative game plan. Houston will likely lean on the ground game and Roquon Smith and co. will be there to clog up all the lanes. Last year they had the eighth-best rush defense by EPA’s metrics. Don’t be scared of backing the highest spread on the week. John Harbaugh is 11-4 ATS in week one since joining the Ravens and that includes a handful of double-digit wins. He always has his team prepared to win in the opening game of the year. BAL -10.0

Tennessee was shredded through the air all of last season with the fifth-worst Dropback EPA defense. Not much has changed for their secondary and the Saint’s offense will flow through their passing attack led by Derek Carr, Chris Olave, a healthy (for now) Michael Thomas, and Rashid Shaheed.

We’re all aware of Derrick Henry’s capabilities and the best way to beat the Saints appears to be by running it up the gut. Their best run-stoppers are on the edge and New Orleans was 19th in rush EPA/play last season. More than anything this total just feels a couple of points too low. My crystal ball is telling me a 24-20 type of finish. TEN/NO O41.0

This Rams squad is a lot closer to their division mates, the Arizona Cardinals than many people might realize. Aaron Donald is the only viable starting defensive piece on this team. The other ten starters are atrocious and Seattle will likely find close to 30 points. I don’t see an avenue as to how L.A. will really respond to that type of scoring. Matthew Stafford will be without his go-to guy in b and is sitting behind a young and inexperienced offensive line. Oh yeah, and they’ll be playing in a little place called Seattle where they play with an extra man on the field thanks to their raucous crowd. The Hawks should cover this line with ease at home. SEA -5.5

The NFL schedule makers deserve an A+ for the Week 1 bangers they have given us, and this one probably takes the cake. Josh Allen and the Bills travel to East Rutherford to take on this new-look Jets team with Aaron Rodgers at the helm. For as exciting a matchup as this will be it’ll be the defenses that shine through here.

With a clean bill of health, the Bills have a top-five defense, while the Jets return one of the best defensive sides from last season. When these two teams met last season, Sauce Gardner turned Stefon Diggs into a decoy and the Jets were able to stifle this Buffalo offense, holding them to 17 and 20 points in their two contests. There’s no denying this Jets offense will be better with Rodgers around, but it’s not like the 39-year-old signal caller was very good last year and how can anyone have faith right away with Nathaniel Hackett running the show on offense? We all saw what happened in Denver last year when he was calling the plays. Lastly, the Rodgers-led offenses at Green Bay have traditionally been played at a slow tempo which will drown the clock out and help the under come through. This feels like a 21-17 type of win for the Bills on MNF. BUF/NYJ U46.5


Brennan Rampe


It’s great to be back! It’ll be a lot of fun to do this throughout the season.

I’m not really a fan of big spreads, but this feels like a lock to me. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson got a massive extension, and he now has some competent wide receivers with the additions of free agent Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie speedster Zay Flowers. The defense is loaded with talent at every level. Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud will be making his first career start, and this is DeMeco Ryans’s first year as the head coach. I believe that Houston’s future is bright with these two, but it’ll take some time before they can contend. The Texans are winless in their franchise history at Baltimore. I expect the Ravens offense to score a lot, and the defense should confuse Stroud and be dominant. This should be a blowout. BAL -10.0

Inside the Numbers: The Ravens are 27-23-2 as a home favorite since Lamar Jackson became the starting quarterback in 2019.

The Jaguars shocked everyone last year by winning the AFC South and making it to the Divisional Round. Trevor Lawrence showed why he was the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was a great hire. The team traded for wide receiver Calvin Ridley at the trade deadline, and he will play for the first time since 2021 after being suspended for gambling last year. Ridley has impressed in training camp and in the preseason and he’ll be a great weapon for Jacksonville if he can be the player that people remember. The Colts drafted quarterback Anthony Richardson fourth overall, but I was not high on him coming out of college and feel like the Colts reached for him. He is very inexperienced, and star running back Jonathan Taylor will be out for at least the first four weeks. Taylor’s relationship with the team doesn’t look like it can be fixed. I like the Jaguars to win by a touchdown. JAX -5.0

Inside the Numbers: The Jaguars are 9-5-0 in conference games since 2022. 

The Falcons went 7-10 last year with mediocre quarterback play. Marcus Mariota was the starter for most of the year, and he was very average. He was replaced by Desmond Ridder and he was decent in the games that he played. He’ll be the starting quarterback this year. Atlanta spent a lot of money on defense with names like Jessie Bates, David Onyemata, and Calais Campbell. They drafted Texas running back Bijan Robinson eighth overall, who was the first running back drafted in the top 10 since Saquon Barkley went second overall in 2018.  He should have an immediate impact on the offense. The Panthers drafted quarterback Bryce Young first overall, but Carolina has a mediocre wide receiver group. Wide receiver D.J. Chark is out for this game, and the offensive line was an issue in the preseason. I think that Young can be a good quarterback in this league, but he might struggle in his rookie year. I don’t know how Desmond Ridder will play over an entire season, but I think the Falcons will cover the spread at home and win. ATL -3.5

Inside the Numbers: This one is a gut feeling, overriding the data that shows the Falcons being mediocre when favored.

