NFL Week 1 betting systems that will give you an edge
With the much-anticipated 2023 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 six different 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 in 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 systems I’m about to unveil uncover in which particular situations you can take advantage.
The most important thing that you should note in analyzing these betting angles is that every team, regardless of what happened last year, or what player/coaching transactions they made over the offseason, is starting with a fresh slate. That can do wonders for a team. It can also wipe out any momentum that was 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 and 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 both knowledge of the teams and a powerful weapon like systems can be ready to take advantage. I have six below to help you get ready for NFL kickoff 2023.
SYSTEM #1: Divisional home underdogs are 16-7-2 SU and 21-4 ATS (84%) in Week 1 since 2009 (Win: +16.6 units, R.O.I.: 66.4%, Grade 80)
2023 Potential Plays: CLEVELAND, INDIANAPOLIS, NY GIANTS, NY JETS
Analysis: Unlike some recent season, there are several divisional contests on the NFL Week 1 slate, half of them to be exact. Four of the games fit the bill for this very successful system. There isn’t a whole lot more motivating than an opening week contest at home against a targeted team in the division. In most past cases, the road favorite in this scenario was a returning playoff team, while the home dog was an aspiring one. In this year’s case, with the exception of perhaps Indianapolis, all of the teams involved are expected playoff contenders, including the home dog Jets, who are a popular longshot pick now that they’ve added Aaron Rodgers. In last year’s two games on this system, Houston (+7) tied Indianapolis, and Atlanta (+5.5) rallied versus the Saints before dropping a 27-26 decision.
Game #1: CLEVELAND (+1) vs. Cincinnati
The Browns will have QB Deshaun Watson for the full 17 games in 2023, barring injury of course, so it’s nearly impossible to get a feel for how much better they might be than a year ago when they went 7-10. Cleveland will open the 2023 campaign as a home underdog to its biggest rival, the Bengals, who of course reached the AFC title game last year, one year removed from a Super Bowl appearance. Cincinnati has an injury concern with QB Joe Burrow, who banged up a knee in the preseason but is expected to be ready despite very limited reps. The Cleveland Dawg Pound figures to be very fired up for this one.
Game #2: INDIANAPOLIS (+3.5) vs. Jacksonville
Jacksonville is the defending AFC South champion, coming off a 9-8 season that also included a playoff win in the wild card round. The Jaguars are the “next big thing” right now, with a young offensive nucleus that would figure to take another step forward this year. Their opponent for Week 1 is an Indianapolis team that struggled badly in 2022, but they start fresh with a new coaching staff and a rookie at quarterback. There is a reason the Colts are a home dog here. However, that doesn’t make the task of winning or covering any easier for Jacksonville.
Game #3: NY GIANTS (+3.5) vs. Dallas
Stop me if you’ve heard this before…the Giants and Cowboys will open up the season against one another on Sunday Night Football. Yes, it is quite the popular matchup for the folks at NBC. For this season’s Week 1 showdown, the Cowboys are installed as 3.5-point favorites in New York, despite the Giants having excelled as one of the surprise teams last year. This is a big rivalry game and both teams boast playoff aspirations once again. That makes it unusual to see a 3.5-point road favorite.
Game #4: NY JETS (+1.5) vs. Buffalo
There is no team that is more amped to get the 2023 season underway than the Jets. After adding QB Aaron Rodgers and several other key veterans, the excitement meter is off the charts in New York. There also couldn’t be a bigger first-week matchup for Rodgers & Co. than a showdown on Monday Night Football versus AFC East power Buffalo. Not to mention the fact that this game will be played on the anniversary of the 9-11 attacks in New York. In what figures to be a highly emotional contest, if the hosts can settle in and overcome all the theater, this should be a very compelling game, one that will have a huge impact on building a Jets bandwagon should they win.
