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NFL openers better than Christmas for bettors

By William Hill  () 

You could barely sleep. The anticipation was just about over. The countdown was nearly all the way to zero. You knew the next morning was Christmas, and the walk down the stairs to see what was under the tree was the best day of the year. “Was Santa really here?” “Where do these gifts come from?” “How does he know exactly what I want year after year?”

 

Whoever delivered the gifts, the most exciting day of the year was always the morning of Dec. 25. That was childhood. In adulthood, Christmas morning comes at 1 p.m. ET on the second Sunday of every September. Here we are, days from unwrapping all our gifts. While this Christmas will be a little different and the play will undoubtedly be sloppy at times, it’s still a great holiday.

 

Bill Belichick once famously told Randy Moss about Halloween: “It’s a great holiday. Candy and costumes. You can’t beat it.” I disagree, Coach, The first “Sunday at 1” is as good as it gets.

 

While the new season always brings about uncertainty, and no sport has a higher turnover rate among playoff teams from one year to the next, this year is especially fraught with question marks. As a bettor, when uncertainty exists, you are on a neutral field vs. the bookmakers, which is a rare setting for all of us playing against the house. As an underdog bettor, I rarely lay points in the opening week because too much unpredictability exists. That is multiplied this year. I am quite confident that when we review the first weekend, I will be recapping the many dogs that barked. I expect the underdogs to win ATS more than the favorites, with plenty of outright upsets. The question is: Who?

 

Texans + 10 vs. Chiefs: This key number has held up all summer, and I’ll be curious to see where it finishes. The Chiefs are a public bettor’s darling, but a high-profile QB and a double-digit dog might sway some of that recreational money. Right off the bat we could get the first major consequence of empty stadiums. With the Chiefs celebrating their first title in over 50 years, I’d have been leery of fading the champs in front of what would have been a rabid crowd. Now it’s a quiet building where Deshaun Watson and the Texans can operate without disruption. They visited Arrowhead twice last year, winning outright in the regular season and infamously leading 24-0 in the playoffs. Getting two scores here with an elite QB on essentially a neutral field is a bargain.

 

Dolphins + 6.5 vs. Patriots: Another game flirting with a key number. This opened in May around 9 or 9.5. The question is: Will it get back to 7? Can’t hurt to wait to bet this, because it might. This is a rematch of Week 17 last year, and nine months later I’m just as shocked that the Dolphins upset the Pats as 17-point dogs, killed their bye week and rejiggered the AFC playoff picture. It’s hard not to like the direction Miami is headed, winning five of its last nine, when many expected the Fins to lose 16 of their first 16. Belichick teams are usually at their best later in the season, knowing they don’t hand out trophies in September. They started 1-2 in ’17 and ’18 but reached the Super Bowl both seasons. With a new quarterback who hasn’t been healthy or won a game in nearly two years, maybe the Pats have some early growing pains. Pats win a close one, Dolphins cover. 

Cowboys -140 moneyline over Rams: Yet another game teetering on hitting a key number. Lots of 2.5 still out there, but 3 will likely be the consensus. Dave Mason of Betonline.ag reported 78% of bets were on the Cowboys, as was a majority of the money. I think this move is correct, as the Cowboys look poised to finally maximize their ability. In a great line from “A Bronx Tale,” Sonny says, “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” The Cowboys were sad for most of Jason Garrett’s tenure. Adding CeeDee Lamb gives me flashbacks to the Vikings drafting Randy Moss in 1998. Adding an explosive player to an already talented offense made defenses pick their poison, leading to record-breaking numbers. You can’t double everyone, and that is something opponents will find out the hard way starting Sunday night. The Rams’ cap space is largely being spent on players who play elsewhere, and they’ve traded draft picks as frivolously as a kid spending tokens at an arcade. The moneyline is a modest 140. Get it before it goes up. 

Steelers -5 vs. Giants. This line started around a field goal, and that number is long gone, but for good reason. Usually I wouldn’t recommend laying 5 when you could have laid 3, but, as in golf, you have to play the ball where it lies. I mentioned I don’t like laying points, but this is worth making an exception. Joe Judge will find it a rough year to be a rookie coach, with no preseason and a limited offseason. The Steelers are the model of stability, and Mike Tomlin is coming off his best coaching performance, going .500 without an NFL-caliber quarterback. The Giants were horrible on defense and a turnover machine on offense not only last year but for the last few years. Take the Steelers to win comfortably Monday night.

 

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