The Bears had one of the best offseasons of any team. They traded out of the first overall pick with the Panthers for a ton of draft picks and wide receiver D.J. Moore. They bolstered their defense by signing linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards as well as defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. They also upgraded the offensive line with guard Nate Davis and first-round pick Darnell Wright.  Most of their draft picks were used to draft defensive players. Chicago should be much improved on offense and defense this season. The Packers traded Aaron Rodgers to the Jets and fourth-year quarterback Jordan Love is the new starter after sitting on the bench for three years. The offensive line looks good, the defense has tons of talent, and they have a great running back duo with Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. Their weakness will be their wide receivers and tight ends. Allen Lazard and Robert Tonyan are on other teams now, and second-year wide receiver Christian Watson is out. They’ll be relying on a lot of inexperienced players and rookies, and I think the Bears will get their first victory over the Packers since 2018. CHI -1.0

Inside the Numbers: This is another gut pick. The Packers have owned the Bears in recent memory.

The Seahawks had a solid offseason that should help them return to the playoffs. They signed defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones and reunited with franchise legend Bobby Wagner. Safety Jamal Adams will return soon. Seattle had a good draft, and their most notable picks were in the first round. They picked cornerback Devon Witherspoon fifth overall and then drafted wide receiver Jaxon SmithNjigba. The Rams were a major disappointment last year as they missed the playoffs the season after winning the Super Bowl. They released Bobby Wagner and Leonard Floyd and traded Allen Robinson and Jalen Ramsey. They let go of a lot of talent and they didn’t really replace those players at all. They didn’t have a first-round pick because they went all in to win Super Bowl LVI. A lot of rookies will be on the field, and Los Angeles just doesn’t have many stars left on the roster. One of their remaining stars, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, is out with a hamstring injury. Seattle will be without Adams and Witherspoon in the secondary, but they will be just fine. The Rams will be a bad team this year. SEA -5.5

Inside the Numbers: The Seahawks are 41-39-1 against the spread in division games under Pete Carroll.


Jason Wolf


For my “Beating the Spread” debut, I am going with the Ravens -10 against the Houston Texans. I am a big believer in the Ravens this year as they completely revamped their offense over the offseason, giving former MVP Lamar Jackson the most talented offensive unit he has ever played with. Additionally, something that has held the Ravens back in recent years has been players’ health (or lack thereof), and now, for what seems like the first time in years, they head into their season opener essentially fully healthy. The only significant injury they currently have is cornerback Marlon Humphrey who will likely be back in a few weeks’ time.

Against another team with a more explosive passing attack, I would be concerned over the Ravens’ lack of cornerback quality and depth but at home against the Texans with a rookie C.J. Stroud making his first start, I do not think Humphrey’s absence will be felt too much as Houston will not be able to take advantage of the Ravens’ somewhat questionable secondary.

What makes me so confident in this? For starters, since 2016, the Ravens have absolutely crushed week one, going 6-1 with an average margin of victory of 27.7 points. In addition to the Ravens being incredibly well prepared for week one, head coach John Harbaugh and his defense have historically fared exceptionally well when going up against rookie quarterbacks. Since Harbaugh took over in 2008, the Ravens have gone 21-7 when facing rookie signal callers, doing even better at home, only losing twice to rookie QBs (once in 2017 and one last year to Pickett).

I am expecting more of the same week one dominating, rookie QB destroying Baltimore Ravens from this game as the Ravens are a much more complete team than the Texans with each of their position groups being of much higher quality than the Texans. I expect Baltimore to jump out to an early lead and to learn from 2022’s mistakes by actually keeping their foot on the gas unlike last year which cost them dearly in several games (MIA, BUF, JAX). Even if the Ravens hit the brakes a little bit and hold back some of their offense to save for week two against the Bengals, they should have more than enough going on the ground to sustain drives and keep churning out points against a bottom-five defense. BAL -10.0

This is more of a gut pick than anything. Personally, I am not buying into the Titans this year just as I did not buy into them last year. I think that their offensive line is deeply worrisome, potentially bottom-five in the league, and the offensive weapons are not enough to make up for what I project to be a subpar defense. Yes, the Saints’ run defense fell apart last season and was a glaring hole, but they spent the offseason addressing this need with meaningful additions in defensive run-stopping vets Nathan Shepherd and Khalen Saunders. They also drafted run stuffer Bryan Bresee out of Clemson who has looked great during preseason.

