NFL Week 1 Preview

Here is a preview of all of the opening week’s matchups. The bet percentage numbers are from Sports Insights and trends are from Don Best.

Atlanta Falcons -2.5/48 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers The first game in the rotation is a tasty division game with the Falcons less than 3-point favorites at home. I am surprised this line has come in from 3 where it opened and seemed perfect. I would figure these two teams are even. They each have the exact same expected win total (right between 7 and 7.5) and odds to win the NFC South (7-1). Falcons QB Matt Ryan had started his career nearly invincible at home going 26-4 in his first 30 starts with a 19-9-2 against the spread record. In the past 4 season the Falcons are just 14-17 (ATS) with Ryan starting at QB. 53% of spread and 57% of parlay and teaser bets are on the Falcons with 72% of moneyline bets on the Bucs. The betting public is as confused as I am. There is some concern about Falcons superstar wide receiver Julio Jones who has an ankle injury. He isn’t listed on the injury report and should be good to go, but it is a concern and may be why this line has come in. Trends are negative for both teams with Bucs struggling in week 1 (2-8 ATS in last 10 openers) and in September (2-7 ATS in last 9). The Falcons ended last season terribly going 2-10 ATS in their last 12 games. This will be a pool pick and a tough one to make at that. The total is virtually unchanged as many books still have it at 47.5 where it opened. 70% of the bets are on the over in this dome game. Both teams have a under trends with the under going 7-2 in the Bucs last 9 division games and 22-5-1 in Atlanta last 28 games overall. There is nothing interesting from a wagering perspective there. Last season the Bucs won both games and they both when under (23-20 and 23-19).

Minnesota Vikings -2.5/40 at Tennessee Titans This point spread opened up at 3 back on Tax Day (April 15th) and slowly moved out to 3.5 before the Vikings lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for the season on August 30th. It reopened at Vikings -1, but has moved back out. It was helped by the fact Minnesota traded for veteran Sam Bradford to replace Bridgewater, but Bradford might not start. The Vikings have yet to name a starter, though I don’t think it matters all that much. Journeyman Shaun Hill is more likely to be under center and with a year in the system under his belt, he probably is better off than Bradford at this point. 57% of spread and 54% of multi bets are on the Vikings with 53% of moneyline bets on the home Titans. The money bet is pretty much split down the middle as well as the market is providing nothing to work with. When looking at trends there are some long term ones that are both in Minnesota’s favor. The Vikings are 37-17 ATS in their last 54 games overall, while the Titans are 15-35-4 against the spread in their last 53 games. That is quite staggering, but I would look for a regression to the mean as I think Tennessee has a quarterback in Marcus Mariota. He will get an early test against a fierce Vikings defense. The over/under has dropped from 42.5 to 40 with the loss of Bridgewater as now Minnesota will have even more reason to give the rock to running back Adrian Peterson. 57% of the bets are on the under which is well below par. I like the over a bit with that being the case. The weather should be perfect for scoring and I think the Titans offense will be pretty effective this season.

Philadelphia Eagles -3.5/41 vs. Cleveland Browns This is a pretty ugly matchup as we have the worst team in the league (the Browns) taking on an Eagles team in complete flux. Both teams have new head coaches and quarterbacks. Philadelphia is starting rookie Carson Wentz who is making a huge jump in class from Division 1-AA (FCS) College Football and North Dakota State to Philadelphia and the NFL. The Browns are trying to salvage Robert Griffin III’s career, but have little around him for support. This line has crashed in after opening 7 due to the Eagles trading away Sam Bradford and going with the number two overall selection in this year’s draft at QB. 58% of spread and 56% of parlay and teaser bets are on the Eagles with 62% of moneyline bets on the underdog Browns. This total mixed bag is expected with Wentz’s performance being so unpredictable. Don Best has only one trend for either team, Cleveland is 2-8 against the spread in their last 8 games. That’s good as any trend the Eagles had can be thrown out as they are going to be a very different team after firing head coach Chip Kelly. The over/under dropped accordingly with the Bradford trade from 45 to 41. 54% of the bets are still on the over with 85% of the money on the under. I think you have to be on the money and not on the number of bets here and go with the under. I would expect the Eagles to play at a glacial pace compared to Kelly’s frantic style. The weather should be ok in Philly on Sunday, but there is some wind (10-15 MPH) in the forecast.

