Down the Lines: NFL Week 1, college football predictions


Andy Clayton-King | Associated Press

In this Dec. 23, 2019, file photo, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) hands the ball off during the second half of the team’s NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis. The most consistent weapon the Vikings have drawn against Rodgers since he became Green Bay’s quarterback has been a defense built around a relentless pass rush and revved up by a raucous home crowd. The formula might need an adjustment this year.

By Wes Sanderson

This is a big week in professional athletics across the board, which means it is a big week for those of us who compete in fantasy sports and also, recently legalized, sports betting. 

Sports gambling and daily fantasy sports has become a multi-billion dollar budding industry. 

I myself have been competing in daily fantasy since I was of legal age to do so. I have also been an advocate of Illinois ’move to allow for mobile sign-up and registration during the COVID-19 pandemic, giving access to those who might not feel safe going to the casino floor. 

Sports betting has become a passion of mine and a way of feeling normal during these unnormal times, so I’d like to pass that along to those who might also login to FanDuel, DraftKings or BetRivers. 

Sports betting has allowed me to find entertainment in games I would normally not watch. Games become more interesting when money is at stake. The opening of sports books has also given me a better understanding of certain teams strengths; do certain teams always win close calls or with convincing fashion. The biggest key to betting is understanding track records, mixed with a little bit of luck of-course.

Each week a selection of various bets will be previewed, broken down and explained. From NFL game money lines to PGA Major championships and everything in-between. It will be a large variety to give a taste to all sports fans.

Like with any gambling, risk is involved and no pick is ever a guarantee, so play responsibly. Sports betting is meant to be fun, so without further ado, here is the first installment of Down the Lines.


NFL Week 1

Chicago Bears (+3) vs. Detroit Lions (-3): The Bears announced 2017 first round draft pick Mitch Trubisky would again start the season as the Bears’ starting quarterback. Though the Bears offense ranked the fourth worst last season in total offense, the Lions ranked second to last in the league last season in total defense with very few new additions to the unit this offseason. In the end, this is going to be a battle won or lost by the Bears’ top 10 defensive unit. I think Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford will prevail with a win. The Bears cover, but the Lions win 24-21. 

Green Bay Packers (+2.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings (-2.5): After a very dismal NFL Draft for the Packers, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has something to prove. With the addition of Boston College powerback AJ Dillion to an already crowded backfield, Green Bay looks to have the same key weapons for Rodgers and his pass-happy offense under second-year Head Coach Matt LaFleur. This game is truly a toss up, as both the Packers and Vikings had middle of the road offenses and defenses last season, and with the Vikings loss of wide receiver Stefon Diggs, star quarterback Kirk Cousins will be relying even heavier on running back Calvin Ridley and wide receiver Adam Thielen to pick up the load. I think Rodgers and top receiver Davante Adams have a big afternoon and win this one outright. 24-16 Packers

Down the Lines: NFL Week 1, college football predictions
In this Sept. 15, 2019, file photo, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers talks to coach Matt LaFleur before the team’s NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings in Green Bay, Wis. Rodgers says all those Zoom sessions during this unusual offseason improved his comfort level with the offense and his working relationship with second-year coach LaFleur. (Mike Roemer | Associated Press)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3.5) vs. New Orleans Saints (-3.5): This is my biggest game to watch for the week. The debut of quarterback Tom Brady in a uniform other than New England navy and white. Unfortunately, Brady drew one of the hardest debut games one could possibly get in the Saints. New Orleans has offensive weapons galore, highlighted by possibly the best receiver in the NFL in Michael Thomas. Even with veteran quarterback Drew Brees’ thumb injury last season, the Saints offense ranked in the top 10 in total offense. The defense was no slouch either, ranking 11th last season. The difference maker in this though is going to be the Bucs’ new additions to the offense. A team with Brady behind center, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin at wide-out, Gronk at tight end, and a backfield consisting of Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy. It’s hard to wonder how the Buccaneers are the underdog of this match-up. I call this easy money. Brady will get his first win as a Buc and begin his charge towards one last Super Bowl appearance. 31-24 Buccaneers over the Saints

Down the Lines: NFL Week 1, college football predictions
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a pass during an NFL football training camp practice Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (Chris O’Meara | Associated Press)

Los Angeles Chargers (-3.5) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (+3.5): The debut of last year’s Heisman Trophy winning, quarterback Joe Burrow, could not come against a more evenly-matched team. The Chargers starter behind center looks to be Tyrod Taylor. Taylor has himself a beat-up offensive line with center Mike Pouncey and right guard Trai Turner both questionable for Sunday’s match-up, so pass protection could be key. Taylor has weapons around him in running back Austin Ekeler and a wide receiver corp of Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton and rookie receiver K.J. Hill. Burrow though has more weapons around him in running back Joe Mixon, and a receiving corp consisting of A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross III and Tee Higgins. In what should be a close game, I think the former Mr. Football Ohio leads the Bengals to a win. Bengals by a touchdown.