Not only do the Titans have a brand new, makeshift offensive line but for whatever reason, Derrick Henry does not historically perform well in week one. Henry averages 4.8 YPC for his career but in week one contests, that dips hard to 3.6 YPC. He has also only rushed for over 100 yards in only one week one game, back in 2019. We all know the success of the Titans’ offense largely depends on getting Henry going on the ground but with an improved front seven to go along with an exceptional secondary, I don’t see the Titans having great success on the offensive side of the ball. I see the Saints faring better on the offensive side of the ball and being able to move down the field with more relative ease. Give me the short home favorite in a roaring home crowd environment. NO -3.0

With the second-lowest total on the board for week one, this game projects to be a defensive slugfest, and I am expecting exactly that. 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy is getting the keys to the offense this season, and while he did impress last year, I think he might find things a little tougher this season as teams have had an offseason to study his film and adjust to the 49ers’ offense. Of course, with so many weapons on offense and a mastermind play caller behind the helm, that will be easier said than done but the Steelers are one of the few teams somewhat well equipped to limit the 49ers’ offense.

The Steelers are loaded in the front seven with Cam Heyward, Alex Highsmith, and will be getting T.J. Watt back to full health to start the season as well. Being able to neutralize the run game is a necessity when trying to deal with the 49ers’ offense, and the Steelers fit the bill. I am also expecting a bit of a slow start for Purdy as the full extent of his elbow health/injury is somewhat of an unknown.

Not much needs to be said about the 49ers’ defense. It was by nearly all measures the best defense in the league last season and will surely (health-willing) be a top unit this year as well. Not only did they finally re-sign Nick Bosa but they added beastly Javon Hargrave to an already terrifying front seven, making what was already an incredibly tall task for the Steelers even tougher. The Steelers’ run game efficiency has been lacking for several years, especially since Najee Harris was drafted, and I don’t see that changing in this horrible matchup for the Steelers’ offensive line.

So we have two young quarterbacks (one coming off elbow surgery) going up against top defensive fronts with the better offensive unit in an incredibly hostile environment. Give me the under all day in what I expect to be a tightly contested game with both teams struggling to move the ball with consistency. SF/PIT U41.0 

This is one of those where you plug your nose and hope for the best while you submit your bet. No one wants to take the Raiders on the road against what projects to be a tough defense in the Denver Broncos. However, I believe this Raiders team is being undervalued as a whole by the public. Jimmy Garoppolo, despite public perception, is a surprisingly competent and accurate quarterback by the numbers. Garropolo was the second most accurate quarterback (behind only Mahomes) in stable QB metrics (EPA/play when no pressure, inside pocket, layup throws, etc.) and middle of the pack (15th) in less stable QB metrics (EPA/play when under duress, on the run, being blitzed). The problem with the Raiders this year will not be on the offense as they have a decent offensive line with nice weapons surrounding Jimmy G.

The Broncos, normally a vaunted defense should be fine on that end this season. However, the Raiders and Josh Jacobs seem to be their kryptonite when it comes to the ground game. In seven career games against the Broncos, Jacobs averages 103 YPG on 4.7 YPC with nine TDs in these seven games. Jacobs has gashed the Broncos for 100+ yards in each of the last three meetings.

On the Broncos side of the ball, last year was a disaster. Russell Wilson played by far the worst football we have seen from him, the offensive line was miserable, and the skill positions were often injured and/or disappointing. The Broncos did a great job in addressing the massive offensive line issue from last season but will that be enough in this game against Maxx Crosby and a front seven who did underperform last year but certainly has a higher ceiling than what was shown? Add into the equation the skill position injuries the Broncos are dealing with, and their offense seems super suspect for opening week. How much will the Jerry Jeudy and Javonte Williams injuries hinder them? There are too many question marks on the Broncos for me to back them as four-point favorites. Give me the team with an equal (if not better) QB and more dangerous skill groups to keep this one close.  LV +4.0

There is so much hype around Justin Fields and the Bears this year, with Fields a trendy pick to have a breakout year as a passer, but what are we basing this on other than sheer potential? Yes, the Bears acquired D.J. Moore, who automatically became their best receiver of the past decade or so (yikes). The Bears bear-ly (terrible pun, I’m sorry) passed last year at all, and when they did, Fields was one of the least accurate QBs in the league. Granted, his skill group was perhaps the worst throughout the entire NFL so he wasn’t given much to work with. Fields might very well take a leap this year and make good on some of that all-world talent but the Bears are still far from a solid football team. The offensive line while improved, is still a question mark, and the defense projects to be a bottom-five unit with worst in the league potential.

While the Packers also face uncertainty about their quarterback’s capabilities, at least they are in a different situation when it comes to the overall team. The Packers have a solid squad with a strong team identity. They may have lost Aaron Rodgers but they will still have the same philosophy. They are going to run the ball down your throat with their elite O-line, they’re going to protect the ball, and they are going to stuff the run with Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, and first-round-draft pick edge rusher, Lukas Van Ness out of Iowa. The Packers’ secondary was almost unanimously the top-ranked unit going into last season but uncharacteristically underperformed last season, with Eric Stokes struggling in particular. With Stokes being in his 3rd year, I expect him to perform closer to his rookie year and for this secondary to return to pre-2022 form.

I’ll take the stronger overall team with the less-hyped (but equally good as of now?) QB going up against a media darling “sleeper” team being backed by the majority of the public. GB +1 .0

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

One response to “Beating the Spread 2023: Week 1”

  1. Barry Shapiro says:

    Looking forward to Brennan Rampe’s expert predictions.

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