The NFL is back and the league feels wide open this season
It's Week 1 of the 2019 NFL season and this is one of the juiciest boards to start off a campaign that I can recall. The league feels as wide open as I can recall, with around 10 franchises that can legitimately make a claim for a deep run in January. In the meantime, there are plenty of underdogs that look quite appealing in Week 1. I've jumped on three in this week's opening installment of my NFL spread picks.
Note: All times are ET and all games are on Sunday, Sept. 8
Here are this week's best NFL picks against the spread:
Tennessee Titans (0-0) at Cleveland Browns (0-0), 1 p.m.
The Titans are a solid team, who plays a brand of football that might give the Browns a true test in Week 1. It should be a businesslike approach for the Titans, while the Browns have the weight of the city of Cleveland on their shoulders to live up to the local and national hype. This game will come down to the trenches. Can the Titans protect Marcus Mariota and establish Derrick Henry early and often without stud left tackle Taylor Lewan, who is serving a four-game suspension? The offensive line will be tested by the likes of Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon. On the flip side, can the Titans generate enough pressure on Baker Mayfield to slow down what should be a high-flying attack, featuring Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Nick Chubb? I expect the experience of Tennessee to be enough to keep this game within the number. There is a lot of value in the Titans getting points here. Browns will win, but barely. Cleveland by a field goal. SELECTION: Titans +5.5
Atlanta Falcons (0-0) at Minnesota Vikings (0-0), 1 p.m.
The Falcons stumbled to a 7-9 season in 2018 but have invested in their offensive line and are healthy again on defense. Keeping Dirk Koetter as offensive coordinator should lead to more continuity and head coach Dan Quinn taking over as defensive coordinator should be an upgrade over Marquand Manuel. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Devonta Freeman will do their share of putting up points in this one. The question will be if the Falcons can generate a pass rush on Kirk Cousins and how will their secondary hold up against the likes of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs? This should be a close game, likely one that comes down to the final possession, so I'm riding with the Falcons to get the cover and possibly an outright win. SELECTION: Falcons +4.5
Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) at New England Patriots (0-0), 8:20 p.m.
The Steelers are distraction-free with Antonio Brown now in Oakland. The Patriots have questions to answer in the post-Gronk era. Pittsburgh receiving six points in this spot seems too good to be true. Big Ben still has plenty of weapons at his disposal, a stout offensive line and a proven running back in James Conner. The defense once again feels replenished with young talent and Pittsburgh almost seems like a forgotten team in the AFC. Just the way they'd like it, although not used to it. Brady will be Brady. Sony Michel should provide enough in the running game and the defense will be typical New England. Patriots will win, but Pittsburgh covers. SELECTION: Steelers +6
— Written by Nick Kayal, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network as a college football and NFL writer. Nick is a Morning Show Host in Nashville on 102.5 The Game. Follow him on Twitter @NickKayal.