Last Sunday was my first losing week of the 2018 NFL season – and it felt more like a wash after my best single-game win of the year so far.
It was the first time that it really felt like the NFL season. Everything sort of fused all in one afternoon – a backdoor touchdown on the final play of a game, a blowout loss while fading the biggest public favorite of the weekend, and losing an under in essentially the first half. It’s good to have football back.
If you’ve been reading the plays so far you know what to expect with pick No. 1.
It’s time to think outside the box.
Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys
Wager: Over 43.5
Wow, has the Cowboys’ offense ever been bad.
It was expected that, without Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, and nobody capable of filling those roles right away, the Cowboys would have trouble moving the ball through the air.
That’s been an understatement, as Dallas hardly has a passing offense at all.
In the past, the Cowboys were able to get away with having a one-dimensional offense. The offensive line and running back Ezekiel Elliott were talented enough to make the offense a run-first unit that only needed to throw the ball in manageable situations to succeed.
It’s only been a handful of games, but the Detroit Lions’ defense might be just what the Cowboys need. Or so you would assume, based on each team’s strengths and weaknesses.
Detroit is dead-last against the run – and for a minute there, all those flaws were masked by a nice showing on Sunday Night Football with a commanding win over the New England Patriots.
Everyone is ready to write off Dallas’ offense, making this the time when you take your shot. All you need is four quarters of offensive competence against a questionable defense, and even the Cowboys can pull that off.
As the chalk in a show-me game against a team riding high off a prime-time win, the Cowboys are going to finally break out. And with Matthew Stafford likely playing from behind and throwing the ball to a loaded receiving corps, I’ll take a shot on this over because there’s a slight overreaction to Dallas’ early-season offensive struggles.
New Orleans Saints at New York Giants
Wager: New Orleans -3
I don’t want to overthink this one, and that’s coming from someone who typically vouches for the Giants.
The 2018 Saints look an awful lot like the pre-2017 versions of the team – all offense, and no defense. It’s difficult to know yet whether the Saints are getting their defensive struggles out of the way as early as possible, or if last season was simply a fluke. But I trust the New Orleans offense, and Drew Brees showed during a Week 3 overtime victory over the Falcons that he can still win games by himself.
The Giants, on the other hand, don’t have a similar late-game hero under center.
New York’s win in Houston last week could have Giants fans thinking Eli Manning has turned himself around. I’ve seen this team instill hope in its fan base too often, then completely rip hearts out seven days later.
I hate the Giants in this spot.
Philadelphia Eagles at Tennessee Titans
Wager: Over 41
Before I settled on the Detroit-Dallas game as my top pick, the Eagles-Titans tilt was actually the first one to stick out.
Obviously, both offenses haven’t been as productive as last season. If this game was played a year ago, the total would likely be four-to-6.5 points higher. That’s how much things have changed.
But I don’t think that should be enough to bring the number down this far.
Marcus Mariota will likely be on a pitch count due to his elbow injury, and Carson Wentz is still getting back to his normal self after playing for the first time in 2018 last week.
These teams don’t have the same offenses as a season ago, but 41 is a number that makes me willing to take a shot.
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Chargers
Wager: Under 46.5
I don’t feel comfortable laying 10.5 with the Chargers over the Jimmy Garoppolo-less 49ers, but I’m fine with taking the under. The 49ers were brutal offensively in 2017 without Garoppolo, who’s one of the most valuable quarterbacks in the league to his team.
Cleveland Browns at Oakland Raiders
Wager: Oakland -2.5
You’ll hear about Baker Mayfield and the Browns all weekend after he led his team to its first win in 635 days last Thursday night. That’s perfect, because the Raiders are going to beat them handily.
Oakland is 0-3, but you can make a case the Raiders should have a winning record or at least one victory. If their games were shortened to three quarters, the Raiders would be Super Bowl favorites. They’ve been steamrolled in the fourth quarter during all three games this season, a trend that will end on Sunday.
A week after finding the win column for the first time since December 2016, the Raiders will get their first victory under head coach Jon Gruden, and win by more than 2.5, of course.
Top plays: 6-2-1
Overall record: 9-5-1
Alex Kolodziej is theScore’s betting writer. He’s a graduate of Eastern Illinois who has been involved in the sports betting industry for 11 years. He can quote every line from “Rounders” and appreciates franchises that regularly wear alternate jerseys. Find him on Twitter @AlexKoIodziej.