• Max Carlson

Max Against the Spread | Week 1: A New Hope

With the legal vice grip on sports betting beginning to loosen across the country, I decided to start a weekly column for the 2018 NFL season focused on the Vegas lines. I may touch on money lines and over/unders from time to time, but for the most part, my column will always be focused on the point spreads.

Each week, I will make my picks against the spread, using the most up-to-date lines from the Westgate Sportsbook in Las Vegas, Nevada. Along with my picks, I will provide a short reasoning as to why I went the way I did. I’ll include a fade of the week (game I would not feel comfortable betting on) and a slam dunk of the week (game I’d gamble my mortgage on). Lastly, I’ll be including a weekly parlay of varying size that I would feel comfortable betting on, in case parlays are your thing. I’ll keep track of my total record throughout the year, so feel free to roast me as I tumble down this rabbit hole of despair. Let’s do it.


Falcons (+1) @ Eagles (-1)

My first pick of the year and I’m taking the road underdog. Matt Ryan still gets overlooked as one of the best passers in the game, and I’m not sure why. With the uncertainty around Wentz, and the Falcons out for revenge, I see them spoiling the Super Bowl homecoming and winning outright.

My pick: Falcons (+1) (-110)


Bills (+7.5) @ Ravens (-7.5)

Anything over a touchdown is a fairly large spread when it comes to the NFL, and I’d usually be hesitant to bet on the favorite covering a spread this large, but not here. Nathan Peterman starting on the road against a good defense like Baltimore’s is a recipe for disaster. Look for Baltimore to go up early, and wear down Buffalo with Alex Collins on the ground. Easy cover here for the Ravens.

My pick: Ravens (-7.5) (-110)

Jaguars (-3) @ Giants (+3)

Jaguars’ star CB Jalen Ramsey has had a very loud offseason, and the New York Football Giants have a healthy group of weapons at Eli Manning’s disposal. I’m expecting a very close game here, but I am not confident in Blake Bortles doing his part to cover 3 points on the road to open the season. Give me the home dogs here.

My pick: Giants (+3) (EVEN)

Buccaneers (+9.5) @ New Orleans (-9.5)

Despite how bad as we think the Bucs will be, and how good the Saints will be, I can’t bring myself to confidently lay down money on the Saints covering 9.5 points in a divisional game. This would be a game where I’d buy a 6 point teaser and collect the easy, measly payout, but with no teasers, I’m picking Tampa to cover. Although my best advice for this is game is to simply avoid it.

My pick: Buccaneers (+9.5) (-110)

Texans (+6.5) @ Patriots (-6.5)

This matchup should be wildly entertaining. Deshaun Watson is back, and his first test will be in Foxboro against the man who never ages, Tom Brady. I think the Texans will keep it close to the end, and while I have New England winning outright, I wouldn’t be shocked if Houston keeps it within 6 points.

My pick: Texans (+6.5) (-110)

49ers (+6.5) @ Vikings (-6.5)

As a lifelong 49er fan, I rarely, if ever, bet on their games. This is partly due to superstition, but mainly due to me not wanting my fandom to cloud my judgement when money is on the line. But for the sake of discussion, I’m taking the Niners here with a generous 6.5 point spot. It’ll come down to the 49ers’ questionable pass rush vs the Vikings’ questionable offensive line, but I see a couple of key turnovers on Kirk Cousins’s horizon, leading to a San Francisco cover (and hopefully an outright victory.)

My pick: 49ers (+6.5) (-110)

Titans (-1.5) @ Dolphins (+1.5)

Always tough to bet against home dogs covering, but when the spread is this small, you’re basically just picking the outright winner. The Titans are the better team, and I’m completely comfortable gambling on that single point.

My pick: Titans (-1.5) (-110)

Bengals (+3) @ Colts (-3)

Captain Andrew Luck is back, and he looks to defend the midwest stronghold against a hungry pack of tigers. I could very likely look back on this statement in shame, but I’m very high on this Bengals team. I think they’re going to be at least a top-10 offense this year, and I see this week as no exception.

