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7 first-round stock picks to kick off football season

A new NFL seasons kicks off Thursday night with the defending Super Bowl champs (and Deflategate-mired) New England Patriots taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

And as fans gear up for a new season and line up their fantasy picks, here are a few stock picks that could prove profitable as well.

Analysis from Kensho, a data analytics platform for financial markets, suggests that certain stocks have historically stood out at the start of new NFL seasons. We looked for market standouts in the five days following season openers since 2004 and found a few themes: gear, food and fantasy.

First, the gear play. A new season often calls for new apparel—a fresh jersey, new face paint, whatever is going to help you support your team best.

As the NFL's official uniform provider, Nike shares have typically seen a big boost at the start of the season. In the five days after openers since 2004, the company has traded positive 11 out of 11 times and returned nearly 3 percent on average—outperforming the S&P 500 and consumer discretionary sector.

Rival Under Armour has been moving into the league's merchandising space and also has seen outsized gains at the start of new seasons since 2006. Over the last nine years of football season starts it has traded positive seven times in the five days after, or nearly 80 percent of the time. The shares have returned more than 6 percent on average. (Under Armour only became a public company in 2005, after the start of the NFL season that year.)

Beyond jerseys and cleats, Target's NFL online shop sells everything from 49ers pillows to Broncos study buddies to Patriots sheet sets. Its stock has traded positive all but once the week after kickoff over the last 11 years and returned an average of 2.3 percent.

The New England Patriots play the Dallas Cowboys at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
VOA | UIG | Getty Images
The New England Patriots play the Dallas Cowboys at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

Another way to play the start of a new NFL season is the food angle. Comfort and convenience go well with football. When fans need a quick pregame bite, the likes of KFC and Olive Garden may be popular choices.

Yum Brands, McDonald's and Darden Restaurants have outperformed the broader markets at the start of new seasons—all trading positive more than 70 percent of the time and returning more than 2 percent on average.

For one last trade idea to kick off a new football season, look to fantasy. Action in fantasy football is big business. Last year, more than 40 million people were estimated to have played in fantasy leagues and most bet upward of $100 for the season.

Yahoo has one of the largest fantasy football websites in America and its shares have benefited when a new season kicks off. The company has traded positive in the five days after season openers in every instance but one since 2004 and returned more than 4 percent on average.

So whichever team you're rooting for this year, you might want to consider a few NFL stock plays—just in case your team disappoints on the field.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal, parent of CNBC, is a minority investor in Kensho.