The wait is over.
The 2022 NFL season kicks off Thursday night with a heavyweight showdown between the preseason favorite Buffalo Bills and the defending Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams, followed by a weekend full of great matchups. Let’s break down some of my favorite plays for the season openers.
THURSDAY, SEPT. 8
(-2.5) Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Rams, 8:20 p.m. ET
Josh Allen over 35.5 pass attempts (-120): This game opened as a pick’em with the total set at 52, the second highest total on the board. These numbers alone indicate that bookmakers believe this game will be a close shootout, and I agree. With that type of game script, we can expect a lot of pass attempts. As a team, the Bills had the seventh most pass attempts per game in 2021, while Allen had the fourth most pass attempts overall. Buffalo does have a new offensive coordinator in Ken Dorsey who may not be as pass-heavy as former offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was, but the team will have to keep up with the Rams’ fast-paced offense and luckily have one of the best quarterbacks in the league to lead the way.
Stefon Diggs Anytime TD (+125): What is a Thursday night without a little action? Anytime touchdown bets are tougher to handicap than other markets. However, the numbers tell you it’s likely Josh Allen finds Diggs in the end zone at some point in Week 1. Diggs had a league high 23 end zone targets last season with 41% of Allen’s red zone pass attempts directed his way. He is the only NFL player with 160+ targets in each of the past two years, and now with receivers Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders gone, he has 184 vacated targets to take on.
SUNDAY, SEPT. 11
Pittsburgh Steelers at (-6.5) Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Cincinnati Bengals to cover (-110): I’m going against the trends here. I know Super Bowl losers are 4-18 against the spread in the last 22 years and 9-13 in their following game. I know Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season and that the trends favor him in Week 1 matchups. However, we are talking Mitch Trubisky versus Joe Burrow. Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, and George Pickens are a solid receiving core but the Bengals have arguably the best trio in football with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. Joe Mixon has proved to be one of the most dominant forces in the run game as well.
The Bengals have the clear edge when it comes to weapons and quarterback. The Steelers have a secondary full of veterans, but no major impact players behind safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. There also are concerns about their run defense.
The Bengals are coming back with all of their major pieces on offense, including an improved offensive line, and a defense that should have no problem handling Trubisky and company.
Las Vegas Raiders at (-3.5) Los Angeles Chargers, 4:25 p.m.
Justin Herbert over 283.5 passing yards: (-115) These teams have the potential to be two of the best offenses in the AFC this season and we should see that from the jump. I favor Herbert’s yards not only because his numbers were elite last season — finishing second to Brady in yards and attempts — but also because the Raiders have one of the weaker secondaries in the league. The last time Herbert faced Vegas, he had over 380 yards. He has thrown for over 300 yards in three of his four career games against this Raiders squad. Returning with all of his main targets, Herbert should find his weapons early and often through the air.
(-7) Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets, 1 p.m.
Ravens to cover (-115): All the Ravens needed was health last season and that’s what they have heading into Week 1. Losing Marquise “Hollywood” Brown does hurt, but Lamar Jackson still has reliable weapons in Rashod Bateman, Mark Andrews, and J.K. Dobbins out of the backfield. If it’s not the offense that shines, it will be the defense that takes care of a forever developing Jets’ offense.
The Ravens are expected to have one of, if not the best secondary in the league and that doesn’t bode well for Jets temporary quarterback Joe Flacco and his new weapons. I made the Ravens my survivor pick for Week 1 and with the line moving from minus-4.5 to minus-7, it’s clear the market agrees with me that the Ravens are one of the more trustworthy teams in this first week.
MONDAY, SEPT. 12
(-6.5) Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks, 8:15 p.m.
Broncos to cover: (-110) It’s hard not to fade Seattle against their former franchise quarterback. While I do think it will take time for quarterback Russell Wilson and his offense to get rolling, he has a much better situation with his new team than opposing quarterback Geno Smith does in Seattle. Offenses aside, the Seahawks defense will likely be its downfall this season and we should see that come to fruition early. They finished 26th in defensive-adjusted value over average defending the pass last season and their secondary might be even worse this season after losing their best cover corner DJ Reed to the Detroit Lions. Seattle’s offensive line may be the worst in the league and after eight years in the NFL, Smith has yet to prove he can lead his team to wins on his own.
Three-Team, Six-Point Teaser: Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos (+140)
My three favorite sides this week also fit perfectly into a three-team, six-point teaser. You get to tease both the Ravens and Broncos down to minus-1, and the Bengals down to minus-0.5. You are getting +140 value which is great but remember you now need all three legs to hit in order to cash out, versus cashing on the individual bets.