Identifying Week 1 NFL Underdogs in Pursuit of Profit
We're back for a seventh straight year posting only NFL underdog picks at Off Shore Gaming Association. Fairway's Football Forecast comes off another winning season in 2022 going 32-26 ATS, which followed a 28-12 ATS 70% season with 21 outright winners in 2021. The 6-year record is now 162-117 (58.1%) with 92 outright winners selecting only underdogs with our NFL point spread picks.
Week 1 of the NFL season is a unique challenge. Perception can override reality, as last year's top teams and playoff participants get much more love and accolades than the bottom teams looking to rebound and rebuild off a losing season. That often sets up contrary calls and results. With Week 1 betting lines being available to bet since the NFL schedules were announced in May, there is more line movement.
This season we will also shoot to get our early considerations for underdog picks out by Wednesday. We'll include some official underdog picks at that time with an understanding of potential line moves and an earlier position on our picks and bets. But the final weekly Fairway Forecast will be updated on this same page Friday after reviewing the injury reports with the potential to periodically add any additional picks over the weekend.
Here were the Week 1 lines from early August at BetMGM Sportsbook at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Compare to the current lines, odds and totals as you make you picks and bets.
Regardless of our early results, know there will be stretches of winning and losing streaks during the season with some fortunate bounces and unfortunate turnover troubles that can cause frustration when watching and wagering on football. Last season started 6-4 ATS in Weeks 1-2 with a higher volume of plays including 4-3 ATS in Week 1. We had a 9-0 ATS run over four weeks into Week 16.
The wait is almost over. NFL Week 1 bet count:— Dave Mason (@DaveMasonBOL) September 5, 2023
68% KC -6.5 v DET
63% ATL -3.5 v CAR
54% BAL -10 v HOU
67% CIN -2.5 @ CLE
83% JAX -4.5 @ IND
56% MIN -5.5 v TB
61% TEN +3 @ NO
53% PIT +2.5 v SF
62% WSH -7 v AZ
56% GB +1 @ CHI
60% LV +3.5 @ DEN
66% MIA +3 @ LAC
76% PHI -3.5 @ NE
NFL Week 1 Underdog Picks Leans, Opinions, Considerations
Detroit (+6.5) at Kansas City
Cleveland (+2.5) vs Cincinnati
Chicago (-1) vs Green Bay
Las Vegas (+4) at Denver
Detroit (+4.5) at Kansas City
Miami (+3) at Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles Rams (+5.5) at Seattle
New York Giants (+3.5) vs Dallas (SNF)
New York Jets (+2.5) vs Buffalo (MNF)
Betting Angle: Divisional home underdogs are 17-7-1 straight up (SU) and 21-4 against the spread (ATS) in Week 1 since 2009.
Also, BetUS reports that all Week 1 underdogs have hit nearly 56% ATS the last 10 seasons going 87-69-4 ATS with divisional 'Dogs 35-15-1 ATS (70%) home or away. There are eight division games in Week 1.
Big news late Tuesday as Chiefs TE Travis Kelce was injured in practice with a hyperextened knee. That moved Thursday's opening line from -6.5 to -4.5 at BetOnline with the line ranging from -4 to -5 at other leading online sportsbooks. The update Wednesday on Kelce is being called a 'bone bruise', and he's still likely to play Week 1. We had the Lions +6.5 in our Underdog Picks below having included earlier Tuesday, but have since removed with the notable line change. The total has also dipped 2 points to 52.5. I was traveling Tuesday and there was some issues with CMS getting our picks and early considerations posted.
Update: The Lions beat the Chiefs 21-20 Thursday night to kickoff Week 1, and the betting line closed KC -3.5 at many leading online sportsbooks as the most bet game of Week 1.
Fairway's Forecast - NFL Week 1 Underdog Picks
Cleveland (+2.5) vs Cincinnati - Browns Moneyline +120
Las Vegas (+4) at Denver - Raiders Moneyline +170
Chicago (-1) vs Green Bay - Bears Moneyline -115
New York (2.5) vs Buffalo - Jets Moneyline +125
Currently, leading online sportsbook BetMGM has the most bets and money on the Kansas City Chiefs with the Eagles, Commanders, Ravens, Jaguars and Bills also drawing more money (handle) as favorites. Recreational and public bettors will again be betting a majority of favorites this season, but you can follow Fairway's Forecast and cash in more on the underdogs.
