The biggest and most marketable story last year was the rise of Cam Newton as a near-mythical figure that stole the hearts of nearly everyone watching. Jumping over linebackers on his way to the end zone and putting up ridiculous numbers on the ground, Newton still had receivers not named Greg Olsen drop simple passes every single week.
Despite this, ‘Superman’ led the Panthers to a Super Bowl. Everyone loved the narrative, and most willed him to win – but Von Miller repeatedly broke him in half for 60 long, painful minutes. Football’s not a fairytale – we’ll never learn.
This is a fresh start for 31 hopefuls and the Cleveland Browns. Given the nature of the pre-season campaign, injuries have taken their fair share of talent off our screens for the coming year. This has dampened the play-off hopes of a number of teams but someone’s gotta win Super Bowl LI, right?
The Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks head the market at 8/1 this season – and that’s justified. Aaron Rodgers welcomes back all his familiar weapons, and probably won’t have to attempt two more Hail Mary plays this year. Seattle are formidable on the defensive side of the ball and next to nobody is going to win in Washington State this year.
They drafted Germain Ifedi to try and aid a poor offensive line. Wilson needed protection and now he should have some. If Jimmy Graham clicks, they could be the ones to watch.
But if I’m backing a market principle, I want Aaron Rodgers in charge of my money. They have their line-backing issues as always, but they did bring in Kenny Clark from UCLA – a man mountain – to stop the run. I think the Packers are the ones to beat.
Thursday sees a repeat of the last season’s Denver v Carolina slug-fest. With one major difference.
Peyton Manning is retired, Brock Osweiler went to the Houston Texans for mega money and they’re left with a youngster called Trevor Siemian.
The Florida native won the pre-season quarterback battle, but that’s not a huge endorsement. Mark Sanchez was the other realistic option and he once ran into his own player’s rear end in the middle of a game before fumbling the ball and having New England return it for a touchdown.
Carolina lost their star cornerback in Josh Norman, but Siemian has to get the ball on target for that to be an issue. They’ve also added even more depth to their defensive line – Denver’s patchwork offensive line is in for a long night.
Carolina all the way at
If you’re looking for a value bet, the Houston Texans should reach the play-offs. They’ve Lamar Miller, a quarterback they paid a lot of money for that isn’t Brian Hoyer, and a defence that’s up there with the league’s best.
Finally, they’ve got a receiver to take some coverage away from DeAndre Hopkins. Notre Dame’s Will Fuller is a rocket. Watch this space.
The Kansas City Chiefs have been an ‘almost’ story for a while now. Under Andy Reid, they’ve had good teams with Super Bowl aspirations, but they’ve never had great teams. Star running back Jamaal Charles is coming back off a major injury, and if they can’t run the ball, they will depend on Alex Smith to throw the ball. This is the same man that went nearly two years without throwing a touchdown pass to a wide receiver.
They face the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. The Bolts were 4-12 last year and sub-standard. This year, they’ve added a Super Bowl winning veteran in Brandon Mebane to plug the run as well as drafting quite well on paper, minus the whole Joey Bosa situation. Taken into account that they’ve one of the strongest cornerback corps in football, a seven point spread here is too big. I like the Chargers on the handicap at .
There was a time where everybody feared going to Louisiana to take on the Saints. That time is no more and one of the best young teams in the NFL – the Oakland Raiders – are headed there on Sunday night at 6pm.
In my mind, they’re favourites but are on the handicap. Khalil Mack is everything Von Miller is and more. Derek Carr is functional, and their receivers are explosive.
Oakland have always had that mean edge about them, and that’s about to be unleashed this year. Drew Brees hasn’t felt this lonely in the backfield in his career. The Saints are facing another sub .500 season.
NFL week one handicap treble @ approx 11/2
- Carolina (-3) Friday 01:30pm
- San Diego (+7) Sunday 6pm
- Oakland (+1) Sunday 6pm