Welcome back to yet another season of Beating the Spread. Our first full slate of days is just a few short days away, which means it’s time for us to make our first set of picks for 2022. My name is Jake Roy, and I’ll be joined by Brennan Rampe and Tyler Gentile this season.
If you’re new to QBList, Beating the Spread is a friendly competition where we’ll each make five picks per week, and see who can perform the best over the course of the season. With an 18-week regular season, that’s 90 picks a piece, plenty of times to establish ourselves as excellent handicappers, or catastrophic failures.
We’ll be here every Friday throughout the season, posting our picks along with some analysis. You can play along in the comments or find us on Twitter (@Jake3Roy, @808Paperboi, @phdinnfl). Assuming -110 odds we need about 53% to break even, let’s see if we can hit that magic number for the season and come out with some profit. So, without further ado, here are the lines we’ll be using for Week 1!
|Jake Roy (@Jake3Roy)||Brennan Rampe (@Phdinnfl)||Tyler Gentile (@808PaperBoi)|
|Pick #1||49ers -7.0||Panthers -2.5||Ravens/Jets under 44.5|
|Pick #2||Texans +8.5||Eagles -4.0||Eagles -4.0|
|Pick #3||Panthers -2.5||Ravens -7.0||Jaguars +3.0|
|Pick #4||Titans -5.5||Chiefs -4.5||Vikings +1.5|
|Pick #5||Bengals/Steelers under 44.0||Buccaneers -1.5||Buccaneers -1.5|
My first pick of the season brings us to Chicago where the Bears take on the 49ers. I typically don’t like taking road favorites, but there’s a lot to like about the Niners in this matchup. It’s a first-year head coach in Matt Eberflus taking on the experienced Kyle Shanahan. Shanahan’s squad also has a lot more talent on both sides of the ball than the Bears, that’s easy enough to see, and why they’re favored by seven points. The biggest reason for this pick is the mismatch in the trenches. Chicago will likely start fifth-round rookie Braxton Jones at left tackle who will have his hands full with Joey Bosa and the rest of the 49ers’ pass rush. Justin Fields struggles under pressure, with turnover-worthy plays on over six percent of plays when pressured; he’ll likely be off-platform all day. SF -7.0
Not a lot to say about the next game. Davis Mills and the Texans are catching 8.5 points at home against Matt Ryan and the Colts. The Texans aren’t the most talented team in the world, but Mills was a nice surprise last season and as a rule, I’m taking 8.5 points for a home team in a divisional game. That’s just good business. HOU +8.5
Something tells me Baker Mayfield won’t be bringing out the snacks when he hosts the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon. The Panthers went out and upgraded the offensive line, signing Austin Corbett and drafting Ikem Ekwonu. Christian McCaffrey is also healthy for the Panthers; he’s basically a cheat code at moving the chains. Robbie Anderson also changed his name from Robby Anderson, so that helps somehow. Between Baker looking for revenge, the Panthers upgrades, and Jacoby Brissett at quarterback for the Browns, I like the Panthers to cover the small spread. CAR -2.5
The Giants were bad last year. They didn’t get much better this offseason either. A quick google of “Giants offseason moves” brings back a piece grading the Giants’ top five moves this offseason. Said moves: a long snapper, Matt Breida, two offensive linemen, and Tyrod Taylor. Now that’s just one guy’s opinion, but if those are the best moves they made and Daniel Jones is still the quarterback, I don’t see them doing much this season. They ranked 25th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game last season, and the Titans have a healthy Derrick Henry. The Titans should be able to move the ball at will on Sunday, and you can always count on a Daniel Jones turnover or two. TEN -5.5
Last and hopefully least we have the Bengals hosting the Steelers in a week one divisional matchup. A lot of people are predicting a Super Bowl hangover for the Bengals. I am one of those people. I don’t necessarily think they’ll be bad, but I don’t think they’ll be as explosive as they were down the stretch last year. On the other side, the Steelers will look the control the clock and keep the Bengals off the field. It could be a challenge with Mitch Trubisky at quarterback, but Mike Tomlin has a strong track record and always gets the best out of his guys. Over the last three seasons, the over is 6-11-2 when the Steelers play an AFC North opponent. PIT/CIN under 44.0.
