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Week 1 picks against the spread

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The San Francisco 49ers are 6.5-point road underdogs against the Minnesota Vikings to open the season. Time for my first LVH SuperContest picks, as well as my picks for the remaining games.

Football’s back! And more importantly, football gambling is back! Preseason betting is an option, but it’s much more difficult than regular season betting. And considering the difficulty that comes with regular season betting, that’s saying something!

I’m back for another year of picks in the Westgate SuperContest. SB Nation’s partners over at Odds Shark are sponsoring my entry again. The contest requires selecting 5 games each week and picking them against the spread. The contest grows each year, which gives me more opportunities to finish even further in the cellar!

Here are my five SuperContest picks for Week 1.

VIKINGS (-6.5) over 49ers
Bengals (+3) over COLTS
Jaguars (-3) over GIANTS
BRONCOS (-3) over Seahawks
PANTHERS (-3) over Cowboys

Yes, I’m picking against the 49ers. I look at this two ways. The first is going for the traditional reverse jinx. This is a tough one for the 49ers going on the road against a Super Bowl contender in the Minnesota Vikings. Kirk Cousins is an upgrade over Case Keenum, and the Vikings are welcoming back Dalvin Cook. They face a 49ers defense that will be without Reuben Foster. I’d say an absent Malcolm Smith is an issue as well, but we haven’t seen him play in his year with the team, so there’s not much to make of it. The big benefit for the 49ers defense is facing a shaky offensive line. If the defense has success it will be up the middle.

On the other side of the ball, the 49ers will not have Jerick McKinnon as they prepare for a tough Vikings defense. The 49ers offense was decidedly different before and after Jimmy Garoppolo entered the starting lineup. They looked great for significant stretches during the five-game winning streak to close the season, except in the red zone. Here’s a look at the 49ers red zone offense (left) and the Vikings red zone defense (right), courtesy of SB Nation analytics guru Bill Connelly. If the 49ers are going to spring an upset, it will be because of improved performance in the red zone.

49ers red zone O vs. Vikings red zone D 2017

Other than the 49ers-Vikings game, I didn’t even realize I had picked four games with a field goal spread. I think so many small spreads like that has as much to do with the questions to start the season as anything else. The first month of the NFL season is a tough one for all parties involved when it comes to making picks. Everybody has their perception of teams, but nobody really knows with absolute certainty how each team will perform on a week-to-week basis. The first two or three weeks of the season are when we’ll get the most inefficient lines from sportsbooks, which means the best chance to get out ahead of the pack.

Here are all my picks for Week 1:

EAGLES vs. Falcons (PK): Falcons — Loss
BROWNS vs. Steelers (-3.5): Steelers
VIKINGS vs. 49ers (+6.5): Vikings
COLTS vs. Bengals (+3): Bengals
RAVENS vs. Bills (+7.5): Bills
GIANTS vs. Jaguars (-3): Jaguars
SAINTS vs. Buccaneers (+9.5): Buccaneers
PATRIOTS vs. Texans (+6.5): Patriots
DOLPHINS vs. Titans (-1.5): Dolphins
CHARGERS vs. Chiefs (+3.5): Chiefs
BRONCOS vs. Seahawks (+3): Broncos
PANTHERS vs. Cowboys (+3): Panthers
CARDINALS vs. Washington (+1): Washington
PACKERS vs. Bears (+7.5): Packers
LIONS vs. Jets (+6.5): Lions
RAIDERS vs. Rams (-4): Raiders