It was a strange opening weekend in the NFL. Of course, most weeks in the NFL are a bit strange - that’s why it’s such a wildly popular league. Some things went according to expectations, but a whole lot didn’t. Here’s a look at some of the interesting betting trends that emerged in the opening week of action – these can always help with your Week 2 NFL picks:
Good teams weren’t ready - This is what is most striking of all to me. There were a lot of teams - more than normal - that were held in high regard that just didn’t show up for the opening week. Minnesota looked incompetent on offense and New Orleans wasnt a whole lot better in the opener. Cincinnati was a total mess and only made their game look respectable in garbage time. Indianapolis looked uninspired and were soundly beaten. Atlanta was facing a strong defense from Pittsburgh, but they still should have looked sharper than they did. Miami didn’t capitalize on Buffalo’s team-wide weaknesses like they should have been able to. Philadelphia struggled until the most controversial backup in the league was forced into action - Vick looked like he had taken a time machine back four or five years. The Jets were simply awful and should be highly flattered to have only lost to Baltimore by one point. Tight end Dustin Keller made perhaps the stupidest play of the week when on fourth down he stepped out of bounds a foot short of the first down marker late in the game. San Diego fell victim to the curse of Norv-Turner-in-September again.
The two most incomprehensible performances, though, came from Dallas and San Francisco. The Niners seem on paper to have everything going for them, but they looked like a Pop Warner team against a Seattle squad that should have a world of issues. San Francisco quite sincerely couldn’t have been worse. Dallas should have rolled over the Redskins, but they looked disinterested, had the worst coaching of the week, and stumbled to a sloppy loss. Overall that’s 10 teams - all of which have legitimate playoff aspirations - that looked like they hadn’t got the memo that the week was starting. It’s hard to anticipate that.
Defenses were ahead of offenses - The old cliche is that it takes longer for an offense to get into stride than a defense. This first week was a real endorsement of that theory. Sixteen of the teams - fully half the league - scored 15 points or less. More starting quarterbacks had a QB rating below 60 than above 90. Eight quarterbacks didn’t throw a touchdown, and only half the starters threw more TDs than interceptions. Very few offenses were as strong as they were expected to be, and far more were quite disappointing.
Home teams were hot - It paid to be sleeping in your own bed this week. Home teams went 11-5 against the spread in the opening week. Five home underdogs were outright winners. When everything else is equal then betting the home team can be a good idea, but it’s rarely as much of an advantage as it was here.
Favorites - The books did a pretty good job of balancing the opening lines - they had nine favorites cover the spread, and seven underdogs. Ideally they would have that ratio reversed since the public tends to like the favorites, but that’s a very comfortable opening weekend for them. It’s also interesting to note that despite the odds being posted for months for these first games, only two of the games had line movements that allowed for the potential of middling, and you would have been really on the ball to take advantage of either one. All in all, this weekend was a sign that the oddsmakers are pretty solid at their jobs.
‘Under’ was the way to go - The public tends to like the ‘over’ - almost without question. If they stuck to that preference this weekend then their wallets are considerably lighter than they were. Eleven of the 16 games ended up going ‘under’ the total, with one more a push. That leaves just four games that went ‘over’. As I talked about earlier the defenses had a much better day than the offenses, and clearly a better day than people expected them to have.