Philadelphia had an incredible offseason, improving both their offense and defense. They traded for star receiver A.J. Brown and signed free agent receiver Zach Pascal, which I think was a good move that isn’t getting the attention it deserves. On the defensive side, they signed cornerback James Bradberry, linebacker Haason Reddick, and traded for DB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. They also drafted Georgia DT Jordan Davis and Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean. The Lions, on the other hand, didn’t have a very impressive off-season. They didn’t do much in free agency and improved their roster mostly through the draft. Their most notable picks were their two first-rounders, defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and wide receiver Jameson Williams. Williams is expected to have a big role in the offense but will miss at least the first four games. Their receiver room is nearly the same as it was last year, and the entire roster is mostly unchanged. I think Detroit will win more than 3 games this year, but I don’t think they stand a chance against Philadelphia. Inside the Numbers: The Eagles are 4-2-1 against the spread as a favorite under coach Nick Sirianni. PHI -4.0
The Panthers, for the third time in three years under Matt Rhule, have a new quarterback. This time, it’s 2018 first-overall pick Baker Mayfield. Much like when Sam Darnold played against the Jets in week one last year, Mayfield is facing his old team right away. The Browns have had the most controversial offseason of any team in the league by far, as they acquired quarterback Deshaun Watson in a trade with Houston. Watson has been accused of sexual misconduct by over 20 women and is suspended for the first 11 games of the season. Jacoby Brissett is a decent backup, but not a 17-game starter. Even when Watson comes back, he is sure to be rusty, having not played an NFL game in nearly two years. I still believe that Mayfield is a good quarterback, and Cleveland got rid of him too quickly. I don’t see any scenario where Mayfield loses to his former team. Cleveland has been dealing with distractions all off-season, and I think their season is already over. Inside the Numbers is not applicable to this matchup; all trends point to Cleveland, but I think that Mayfield’s desire for revenge is not to be ignored. CAR -2.5
After an 8-9 season that was the result of injuries to nearly every star player, the Ravens appear set to rebound this year. They did well in free agency and had a fantastic draft full of players that will contribute immediately. The Jets had a pretty good offseason themselves, especially in the draft. However, tragedy struck the Jets early. Quarterback Zach Wilson will miss at least the first three games of the season after suffering an injury in a preseason game. Backup quarterback Joe Flacco will start this game. Flacco might have a lot more experience in the league than Wilson, but he’s old, not mobile, and doesn’t have as much arm strength as he used to. That’s no good against a new-look Ravens defense that has dramatically improved their pass rush and their secondary. On offense, Lamar Jackson will show off his dual-threat ability that made him the unanimous MVP a couple of years ago. I think he’ll have a good day rushing and passing. The Ravens should outshine the Jets and cover. Inside the Numbers: The Ravens are 22-17 against the spread in conference games with Jackson under center. BAL -7.0
Kansas City, despite losing wide receiver Tyreek Hill and safety Tyrann Mathieu, still look like Super Bowl contenders. They have an impressive group of wide receivers for Patrick Mahomes to target. They have perhaps the best offensive line in the league. They used the draft to improve on both sides of the ball, but mostly defense, which is what cost them in the playoffs last year. Arizona, despite also making the playoffs last year, had an unimpressive offseason. Wide receiver Christian Kirk and defensive end Chandler Jones left in free agency, and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is suspended for the first six games of the season. They are relying on two third-round rookie defensive linemen to replace Chandler Jones and are very thin at cornerback. That’s a major problem when you’re going up against an elite quarterback like Mahomes. The Cardinals have a history of starting off great and then falling apart in the second half of the season under Kliff Kingsbury. I don’t think they’re going to start off well at all, and I think a disappointing season is on the way. Inside the Numbers: Kansas City is 28-20 against the spread as away favorites under Coach Andy Reid. KC -4.5
