Friday, May 27, 2022

2022 NFL schedule release, Week 1 odds, picks: History says to fade Bengals and roll with Rams in openers

The NFL has released its entire 18-week schedule for the upcoming 2022 season and it is pulling no punches right out of the gate. The Week 1 slate is jam-packed with several high-profile matchups to get the season rolling on a high note. 

Some of the more notable matchups include the defending Super Bowl champion Rams taking on the betting favorite to win Super Bowl LVII this year — the Bills — in Los Angeles in the season opener. Meanwhile, Russell Wilson will immediately make his first trip back to Seattle to face his former Seahawks team as he makes his Broncos debut on Monday Night Football.

Of course, as we comb through this schedule, we also get our first look at the betting odds for these matchups in Week 1. Below, you’ll find the initial odds for the opening slate and our early picks for how we think each game will unfold. 

All NFL odds via Caesars Sportsbook.

2021 record

Regular season

Locks of the Week ATS
: 50-36-4

ATS: 131-137-4

ML: 169-102-1

Playoffs 

ATS: 8-5

ML: 7-6

Bills at Rams (-1)

Both of these teams look like juggernauts and will likely be looked at as Super Bowl favorites throughout the season. That said, there does seem to be a little extra juice for the reigning champions as they begin their title defense. Dating back to Super Bowl XXXIV, the defending champions are 18-3 SU and 13-6-2 ATS in Week 1. That alone should have folks leaning towards the Rams, especially as they enter Year 2 with Matthew Stafford

Projected score: Rams 30, Bills 27

The pick
: Rams -1

Saints (-3.5) at Falcons

The Saints are rolling out a new regime after Sean Payton stepped down this offseason, but there is still plenty of continuity as former defensive coordinator Dennis Allen has ascended to head coach. They’ll also have quarterback Jameis Winston back in the fold after he missed the bulk of the year with a torn ACL. New Orleans went 5-2 straight up to begin the year in 2021 with Winston under center and outscored their opponents 176-128 over that stretch. They’ll open the year against a Falcons team that traded away quarterback Matt Ryan and will likely start veteran Marcus Mariota in Week 1. With questions surrounding the Atlanta offense, it may be wise to lay the points and roll with a New Orleans roster that will have Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and Chris Olave at Winston’s disposal.

Projected score: Saints 28, Falcons 20

The pick
: Saints -3.5

Browns (-4.5) at Panthers

This is a tough game to project as we don’t know the status of Deshaun Watson for this game as he could still face punishment from the league. After he was acquired by the Browns in that trade with the Texans, his extension suggests that they are bracing for some type of suspension. This is why this spread is lower than folks might think as the sportsbooks are likely giving themselves some insurance in the event he is, in fact, suspended and Jacoby Brissett — or even Baker Mayfield — starts instead. Even if they are rolling out a backup, the Panthers are not expected to be any better than they were a year ago, so Cleveland should have no problem getting the road win. 

Projected score: Browns 28, Panthers 20

The pick
: Browns -4.5

49ers (-6) at Bears

We still don’t know exactly how the quarterback situation will play out in San Francisco. While it felt a guarantee that Jimmy Garoppolo would be traded away as former top pick Trey Lance ascends to QB1, the veteran is still on the roster. No matter who ultimately gets the nod, however, the 49ers should be looked at as a considerable favorite against Chicago. The Bears have a new head coach and a second-year quarterback that is lacking go-to weapons around him, so 2022 may be another down year as they continue this rebuild. San Francisco was also 8-4 ATS on the road in 2021. 

Projected score: 49ers 28, Bears 17

The pick
: 49ers -6

Steelers at Bengals (-6)

Similar to the Rams pick, some historical trends paint a clearer picture of how we may view the Bengals in Week 1. Dating back to Super Bowl XXXIV, the Super Bowl loser is 8-13 SU and 4-17 ATS in the Week 1 opener. Over the last eight seasons, the team that lost the previous Super Bowl is 2-6 ATS. While Cincinnati has filled a large majority of its needs this offseason (particularly along the offensive line), is it possible that the Steelers get the better of them in the first game of the post-Big Ben era? History suggests it’s possible. 

Projected score: Bengals 24, Steelers 21

The pick
: Steelers +6

Eagles (-3.5) at Lions 

If you wagered on the NFL last season, you know the Lions were very kind to bettors. Despite their 3-13-1 record, they were 11-6 ATS and were a tough out for most of their opponents. This offseason, they added pass-rushing help in No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson and gave Jared Goff another go-to receiver in Jameson Williams, who was selected at No. 12 overall. While Detroit may have a better all-around roster heading into 2022, the Eagles also revamped their depth chart and are a sleeper team to watch in the NFC. Offensively, they added A.J. Brown, giving Jalen Hurts another star pass-catcher to go along with second-year wideout DeVonta Smith. The Lions will make it close and cover, but Philly ultimately pulls out the W. 

