A month ago, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looked like the biggest lock among the eight favorites to win their respective divisions.
The Buccaneers are still the biggest favorite to win their division, but it seems like less of a sure thing as the season is set to begin.
There are more warning signs around the Buccaneers than you'd expect from a team that's -250 to win the NFC South. The Tom Brady drama has been discussed at length. Maybe he'll be as great as ever, but it was strange for him to leave training camp on an 11-day vacation, the comment that "I’m 45 years old, man. There’s a lot of s*** going on" certainly was startling, and he's also at an age in which it can fall apart fast.
Brady isn't the only issue. The interior of the line has had major losses since last season, the knee injury to Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen being the worst of them. Rob Gronkowski is gone. Chris Godwin could play Sunday but we don't know if he's 100 percent off a torn ACL late last season. Russell Gage has missed a lot of time with a hamstring injury.
To paraphrase someone, there's a lot of stuff going on with the Bucs.
The Bucs' Week 1 opponent, the Dallas Cowboys, have their own stuff. They had a bad offseason. Left tackle Tyron Smith had a leg injury and he's out for most of the season, if not all of it. It's a team many people are down on coming into the season. That's why they're a 2.5-point home underdog to Tampa Bay on Sunday night.
The Cowboys' issues are worrisome, but I'll pick them in Week 1. Maybe I'm being a little too skeptical about the Buccaneers early this season, but I am concerned a bit until we see them look like that overwhelming NFC South favorite. There are plenty of home underdogs in Week 1, and the Cowboys are one I'll be backing.
Rams (+2.5) over Bills
I went deeper into my Rams pick in our Daily Sweat column, as I will every Thursday for the TNF game, but I'll boil it down: The Rams aren't getting enough respect.
Jets (+7) over Ravens
There are 10 home underdogs in Week 1, which is astounding. You can probably do well picking them all blindly. We see weird things happen in the first week, sometimes results that don't make any sense by October. I'm not saying the Jets will beat the Ravens. But Baltimore has some injury questions and we're going to see some ugly home dogs cover.
Saints (-5.5) over Falcons
I want to take home dogs this week, but the Falcons are one I can't get behind. I think the Saints defense could be excellent this season, and I don't know how Atlanta's offense gets much going. It's still hard to go against the Falcons at home in a rivalry game and for what it's worth they didn't look too bad in the preseason.
Patriots (+3.5) over Dolphins
Hear that drumbeat? That's the steady sound of negative stories about the Patriots. I've added to it. Maybe the Dolphins are going to be a fantastic, dynamic offense. But it's still Bill Belichick scheming against Tua Tagovailoa and Dolphins rookie head coach Mike McDaniel in his first game. Belichick has made plenty of preseason overreactions look dumb.
Panthers (-1.5) over Browns
The Panthers could be sneaky good. On "You Pod To Win The Game," Charles Robinson picked the Panthers to win the NFC South, and while I don't agree, I understand the pick. They're a different team with Christian McCaffrey on the field. Baker Mayfield isn't nearly as bad as you've been led to believe at times this offseason, and he's better than what the Panthers had. Meanwhile, Jacoby Brissett looked bad in the Browns' last preseason game. I don't like making too much of preseason results, but it's possible this offense doesn't have a lot of pop until Deshaun Watson returns.
Steelers (+6.5) over Bengals
In this space every Thursday, I pick every game against the spread. It's fun. However, I do not recommend betting every game. This is one that I'd pass on. I don't know what to make of the Steelers yet, with Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback, and I'm a little lukewarm on the Bengals after their postseason run. Just be warned that every teaser this week will include the Bengals and Ravens.
49ers (-7) over Bears
This is probably the third side on every teaser. I still believe in Trey Lance. The 49ers defense was the best in football from the start of November on last season. That's why they almost made a Super Bowl. There's a lot to like with the 49ers. Meanwhile, I wonder how the Bears will function on offense against an elite defense, especially with that offensive line. It's another home dog I can't get back.
Lions (+4) over Eagles
One of the bummers of NCAA tournament selection Sunday is when two teams you can't wait to bet on in March Madness get paired up against each other. This is the NFL Week 1 equivalent. I like the Lions this season, like everyone else. I also have the Eagles as my best Super Bowl bet. I am going to try to land on the short runway of an Eagles win but a Lions cover.
Texans (+7) over Colts
An easy home underdog to take. Houston could be much better than last season. The Colts aren't the type of team that is going to blow out a lot of teams. This should be a competitive game.
Jaguars (+2.5) over Commanders
I liked the Jaguars a lot at +3. I still like them a tick below that. I believe the Jaguars will make a nice leap and they win this game straight up.
Cardinals (+6) over Chiefs
I don't love this pick. But the line keeps going up and at some point, there's value on the Cardinals.
Chargers (-3.5) over Raiders
I'd rather get the Chargers at -3, and maybe we'll see that line again before kickoff. But it doesn't bother me too much to have them at 3.5. If the Chargers are going to be this year's big riser, they should win this game and do it decisively.
Vikings (+1.5) over Packers
Probably my favorite play of Week 1. I think new Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell has the element of surprise in Week 1. He showed nothing in the preseason. Maybe that means the Vikings will need some time to acclimate to the season, but I think they ambush the Packers, who will be figuring out their offense in a post-Davante Adams world.
Giants (+5.5) over Titans
My second game in the "I'm only giving a pick because I pick every game" bucket. I don't know what to make of the Giants as they start the Brian Daboll era. I also don't love the Titans, who had a lot of negative changes in the offseason.
Seahawks (+6.5) over Broncos
Go find someone who is giving the Seahawks a chance in this game. It will be a while. Seattle won't be great this season, but it's "Monday Night Football" at home and for as often as you'll hear about Russell Wilson wanting to do well against his former team, the reverse is true too. Geno Smith wasn't terrible when he filled in for an injured Wilson last season and he has talent around him. This line has gotten too out of control for me; take another ugly home dog.