Last season's Super Bowl champions, the Los Angeles Rams, start their title defense at home to the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night. The Rams, who are among the favorites with many of the leading NFL betting sites to win Super Bowl LVII, are looking to become the first team in almost 20 years to win back-to-back championships, and they know teams will be extra motivated to beat the reigning champs.
Rams head coach Sean McVay knows that standing still is not an option in the NFL. His coaching staff will have spent the offseason looking for ways to improve, as will each of the other 31 teams that failed to win the Vince Lombardi trophy.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were the team who had the most room for improvement after their 3-14 record last season secured them the first overall pick in the draft for the second year running. The Jaguars selected quarterback Trevor Lawrence in 2021 and this year opted to draft outside linebacker Travon Walker to strengthen their defense.
Check out the odds for the Jaguars to beat Washington and the odds for all the other opening weekend matchups in our NFL Week 1 odds, spreads and betting preview. Many people will be looking to open betting accounts in time for the start of the new NFL season. And with this comes, a variety of betting offers that are the perfect way to get started with NFL betting.
Before the first snap of the new season, Bookmakers.com has analyzed the stats to bring you one area each team needs to improve if they are to enjoy the success they have planned for.
Sean McDermott’s Buffalo Bills are tipped by many leading betting sites as one of the favorites to win Super Bowl XLII. The team has been on the rise in recent seasons, and with Josh Allen leading an exciting offense, the Bills are well primed to represent the AFC in Arizona on February 12. Allen is one of the front runners in this season's NFL MVP betting market.
If McDermott and Allen are to be seen celebrating the franchise’s first ever Super Bowl, the one area of their game they need to improve is on the defensive side of the ball. The Bills were flagged 15 times for defensive holding, which led the league. Success in the NFL is hard enough without allowing the opposition to keep a drive alive by giving them an automatic first down.
First up for the Bills is a trip to Los Angeles where they will find the Rams waiting for them. Playing the defending champions in their first game will be one of the toughest games of the season for Buffalo, and we'll know more about their Super Bowl credentials after this contest.
Fumbles are one of the worst crimes in the NFL, even more so when possession is lost. The Miami Dolphins start the Mike McDaniel era at home to the Patriots hoping to start the season with a win. McDaniel has added Tyreek Hill to his offense, which gives quarterback Tua Tagovailoa a deep threat this season.
The Dolphins led the league last season with 12 lost fumbles. Fumbles are coach-killers as protecting the ball is a basic skill in the sport. Players are taught from an early age to make sure they carry the ball safely, so to see a fumble lost can shift momentum in a second.
Miami start their season in south Florida as they host the New England Patriots. It's a game the Dolphins have dominated in recent seasons, winning seven of the last nine and new coach McDaniel will hope he can continue that good run.
Since the split between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, Brady has had the better of things, winning one Super Bowl with the Buccaneers and making the divisional round last season while the New England Patriots have one wild card loss to their name.
Punting may not be the most important facet of the game, but if you do it well, it can be a massive help. Do it wrong and it can shorten the field for the other team. New England were the only team last season to have three punts blocked, which puts pressure on the defense to stop the opposition from turning the block into a touchdown.
The Patriots will hope the don't have to line up in a punting formation but if they do, don't be surprised if Belichick tries a trick play. That's one way of avoiding blocked punts.
The New York Jets are entering the second year of the Zach Wilson era hoping the young quarterback can help Gang Green to a better record than the 4-13 they ended last season with. Making the playoffs this season might be a bit too much to ask for this season, especially if they go 0-6 against AFC East rivals.
Wilson will hope for some help from his defense whose inability to stop teams from scoring held the team back. It’s near impossible for any team to win games when they give up an average 29.6 points a games, which was the worst scoring defense of any side last season.
The opening day of the season is generally a time for optimism, but for Jets fans who have seen their team lose five of their last six opening weekend games, optimism has been in short supply. Can they get off to a flying start at home to the Ravens? After selecting Sauce Gardner fourth overall in this year's draft, we can expect to see the cornerback make the NFL lineups right from the start of the season.
The Baltimore Ravens came through yet another preseason with a 100 per cent record taking their winning streak to 23, which equates to more than a full regular season and a full postseason. However, they lost in the divisional round in each of the last two postseasons.
Lamar Jackson will lead the offense, but it’s the defense that needs to step things up this season. The quickest way to the opposition end zone is through the air, and the Ravens allowed a league-high 278.9 passing yards per game last year. If they can improve this side of their game, then they might have a chance of reaching the AFC Championship game.
Despite starting the season on the road to the Jets, Baltimore will fancy their chances of picking up the win. A loss in week 1 last year ended a run of five straight opening day victories.