Projected score: Eagles 27, Lions 24

The pick
: Lions +3.5

Colts (-7.5) at Texans

The Colts are the biggest favorites in the opening slate at the moment and for good reason. They dramatically improved their quarterback situation by swapping out Carson Wentz for Matt Ryan and improved on a defense that already ranked No. 8 in DVOA last season. Ryan should come out of the gate hot against a still-rebuilding Texans club, especially with weapons like Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman

Projected score: Colts 33, Texans 20

The pick
: Colts -7.5

Patriots at Dolphins (-3)

Miami loaded up this offseason, surrounding Tua Tagovailoa with the likes of wideout Tyreek Hill, tackle Terron Armstead, and running backs Raheem Mostert and Chase Edmonds. That’s an improvement over the collection of talent that was able to sweep New England in 2021. Meanwhile, the Patriots will be hoping for a Year 2 leap in Mac Jones, but defensively still have plenty of questions. For this game, defending the speed of both Hill and Jaylen Waddle could be a problem for this New England secondary that lost J.C. Jackson in free agency. 

Projected score: Dolphins 27, Patriots 23

The pick
: Dolphins -3

Ravens (-4) at Jets

This number seems to be a little too low. New York had a tremendous offseason, but they are still in rebuild mode as opposed to truly making a push to contend in the AFC. Meanwhile, the Ravens were swallowed by the injury bug in 2021 and, so long as they remain healthy this summer, should enter the year as a dark horse in the conference. They also have a clear QB advantage with Lamar Jackson over Zach Wilson

Projected score: Ravens 33, Jets 24

The pick
: Ravens -4

Jaguars (+4.5) at Commanders 

I think the coaching change going from Urban Meyer to Doug Pederson is going to do wonders for the Jaguars. Trevor Lawrence is still a transcendent prospect as he rolls into Year 2 and could very well take a seismic leap in 2022. Meanwhile, the Commanders don’t instill much confidence this season with Carson Wentz under center. After all, this is the same quarterback that committed two turnovers to Jacksonville in Week 18 last year as a member of the Colts, who missed the playoffs. 

Projected score: Jaguars 24, Commanders 21

The pick
: Jaguars +4.5

Chiefs (-3) at Cardinals

The Cardinals have historically started the season strongly under Kliff Kingsbury. During his tenure, Arizona has outscored opponents 89-60 in Week 1. While the Chiefs will be a legit title contender this season, I do think it may take some time for this offense to find its footing as they are trying to work in a number of new pass-catchers. Naturally, that adjustment period will keep games closer than they typically would with a team with more continuity. Not having DeAndre Hopkins (suspended) for the opener will hurt the Cardinals, but they find a way to cover. 

Projected score: Chiefs 28, Cardinals 27

The pick
: Cardinals +3

Raiders at Chargers (-4)

This is a tone-setting game for both of these AFC West clubs. This division has gone through an arms race this offseason and each game will be of tremendous importance for playoff positioning. While both of these rivals have high-powered weapons on offense, it’ll come down to which pass-rushing duo — Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack or Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby — can get after the quarterback. With L.A. having the better O-line, I’ll say they get the edge in keeping their QB upright and cover. 

Projected score: Chargers 33, Raiders 28

The pick
: Chargers -4

Packers (-1.5) at Vikings

Aaron Rodgers had his six-season streak of winning in Week 1 snapped last season as the Packers fell to the Saints, but the back-to-back NFL MVP has historically played well to begin the year. For his career, Rodgers is 10-4 SU in Week 1 and has a 100.2 pass rating in those games. Meanwhile, Kirk Cousins is .500 in Week 1 as the starter for the Vikings and has lost the last two. It’ll be interesting to see how Green Bay’s offense flows without Davante Adams, but Rodgers finds a way to pull out the win. 

Projected score: Packers 27. Vikings 24

The pick
: Packers -1.5

Giants at Titans (-6.5)

Tennessee was one of the better home teams in the NFL last season as they covered 60% of their games at Nissan Stadium (fifth-best record in the NFL). While the loss of receiver A.J. Brown certainly will be felt, this offense still runs through running back Derrick Henry. If he enters the season at full health, they’ll be able to move the football against a Giants defense that ranked 32nd in the NFL against the run in 2021. Even if they are marginally better against the run this year, Henry should still be able to eat. 

Projected score: Titans 28, Giants 21

The pick
: Titans -6.5

Buccaneers (-3) at Cowboys

This line feels off. The Buccaneers were a bad bet on the road in 2021, owning a 3-6 ATS mark for the year. While Dallas covered five of their nine home matchups last season, they had a margin of victory of 12 points, which was tied for the second-most in the NFL. The Cowboys have a top-tier defense to attack Tom Brady and plenty of weapons offensive to put up points. 

Projected score: Cowboys 33, Buccaneers 30 

The pick
: Cowboys +3

Broncos (-3.5) at Seahawks

This feels like a game where Russell Wilson balls out. He’s making his Broncos debut in Seattle against his former team in the Seahawks. As rumors ran wild that he’d be leaving the organization last year, Wilson threw four touchdowns and had a 133 passer rating in his final home game in Week 17. I expect him to put together a similar dazzling performance with his new Broncos weapons. With no viable quarterback to combat him on the other side, Seattle gets left in the dust.

Projected score: Broncos 30, Seahawks 20

The pick
: Broncos -3.5

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