NFL Preseason Week 1 - Analyzing Opening Lines & Moves That Matter

Nikki Adams

Tuesday, August 9, 2016 6:43 PM UTC

Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016 6:43 PM UTC

We preview opening lines for week 1 of the NFL preseason and compare them to the current lines trading, just days away from kick off. Who are the movers and shakers on the NFL odds board?

Betting the NFL Preseason
Betting the NFL preseason and regular season are mutually exclusive. The objective entirely different. In the former, it’s all about preparation for the regular season. Sorting the final roster – who makes the cut and who doesn’t – giving starters ample playing time to get into game form and, importantly, avoiding any serious injuries that would be detrimental to their campaign. That’s in stark contrast to the latter, which is essentially all about winning and making the playoffs.

What this dichotomy between the preseason and regular season means, for the most part, is that the litany of regular season stats can be rendered a moot point. NFL experts and pundits alike trot out stats before making their predictions and eventual NFL picks. Here, those cherished stats go out of the window. News and reports trickling out of training camps, paying attention to the ins and outs over the offseason and, even, social media and tweets may be the best resources available to NFL bettors when betting preseason games.

Another valuable resource NFL bettors have at their fingertips is the widespread play of backup quarterbacks in 2015. The list of starting quarterbacks injured included Tony Romo, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Jay Cutler and more. There was no shortage of disappointing backup play, but some did acquit themselves rather well if not out-and-out surprised many.

Quarterbacks, arguably, are one of integral to the game plan and, in turn, one of the main components towards determining point spreads. Knowing the value of the backup quarterback for each and every team can be therefore very useful towards judging the merit of any NFL line moves and making your NFL picks.

So with that in mind, we turn our attention to the NFL betting lines that are currently trading on the NFL odds board and spot the key movements that occurred since odds makers first went to press with these. There have been some intriguing moves.


NFL Thursday, August 11, 2016

Washington Redskins vs. Atlanta Falcons 
Opening Line: Falcons -3, Over/Under Total 37

The Falcons are trading as the -3 favourites at most sports betting outlets, a line that has held strong since opening doors. It’s worth noting the Falcons haven’t enjoyed a winning preseason since 2007, a run of form that includes 0-4 SU marks in 2011 and 2013. Dann Quinn’s record as a first-year head coach was 2-2 SU. So why is the line so high on the Falcons? Granted it’s partly down to home advantage with the game taking place under the dome. Mainly, it’s quite likely down to the contrasting backup quality. Falcons have veteran journeyman Matt Schaub at backup, who is deemed a quality backup compared to his Redskins counterparts that include Colt McCoy and Nate Sudfield. Other factors include Schaub’s familiarity with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterback coach Matt LeFleur. That said both sides have defensive issues and lack depth in the secondary.  As such, the Over/Under line is as high as 37, which is one of the highest totals on the NFL odds board going into week 1 of the NFL. An importantly, the movement is barely noticeable. Clearly, the expectations is a high scoring affair.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Lincoln Financial Field, 7 p.m. ET
Opening Line: Eagles -3, Over/Under Total 37.5
Preview: The Bucs vs. Eagles hangs on a 3-point spread with the hosts to the good. Post Chip Kelly era is still an unknown but the Eagles have Sam Bradford and home advantage for this game which contributes to their fancied outlook. As we know, the starter is unlikely to play much, so it comes down to backups, second overall draft pick Carson Wentz and Chase Daniel. Looks like the books favour the home side’s backups over their Tampa Bay counterparts which are interesting. Just as Bradford will see limited play so too will second-year quarterback Jameis Winston. It comes down to Mike Glennon more likely as the backup. As far as Glennon is concerned, he’s perhaps not getting his due in this game. He’s an able backup and his experience might be the deciding factor. There are a lot of uncertainties in both camps though with new coaching staff and wholesale changes, which has us thinking both the spread and total might be too high.


New Orleans Saints vs.  New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium, 7:30 p.m. ET
Opening Line: Patriots -4, Over/Under Total 39.5
Preview: Although there isn’t much to go on as far as Jimmy Garoppolo is concerned, Patriots fans are optimistic. Where the impact is felt is in the NFL betting lines that have come down, with the spread dropping from -4 to -3 at most sports betting shops. Similarly, the total has come down by half a point with most sportsbooks. In the broad spectrum of NFL betting the line moves aren’t exactly huge – bigger moves are to be had in week 1 of the regular season where the Patriots are now massive underdogs to the Cardinals. As far as the preseason game before us is concerned, we can deduce that Tom Brady was worth a point on the spread and half a point on the total against one of last season’s stragglers. Another way, unknown third-year backup Garoppolo is worth three points against a Saints team that struggled mightily and has massive holes on defense. It’ll be interesting to see whether the bookies have it right or whether they’ve overvalued the Patriots and undervalued the Saints. If the betting trends are any indication, the resounding answer is no. The Patriots have cornered more than 90% of spread bets. Wow.


