NFL Week 1 Sleeper Picks

NFL Week 1 Sleeper Picks

Written by on August 15, 2017

Will the Dallas Cowboys have star running back Ezekiel Elliott for Week 1? Probably not as the NFL suspended him six games for a domestic violence issue. However, Elliott is appealing so maybe the courts will get involved. First, the NFL will hear the appeal. Commissioner Roger Goodell will have to decide whether to personally handle it, whether to designate it to a league employee, whether to assign it to an “independent” person deemed friendly to league interests, or whether to hand the baton to a truly independent arbitrator. That decision could have a big effect on Cowboys’ futures. Since we already have the odds and lines for the first week of the regular season, here are two sleeper picks for NFL Week 1.

NFL Week 1 Sleeper Picks

Indianapolis Colts at LA Rams

When: Sunday, Sept. 10, 4:05 PM ETWhere: LA Memorial ColiseumTV: CBSRadio: ESPN 107.5 FM (Indianapolis) / ESPNLA 710AM (LA)Stream Option: NFL LiveOpening NFL Week 1 Lines: Colts -3

Luck Surely Not Playing

I love this line because it seems impossible for the Colts to have star quarterback Andrew Luck ready by Week 1 off shoulder surgery. The guy’s not even practicing in full and for sure won’t play in the preseason. The season starts in three weeks or so.Here’s what owner Jim Irsay said this weekend: “I can’t say that Luck will be ready for the [regular-season opening] Rams game but he will be ready for the start of the season. He is throwing.”Nearly nine months since surgery, Luck isn’t throwing as hard as he can, and he hasn’t gone through game action since the 2016 season ended. Even if he recovers fully by Week 1, he’ll have missed training camp and preseason. There will be rust to shake off, and he won’t have any in-game throwing experience on a surgically repaired shoulder.Currently, the team is rolling with 29-year- old career backup Scott Tolzien. Tolzien was with the club last year and made a start while Luck was initially suffering from the shoulder issue that required offseason surgery. The Colts opted not to sign a bigger-name backup like, say Colin Kaepernick. Tolzien is not agood player.

NFL Betting Prediction: Teams to Start 0-5 in 2017

Rams Add Weapon

The Rams were truly awful offensively last season but made a great trade over the weekend in acquiring receiver Sammy Watkins from Buffalo. Watkins gives the Rams a much-needed vertical threat to pair with a slot receiver in Cooper Kupp, a gadget receiver in Tavon Austin and a possession receiver in Robert Woods, who was also Watkins’ teammate in Buffalo from 2014 to 2016.Watkins, who went fourth overall in that 2014 draft, possesses the talent of a true No. 1 when healthy, boasting the NFL’s fourth-most yards per reception since he came into the league. He gives rookie head coach Sean McVay a deep threat similar to what DeSean Jackson was for him in Washington. It’ll open up more running lanes for Todd Gurley, who saw his rushing yards per carry drop from 4.8 in 2015 to 3.2 in 2016.

Carolina Panthers at San Francisco 49ers

When: Sunday, Sept. 10, 4:25 PM ETWhere: Levi’s Stadium, Santa ClaraTV: FOXRadio: WBT 1110 AM (Carolina) / KSAN 107.7 FM (San Francisco)Stream Option: NFL LiveOpening NFL Week 1 Lines: Panthers -5.5

Will Newton Play?

I’m recommending against the Colts in the game above because of concern about the surgically repaired shoulder of Andrew Luck, and I have similar concerns about Carolina’s Cam Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP. Like Luck, Newton isn’t expected to play this preseason, although he should be ready for Week 1. Butdoesn’t he need some game snaps to shake off the rust?Carolina is wisely being cautious with Newton, who’s coming off surgery in late March to repair a partially torn rotator cuff. Newton was less than his best self down the stretch last season, as Carolina limped to just two wins in its final six games. Injuries and inconsistent play, especially along the offensive line, doomed Carolina.Are the Panthers a safe bet against the 49ers in NFL Week 1?

Should We Worry If He Doesn’t Play?

Apparently it’s not a major worry that Newton won’t face an opposition before Week 1. In 2014, Newton didn’t play in the first preseason game as he continued to rehab his ankle following offseason surgery to repair ligament damage. Then in the third preseason game, the first pick of the 2011 draft suffered a hairline fracture in one of his ribs when New England linebacker Jamie Collins kneed him in the back while making a tackle at the end of a 7-yard scramble. Newton didn’t play in the final preseason game, which he hasn’t since his rookie season, and missed the opener at Tampa Bay.Does Newton need time adapting to the new wrinkles in the offense with the addition of first-round draft pick Christian McCaffrey and other dynamic playmakers? Yes, but that can be done in practice. Besides building arm strength, the biggest thing for Newton between now and Week 1 will be working on his timing with his receivers and running backs.“Every day is a new day,” Coach Ron Rivera said. “As long as he continues to progress, we’l keep doing what we’re doing.”

Expert NFL Week 1 Predictions

The Rams and 49ers stink. But I’m taking the points on both of them here because their starting quarterbacks – even as bad as they might be – are healthy and the Colts’ and Panthers’ are not. Plus those two teams have long flights west.