Cincinnati at Cleveland - Week 1 Division 'Dog angle (21-4 ATS) in play on the Browns, who are an embarrassing 2-21-1 SU in opening week games since 1999. We don't like Dipsh*t QB Deshawn Watson, and think the world of Joe Burrow, who has an elite receiving core and look like a top-tier offense again. Burrow returns to start Week 1 following a preseason leg injury and now the highest paid player in NFL history. But emotions aside, the Browns can chug along with RB Nick Chubb with an expected rushing edge and > 120 yards on the ground overall. Watson should be able to attack a Bengals secondary that lost both starting safeties. The Browns have upgraded talent with new additions on defense along with new coordinator Jim Schwartz, and the defensive front will be strout and strong. Cleveland has surprisingly beat the Bengals in 5-of-6 facing Joe Burrow and 8 of the last 10. Take the 'Dog in the Dawg pound and add the Browns to you're teaser bets.
Green Bay at Chicago - This line was Bears -3 months ago and Pk 'em within the last week and still PK at PointsBet/Fanatics. Green Bay has taken more bets, and select online sportsbooks may get back to pick 'em Sunday. A few times per season we may include home favorites of 2 points or less who are essentially priced like an underdog. The Bears season win total is 7.5 this season following just 3 wins last season. Chicago also enters 2023 on a 10-game losing streak (2-8 ATS) to close last season despite leading the league in rushing (177/game) with QB Justin Fields contributing more than 1,100 rushing yards and 8 TD's on the ground. How can that be? Fields can be clueless and careless with the football, and a poor passer. But Fields has fewer excuses now with an upgraded receiving core. Unfortunately, the Bears defense ranked at the bottom of the league last year with the Lions, allowing more than 6.0 yards per play. But the Packers allowed 5.8, and Chicago has upgrades at linebacker. Is it enough? No, but they get to face new Packers QB Jordan Love, who had only 86 passing plays in his first two seasons and a poor interception rate to boot. The Bears league-best rushing attack ran the ball 32.8 times per game last season, and no team was more frustrating to support the second half of last season with their dominant ground game losing game after game SU/ATS. But this matchup plays into our proven rushing guidelines again, and we plan to rush to the window with a Bears division win. Toss the trends and Packers dominance in this series with Green Bay having won 8 straight and 13 of the last 14 over the Bears. There will be no Love for Packers fans and bettors with their new offensive leader.
Most bet OVERS by bets/tickets -- DET/KC, MIA/LAC, HOU/BAL.
Most bet UNDERS -- CAR/ATL, CIN/CLE, PHI/NE
Our QB updates show that during the 2023 preseason, nine teams did not play their starting quarterbacks. These teams have not done too well in Week 1, or the offenses have not been as efficienct. One was the Detroit Lions, who did win (our bet too), but still were average overall with 368 yards at 5.4 yards per play versus the Chiefs. So monitor and bet accordingly noting these nine teams and starting quarterbacks.
Ravens, Bengals, Cowboys, Lions, Chargers, Rams, Eagles, Titans, Vikings.
Also, I'm avoiding the rookie (Bro) quarterbacks making their debut, and money has come in against these three teams. Panthers QB Bryce Young, Texans QB C.J. Stroud, Colts QB Anthony Richardson, and even Packers QB Jordan Love now taking over as a former Round 1 pick who sat behind Aaron Rodgers the last three years. Also, ESPN reports that the past eight No. 1 overall picks at QB have a combined 33 QBR and 0-7-1 record in Week 1.
In the 1980s, only five rookie quarterback's throughout the decade got the start in Week 1. Same for the 1990s. That number nearly doubled to nine for the whole of the 2000s, then jumped to 18 rookie QB starters opening a season over the previous decade. Already this decade, seven rookie QBs will have been pressed into starting duty from the beginning.
We'll add insight, analysis and ATS info with our picks by Friday. Check back this weekend for any updates, additions and information you can bet on.
FairwayJay is a proven sports handicapper with unparalleled success in NFL pointspread prognosis. Fairway is recognized as one of the sports industry's insightful analysts, and he chips in additional sports betting coverage and reporting on industry news and events. Follow FairwayJay here at OSGA.com and on X (Twitter) @FairwayJay for more sports betting insights.