Column: The NFL is back and so is betting on the NFL

Sep. 9—After far too long, the NFL is back.

Thursday's Detroit Lions upset win over defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs got the league off to a hot start. There was controversy over missed false start calls, jokes at the expense of Kansas City's wide receiver room and Cris Collinsworth praising Patrick Mahomes at a nauseating level.

It's good to have the NFL back.

With the return of the most popular sport in America, so returns my weekly betting column. I want to preface this year by saying, again, that betting is hard and the sportsbooks usually win.

To be profitable, you would need to win 52 percent of your bets in a year, according to Do not gamble any money you're not prepared to lose.

I will be using FanDuel as my source. The lines and odds can and will change, so odds may change slightly when viewing lines.

Last year, I finished the regular season with a 36-50 record — not great. I did fare better in the postseason with a 7-6 record and will try and bring that momentum with me into the 2023 regular season.

Jacksonville Jaguars — 4.5: Jacksonville is a road favorite in its season opener against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. The Jaguars won six of their last seven games last season to clinch a playoff spot and beat the Los Angeles Chargers with a 27-point comeback. Jacksonville's momentum is trending up.

Indianapolis lost its last seven games of the 2022 season and finished 4-12-1. The Colts selected quarterback Anthony Richardson with the No. 4 overall pick, who played well in the preseason, but will need time to get up to speed. Also a cause for concern, running back Jonathan Taylor, perhaps the team's best player, is on the physically unable to perform list and requested a trade this summer.

It seems the Colts are a dumpster fire, and the Jags are the defending AFC South champs. I'm picking the Jags.

San Francisco 49ers -2.5: The 49ers were a game from the Super Bowl last season, the reigning defensive player of the year ended his holdout a few days ago and San Fran is the favorite to win the NFC West.

The 49ers will travel to Pittsburgh and are a road favorite against a Steelers team that finished 9-8 in 2022, but have a boatload of expectations among Steelers fandom. Quarterback Kenny Pickett ended his rookie season on a high note, but I am picking the strong defense of the 49ers to take care of business at Acrisure Stadium on Sunday.

Washington Commanders -6: I am not a believer in the Commanders this season, but I believe any team that plays the Cardinals should win. On Sunday, the Cards are expected to start Joshua Dobbs behind two first-time starters as guard and center. Dobbs was acquired just a few weeks ago from the Cleveland Browns.

Washington is led by its defense and pair Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen at the defensive tackle spots to form one of the best interior lines in the league.

The Commanders will start Sam Howell at quarterback, who only played in one game last season, but following the departure of owner Dan Snyder the game is sold out at FedEx Field. I think the environment will lead to a Commanders win.

—Cleveland Browns +2: The Browns are home underdogs versus division rival Cincinnati on Sunday, and for good reason. The Bengals have Super Bowl or bust expectations this season and are the favorite to win the AFC North, but they've struggled against Cleveland as of late.

The Browns have won five of the past six games and eight of the past 10 against the Bengals. Something that should help the Browns on Sunday is the health of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. Burrow strained his calf in training camp and missed most of camp and all three preseason games. He participated in practice last week, but we will see how game-ready he is.

Baltimore Ravens -9.5: The Ravens are big favorites for their home opener against the Houston Texans. Baltimore features a healthy Lamar Jackson with a revamped core of pass catchers. Jackson missed the last six games of 2022, but is healthy and signed a five-year extension in the offseason. With first-round pick Zay Flowers, free agent Odell Beckham Jr., and pro bowl tight end Mark Andrews, the Ravens could score a lot of points this season.

The Texans feature No. 2 overall pick C.J. Stroud and first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans. The Texans should be better this season, but you don't get the No. 2 overall pick from being a good football team.

Alex Topor can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at