NFL 4-fold: Our top tips for Week 1
Atlanta are a safe bet in the biggest mismatch of the weekend, while the Raiders also look poised to kick off the season with a win.
Atlanta Falcons to beat Chicago Bears –
In an opening week of what should be relatively close games, this is perhaps the biggest mismatch.
The Falcons made it all the way to the Super Bowl last season, thanks mainly to their league-leading offense, which averaged 33.8 points per game.
They will be one of the most explosive teams in the NFL again this season, and should score for fun against a Bears defence that ranked 24th a year ago.
Atlanta lost just two games on the road in 2016, and have very little to fear against the Bears, who finished the last regular season with a 3-13 record.
Houston Texans to beat Jacksonville Jaguars –
Jacksonville were tipped as a potential surprise package last season, but were hugely disappointing and ultimately won just three games.
The Jaguars were busy in both free agency and the draft, and have a new head coach in defensive guru Doug Marrone.
But it’s hard to see them making considerable strides after how poor they were in 2016.
They ranked in the bottom 10 on both sides of the ball, and face a tough test in Week 1 against a tough Texans team that went 7-1 at home last season.
Houston ranked 11th defensively even with star lineman JJ Watt missing 13 games. With the 28-year-old now back in the line-up, they should have more than enough to see off the Jags.
Oakland Raiders to beat Tennessee Titans –
The Raiders could have won the Super Bowl last season had star quarterback Derek Carr not injured his shoulder in Week 16.
The 26-year-old was among the league’s top MVP contenders, as Oakland lost just three games with him in the line-up.
Carr is now back to lead last year’s seventh-ranked offense against a Titans side they beat 17-10 in Tennessee last September.
The Titans are a decent team, ranking 14th offensively and 17th defensively in 2016.
But it’s hard to see them beating a Raiders team that lost just two road games last season, one of which was a meaningless Week-17 contest against the Broncos while Carr was out.
Washington Redskins to beat Philadelphia Eagles –
The Eagles made a fast start last season with three consecutive wins, but then slumped to lose nine of their remaining 13 games.
They only won once on the road in the entire campaign, and that was against the frankly awful Chicago Bears.
Washington, meanwhile, were a Week-17 defeat away from making the playoffs and, after ranking second in yards through the air last season, should once again have one of the league’s best passing offenses.
They invested heavily in their defence in the draft after ranking fifth in yards allowed in 2016. Presuming they have improved on that side of the ball, they will win comfortably this weekend.
*Odds subject to change