Don't worry, moneyline bettors – we haven't forgotten about you. Here are the most likely Week 1 upsets for your first football picks of the 2015 regular season.
Once upon a time, there was the moneyline, and that was it. No spread bets, no totals, no exotics. Most people prefer to bet ATS these days when they make their football picks, but there are times when it makes more sense to place a moneyline wager – especially when you're thinking about supporting a small underdog. If the price is right, you can get more value on these puppies in the long run.
So which of our purse-size Week 1 underdogs has what it takes to win outright? Glad you asked. There are 10 games on the slate where the spread is three points or lower, and judging by the Elo Ratings at FiveThirtyEight, three of these games are a bit more likely to the dogs than the NFL odds may suggest.
Colts vs. Bills (Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)
At press time, the Bills are 2.5-point road dogs, up from +1.5 at the open with about two-thirds of bettors on the Colts. But the Elo Ratings say the Bills “should” be favored by half-a-point in this situation. The moneyline action is split almost 50-50 with Buffalo priced at +120; according to the fair prices at Wizard of Odds, that's about the equivalent of +1.5 ATS, but don't forget, you'll be paying –110 juice on most of your spread bets. As an underdog, Buffalo's chances could be improved on Sunday if the skies open up and the rain comes down as forecast.
Lions vs. Chargers (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX)
The action has been on the home side in this case. About 57 percent of spread bettors are on the Chargers, moving them from –1.5 at the open to –3 at press time. However, the same percentage of bettors prefer the Lions on the moneyline at +130. Those are roughly the same football odds as +2, ignoring the vigorish. Taking Detroit at +3 might look more tempting, but that higher ML payout has a decent chance of happening according to the Elo Ratings, which also value the Chargers at –2. We'll see if the Leos defense has what it takes to overwhelm San Diego's suspect offensive line, even without DT Ndamukong Suh on board.
Eagles vs. Falcons (Monday, 6:55 p.m. ET, ESPN)
This is the big one. We've already made our ATS NFL pick here at the ranch, recommending the Eagles –2.5 (–120). But it wasn't a strong endorsement; as much as we love Chip Kelly's Eagles, there are a lot of unknowns in this matchup with the Falcons playing their first game under head coach Dan Quinn. Bettors are once again split close to 50-50 over taking Atlanta +130 on the moneyline, and the Elo Ratings think Philadelphia “should” be –0.5 ATS. Elo's predictive power should be lessened here because of the changes both clubs have made, but it does look promising for the home side.