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Week 1 NFL Picks Against the Point Spread

Mario Mergola

Mario Mergola is a writer, avid sports fan, former ESPN Radio producer, husband, and father who specializes in finding the hidden gems of the less-explored option. Follow @MarioMergola

It doesn’t feel real.

I’m supposed to be good with words. I write thousands of them, every week. I should be able to capture emotion without stating it. But I can’t. Because this excitement is something we feel with-or-without me mentioning it.

I can tell you I’m excited for this upcoming football season. But you know that. Because you are, too.

I can try to craft the narrative that brings out that feeling. Touch on the rough chips between fingers or the popping sound of an opening can. I don’t need to.

At the end of the day, nothing generates excitement for football season more than football, itself.

That’s all it is. A perpetual motion machine that has taken us through ups-and-downs over the course of half-a-decade.

That doesn’t feel real.

This season will be my sixth writing my picks publicly. Six years of 256 regular season and eleven postseason games.

I can tell you, honestly, that I love every minute of it.

One of the great moments of the football season is right now. Right before the games begin. When we can look at the entire landscape of the league and not only determine where each team should go, but how they will get there.

This is why I love the first week of any season. It’s a series of ‘if-then’ statements where, “If one team is going to win double-digit games and it has a matchup against a team projected to lose double-digit games, then the following outcome should take place.”

Of course, the trick is in finding the rules that make these statements work. That’s the job.

And as I’m working through these thoughts, predictions, and preview columns, and as the summer starts to wind down, I actually ask myself if football is really as close as it appears. If it’s within my reach.

Now, as I write these words in lieu of an informative introduction, it starts to bubble inside of me. That feeling that this isn’t a dream. That I’m lucky enough to have a community of readers who continually want to hear what I have to say. That I’ve made connections and friends with them. And that we all share this love of a sport that comes back, every year.

And now it’s here. And it’s real.

Here’s to another great season…good luck!

Below are predictions for each game against the spread. Spreads have been taken from various websites and are subject to change. The spread in parenthesis denotes the selected team. An asterisk denotes a confidence pick.

*Confidence Picks – 2019 Season: —– (Last Week: —)

(2018 Season: 63-48-4) (2017 Season: 53-48-4) (2016 Season: 53-67-3) (2015 Season: 69-45-2) (2014 Season: 61-46-2) (5-Year Total: 299-254-15)

All Picks Against Spread – 2019 Season: —– (Last Week: —)

(2018 Season: 137-118-12) (2017 Season: 137-119-11) (2016 Season: 123-136-8) (2015 Season: 143-117-7) (2014 Season: 149-114-4) (5-Year Total: 689-604-42)

picks against the point spread

Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Cleveland Browns are supposed to be good.

I’m kidding. I know you haven’t heard that one.

But, now you are. Their over-under win total keeps rising, and the odds of them winning the Super Bowl keep inflating. Seriously. People are continuing to ‘buy‘. All the while, selling other AFC teams in the process. One such team is the Tennessee Titans.

Ironically enough, no one is targeting the Titans. Few people are even mentioning them, let alone attaching a prediction to their final standings. And, that’s the point. Imagine being a franchise with three consecutive winning seasons, two quarterbacks who could contribute – this isn’t always a positive, but it helps when the starting quarterback has an injury history – a division that realistically now only has three teams vying for supremacy, and still being completely overlooked.

Imagine being the Titans and serving as the team that will be ‘easy’ to target from the opposite side of the pick.

‘Selling’ the Cleveland Browns is going to be a theme for me, this year, and I love the fact that their first game gives me the opportunity to do so in grand fashion. Because, had Cleveland played against New England or New Orleans or any other team expected to be good by the general football world, it would be excusable for the Browns to lose. And, the spread would reflect that. Here, against the Titans, it’s almost too good to be true. There won’t be a single display of support for Tennessee from anywhere except those who refuse to buy into unwarranted hype. Like us.

This pick is as much about going against the Browns’ new popularity as it is supporting a Titans team that should be good in 2019. The spread is irrelevant, as Tennessee is poised to win outright.

The Titans grab a field goal victory, beat the spread, and maybe start to get some people’s attention. More likely, we hear some “sky-is-falling” claim in Cleveland.

Confidence Pick: Tennessee Titans (+5.5)

Cincinnati Bengals at Seattle Seahawks

Sometimes I’m wrong. As long as I could see it beforehand, I’m happy.

I started to write about the Seattle Seahawks and Cincinnati Bengals as if I were picking the Seahawks to win and cover.

I wrote about how big spreads scare me. I wrote about how rarely I dive in without worry. I wrote about Seattle’s tendencies at home. Actually, I’ll leave that last part in here. Because it matters. Here’s what I had originally written:

Seattle’s value on Sunday lies mainly in the location of the game. I won’t blindly support the Seahawks in a home game just because of the venue, but I will add points to the team because of when it is playing in Seattle. The Seahawks have opened on the road in three-of-the-last-four years, including 2017 and 2018. They have lost all three times. Not surprisingly, they have won both of their two Week 1 home games since 2014.

Afterwards, I started to write about how the pick could be wrong. Where could the Bengals have value that we’re missing. And, here it is:

We also need to look at where the sneaky possibilities can lie with the Cincinnati Bengals. The team’s new head coach was most recently with the Rams’ organization, which means he created gameplans against the Seahawks twice, last year. Los Angeles beat Seattle twice, and the Rams were responsible for the two worst defensive performances of the Seahawks’ 2018 season.

After doing so, I added one final note to myself:

I think I am convincing myself to pick the Bengals.

Dear readers, here we are. You’ve now seen my thoughts go full circle and bring us back to the present.

Seattle wins by six points, but Cincinnati beats the large spread.

Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals (+9.5)

Click here to sign up for Sporfolio to see the rest of Mario Mergola’s NFL picks against the point spread. Mergola finished with the highest total of correct NFL picks against the spread for 2015 and 2016 – tracked by NFLPickwatch, and finished 2018 with an accuracy of 56.8% for his confidence picks. His 5-year record for all NFL games against the spread is 689-604-41!