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Week 1 picks for the 2021 NFL season

Paradise, Nevada, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

And just like that, we’re back in the saddle for the 2021 NFL season. While we're just two days away from opening night in Tampa Bay, our picks piece will usually come out every Monday morning after our (now live) episode of the PFF Forecast.

We already picked some games this spring when the lines first came out, so if you bet these numbers early in the process, you got some value in most cases. Here are some new picks that present betting value ahead of Week 1.

(Normally we do a point-counterpoint analysis for each pick, but since we have discussed these so much over the course of the offseason, we will return to that method for Week 2 and focus only on the reasoning for each pick here.)

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Spread: New York Jets (+5) @ Carolina Panthers

This number has moved away from where our line is during the course of the offseason, and while that is usually a reason to get off a play, there is a lot of uncertainty to lean into in this matchup.

Firstly, while Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady is indeed one of the top play callers in all of football, he doesn’t exactly have the best piece of clay in Sam Darnold, who through three years with the Jets never earned a PFF grade above 65.0, with his career-high season coming in his rookie 2018 campaign. He never once made more big-time throws than turnover-worthy plays in a season, and last year he had almost twice as many of the latter (17) than the former (nine).

Add in Darnold’s potential struggles with the fact that the Panthers are planning on starting Cam Erving (-0.31 career PFF Wins Above Replacement) and Pat Elflein (-0.20) on the left side of the offensive line, and even we’re skeptical of a plus play caller and his weapons’ ability to revive the former USC star's career.

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