With the much-anticipated NFL season opening, bettors will once again be looking for the best info they can find to get their seasons off to a profitable start. Therefore, it’s the ideal time to look closer at four betting systems that have been successful and consistent in looking exclusively at past Week 1 action. These are angles that take into account line positioning, how the teams fared the previous year and transition into the follow-up season opener, and whether or not revenge is in play.
These systems are foundationally based on the perceptions of the teams by oddsmakers. Although the belief is that the house always wins, sometimes even the so-called experts are off, too. In other cases, they have the teams pegged accurately.
The most important thing that you should note in analyzing these betting angles is that EVERY team, regardless of what happened last season, or what player/coaching transactions they made during the offseason, is starting with a fresh slate. That can do wonders for a team. It can also wipe out any momentum it generated the prior season. All of this is very tough to measure, as without any on-field action to go off, how can those setting the lines be expected to 100% accurately quantify the Week 1 chemistry of the teams? This, in turn, can be to the advantage of bettors.
Remember, the bookies’ theoretical job is to try to get as much even action on the various wagering options in a game, not so much to pick the game. Naturally, there can be weak spots then, and savvy bettors who are prepared with knowledge of the teams and useful systems can be ready to take advantage. I have four to help you get ready for kickoff.
Divisional home underdogs are 16-6-1 SU and 19-4 ATS (82.6%) in Week 1 since '09 (Win: + 14.6 units, R.O.I.: 63.5%, Grade 75)
2022 Potential Plays: ATLANTA, HOUSTON, MINNESOTA
Analysis: Unlike last season, there are several divisional games on the Week 1 slate. However, three of the games fit the bill for this very successful system. There isn’t a whole lot more motivating than an opening-week game at home against a targeted team in the division. In most past cases, the road favorite was a returning playoff team, while the home dog was an aspiring one. In this year’s case, the team prospects are a bit different, with the Falcons and Texans unlikely to make a push for the postseason. The four other teams involved are expected playoff contenders, including home dog Minnesota, which is a popular long-shot pick to overtake Green Bay in the NFC North in 2022. Last season, Houston was the only divisional home dog in Week 1 and won 37-21 over Jacksonville.
Game 1: ATLANTA (+ 5.5) vs. New Orleans
The Falcons come into the 2022 season marking the start of a new era, the first season post-Matt Ryan. They are not expected to be very competitive in the NFC South, but they have received some pretty good play from their top two quarterbacks in the preseason, Marcus Mariota and rookie Desmond Ridder. This will be head coach Arthur Smith’s second season, and his team finished 7-10 last season. The Saints have a new head coach in Dennis Allen and a lot of cautious optimism in terms of how they might fare with several key players returning from injury woes. Among them are QB Jameis Winston and WR Michael Thomas. Interestingly, New Orleans has won four straight in Atlanta, both SU and ATS, the last three as road chalk.
Game 2: HOUSTON (+ 8) vs. Indianapolis
Houston has the lowest win prop of any NFL team in 2022 at 4.5, so it isn’t a huge surprise that the Texans would be a Week 1 home dog. To the degree that they are, however, now that is a surprise. The Texans begin the head coach Lovie Smith era, and unlike last season, he brings some experience to the sideline. The franchise is optimistic about some of the rapid growth of their key young players, namely QB Davis Mills and rookie RB Dameon Pierce. While winning just four games in 2021, Houston did finish the season going 2-2 while scoring 25.8 PPG. The Colts are the favorites in the AFC South and added veteran QB Matt Ryan in hopes of giving the offensive the balance it needs to thrive. Last year, RB Jonathan Taylor carried the team, but there are a few pass-catching playmakers capable of giving this offense a new identity. This is a tough covering spot for a team that is not proven yet, regardless of the respected talent on board. For what it’s worth, Indy has a 7-1 SU and 8-0 ATS record in its last eight games versus Houston.
Game 3: MINNESOTA (+ 1.5) vs. Green Bay
The Packers have ruled the NFC North the last three years and come into the 2022 season off a string of three straight 13-win campaigns. None of those seasons has resulted in any deep playoff success, though. The big offseason news was the departure of WR Davante Adams, leaving QB Aaron Rodgers with a host of talented but unproven replacements. Head coach Matt LaFleur’s team has dominated divisional foes since his arrival. The Vikings begin a new era under head coach Kevin O’Connell, the former Rams offensive coordinator. The Vikings lost several close games last season on their way to an 8-9 record, leading to a purge of the coaching staff and front office. Many experts believe this clean slate could propel this talented Minnesota team upward. Underdogs have covered seven of the last eight ATS in this rivalry, on top of the successful system I have found.
NFL opening-week road teams that won 4-6 games the prior season are 48-21-5 ATS (69.6%) since '04 (Win: + 24.9 units, R.O.I.: 33.6%, Grade 67)
2022 Plays: Play on N.Y. GIANTS
Steve’s analysis: Teams in the four- to six-win range usually qualify as potential bounce-back teams the next season, with the start of the new season offering fresh motivation and momentum. In many cases, it was bad luck, injuries or even tanking that soured their records the prior season. Last year the four teams on the system went 3-1 ATS. As you can see, there is just one qualifying team for this angle in 2022. Let’s look closer at that game.
