Week 1’s Biggest Question Marks & How Uncertainties Can Lead to Profits

Saturday, September 2, 2017 1:40 PM UTC

Saturday, Sep. 2, 2017 1:40 PM UTC

Every NFL team has plenty of unanswered questions exiting the preseason. Here’s a couple of head-scratchers piquing our interest, some of which may pay off in the Week 1 betting market.

Will the Atlanta Falcons & Oakland Raiders rebound from winless preseasons?

Studies show team performances in the NFL exhibition period tells us virtually nothing about regular season outcomes. The tune-up is more about player evaluations, playbooks, and fundamentals rather than wins and losses. Still, who likes to see their team go 0-4? Zero. Why? Cause winless preseason teams own one single Super Bowl victory: the 1982 Washington Redskins. That championship can be called into question, too, as a NFL lockout shortened the regular season to 9 games. Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1966, only two others have even played for the Lombardi Trophy: the Bills (1990) and Giants (2000).

The Falcons and Raiders each went 0-4 in the 2017 NFL preseason. This is bad news for Super Bowl futures bettors. Oakland is one of the most heavily bet teams to win it all in early wagering behind the Patriots, Packers, and Cowboys. Atlanta, meanwhile, is the sixth favorite (+1400) on the betting odds at 5Dimes to avenge their loss from last season. Pass.

Each team will enter the regular season a bit inflated in value, the Falcons especially. Many bettors will run across the Super Bowl hangover trend in the next few days that show losers of the big game are 6-11 SU and 3-14 ATS in Week 1 since 2000. For what it’s worth, Super Bowl winners (Patriots) are 14-3 SU and 11-4-2 ATS in openers during this time. The bigger concern with Atlanta is this: including the playoffs, it covered the number by 6.6 points per game last season, tops in the NFL. Expect reversion closer to expectations, particularly in the first half of the new season.

Are the New York Jets that bad?

Yes. The Jets stink. They are tanking. The rebuilding mode is in full throttle with the unexpected trade of DE Sheldon Richardson to Seattle on Friday for WR Jermaine Kearse and a 2018 second-round draft pick. But should New York be catching up to 8.5 points at the Bills on Sunday? That’s a lot of points for a divisional matchup between two unknown teams.

Buffalo is dealing with a litany of changes, including new leadership, operations, playbooks, formations, and the like. The Bills secondary is vulnerable on paper and the offense is lacking playmaking abilities in the wideout positions. A potential inability to create much through the air, or slow the pass, is a bad mixture for allowing opponents to keep games close. The gap between these two is not as large as the line indicates. Both will be sub .500 teams.

Consider this trend: Since 1998, home teams kicking off the year against division opponents are 2-20 ATS when their scoring margin difference from the previous season is greater than 6.5 points. The average line in this spot is a touchdown. Buffalo’s 2016 points differential equaled 1.3, while the Jets tallied a -8.4 mark. Lean New York against the spread.

Will the Dallas Cowboys regress?

The above-mentioned Week 1 division matchup trend also applies to the Cowboys-Giants opener on Sunday night. Some fans are convinced the Cowboys will regress after a 13-3 2016 regular season. The jury is definitely out. The dominant offensive line from last season has three fresh faces, the defense made few—if any—improvements, and star running back Ezekiel Elliott wrapped up in a legal war with the NFL, may or may not be suspended for 6 games. Injuries, salary cap limitations, and off-field drama tend to embroil “Jerry World” prior to each season, but this year the magnitude feels greater. And by the way, the NFC East has not crowned a repeat champion since the 2004 Philadelphia Eagles.

The New York Giants will offer a stern test in Week 1. Early wagering has moved the line down to -3.5 points in favor of the Cowboys. Since 1998, road dogs of 4 points or less are 50-32 ATS in NFC East divisional matchups. In September, the record is 17-3 ATS.

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