The Cincinnati Bengals have had all of the offseason to stew on their Super Bowl LVI loss which came to an end when Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald sacked Joe Burrow on the game’s final play. The Bengals need to protect Burrow better if they are to go one better and get their hands on the Vince Lombardi trophy.
Cincinnati needs to improve their performances in games following bye week. Since the bye week came into play, the Bengals’ record of 11-23-1 is the worst of all teams. They will have two weeks to prepare a game plan for their trip to Pittsburgh this season.
That bye week isn't until week 10, and there is plenty of football to play before then. The first step on a road they hope will lead to February's Super Bowl in Arizona begins at home to the Steelers.
The Cleveland Browns said goodbye to Baker Mayfield hoping that Jacoby Brissett can lead the offense in the absence of Deshaun Watson, who is suspended for the first 11 games. If Brissett does well, Watson might not be needed.
Whoever is under center, they will want to drive their offense into scoring positions. Last season, goal kicking was an issue, with just 72.7% of their field goals going through the uprights. Last season, they lost to division rival Pittsburgh by two points when missing a field goal that would have won the game. A dependable kicker makes a coach’s decision easier when within field goal range.
A trip to Carolina, where they will come up against Mayfield, promises to be one of the stories of the opening weekend. Brissett will be keen to show everyone that he is the best man to replace Mayfield. Scoring touchdowns rather than hoping the kicker Cade York does his job, will help.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are beginning life without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the first time in 18 seasons and head coach Mike Tomlin will hope the team can maintain Tomlin’s record of never having a losing season. There is one thing he can work on to ensure that happens this season.
The ability to stop the run forces teams to rely on their passing game to beat them. If teams can run the ball, it opens up their offense and brings play action pass into the equation, which is difficult to defend against. Pittsburgh was ranked last defensively when it comes to stopping the run, allowing 146.1 rushing yards per game.
Tomlin's rush defense will be tested right from the first game when they travel to Cincinnati. Joe Mixon rushed for 1,205 yards last season for the Bengals while Samaje Perine is continuing to make a name for himself. Both could make it a long afternoon for Pittsburgh's rushing defense.
NFL teams do plenty of study on their opponents and top of the list when they faced the Houston Texans would be their inability to score rushing touchdowns. There are plenty of areas the Texans can get better in, but this will do for starters.
Eight rushing scores was the joint lowest last season and teams know that when they got in the red zone, they would abandon the ground game and try to score through the air. Most of last season, Houston was playing catch-up in games, which means they had to rely on their passing game to get back in contests quickly.
The Texans have been slow starters in recent seasons losing four in a row before getting the better of the Jacksonville Jaguars to stop the rot. Hosting the Colts in Week 1 will be a more difficult start.
The red-zone is a massive part of today’s NFL, and that means taking care of business on both sides of the ball. It’s an area of their game that let the Indianapolis Colts side down last season as they narrowly missed out on the playoffs despite a stellar season from running back Jonathan Taylor, who led the league with 18 rushing touchdowns and 1,811 yards on the ground.
Defensively, the Colts struggled stopping teams from scoring within 20 yards of their end zone, allowing teams to score a touchdown 64.15% of the time, which was sixth worst in the league. It wasn’t much better on offense with touchdowns scored from 56.3% per cent of their visits, which was ranked 20th.
If the Colts are to get off to a winning start this year at the Texans, they might need another big performance from Taylor. In the two games against Houston last year, the running back rushed for 288 yards and four scores.
The only way is up for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Having the number one pick in the draft is bad enough as it symbolises a terrible season. So to have it in back-to-back years highlights how poor things have been in Jacksonville the last couple of seasons.
Travon Walker was selected first overall, and his addition is hoped to signal a new era for the Jaguars, one that involves more wins and scoring more points. Walker is among the favorites to be named defensive rookie of the year this season. In 17 games, the Jaguars only scored 21 points or more four times. So it’s no surprise they ended the season with the worst scoring offense with just 14.9 points scored per game.
The Jaguars go to Washington hoping they can win just their fourth season opener in 11 seasons. One crumb of encouragement for Jacksonville is that the Commanders conceded an average 25.5 points per game last season.
The Tennessee Titans have one of the most explosive runners in the game in running back Derrick Henry. King Henry, as he is known throughout the league, became the eighth player in NFL history to reach the 2,000 rushing yards milestone, finishing the 2020 season with 2,027 yards.
In his last four seasons, Henry has touchdown runs of 74 yards or longer on his resume. Titans fans would love to see more explosive plays from the team in general, with the second fewest plays of 20 yards or longer (35) last season.