Cincinnati Bengals -2.5/42 at New York Jets Here is another game where the gambling market isn’t providing any insight. The line opened up 1 and has moved out with 70% of spread and 63% of combination wagers on the Bengals and 62% of the moneyline bets on the Jets. There is not much else to work with as both teams have a couple of injury concerns and key players out due to suspension. Trends are positive in both directions with the Bengals 8-0 against the spread last season on the road and the Jets 8-3 (ATS) in their last 11 at home. This will be another pool pick for sure. The total is down slightly from its 42.5 opener with 55% of the bets on the under. Nothing there either with a very benign weather report aside from a little bit of wind. The under is 7-1 in the Bengals last 8 conference games.

New Orleans Saints -1.5/52 vs. Oakland Raiders This spread is in slightly after opening up 2 with 55% of spread bets on the Saints and 54% of moneyline and 58% of multi bets on the Raiders. Nothing to work with there and only one trend, but one I like a lot. Oakland is 6-2 against the spread in their last 8 games on FieldTurf. I think the Raiders are the faster more athletic team and will benefit from playing on the speedy carpet in the Superdome. The Saints looked terrible in the preseason losing all 4 games and giving up a total of 100 points, the second most of any team this preseason. The New Orleans defense was terrible last year and I don’t think it has improved even with former Raiders head coach Dennis Allen helming the D. The total is up from 50.5 to 52 with 75% of the bets on the over. It is hard not to agree with the public as this should be a shootout. The Saints are a team that can produce overs and the over is 6-2 in New Orleans last 8 games in September.

Kansas City Chiefs -6.5/44.5 vs. San Diego Chargers This spread is in a half-point after opening 7. The Chiefs will most likely be without running back Jamaal Charles who isn’t back to playing shape after injuring his knee last season. 58% of spread and 66% of combo bets are on Kansas City with 53% of moneyline bets taking the odds with Chargers. Nothing of note there, but the Chiefs are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 on grass and the Chargers are 3-9 against the spread in their last 12 games within the AFC West. This is another game where it will be extremely hard to make a pick. The over/under is up from 43 to 44.5 with just 54% of the bets on the over, but a whopping 96% of the money (sounds like one massive bet). I would follow that move up and go with the over. Last year the Chiefs won both games in this series 33-3 in San Diego and 10-3 at home. That game was in an awful rain storm, this year weather should be perfect for scoring.

Baltimore Ravens -3.5/44.5 vs. Buffalo Bills We finally have a market mover as the Ravens opened up 2.5-point favorites and now are almost -3.5. Most bookies aren’t there yet, but this line has momentum and it isn’t publically driven. 54% of spread and combination bets are on the Ravens with 69% of moneyline bets on the Bills. That isn’t enough to drive a line out and even though the Bills have some injury/suspension concerns this seems like a smart money move to me. Trends favor the Bills as the Ravens are 1-9-1 ATS in their last 11 home games while the Bills are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 season openers. Unless something drastic changes in the market I will be on the Ravens and expect it to be an official selection. The total is up from 43 to 44.5 with 68% of the bets on the over. That is a very efficient marketplace and doesn’t indicate much. The weather is expected to be beneficial for the scoreboard.

Houston Texans -6/44 vs. Chicago Bears There has been some volatility in this point spread since it opened back in April. It opened up 5, went out to 6 then came back into 4 then back out to 6.5 and now is 6. With few games in the NFL ending in a 5-point differential it doesn’t take much cash to move through that number. Almost all of that movement had to do with the health of Texans defensive end, J.J. Watt, who many consider the best defensive player in the league. Obviously with the spread on the higher end of the range, Watt will be good to play. The Bears have a lot of players on the injury list already, almost all of the defensive side of the ball along with a pair of wide receivers. Finally a little conviction by the public with 67% of spread and 75% of parlay and teasers on Houston, but still 60% of the moneyline bets are on underdog Chicago (mmm Chicago dog). I’m sure I will be on the Bears, but I would expect it just to be a public fade pool pick. Although this isn’t very lopsided at all and the Chicago injury list is really long. The total is unchanged although 69% of the bets are on the under. Sportsinsights also is listing a money percentage that I have been quoting as well, 80% of the money is on the under. I’m confused about how the over/under is hanging in at 44, I am definitely leaning towards the over. The Texans have a very talented offense after adding quarterback Brock Osweiler and running back Lamar Miller and I mentioned the Bears defensive woes. The Bears should have a productive offense as well though they need to get their receiving corps healthy.

