Week 1 of NFL action is now in the books. It is a little early to start talking about some team trends, but we can take a look at the macro view and see some overall league-wide themes.
I want to caution everyone that 16 games does not make a reasonable sample size to start making any hard and fast determinations. The variance is too great with a sample that small to really say anything for certain.
That does not mean the information is useless, though. We can start looking at these numbers as a roadmap. Now that we have some data, we can start to see if any trends are emerging that we should keep an eye on. I did find a few interesting things in the numbers that we should be watching going forward.
If you are a moneyline bettor who likes to play dogs, you had a great opening weekend. We had a full schedule of games this week, and underdogs won nine of them outright on the closing line. The Steelers, Eagles, Cardinals, Dolphins, Texans, Saints, Chargers, Bengals and Raiders all won at plus money in Week 1. The Chargers closed as a one-point dog at even money to win outright, but that game was every bit the coinflip we expected it to be. They opened as a one-point favorite, but numbers are very fluid down there around zero. Still, a dog is a dog, and they pulled off the W. Both teams closed on some books at -105 and -110 in that one. Other dogs paid out much better odds for their wins. Dogs were 9-7 on the day outright and even better with a 12-4 record ATS. You could have made a big profit betting every dog on the moneyline in Week 1. Even betting a unit on each dog ATS would have yielded over a 3-unit day on standard -110 spread bets.
Good teams win, great teams cover
We had 12 underdogs cash spread bets in Week 1, and nine of them were outright winners. That means we had three teams that did not win their games but managed to cover the spread in a losing effort. The Dallas Cowboys were the first Thursday night, losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but rewarding their backers by covering. If you bet the 49ers -7.5 early in the week, you made the right call and were rewarded with a winning ticket. This is why we always stress the importance of getting down on a line early in the week if you think it’s not right. Check out the early-look video so you don’t end up like those who procrastinated on the 49ers. If you waited until kickoff to take the -8.5 or -9 in the market, you had a gut-wrenching loss. The Lions roared back from down 21 to steal a backdoor cover for the +8.5 and +9 bettors out there and pushed on the -8 after the initial line moved up. The third team to win and not cover was the Chiefs. Cleveland and Baker Mayfield also had a lead they lost late. Moral victories mean nothing in the standings, but Browns backers are happy they covered, which does continue an alarming trend of the Chiefs winning and not covering that we spoke about last season.
That only leaves four remaining teams that were favored, won and covered the spread in Week 1 — the Los Angeles Rams, Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers. The opening line in the Carolina game on DraftKings Sportsbook was +5.5. The final score was 19-14, so if you took that +5.5 Sunday or Monday when it was still available, that actually means we had another dog cover vs. the opening line. All four of these teams moved up slightly in the FTNBets Power Rankings this week. This was a bad week for favorites, but remember it’s still too small of a sample to make any definitive statements about it being a trend.
This is a much larger question that others who look at very different numbers can answer better than I can. I look at it only from the betting perspective. You can see the ATS results and totals in our chart on FTNBets. In the first week of the NFL season, we had seven games go over, nine under. That makes sense, as books do tend to shade to the high side on totals and favorites as the public tends to want to bet both of those a little heavier. What this does do however is point out how hard it is to beat this market. You grinded out a small total profit of just over 1 unit if you invested 1 unit in the under of each game. I would not advise this strategy at all. This trend will tend to even out over the course of the season and not really lean to heavily in one direction or the other. Total bets are more game-specific than an overarching theme I would try to exploit.