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.
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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