NFL picks against the spread: Nick Bosa back for 49ers, will it matter vs. Steelers?

Nick Bosa is one of the most valuable players in the NFL. If you don't believe that, check out the $170 million contract he just got from the San Francisco 49ers.

Yet, he's not all that valuable to the point spread.

For just about the entire summer, the line for San Francisco's opener at the Pittsburgh Steelers was 49ers -2.5 at BetMGM. When Bosa's holdout dragged on, and it reached Wednesday morning — 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday he was already planning on Bosa missing Week 1 — the line briefly dropped to 49ers -2. Then Bosa signed and the line went back to 2.5.

Bosa is the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history, and the line budged a half-point either way based on his status. Maybe oddsmakers figured he'd sign and play in the opener. He'll almost certainly play Sunday, because the 49ers didn't pay him $34 million per year to have him ease back in, but even an elite player like Bosa can't be expected to play his normal amount of snaps and look like himself days after ending a holdout.

And for all of that hoopla and the hype for the 49ers this offseason, it's still a tough spot for them on Sunday. Even with Bosa back.

The Steelers were really good in August. Whatever that means. Kenny Pickett looked much improved, the young set of skill-position players around him were impressive too, and the Steelers' defense has been good anytime T.J. Watt is in the lineup. It's a well-coached team with plenty of talent. Also, the 49ers are going from west to east and playing in the early game, which is generally a tough spot.

I've been a little lower on the 49ers than consensus, wondering if we're ignoring the potential downside for them. I'd have loved to get +3 on the Steelers but apparently Bosa's return wasn't worth that much to the spread, so I'll settle for taking Pittsburgh +2.5. We'll get a good idea right away how dominant San Francisco will be this season.

Nick Bosa signed a massive extension with the San Francisco 49ers this week. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Nick Bosa signed a massive extension with the San Francisco 49ers this week. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Here are the Week 1 picks against the spread, with odds from BetMGM:

Lions (+4.5) over Chiefs

Hopefully you got this one when it was Lions +6.5. The Daily Sweat has a more complete breakdown of the Thursday game, which will be the case throughout this season.

Falcons (-3.5) over Panthers

The last time a No. 1 overall pick started at quarterback Week 1 and won was 2002. That was David Carr of the Houston Texans. The last eight top picks to start the opener have lost (Greg Auman of Fox Sports had a great breakdown of the struggles those rookies have had in their debut). I like Bryce Young, but the Panthers had some issues in the preseason. I also like the trajectory of the Falcons.

Texans (+10) over Ravens

I'm in favor of teams who don't play starters in the preseason. Why risk injury? But maybe the Ravens should have played at least a few series. They're breaking in a new offense with coordinator Todd Monken, and some game reps might have helped. The Ravens will probably win, and they'll likely be safe for survival pools (I prefer Washington this week), but 10 points is a lot. Baltimore might be rusty.

Browns (+2.5) over Bengals

I'm not worried about Joe Burrow's calf injury, though it helped nudge me to the underdog in this game. Deshaun Watson is one of the big wild cards of the season. Maybe he just never regains the form he had in Houston. I think we'll find out pretty quickly. If Watson is just mediocre, we'll adjust them down for Week 2.

Jaguars (-5) over Colts

I pick every game against the spread here, though I wouldn't advise betting every game. There will be certain picks that are here just because I pick them all, and this is the first of that kind this season. It's impossible to know what the Colts will be. I like Anthony Richardson, but I understand the downside. I don't know if he'll be effective in Week 1. The Colts don't have a terrible roster, though I'd like it a lot more with Jonathan Taylor on the field. It's an interesting game but good luck figuring out the right side.

Buccaneers (+6) over Vikings

I'm not rushing to the window to bet the Bucs, but maybe they'll be better than we anticipate. Baker Mayfield looked good in preseason and perhaps that's meaningless, but there still are good players on this roster. Meanwhile, the Vikings love playing close games against anybody and I don't think that will change this season.

Saints (-3) over Titans

I think by Sunday night two of the talking points from Week 1 will be: "Wow, maybe the Saints are a lot better than we thought," and also, "Wow, maybe the Titans are a lot worse than we thought." This seems like a line that will look funny by the second half of the season.

Commanders (-7) over Cardinals

This isn't just a Cardinals fade. I like the Commanders this season. I think they'll be a surprise playoff team. But also, this is a Cardinals fade. Arizona is going to be really bad this season.

Packers (+1) over Bears

My favorite win total play for this season was Packers over 7.5. My second favorite win total play was Bears under 7.5. So this was a pretty easy pick. This is another Week 1 line I think will be humorous to look back on in November.

Patriots (+4) over Eagles

It's hard to fade the Eagles. However, I do think the Patriots are better than everyone thinks. They're the one team that I thought I had too low in the power rankings this week. It was just hard to get them much higher. But we know the Patriots will be good on defense and the offense will be much improved now that an adult is calling plays.

Broncos (-3.5) over Raiders

The Broncos are another team that I need to see before betting on or against. I see the case for the Broncos being much better — Nathaniel Hackett wasn't quite as bad as Urban Meyer, but look what moving on from Meyer did for the 2022 Jaguars — or Denver being just as bad as it was last season. The Raiders probably will be bad, and the Chandler Jones drama this week didn't help. I'll watch this game from afar.

Dolphins (+3) over Chargers

Everyone seems scared to not be on the Chargers bandwagon this season. What if this is finally the year all that talent puts it together? Well, I'm fine being skeptical. I've seen how that movie ends, many times. The Chargers are perennially disappointing. The Dolphins were really good last season when Tua Tagovailoa was healthy, and I have no reason to believe they won't be good again with Vic Fangio upgrading the defense.

Seahawks (-5.5) over Rams

I don't know if we've caught up to how bad the Rams might be. Or how good the Seahawks might be. Seattle's offense shouldn't be any worse than last season. Yes, I'm a Geno Smith believer with the fantasy football shares to prove it. Meanwhile, the Rams offense without Cooper Kupp (he was ruled out with a hamstring injury) could be bad. Maybe as bad as the Rams defense.

Cowboys (-3) over Giants

It's a little scary to take a road favorite in a divisional prime-time game like this. But I'm not high on the Giants this season. And the Cowboys are going to be pretty good. I'd be surprised if the Giants won straight up, and the spread isn't over the key number of three.

Jets (+2.5) over Bills

This is a perplexing game. I like the Bills to win the Super Bowl. They were a lot better last season than most people remember. But the Jets should be really good too and they'll be fired up for the first game of the Aaron Rodgers era, especially on Monday night against a team that has taken over the AFC East. This is a fantastic game, maybe the best of Week 1, but it's hard to have a strong betting opinion on it. I'll just sit back and watch. Welcome back, NFL.