SYSTEM #2: Divisional road underdogs of 6.5 points or less are on a 14-12 SU and 18-7-1 ATS (72%) run since 2013. (Win: +10.3 units, R.O.I.: 39.6%, Grade 70)
2023 Potential Plays: CAROLINA, GREEN BAY, LAS VEGAS, LA RAMS
Analysis: Again, there are several divisional contests on the NFL Week 1 slate, and thus more underdogs to focus on. Four of the games fit the bill for this very successful system. A divisional contest in Week 1 pegs the urgency meter like nothing else, especially when a team is on a road and not expected to win. Keep in mind though that all three games on this system lost last year, so these divisional road dogs were 18-4-1 ATS prior to 2022. Perhaps this year’s four dogs will get it going in the right direction again.
Game #1: CAROLINA (+3) at Atlanta
If there is any division in football that is legitimately up for grabs in 2023, it has to be the NFC South. No team of the four finished above-.500 last season and all were within one game of one another. That means that much of what happened in the offseason figures to play a huge role in what transpires, especially early. For Carolina, it is truly a fresh start, with head coach Frank Reich beginning his tenure there. One of his first key orders of business was to name rookie Bryce Young as his starting quarterback. In another study, I found that rookie QBs typically perform well early and late in their first seasons. This would be a very good coming out party for Young to play well as a road dog to Atlanta, who looks to be the more stable team in this matchup if not much else.
Game #2: GREEN BAY (+2.5) at Chicago
One of the most interesting games on the Week 1 slate features a rivalry contest in Chicago, and there may not have been a time in the last 30 years in which the Bears were happier to be hosting the Packers. After suffering through the Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers era’s while they quarterbacked the Packers, the Bears can finally emerge from that shadow as they take on a Jordan Love-led Packers team for the first time. Is the quarterback change enough to swing what has been an absolutely one-sided rivalry lately? We’ll see, but Green Bay is sure to be motivated by this underdog line.
Game #3: LAS VEGAS (+3.5) at Denver
These two AFC West rivals have different looks about them heading into the 2023 season, as well they should, as both teams struggled a year ago, combining to win just 11 games. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t aspiring to be playoff contenders this fall because if any league offers a chance for quick redemption, it’s the NFL. The Raiders start over at the sport’s most important position, quarterback, as they move on from long time starter Derek Carr. Jimmy Garoppolo figures to be the starter if he’s able to hold off hard-charging rookie Aidan O’Connell, who looked the part of emerging star in the preseason. Denver has a new coaching staff in place, with former Super Bowl Champion head coach Sean Payton leading the way. Payton’s biggest task is turning around the struggles of franchise QB Russell Wilson, who signed a team-draining contract prior to 2022.
Game #4: LA RAMS (+5.5) at Seattle
The Rams went from Super Bowl Champs to chumps in just one season, going 5-12 in 2023. Now granted, much of it had to due with injuries, particularly to QB Matt Stafford, who figures to be back for 2023, albeit in rusty form. His team takes on a returning playoff team in Seattle in Week 1 on the road, and according to the oddsmakers, the deck is stacked against LA. However, nothing wipes out the ugly memories of a prior season more quickly than a divisional upset win to kick start the follow-up campaign. It happens often in the most unexpected places. Don’t write off the Rams too quickly here.
SYSTEM #3: Laying big points is rarely a good idea in a Week 1 NFL contest, as underdogs of 6.5-points or more might be just 10-28-1 SU, but they are 26-12-1 ATS (68,4%) in Week 1 since 2013 (Win: +12.8 units, R.O.I.: 32.8%, Grade 70)
2023 Potential Plays: Play DETROIT, HOUSTON, TAMPA BAY
Analysis: There is a lot to be said about a team’s ability to start over in the NFL, and with every Week 1 game comes a fresh slate. All that happened last year is forgotten as both teams go into these games with 0-0 records. In many cases, it is strange or fluky happenings from the past season that caused these Week 1 lines to be so inflated. Trust that the underdogs are going to show up and compete.
Game #1: DETROIT (+6.5) at Kansas City
The Lions became everyone’s darlings last year with a late-season surge that nearly landed them in the playoffs. Now, they come into 2023 as the favorites in the NFC North. However, schedule makers did them no favors in having them open up with a primetime season-opening showdown at Kansas City, the league’s top team and defending champion. That said, what happened last year is just that, last year, and big point spreads are essentially assumptions being made by those “in the know”. I’m quite sure that Lions’ head coach Dan Campbell will use his team’s underdog status as supreme motivation in getting ready for this Thursday night clash.
