Seahawks/Packers on Thursday Night Opens the 2014 NFL Regular Season
The Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers open the NFL regular season with a showdown of NFC powers on Thursday Night Football tomorrow night. The Super Bowl champion Seahawks host the Packers, who lost 23-20 to the 49ers at Lambeau Field in the NFL playoffs last year.
Anytime a team opens on the road on TNF, it’s a difficult proposition. That means that the hosting team is often elite, and is usually the Super Bowl champion. The Seahawks should receive a resounding welcome from their adoring fans, as Super Bowl 47 was the first title win for the franchise. The crowd at CenturyLink Field in Seattle is already famous enough for its noise that rumors exist they place microphones on the stadium to make things louder.
Packers are 5.5 Point Underdogs
The Packers are 5.5 point underdogs on the road. Of course, Aaron Rodgers is healthy and boasts a receiving corps that’s the equal of any others in the NFL: Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson both are elite. Eddie Lacy provides a top running threat, though the team will have to find a replacement for Jermichael Finley at tight end. Richard Rodgers gets the start.
Ultimately, the Packers’ chances will come down to the strength of their rebuilt defense. Mike Daniels and second-year Datone Jones are expected to bring more pressure from the defensive end positions, while Clay Matthews III and newly-acquired Julius Peppers should add to the pressure from the outside linebacker positions. The defense lost B.J. Raji in preseason to a season-ending injury, so the run defense might have more trouble than it normally would stopping Marshawn Lynch–which could prove key.
Green Bay’s Chances in Seattle
This is a hard game to predict, as Week 1 of the NFL always is. The Packers have the weapons to score against even the vaunted Seahawks Defense. Also, the Seahawks have strutted around all offseason, telling the world how great they are (and being told the same by their fans). The young champs might be in for a Super Bowl hangover.
It’s hard to see the champs being stunned on opening night before a national audience. Given that the Seahawks defense was able to “roll up” the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, a win probably means they win big. Bet the Packers to either win outright, or lose the game by 10 or more.
Dolphins 5-Point Underdogs to Patriots
The Miami Dolphins have been installed as 5-point home underdogs versus the New England Patriots. Given the disaster the Fins were last year after the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin bullying scandal and lingering question marks about Ryan Tannehill (QB), Lamar Miller (RB), and Mike Wallace (WR), one can see why the AFC runner-ups would be big favorites on the road.
At the same time, it’s a truism to bet the home underdog in NFL betting circles. The Dolphins also carry a big home advantage in September many years, as teams which aren’t used to the Miami heat often wither in the second half. Miami has been overcast with a chance for rain periodically throughout the week, so that advantage might not exist come Sunday.
In the end, Bill Belichick has rebuilt his defense once again. He has Vince Wilfork healthy again in the middle of the d-line, along with perhaps the best bookends on the defensive line in the NFL with Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. Also, Tom Brady has better weapons in 2014 than in 2013. Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola appear to be healthy (for once), while Julian Edelman has become a go-to guy for Brady. Finally, Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins have had a year of seasoning, so they should have more to contribute this year. Look for the Pats to win by a touchdown or more.
Cowboys 6-Point Underdogs to Niners
The Dallas Cowboys should be a gambler’s favorite this week, as they open at home as 6-point underdogs. Despite years of mediocrity, the Cowboys continue to be popular with betters and TV viewers. The San Francisco 49ers have been to three straight NFC Championship Games (and won one of them), so they sit among the elite teams in the NFL right now.
Reasons exist to wonder about the Niners’ defense, though. Navorro Bowman is out after a horrendous knee injury sidelined him in the title game loss. Aldon Smith is suspended for 9 games after a bizarre weapons-related arrest at a Bay Area airport. That leaves two vital cogs out of the defensive, though the Niners have plenty of stars to fill the gaps: Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, and Ahmad Brooks are all ready to go. Michael Wilhoite filled in nicely for Willis last year, so he should do an admirable job filling in for Bowman. Still, Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and gang should be a top offense, and should move the ball on Sunday. Romo stands behind a rebuilt offensive line that now boasts 3 recent 1st round draft picks.
The reason the Cowboys are such big underdogs is their defense. Nothing in Dallas’s 0-4 preseason suggests their defense is much improved from 2013, when it was the 32nd ranked unit in the league. In fact, the unit could be worse (if possible), as they lost Demarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, and Sean Lee in the offseason. That is their best three players on the defense. While Hatcher was replaced by Henry Melton, Ware was supposed to be replaced by Demarcus Lawrence, but the rookie 2nd round pick broke his foot and will miss half the season. We still don’t know who exactly replaces Sean Lee (Justin Durant at the moment). The fact is, this unit has not stopped anyone in preseason–it is awful. Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, and Vernon Davis should carve it apart. Unless Romo can put up 30 points against a tough Niners defense, I don’t see the Cowboys staying within 6 points.
More NFL Bets
In other key games, the Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos play Peyton’s old team, the Indianapolis Colts, who are led by the rising superstar, Andrew Luck. The Philadephia Eagles are the league’s biggest favorites, as they have 10.5 points on the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Eagles lost Desean Jackson in the offseason and teams tend to do better the second time they see an offense (Chip Kelly’s in this case). I would bet the Jags to cover, because they are a bit improved in 2014 over what they were last year.
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