“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” — Lao Tzu
“Yeah, but if I get a motorized scooter, I can go pick-up China food without walking at all.” — Eddie Lacy, probably
A couple weeks ago, we set the odds for the entire 2017 NFL season, and I do mean entire. Before we crown the Patriots at Super Bowl 52, we have to get through 17 increments of regular-season action, starting, pretty intuitively, with Week 1.
Every year, Week 1 features some outcomes which look absolutely baffling by the end of the season. Case in point: last year, the 49ers’ league-worst scoring defense (30.0 PPG) pitched a shutout against the Rams (28-0). Yes, the Niners had the luxury of facing Case Keenum that day, but we’re still talking about a defense that was later lit-up for 26 points by the Matt Barkley-led Bears.
Meanwhile, DeAngelo Williams was the runaway leader in rushing yards heading into Week 2. He racked up 143 yards for the Steelers in Le’Veon Bell’s absence, averaging 5.5 yards per carry, a performance that was apropos of nothing for the then-33-year-old, who finished the year with just 343 yards and a 3.5 YPC average.
The reality of Week 1 is that teams are just starting to learn their identity. If the NFL season is a lifetime, the preseason is early childhood, a time when it’s ok to make horrible mistakes, like sticking jalapenos up your nose. Week 1 is those awkward teenage years — when you’re still sticking weird stuff up your nose but now people are judging you for it.
That makes Week 1 notoriously tough to predict. Even Vegas struggles with the lines, with seven underdogs winning straight–up last year. But we wouldn’t be us — which, according to Rene Descartes, we are — if we shied away from difficult predictions. You can find our against-the-spread picks for all the Week 1 games in the ATS Checkdown podcast. Below, we tackle some Week 1 statistical, broadcastical, and mustachical props.
NB: all props and odds pertain to Week 1 of the 2017 NFL season unless otherwise indicated.
AP = Alex Kilpatrick
MM = Matt McEwan
SB = Sydney Benson
SP = Sascha Paruk
Still looking for a place to bet this football season? Look no further than our sportsbook reviews!
2017 NFL OPENING DAY PROPS
CHIEFS AT PATRIOTS
ODDS ROGER GOODELL AND TOM BRADY SHAKE HANDS ON THE FIELD BEFORE THE GAME: 7/2
The two shook hands after the Patriots won the Super Bowl last year, but it was more because they had to in order to avoid an awkward situation. Don’t expect Brady to go out of his way to find and greet the commissioner anytime soon. — MM
O/U CONSECUTIVE SECONDS PATRIOT FANS BOO ROGER GOODELL: 35.5
Goodell’s reaction to the boos at the draft suggests he’s starting to have fun with the fan’s hatred for him. And now that he’s working on an extension with the NFL, why wouldn’t he encourage Pats fans to unleash their full potential?
The number is held back by the fact that there will be an actual game going on, too. This will prevent the commissioner from appearing on the jumbotron for too long.
I’m not sure how Goodell will react to all these waving around, though … — MM
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) August 31, 2017
COLTS AT RAMS
ODDS ANDREW LUCK PLAYS IN WEEK 1: 99/1
OVER/UNDER NUMBER OF STARTS FOR ANDREW LUCK IN 2017: 13.5
The good news: Luck was taken off the PUP list, which would have rendered him ineligible until Week 7. The bad news: the Colts already announced that Scott Tolzien as their Week 1 starter. As I said on our podcast, Scott Tolzien should not be a thing in the NFL. The Colts also traded for Patriots third-stringer Jacoby Brissett. That doesn’t instill confidence about an imminent return for Luck. — SP
GIANTS AT COWBOYS
ODDS TO LEAD COWBOYS IN RUSHING IN WEEK 1 VS. GIANTS
- Darren McFadden: 1/4
- Alfred Morris: 11/2
- Rod Smith: 50/1
- FIELD: 25/1
Dallas limited McFadden’s touches in the third preseason game while Ezekiel Elliott made his debut. That’s not a bad sign for Run DMC. The Cowboys are likely planning for a no-Elliott future and want McFadden to stay healthy.