Game #2: HOUSTON (+9) at Baltimore
Week 1 games that show point spreads of 9 points in the NFL truly are assumptions, dangerous ones as it turns out, as rarely do favorites of this magnitude hammer their opening day foes. Baltimore isn’t the returning champion either. The Ravens were a 10-7 team that floundered without QB Lamar Jackson in the lineup. Sure, Jackson will be back for 2023, but he figures to be untested, having not taken an in-game snap for quite a while. Houston meanwhile, will be quite the changed team, with the new head coach/new quarterback combination being tested. There seems to be a lot of good young talent on the Texans, will it be enough to make a game of this Week 1 clash?
Game #3: TAMPA BAY (+6.5) at Minnesota
There is no other matchup in Week 1 where bettors and experts alike have totally soured on the prospects for both teams than the clash in Minnesota between the Buccaneers and Vikings. The Bucs are supposed to be down, and for good reason, as they move on from QB Tom Brady after a division-winning 8-9 record last season. It doesn’t seem like anyone is too high on his replacement, Baker Mayfield. At the same time, Minnesota is getting little to no respect after a 13-4 season a year ago. Perhaps that’s because the Vikings were actually outscored by opponents on the year and were ousted from the playoffs in their first game, at home nonetheless. If everyone is right about head coach Kevin O’Connell’s team, they figure to underperform in this game as reasonably big Week 1 favorites.
SYSTEM #4: NFL opening week road teams that won between 4-to-6 games the prior season are 49-21-5 ATS (70%) since 2004 (Win: +25.9 units, R.O.I.: 34.5%, Grade 72)
2023 Plays: Play on ARIZONA, LAS VEGAS, LA RAMS
Analysis: Teams in the 4-to-6 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 there was only one qualifying play, the Giants, and they rallied for a big 21-20 upset win at Tennessee in a game that jumpstarted an unexpectedly strong season for them. As you can see, there are qualifying teams for this angle in 2023. Let’s look closer at those games.
Game #1: ARIZONA (+6) at Washington
Undoubtedly, the team that most fans have pegged as the worst one in the NFL this season is Arizona. With QB Kyler Murray recovering from injury and expected to miss the early part of the season, new head coach Jonathan Gannon has yet to name a replacement, and it’s not because all the options are fantastic. That said, Washington isn’t much better off right now, despite the vibes you may have gotten from the Commanders’ monumental preseason win over the Ravens, which snapped the latter’s 24-game win streak. Trust me when I say that head coach Ron Rivera’s team probably doesn’t deserve 6-point favorite status over anyone at this point. Arizona still is a professional football team and with a clean slate, will be motivated by this line.
Game #2: LAS VEGAS (+3.5) at Denver
I already mentioned the changes for each of these teams heading into 2023, and that will be the major storyline for this opening week contest. Both teams are in the position of being returning 4-to-6-win teams. It just so happens that Las Vegas gets put on the road for the game. Typically, aspiring road teams like the Raiders fare well in Week 1.
Game #3: LA RAMS (+5.5) at Seattle
The logic behind this system is that teams are quickly able to flush the painful memories of the prior season because they get a clean slate and return to the field fully healthy. Just those two points alone can be enough to rejuvenate an NFL team. For the Rams, so much went wrong besides the Stafford injury that starting anew will be like a breath of fresh air. Don’t forget, they are just one year removed from a world championship. On the other sideline, so much went right for Seattle to get to 9-8 and a playoff berth. All that gets flushed away as well as they open up a whole new season in a difficult point spread covering spot.
SYSTEM #5: Opening week home favorites hosting teams that were above .500 the prior season are 48-25-5 ATS (65.8%) since '00 (Win: +20.5 units, R.O.I.: 26.3%, Grade 60)
2023 Potential Plays: MIAMI, CAROLINA, CINCINNATI, LA CHARGERS – MINNESOTA
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. After a 3-2 SU and ATS performance in five games last season, for 2023, only two plays are on tap.
