Week One NFL Sports Betting: Picks Against The Spread
With the fantasy football draft season winding down and the first official game under the books, it is time to turn our attention to something almost better: sports betting and gambling. Wagering on games and player props every weekend is a huge part of what we are interested in at SportsGrid. Fantasy football will always be fun but betting on games is always sustainable even if your first two draft picks got injured in the first game of the season.
Week One is always one of the most fascinating weeks to dissect from a sports betting perspective because we have such little information about the teams. Particularly teams with new coaches, quarterbacks or offensive schemes. Those sorts of teams are very difficult to project but can give you an edge if you are ahead of a trend before the public. It is true that the sharpest bettors in the world have gotten to these lines far before you have but that doesn’t mean that your individually placed wagers can’t be on the right side and can’t win.
Week One NFL Sports Betting Picks
Arizona +2.5 over Detroit Lions
One thing that I know is true about the NFL is that offense is more important than defense. A good, or great, defense can put a good offense in an uncomfortable position and force them to change their style but it is rare for defenses to beat out amazing offenses.
This is the case that I presume we will find ourselves in with the Cardinals as 2.5 underdogs to the Detriot Lions at home. To start out with, the Detriot Lions are not very good. The market does not expect them to come close to winning their division with a season total of under eight wins and all other teams in their division higher. They scored the 25th most points in the NFL last year and made no major personnel changes other than switching offensive coordinators.
On the other hand, the defense is not great either. The 2018 Lions were league average in terms of points allowed and were 25th in net adjusted yards per pass attempt allowed. Realistically, the Lions are just an average to below-average NFL team and… we do not know what the Cardinals are. The line, from a linesmakers perspective, absolutely makes sense. We know what the Lions are and the range of outcomes for the Cardinals is absolutely massive.
I tend to bet on offense, almost always. Kyler Murray was the best NCAA quarterback ever, averaging 13 yards per adjusted attempt and adding 1,000 rushing yards. The roster features capable playmakers at every position other than tight end but we do not expect that they will use tight ends very often. When you are taking a risk, you want to take that risk in a position to be paid off. With the Cardinals being an unfashionable team to back in the betting markets, you are to bet on a home underdog against a not-great football team.
Kansas City Chiefs -3.5 At Jacksonville Jaguars
A continuing trend this year all throughout my columns is going to be that I think the market slightly overvalues a good defense and slightly undervalues a great offfense. Last year, the Chiefs beat the Jaguars, Ravens and then the Broncos twice. All of those teams either had good statistical defenses (the Ravens in particular) but it did not matter much to an offense that gained 6.8 yards per play and 8.8 yards per pass attempt.
The Jaguars biggest strength is definitely their defense. They have fearsome playmakers at all three levels and there are a lot of reasons to think that might serve them well in some games this year but it is unlikely to be against the Chiefs. Even in the event that we think the Jaguars defense might turn KC into a 7.5 yards per passing attempt offense (which would be an absolutely dramatic downturn), I still think Kansas City should be favored in this game.
Nick Foles is an extremely high variance quarterback. He has had a full season with an adjusted yards per attempt over nine and one with an adjusted yards per attempt under six. John DeFilippo is a relatively pass-happy offensive coordinator (which is good) but has yet to coach an offense that is better than 20th in the league in passing efficiency. You’re not going to catch me touting the Kansas City Chiefs defense any time soon but I have no problem admitting that Nick Foles is not a sterotypically “good” quarterback and that outside of playing in very good offensive systems, we do not have a ton of evidence that he creates offensive value in and of itself.
I hate to go full Bill Simmons here, but it is freakin’ Patrick Mahomes. Even when defenses like Jacksonville “stop” him, he throws for 313 yards, rushes for a touchdown and puts up 30 points on the scoreboard. This was the easiest pick of the week for me make, road favorite or not.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers -1 over San Francisco 49ers
One of the better angles I have ever found in trying to generate winning in sports betting without having the mind of a super computer is to, as much as possible, find situations where other people are being emotional but you have no feeling about the situation. Straight up, the public just does not like Jameis Winston. They think he sucks, they think he is an idiot, yada yada. The evidence we have is that Winston is mostly fine. His career YPA of 7.6 is better than Carson Wentz’s (7.6 to 7 flat). We know he is addicted to making positive plays and therefore turns the ball over too much but he is generally a positive force on his offense.
That partially explains why this line has moved so much since it opened. Depending on which book you are looking at, this line has drifted from San Francisco being slightly favored to know the Bucs being slight favorites. Obviously, I would rather bet Tampa Bay as an underdog than as a slight favorite but my feeling about the game remains the same. The 49ers are a West Coast team traveling East (a nice advantage though I am unsure how much predictive power that factoid actually has) that projects to be a very similar team to the Buccaneers.
Both the 49ers and Buccaneers have players returning from injury on their defense (Tampa lost the most games to injury on their defense last year) and both have uncertain quarterback situations due to a wild amount of variance over the last year. We anticipate the Tampa Bay offense under Bruce Arians with Mike Evans, O.J Howard and Chris Godwin to be one of the most explosive in the NFL. As such, sticking to our mantra, we are betting on the best offense in a close game.
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