Week 1 NFL Odds Already Seeing Early Line Movement

Jason Lake

Friday, August 29, 2014 1:20 PM GMT

The 2014 regular season begins this Thursday, and there’s something for everyone on the NFL odds board, from pick ‘ems to double-digit favorites. Which Week 1 football lines are getting the most action from NFL bettors?

Betting on preseason football is all good. But it’s still preseason football. Everyone’s looking forward to the real thing, when the games actually count in the standings, and the usual NFL betting strategies can be unleashed. The wait’s nearly over: Week 1 of the 2014 regular season begins Thursday night at the home of the reigning Super Bowl champions. And it ends with a Monday Night Football double-header on the Worldwide Leader. Mashed potatoes~!

The Week 1 NFL betting lines wait for no man. They’ve been open since May, and with all the events that took place over the summer, few of these lines have remained unchanged. We take a look at the three biggest movers and shakers and decide what’s causing all this commotion before locking in our NFL picks.

 

Sunday: New Orleans at Atlanta (1:00 p.m., FOX)
So much for regression analysis. The Falcons (4-12 SU, 7-9 ATS last year) were earmarked for a bounce-back 2014 campaign based on their 6.5 Estimated Wins in 2013, as calculated by Football Outsiders. Atlanta opened on May 13 as a 1.5-point home chalk against the New Orleans Saints (11-5 SU, 8-8 ATS). And almost immediately, the NFL betting market pounced on the Saints. By the start of the preseason, this matchup was a pick ‘em. Now the NFL odds have the Saints favored by 2.5 points as we go to press.

It hasn’t been the best preseason for the Falcons. They lost LT Sam Baker for the year thanks to a torn patellar tendon. Then they lost a potential replacement in RT Mike Johnson, who suffered a Lisfranc injury after missing all of last season with a dislocated ankle. QB Matt Ryan ate a career-high 44 sacks in 2013, and while part of that is due to Ryan’s career-high 651 pass attempts (second only behind Peyton Manning’s 659 attempts), Atlanta’s O-line also ranked No. 24 in run blocking efficiency. Could be another long year in the ATL after all.

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Sunday: Cleveland at Pittsburgh (1:00 p.m., CBS)
Stay away from second-hand smoke, kids. The Browns (4-12 SU, 6-10 ATS) are officially minus WR Josh Gordon and his league-best 1,646 receiving yards, thanks to a drug test that Gordon reportedly failed by the slimmest of margins. In this case, the Ross Rebagliati Defense didn’t work, and Gordon was suspended for the entire 2014 season.

That’s the main reason the Browns have moved from +5 to +6.5 in their season opener at Heinz Field against the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8 SU, 9-7 ATS). Gordon is head-and-shoulders the best wideout on the team; next up on the depth chart are Andrew Hawkins (12 catches last year) and a pair of veteran castoffs in Miles Austin (24 catches with Dallas) and Nate Burleson (39 catches with Detroit). Also, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam paid the government $92 million last month to avoid criminal charges for fraud – charges which Haslam may end up facing anyway. Failure starts at the top.

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Sunday: San Francisco at Dallas (4:25 p.m., FOX)
In the merry, merry month of May, the Cowboys (8-8 SU, 9-7 ATS) opened as 3.5-point road dogs against the mighty San Francisco 49ers (12-4 SU, 11-5 ATS). Once again, the football betting universe opened up its wallet on the favorites, pumping the NFL odds all the way up to 5.5 points at press time. Everybody hates the Cowboys.

It hasn’t been the best offseason down in Big D. There’s been a mass exodus of name players like Austin and DE DeMarcus Ware; again, though, many of these names were well past their “best before” dates. The season-ending knee injury to LB Sean Lee will be more difficult on Dallas. Having DE Anthony Spencer start 2014 on the PUP list won’t help, either. Good thing the ‘Boys have the requisite six games this year against NFC East opponents and four more against the AFC South.

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