Contrary NFL Week 1 Betting

Every team that made the NFL playoffs last year is favored in Week 1, but history has shown opening week of the NFL season to favor the 'Dogs.

The 2018 NFL season kicks off this week and the Week 1 lines have been bet into place at the leading online sportsbooks in recent weeks since being released back in April. Who will pull off the upsets and surprise the fans and bettors that expect most of last year’s playoff teams to be strong again? We have some Week 1 guidelines to show you some of the contrary nature of betting the NFL.

The Eagles and Falcons kickoff the season on Thursday, Sept. 6 and defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia is down to a -2.5-point favorite. Recall last season when the previous Super Bowl champion Patriots opened at home as a 9-point favorite and were tomahawked by the Kansas City Chiefs 42-27.

Trends don’t pay the rent, and many of them are fool’s gold when bet blindly. They provide something to talk about and reference for the talking heads and handicappers that like to make a case for their picks and plays. But don’t buy or bet into trends. Instead look at the fundamental match-ups as a primary focus and evaluate meaningful stats as you project player performances, game flow and forecasts. Situations surrounding the contest (scheduling, injuries and suspensions, weather) should be factored in and some technical (patterns) and ATS situations with relevance can be referenced.

As part of the contrary nature of betting the NFL, we do note how bettors tend to ‘trend’ towards betting the better teams (especially Week 1), and that would include last year’s playoff teams. The lines tend to be shaded based on last year’s results, and the public’s perception and reference is similar.

As such, we note that in Week 1 since 2003, non-playoff teams are 55-38 Against the Spread (ATS) when facing an opponent that made the playoffs last season. That’s better than 59% winners over the past 15 years. The sample size will be over 100 games after Week 1 this year.

NFL week 1 oddsThis situation makes sense when understanding the public’s preference for playing on last year’s playoff teams against teams perceived to be ‘bad’ again to start the new season. Right off the bat we can see some underdogs that fit this situation and how the lines are set with last year’s results providing some influence combined with the public and perception in mind. Bold teams are last year’s playoff teams. All of them are favored in Week 1, and five are on the road against non-playoff teams last season.

Steelers -5.5 at Browns   Titans -1.5 at Dolphins
Vikings -6 vs 49ers   Chiefs +3 at Chargers
Jaguars -3 at NY Giants   Panthers -3 vs Cowboys
Saints -9.5 vs Buccaneers   LA Rams -4.5 at Oakland
Patriots -6.5 vs Texans    

Year-after-year we see turnover and improved play and performance from teams not expected to do well following losing seasons the previous year. The Eagles won the Super Bowl last season after going 7-9 the previous year and finishing last in the NFC East. The Eagles played the Vikings in the NFC Championship and Minnesota was 8-8 the previous year. The biggest turnaround last season was by the Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6), who won the AFC South and advanced to the AFC Championship game after going 3-13 the previous season.

This year we suggest that the Cleveland Browns will make a huge turnaround after a winless season last year (0-16), and become one of the season’s surprising teams and even have a chance at a winning record and the playoffs. A week 1 lower-scoring victory to snap their laughable losing streak should not be considered such a big surprise for the Browns.

You can bet on it.

FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay

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