The 2013 NFL week 1 lines and "expert" picks are being released by various websites as the season is set to open Thursday night with the Ravens vs. Broncos, with many more games going down on Sunday. Several of the games have some early season intensity, even though each team will be starting with a clean slate.
According to a Sept. 5 report from USA Today, one of the biggest match ups of the upcoming schedule will feature the Atlanta Falcons at the New Orleans Saints. The Saints seemed to fall out of contention, but maybe only momentarily, as they were without suspended head coach Sean Payton. Payton will be back for this weekend's game as the man on the sidelines, with the Falcons just 1-6 at the Superdome since Payton was hired prior to the 2006 season.
With that said, USA Today's panel of seven writers have posted their "winners" for this coming week 1 schedule. The panel consists of Jarrett Bell, Jim Corbett, Nate Davis, Lindsay H. Jones, Pete O'Brien, Tom Pelissero and Simon Samano. Among the big favorites to win this week for the panel seem to be: New England (across the board), Broncos (6 of 7 experts), Bucs, Steelers, Colts, Chiefs, Rams, 49ers, Cowboys, Redskins, Bengals and Texans. Of those picks, the Bengals may be a surprise to some, as they'll be playing at Chicago in week 1, with the Bears currently favored to win.
When it comes to favorites to win Super Bowl XLVII in 2014, many of the panel are predicting that the Broncos will be there, with Simon Samano the lone dissenter, choosing the Bengals as the AFC champion. (Of note, Samano had the best overall winning percentage for picks in the 2012 regular season at 175-80-1 or .686.)
There's almost a split decision on the NFC representative, with three of the panel members choosing the Seahawks, three choosing the 49ers, and the other, Jim Corbett, going with the Falcons. In terms of the odds, the Broncos (13 to 2), 49ers (13 to 2), Seahawks (8 to 1) and Patriots (10 to 1) are among the top four favorites to win in terms of the latest futures, depending on the sports book one consults.
As far as the lines go for the upcoming NFL week 1 games, Denver starts the season a 7 1/2 point favorite over the Ravens on Thursday night. Also favored in their matchups: the Patriots (-9), Pittsburgh (-7), New Orleans (-3), Tampa Bay (-3), Kansas City (-4), Chicago (-3), Miami/Cleveland (pk), Seattle (-3), Detroit (-4 to -5), Indianapolis (-7), St. Louis (-6), San Francisco (-4 1/2), Dallas (-3). The Redskins (-4) and Texans (-4) are both favored in the Monday Night games against the Eagles and Chargers, respectively.
The 2013 NFL season begins at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Thursday, Sept. 5 as the Baltimore Ravens visit the Denver Broncos in a rematch from last year's AFC divisional playoffs.