Handicapping Early NFL Week 1 Lines
by Dave Schwab - 5/3/2011
The on-again, off-again NFL owners’ lockout of the players is back on, and the prospect that the current labor situation delays the start of the regular season still hangs over the league’s head. Despite all the uncertainty, it is not too early to take a look at the opening lines for Week 1 in the NFL as released by Sportsbook.com because, as they say on Broadway, ‘the show must go on’.
The New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers are set to kick things off on Thursday, Sept. 8 at Lambeau Field. The defending Super Bowl Champions are a five-point home favorite and the ‘over/under’ has been set at 47. The last time these two teams met was in 2008, with the Saints coming away with a 51-29 win as a one-point home favorite. The total went way ‘over ‘the 51 ½ point line. The past three Super Bowl champs won their Thursday night season opener in a low scoring battle so the ‘under’ could actually be the best play in this one.
Two up-and-coming teams square-off in Week 1 when Tampa Bay hosts Detroit as a three-point favorite. The ‘over/under’ is set at 41. This line should remain fairly steady right up to opening day, so bank on the Lions and the points. Detroit was 12-4 against the spread last season, while Tampa went 2-5-1 ATS at home.
A classic AFC North showdown has Baltimore favored by three points at home over Pittsburgh. The ‘over/under’ is set at 37. This line should also remain steady as these two teams will once again come into the regular season evenly matched. The Ravens’ road to the Super Bowl still goes through Pittsburgh, and until they can win the division, they will continue to be at a disadvantage as far as home-field advantage in the playoffs. Last season Baltimore lost 13-10 as a three-point home favorite, the year before it won 20-17 as a three-point home favorite, and in 2008 it lost 13-9 as a three-point home favorite. Given the current line, stick with the only thing we know for sure; the ‘under’ in another close, low-scoring game.
An AFC South matchup pits Indianapolis at Houston as a one-point road favorite with an ‘over/under’ line set at 47 ½. These are the exact same lines as last season’s opening day when the Texans hammered the Colts, 34-24. What are the chances of the same thing happening again this year? Go with Peyton Manning and the long memory to avoid a repeat of last year’s performance.
The biggest divisional rivalry on opening day has Washington as a three-point home underdog against the New York Giants with an ‘over/under’ of 39 ½. This line bears watching as nobody, not even Redskin Head Coach Mike Shanahan, knows for sure who will line up behind center on opening day, so the current spread is certainly subject to change. If you had to lock in a pick right now, stick with Washington and the points in this NFC East clash.
Another game that carries uncertainty for both teams at the quarterback position is Seattle at San Francisco in a key early season NFC West showdown. The 49ers are a six-point home favorite with an ‘over/under of 41. Matt Hasselbeck may not even be with the Seahawks on opening day and while Alex Smith will most likely get the call for San Francisco, do not be surprised if recent second-round pick Colin Kaepernick earns the starting job over the summer.
Monday night’s opening act features New England at Miami with the Dolphins a four-point underdog and the ‘over/under’ line set at 46. The Patriots are currently favored to not only win the AFC, but the 2012 Super Bowl by a number of sportsbooks. They swept Miami last season in two lopsided blowouts and could be primed to add another one to the list to start this one.
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