After an exciting off season that saw a bunch of player trades and signings, the NFL regular season is finally set to kick off this Friday morning (AEST). The season gets underway with the reigning Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles taking on the Atlanta Hawks and we have a preview and betting tips for some of the key games at the watchable time slots for us Aussies below.
The season gets off to an exciting start on Frida morning with the Super Bowl Champions hosting the Atlanta Falcons in Philadelphia. Philly will be pumped up at home and ready to get their title defence off to a good start, however, they could be without a few key skill players as Jay Ajayi, Alshon Jeffery and Mack Hollins. There is also the question mark over who will start at quarterback. Last year’s back up QB Nick Foles stepped in and led the team to a Super Bowl win but first string QB Carson Wentz looks to have almost recovered from an injured ACL suffered last season and is questionable for Week 1.
Atlanta were impressive last season and ultimately lost to the Eagles in the divisional round of the playoffs. They’ll look to return to the Super Bowl this season after losing to the Patriots in 2017 and have brought back the majority of their skilled position core in Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Mohamed Sanu and Julio Jones. Look for Ryan to air the ball out on aregular basis on Friday morning against a Philly defence that is very orientated on stopping the run.
I never like betting against the Super Bowl Champions in their home season opener as they are usually so fired up. However, they could be without one or more key players leading into the game and the indecision at quarterback just days out from the game isn’t promising. I like the Falcons to take this one as slight underdogs.
The Packers will look to hit the ground running in 2018 as they finally get their star quarterback Aaron Rodgers back after he missed nine games with a shoulder injury. The return to health for Rodgers likely means a return to playoff contention for the Green Bay Packers and a win here against a fierce divisional rival to get their season off to a good start. Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Jimmy Graham make up one of the best receiving cores in the league and combined with the pin point accuracy of Rodgers, expect some big numbers from the quartet this year.
Chicago suffered yet another last place finish in the NFC North last year, their fourth in a row and things don’t really look like improving this year in arguably the toughest division in football. Minnesota and Green Bay should be two of the best teams in the league this season and many have tipped Detroit to be one of the big movers as well after just missing out on the playoffs last season. This suggests another long year for the Bears, but there are some promising signs as talented young QB Mitch Trubisky embarks on his first full season as starter for the Bears.
Green Bay start as 7.5 point favourites here, which I think is about right. If the line was 6.5 I’d have no problem at all in backing in Aaron Rodgers, however, two scores could be a handful against an improving Chicago defence that allowed just 13.6 points per game in their last five of last season and picked up a DPOY in Khalil Mack. 7.5 is right in that sweet spot for me so I’m going to take the unders here.
At just 21 years of age, Sam Darnold will become the youngest starting QB to start a season in the NFL since the merger all the way back in 1970. The Jets traded Teddy Bridgewater before he had even played a game to allow Darnold to take up the full time starting position. The Jets seem to be in yet another transitional year here as they wait for Darnold to develop, but some key acquisitions in Trumaine Johnson and Isaiah Crowell should ease the process.
Detroit are very much an unknown quantity leading into the 2018-19 NFL season. They just missed the playoffs last season and will welcome in new head coach Matt Patricia, formerly the defensive co-ordinator for the New England Patriots. LaGarrette Blount will add some force in the running game and help lessen the strain on QB Matt Stafford to perform week in week out. It was a much needed area to upgrade for the Lions, who haven’t had a 100 yard rushing game since 2013. That should change this year.
Tough match to call here. Really struggling to get my head around the Lions. They could come out and absolutely blow the Jets away at home on Tuesday morning and I wouldn’t be surprised. Patricia is a defensive minded coach who arguably has more tools to work with than he did at the Patriots. The Jets scored just 10.75 points against Patricia’s defence over their last four games so I expect the Lions to win this one comfortably.
LA finished last season as the third ranked team in the NFC but suffered a tough loss to the Falcons in week one of the playoffs. They’ll enter the 2018-19 season as one of the hot favourites in the NFC as their defence looks to be the lynchpin and one of the best in the league once again. Jarred Goff will enter his third season in the NFL and take up the starting position at QB but the offence will run highly through star running back Todd Gurley, who is a favourite for the MVP this season. Brandin Cooks adds depth in the receiving game but it’s their already impressive defence where the Rams got even better this year. One of the best defensive linemen in football in Ndamukong Suh arrives from the Dolphins while Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters will further strengthen the secondary. This LA defence will be a scary prospect in 2018-18.
The loss of former DPOY Khalil Mack will be a tough one for the Oakland Raiders to fathom after trouble in contract negotiations forced the star to depart for Chicago for a record fee. However, the Raiders did strengthen their offence with the additions of Jordy Nelson from the Packers and running back Doug Martin. Derek Carr will shoulder the responsibility as starting QB after a breakout season last year and with the AFC West arguably getting worse this year, the Raiders should have another great chance to make the playoffs for the second time in 15 years.
What a tough match to call. I hate betting against teams at home in the first game of the season but this LA Rams defence looks scary. Even with some key additions to the offence I cant see Oakland scoring enough to stay competitive here. I think unders is the pick here.