Between the Lines

Are you ready for some FOOTBALL?

We certainly are in South Jersey, with several Week 1 storylines and barnburners to catch our attention. After Thursday night’s season opener between the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans, a full slate of games unfolds Sunday. They are followed by two Monday Night tilts, which are riveting in their own rite.

Between The Lines launches its third season, looking at betting-line movement, analyzing trends and taking a tongue-in-cheek stab at selecting games. I am joined by a group of friends and analysts in our area. At least one person in this group always gets hot over the course of a season. Last year, it was meteorologist Dan Skeldon, who forecast more than inclement weather (“Give me the New England Patriots and 60 percent chance of rain”). He is our defending champ.

Bettors have an abundance of new information to apply to their wagering.

Here’s the Local and Regional Look

The Philadelphia Eagles are down to -5.5 against the host Washington Football Team, formerly the Redskins, after being -6 early in the week. These teams battled to the end in both games last year. Washington had the lead over the Eagles in the final minute before the Eagles scored twice to win an important NFC East matchup.

The Eagles made a couple of improvements on defense in the offseason. We’ll see how that plays out.

The New York Giants host the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first of two Monday Night contests. The G-Men were 4-12 last year, the Steelers 8-8. But they are bolstered by the return of Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.

The New York Jets are +6.5 as they visit the Buffalo Bills to open what’s been termed the AFC Least race. Draft Kings has none of these teams — the Jets, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills or New England Patriots — slated to win more than eight games. The departure of Tom Brady from New England has shuffled the division picture.

Story Lines Around the League

Brady carried the offseason news banner, going to the Tampa Bay Bucs. They went from 50-1 to 14-1 at in Super Bowl futures, a quantum leap. The Bucs also coaxed Brady’s favorite target, Rob Gronkowski, out of retirement.

How big will this move be? We get a hint this week when Brady’s Bucs visit the NFC South division-champion New Orleans Saints as a 3.5-point favorite. The Saints won 13 games last year. The Bucs won seven. This line represents a lot of respect for Brady. But has Brady-Mania gone overboard?

Hey Joe, What Do You Know?

Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, an Ohio native, debuts as a Cincinnati Bengal when his hosts the Los Angeles Chargers. It would have been nice for Burrow in particular to enjoy a pre-season, but he could not. How will the best college player and top pick in the NFL draft do in his first professional game? If he struggles, at least there won’t be boo-birds, as the NFL will start the season without fans at most places.

Changing of the Guards? The Buffalo Bills are slightly favored over New England to win the AFC Least for the first time in many years. The Minnesota Vikings are the favorites to make up three games on the Green Bay Packers and win the NFC North.

Bronco Loyalty

The Denver Broncos are holding stingy at -1.5 as they host the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night. It seems that the Titans, who made the AFC semifinals last year and won two big games on the road, would be favored. But many sportsbooks just opened in Colorado. This is Broncos country. And they are betting with their hearts.

This week’s odds

Here are the Week 1 games, with Draft Kings Lines.

Historically, road favorites have fared well in the opening week. Don’t be afraid to take them.

Philadelphia -5.5 AT Washington

Baltimore – 8 vs Cleveland

Pittsburgh -5.5 AT New York Giants

Los Angeles Chargers -3.5 AT Cincinnati

Denver -1.5 vs Tennessee

Indianapolis -8 AT Jacksonville

New England -6.5 vs Miami

Buffalo -6.5 vs N.Y. Jets

Minnesota -2.5 vs Green Bay

Dallas -3 AT LA Rams

New Orleans -3.5 vs Tampa Bay

San Francisco -7 vs Arizona

Seattle -1.5 AT Atlanta

Chicago -3 AT Detroit

Las Vegas Raiders -3.5 AT Carolina

This week’s picks

This week’s selections, against the spread, excerpted from Beat the Degenerates, which I co-host with Scott Cronick, director of entertainment publications for The Press of Atlantic City, and Brian Cahill from Shore Physicians Group. The show airs Wednesdays on Newstalk 1400-AM, and 92.5-FM from 5 to 6 p.m. Catch the next one 5 p.m. Sept. 16.

Cronick: Kansas City, Thursday night -9 versus the Houston Texans, because “it’s good to have action on the first game of the season.” And he already has this one in the bank.

Bontempo: Washington. Covered both times against the Eagles last year.

Pickett Russell, “Da Kipster,” general manager of Tennessee Ave. Beer Hall in Atlantic City: Baltimore. Kipster has a divisional formula he will unveil this year.

Brian Cahill: Minnesota. “Green Bay is disgruntled.” The board agrees with him.

Dave Weinberg, Weinberg’s Extra Points: New Orleans. Not buying Brady hype.

Dan Skeldon, meteorologist and defending champ: Tampa Bay. In deference to Brady, who departed Dan’s beloved Patriots.

Ky Carlin, WOND correspondent, and James Rabic, WOND producer: Eagles. Thinking the Birds will start strong.

Listener: Joe from Atlantic City, Detroit. Joe is one of our longtime favorites.