Week 1: Arguably the most exciting week in sports. Unlike that league Kevin Durant ruined back on July 4, 2016, every NFL team still has a shot to join the pantheon of Super Bowl winners, and perhaps more importantly, every fantasy owner is still undefeated.
However, in addition to the uniquely fresh start this week provides each team, it provides an equally intriguing outlook for us bettors. After all, what do we base best bets on when exactly zero season-long trends have surfaced? If you’ve read my NFL Over/Under Win Total Column a couple weeks back, you may be onto the answer, because the beauty of Week 1 is that a team can be vastly over- or under-rated prior to any games being played. If we can properly identify which teams fall into each bucket, Week 1 should be quite the profitable one for all of us.
With that being said, my first best bet of the season should not come as a surprise. Here we go! (HOME teams in all caps).
MIAMI (+1.5) OVER Tennessee – 2 Units
I know, I know. The Dolphins lost perhaps their two best players in Jarvis Landry and Ndamukong Suh this offseason, and the Titans are coming off a second-round playoff berth. I get that backing the Miami Dolphins isn’t flashy or fun. But check out these trends:
- Since Adam Gase took over in 2016, Miami is 5-3-1 against the spread as home underdogs (9-13-2 in all other games). The single best bet you can make is taking a home underdog in general, and Miami under Gase has been particularly good in these spots.
- Since Marcus Mariota took the helm for Tennessee in 2015, the Titans are 2-5 against the spread as away favorites, and have the third-worst against-the-spread record in the NFL (20-28-3).
- Despite finishing with a 9-7 season and a playoff berth a season ago, the Titans finished with a -22 point differential. Historically speaking, point differentials are not only a bigger indicator of future performance than prior-season record, but also are not factored into the public opinion of a team as significantly (and thus, not considered enough in this Week 1 line).
- After a Week 2 win at Jacksonville, Tennessee finished 2-5 away from Nashville in 2017, with the only wins coming versus the Andrew-Luck-less Colts, and the Cleveland Browns, who literally did not win a game last season. For those wondering, one of those five road losses did come at the hands of the Jay-Cutler-led Miami Dolphins.
- Jay Cutler is no longer the Miami Dolphins quarterback. The sneaky-decent Ryan Tannehill (13th in QBR in his last season – 2016) is now leading the way.
I think I’ve made my point. Let’s get to our next bet:
OTHER BET I’LL DABBLE WITH
Two-Team, 6.5-Point Teaser:
1) NEW ORLEANS (-3) OVER Tampa Bay;
2) BALTIMORE (-1) OVER Buffalo – 1 Unit
I’ll be the first to admit that they’re called “teasers” for a reason, but here are a couple of questions we asked ourselves before determining that this one was worth our while:
- Question #1: If forced to bet on each individual game, would we have taken the sides we are taking in this teaser?
- Answer #1: Believe it or not, some of us get trigger-happy on the teasers from time to time. Make sure you would at least lean with each of the two teams you are selecting on the standard line before deciding to tease them. Keep in mind, both of the two results have to win to make money, so each leg of the teaser needs to hit 75% of the time in order to be a profitable bet.
- Question #2: Does making this teaser make mathematical sense?
- Answer #2: If a team is a 3-point favorite, it does not make much sense to tease them from +3 to -3, as games rarely end with a zero, one, or two-point margin. However, if a team is favored by an amount between 6 and 10, it could make some sense to tease the game down to 0-3 points. Remember, every team’s goal is to win its game outright, not cover the spread. Therefore, backing favorites in a way that merely requires them to come out with the W can be profitable.
After evaluating each of the two questions, we came out with a resounding “yes” on this bet. Let’s start with Baltimore-Buffalo:
While Buffalo made the postseason a year ago, it’s safe to say everything that happened since has gone about as poorly as humanly possible. However, even before the downgrade from Tyrod Taylor to (gulp) Nathan Peterman, Buffalo was already a prime regression candidate for 2018. Like Tennessee, the Bills finished with a 9-7 record, a playoff appearance, and a negative (57) point differential a season ago. (Baltimore finished with a 9-7 record as well, but had a positive 92-point differential).
As for the New Orleans-Tampa Bay matchup, we have a fresh, hungry Saints team that knows its window to win another Super Bowl for Drew Brees is closing. In fact, the Saints’ management has gone “all in,” trading next year’s first round pick to acquire a pass rusher (Marcus Davenport) in this year’s draft. This mindset, coupled with New Orleans’ top-five home-field advantage and a healthy dose of Alvin Kamara, leads me to believe the Saints should win this one comfortably. Ryan Fitzpatrick and the uninspiring cast of Buccaneers present nothing that makes me believe they can spring the upset here, so give me the Saints teased down to 3.
I had a ton of fun writing for you all last year, and can’t wait to get this season underway. It’s time to get off to a good start – good luck us!