Updated: September 2018
The NFL continues to have the most parity among the four major professional sports leagues in the United States, and the upcoming 2018 season will undoubtedly be no different. Due mainly to the draft and free agency, each new season offers clubs a chance to reboot. That means some projected playoff teams struggle to to stay out of the cellar, while a few surprising teams get on a roll and clinch a postseason berth. Last season, the Philadelphia Eagles captured the franchise's first Super Bowl after finishing last in the NFC East in 2016.
The Cleveland Browns will open the 2018 season as the biggest Week 1 home underdog. The Browns are coming off a nightmarish 0-16 campaign under third-year head coach Hue Brown, and have lost 31 of 32 games over the past two seasons. Cleveland is a +6.5 underdog against the defending AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Browns have not won a season opening game in 13 years, but managed to cover a 10-point spread last season at home in a hard-fought 21-18 loss to the Steelers. To no one's surprise, the Browns have covered the spread just four times over their past 20 season openers.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will visit the New Orleans Saints in an interesting contest being dubbed the Suspension Bowl. The Bucs starting quarterback Jameis Winston will begin serving a three-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, while Saints running back Mark Ingram will miss the first four games of the season for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances.
The Saints opened at a -7 favorite, but that line quickly moved as high as 9.5 points at some sportsbooks due to the absence of Winston. Veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, who tossed seven touchdowns and three interceptions in six games last season, is expected to get the starting nod for Tampa Bay.
The only game currently listed as a pick’em on the Week 1 NFL betting board has the Arizona Cardinals hosting the Washington Redskins. Both teams will be debuting new starting quarterbacks as former Kansas City Chief Alex Smith suits up for the Redskins, while the much-travelled Sam Bradford will presumably be under center for the Cardinals and their new coaching staff. One of the NFL’s oldest rivalries will kickoff the first Sunday night game of the year. The Chicago Bears will travel to Lambeau Field to battle the Green Bay Packers in a matchup that originally boasted the biggest spread on the board at Packers -8. However, that spread has been passed at some books by the Bucs-Saints game.
Aaron Rodgers will open the season as the early betting favorite to win a third NFL MVP Award, and the Packers will be looking to cover the spread in Week 1 for the ninth time over the last 12 season openers. Green Bay missed the playoffs a year ago after Rodgers broke a collarbone and missed a big chunk of the season. Finally, former Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy will make his head coaching debut for the Bears. Chicago added receivers Allen Robinson, Bennie Fowler and Taylor Gabriel during free agency to accelerate the development of second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
NFL Week 1 Early Betting Odds
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