Paul Higham previews the pick of the big NFL games on Sunday night with his best bets and a selected treble.
For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, visit our transparent tipping record
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints
What a game we have here to kick off the season – we shouldn’t really be so excited about a couple of 40-somethings going head-to-head but Drew Brees and Tom Brady are two of the best ever and their first ever divisional clash is one of the hot games of the opening week.
These two are the top two quarterbacks in terms of passing yards and touchdowns in NFL history, between them they’ve thrown for 151,933 yards in their careers – that’s over 86 miles of passing! And they’re not done yet, with both of them on teams that should make the play-offs.
We know all about Brees’ Saints and they’re one of the best teams in the league, but Brady’s Bucs should be much improved and with the best array of attacking options in his 20-year career he could well put up some big numbers this term.
The Bucs had the most passing yards and third-most passing scores in the league last season, and that was with Jameis Winston also throwing 30 interceptions – and if there is a weakness in the Saints defence it is in the secondary.
New Orleans will have to try everything to get to Brady and make him uncomfortable, limit his time to make those big throws. Short passes to either his old mate Rob Gronkowski or another tight end/slot receiver will be the name of the game.
It has all the makings of a shoot-out, and although there’s bags of potential on the Tampa Bay team they’ve not had the time to put it all together yet, so you’d have to side with the settled Saints this time around. It could be a different story by the time they meet again though.
Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots
We’re going for a home run in the very first week of the season, but because it’s Week One, and because it’s this season of all seasons then why not take a punt on the Miami Dolphins producing a huge road upset at Foxborough.
There’s enough evidence we can use to back this one up though, and not just because Tom Brady’s no longer at quarterback – as I think Cam Newton could do really well with Bill Belichick, it just may take a few weeks.
Miami have also won two of the last three meetings, including the last game in December in New England. They finished strongly under Brian Flores and although they’re still rebuilding they have some really good pieces in place.
New England not only have to deal with the loss of Brady but a host of defensive starters with the team being particularly hard hit by coronavirus opt-outs. This is by no means a marker for the season, but just this once it’s worth taking the Dolphins.
Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens
As we saw with the Chiefs, good teams who are well settled can click right back into gear and there’s no reason why the Ravens won’t do exactly the same, and after the way they were dumped out of the play-offs both MVP Lamar Jackson and the team will be playing angry.
They’ve brought in running back JK Dobbins and receiver Devin Duvernay in the Draft to enhance Jackson’s options and although teams will start to cotton on to Jackson and the offence, week one may not be the time and the Browns the team to start doing that.
Cleveland have talent, no doubt, and they’re without the huge hype they had to carry last season so they could surprise one or two this term. Crucially, though, Kevin Stefanski is making his NFL head coaching debut at an awful time with no pre-season to get his ideas across.
Cleveland strike me as a team to watch out for later in the season when things start to click, and it’s an awful opener for them. Baltimore opened as 10-point favourites but that’s been cut to seven, which I think they’ll cover with relative ease.
Best bet: Baltimore -7 at 11/10
We're taking and Saints and Ravens here, but throwing in the Buffalo Bills to the mix as well as they take on the New York Jets - who are a complete mess on and off the field already. They let one of their best players leave in the summer and the players are furious.
Buffalo made the play-offs last year and have added more offensive weapons for QB Josh Allen to continue his development with - they're huge favourites and rightly so.
More NFL content from Sporting Life
- New season NFL fixtures
- NFL Draft: Winners & losers
- Gronk joins Brady in Tampa
- Burrow goes No.1 pick
- How did Tom Brady become a legend?
- Latest Super Bowl odds
We are committed in our support of responsible gambling. Recommended bets are advised to over-18s and we strongly encourage readers to wager only what they can afford to lose.
If you are concerned about your gambling, please call the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133, or visit begambleaware.org.