It's time to kick off the 2018 NFL season
It's time for the 2018 NFL campaign to finally get underway after another offseason filled with bad headlines and questionable decisions. Last year, I went 53-32-3 with ATS picks, which is one of the best published records out there. I've learned that situations are very important when it comes to handicapping football games. A lot of people will tell you to be more selective early on in the season, but sometimes there are opportunities that won't present themselves in Week 10. Let's take a look at the opening card:
Note: All times are ET and all games are on Sunday, Sept. 9 unless otherwise noted.
Atlanta Falcons (0-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (0-0), 8:20 p.m. (Thursday)
The Eagles are going to be a fantastic team this season. The key phrase there is "going to be." Philly will be playing this game without Carson Wentz, Alshon Jeffery and Timmy Jernigan. Three key pieces that will hopefully be back at some point. The head coach is having a bit of a problem with the media and their reporting of his quarterback situation. Nick Foles is getting the call and he's struggled during the preseason. Everyone seems to be thinking that he'll turn it on once the regular season begins, but that's not a guarantee. A full strength Atlanta team that nearly won in Philly in the playoffs last year comes in looking for revenge. The Eagles' D is going to be very good and will keep the team in the game, but it'll be tired when the O struggles to move the ball. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones should be able to connect for a touchdown at least. The loss of linebacker Nigel Bradham (suspended) means that running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman should be able to roam free in the passing game. I think the road team can win this game outright. There's so much not to like about the vibe coming out of Philly. The team is taking down a Super Bowl champs sign in the locker room because it was bothering them. They don't seem exactly focused. Selection: Falcons +2.5
San Francisco 49ers (0-0) at Minnesota Vikings (0-0), 1 p.m.
Everyone loves the Vikings after adding Kirk Cousins. Minnesota's defense was fantastic last year up until the unit got undressed in Philadelphia. The corners are stout and the front seven should be able to get pressure on almost anyone. Minnesota has allowed more than 20 points just once in their last 10 home games. I'm also not a huge believer in the 49ers' offense. They just lost Jerrick McKinnon for the season and will now turn to Alfred Morris and Matt Breida for their running game. Jimmy Garoppolo made quite the impression at the end of the 2017 campaign, but he's running into arguably the best defense in the league. I think San Fran's defense is good enough to hold Minnesota to like three or four touchdowns so I think this number is just a bit high. SELECTION: Under 46
Tennessee Titans (0-0) at Miami Dolphins (0-0), 1 p.m.
This one is a feel play on my part. I'm not a Titans guy to say the least. Their offense doesn't scare me with Marcus Mariota leading the way. The wide receivers are young and have potential, but I don't like Mariota's chances of getting them the ball. The defense doesn't scare me that much despite their offseason additions. I know how good they were against the run, but I think that was a bit of a mirage. The team is 8-10 the last three years on the road and has covered just seven of those contests. Ryan Tannehill is running out of chances with his fan base, but I still think he can be a talented quarterback. Kenyan Drake is not a bad running back and the Dolphins have some good wide receivers. Miami's defense does scare me a bit, but I think this team is a good bet as a home underdog. The Fins have been a home dog of three points or fewer just six times over the last three seasons and have won three of those games. Last year Miami won at home 16-10 in an ugly game. I think we could see another ugly one on Sunday. SELECTION: Miami +1
Seattle Seahawks (0-0) at Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m.
I'm a huge Denver Broncos guy this season so if they continue to get underpriced then I will be on them often. Case Keenum comes in to save the quarterback position for the home team after years of ineptitude. Keenum has a pair of solid but aging receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Royce Freeman is going to be an intriguing piece at running back. All of that on offense plus a nasty defense makes the Broncos scary. The secondary will be just as good while the front seven should get pressure on an awful OL. Seattle's defense is no longer the Legion of Boom and doesn't scare anyone. The Seahawks' offense features a rotation of running backs and Doug Baldwin. I realize Denver has had its issues in the past, but this team is a lot more improved and very tough to beat at home. SELECTION: Denver -3
Dallas Cowboys (0-0) at Carolina Panthers (0-0), 4:25 p.m.
I'm going to bite on this odd line. Dallas' offense is now truly Ezekiel Elliott and a bunch of no-name wide receivers. Teams are going to be stacking the box against the run, forcing Dak Prescott to beat them with the likes of Allen Hurns and Cole Beasley. The loss of Travis Frederick at center is a big one because he's the quarterback of the offensive line. On defense the Cowboys will be without David Irving for four games due to suspension. They've got some talent but can Sean Lee stay healthy? Carolina has plenty of question marks on offense as well. The Panthers' group of wide receivers are really young and Cam Newton has his consistency issues. Christian McCaffrey is going to get a larger role and Greg Olsen is a really solid tight end. The big difference is Carolina's defense is really good and is playing at home. The Panthers are the better team here. SELECTION: Panthers -3
-- Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.