Green Bay Packers -5/48 at Jacksonville Jaguars Finally we have best bet potential as this currently is an 80-20 game. 80% of the spread and 82% of multi bets are on the always popular Packers. Even 69% of the moneyline bets are willing to lay the odds with Green Bay. So this line must have opened up at Packers by 3 or less, right? No, 4.5 and many sportsbooks still have it there. If this point spread starts coming in then you have my exact dream scenario and the Jaguars will be on the best bets all season. Jacksonville defense should be much improved with a couple of huge free agent additions, using the 5th pick in the draft on a cornerback and the 36th pick on a linebacker. They also will see the debut of Dante Fowler Jr. on Sunday the 3rd overall pick in the 2015 draft. Fowler missed all of last season with an injury. The Jags offense is also improved with the addition of running back Chris Ivory and starting the season with a healthy group of weapons for improving quarterback Blake Bortles. Jacksonville are also has the healthier team. The Packers are the current favorites to win Super Bowl 51 on Betfair (8-1, I would sell that!), but I think they have some question marks. They get wide receiver Jordy Nelson back after missing all of last season with a knee injury, but I doubt he is 100%. They didn’t add much at all in the offseason and cut Pro Bowl guard Jose Sitton and lost former Pro Bowl defensive tackle B.J. Raji to retirement/hiatus. It is all pointed towards Jacksonville including a 12-5 record ATS in Week 1 the last 17 years. I do hope that their 10-21-1 against the spread record in their last 32 home games is ancient history and the Jaguars will be back on the upswing. The weather should be an edge for Jacksonville as it is expected to be around 90F degrees and with high humidity and sun it will feel like 100F. The total is up from 47 to 48 with 75% of the bets on the over. This might be another chance to fade the public as I would think the improved Jaguars defense will slow down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

Seattle Seahawks -10.5/44.5 vs. Miami Dolphins There has been a big move in this line as it opened up 7 and is now out to 10.5. Injuries/suspensions account for a lot of that as the Dolphins will be missing a few key players. Most importantly their center Mike Pouncey’s hip will keep him out, that is a huge problem going into Seattle and dealing with that crowd and defense. 58% of spread and 68% of combination bets are on the Seahawks with 56% of moneyline bets on the Dolphins. It seems like there is some smart money that has helped push this point spread out along with who will be missing for Miami. The Dolphins are 5-16 against the spread in their last 21 games. A lot here is pointing to the Seahawks. This is clearly the best option for “Survivor/Knock Out” pools and if I had 3 picks I would use 2 on them. The over/under opened up at 44 and is either their or a half-point higher. 53% of the bets are on the under and money is split. If anything I like the over here as I could see the Seattle offense make a statement and their defense contribute to the scoring as well. Weather will be fine for scoring and at 65F definitely much more comfortable than the 80F+ you see in the Northeast.

Dallas Cowboys PK/46 vs. New York Giants Big line move here as the Cowboys opened 4-point favorites, but the loss of quarterback Tony Romo has them starting a rookie in 4th round pick Dak Prescott. They will also be starting a rookie running back in odds on favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year, Ezekiel Elliott. Prescott looked terrific in preseason, but starting an all rookie backfield is a scary proposition. The Giants spent a ton of money in free agency on their defense which was a total sieve last season. The public doubts the Cowboys as 69% of spread, 70% of moneyline and 62% of parlay and teasers are all of the new look Giants. I might have to fade that and considering how poor the Giants first team played in the preseason it isn’t very hard to do. The Cowboys are 10-25-1 ATS in their last 36 home games. The total is down on Romo’s injury from 49 to 46 or 46.5. Still 2/3rds of the bets are on the over as many expect the Giants offense to make plays and the Prescott/Elliott duo to be dynamic. I’m not so sure about that and I think the under is probably the better side. The Cowboys under Jason Garrett have a history of being very deliberate and use a lot of the play clock. They should run the ball a lot and keep that clock moving. The Giants defense will almost certainly be improved with the talent influx as well. There are a lot of over trends in this series and for both teams. The under is due as the last 7 matchups between these two teams have gone over.

