When Tony Romo and Teddy Bridgewater went down, sharp bettors started loading up on their football picks. But have the Minnesota Vikings just foiled their plans?
How important are starting quarterbacks in the NFL? Just ask the Dallas Cowboys. Tony Romo only made four starts last year because of injury; the Cowboys went 3-1 SU and 2-2 ATS in those four games, 1-11 SU and 2-9-1 ATS the rest of the way. So it makes perfect sense that sharp bettors are fading the Cowboys with their Week 1 NFL picks, now that Romo is once again on the shelf with a bad back.
Then you have Teddy Bridgewater and the Minnesota Vikings. Bridgewater is gone for the year – and maybe longer – after royally messing up his left knee in practice. There's been some debate about whether back-up QB Shaun Hill is good enough to keep the Vikings afloat (I was one of the Hill People), but that's moot now: Minnesota just acquired Sam Bradford from the Philadelphia Eagles. Did the sharps end up shooting themselves in the foot by fading the Vikings in Week 1?
All About the Clevelands
Make no mistake: The wiseguys have gone deep into their wallets for these two contests. According to our expanded consensus reports, the Tennessee Titans are drawing the largest average bets for next Sunday's matchup with Minnesota, pulling in $1,142 a pop as 1-point home dogs on the NFL odds board. And the New York Giants are next at $715 for their Sunday tilt (4:25 p.m. ET, FOX) with the Cowboys, which is now a pick 'em as we go to press after Dallas opened as a 3.5-point home chalk.
As with any polling situation, you can't take the consensus numbers as pure gospel, but these massive bet sizes almost surely point to sharp action. Recreational bettors tend to make much smaller investments with their football picks; the vast majority of the 32 teams playing in Week 1 are looking at wagers around $50 or so. In theory, when the sharps make their voices heard, we can bet on the same teams with more confidence. In theory.
Here at the home office, we're considering the Giants as a potential value pick for Week 1, even with the line moving as far as it has. The Cowboys have a strong offensive line and a promising rookie running back in Ezekiel Elliott, who racked up 6.7 yards per carry in his three years at Ohio State. But they also have a rookie QB in Dak Prescott who wasn't drafted until the fourth round. It's less than ideal against a Giants team that figures to improve on its 2015 campaign.
We like Tennessee to keep improving, too, but it feels like we've been saying that about the Titans for quite some time. Minnesota has most of what the Cowboys have, plus something more: one of the best defenses in the NFL. Hill wouldn't have been that much of a downgrade from Bridgewater in our eyes. Bradford can be even better if he stays healthy – always a big “if” in his case. The Vikings were 3-point faves before the Bridgewater injury; maybe they're a value pick now that Bradford's on board. Give this game a close look before the lines start moving in the other direction, and may the prolate spheroid is with you.