Top 5 NFL Games to Bet on in 2018
Kickoff to the 2018 NFL Season is still over three months away, but it’s never too early to begin looking ahead to September. ESPN will soon start dedicating hours of coverage each day to the biggest offseason moves, expectations for this year’s Rookie class, Fantasy Football projections and every other NFL topic you can imagine, so I figured it would be wise to join that fray. It’s impossible to know where things will stand once the season gets underway, but below are the five (or rather, seven) best NFL games of the 2018 season to place a bet on.
Week 1 – Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles (Thursday Night Football)
If you aren’t betting on the opening game of the 2018 NFL season, you probably aren’t planning to make any wagers at all throughout the year. Even if Carson Wentz hasn’t returned from a late-season ACL tear, the Eagles have already proved they could win meaningful games with Nick Foles under Center. A Foles-led Eagles team actually spoiled Atlanta’s hopes of returning to the Super Bowl for a second consecutive season last year in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. It was an ugly, low-scoring contest, the kind of game everybody thought that the Eagles were going to have to play once Wentz got hurt, but the Eagles went on to score 38 and 41 points against the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots respectively in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LII.
The previous season’s Super Bowl winners have gone 11-3 in Thursday Night season openers. The Eagles have the second best odds in the league to win Super Bowl LIII at 8 to 1. The Falcons are 25 to 1 to win the Super Bowl, which will be played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Week 7 – Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers (Sunday Night Football)
The San Francisco 49ers were among the worst teams in the entire league last year until that devastatingly handsome Jimmy Garappolo took over as starting Quarterback. Garappolo led the Niners to a 5-0 record to close the season, and because of that surge towards the end of the season the 49ers are a trendy pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Only four teams — the Eagles, Rams, Packers and Vikings — have better odds to win the NFC than the 49ers do.
The Los Angeles Rams, along with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who we’ll get to momentarily, were the biggest surprise of 2017 NFL season. Under first year Head Coach Sean McVay, the Rams typically stagnant and rarely inventive offense was among the very best in the league. The Rams were the highest scoring team in the NFL and they won their first Division Title since 2003. In the offseason the Rams reloaded, mostly defensively, bringing in Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, a trio that has combined for nine All-Pro nods. The Rams clearly think they aren’t far off from Super Bowl contention.
These are the two best teams in the NFC West, and their first meeting of the season, this primetime showdown in Santa Clara, could be one of the best games of the entire 2018 season.
Week 12 – Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions … Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys … Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
If you’re forced into a situation where you’re having a big Thanksgiving dinner with out of town relatives that you don’t really like or aren’t that compelled to spend an entire day with, the perfect way to avoid having to make nonsensical small talk with them or get stuck arguing about sticky topics like politics is to let them know that you place a three-team moneyline parlay on all three home teams that are playing throughout the day.
Sure, a three-home-team moneyline parlay has only hit once since the NFL went to three games on Thanksgiving in 2006, but this year all three home teams should be favored to win so it might be worth taking the shot.
Week 15 – New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday late afternoon)
Last year’s Week 15 Patriots/Steelers match-up may have been the best game of the entire regular season. A Dion Lewis touchdown run gave the Patriots the lead with under a minute remaining, but the Steelers struck back quickly with a 69 yard JuJu Smith-Schuster reception that set the Steelers up in the Red Zone with plenty of chances to score. It looked like Pittsburgh took the lead on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Jesse James, but because NFL Officials still have no clue what a catch actually is, the play was overturned and the Steelers ended up losing the game after Roethlisberger threw an interception.
As has been the case for years now, the Patriots and Steelers enter the season as the co-favorites to win the AFC. The highly anticipated Patriots/Steelers rematch was supposed to take place in the AFC Championship Game last year, but the Jacksonville Jaguars prevented that from happening. NFL fans will tune in in large numbers for the rematch this year. Heading into the Playoffs last year, New England vs. Pittsburgh was the most watched game of the 2017 NFL season.
Week 17 – Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans (Sunday early afternoon)
If it wasn’t for the Rams, then the Jacksonville Jaguars were easily the biggest surprise in the NFL last year. Jacksonville claimed an AFC South title, won a Divisional Round Playoff game in Pittsburgh, and they took a 7-point lead into the 4th quarter in New England in the AFC Championship Game. Even though a Blake Bortles led offense was shaky at times, the Jags never really felt fluky. Led by the best defense in the NFL, the Jags look like they are here to stay.
With that said, if DeShaun Watson hadn’t suffered a torn ACL in an early November practice, the Texans would’ve joined the Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans in the mix for an AFC South title. In a very talented Rookie class, Watson looked like the clear favorite to eventually win Rookie of the Year. If he comes back healthy — and he has been participating in team activities and throwing while wearing a knee brace — then the Texans will surpass Tennessee as the top challenger to Jacksonville’s division crown.
There’s no way to tell if Week 17 games will mean anything. Injuries could’ve altered the season in ways that we couldn’t possibly anticipate, leaving the teams we expected to contend out of the Playoff picture altogether. If healthy though, the Jaguars and the Texans will be playing for something meaningful in Week 17.