Week 1 of the 2013 NFL season kicks off shortly, meaning it is time to start placing your bets down.
This is the ideal time for casual gamblers to wager big and try to get a great return on investment, as bookmakers in Vegas and offshore have about as much idea as the general public on how the league is going to look.
There are always a handful of surprise performances to begin every new NFL campaign, and 2013 promises to be no different.
Fortunately, there are still a handful of teams that have established an identity and will not stray from it in the opener. Let’s take a look at the latest lines, pick a winner for each game and highlight a handful of can’t-miss Week 1 bets.
New England Patriots (-11) at Buffalo Bills
The Pats are heading to Buffalo to take on the Bills and will be getting their first glimpse of EJ Manuel in the process. Bills head coach Doug Marrone announced Wednesday that Manuel was cleared to start ahead of undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel, reported by CBSSports' Josh Katzowitz, but still has no shot of leading his team to an upset victory.
Although the Patriots had a tumultuous offseason and will be without almost every significant receiver from last year’s 12-4 team, they are a double-digit favorite for good reason.
As long as Tom Brady is under center, the Pats are capable of beating anyone in the league. The two-time MVP and three-time Super Bowl champion is one of the best to ever play the game and will make a hodgepodge group of unheralded receivers and undrafted tight ends look like a group of superstars against a mediocre Buffalo defense.
Don’t expect mad genius head coach Bill Belichick to take his foot off the gas either, as he loves to silence his detractors by running up the score and soundly winning in the face of doubt.
Considering the flak his organization has been taking throughout the spring and summer, you know he will be throwing the kitchen sink at the lowly Bills. Don’t be surprised when the Pats walk away with a huge “W.”
Seattle Seahawks (-4.5) at Carolina Panthers
Wise bettors were hesitant to back the Seahawks away from Seattle last season, but they should be completely confident taking them against the mediocre Panthers in Week 1.
Carolina is receiving too much hype this year, much of it fueled by a late-season surge that saw the Panthers winning five of the last six games of 2012.
However, if you are willing to read more in to that trend you will see that it’s not that impressive. Four of the wins came against opponents with losing records, and the lone loss came against a meek Kansas City Chiefs squad that finished 2-14.
Cam Newton will surely put up big numbers this coming season, but he’ll have trouble getting anything going against a top-tier Seattle defense that is capable of shutting down the NFL’s best signal-callers.
Russell Wilson and the rest of the Seattle offense are desperate to prove to the world that their run to the playoffs last season was no fluke. They’ll get their first chance on Sunday, so watch for the Seahawks to emerge victorious.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-4.5) at New York Jets
The revamped Tampa Bay secondary is going to feast on mistakes from Geno Smith, the Jets’ Week 1 starter.
If this were 2012, Tampa would have made Smith’s transition to the NFL smooth, as the team boasted one of the league’s worst group of defensive backs. That all changed this offseason and the Bucs now look to be a nightmare matchup for opposing quarterbacks.
Emerging stars Mark Barron and Leonard Johnson are back for another season, with veteran acquisitions Dashon Goldson and Darrelle Revis pushing the secondary to the next level. Rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks also projects to be a solid contributor in 2013.
Don’t forget that Tampa led the league in rushing defense last year, which means Gang Green will have to rely even more heavily on Smith if the running game stalls out.
It’s a tough, unenviable situation for the Jets and it’s one they are not going to emerge from as winners, even in front of the home fans at MetLife Stadium.
Until Smith learns the ropes and proves himself, bet against the Jets unless they are a double-digit or more underdog