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Top 2021 NFL Matchups to Exploit in Week 1

By Dan Vasta in NFL
| September 3, 2021 9:53 am PDT

The opening weekend of the NFL is a popular time for all football fans and sports bettors.

Most of the odds aren’t impacted much from last season, but there isn’t always something to account for the matchups.

Obviously, the week one NFL betting lines show you who is favored and who isn’t, but how do you decide how to bet? Somewhere in the chaos are the actual matchups on the field, and that could be your ticket to finding value at your favorite NFL betting sites.

Looking for an edge to start the 2021 NFL season? Join me as I break down the top NFL matchups to exploit in week one.

Ravens Rushing Offense vs. Raiders Run Defense

The Ravens just lost J.K. Dobbins for the season, but that isn’t going to save the Raiders from suffering a loss in Las Vegas. Lamar Jackson is a machine and is always a play away from breaking loose.

Just look back at 2020 to see the clear difference in this matchup.

Stat Ravens Offense Rank Raiders Defense Rank
Rush Play % 55.04% (1st) 42.16% (20th)
Rushing Yards Per Game 192.1 (1st) 125.8 (23rd)
Rushing TDs Per Game 1.4 (3rd) 1.5 (30th)

If that’s not a total mismatch, I don’t know what is.

Gus Edwards was one of the top backups in the league, and he will now handle the majority of the touches over Justice Hill, who will provide speed on the edges.

Jackson took over the game against the Titans in the Wild Card round, and this is a favorable matchup for Baltimore against the No. 24 rushing defense.

Panthers Passing Offense vs. Jets Pass Defense

Carolina and New York are my sneaky, under-the-radar week one NFL matchup I am secretly looking forward to more than most. The debut of Sam Darnold for the Panthers against his former team could be the start of a legit season.

The Jets are hoping to avoid another embarrassing season after barely winning any games last year.

The Panthers will be a dark horse to challenge for a playoff spot by winning as many as ten games this season.

Carolina has a bevy of talent at the skill players, and they will be one of the faster units in the league. Christian McCaffrey, Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, and Terrace Marshall will be must-see television in the NFC South.

The Jets offense under Zach Wilson made strides with new coaches in the preseason. The defense will be a whole different challenge.

The Jets could surprise, but their team speed in the back seven will struggle to keep up with an up-tempo Joe Brady offense. Some feel the Jets can keep it close, but this game smells like a double-digit, lopsided victory in favor of the Panthers.

Rams Pass Rush vs. Bears Offensive Line

The Chicago Bears offense under Matt Nagy could be disastrous this season. Their October gauntlet is an absolute nightmare. They could see some of the most physical teams in football every Sunday.

The offensive line couldn’t block a soul throughout the preseason and was far too inconsistent to trust.

In week one, they have a formidable task against a nasty L.A. defense. Just look at where Aaron Donald and co. ranked in terms of pass defense in 2020.

  • 8.67% sack percentage (2nd)
  • 193.8 passing yards per game (1st)

There were occasional drives by the Bears during the preseason where they looked mediocre. There were others where they looked like the worst unit in football.

Justin Fields would be the choice to start at some point this season when Andy Dalton struggles or gets his bell rung, but this opening matchup is scary.

Aaron Donald and the Rams defensive pressure will haunt Dalton in his nightmares. Nagy has likely lost some sleep over it already, but Labor Day weekend won’t be enough time to prepare for this defense.

An entire offseason isn’t going to prevent Sean McVay from potentially blowing out Nagy and the Bears. This matchup is one of the most challenging ones the Bears may face all season.

49ers Rushing Offense vs. Lions Run Defense

The 49ers under Kyle Shanahan will pound the football on the ground and dominate the line of scrimmage.

They took it to the Raiders in their final preseason game, and the ability to have Trey Lance dominate games at quarterback will make them next to impossible to defend.

They are heavy favorites (seven-plus points) at most of the top NFL betting sites.

The Lions were fifth to last in the league last season against the run, and they didn’t get that much better.

The bad news is there is a chance that Jared Goff plays a lot worse with Detroit than he did with the Rams. The weapons are questionable entering the season since the top two offensive players, Swift and Hockenson, enter the season already dinged up.

This matchup will significantly impact the defense since they will be on the field more than usual.

Trey Lance, Raheem Mostert, and Trey Sermon may combine for 40-plus carries in this game. If they control the line of scrimmage, they could rush for over 200 yards. If we don’t see many adjustments made in Week 1 or 2, the line later in the season could be double-digits.

When you look at how much this matchup favors the Lions, it makes you wonder if Detroit will be in a favorable spot all year. It’s one reason why they’re a great bet to go Under their 2021 NFL win total.

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Cardinals Passing Attack vs. Titans Pass Defense

The Titans were No. 29 in the NFL last season against the pass. Their inability to get after the passer has been their downfall.

The defensive backs lack star talent, but this is an ongoing issue for Tennessee. That’s bad news going into their week one NFL matchup, where they hope to slow down a potent Arizona offense.

Tennessee is among the NFL teams facing the most pressure in 2021, and it starts right away with this tough week one matchup.

Kyler Murray has a nice set of weapons going into 2021, and this Cardinals offense already turned heads last year.

The Titans must improve if they expect to win the AFC South and compete for the AFC title against the Chiefs, Bills, and Browns.

Janoris Jenkins is a veteran, but he lacks the size to prevent passing options from getting red zone looks. DeAndre Hopkins is an unstoppable nightmare matchup that Kyler Murray will be targeting early and often in this one.

Rondale Moore, Andy Isabella, Christian Kirk, and AJ Green also provide balance for Murray.

Any of those four can burn you for a chunk play. That could make up the difference in this matchup. Even if points are flowing, Arizona could become one of the more consistent offenses this season.

The Tennessee defensive backfield could be a concern for most of the season, but the scrambling ability of Murray will extend plays and buy time in this contest. While this game is nearly a pick-um, this is a matchup you need to watch.

Betting on the NFL in Week 1

There are many other week one NFL matchups that I am looking forward to, but these five stood out the most to me as far as being of good use to bettors.

Week one in the NFL will surely offer some thrilling finishes, as well as some disappointments. That is why so many enjoy watching and overreacting to odd results in the opening week.

The Colts lost to the Jaguars last season and still made the postseason. Jacksonville ended up losing all their games after knocking the Colts off in the opener.

It’s tough to know what will happen in week one, but these exploitable matchups could be your ticket to finishing the first week in the green.

The season opener will bring plenty of surprises but exploiting matchups early on can springboard your wagering into a successful campaign.

Ready to place some bets? Start off with the safest NFL bets for week 1.



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