As the NFL season nears and the anticipation grows, I can’t help but look ahead at the schedule a bit to find the games that really get me excited. I obviously won’t bet a game just because the matchup looks good, but I’ll sure look at it more closely if it’s an exciting game to me, or if it’s a game that is likely to draw heavy public action that could skew the NFL odds and give us some value. Here are 10 games in the first two weeks of the season that I have my eye on:
Minnesota at New Orleans – Brett Favre will likely be playing the defending champs in a rematch of a classic NFC Championship in the first game of the season on a Thursday night in prime time. Everyone on the planet is going to be watching this one, so there will be no avoiding it. I’m not sure that it will set up as a good betting game, but we should learn a lot from it.
Miami at Buffalo – The Dolphins are a team I really like. The Bills obviously and definitely aren’t. Miami is obviously going to be the team that people like here, but I really believe that they are a better team than people expect that they are. I also expect that they are going to want to come out of the gate firing hard to set a tone and prove that they are for real. I like both betting on and watching offensive explosions.
San Francisco at Seattle – The Niners are another team that I really like this year. They are getting a fair bit of respect, but they won’t be the public team here. There is a magical aura surrounding Pete Carroll, and people will be drawn to that far more than they should – especially considering the issues this team has. There could be value here.
Atlanta at Pittsburgh – How much should we be worried about the absence of Big Ben and everything that that means for the Steelers in the first 4-6 weeks of the season? Hard to know for sure, but we’ll have a much better sense of it by the time this game ends. This is a game that the Steelers can definitely win if the offense is competent, but if they struggle then they could be in trouble.
Baltimore at New York Jets – The first game of the Monday night doubleheader is an interesting one. Everyone in the world seems to be loving the Jets. I’m not buying it. Mark Sanchez has a whole lot of progress to make before he impresses me, and the Ravens are a very tough team. This could be an opportunity.
San Diego at Kansas City – This is another potential opportunity. The Chiefs are a popular dark horse team this year. San Diego has drawn more than a share of doubts, and they are notoriously slow out of the gate. The public could be drawn to the Chiefs, but San Diego is unquestionably the better team.
New England at New York Jets – No matter what happens to the Jets in week one this one is going to be viewed by many as the early battle for AFC East supremacy. All eyes will be on this one. Both teams are obviously compelling and talented, and both are stacked with extra-large personalities and talents. Both teams have real question marks as well. This one should be educational.
Chicago at Dallas – The Bears only open with Detroit, so this will be the first chance to get a real sense of whether Jay Cutler has made any progress and is going to be ready to be the player he was supposed to be. We’ll also get to see if the investment in the defensive front was worthwhile. Dallas is playing in their home opener in the same stadium that will be hosting the Super Bowl, so the pressure is going to be intense on both sides.
Philadelphia at Detroit – If Kevin Kolb and the new look Philadelphia offense struggle in their opening game against Green Bay there is no real reason to be concerned. If he struggles in week two against Detroit, though, then there is really an issue. Detroit is looking to prove that they can be a legitimate team, and a win here would be a good way of making that statement early on.
New York Giants at Indianapolis – The showdown between the Manning brothers is a rare and noteworthy event on its own. When you add to that the fact that both of these teams have some real questions surrounding them about their ability to compete at the highest levels this year, though, you have perhaps the game of the week. The Giants face Carolina in the first week of the season, so this is going to be their first real test.