NCAA Saturday Slate

Syracuse Orange (+22.5) vs North Carolina Tar Heels (-22.5): Okay let’s face facts right off the bat in week one; the Atlantic Coast Conference is extremely top heavy. Like that kid who always skips leg day, the ACC is ripped in the upper quarter of the conference and then below average the rest of the way down. Clearly Clemson is going to be the talk of the ACC,rightfully so, but Head Coach Mack Brown has made the Tar Heels a force to be had in the ACC. Brown landed a top 25 recruiting class last season along with returning quarterback Sam Howell, who could end up being a Heisman Trophy Finalist, this will be a nice tune-up game. The Orange were ranked in the bottom three positions in all defensive categories last season and had a weak recruiting class coming into Syracuse. Don’t expect this to be close. 54-24 Tar Heels in a rout.

Down the Lines: NFL Week 1, college football predictions
North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell throws a touchdown pass to wide receiver Dyami Brown during the first half of the Military Bowl NCAA college football game against Temple, Friday, Dec. 27, 2019, in Annapolis, Md. No. 18 North Carolina has plenty of hype with quarterback Sam Howell leading an offense full of returning playmakers for Mack Brown’s second season. The Tar Heels open Saturday against Syracuse with a chance to prove the hype is deserved. (Julio Cortez | Associated Press)

Duke Blue Devils (+19.5) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-19.5): So Notre Dame finally decided to join a conference? Well sort of, as they really didn’t have a choice due to the pandemic canceling a handful of their traditional match-ups. Regardless, the Irish are in the ACC and will have all the rights to claim it’s first ACC football title. The Irish were the 13th most-potent offense in the 2019 season, according to Sports Reference. While the line suggests the Irish to run away with this one, don’t sleep on the Blue Devils secondary again. The Irish will get its first conference win at home, but Duke covers with a two touchdown loss. 30-17 Fighting Irish.

Florida Gators (-12.5) vs. Ole Miss Rebels (+12.5): What could become a true possibility that the South Eastern Conference locks up not just one, but two college football playoff spots this season, could very-well start with this game in Oxford Saturday afternoon. The Gators are projected by ESPN to finish runner-up to Georgia in the SEC East Division, but with a top 10 defense and top 30 offense, according to Sports Reference. The Gators could give the Dawgs a run for that top spot. As for Florida’s game this week, Head Coach Lane Kiffins’ Rebels have too many holes on defense, and not enough proven offensive firepower to go toe-to-toe with the orange and blue. Florida by three touchdowns.

Kentucky Wildcats (+7.5, +235) vs. Auburn Tigers (-7.5, -300): Probably the most evenly-matched game on paper this week, I struggled with this match-up from a spread perspective. A 7.5 point spread is hard to pick during the first week of the season, so the traditional moneyline has made its first appearance of the year. Both squads are projected to be middle of the road in the SEC, though Auburn on paper sits in a harder division facing the likes of Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M. The Wildcats though have been making strides last season, holding their own against Florida and Tennessee though significantly underperforming expectations. Auburn on the other hand, was really one play away from claiming the spoils and punching it’s own ticket to the playoff. Tigers returning quarterback Bo Nix needs to have a breakout season if the Tigers want to be chanting “War Eagle” into the new year. The Sophomore signal caller will need to beef up his dismal 57.6% completion percentage and have better pocket awareness. Nix was sacked 17 times last season. I truly think this game could go either way, and a 7.5 point spread is never one to go for, but I think Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn wins this one. I’m picking the Tigers outright on the moneyline.

Down the Lines: NFL Week 1, college football predictions
In this Nov. 30, 2019, file photo, Auburn quarterback Bo Nix (10) throws a pass as Alabama linebacker Terrell Lewis (24) pressures during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Auburn, Ala. Auburn, which returns Nix, is trying to again break through in the competitive SEC Western Division. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File) (Butch Dill | Associated Press)