I know, I know...you've got to be kidding. The NFL has barely drafted through the first round and I'm handicapping games for the first week of September. The NBA still hasn't reached Round Two of the playoffs after two long weeks. I'm agonizing about opportunity where the best value is and "what the line is telling us" for a Tampa Bay-Atlanta game.
That's right. Many preferred offshore sportsbooks are beginning to post lines this week and next for NFL Week One. Like birds and tree buds are a first sign of Spring, the NFL draft has become the firing pistol signifying the race for betting 2016 regular season NFL games has official begun. If you can possibly ignore the meaningless four game pre-season in August, here's a chance to apply unique wisdom for an entire set of games, truly different than the other 16-week slate.
Handicapping the opening week reminds me of betting horses that have never run a race. As much as we'd like to think we can judge some kind of "past performance", we are really applying our opinion on what happened last season. That is the biggest mistake as ALL these teams will be lining up with a huge amount of new players on the roster, both on offense and defense. The annual shake-up of NFL coaches is also in place, no different than any other previous season. Even the most experienced fan would be hard-pressed to name all 32 coaches if they offered an honest test (or a bet). Add it all up and only a fool should be using the same measuring guide as last December or January.
All a Bunch of Cold Air
Where would an NFL first week mystery or controversy start without "The Brady Bunch". Exactly like last year, this off-season kicks-off surrounding the court adventures of QB Tom Brady pleading his Deflategate case to the U.S. Second Appeals Court and maybe even the U.S. Supreme Court. A last desperate attempt to avoid an opening 4-game suspension guiding the New England Patriots. Deflated footballs in a long forgotten playoff game have already cost the Pats this year's first round draft choice and now will more likely cost New England their Hall of Fame QB not only the first four games but part of their future.
Looking back last year is really interesting and quite funny how it turned out. And I proudly judged a Supreme Court lesson on just how bettors can take advantage of these issues with good judgement, luck and proper timing.
While no one thought Brady and the Patriots had a chance of winning his 2015 appeal, most preferred sportsbooks including Bovada, Diamond Sports, BetOnline and others severely dropped New England down from an April line of -7 to -1 for their opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Patriots Super Bowl dreams plus the line were inflated in August when Brady won his appeal to start the season. The line was raised back to -7 to -7.5 in Nevada and most offshore sportsbooks.
As if it was written as a script, the Patriots controlled the entire game under a confident Brady, leading 28-14 going into the last minute of play. A turnover provided the Steelers a last second TD pass from QB Ben Roethlisberger to WR Antonio Brown. Steelers bettors rejoiced, covering a +7.5 to +8 final line in the NBC Thursday Night Football opener. No appeal for anyone who wagered on the Patriots as they had two to three months to get their bet down to collect.
NFL Déjà vu
I am NOT suggesting at all it looks as good for Tommy this time. Most legal experts give him little to no chance overturning his appeal before the season starts and the difference is again found in the opening line. In the opener for Sunday Night Football the New England Patriots WERE a -1 favorite on the road vs. the Arizona Cardinals. Currently the Cardinals are listed as a -5.5 favorite at Bookmaker.eu and are other top online sportsbooks are expected to follow suit. I would sit on the bench for this one. The only sure thing is Brady working 24 hours a day until opening day quarterbacking his appeal.
Opening Day Trend
Keep in mind the other major opportunity to exploit for opening day. Like no other NFL weekend the lines change rapidly compared to what is posted now and in fact what are posted the day of the game. Again, if that favorite saying "the line is telling you something" is true, it is being screamed and will be on NFL opening Sunday, September 11th.
A perfect example. Exactly a year ago the Indianapolis Colts were posted as an early -4.5 favorite at Buffalo against the Bills. The line opened at -3.5 at most offshore sportsbooks. Then an hour before the game an avalanche of money poured in on the Bills dropping Buffalo to a -1 favorite. Like it was foretelling the Colts season and Andrew Luck's injury problems, the Bills roared to a 17-0 halftime lead and never looked back winning 27-14. It seemed everybody knew something and Lesson II on how to make a killing watching the lines for Week One. We were all in love with Andrew Luck but didn't notice the major changes affecting the entire team rosters compared to the year before.
NFL Opening Day 2016
A few selected sportsbooks have posted lines but watch for all major online sportsbooks to put out regular Week One wagering lines after this week's NFL draft is completed. A nice snapshot is available a Vegas Insider. Just like you could have bet Hillary for President at Even Money on February 1st, you might have a chance getting down on the Patriots at +5.5. And if Tommy somehow convinces the Supreme Court of his innocence before Labor Day, he'll be starting and whipping the Cards 35-14. Everybody else might have to bet the Pats -1.
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, inlcuding previews and picks from Glenn, click here.