The 2020 NFL regular season is still four months away. But that hasn't stopped some sportsbooks from posting lines for (almost) every single game on the schedule.
Believe it or not, you can log in to several different sportsbooks right now and place a bet on any NFL regular season game, Week 1 to Week 17. (Almost any game—Week 17 doesn't have many lines because so many teams may not have a reason to play starters.) For many NFL bettors, having access to every game at your fingertips feels like being a kid in a candy store. However, betting games this early can be like walking a tight rope. You could either pick off a great number super early and be thankful you acted proactively (maybe you bet a team -3 and they end up closing at -5 by the time the game is played). Or you could see a line go completely the other way, in which case you locked yourself into a bad number (maybe you bet a team -3 and it closes at a pick'em).
One obvious reason against betting games so early is the "unknown" factor. Who can possibly predict how both teams will look when the Bears meet the Packers in Week 12? One or both teams could have major injuries by then, or even a new quarterback. You have no idea what to expect this far out. Even if you set your own lines and find an edge right now (maybe you've capped a team -6 when oddsmakers are showing -7), it can be difficult to place a bet so early because it means tying up your bankroll for the next six months or so. As a result, your liquidity decreases and you have less money to play with in the meantime.
A better idea is to exercise discipline and file these lines away for future reference. You can revert back to them throughout the season to see how lines have changed. By using these early lines as a reference point, you can gain critical insight into how oddsmakers viewed teams early on compared to how perceptions (and realities) have changed over time.
For now, we can use these early lines as a measuring stick for how the oddsmakers view each team at this point time in time. More importantly, we can go through each team's schedule and examine the odds for each game to see how it coincides with season-long win total bets.
For example, one of the most polarizing teams this upcoming season is the New England Patriots. Everyone seems to have an opinion on how the Pats will perform without Tom Brady. Some say they're bound for a losing season. Others still believe in the power of Belichick and think the Pats can still win the division or earn a wild-card spot with Jarrett Stidham.
Let's cut through the noise and see what the oddsmakers say. Here are the lines for every Patriots game this regular season, courtesy of PointsBet (with links to lines for all games that week):
Week 1: Patriots -6.5 vs Dolphins
: Patriots + 3.5 at Seahawks
: Patriots -5 vs Raiders
: Patriots + 8 at Chiefs
Patriots -5 vs Broncos
: Patriots + 2 vs 49ers
: Patriots + 1.5 at Bills
: Patriots -4 at Jets
Patriots + 3.5 vs Ravens
: Patriots -1.5 at Texans
: Patriots -7 vs Cardinals
: Patriots -2.5 at Chargers
: Patriots + 1 at Rams
: Patriots -5.5 at Dolphins
: Patriots -2 vs Bills
N/A vs Jets
A few major takeaways: Despite losing Brady, the Patriots are favored in nine of their first 15 regular season games (we don't have odds on Week 17 since it's incredibly unpredictable due to teams resting starters or mailing it in by then).
Based on the odds, New England is expected to beat the Dolphins twice, the Raiders, Broncos, Jets (at least once), Texans, Cardinals, Chargers and Bills (once).
New England is an underdog in six games. The Pats are expected to lose to the Seahawks, Chiefs, 49ers, Bills (once), Ravens and Rams.
Some of these lines are incredibly short and could go either way. For example, the Patriots are -1.5 favorites at the Texans and -2 vs the Bills. So one or both of those games could easily be losses based on the short odds.
However, the Patriots are only a + 1 underdog at the Rams, + 1.5 at the Bills and only + 2 vs Jimmy G and the 49ers. One, two or all three of those projected losses could turn into wins. They are practically pick'em spreads, meaning it's a virtual toss-up.
Even with a few wins or losses going the other way, the oddsmakers are projecting New England at roughly 9-7 for the upcoming season (or possibly 10-6 if you count a Week 17 win vs the Jets). This puts the Patriots right on the mark with their regular season win total, which is set at 9 games across the market.
At DraftKings, the Patriots are -205 favorites to make the playoffs. New England is also a slight favorite to win the AFC East at + 125, with Buffalo a close second at + 145. The Dolphins and Jets are both + 700 longshots.