Alfred Morris is no longer the 1,000-yard back he was in Washington. His yards per carry have steadily declined every year he’s been in the league, wallowing all the way down to 3.5 YPC last year, despite running behind the best offensive line in the league.
Third-year fullback Rod Smith has two career carries. Nothing to see here. — SP
ODDS JERRY JONES WEARS HIS HALL OF FAME JACKET AT THE GAME: 9/1
Jones was all-in on Hall-of-Fame weekend, throwing a $16-million party and getting Phil Knight to make him custom gold shoes. But this isn’t Marge Simpson and her Chanel pant suit. Jerry knows this kind of gaudy outfit is a one-time wear. — SP
SAINTS AT VIKINGS
OVER/UNDER ADRIAN PETERSON RUSHING YARDS: 54.5
The good: AP looked decent in his Week 3 preseason debut and the Saints offense moves the ball against everybody.
The bad: he’s 32 years old; he’s coming off another knee injury; he’s sharing a backfield with the capable Mark Ingram and high-upside rookie Alvin Kamara; he’s facing a Viking front-seven that’s loaded with playmakers; and, with Drew Brees at QB, New Orleans is, as ever, going to be a pass-first team. — SP
ODDS ON VIKING FANS’ REACTION TO ADRIAN PETERSON
- Standing ovation: 1/5
- Boos: 19/1
- Indifference: 50/1
- FIELD: 9/1
What could “field” be? Anything! Get creative, Minneapolis. Maybe take a cue from these hyper-coordinated cycling fans. But instead of a bicycle, organize yourselves into a human switch and a four-year-old. — SP
SEAHAWKS AT PACKERS
ODDS AARON RODGERS WILL STILL HAVE A MUSTACHE: 1/3
Why would you ever shave something so glorious? Try to tell me this doesn’t look like a gunslinger ready to lead his men to a Super Bowl. — MM
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) August 29, 2017
ODDS ON WHICH PRIOR SEAHAWKS/PACKERS ENDING FOX SHOWS FIRST DURING THE BROADCAST
- Onside kick to Brandon Bostick (2015 NFC Championship Game): 1/2
- Fail Mary to Golden Tate (2012 replacement refs): 4/1
- Matt Hasselbeck’s coin-toss proclamation (“We want the ball and we’re going to score”; 2004 Wild Card game): 4/1
The number of unforgettable finales between the Seahawks and Packers really is baffling given that they don’t even play in the same division. Each of the ones on the list above was its own brand of crazy. The onside kick was the most recent and, thus, the most relevant. It was also the most impactful in terms of football history. Aaron Rodgers might have another ring on his finger if not for Bostick’s miscue. — SP
STEELERS AT BROWNS
ODDS THE STEELERS GO FOR TWO AFTER FIRST TOUCHDOWN: 3/1
Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger love going for two. They’ve gone for the extra extra-point 21 times in the past two seasons (roughly 23% of the time), converting on 12 of 21 overall (57%). While the Steelers only clicked at a 40%-rate last year, Roethlisberger said he wants to have control of his own fate, and that means having the ball in his hands. If the Browns come out flat and Pittsburgh scores early, there’s a good chance Tomlin puts his foot on the accelerator, immediately quelling any notion of an upset. — SB
OVER/UNDER NUMBER OF STRAIGHT-UP UPSETS IN WEEK 1 (BASED ON CLOSING POINT SPREAD): 5.5
Week 1 lines are tricky, as we said at the top. There were seven straight-up upsets in Week 1 last year, and we’re going to see more than a few ‘dogs surprise in Week 1 this year. They always do, because no one — including the monolith that is “Vegas” — has a firm sense of teams up and coming teams like the Titans, let alone complete enigmas like the Jay Cutler-led Dolphins. Adding to the likelihood of ample upsettery: ten games currently have 3.5-point spreads of lower. — SP
ODDS THE JETS, BROWNS, & 49ERS …
- all win: 58/1
- all lose: 3/2