My pick: Bengals (+3) (-120)

Steelers (-3.5) @ Browns (+3.5) [SLAM DUNK OF THE WEEK]

Two words: Hue Jackson

My pick: Steelers (-3.5) (-110)

Chiefs (+3.5) @ Chargers (-3.5)

The Chargers were a competent kicker away from being a playoff team last year, and while they’ve suffered some key injuries, they’re still going to be very good. I think Patrick Mahomes will be a quality starter in this league for a long time, but I’m not putting my money on that cannon arm until I see it in a couple more meaningful games.

My pick: Chargers (-3.5) (-110)

Seahawks (+2.5) @ Broncos (-2.5)

This is game is littered with question marks, and it’s a prime example of why Week 1 is so hard to bet on. On one hand, you have a new-look Seattle defense that’s missing several key pieces. On the other hand, you have a new QB under center in Denver, Case Keenum, who’s coming off a career year in Minnesota. The Broncos’ front seven will be a nightmare for that Seattle offensive line, but we all know Pete Carroll dips Russell Wilson in baby oil during pregame warmups, so it’s virtually impossible that Von Miller or Bradley Chubb will actually be able to sack him. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and take Seattle with the cover and the upset victory.

My pick: Seahawks (+2.5) (EVEN)

Cowboys (+3) @ Panthers (-3)

The question marks in the Carolina secondary cancel out the question marks on the Dallas WR corps for me. Still, I don’t see Dallas as a big threat in this one. That entire offense is going to run through Zeke, but will it be enough? I don’t think so.

My pick: Panthers (-3) (EVEN)

Redskins (+1) @ Cardinals (-1) [FADE OF THE WEEK]

I’m staying away from this one, and by the looks of it, the bookies are as well. At the time of writing, Westgate currently has Arizona as 1 point favorites, but the spread has already vanished at Caesar’s Palace and William Hill, leaving only the money line. Both of these teams are in such a wacky state, and it’ll take at least a couple of weeks to really get a grasp on how to bet them. If I had to choose, and since we’re using Westgate as our reference, I’ll take the home team christening their newly renamed stadium in style. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there (and he’s urging you to not bet your money on this one.)

My pick: Cardinals (-1) (-110)

Bears (+7.5) @ Packers (-7.5)

The Bears won the offseason in my mind, with several huge additions all over the field. That being said, I will confidently put my money on Aaron Rodgers winning by 8 points at home. The Packers appear to have finally made some positive changes at CB, so I’m not worried about Mitch Trubisky keeping up with the richest man in the NFL here.

My pick: Packers (-7.5) (-110)


Jets (+6.5) @ Lions (-6.5)

The Matt Patricia and Jim Bob Cooter led Lions are an all-around better football team than the Jets. Add in a rookie QB making his first career start in a hostile environment and it’s a no-brainer for me. I’d likely buy a 3 point teaser here to ease my mind, but even without that option I’d hammer the Lions on this one.

My pick: Lions (-6.5) (-110)

Rams (-4) @ Raiders (+4)

Aside from the obvious fact that Rams are absolutely stacked on both sides of the ball, one of the reasons why the Raiders are 4 point dogs at home is their lack of a clear cut pass rusher coming off the edge. If only someone who fit that criteria was available this offseason. Hmm, oh well. This one is another no-brainer for me. Sean McVay and Wade Phillips are going to steamroll Jon Gruden and the Raiders with the whole country watching.

My pick: Rams (-4) (-110)

Parlay of the week:

For those unfamiliar with a parlay bet, you choose multiple games, and if they all hit, you’re rewarded with a much nicer payout than had you bet them individually. There is an inherent risk, however, as you will only win if you’re correct on all games in the parlay. Due to the unpredictability of Week 1, I’m going to play it safe and make it a two game parlay:

Rams (-4)

Steelers (-3.5)

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