Indianapolis Colts -3/50.5 vs. Detroit Lions This line has come in from its 4.5 opener and even after pushing past 5 and approaching 5.5. Not sure what has brought this on, but the Lions seem like a smart money play. There are some significant injuries on the Indy side, but I don’t think that accounts for this big a move. 63% of spread and 70% of parlay bets are on the Colts with 66% of the moneyline bets on the Lions. The big money bets are on the Lions as 80% of the spread money and 89% of the outright money is on Detroit. I think the Colts have some major deficiencies on their offensive and defensive lines, while the Lions are pretty stout in the trenches. The Lions will almost certainly be an official selection. The total is up from 49 to 50.5 with 59% of the bets on the over, but 75% of the money. I will go with the line move and the money and likely go over here. The Indianapolis defense is one of the worst in the NFL.

Arizona Cardinals -7/45 vs. New England Patriots The biggest line move in week 1 as Tom Brady will be suspended for the first 4 games of the season. This was a pick’em game back in April and moved to Cards by 5.5 on the Brady news. It has pushed out further as defensive stalwart Rob Ninkovich has also been suspended for the first quarter of the season and now to a full touchdown with tight end Rob Gronkowski listed as doubtful. This is a shocking turn of events as the Pats without Brady and Gronk are shockingly limited. As you would think 71% of spread and 60% of combination bets are on the Cardinals, though 65% of moneyline bets are on the Patriots. I will probably be on the Cards, but not with a lot of conviction. Both teams have struggled on grass with Arizona 3-9 ATS in their last 12 on the real stuff. The Patriots are even worse as they don’t regularly play on it and are 3-12 against the spread in their last 15 on grass. I remember mentioning this as one of the many reason I liked the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game last season. The over/under dropped obviously as well from 51 to 45 with the Brady and now Gronk news. 52% of the bets are on the under with 97% of the money (???) and that seems like the smart side. I would expect New England to try to shorten the game as much as possible and the Pats defense is still very strong.

Pittsburgh Steelers -3/50 at Washington Redskins (MNF) The line is unchanged here with 67% of spread and 77% of multi bets on the Steelers, 55% of moneyline bets are on Washington. Still that is a nice fade and I never need a reason to take a small home dog, especially on primetime. Pittsburgh is definitely the more injured team and don’t have their running back Le’Veon Bell for the first 3 games. This over/under is down from 50.5 with 2/3rds of the bets on the over. I have no opinion on this total as the market is giving a slight under suggestion, but I don’t trust it with these offenses and perfect weather expected for Monday night.

Los Angeles Rams -2.5/42.5 at San Francisco 49ers (MNF) Another small home dog on Monday night and I’m sure I will be on them again here. The line is unchanged with 71% of spread and 77% of combination bets on Los Angeles (that is odd to type). 56% of moneyline bets are on the Niners, but that obviously doesn’t offset all that Rams action. I think San Fran will be improved with new head coach Chip Kelly and the Rams now being in Los Angeles doesn’t mean much when opening on the road. The Rams have struggled in week 1 going just 3-12 ATS in their last 15 openers. San Francisco opened up last season with a dominant performance against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night. The 49ers are 24-6 against the spread in their last 30 games on MNF. Last season the home team won each of the matchups. The total has dropped from 46 to 42.5 as seemingly everyone is on the under here. 80% of the spread bets and 92% of the money bet are on the under. All trends point to under including both games last year going under, 38-17-1 of the last 56 Rams road games have gone under and under is 35-17 in last 52 on grass. On the San Fran side under is 8-2 in last 10 division games and 18-5 in the last 23 home games. All of those trends and all of these bets are ignoring the fact that Chip Kelly is now the 49ers head coach and they should play at a very fast pace on offense. When Kelly was HC of the Philadelphia Eagles he excelled at producing huge plays and points in the special teams. There is no way I would take the under in this game.

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