NFL Week 1 Predictions: Latest Odds and Picks Against the Spread
The start of the 2012 NFL regular season is just a day away, and sports bettors across the country are busy adjusting their power ratings due to what they saw on the gridiron during four rounds of preseason action.
There's a lot of unknown variables when handicapping the first few weeks of any sport, especially in football with all the coaching and player changes that have taken place since the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
Quarterback Peyton Manning is one of the biggest question marks, as bettors and oddsmakers have struggled to figure out how many points he's worth when creating a line. He still carries some major weight around Las Vegas, with the Denver Broncos holding steady as one-point home favorites (courtesy of SBR Forum) against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Let's take a closer look at the Week 1 NFL betting odds from a situational standpoint and make some predictions along the way.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
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The Dallas Cowboys were a popular side to back when the NFL betting odds were released for this NFC matchup on June 14, but a lot has changed on the injury front.
The New York Giants still aren't getting the press coverage they deserve as defending Super Bowl champions due to everyone talking about the injuries suffered on the other side, but they gone 5-3 against the spread (ATS) in the first month of the season the last two years.
Not sure you can back America's Team in this spot.
Current Betting Odds: New York Giants -4
Indianapolis Colts at Chicago Bears
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The Chicago Bears moved up to double-digit favorite territory against the Indianapolis Colts before the 2012 NFL preseason, but that number has fallen back to its opening number of nine at most spots in the betting market.
Sports bettors will find that the Bears are 3-6 ATS as a favorite of 3.5 to 9.5 points the last two seasons, which makes them a dangerous wager when you take into account quarterback Jay Cutler's dismal 9-19-1 ATS mark during his career when laying points.
The Colts are a difficult team to gauge at this point in time due to a rebuilt roster, but it's still important to note that they've failed to cover their last four regular-season openers.
I'll be revisiting this game later in the week.
Current Betting Odds: Chicago Bears -9
Jacksonville Jaguars at Minnesota Vikings
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Welcome to the life of a sports handicapper, when trying to analyze a game that features two teams that normally rely heavily on their running game, but nobody knows for certainly how much playing time their star players will see.
Maurice Jones-Drew ended his 38-day holdout on Sunday and figures to be a third-down presence in the offense. If the Jacksonville Jaguars are unable to get something going on the ground, it could be a long day for second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who will be dealing with a lot of noise in the Twin Cities.
Sports bettors may fall in love with the Jaguars covering 11 of their last 13 season openers, but that success came under former head coaches Tom Coughlin and Jack Del Rio.
I'm taking a long look at the Vikings in this spot, even though signal-caller Christian Ponder has gone 0-3 ATS as a home favorite in his brief NFL career.
Current Betting Odds: Minnesota Vikings -3.5
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets
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The New York Jets have plummeted in value from a betting perspective since being released as a six-point home favorite against the Buffalo Bills, as that number has now been cut in half.
You're definitely late to the party if you're looking for any value on the road underdog in this spot.
I wouldn't be surprised to see New York quarterback Mark Sanchez pull something out of his hat and cover this contest, considering the Jets are 10-6 ATS in games where the line is plus-three to minus-three, while the Bills are 3-8-1 ATS in the same situation.
Current Betting Odds: New York Jets -3
Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans
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Before you think about laying 12.5 points on the Houston Texans against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, please take into account that you've already lost six points of value in comparison to the opening line.
In similar fashion to the stock market, you often get burnt when buying a company at its highest point.
I'm not going to automatically land on the Dolphins due to this movement, but they get a lot more attractive when finding out that the underdog has covered five of the last six meetings in this AFC series.
If you're a fan of the home team, I suggest waiting to back the Texans until at least Week 2.
Current Betting Odds: Houston Texans -12.5
New England Patriots at Tennessee Titans
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It's quite possible that the Tennessee Titans will be my biggest play of the opening weekend, as I love the fact they never moved higher than a seven-point home underdog against the New England Patriots in the NFL betting odds.
The Titans have compiled a money-making 8-3 ATS record as a home underdog of 3.5 to seven points, which fits nicely with the Patriots failing to cover their last two games against AFC South opponents.
I don't anticipate this line dropping below this level.
Current Betting Odds: New England Patriots -6
St. Louis Rams at Detroit Lions
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Casual sports bettors love wagering on explosive offenses with playmakers, which is why the Detroit Lions are overvalued in this spot.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford has registered a mediocre 5-5 ATS record as a home favorite in his career, but the franchise must be respected in this spot due to covering seven of its last nine season openers.
