Week 1 of the NFL regular season is finally here. Historically, Week 1 has been a great time to take the points and get down on underdogs. Last season, underdogs went 12-4 ATS in Week 1. Since 2016, Week 1 underdogs have gone 53-39 ATS (58%). A $100 bettor taking every Week 1 dog would have profited nearly $1,200 over that time span. Week 1 divisional dogs have been especially profitable, going 22-8 ATS (73%) since 2016.
Why have dogs been such a smart bet in the opening week of play? A lot of it has to do with public perception and recency bias. The NFL is the most heavily bet sport by far and the public loves backing favorites because, after all, they're the "better" team. But remember, we aren't worried about who wins. We just care about covering the number. Dogs are oftentimes undervalued, especially when it comes to backing "gross" dogs that the public wants nothing to do with. Plus, this is as level a playing field as there will be all year, with both sides fully healthy, rested and motivated. Opening week also brings an element of surprise, with higher volatility and more upsets. For all these reasons, dogs have proved to be the smarter bet in Week 1.
With these betting systems in mind, let's discuss five games that wiseguys are targeting in Week 1.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals (-6.5, 44.5)
The Steelers went 9-7-1 last year, reaching the playoffs but losing to the Chiefs 42-21 in the Wild Card Round. Pittsburgh's win total this season is 7.5 (-110 both sides) at DraftKings. Meanwhile, the Bengals finished 10-7 last season, making the Super Bowl but losing to the Rams 23-20. Cincinnati's win total is 10 with the under juiced to -120. This line opened with the Bengals listed as a 6.5-point home favorite. The public is rushing to the window to lay the points with Joe Burrow and the Bengals at home. However, despite Cincinnati receiving roughly 70% of bets, this line hasn't moved off of 6.5. This signals sharp "line freeze" liability on the Steelers, with books reluctant to move to the key number of 7 despite such heavy betting on Cincinnati. Reading between the lines, it appears as though oddsmakers are wary of giving out the 7 to contrarian Steelers bettors. Over the past four seasons, road dogs are 334-268 ATS (56%) and dogs who made the playoffs the previous season are 156-114 ATS (58%). Mike Tomlin has gone 45-23 ATS (66%) as a dog in his career.
Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers (-3.5, 52)
The Raiders went 10-7 last season, losing to the Bengals 26-19 in the Wild Card Round. Las Vegas' win total is 8.5 with the over juiced up to -130. On the flip side, the Chargers are coming off a 9-8 season in which they missed the playoffs. Los Angeles' win total is 10 with the over juiced to -140. This line opened with the Chargers listed as a 4-point home favorite. The public is split down the middle, yet we've seen the Chargers fall from -4 to -3.5. Some shops have even touched Chargers -3. In a vacuum, a line shouldn't move at all if the tickets are split. So this dip in the spread signals respected money grabbing Las Vegas plus the points. To put it another way, all line movement has been toward the Raiders. Short road dogs 6 or less are 156-98 (61%) over the past four seasons. Divisional dogs are 22-8 ATS (73%) since 2016. It's important to note that sharps have targeted the Raiders only if they're 3.5 or better, which indicates that the hook could be critical in a field goal-type game.
Green Bay Packers (-1.5, 47) at Minnesota Vikings
The Packers are coming off a 13-4 season, losing to the 49ers 13-10 in the Divisional Round. Green Bay's win total is 11 this season (-110 both sides). On the other hand, the Vikings went 8-9, missed the playoffs and fired longtime head coach Mike Zimmer in favor of Kevin O'Connell. Minnesota's win total is 9.5 this season (-110 both sides). This line opened with the Packers listed as a short 2.5-point road favorite. The public is happy to lay the short chalk with Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay under as field goal. However, despite roughly 67% of bets taking Green Bay, we've seen the Packers fall from -2.5 to -1.5. Why would the oddsmakers drop the line and give the public a better number on Green Bay when they're already all over the Packers to begin with? Because sharps have sided with the Vikings, triggering reverse line movement in Minnesota's favor. Divisional dogs are 22-8 ATS (73%) since 2016. Minnesota is also in a prime teaser spot. By teasing the Vikings from 1.5 to 7.5, bettors pass through the key numbers of 3 and 7.
Indianapolis Colts (-7, 46) at Houston Texans
The Colts went 9-8 last season, barely missing out on the postseason. Indianapolis swapped out Carson Wentz for Matt Ryan at quarterback and their season win total is 10 with both sides listed at -110. On the other hand, the Texans are coming off a 4-13 season, which tied for the 3rd worst record in the NFL. Houston's win total is 4.5 (-110 both sides), which is the lowest of any team. This line opened with Indianapolis listed as an 8-point road favorite. The public expects a Colts blowout victory and is happy to lay the points. However, we've actually seen Indianapolis fall from -8 to -7, signaling sharp reverse line movement on the Texans plus the points. Houston is only receiving 30% of bets but nearly 40% of the money, indicating contrarian value and a sharp money discrepancy in their favor. The total has also risen from 44 to 46, signaling some respected money hitting the over.
Philadelphia Eagles (-4, 48.5) at Detroit Lions
The Eagles are coming off a 9-8 season, making the postseason but losing to the Bucs 31-15 in the Wild Card Round. Philadelphia's win total is 9.5 with the over juiced to -155. The Eagles were one of the most popular "over" teams with bettors this summer, with their win total moving from 8.5 to 9.5 during the offseason. Meanwhile, the Lions went 3-13-1 last season but actually covered a lot of numbers, going 11-6 ATS. Detroit's win total is 6.5 with the over juiced to -125. This line opened with the Eagles listed as a 4-point road favorite. The public is all over Philadelphia, with roughly 70% of bets laying the points with Jalen Hurts and company. However, despite this lopsided support the line hasn't budged. It hasn't shot up to -4.5 or -5. This signals some line freeze smart money grabbing the points with the home dog Lions. Conference dogs 6 or less are 272-192 ATS (59%) over the last four seasons.