Tennessee begin their season against the Giants in Nashville knowing it is a game they should win. If Henry can hit the ground running, so to speak, then the Titans should start with a win for the third time in four seasons.
The first score can go a long way to setting the tone in games. Coaches can be more conservative if they are leading on the scoreboard. Scoreboard pressure is a big part of NFL games and scoring first more often is something the Denver Broncos will hope they can do with Russell Wilson under center.
Denver scored first seven times last season and only the Jaguars (five) had a worst record. Wilson could be the player to get the Broncos off to faster starts this season, especially with the players he has to target.
As fate would have it, Wilson's first game since leaving the Seahawks is a trip back to Seattle. The quarterback will want to remind the locals of what he is capable off, but if they don't get off to a fast start, it might be a losing return to the Emerald City.
As long as Patrick Mahomes is the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, their offense is in safe hands, even with the departure of wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Kansas City has been in the last four AFC Championship games, winning two. If they are to make it back for a fifth time, their defense needs to step up.
Restricting the opposition to as short a gain as possible whether, that’s on the ground or through the air, the better a team’s chances of winning. Allowing 5.8 yards per play was ranked 28th last season, and head coach Andy Reid will demand better from his defense this year.
When it comes to starting seasons with a win, no team has done it as well as the Chiefs, who are looking to win their eighth straight when they travel to Arizona. Kansas City will hope their season starts and ends with a win in the desert because that is where Super Bowl LVII will be held.
Ten years ago, analytics was yet to hit the NFL to the level it’s being used in today’s game. Now, coaches have analytics experts on hand to advise them to go for it on fourth down, which more and more teams are doing, depending on field position.
Defenses have to be prepared for teams opting to keep their punter on the sideline. Teams facing the Las Vegas Raiders last season were prepared to roll the dice on fourth down knowing the chances of converting were high. The Raiders defense allowed the chains to be moved 21 times (72.4%) in the 29 fourth downs they faced.
Against the Chargers in Week 1, the Raiders defense will face a very tough challenge from an offense led by Justin Herbert, who is tipped by many to have another great season. If the Raiders can make a statement on defense in this game, it might get people talking more positively about their chances of going deep in the playoffs.
A team that has a defense capable of stopping third down plays and getting offenses off the pitch, usually have a very good season. Teams that don’t will invariably miss out, and that was the case with the Los Angeles Chargers last season.
For all the good quarterback Justin Herbert does, he needs his team to have a defense that can be relied upon to stops drives. The best way to stop drives is to prevent third downs becoming first downs. The Chargers defense had the worst third down conversion rate with 49.5%.
We will see if the Chargers have addressed their third down problems when they host AFC West rivals the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 1. Derek Carr is capable of making life very difficult for the Chargers defenders. If the Chargers defense can stop the Raiders offense and Herbert gets his team off to a winning start, then you might want to think about going onto your NFL betting app and backing the Chargers to win it all this season.
The Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ answer to any obstacles in his team’s way to winning a sixth Super Bowl, is to throw money at it. But it seems money can’t buy discipline on the pitch. Being top of the most penalised teams is not something to be proud of, and that is an area Dallas needs to do better in.
A total of 127 penalties were accepted against the Cowboys, which can halt promising drives or allows teams to keep their offense on the field. Head coach Mike McCarthy is already under pressure and a repeat of their ill discipline could cost him his job.
Dallas were penalized 35 times in their three pre-season games, which suggests the lessons are not being learned. Tom Brady's Buccaneers will capitalize on any free yardage that comes their way when the two sides meet in Dallas in Week 1.
Following football in the Big Apple has not been great in recent years with both the Jets and Giants enduring their fair share of disappointments. For the New York Giants, hopes are high that Daniel Jones can fill the void left by Eli Manning, who guided the team to two Super Bowl victories.
The Giants offense averaged the fewest first half points with 5.9 while their defense allowed an average 12.4 points before half-time. The Giants only led at the half twice in their 17 games last season, which is simply not good enough.
New York lost 10 of their last 11 Week 1 matchups, and their slow starts to seasons looks set to continue as they face a Titans team primed for a run at the Super Bowl. A fast start against the Titans could give the Giants the momentum they need to buck their disappointing starts.
Playing the Philadelphia Eagles last season was a joy for opposing quarterbacks, who knew that Philadelphia struggled to defend the pass. When you allow a league-high 69.4% of passes to be completed, you’re going to struggle to stop teams from getting close to your end zone.
The NFC East is one of the weakest, and if Philadelphia’s secondary can defend passes better, then there is a good chance the Eagles can soar to the top of the division for third time in the last six seasons.
