Something I talked about this week is that the biggest difference between bettors and oddsmakers is that bettors are handicapping the game and oddsmakers are handicapping the market.
For this reason, it’s vital that you analyze the odds themselves each NFL week to look for discrepancies. You want to try to get inside the mind of the Sportsbook because he’s trying to get inside yours.
With that, here’s a breakdown of every early NFL game (1 p.m. ET) on the board this week to help you in your capping. You can find Part II of this breakdown here, which features the afternoon games.
(FYI: ATS = against the spread, SU = straight up, O/U = OVER/UNDER)
Tampa Bay Bucs at Atlanta Falcons - (Opened -3, 47.5, move to -2.5)
Oddsmakers did a solid job with this one because the line has barely moved. It's down to -2.5 at some spots and the total has stayed put. These two divisional foes are probably viewed as somewhat equal by bettors, each with its own faults, but home field gives the Falcons the field goal edge - which is the typical home-field adjustment in betting but it definitely can vary. One public sentiment is that the Falcons will be much better this year if they can only limit costly turnovers. They led the NFL in sustainable drives of over 10 plays in 2015 but their red-zone efficiency stunk. Atlanta went just 6-10 ATS last season while the Bucs went 7-9 ATS. Remember that bettors tend to believe divisional games are closely contested, which is likely a factor in why Atlanta isn’t favored by more here. Most of the early money is coming in on the OVER and the total hasn’t moved so that tells me books are comfortable taking the OVER money they’ve taken so far.
Minnesota Vikings at Tennessee Titans (Open +3, 42.5, move to -2.5, 40.5)
Wondering how much Vikes QB Teddy Bridgewater is worth to the line? It’s about one point and I’d say that’s about right. The Vikings moved from -3 to -2 after Bridgewater’s gruesome knee injury and it settled in at -2.5. The total has moved from 42.5 to 40.5. Bettors are split on the spread and slightly more money is coming in on the OVER. It’s a tad strange that the action is split here considering the Vikings were the best bet in the NFL last season at 13-3 ATS and the Titans were the absolute worst bet at 4-11-1 ATS. But once again home field is worth about a field goal here and I think bettors are nervous that Minnesota lost its starting QB. I think the market is also hopeful about a Titans team that went 3-1 in the preseason. But I usually throw the preseason in the trash. It can tell you horrible lies about your team and I actually think Minnesota will be better with Sam Bradford at QB in the long run.
Chicago Bears at Houston Texans (Open -4.5, 44.5, move to -6)
This line has gone up and down like a yo-yo since it opened and the line is now up to -6 and even -6.5 at Sportsbook. Offseason news of the Brock Osweiler signing for Houston has bettors high on the Texans and that has moved this line up. Bettors are also big on the Texans OVER eight wins this season. It was announced this week that J.J. Watt will play and that will always get Houston bettors feeling stronger about their team but it remains to be seen how much he’ll play after offseason back surgery. Almost 60 percent of bets are on Houston as of Friday.
Oakland Raiders at New Orleans Saints (Open -1, 51, move to -1.5, 51.5)
There has been a little Saints love that has pushed this line to -1.5 and a little cash on the OVER that has moved it to 51.5. The OVER money is no surprise as these were two of the biggest OVER bets in the NFL last season, both at 10-6 O/U. The Saints gave up a disastrous NFL-record 45 receiving TDs last season so even though this is the highest total on the board this week, it doesn’t surprise me the money is on the OVER. The Saints have a history of playing well at home and bettors aren’t convinced yet that the Raiders are on the way up after so many tough years. If you have a different belief on either one of those things, this is where you find your vulnerabilities in the odds.
Green Bay Packers at Jacksonville Jaguars (Open +3.5, 47, move to +6, 48)
This is a game I cautioned bettors about on the Andrew Walker Show on Sportsnet Radio on Thursday. The Packers are one of the two most popular picks of the weekend with some books showing almost 80 percent of bets on them. Keep in mind that sportsbooks can depend on Packers money each week like Green Bay residents depend on mittens in January. So you should know that books expected Packers money here and the line likely opened a tad inflated as a result. With Jordy Nelson back in the lineup, Green Bay supporters feel the ball just needs to be kicked off now and the wins will start racking up. Proceed with caution against a Jax team that went 5-11 SU last year but managed to squeak out a 7-8-1 ATS record.
Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens (Open -3, 44.5, move to 43.5)
The Ravens OVER eight wins was a very popular bet at the books this offseason and many moved them up to 8.5. Injuries on offense ravaged this team last year so the thought from the public is that a healthier team will be better. More of the money is on Baltimore early on and I won’t be surprised if this line moves up before kickoff.
Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets (Open -1.5, moved to +2.5)
The Bengals are the hottest girl at the party at many sportsbooks heading into the weekend with over 80 percent of the money on them in this game. Cincy hasn’t had a losing record against the spread since the 2010-11 season so bettors have come to rely on them to fatten their bankrolls. This is a massive line move by NFL standards so be aware that a middle opportunity exists here for those who got in early. Also keep in mind that the public was wrong on the massive 5-point line move for the Sportsbook game between the Panthers and Broncos.
Cleveland Browns at Philadelphia Eagles (Open -7, 45, now -4, 41)
How ‘bout them Browns? That’s what the early action is asking and this is definitely a big line move for what, on paper, is an uglier matchup. Most of the bets are on Philly but most of the money is on Cleveland so this is sharper early money moving these odds. A touchdown is always a tempting amount of points for wise guy bettors and you’ll usually see some big money come in on the dog in these spots. The Eagles start a rookie QB in Carson Wentz. They also have a new head coach so one thought might be to watch for the Eagles to start the game slowly and look for a middle opportunity with in-game wagering.
San Diego at Kansas City (Open -7.5, 43.5, move to -6.5, 44.5)
This is another game where more bets are on the Chiefs early on but more money is on the Chargers. So sharp money could simply be liking the number of points being given. San Diego had a rough year and was plagued by injuries in 2015. So bettors also tend to lean toward health equaling wins. Healthy or not, San Diego has to get better on defense, which is why the Chiefs are the big fave. The Chargers allowed a sloppy 125 rushing yards per game last year and only two teams allowed more rushing TDs. Kansas City was the fifth-best rushing team in the NFL last year so that’s the matchup that will be a big factor in deciding the outcome on Sunday.
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