The NFL season has gone through the training camp and preseason motions, and is now preparing to launch into 16 games a week in an expanded 18 week regular season. With less interruptions in 2021, the action is going to be coming thick and fast all the way through to the New Year. I’ll be providing tips for every game of the season, headlined by the three prime-time games each week. Let it begin.
Raymond James Stadium, Friday 10:20am AEST
Someone at the NFL has a decent feel for what makes a good matchup, pitting the reigning Super Bowl champions against the “mighty” Cowboys who finished third in the worst division in Football in 2020. That sounds like a mismatch, but everyone knows that the Cowboys are a totally different team with a healthy Dak Prescott at the helm. Throw in a fit looking Ezekiel Elliot and a star trio of wide receivers headlined by second-year breakout candidate CeeDee Lamb (looks special), and you have a very dangerous football team. Yes, the defence still sucks, but maybe not quite as much as in 2020 having used every draft pick on defensive players this year.
The Buccaneers come in as heavy favourites, with the GOAT quarterback Tom Brady still running the show at 44 years of age. Their whole team is virtually identical to last season. I’m somewhat willing to buy into the theory that the reigning champs are a little less motivated early in the season, and that Tom Brady has to start declining at some point (right?). Unfortunately the Cowboys quarterback Prescott could also be looking at a slow start to the season on the comeback from a horrific fractured ankle and some recent shoulder/back issues. It’s hard to pass up a big price on the Cowboys, but I have to take the Bucs line given they’re at home and I have no idea how Prescott is going to play. Keep the Cowboys powder dry for another day.
SoFi Stadium, Monday 10:20am AEST
Another interesting prime time game, with both the Bears and Rams coming into 2021 with new quarterbacks, and some growing expectations. The Rams have been a highly rated team for a few years now under Sean McVay, although we all slowly realised that Jared Goff was pretty terrible as time went on. With underrated Matthew Stafford now throwing the ball for them, and still a strong defense, the team is looking in for a good year. The big loss was a season ending achilles injury for young stud running back Cam Akers, leaving Darrell Henderson to pick up the reins until the team traded for Sony Michel. Despite this downgrade, Sean McVay can make anyone into a good running back, and the Rams should be feared.
The Bears finally said goodbye to Mitch Trubisky, and also moved on from famous backup Nick Foles. In their place they signed boring veteran Andy Dalton and traded up to draft Justin Fields who had somehow slid to pick 11. There weren’t many other major team changes, and now the team looks to have decided that Andy Dalton is the starter to begin the season. That is truly bananas, as Fields is amazing, and it’s enough to turn me off the Bears prospects in this game. Playing in front of a Sofi Stadium full of fans will be huge for the Rams, and I’m going to go with that and wait until Fields is the starter before I put any money on the Bears.
Allegiant Stadium, Tuesday 10:15am AEST
Similar to the Rams, the Raiders have the prospect of playing in front of a lot of fans in their new stadium. Unlike the Rams, the Raiders aren’t very good. They were again accused of overreaching for questionable players early in the draft, and lost Nelson Agholor who actually played okay last year. Signing Kenyan Drake won’t add much, as Josh Jacobs is still there and how exactly they’ll share the running back role is pretty murky. Under the coaching of Jon Gruden and with Derek Carr at quarterback, the Raiders are mostly just a steady team that can keep games close and beat the bad teams.
The Ravens are not one of those bad teams, with a very unique offense based around Lamar Jackson and his incredible running abilities. With some new weapons arriving in the form of Sammy Watkins and Rashod Bateman, the team could have more interest in throwing the ball this year, but it’ll only make them harder to stop. The defence is still solid, and the coaching is a big tick. Dimming the enthusiasm slightly is the ACL injury to young running back J.K.Dobbins in the final preseason game, who like Akers was expected to breakout in his second season. Just like the Rams and Sean McVay, the Ravens scheme allows running backs to thrive, and the likes of Gus Edwards, Justice Hill and anyone else they might sign will be able to do a nice job. It’s easily the Ravens.
Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers - See Above
Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills - Bills -6.5 ($1.90 at Sportsbet)
New York Jets at Carolina Panthers - Jets to win ($2.76 at Sportsbet)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans - Jaguars -3 ($1.99 at Sportsbet)
Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans - Titans -3 ($1.94 at Sportsbet)
Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons - Eagles +3.5 ($1.87 at Sportsbet)
Los Angeles Chargers at Washington Football Team - Washington to win ($1.99 at Sportsbet)
San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions - 49ers -7.5 ($1.90 at Sportsbet)
Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts - Seahawks -2.5 ($1.90 at Sportsbet)
Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals - Vikings -3.5 ($1.96 at Sportsbet)
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots - Dolphins to win ($2.13 at Sportsbet)
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs - Browns +6.5 (1.90 at Sportsbet)
Denver Broncos at New York Giants - Broncos -2.5 ($1.91 at Sportsbet)
Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints - Packers -3 ($1.93 at Sportsbet)
Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams - See Above
Baltimore Ravens at Las Vegas Raiders - See Above
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