Game 1: N.Y. GIANTS (+ 5.5) at Tennessee
Tennessee has been much maligned since its playoff loss to the Bengals in January. Not only did most fans expect the team to move on from QB Ryan Tannehill, but the franchise added to the fans’ woes when it traded WR A.J. Brown on draft weekend. This is an offense that topped the 20-point mark just twice in its final eight games last season. It needed more offense, not less. Still, the Titans are a returning division champion expected to compete for that title again in 2022. They open up as 5.5-point favorites over a rebuilt Giants team. The players will look a little different, but the real change comes in the coaching ranks, where new head coach Brian Daboll takes the reins and brings with him a well-respected set of assistants. New York’s offense was performing respectably last season until QB Daniel Jones got hurt in Game 12. I believe the Giants will be much more competitive in 2022 and feel Daboll can have a similar impact to what he had in Buffalo, boosting the Bills’ offensive attack in recent years.
Opening-week home favorites hosting teams that were above .500 the prior season are 45-23-5 ATS (66.2%) since '00 (Win: + 19.7 units, R.O.I.: 27%, Grade 60)
2022 Potential Plays: MIAMI, CAROLINA, CINCINNATI, L.A. CHARGERS
Steve’s analysis: Home favorites hosting a quality opponent are likely a very strong team themselves, or at least expected to be much better, and opening the season provides extra motivation. For 2022, four plays are on tap. Note, though that the three teams in this system last year were 1-2 SU and 0-3 ATS.
Game 1: MIAMI (-3) vs. New England
I wasn’t a big fan of the Dolphins’ offseason coaching change, letting go of Brian Flores in exchange for Mike McDaniel. The Miami players seemed to love playing for Flores, and they’ve been good in back-to-back seasons despite not making the playoffs. The big on-field change is the addition of WR Tyreek Hill, who figures to stretch the defense for QB Tua Tagovailoa. They will need a diverse attack to win and cover this game against the Patriots, who had the NFL’s No. 2 scoring defense in 2021. New England was 10-7 in the regular season and at one point won seven straight games. The biggest questions with Bill Belichick’s team seem to revolve around the avoidance of a Year 2 slump with QB Mac Jones. Miami is on a 7-2-1 ATS run hosting New England.
Game 2: CAROLINA (-2.5) vs. Cleveland
One of the more intriguing AFC vs. NFC matchups for Week 1 involves Carolina and Cleveland, if for no other reason than the offseason quarterback drama. The Browns moved on from QB Baker Mayfield despite him leading them to significant improvement in his four years as starter. They opted instead to pay the big bucks to Deshaun Watson, who will miss this game and the next 10 because of a suspension levied by the league. As luck would have it, Mayfield landed in Carolina and will start his first game for the Panthers against his former club. If innuendo is any indication, he is hungry to get his shot at the Browns. The Panthers went 5-12 last year after losing their final seven games but figure to benefit early from a fresh start.
Game 3: CINCINNATI (-6.5) vs. Pittsburgh
The Steelers begin their first season in the post-Ben Roethlisberger era by facing a former rival that Big Ben used to tear apart, the Bengals. Stepping in for the longtime franchise quarterback is journeyman Mitch Trubisky. That said, the Steelers figure to rely on their running game and staunch defense to be successful. Cincinnati is the defending AFC champ and goes into the season opener on a seven-game ATS winning streak. They experienced incredible growth in the second year of QB Joe Burrow’s career, and he has a stable of weapons around him who are young and hungry. Head coach Zac Taylor’s team has beaten Pittsburgh in three straight after losing the previous 11.
Game 4: L.A. CHARGERS (-3.5) vs. Las Vegas
The AFC West is arguably the best division in the NFL, and this opener between the Chargers and Raiders will go a long way in determining these teams’ fortunes, at least early. The Chargers are one of the popular picks to win not only the division but the AFC as well, including by yours truly. Head coach Brandon Staley’s team was 9-8 last season but lost several close games as a result of mismanagement. In their final six games, they exceeded the 28-point mark every time and averaged 33.5 PPG. The Raiders are off a 10-7 season in which they reached the playoffs but fell in a heartbreaker at Cincinnati. They added WR Davante Adams to the mix and boast one of the NFL’s best receiving corps. It will be up to QB Derek Carr and new head coach Josh McDaniels to put it all together.
Week 1 favorites playing in a revenge spot from a loss the prior season are just 14-22 SU and 12-24 ATS (33.3%) over the last 10 seasons (Loss: -14.2 units, R.O.I.: -39.4%, Grade 64)
2022 Potential Plays: Play against L.A. CHARGERS
Analysis: This is a tough spot for a favorite to be in. While it can be argued that revenge is a good motivator, there is enhanced pressure when placed as a favorite over a team that you lost to last time out. In this case, there might not be another game all season with revenge as a bigger factor.
Game #1: L.A. Chargers (-3.5) vs. LAS VEGAS
While I already took expanded look at the Chargers-Raiders game for Week 1, I’ll focus here on the revenge aspect, as it figures to be paramount. Of course, this angle goes directly against that in System 3, so it will be up to you to weigh their significance in your own handicapping. All you have to do is go back less than eight months to recall how much the season finale loss to the Raiders meant to the Chargers. The game came down to the overtime wire, and a tie would have put both teams in the postseason. Instead of opting for that safe option as his team possessed the ball on the final drive, then-Raiders coach Rich Bisaccia put the pedal down and eventually had his team kick the winning field goal. While Bisaccia is now a special teams coordinator with the Packers, you can rest assured the bad blood between these teams still boils.