Carolina Panthers vs. Baltimore Ravens, M&T Bank Stadium, 7:30 p.m. ET
Opening Line: PK, Over/Under Total 36.5
Preview: Although books opened this game as a pick’em, the NFL line has moved against the Super Bowl runners-up Carolina Panthers. As it is, the game currently hangs on a 1.5-point spread with the host's Ravens to the good. There were plenty of question marks hanging over the Ravens at the close of the 2015-2016 season, it remains to be seen whether John Harbaugh and the organisation have done their part. It’s also questionable how much we’ll see from the starter Joe Flacco, who is coming off ACL injury. All this makes the Carolina Panthers undeniably the better team. It’s really surprising the line has moved against them as it did, largely down to betting trends that seem to reveal NFL bettors are camping with the Ravens (51.2%).


Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New York Jets, MetLife Stadium, 7:30 p.m. ET
Opening Line: Jets -1.5, Over/Under Total 36.5
Preview: The Jets finally singed Ryan Fitzpatrick. The NFL line jumped up to 2.5-points, where it currently sits. Now, it’s worth pointing out Fitzpatrick is unlikely to play for more than a few series and Geno Smith is likely to get the bulk of the snaps. Hmm…. not sure he’s worth the 2.5-points. The Jets finished 10-6 SU last season and they have plenty of offensive and defensive morsels that are the envy of the league, but most won’t be playing this game. The backups will and they certainly don’t all measure up. Seems as if the public agrees with the bulk of the betting coming down the wire heading towards the Jags to cover.


Denver Broncos vs. Chicago Bears, Soldier Field, 8 p.m. ET
Opening Line: Bears -1.5, Over/Under Total 35
Preview: There doesn’t appear to be consensus with this game on the NFL odds board with some still hanging the game on a 1.5-point spread while others whittling it down to a Pick’em line. There are plenty of uncertainties in this game. Yes, Denver has the best defense but they won’t be on the field for very long. Broncos signed veteran journeyman and Eagles’ cast-off Mark Sanchez as their starter and they have Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian in the backup roles (who dat?). The Bears have John Fox, he’ll be on the sidelines for the entire game. The rest is up in the air. Pick’em sounds about right.  


NFL Friday, August 12, 2016

Detroit Lions vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, Heinz Field, 7 p.m. ET
Opening Line: Steelers -3.5, Over/Under Total 35.5
Preview: As it is, this game opened on one of the highest spreads – some books opened as high as 4-points. It’s come down to 3-points now ahead of Friday’s kick-off at Heinz Field. By all accounts, the Lions have looked good in practice and there are sure to be a lot of keeners in the backup core hoping to impress Caldwell. The Lions were atrocious last season so the idea is that many spots are up for grabs, theoretically at least. The Steelers were held back with injuries last season, mainly to Ben Roethlisberger. His absence revealed some inadequacies in the backup position – Landry Jones was hardly the answer. It prompted the return of Bruce Gradowski as the second-string quarterback this offseason... Mike Tomlin is sure to take a cautious approach with his starters and see what he gets out of his backups. That has us thinking the line might be too high and the value is more with the Lions and the points.


Miami Dolphins vs.  New York Giants, MetLife Stadium, 7 p.m. ET
Opening Line: Giants -3, Over/Under Total 36.5
Preview: While some sportsbooks persist with a 3-point line for this game, Pinnacle and 5Dimes have come down to 2.5-points. Understandably, home edge gives the Giants the edge on the NFL odds board, but there are certain things that make this a tossup game. Two new coaches in both camps – well, one more new than the other (Ben McAdoo was the offensive coordinator under Tom Coughlin). Essentially, a lot of change is going on in Miami while not as much in the Giants’ camp. Backup to backup – Ryan Nassib should handle the bulk of the workload for the Giants and he’s been around the system for some time, which does give him the edge over Adam Gase’s revamped Miami Dolphins.


