Week 1 NFL Best Bets: Panthers handle the Rams in Carolina and more of Jason La Canfora’s picks

If you follow me on Twitter, you know the game I absolutely LOOOVVEED this week was the one already played. I’m not buying the Bears on a lot of levels, Green Bay is improved — though it remains to be seen how improved — and I was banking on a Packers win outright Thursday night. I thought they’d win by double-digits. Perfect moneyline bet. So I’m pumped to be going into the weekend already 1-0.

There are a few more games I have had my eyes on for weeks, seeing how much the lines might change. And for the most part they still look like very playable games to me. Week 1 always has some surprises, so I am not going crazy with volume this week. But here’s what I like the most …

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Ravens (-5.5) at Dolphins

This was an absolute steal all summer long, sitting around 3-4 points. Baltimore is a fairly loaded team and Miami is probably the worst team in the league, and it traded away it’s starting left tackle and it is probably starting the second-best QB on the roster. Yes, the heat is usually a factor, but Baltimore summers are full of heat and humidity and the Ravens run such a unique offense that it’s going to give Brian Flores fits in his first NFL game. Serious talent gulf and coaching gulf and Lamar Jackson back in his hometown for his first-ever NFL Opening Day start is going to be a decisive victory. The Ravens pass rush is my biggest concern, but against this offensive line I don’t think it’ll matter much.

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Panthers (+3) vs. Rams

The Panthers are a playoff team, to me, getting extreme value at home, across the country, with their opponent opening the season on a 10 a.m. PT kickoff. I thought this might move in the other direction over the summer, but it never did. Loved what I saw from Cam Newton firsthand this summer, love the talent around him and love the beefed up front seven in Carolina, too. What will Todd Gurley and Cooper Kupp look like in their first games back? How do the Rams handle extreme expectations now? L.A. will be fine when it’s all said and done, but this would be a tricky game at any point in the schedule, let alone Week 1.

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Browns (-5) vs. Titans

The Titans line is a massive concern and the Browns will exploit it. Marcus Mariota can feel Ryan Tannehill breathing down his neck and I don’t think that will bring out the best in him. OBJ making his debut in front of the home fans? Yeah sign me up for that. Another new coordinator running the Titans offense, one which has yet to show much ingenuity or promise, is a tough ask. I will be fading the Titans and Dolphins quite a bit early until I see a change in how Vegas is valuing them. Cleveland, to me, is at least a touchdown better than this bunch.

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