After retiring for about a month, Tom Brady decided to return to the Buccaneers. This will likely be his last season in the league, and the roster is set to make one last run at a Super Bowl. They had some notable departures, most notably starting guards Ali Marpet and Alex Cappa. They did, however, also sign a ton of veterans such as Russell Gage, Julio Jones, Logan Ryan, Kyle Rudolph, and Akiem Hicks. The Cowboys saw a lot of players leave their team as well. They lost receivers Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson, offensive linemen Connor Williams and La’el Collins, and defensive end Randy Gregory. They had a solid draft, but disaster struck them at the last second; left tackle Tyron Smith suffered an injury after preseason concluded which will keep him out until December, leaving the offensive line in shambles. The Buccaneers have their own injury woes on the offensive line as well, especially the loss of Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen. This is also Todd Bowles’ first game as Buccaneers head coach, but I think he’ll be just fine. He has way more talent than he ever did as head coach of the Jets. Brady is dealing with a new coach and a lot of new pieces on offense, but I think he’ll make it all work out. Brady is undefeated against Dallas in his legendary career. This is another selection that defies all the trend data of Inside the Numbers. I just can’t bring myself to bet against Tom Brady. TB -1.5
Rejoice! Football is back. As exciting as it is for Week one to ensue, I’d approach this first week with caution. These lines are sharp considering the world has been frothing at the mouth for the past seven months in anticipation for football to return. In addition, there have been a plethora of moves for all 32 squads which leaves a lot of guessing in my opinion without complete data to refer to other than last year. With that being said, I’d look to shrink your unit size early on. On to the few games I’ve highlighted!
This should be a snooze fest of a game…it’s the Jets with Joe Flacco (REVENGE GAME!!!) starting. How the heck are they even getting close to 20 points in this game with that offense? Flacco’s not going to move the ball, so maybe they lean on the running game more. I don’t have a clue how this offense will function, but I do know the Ravens will run the ball down the Jets’ throat. New York allowed the fourth most rush yards per game last year, and Baltimore averaged the third most rushing attempts per game last season. The clock will be churning in this game. This looks like a 24-13 kind of game to me. BAL/NYJ under 44.5
I’m fading the Hard-Knocks darlings in week one on the basis that their defense is still miserable. They had the worst PFF grade last season and didn’t do much to improve on that side of the ball. The Eagles on the other hand were wheeling and dealing throughout the offseason and look poised to win the NFC East. They demolished the Lions in Detroit last year 44-6. It’ll be hard to replicate that performance, but I think they find a way to cover on the road with their significantly better roster. PHI -4.0
This could be the last run of Carson Wentz as a starter in the league. Last year he was 25th in completion percentage (62.4%) and was sacked six times with a lost fumble and interception vs Jacksonville in the Colts’ brutal week 18 loss. The Jags are a sleeper this year, and with a legitimate coach at the helm, Trevor Lawrence has the potential to make a year two leap. Doug Peterson is obviously familiar with Wentz, and we saw the way he turned around the Eagles franchise in a matter of two years. Always take the underdog in matchups between two mediocre teams. JAC +3.0
Take home underdogs in divisional matchups. An interesting nugget I found on Twitter is that division home dogs have hit about 80% of the time ATS since 2009 in week 1. They’re also hitting at 65% straight up. Mike Zimmer and his predictable run-heavy play calling are finally gone. He is replaced by a pair of offensive minds from the Rams who will undoubtedly have a more dynamic offense this year in Minnesota. This is also the first game without Davante Adams for Aaron Rodgers so it will be interesting to see how that offense flows without that dynamic duo. I don’t mind a shot on Minnesota to win the division this year sitting at +250 now. MIN +1.5
Tampa is coming into the season a bit depleted on offense, but not nearly as bad as them boys. Dallas is without stud left tackle Tyrone Smith, and who are they throwing to aside from Ceedee Lamb and Dalton Shultz? Good luck running against the Bucs front seven as well. They’ve consistently been one of the best run-stopping teams in the league over the past couple of seasons, allowing the third-fewest rushing yards last year. The Cowboys’ secondary fooled us into believing they were elite last season with all the interceptions they racked up last year. PFF ranks their unit 21st coming into the season. Unlike last year’s heart-breaking opener, I think the Bucs find a way to cover the spread against Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys. The under at 51 also looks pretty enticing as well with the offensive line concerns we’re looking at. TB -1.5
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)