Minnesota Vikings vs.  Cincinnati Bengals, Paul Brown Stadium, 7:30 p.m. ET
Opening Line: Bengals -3, Over/Under Total 35

Preview: Opinion is split on this game in NFL betting markets with some books going with the field goal advantage to the Bengals and others coming up just shy with a 2.5-point spread. The Vikings are a legitimate side in the eyes of many, but we’re not likely to see their starters play for very long. The edge tips towards the Bengals with AJ McCarron as the backup. Remember him? He fancied his moment last season could develop into another Tom-Brady-like Cinderella story. The shoe didn’t exactly fit, but he did redeem himself somewhat on the field briefly before it all went spectacularly wrong for the Bengals.


Cleveland Browns vs.  Green Bay Packers, Lambeau Field, 8 p.m. ET
Opening Line: Not Available
Preview: As it is, this game is still off the board. More likely than not odds makers prevaricate with this NFL betting line, knowing it’ll be bloody murders on the sports betting floor. One wonders whether this game will ever go to press because no matter what line it’s likely to be a money pit for the books. They are not in the habit of losing money. Nobody is high on the Cleveland Browns this season – that’s the starters. So what can anyone possibly expect from its second string? Could get ugly.


Oakland Raiders vs. Arizona Cardinals, U of Phoenix Stadium, 10 ET
Opening Line: Cardinals -3, Over/Under Total 37.5
Preview: The NFL betting line for this game continues to hang on 3-points with the Cardinals to the good. The NFC runners-up look to build on a stellar regular season in 2015 and no coach is better at getting his side prepared than Bruce Arians. The Raiders, meanwhile, are the team to spot in the eyes of many NFL bettors in 2016. This should be an interesting test for Oakland’s starters, assuming they get a few snaps against one the league’s best defenses. Otherwise, it’s a game between the backups and hopefuls, which does tip the edge still towards the hosts. Remember how Bruce Arians got the best out of his backup quarterbacks in the 2014-2015 season, hit the bottom of the barrel but still managed to get stoic performances to go through to the playoffs. That’s nothing to sniff at.


NFL Saturday, August 13, 2016

Seattle Seahawks vs. Kansas City Chiefs, Arrowhead Stadium, 4:30 p.m. ET
Opening Line: Chiefs -1.5, Over/Under Total 35.5
Preview: By and large, this pair is deemed serious contenders not only in their respective divisions but also conferences. It’s unlikely that either coach will risk too much, mindful of the health and fitness of their starters for the coming campaign. This could be a battle of the trenches between the backups and the hopefuls, appropriately hanging on a 1.5-point spread with the hosts to the good.


Indianapolis Colts vs.  Buffalo Bills, Ralph Wilson Stadium, 7 p.m. ET
Opening Line: Not Available
Preview: As of yet, no line is trading in this game. Check back later in the week.


Dallas Cowboys vs.  Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Opening Line: Rams -3, Over/Under Total 36
Preview: The nationally televised preseason showdown between Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams is the game many are keen to see for two reasons. Cowboys’ lack of depth at the quarterback position were exposed in no uncertain terms when Tony Romo succumbed to an injury. Out of three backup quarterbacks, the Cowboys manage to wriggle a breathtaking 1-11 SU record.  It’ll be interesting to see what backup prospects Cowboys’ fans can hope for as the danger of Romo suffering another injury is very real. On the flipside of the coin, Rams could be trotting out their prized possession No.1 NFL draft pick Jared Goff. Well, if Case Keenum is really the starter for the Rams now Goff should play lots. He could have a good day against a Cowboys side that is questionable in its depth.


San Diego Chargers vs. Tennessee Titans, Nissan Stadium, 8 p.m. ET
Opening Line: Titans -3, Over/Under Total 35.5
Preview: The Tennessee Titans are unlikely to be a great team in the regular season, but they go into the preseason as the field-goal favourites over the Chargers, who struggled something huge last season. We don’t see Philip Rivers getting up for this clash, nor the Chargers who still have plenty of holes. The Titans are youthful, eager and developing. They could put in a good preseason account, particularly in this game. The field goal advantage sounds about right.


NFL Sunday, August 14, 2016

Houston Texans vs.  San Francisco 49ers, Levi’s Stadium, 7 p.m. ET
Opening Line: 49ers -3, Over/Under Total 35
Preview: The NFL betting hasn’t wavered since opening doors, sat pretty on 3-points with the 49ers to the good. The question is who the starter and backup are for the 49ers is? Chip Kelly wants both Kaepernick and Gabbert to lock horns in the preseason to help him make this decision. As such, the edge goes to the Niners on the NFL odds board over and above home advantage. Texans are nursing injuries already to their starters so they’re unlikely to risk much in this game, and certainly not their prized new quarterback nicked from Denver, Brock Osweiler.

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