People across the globe are attracted to the concept of cheering for the underdog. It’s a romantic principle that will always be alive, because we’ve all been counted out before, one way or another. We love to see individuals or groups overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, rising above all adversity and improbability to win. The “against-all-odds” narrative goes all the way back to biblical times when David slew Goliath with a stone. These types of parables teach us that anything is possible if you give it your all.
The desire to witness the beauty of an underdog victory is ingrained in us as human beings. Imagine Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee struggling up the slopes of Mount Doom, determined to conquer evil, despite their size. It gives you the chills, doesn’t it? Actor Sean Astin is no stranger to underdog roles, having played the diminutive Rudy Ruettiger, in the film “Rudy. Ruettiger is the 5-foot-6 inspiration who overcame Dyslexia to get accepted at Notre Dame, determined to play Fighting Irish football.
Another gridiron walk-on story you may be familiar with is Vince Papale, who fought to earn a spot with his hometown Philadelphia Eagles after head coach Dick Vermeil held open tryouts. Now, before you go all Rocky Balboa on your sports betting slips, let’s examine the Week 1 schedule. If we approach the calendar with objectivity and courage, a few NFL Week 1 odds are begging to be exploited.
Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings
Sept. 13 at 1:00 p.m. on FOX
Underdog Betting Vitals
Moneyline: Packers +120
Point Spread: Packers +2½ (-110)
Two-time MVP and future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers helped to lead Green Bay to a 13-3 record in 2019. Rodgers and the Packers lost to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game, 37-20. A-Rod completed 31-of-39 passes, throwing for 326 yards and a couple of TDs, but couldn’t complete the comeback. Check out our early MVP odds, which list Rodgers’ moneyline at +2000.
The Pack’s young D was exposed vs the Niners, but the defensive unit will likely be improved. Despite being relatively “wet behind the ears,” the defense ranked ninth in the NFL in points allowed last season.
Minnesota’s offense averaged 25.4 PPG in 2019 yet Green Bay held it to 26 total points in two Packers victories. Meanwhile, the Vikings’ formerly elite “D” parted ways with Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Everson Griffen. Yes, Minnesota acquired Yannick Ngakoue to replace Griffen, but the defense is entrenched in an active rebuild, overall.
The offense will be without the services of WR Stefon Diggs, now that he’s wearing a Buffalo Bills uniform. Rookie wideout Justin Jefferson may be an ample replacement over time, but is a definite downgrade for this game. Our OROY odds are worth looking over, with Jefferson as a reasonable candidate. Chiefs’ RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire is off to the races, but the Offensive Rookie of the Year competition should be exciting.
Vikings’ QB Kirk Cousins is slightly above average, and stud RB Dalvin Cook can’t carry the entire team. The Packers still have a championship-caliber squad, and Rodgers would love to have another championship ring. Green Bay will show its pedigree in the opening game vs. Minnesota, winning at U.S. Bank Stadium outright.
It’s Raining Ducketts:
Green Bay Packers Moneyline +12
Green Bay Packers ATS +2 ½ (-110)
Pittsburgh Steelers @ NY Giants
Monday, 7:15 p.m. on ESPN
Underdog Betting Vitals
Moneyline: Giants +200
Point Spread: Giants +6 (-110)
Many experts are hailing the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers as a “dark-horse” Super Bowl contender, but I’m not convinced. Yes, Ben Roethlisberger, James Conner, and JuJu Smith-Schuster all appear to be healthy, and that’s great news for the Steelers. Only five teams in the NFL scored fewer points than Pittsburgh last season. The Steelers finished 8-8, mainly behind the strength of their sixth-ranked defense.
Pittsburgh’s hopes largely hinge upon a 38-year-old quarterback’s ability to bounce back from elbow surgery, leading the Steelers to gridiron glory. Big Ben has reportedly looked good, but it remains to be seen how durable and effective he’ll be.
I’m picturing a pick-six early on by Giants’ SS Jabril Peppers, rattling Roethlisberger into a game-management mode. Roethlisberger will slow down the pace and make more conservative throws, giving NY time to amass some points. This is where the Giants will surprise some folks.
We’ll learn what Giants’ QB Daniel Jones is made as he evolves in a new system. NY hired ex-Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett to be its offensive coordinator and there are high hopes for the revamped O-line. Garrett has enjoyed tremendous success with TEs (Jason Witten), so expectations are high for the versatile Evan Engram.
Jones also has a reliable duo of WRs in Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate. We haven’t mentioned Saquon Barkley. Expect Jones to come out sharp against a stiff Steelers’ D, as he commandeers a talented offensive ship.
Barkley and Dion Lewis will prove to be a nasty 1-2 punch. The success on the ground opens up the play-action passing game, and Jones has himself a field day. The Giants stand tall in their home opener. Head coach Joe Judge wins his first game at the helm, and the Giants give the NFL something to ponder.
It’s Raining Ducketts:
NY Giants ATS +6 (-110)
NY Giants Moneyline +200
Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos
Underdog Betting Vitals:
Moneyline: Broncos +115
Point Spread: Broncos +2 ½ (-110)
The Tennessee Titans went on a magical run last season, finishing 12 points shy of a Super Bowl appearance. The Titans beat the Patriots and Ravens on the road, before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs, 35-24. Tennessee is a solid, playoff-caliber team, but that postseason run was all about momentum.
A forward momentum that was stopped cold in Arrowhead Stadium, leaving a sour taste in the Titans’ collective vegan mouths. Will the Titans’ miracle QB Ryan Tannehill experience another wave of seemingly random success? It’s pretty dang unlikely, Tennessee. RB Derrick Henry is an absolute beast, and the Titans’ D is above average, but Tennessee is absolutely beatable.
The Denver Broncos closed the 2019-20 season by winning four of their last five games. Franchise QB Drew Lock has looked superb, and the talent around him has been upgraded. Denver’s O-line has improved and RB Melvin Gordon came over from the Los Angeles Chargers to help Phillip Lindsay bash defenders. Pro Bowl WR Courtland Sutton provides Lock with a security blanket, and rookie WR Jerry Jeudy has tremendous upside. This Denver offense is trending up, up, up.
The Broncos’ D ranked 10th in points allowed last season, despite being decimated by injuries. Denver also finished first in red-zone defense in 2019 and is going up against Tennessee’s top-ranked red-zone offense. It should be interesting to watch, but you always bet on defense in these situations. The Broncos added DE Jurrell Casey (former Titan) and Pro Bowl CB A.J. Bouye in the offseason, bolstering the defense. These players and others will have to deliver with the loss of Von Miller (ankle) for the season in all likelihood. Denver is notorious for being a difficult place to steal a road win, and the Titans will fall on MNF.
It’s Raining Ducketts:
Denver Broncos ATS +2 ½ (-110)
Denver Broncos Moneyline +115