All three are big dogs. While the Browns (+8) and Niners (+6) have the luxury of playing at home — and both have reasons for optimism in 2017 — they also face good teams (the Steelers and Panthers, respectively). The best chance for an upset could be the dead-on-arrival Jets (+6.5 at Buffalo). Orchard Park is never an easy environment, but the Bills are doing their own mini-tank right now and could be starting rookie fifth-round pick Nathan Peterman at QB. (Starter Tyrod Taylor remains in concussion protocol.) Don’t be surprised if the Jets ruin their chances at the first-overall pick right out of the gate … and then lose eight in a row. That would be so Jets. — SP
OVER/UNDER MISSED EXTRA-POINTS: 4.5
If you crunch (i.e. add) the numbers compiled by ESPN, there were 1,195 extra-point attempts in the regular season last year. That’s an average of just over 70 per week. Kickers hit at a 93.6% clip, meaning they averaged almost bang-on 4.5 misses per week. Always trust the math. Never trust the Chandler Catanzaro. — SP
LET’S GET PERSONNEL
ODDS TO BE PULLED FOR NON-INJURY REASONS (STARTING QBS)
- Blake Bortles, Jaguars (at Texans): 1/1
- Tom Savage, Texans (vs Jaguars): 5/3
- Mike Glennon, Bears (vs Falcons): 13/7
- Josh McCown, Jets (at Bills): 3/1
- Trevor Siemian, Broncos (vs Chargers): 12/1
- DeShone Kizer, Browns (vs Steelers): 19/1
- Jay Cutler, Dolphins (vs Buccaneers): 33/1
The Jaguars already tried to bench Blake Bortles, but were reminded that Chad Henne is their backup. Bortles is known for throwing pick-sixes against the Texans, though, and that’s not something Tom Coughlin or Doug Marrone will stand for. Henne may not be able to rally the troops and mount a comeback, but he’s much less likely to continue giving Houston points.
The next most likely is Bortles’ Week 1 foe, Tom Savage. The Texans want to win now, and if Savage isn’t producing right away against division rival Jacksonville, Deshaun Watson’s athleticism will be called upon. The rookie would at least help the ground game if forced into action.
As much as the Jets would like to play Christian Hackenberg and figure out what he can be, they also have a duty to keep him safe.
With Paxton Lynch getting injured in Denver’s third preseason game, there’s virtually no pressure on Trevor Siemian. —
ODDS TO THROW AT LEAST ONE TD (BACKUP QBS)
- Chad Henne, Jaguars (at Texans): 6/1
- DeShaun Watson, Texans (vs Jaguars): 8/1
- Mitchell Trubisky, Bears (vs Falcons): 9/1
- Christian Hackenberg, Jets (at Bills): 19/1
- Brock Osweiler, Broncos (vs Chargers): 25/1
- Matt Moore, Dolphins (vs Buccaneers): 49/1
There are obviously two elements to this. First, the starter has to get pulled (see above, and hence the long odds for the very capable Moore). Then, the backup actually has to be capable enough to throw a TD pass in the limited time they have left, which isn’t going to be more than a half.
At least their teams should be facing a big deficit! Wait, why is that a good thing? Because it could put opposing defenses in prevent mode.
But still, even if Christian Hackenberg has a full half against an indifferent Buffalo D, he hasn’t shown anything that gives us confidence he’ll find paydirt. Unless “paydirt” is a new cornerback the Bills picked up off the street. — SP
ODDS TO HAVE THE MOST RUSHING YARDS
- Marshawn Lynch, Raiders (at Titans): 1/1
- Eddie Lacy, Seahawks (at Packers): 2/1
- Adrian Peterson, Saints (at Vikings): 2/1
Lynch should get the most work between the three and is running behind the best offensive line. Eddie Lacy needs to hold off, like, four different guys in the Seattle backfield. “Hold off” might be the wrong phrase. This backfield might not be his to start with the way Thomas Rawls and CJ Prosise have played when healthy.