Game #1: KANSAS CITY (-6.5) vs. Detroit
This particular system will obviously clash with that in system #3 for the Chiefs-Lions opening night contest. The logic here is that despite the fact that the Lions are a returning plus-.500 team, the host Chiefs are still favored for a reason. Actually, in the case of the defending champs, it’s a lot of reasons, starting with QB Patrick Mahomes, the returning MVP of the league. Interestingly, this is an opening night game unlike any other in recent memory. Usually, two big time teams are set up against one another, and both have gotten accustomed to the primetime stage. There is no team in the league that has played fewer big-time games recently than Detroit. Might this stage be too big for the Lions?
Game #2: LA CHARGERS (-2.5) vs. Miami
The Chargers got over the hurdle of reaching the postseason last year only to see a 27-point lead disintegrate in their playoff game at Jacksonville. Will there be a hangover from that contest still eight months later? Or, was it just another building block for what is to become one of the league’s premier teams in 2023? Quite realistically, it is somewhere in between those two opposites, but there’s no denying that head coach Brandon Staley has one of the more talented teams in the league on both sides of the ball. On the opposite sideline is a Miami team that is stuck in a reoccurring pattern of playing well but just not well enough in recent years. The Dolphins are loaded on offense but also have their own hurdles to overcome. This is a tough opening week travel spot for them.
SYSTEM #6: Week 1 favorites playing in a revenge spot from a loss the prior season are just 15-22 SU and 13-24 ATS (35.1%) over the last 11 seasons (Loss: -13.4 units, R.O.I.: -36.2%, Grade 68)
2023 Potential Plays: Play Against ATLANTA, JACKSONVILLE, CHICAGO, DENVER
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 of being placed as a favorite over a team that you lost to last time out. In the case of this year’s four qualifying games, they are all divisional contests with enhanced stakes. We know that being a divisional favorite in Week 1 is also tough.
Game #1: ATLANTA (-3) vs. Carolina
We have another clash system here, as Carolina qualified for its own successful angle in system #2 earlier. This one is about revenge though, and the Panthers’ 25-15 win in November last season can easily be pointed to as the reason the Falcons were not able to win the NFC South Division. It’s naturally more complicated than that, but there will be at least a hint of vengeful motivation being played out by head coach Arthur Smith. The Falcons have beaten the Panthers in six of the last eight meetings in Atlanta.
Game #2: JACKSONVILLE (-3.5) at Indianapolis
Believe it or not, 4-12-1 Indianapolis did beat 9-8 Jacksonville last year in late October, and the result probably made things a lot harder on the Jaguars than they needed to be in terms of eventually winning the AFC South Division. While this is also a system #1 play favoring Indianapolis as the road dog, surely head coach Doug Pederson will try to rally his troops around the concept of “these guys beat us last time out”. Will it be enough to overcome what has proven to be a difficult point spread covering scenario? We’ll see.
Game #3: CHICAGO (-2.5) vs. Green Bay
I already gave an expanded look at the Packers-Bears contest for Week 1, I’ll focus here more on the revenge aspect, as it figures to be paramount in the contest. Of course, this angle goes directly against that in system #2, so it will be up to you to weigh their significance in your own handicapping. All you have to do is look back some 30+ years to understand the frustration of having had to face the Packers all that time with their two elite quarterbacks under center. Of course, Aaron Rodgers bellowed the famous “I still own you” in the game in Chicago a couple of years ago, and surely that makes Bears’ players and fans' blood boil. Is this the game that Chicago officially turns the page and the tide in this rivalry?
Game #4: DENVER (-3.5) vs. Las Vegas
If you’re counting system qualifying plays among the six angles, the final tally is Las Vegas 2, Denver 1 for their opening week showdown. The angle that suggests that the Broncos will be the team standing at the end is one of revenge. Although the game didn’t mean a whole lot in the standings eventually, the Raiders did win in Denver back in November, their sixth straight victory over the hated Broncos. Now, if you don’t value the motivation a team may get from losing to its utmost rival the last time out, perhaps you will when that revenge aspect is six-fold. If head coach Sean Payton’s Denver team is to turn a corner this season, it must turn back Oakland at home in Week 1, and flush the recent history of what has been a one-sided series.
Good luck with your plays and enjoy NFL Kickoff 2023!