An opening day trip to Detroit should not strike fear in the heart of the Eagles secondary. Jared Goff's best days are behind him and Campbell might be inclined to get the quarterback to hand the ball off to D'Andre Swift who led the team with 615 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns last year.
Will a new name bring new fortune to the nation’s capital? Now called the Washington Commanders, head coach Ron Rivera has a new quarterback running his offense. It’s Carson Wentz’s third different team in the last three seasons, and this is a massive season for both coach and player.
It’s on the other side of the ball that Washington has to improve. They allowed 34 passing touchdowns, which led the league. That equates to exactly two a game and as a hard hitting defender in his playing career, Rivera will hope to see the necessary improvement needed.
If he doesn't see it against a Jacksonville Jaguars under a new head coach, then Rivera has big problems. Trevor Lawrence only threw for 12 touchdowns last season, so it would be a disappointment if Lawrence lights up the sky in the capital.
The Chicago Bears have been crying out for a franchise quarterback for many years. In Justin Fields, they think they have their man they can build an offense around. However, Fields’ career in the NFL won't last long if the Bears don’t address one glaring issue.
Chicago’s offensive line gave up a league-high 58 sacks, with Fields grounded 36 times in the 12 games he started. It only takes one of those to result in a season, or career ending injury and the team is back to square one. Sort this out, and they have a chance of doing well.
The Bears better have worked on protecting Fields, because they face San Francisco in their opener. The 49ers have one of the best defensive lines in the game. Fields does not want to see Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead or Fred Warner anywhere near him when Soldier Field hosts the Bears' first game of the new season.
Lions head coach Dan Campbell is one of the more charismatic head coaches in the NFL, and although this will be his second season, he’s already provided plenty of entertaining sound bites. He needs to find the right speech to inspire the Detroit Lions offense to convert more third downs.
A success rate of 34.7% was the worst in the league, which is why they had to wait until their 12th game before celebrating their first win of 2021. Converting more third downs should see the Lions win their first game a lot sooner this season.
Philadelphia face the Eagles first up, and the good news for Detroit is that the Eagles ranked 24th in stopping third downs last year. The last time the Lions won their season opener was in 2017. Since then they have lost three times and claimed a tie against the Cardinals. Their wait for an opening weekend win might have to continue, if they struggle on third downs again.
Success in the NFL depends on three things. Having a good offense, a strong defense and a reliable special teams unit. The third is probably the cheapest in terms of salary cap, but failure to focus on special teams could be costly.
Defending kick-offs is one area the Green Bay Packers need to improve this season. They might have the MVP from the last two seasons, but allowing teams to return kick-offs an average of 75.5 yards per game, makes it easy for the opposition to set themselves up in scoring positions.
The Packers had a great run of opening weekend wins going before suffering a shocking 38-3 loss to the Saints last year. Green Bay can win their seventh opener in eight years, if they can ground the Falcons in Atlanta. Head coach Matt LaFleur has won 13 games in each of his three seasons in charge at Lambeau Field, so you might want to consider that when you make your NFL picks each week.
A coach can spend all week coming up with, what they think is the best game plan for that week’s game. But what he can’t legislate for, is ill-discipline. Seeing yellow flags on the field can make coaches see red, especially when the offense has managed to work their way downfield.
The Minnesota Vikings offense was penalised an average 61.4 yards per game, which was ranked 30th in the league. New head coach Kevin O’Connell will hope for better this season.
Minnesota have started 0-2 in each of the last two seasons and a win at home to the Packers would be the perfect start for the new coach. The Vikings won the corresponding fixture 34-31 last season thanks to a big game from wide receiver Justin Jefferson who eight passes for 169 yards and two scores on his NFL debut.
The Atlanta Falcons are another team starting a new era with a new quarterback after Matt Ryan swapped Atlanta for the Indianapolis Colts. Marcus Mariota will lead the offense the season to start the season, but it’s the defense that needs looking at.
Disrupting the opposition’s offense is crucial and getting to their quarterback is vital. Dante Fowler Jr led the Falcons with just 4.5 sacks of the 18 the team managed, which was 11 fewer than the next team on the list. If the Falcons are to make the playoffs this season, they will want to double that total at least.
In Week 1, Atlanta faces a Saints team that gave up 37 sacks last season. Failure to get pressure on the quarterback can lead to a long game for the defenders.
It’s easy to see why the Carolina Panthers chose to trade for Baker Mayfield in the off-season given the struggles Carolina has had under center in the last few seasons. In each of the previous three campaigns, Carolina has been ranked in the top four in the number of interceptions thrown.
