The first rule of handicapping any sport is to never trust the results from the first two weeks.

Remember when the 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers took the floor in October 2013? Everyone believed they would be terrible, but somehow, some way, the team started the season with three straight wins, and eventually ran their mark to 4-2.

It was natural to believe that they weren’t going to be as bad as previously perceived. But they were, and they won 19 games in the regular season. So extracting a season-long narrative in the first few weeks of a season is fool’s gold, and it’s a common misstep in the NFL.

That’s why I’m not going to use weeks 1 and 2 as barometers for the season. However, it doesn’t mean there aren’t some intriguing matchups, especially these three games that deserve immediate attention.

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Marcus Mariota should be considered one of the best sleeper quarterbacks available in the 2018 fantasy football draft. Flickr

Tennessee Titans (-2) at Miami Dolphins

Tennessee is a better football team. The Titans are better up front and have better skill position players.

And I think this is going to be a statement game for Tennessee. Marcus Mariota was injured throughout the 2017 season. He’s healthy, with a solid offensive line in front of him, and the best pass-catching running back he’s had out of the backfield in his career in Dion Lewis.

That will open up a new dimension for the offense.

Defensively, the team is solid enough that it should be a top-half unit in the NFL. And while I don’t dislike the Dolphins as much as everyone else does, I see this game specifically as one where the Titans are coming in under-the-radar, and will easily blow past the two points.

Oddsmakers are siding too much with Miami’s home-field advantage in this one. This should be a much bigger spread.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+9.5) at New Orleans Saints

We’re forgetting about New Orleans’ struggles in recent years. One year of success won’t erase that from my memory.

The Saints are always one of the better offensive units in the NFL. However, with Mark Ingram suspended for the first four games of the season, I have my doubts about Sean Payton’s ability to construct an offense similar to last year with only one top-tier running back. And let’s not forget the concerns everyone had about Drew Brees entering the 2017 season.

He was washed up and the Saints were an afterthought. Brees isn’t getting any younger and those concerns should be levied once again entering 2018. The defense made strides last year, but I’m not sold that the young unit won’t take a step back.

With this spread, everyone is showing their immediate love for the Saints and their disdain for Tampa Bay. The Bucs will be better defensively, and the offense won’t skip much of a beat without Jameis Winston. The Saints may be better in the season than Tampa Bay, but I’m eyeing this opening week as a game where Tampa Bay shows off some of that defensive talent, while the Saints show some early season weaknesses.

San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings (-5.5)

Everyone is in love with San Francisco. And they’re on the right track, but in this game, they won’t be ready to cover this less-than-a-touchdown spread.

The Vikings will unveil a new quarterback and a suffocating defense at home in week 1 against a team that was winless for several weeks last season. Now, I was a proponent of San Francisco, thanks to being in pretty much every game in the early going, but just not getting the right amount of breaks. However, this spread is too forgiving.

Minnesota will have a better running back and quarterback entering this season, and the defense will continue to be a top-three unit in the NFL. Minnesota will flex some muscles in this contest with an overvalued 49ers team. San Francisco will show some life this season, but this line doesn’t ring true with reality.


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