The NFL season has finally arrived, and it's my mission to make my readers some money over the course of the next 18-plus weeks.
I'll be honest, last season made me want to give up on the NFL entirely. I was torn apart by all facets of the game, from my favorite team blowing a playoff berth by losing to the Jaguars in week 18, to my fantasy teams consistently underperforming, to my bets I placed never gaining any positive momentum.
But this season, I'm coming back with a vengeance! The Colts are going to win the AFC South. I'm going to win at least one fantasy championship across my three leagues. And, most importantly, I'm going to dominate the sports books so much that I might well get investigated by one of the federal government's 87,000 new IRS agents.
To recap my 2021 betting performance very briefly, I admit that I struggled mightily. But despite the feeling as if I was going 1-6 or 2-5 every week, I actually ended the season just one game below .500 with 53-54 season record. If you also add in my 2020 season performance, that puts my total record at 113-108-4 heading into my third season of giving out NFL bets. So, I'll attempt to pull further away into the positive win percentage territory here in 2022.
I'll also be giving out another Lock each week, which is the bet I'm most confident in. I won't even mention the drama surrounding my weekly Lock last season, but just know that the Lock of the Week is going 18-0 this regular season.
The Bills-Rams game on Thursday night is perfect evidence as to why it's so hard to predict the NFL, especially in Week 1. Not many people expected Buffalo to dominate the way they did against the defending Super Bowl champs, and that certainly won't be the only surprise that occurs this opening weekend. But regardless, I'll do my best to put you guys onto the seven best places for you to put your money across the 15 games that will occur over the next two days.
Let's dive in.
Baltimore Ravens -7.0 at New York Jets
I generally try to avoid heavy road favorites, but this game is just too enticing for me to pass up. Just hours ago, Lamar Jackson decided to bet on himself and decline to sign an extension with Baltimore, meaning this is his ultimate "prove it" year. He's going to have a field day against a subpar Jets defense, even with a questionable cast at receiver. The Ravens should have a strong defense this year, and they'll get to ease somewhat into the season against a backup quarterback in Joe Flacco as Zach Wilson returns to full strength on the sidelines. Give me the Ravens to win big.
San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears Under 40.0
I've heard a lot of people saying the Bears are the worst team in football, and it's hard to argue against that claim. They really don't have anything to write home about at any position, and they've traded away most of the rare bright spots on the roster in recent seasons. The Niners will have one of the best defenses in football this season and have fully recovered from their injury-riddled 2021 campaign. Even if Trey Lance explodes and San Francisco rains down points (which I don't think will happen), I won't be surprised if Chicago finishes in the single digits. This game sets up perfectly to stay under the point total.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Washington Commanders Over 44.0
This isn't my favorite pick of the week by any means, but I watched enough of Carson Wentz last season to confidently presume that he'll give away at least seven or so points on some wild, unconscionable turnover. The Jaguars have potential to make a long stride forward offensively with their young corps of talent, and the absence of Chase Young will make matters much easier for Jacksonville. As erratic as Wentz was with the Colts in 2021, he's certainly still capable of putting drives together and creating some explosive plays. I like both of these teams to reach the mid-to-high twenties.
Arizona Cardinals +6.5 vs. Kansas City Chiefs
I'm reluctant to bet on the Cardinals until they get DeAndre Hopkins back from suspension, but I think this number is a little too high. Kliff Kingsbury is notorious for getting off to a hot start, as they notably began 7-0 in 2021 which included a 38-13 stomping of the Titans in the season opener. On the other hand, Kansas City is known to sort of coast through the first half of the schedule before kicking it into gear as the playoffs approach. The Chiefs will also have to get used to not having Tyreek Hill in the lineup, and I wouldn't be surprised if his vacancy is made apparent early on. I'd pick Kansas City to win this game, but I really like Arizona to cover at home.
Green Bay Packers -1.0 at Minnesota Vikings
I considered this pick for a long while before deciding to include it in this article. I actually like this Vikings team, but I can't go against Aaron Rodgers in his season opener, even if his receiving crew isn't as strong as it was a year ago. The truth of the matter is that the Packers are simply better at every position aside from receiver, but Rodgers is the type of quarterback who makes due with any group of pass-catchers you trot out there with him. Minnesota's defense and O-line are still liabilities no matter how much talent they have at the skill positions. I know Green Bay go annihilated in their 2021 season opener, but I expect 2022's opener to go much differently.
Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers Over 52.5
Like many people, I'm very high on this Chargers offense, who have now had three years to get accustomed to each other under Justin Herbert. And facing a Raiders team who just added Davante Adams, this game could turn into a classic western shootout. Las Vegas and Los Angeles obviously play each other twice each season, and they've exceeded 55 total points in there of their last four matchups. These two coaches and teams will remember their Week 18 battle in 2021, where the Raiders prevailed to secure a spot in the postseason. Every divisional game in the AFC West will be critical for each team's positioning down the stretch of the regular season, and these coaches and players will treat this game as such.
Lock of the Week: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins Under 46.5
Here's the first bet that I'm guaranteeing hits this NFL season. The Patriots and Dolphins have started their seasons against each other in each of the last two seasons, and combined for 32 and 33 points in those games. I know Miami has revamped their offense and have perhaps the most explosive receiver duos in the league in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, but I think it could take some time for them to click in live game scenarios. Bill Belichick has had all offseason to prepare for this game, and his defense should stymie Tua Tagovailoa and company just enough to keep his team in the game. New England's path to victory in most games will be by grinding out low-scoring, defensive matchups, and I expect this game to fit that mold.
Written by Nick Swatson