We kick off the NFL season tonight, seemingly just moments after New England and the Los Angeles Rams completed the most exciting NFL offensive season with the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever.
That’s the NFL. You never know. But we search for knowledge again tonight when the Bears host the Packers in the season’s first contest. We are delighted to return Between the Lines for a second season, describing the line shifts, trends, injuries and bizarre developments that impact the spreads.
Tonight’s game mirrors the point-shopping theme found in this column. Developments affecting trends and quick line shifts are often the life blood for gamblers.
For much of the week, this spread has been mired in gridlock, Chicago -3. Before the legalized betting age, that number would have figured to stick, but the presence of numerous betting sites has led to a couple showing 3.5 for Packers backers.
And there are other movements. Kansas City opened at -5 in Jacksonville, but the line changed a full point and a half to - 3.5. San Francisco and Tampa Bay were both one-point favorites, one-point underdogs, and, at last look, a pick-em. Baltimore went from a 6.5 road favorite against Miami to 7 points and that will scare some players off of the Ravens.
That’s just the focus for Week One. Throughout the course of a season, how do you spot a trend in your favor? You watch a pattern often enough and bet according to a change you sense in the norm. Here’s an approach that has worked for me over the years. Maybe it will be good for you.
This is the gravity angle. Oddsmakers project teams to hit certain win totals for the season and invariably come close. Here’s a compilation of expectations for every team, updated just before the Week 1 kickoff. You can keep this list and compare it to developments throughout the year. The season’s midpoint is a good time to evaluate this list. There are some teams that will play way above or way below these numbers but often gravitate back near their projected total before the season concludes. Are they playing way above? Go against them a couple weeks. Way below? Think about betting them.
11: New England
10.5: Kansas City, L.A. Rams, New Orleans
9.5: L.A. Chargers
9: Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Dallas
8.5: Atlanta, Baltimore, Seattle, Houston
8: Tennessee, San Francisco, Jacksonville
7.5: Carolina, Indianapolis, NY Jets
7: Denver, Buffalo
6.5: Tampa Bay, Washington
6: Washington, Cincinnati, NY Giants, Oakland
Note that 18 of the 32 teams are projected between 7 and 9 wins!
Helpful concepts each week
Budget for Improvisation - You can’t stop your buddies from pitching bets on mobile-phone conversations before and during games. If there’s a consensus, there’s a wager. Figure that into your financial planning.
Win When You Pounce - The top forecasters in the world still rank below 60 percent accuracy. Given the 10 percent customary vig for the house or sportsbook, you can’t make much even with a 60-percent hit rate, and most people hover around 50 percent. All games are not created equally. Get in weekly pools, watch all the games, and you will develop a feel for teams and situations. It will be a unique feel just for you. Throughout the season, some games will then scream out, “Play Me!” They are the difference makers if you can go heavy on them and hit.
Shop the Line - There are books all over the place. Wait for 3 to become 2.5 if you want to lay the points, or 3.5 if you want to take them.
Don’t Chase - The Monday night game may be tempting if you’ve lost a couple or are down for the week, but why elevate it to playable if you didn’t like it to begin with? There’s always next week.
Season openers are important for players who have signed lucrative deals with new teams. The spotlight goes on Antonio Brown in Oakland, and his sideshow of avoiding summer practice by saying he’d retire if he couldn’t wear the helmet he wanted. Funny how that never came up during negotiations. Keep an eye on Le’veon Bell, who sat out last year with Pittsburgh and signed with the Jets. Can they give him the same type of blocking? Both Bell and Brown are selfish players, so watch the chemistry on those teams if early expectations are not met. Odell Beckham, meanwhile, joins a suddenly-stacked Cleveland team that has playoff hopes and could break through this year. Andrew Luck’s retirement drove the Indianapolis projected win total from 10 to 7.5. Cam Newton’s foot injury is a concern in Carolina. He is playing through pain, but too much of its offense is focused around his running. If he can’t go, neither can the Panthers, unless somebody steps up.
Week 1 midweek lines (over-under in parentheses)
Chi -3 Green Bay (46.5)
Cleveland -5.5 Tennessee (45.5)
Baltimore – 7 at Miami (37.5)
Minnesota -4 Atlanta (48)
NY Jets -3 Buffalo (40.5)
EAGLES - 9.5 Washington (45.5)
L.A. Rams - 2.5 at Carolina (50)
Kansas City -3.5 at Jacksonville (52)
L.A. Chargers –6.5 Indianapolis (44.5)
Seattle -8.5 Cincinnati (43.5)
Dallas -7 New York Giants (45.5)
Detroit -2.5 at Arizona (47)
New England -5.5 Pittsburgh (49.5)
San Francisco PK Tampa Bay (50.5)
New Orleans -7 Houston (53.5)
Denver PK at Oakland (43)
This week's picks
All of these are excerpted from Beat the Degenerates, which I co-host with Scott Cronick, director of entertainment publications for The Press of Atlantic City, 5 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays on Newstalk 1400-AM, WONDRadio.com and 92.5-FM. Brian Cahill, formally promoted from guest degenerate to full degenerate status by virtue of hosting the show, is a frequent contributor.
These are for entertainment only, of course.
My pick: Rams -2.5
Scott Cronick: Cleveland -5.5
Dave Weinberg, Press of Atlantic City Eagles writer: Baltimore -7
Brian Cahill: Jacksonville +3.5
DA KIPSTER, aka Pickett Russell, GM of Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall: Detroit -2.5
Tom Sullivan, GM of McCullough’s Pub, which sponsors a $25 weekly winner gift certificate for Beat The Degenerates:
Ky Carlin, WOND sports correspondent: Indianapolis +6.5
Dan Skeldon, WOND meteorologist: Pittsburgh +5.5
Joyce from Egg Harbor Twp., listener: Pittsburgh +5.5
Warren Prosser, WOND producer: Tampa Bay Pick ’em
Good luck to all. Let’s hope we’re collecting, and laughing, next week.
Listen to Beat The Degenerates 5 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays on Newstalk 1400-AM, 92.5-FM and WONDRadio.com