NFL Week #1 Picks: Cincinnati Bengals at Oakland Raiders

Both teams are asking the exact same question entering the 2015-16 season: Is this finally our year?! For Bengals fans, they’re asking if their team can finally get out of the Wild Card round of the playoffs after four years of first round exits. Raiders fans are asking if this is the year that their team can simply get out of the league’s basement and earn some national respect.

Date: Sunday, September 13th 2015
Start Time: 4:25 p.m. ET
Broadcast Info: CBS

This game opened with the Bengals giving three points, but has been bet to -3.5 at all books (O/U 44). The Raiders have opened the season on the road in four out of the last five years. Oakland fans in The Black Hole are relishing the opportunity to actually host a Week 1 game instead of traveling to New York, Indianapolis, Denver and Tennessee like they’ve been forced to do in recent seasons.

Despite having the worst offense in the NFL last season, 10 of the Raiders 16 games went over the total, including six-out-of-eight in Oakland. The Raiders finished 8-8 against-the-spread in 2014-15, with a record of 4-4 at home. Seven out of the Bengals’ eight road games last season went under the total (Predict Em).

Who to Watch: When Jack Del Rio took over as the Jacksonville head coach in 2003, the Jaguars finished the season with the second-ranked rush defense and sixth-best overall defense, after being ranked 25th and 20th in those two categories, respectively, the year prior. Can he have the same affect on the Raiders defense, which gave up over 30 points in half of its games last season? The Bengals remained inactive during the off-season. Arguably, their biggest off-season pickup was AJ Hawk, a player cut by the Packers. You’d think that a team coming off four straight first round playoff exits would look to switch up their formula a bit, but Cincinnati kept its core in tact. Will that consistency help or hurt the Bengals in 2015-16?

What’s the Key: The Oakland Athletics. Yes, we’re being serious. The Raiders are the only team in the NFL that still shares its stadium with a baseball team, and a quarter of the field will be covered by the A’s infield dirt. The Raiders have the experience of playing on it every year. Sebastian Janikowski has kicked on it for 15 seasons. The receivers know how and where to break off their routes when running on it. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better home FIELD advantage in the league. Bengals kicker Mike Nugent started last season very slow, missing four of his first 10 field goal attempts. Oakland is probably the last place he wants to start this season.

Where We’re Leaning: After years of awful financial decisions and abysmal draft picks, there is definitely reason for optimism in Oakland with the foundation of Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, and Amari Cooper, plus the addition of Coach Del Rio. Can you say the same in Cincinnati? If you remove the Bengals’ 33-7 trouncing of the lowly Titans, the Bengals had a negative point differential for the rest of the regular season, including four defeats by more than 21 points, tied for most in the NFL (Grantland). The law of averages suggests that Cincinnati will be returning to the pack in 2015-16. What better place to start than in Week 1 against the hungry Raiders. Give us the Raiders +3 in this Week 1 NFL free pick, and make sure you save a little for the moneyline.

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