For me, and hundreds of thousands of other NFL fans around the country, the schedule reveal for the upcoming season has morphed into sort of a Christmas morning. At 7 p.m., on that magical night, we open our football gifts and find out exactly when the 16 games on the NFL schedule will take place. At least, that's how it's felt most seasons.
Last Thursday was a little different. You see, when I get the Texans' email with the new schedule, I start at the top, with Week 1, and work my way down, and last Thursday did not feel at all like Christmas. The Texans' first four games will be in Kansas City (defending Super Bowl champs), home for Baltimore (14-2 last season), at Pittsburgh (8-8 with two homeless men playing quarterback last year), and home for Minnesota (one of the last eight teams standing in 2019).
Fortunately, I've never had to identify the body of a loved one at the morgue, but this schedule reveal (at least, the first four weeks worth of games) felt like the football version of that. The Texans' may start the season 0-4, which would do serious damage to, if not kill, whatever this culture experiment it is Bill O'Brien and Jack Easterby are conducting over at NRG Stadium.
To that end, check it out! According to FoxBet.com, the Texans open the season as the biggest underdog in the NFL in Week 1. Yippee! Let's check out all the lines here...
NFL Week 1 Lines
Thursday, September 10th
Kansas City -10.5 vs. Houston (O/U 56.5)
Sunday, September 13th
New England -6 vs. Miami (O/U 44)
Baltimore -8 vs. Cleveland (O/U 49)
Buffalo -5.5 vs. New York Jets (O/U 40.5)
Carolina -1 vs. Las Vegas (O/U 46.5)
Seattle -1 @ Atlanta (O/U 48.5)
Philadelphia -6 @ Washington (O/U 44)
Detroit -1 vs. Chicago (O/U 46.5)
Indianapolis -7.5 @ Jacksonville (O/U 46.5)
Minnesota -3.5 vs. Green Bay (O/U 47)
Los Angeles Chargers -4 @ Cincinnati (O/U 46)
San Francisco -7.5 vs. Arizona (O/U 45)
New Orleans -4.5 vs. Tampa Bay (O/U 49.5)
Dallas -3 @ Los Angeles Rams (O/U 49.5)
Monday, September 14th
Pittsburgh -3 @ New York Giants (O/U 48)
Denver -3 vs. Tennessee (O/U 41.5)
OK, a few observations (and perhaps a de facto Best Bets column evolving here!)...
I would take the points right now, if I were to bet the Texans' game
I realize the last time that we saw the Texans, they were getting run off this very field, after building a 24-0 lead in the first half. This Week 1 game will likely include a ring ceremony for the players, so that's a neat little distraction. I would imagine the Texans' players will be pretty fed up with four months worth of hearing how inferior they are to the Chiefs. Also, there's better than a puncher's chance that there are no fans in the stands, if the pandemic isn't under control.
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I like the Dolphins getting six points versus New England
It looks like it will be Jarrett Stidham starting for the Patriots, and I like him as a player. However, Miami was already a competitive team by the end of last season, lest we forget they beat the Patriots in New England as a 17 point underdog in the final week of 2019. The Dolphins have made several improvements through the draft and big ticket free agents, and they will be the first AFC East foe to come in with the "Brady is gone!" hope working in their favor.
Tom Brady will be a regular season underdog for the first time in forever
And by "forever," I mean 74 straight games. That is how long Brady has been a regular season favorite at quarterback. The last time he was an underdog was when the Patriots were a +1 dog in a 2015 road game at Buffalo (and honestly, THAT doesn't even sound right, but it is). On this particular odds board, Brady's new team, the Bucs, are a 4.5 point dog to the New Orleans Saints in Week 1. I'm more inclined to take the OVER (49.5 points) than a side in that game.
The rest of the AFC South in Week 1
The Titans travel to Denver to take on the Broncos on Monday Night Football, and like the Texans, this would be another fortuitous twist for an AFC South team versus the AFC West, if there were no fans in the building. (To be clear, I hope there are fans in the stadiums in Week 1, because, Texans' results be damned, that would mean great things for America). The other two AFC South teams play each other, as Philip Rivers makes his Colts debut in Jacksonville as more than a touchdown favorite. I'm not sure I'm ready to lay that kind of lumber with a nearly washed out version of Rivers.