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Week 1 NFL picks against the spread: TNF and my first batch of SuperContest picks

The return of the NFL means the return of real NFL gambling. It's time to consider our picks against the spread for Week 1.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It's football time! The San Francisco 49ers will be back in real action this Sunday for the first time since that loss. They have a chance to finally get over the top and claim Lombardi No. 6. It's a good day to be alive!

The return of football also means the return of NFL gambling. Preseason gambling was an option, but I'm not one to take that too seriously as an option. There are enough variables in regular season better. Adding in having no idea how long some of these starters will play is just one more messy option. I'll stick to my regular season gambling ways.

This year, we're trying something a little different. I will continue to make my weekly picks, but I am also taking part in the LVH SuperContest. SB Nation's partners over at Odds Shark are sponsoring my entry this year. The contest requires selecting 5 games each week and picking them against the spread. This year's contest is expected to have nearly 1,400 participants, including myself and Matt Ufford from SB Nation. Everybody picks their own five games and there will be a running leaderboard HERE. After Week 1, you can follow my standings under the name "Fooch".

The odds for the games we choose lock in Wednesday night. I have until 6 p.m. PT on Friday to submit my picks, although if I want to choose Thursday Night Football, I have to have my picks in by noon PT on Thursday. This week is a very tempting TNF game, but I'm leaning toward skipping it.

I'm going to go through with my initial pick for each game, but it is possible a little more research will result in a change before I make my pick (*=home team). The underdog is listed second with the + sign representing the point spread:

Seahawks* vs. Packers (+6) - Seahawks
Saints vs. Falcons * (+3) - Saints
Rams* vs. Vikings (+3.5) - Rams
Steelers* vs. Browns (+6.5) - Steelers
Eagles* vs. Jaguars (+10.5) - Eagles
Jets* vs. Raiders (+5.5) - Jets
Ravens* vs. Bengals (+2) - Ravens
Bears* vs. Bills (+7) - Bears
Texans* vs. Washington (+3) - Washington
Chiefs* vs. Titans (+3.5) - Titans
Patriots vs. Dolphins* (+5) - Patriots
Buccaneers* vs. Panthers (+2) - Bucs
49ers vs. Cowboys* (+4.5) - 49ers
Broncos* vs. Colts (+7.5) - Broncos
Lions* vs Giants (+5.5) - Lions
Cardinals* vs. Chargers (+3) - Chargers

I told myself at the beginning I would not take the 49ers as one of my five teams in a given week. While I track them closely, it is possible I am too invested in them to make a proper week. That being said, that Cowboys defense looks mighty tempting as a matchup. The easy policy would just be never take them, but that also puts me in a potentially handicapped position for great matchups like this one. And getting the 49ers at -4.5 instead of -5 or -6 makes this all the more tempting.

In case you're wondering, some 49ers-Cowboys trends from Odds Shark:

49ers are 8-2-1 ATS past 11 openers
Cowboys are 6-1 ATS past seven openers
49ers are 6-1-2 ATS past nine road games
49ers are 10-1 SU, 9-1-1 ATS past 11 games as road favorites
Cowboys are 1-7 SU past eight games as home underdogs

Other than that, a few matchups I'm considering for my five picks are the Jets, Steelers, Saints and Bucs. The Saints are a road favorite, but I really like them this year. They can struggle on the road, but going to a divisional rival and playing indoors makes me a little less concerned about that road issue. But IF this Saints team can get home field come January, I think they become the favorite to come out of the NFC.

The Jets and Steelers are two teams I don't feel overly confident about having huge years, but I like their particular matchups this week. The Raiders are a bit of a question mark with rookie QB Derek Carr under center, but their talent issues are pretty significant. The Browns have the hype of Johnny Football, but this team really isn't that good.

The question for today is whether or not I'm comfortable enough with those other matchups to grab the Seahawks. Seattle is a great team at home, and they return much of that strong defense. Do the Packers get some revenge for that replacement ref game? I don't think that is much of an issue in this case, but it's something I'm sure will be brought up in the broadcast. Some trends for this game:

Super Bowl winners are 18-2 SU in season openers the following year (11-9 ATS)
Seahawks won and covered past four Week 1 games at home
Home team is 7-1 SU past eight meetings of these teams
Packers 1-5 SU and ATS past six games as road underdogs
Seahawks are 15-1 SU past 16 games as home favorites