It's important to note that Sunday's host hasn't kicked off as a favorite in a season opener since 2008, suffering a 34-21 setback to the Atlanta Falcons.
We'll take a closer look at this NFC affair over the course of the week.
Current Betting Odds: Detroit Lions -7
Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints
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NFL fans are going to forget about Bountygate when walking up to the betting window this weekend, especially considering the New Orleans Saints have covered 12 of their last 13 home games.
Over the last two seasons, the Saints have gone 3-0 ATS as home favorites of 7.5 to 10 points, while the "under" has cashed in each of those contests.
The Washington Redskins have grabbed the cash in their last three trips to New Orleans, which may explain the reverse line movement on the odds board.
This is one of the toughest games on the card, causing me to defer until later in the week.
Current Betting Odds: New Orleans Saints -7.5
Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns
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I'm a little concerned with the lack of playing time quarterback Michael Vick had during the preseason, but I can't get past an earlier stat I found about Andy Reid's teams after missing the playoffs.
Despite numerous coaching changes over the years, the Cleveland Browns have been a failure versus the Las Vegas number in Week 1, going 1-11-1 ATS over the last 13 seasons.
I'm still going to recommend a play on the Philadelphia Eagles in this spot.
Current Betting Odds: Philadelphia Eagles -9
Atlanta Falcons at Kansas City Chiefs
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Sports bettors can't get enough of the Atlanta Falcons against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, as they've been driven from one- to three-point favorites.
Let's just say I have little interest in joining that party considering the Falcons have faltered in that type of situation the last two years against the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers.
We'll take a closer look at this matchup as the week progresses.
Current Betting Odds: Atlanta Falcons -3
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
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There's no doubt in my mind that NFL oddsmakers knew they'd receive heavy action on the San Francisco 49ers as seven-point road underdogs when this number was released, which has caused the line to fall two points in most spots.
I'm a big fan of the Green Bay Packers being 5-0 ATS in season openers the last five years, which fits nicely with their 12-5 ATS mark in home games since 2010.
Current Betting Odds: Green Bay Packers -5
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
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NFL quarterbacks move the number in Las Vegas, which is clearly evident with the Seattle Seahawks moving from underdog to favorite in Arizona this weekend.
Former Wisconsin Badgers star Russell Wilson will match up with John Skelton inside University of Phoenix Stadium, which has placed me on the sidelines in terms of making a pick on this game right now.
I'm not going to blindly take the points considering the Arizona Cardinals are just 1-3 ATS as home underdogs of three or fewer points the last two years.
Current Betting Odds: Seattle Seahawks -2.5
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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I'm not surprised by the reverse-line movement in this NFC South rivalry, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have performed well when playing with revenge against division opponents in the first four weeks of a season.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will attract plenty of attention at the betting windows, but it's the home underdog or nothing for me in this contest.
Current Betting Odds: Carolina Panthers -1
Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
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Before you hit the all-in button in laying the small number with the Denver Broncos, I suggest that you take into account Peyton Manning's 51-53-1 ATS record as a home favorite over the course of his career.
The Pittsburgh Steelers also travel back to the Mile High City with revenge on their minds, as they suffered a 29-23 overtime loss as 7.5-point road favorites in last year's playoffs.
Ben Roethlisberger has been tremendous in this situation, posting a 29-18-1 ATS mark when playing with revenge.
It's still hard for me to ignore those betting trends, something that made me land on Sunday night's road underdog back in May.
Current Betting Odds: Denver Broncos -1
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
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I've never been a fan of playing divisional games in Week 1, which will lead me to concentrate on the rest of the card this week.
The Baltimore Ravens have gone 3-0-1 ATS as home favorites of 3.5 to seven points the last two years, while the Cincinnati Bengals are 2-3-1 ATS when receiving that type of number in the same span.
John Harbaugh's unblemished spread record in season openers may end up changing my mind toward kickoff.
Current Betting Odds: Baltimore Ravens -6
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders
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The Oakland Raiders gained 1,009 total yards of offense against the San Diego Chargers in their two AFC West meetings a year ago, but that doesn't mean they should be favored.
There's only one direction to go before digging deeper into the numbers for this contest, as the underdog has taken the cash in the last six meetings.
The Southern California representative hasn't been the one receiving points in this series very often, which makes the current number even more valuable.
Current Betting Odds: Oakland Raiders -1