NFL Odds Released for Top Games of the Year
by Dave Schwab - 7/19/2011
It appears that the 2011 NFL schedule will come off without a hitch as the league owners and the Players Association remain busy putting the final touches on a new CBA (collective bargaining agreement) that should hopefully end the four-month old player lockout and reopen the NFL for business within the next two weeks.
In looking at the 2011 schedule, there are a number of great matchups throughout the 17 weeks of the regular season, but there are a couple of games that just jump off the page as not only as potential ‘instant classics,’ but tremendous wagering opportunities as well.
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The four games on this list are all heated rivalries between teams that are among the favorites to win their division. A few sportsbooks have projected some early NFL point spreads for the games, so use that as a guideline in some of your early NFL handicapping efforts.
Week 1 – Steelers at Ravens (-3)
Things heat up right away with a huge AFC North showdown between Pittsburgh and Baltimore in Week 1. The Ravens host the Steelers in the first of two meetings this season and have been opened as a three-point home favorite. Given that BetOnline has both teams at +100 to win the North, the winner here grabs a significant edge in the division race. This series has been painfully close over the past 10 meetings with series all square at 5-5 straight-up and Baltimore holding the slight 5-4-1 edge against the spread. The Steelers slipped past the Ravens by one game for the division title in 2008, and won on a tie-break last season. The value here actually lies with Pittsburgh, which is 2-1 SU in the last three meetings on the road and a perfect 3-0 ATS.
Week 5 – New York Jets at Patriots (-4)
Jumping to Week 5, the New England Patriots play host the New York Jets as a projected four-point home favorite. The Patriots have been opened as a prohibitive -140 favorite to win the AFC East, with the Jets the second favorite at +135. This series over the course of the last 10 games has also been fairly close, with New England holding a 6-4 advantage SU; it is tied at 5-5 ATS. The more recent meetings have favored the Jets with a 3-2 record both SU and ATS in the last five games. New York is 2-3 SU and 3-2 ATS in its last five trips to Gillette Stadium and fully realizes, no matter what Head Coach Rex Ryan says, that the road to gaining that all-important home field advantage in the playoffs still goes through Foxborough.
Week 11 – Eagles at New York Giants (-3)
The Philadelphia Eagles head up Interstate 95 for a Week 11 showdown with the New York Giants at the New Meadowlands Stadium in our third ‘game of the year’. These teams have been opened as co-favorites to win the NFC East at +150, which is not that much of a surprise given that one of them has won the division in nine of the last 11 seasons. Last year, the Eagles swept the Giants to win the East on a head-to-head tiebreak. It was Philly’s fifth straight regular season win over New York both SU and ATS. Throw in a playoff victory in 2009 and the current win streak stands at six. It has not lost in East Rutherford since dropping a 16-3 decision in 2007, but despite this recent string of success, the Eagles find themselves a projected three-point road underdog for this game. This series has been extremely streaky over the years as each team has had a tendency to win games in bunches. That being said, the play in this Week 11 matchup could be whichever team comes out on top in their Week 3 game at Lincoln Financial Field.
Week 16 – Falcons at Saints (-3)
The final ‘game of the year’ on our list pits the Atlanta Falcons against the New Orleans Saints in what could be a winner-take-all affair at the Superdome in Week 16. The Falcons are the slight favorite at +110 to win a second straight NFC South title over the Saints, who are second favorites at +120. The value here could automatically shift to New Orleans simply because since the South Division was first formed in 2002, a different team has won the title each year. The value in this game also gravitates towards the Saints as three-point home favorites, in light of the fact that Atlanta is 2-8 SU overall in the last 10 games of this series and 1-4 ATS at the Superdome. The Falcons did break through with a 27-24 win on the road last season as a three-point underdog.
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