A total of 58 passes have been picked off in the last three seasons, which really needs addressing. The problem is, Mayfield threw 13 interceptions in the 14 games he played for Cleveland last season.
And the first defense Mayfield will line up against happens to be the one he practiced with for many years in Cleveland. The Browns coaching staff and players will know Mayfield better than anyone else in the league, which adds to the pressure already on the quarterback.
One of the simplest things in the NFL should be kicking an extra point. Five teams went through the regular season without missing. Missing an extra point can be the difference between winning and losing. But last season, the New Orleans Saints have made it look very difficult.
The Saints missed seven of their 38 attempts, and their 81.6% success rate was the worst in the league. A coach who doesn’t have trust in his kicker will be inclined to go for a two-point conversion, which is what he might have to do anyway if there’s a missed extra point.
The encouraging sign for Saints' new head coach Dennis Allen is that Will Lutz kicked all five of his PATs. In fact, Lutz didn't miss one of this 13 kicks in preseason, but the real test will be against the Falcons in their opener.
The element of surprise is a key part of winning an NFL, so it helps to be able to mix things up when calling plays. The danger in having Tom Brady, the most successful quarterback in the history of the game, leading your offense, is that you become dependent on the passing game.
Last season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers began the season as Super Bowl champions, but their hopes of running it back ended in defeat to the Rams in the divisional round of the playoffs. The Bucs had the most one-sided attack with 66.2% of their plays called being passing plays. A reliable running back would help take some of the responsibility off Brady’s shoulders.
In their second exhibition game, when a lot of their starters were involved, the Bucs threw the ball 29 times, while dialing up 22 rushing plays. However, it must be noted that Brady did not play in that loss to the Titans. If Brady is given a running play in the huddle, but he sees a favorable pass defense, then you can expect an audible or two from Brady whose NFL player props will be as popular as ever.
One of the stories making headlines in the offseason was Kyler Murray’s new contract extension which included a ‘homework’ clause which required the quarterback to spend more time studying the playbook. Perhaps the Arizona Cardinals should get the offensive line to do more study after being flagged for false starts a league high 26 times.
As a team, Arizona has been guilty of false starts in the last couple of seasons. They tend to start fast but fade away in the second half of the season. Can they find consistency throughout the regular season and make it to the playoffs?
First up for the Cardinals is a home game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Arizona has won their last two season openers, but they might struggle against a Chiefs team determined to open their season with a road win. This will be Murray's first competitive action since throwing an unforgivable interception in their wild card playoff loss to the Rams in January.
No team has won back-to-back Super Bowls since the 2004 Patriots, which shows just how hard it is to do. The Los Angeles Rams reached the top of the summit last season despite quarterback Matthew Stafford throwing four pick-sixes to go with the three he threw as a Detroit Lions the previous season.
Besides that glaring issue, the Rams won it all despite only scoring only 10 rushing touchdowns. To put that into context, the lowly Texans and Jaguars managed to score eight rushing touchdowns. The pressure will be on Cam Akers to find the end zone regularly after missing the majority of last season through injury.
First up for the champions is a home game with the Bills, who allowed 19 rushing touchdowns in their 17 regular season games. That will be a positive for Rams head coach Sean McVay when he draws up his game plan for the start of their title defense. Facing the Bills offense will be one of the biggest tests of the season for the Rams defense led brilliantly by Aaron Donald, who is once again favorite to be named NFL defensive player of the year.
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Defensive pass interference can be interpreted a couple of different ways. It can either be seen as lazy defending or clever play by the intended receiver hoping to draw a flag and earn a big chunk of yardage in the process.
Either way, it can change the momentum of a game as the San Francisco 49ers found to their detriment last season. Their 20 defensive pass interference penalties was the most in the league and six more than the nearest team. Better technique is needed if that number is to decrease this season.
The 49ers face the Bears in Week 1, so there shouldn't be too much of a problem with defensive pass interference as the Bears are more of a running team, rather than a team that can hurt you through the air. The 49ers have a good habit of getting off to winning starts with eight wins from their last 11 openers, and even though they travel to Chicago, they will be well backed to win.
How will the Seattle Seahawks do without Russell Wilson leading their offense this season? They will hope that with Geno Smith replacing Wilson for the opener, the offense can convert more fourth downs when head coach Pete Carroll decides to go for it.
Last season, Seattle had the worst conversion rate with just 36.4% resulting in first downs. Not only can this be disheartening for everyone, it also turns the ball over to the opposition, usually in good field position.
Seattle welcomes back Russell Wilson for his first game as a Denver Bronco. With Wilson under center, the Seahawks won their last three Week 1 games, and they won't want to let their former player take the win back to the Mile High City.