You Can Bet NOW on the Biggest Games of the Year
by Trevor Whenham - 08/03/2007
As we start to follow NFL training camps and see how teams are looking, it's tempting to start looking ahead at the schedule to find the most interesting match-ups and to begin to break down what may happen. I'm obviously not alone in this, because Sportsbook.com has chosen about 80 games during the season that they are calling the games of the year. More importantly, they have set a spread for each of them and opened them up for your play. That means that, if for some reason you would want to, you could bet now on games that won't happen until the end of December. Some of the games they chose are no-brainers - huge games like San Diego at New England, classic divisional rivalries like the Bears and the Packers, and a clash of future superstars like Tennessee at New Orleans. Other games don't stand out nearly as much, like a Cincinnati-Cleveland game that seems like it will be so bad that watching it should be a punishment for some heinous crime.
It seems obvious to me that, for the most part, betting on these games this far in advance is a really bad idea. There are so many unknown factors involved in handicapping these games that a game would have to provide exceptional value to make the risks (injury, underperformance, suspended players, etc.) worth it. The only way that it might make sense is if you have a very strong opinion about a team that differs significantly from the general public opinion. If, for example, you thought that the Patriots were going to be very disappointing then you might look to bet on their opponents now in order to get a bigger spread because of the current public euphoria over the team. You may get a better number now that you will at game time when the professional bettors stake their claim.
The other reason to look at these bets, of course, is because it's fun. In that spirit, here's my take on a few of the more interesting ones, or at least the ones that arguably present a bit of value:
Cincinnati (-3.5) at Cleveland, Sept. 16 - I suppose you could argue that the Browns are an improved team, but they could be a heck of a lot better than they were last year and still not be good. There are reasons for hope, but their quarterbacking situation promises to be a mess all year, and they still have more holes than any team in the league outside of Oakland. They should struggle to stay close to a healthy and hungry Carson Palmer. I suspect that this spread will be wider by kickoff.
New Orleans (-1.5) at Tampa Bay, Sept. 16 - I love Jeff Garcia and I think he will do very well with the Bucs, but I don't see how they will manage to match-up with the explosive Saints early in the season. If you like the Saints then this is probably value because the spread will likely widen.
Seattle (+1.5) at San Francisco, Sept. 30 - You may remember that I was very bullish about the 49ers last year. That hasn't changed. I think that the young team should be more mature and ready to win this year. Seattle, on the other hand, is a team that has done nothing to get any better, and strikes me as ready to take a step back. With that theory in mind, I am very happy with this spread given what I know, or at least think I know, now.
Chicago (-3) at Green Bay, Oct. 7 - If the Bears can't beat the Packers by at least a field goal then they are in some real trouble. This is likely the only chance you will get to avoid having the key number of three working against you on this game.
New England (-2.5) at Dallas, Oct. 14 - The Patriots are so popular this year that they face some truly enormous early spreads. This game sticks out because the line at least seems reasonable. The Patriots were 7-1 straight up and against the spread on the road last year, and they are a better team in many ways this year. Dallas should be good, too, but not as good. If you believe in the Pats then it may make sense to jump on this one before the spreads climbs to the other side of three points.
Indianapolis (+1) at Jacksonville, Oct. 22 - I absolutely hate the Colts and do everything I can to discredit them, so if I say one of their lines doesn't make sense then that's really saying something. The Colts have lost some key players, but they are still among the elite in the league. Jacksonville has so little faith in their quarterbacking situation that they actually think Tim Couch might be able to help. Just on principle, taking the Colts as underdogs makes sense to me.
Green Bay (+1) at Detroit, Nov. 22 - It's very dangerous to assume that this is finally the year that the Lions get better, but it has to happen sooner or later. Maybe. Certainly the offense is going to be potent. Green Bay has done virtually nothing to improve, and I jumped off the Brett Favre bandwagon years ago. Even if Detroit isn't as good as Jon Kitna thinks they will be, they still should be good enough to beat a Green Bay team that looks to be going nowhere fast.
San Diego (-4.5) at Kansas City, Dec. 2 - The Chargers have perhaps the deepest team in the league. The Chiefs look like this could be a rebuilding year (that's the nice way of saying that they are going to be terrible). They will be going with an inexperienced quarterback, and he may not have Larry Johnson to rely on to get him out of trouble. It seems as if there is a good chance that this line will be a bargain for Chargers backers compared to what is available at kickoff.