We get our first official glimpse of Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles this Monday night in Washington. But the sharps didn’t want to wait that long to pound the NFL betting lines.
The NFC was a dog’s breakfast last year. Only one team managed to rise out of the muck and into the playoffs: Washington, led by incredible rookie performances from QB Robert Griffin III (102.4 passer rating, 6.8 yards per carry) and RB Alfred Morris (4.8 yards per carry). Those welcome upgrades translated to a 10-6 SU and 11-5 ATS regular season. Nobody else made betting on the NFL more profitable in 2012.
Naturally, the sharps are staying away from Washington this week. Our first episode of Monday Night Football (6:55 p.m. ET, ESPN) features a new rising star, and it’s neither a quarterback nor a tailback. It’s head coach Chip Kelly of the Philadelphia Eagles, who are looking forward to putting last year’s 4-12 SU, 3-12-1 ATS debacle behind them. Nobody else suffered the wrath of the NFL odds more often in 2012.
Check out our Week 1 Opening Odds Report!
It’s a simple case of buy low, sell high. Washington may be the better team on paper (that remains to be seen), but from an NFL picks standpoint, Philadelphia has all the upside. That’s the main reason why the Eagles have moved from +5 road dogs at the open to +3 as we went to press.
It isn’t even that Andy Reid was a bad coach. Far from it, as they’re likely to find out in Kansas City. But the paying customers in Philly wanted Reid fired, and once they got their wish, the Eagles front office had no trouble luring football’s top coaching prospect from the college ranks. I won’t rehash it here; you can read more about Kelly in my first look at the opening NFL odds for Monday night’s matchup.
Three Points in the Fountain
But have the football lines moved too far already? The rule of thumb with NFL betting is that home-field advantage is worth three points, which would suggest that the market currently values Philadelphia and Washington about the same. But take a look again at our NFL odds board. Those sportsbooks who have the Eagles at +3 also have the chalk at +105 or +110. You can also get Philadelphia +3.5 (–106) over at Marathon, or an even +4 (–110) at William Hill. That’s if the lines don’t keep moving, of course.
These half-points and juice tweaks are nothing to sneeze at. If you followed my columns last year, you’ll know what I’m talking about: The “fair price” for buying a half-point from +3 to +3.5 is a shade over 20 cents, according to the Wizard of Odds. That’s about the same price you should be willing to pay to move from +8 to +12. It’s all because more NFL contests end with a three-point margin of victory than any other score – roughly one in six games.
Chicken Soup for the Knee
It also remains to be seen whether Washington is healthy enough to perform at last year’s level. The latest word on Griffin as we went to press comes from coach Mike Shanahan, who says it’s “full speed ahead” for his star QB. If Griffin’s surgically repaired knee holds up, there’s every chance he could put the same beating on the Eagles that he did last year. In two games, Griffin posted a combined 486 yards with six touchdowns and just one interception.
All well and good, but should anyone trust Shanahan when it comes to the health of his quarterback? Reports from ESPN suggest that Dr. James Andrews, who cleared Griffin for regular-season action, has some reservations about how much punishment that knee can take. Griffin absorbs a lot of contact running the zone read option; he injured his knee twice last year, and also suffered at least one concussion.
Even if Griffin is 100 percent and stays that way through Monday, he probably won’t get as many opportunities this time to shred the Eagles defense. Kelly’s zone blur option should limit the amount of time Griffin spends on the field, and Washington’s defense, which ranked No. 17 last year in terms of efficiency, might not have two-time Pro Bowl safety Brandon Meriweather (knee, groin) ready in time for Week 1. That’s way too much if and might for me to change my sports picks.NFL Pick: Take the Eagles +4 (-110) at William Hill