Welcome to this year’s first edition of the NFL Underdogs column. For those who are new, I can only pick underdogs each week who I think will cover the spread. Last season, I finished with a record of 27-24-3. Let’s try to start things off on a high note with the following underdogs to consider on DraftKings Sportsbook for Week 1.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. San Francisco 49ers: Steelers +2
The 49ers are one of the favorites to emerge from the NFC. They had a 13-4 record last season, which was boosted by the acquisition of Christian McCaffrey from the Panthers. They were eventually done in by injuries at quarterback. This season, Brock Purdy will be the starter at the position, with Sam Darnold being his primary backup after the team traded Trey Lance to the Cowboys. However, Purdy is coming off UCL surgery during the offseason that limited him at the beginning of training camp.
The Steelers had some turbulence at quarterback last season with Kenny Pickett eventually surpassing Mitch Trubisky as their starting quarterback. Still, they found a way to go 9-8. With a full offseason as the starter under his belt, Pickett looked much better during training camp and the preseason. He has plenty of weapons around him, including wide receivers Diontae Johnson and George Pickens. Mike Tomlin is one of the best coaches in the NFL, so with plenty of time to prepare for his Week 1 opponent, it would not be a surprise to see the Steelers pull off an upset at home.
New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys: Giants +3.5
Both the Giants and the Cowboys made the playoffs last season. That was no surprise for the Cowboys, who had a loaded roster on both sides of the ball. However, a playoff berth came out of nowhere for the Giants, who were 4-13 the season prior. Head coach Brian Daboll made a huge impact, and the coaching staff helped turn around the career of Daniel Jones. Jones may have only thrown 15 touchdown passes, but he cut his turnovers dramatically and rushed for 708 yards and seven touchdowns.
Heading into this season, the Giants improved Jones’ weapons by trading for tight end Darren Waller and adding wide receivers Parris Campbell and Jalin Hyatt. Even Sterling Shepard is back from a torn ACL. They also bolstered their defense by drafting cornerback Deonte Banks in the first round and filling a major hole at linebacker by signing Bobby Okereke. The Cowboys should be in the hunt for one of the better records in the NFC again, but the Giants have the potential to keep this game within a field goal at home.
Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos: Raiders +3.5
Nothing went right for either of these teams last season. The Raiders finished 6-11, while the Broncos floundered to a 5-12 record. The Broncos were the bigger disappointment with Russell Wilson completely flopping in his first season with the team. They would eventually fire head coach Nathaniel Hackett during the season, then make a big splash in the offseason by bringing in Sean Payton. While Payton adds plenty to the franchise, it’s unclear how much Wilson has left in the tank. The Broncos will also begin the season thin at wide receiver. Tim Patrick (Achilles) has been lost for the season again and Jerry Jeudy is battling a hamstring injury that could make him limited in Week 1, if he plays at all.
The biggest move that the Raiders made during the offseason was bringing in Jimmy Garoppolo to replace Derek Carr at quarterback. Josh Jacobs held out the entire preseason because of a contract dispute, but he eventually resolved that issue and returned to practice last week. Unlike the Broncos, the Raiders made it through the preseason mostly healthy. With there still being plenty of question marks surrounding the Broncos’ offense, the Raiders could keep things close enough to cover.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is mbarner51) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.