We’ve already covered why Peterson won’t be putting up big, shiny numbers in Week 1: age, opponent, timeshare, Drew Brees’ arm. The reasons are manifold. — SP
ODDS ROOKIE RUNNING BACKS RUSH FOR 100+ YARDS
- Leonard Fournette, Jaguars (at Texans): 5/2
- Kareem Hunt, Chiefs (at Patriots): 3/1
- Dalvin Cook, Vikings (vs Saints): 7/2
- Christian McCaffrey, Panthers (at 49ers): 5/1
- Joe Mixon, Bengals (vs Ravens): 8/1
- Alvin Kamara, Saints (at Vikings): 8/1
There are really good reasons why none of these guys are going to reach triple digits in their first career games.
For Leonard Fournette, the first RB off the board in the 2017 draft, it’s not a lack of opportunity that will hold him under the century mark. It’s the fact that the Texans might have the best defense in the league, and that unit will show zero respect to the Blake Bortles-led passing game the Jags insist on trotting out. Doug Marrone could execute his (facetious?) plan of running the ball on every play and Fournette still might not crack 100. Also, his foot hurts.
Kareem Hunt is near the top of the list because, with Spencer Ware out, Hunt is the man in Kansas City. But his Chiefs are in tough in Foxborough; the Pats only gave up 88.6 rushing yards per game and 3.9 per carry last year, while the Chiefs’ offense averaged a middling 109.2 per game and 4.2 per carry.
Dalvin Cook could see a similarly heavy workload for Minnesota, and he has a much cushier matchup against the Saints. That sunny outlook is clouded by the existence of Latavius Murray, a horrid offensive line, and the fact that New Orleans’ D actually isn’t that bad against the run, finishing 23rd in DVOA last season.
Christian McCaffrey just won’t get enough carries, in all likelihood. He’ll be featured heavily in the passing game while Jonathan Stewart handles a good portion of the between-the-tackles heavy lifting.
Joe Mixon should receive a decent number of carries, whether Jeremy Hill is 100% or not. The rookie is the more dynamic back. But putting up 100 yards against the Ravens in a timeshare? I’d rather bet on Brock Osweiler in an accuracy contest. — SP
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION
O/U NUMBER OF VIEWERS
- Giants at Cowboys (8:30 PM ET, Sunday, Sep. 11): 25 million
- Chiefs at Patriots (8:30 PM ET, Thursday, Sep. 7): 23.5 million
- Seahawks at Packers (4:25 PM ET, Sunday, Sep. 10): 20.5 million
NFL ratings have been trending down the last two years. Last year, the league saw a nine-percent drop compared to the 2015 season – with average viewership tumbling from nearly 18 million to just over 16 million. How is the league hoping to fix it? By putting some of the best matchups front and center in Week 1.
The season kicks off with the defending champs, New England, hosting the reigning AFC West champs, Kansas City. The first Thursday nighter of the year usually draws just over 25 million. But we expect a little Patriot fatigue outside of Massachusetts, and the Chiefs are no one’s definition of sexy.
The Cowboys always draw a massive crowd, so there is no doubt they’ll do well in the Sunday nighter. Their playoff game against the Packers last year brought in 48.5 million viewers, a record for the Divisional round. A clash with NFC East rival New York means the league will be happy with its viewership numbers for at least one night.
The Packers, meanwhile, host the Seahawks in another quality tilt. These teams have had no shortage of thrilling games the last few years and figure to battle all season for home-field advantage in the NFC. It’s not often that Week 1 games have massive playoff implications. This is an exception. — SB
ODDS TONY ROMO IS INCORRECT IN HIS FIRST COACH’S CHALLENGE AS AN ANNOUNCER: 3/1
Romo’s a smart guy. Getting the call right on review isn’t as hard as Mike Carey makes it look. — SP