Week 1 NFL point spreads have been up for months, so this is hardly a look at the opening lines. However, as betting limits increase this week, we’ll see some stronger positions taken by influential groups and individuals. While these lines have been out since the spring, they will be viewed in a different light now that game week has arrived.
We’ll see a good bit of movement on the betting board as we get closer to kickoff, but I think there are some good numbers still out there.
Here are the early lines I like for Week 1:
New York Giants at Tennessee Titans (-5.5, 43.5)
The first thing that catches my eye is the low-scoring expectation on the total. As a general rule, when points are projected to be at a premium, the starting point for the handicap should be the underdog.
In this instance, you have a Giants team a lot of people expect to improve with Brian Daboll as the coach and better health at the skill positions. You also have a Titans team a lot of people have soured on with the loss of AJ Brown and questions about Ryan Tannehill’s job security.
Perhaps more importantly, the Titans were outgained on a yards-per-play basis last season, so many are looking at them as a regression candidate. By Expected Win-Loss, the Titans were nearly two wins better than they should have been in 2021. For a team likely to fall back, covering 5.5 in Week 1 is a tall order.
Pick: Giants + 5.5
San Francisco 49ers (-7, 41.5) at Chicago Bears
Trey Lance’s reign as the 49ers starting quarterback starts with a very favorable schedule. The Bears are projected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL and there are not many roster upgrades to use as silver linings. First-year coach Matt Eberflus has a first-time play-caller in Luke Getsy on offense and Alan Williams, who hasn’t called plays since 2013, on defense.
The biggest mismatch of Week 1 might be the defensive line of San Francisco against the offensive line of Chicago. The 49ers get tons of pressure with their front four, allowing the rest of the defense to sit back in coverage and limit big plays. Justin Fields is mobile, but he’ll likely be pressured a ton in this game.
Meanwhile, the playbook has to be reduced a bit for Lance, which means a lot of running plays and a lot of running clock when the 49ers have the rock. This looks like a low-scoring affair.
Pick: Under 41.5
Indianapolis Colts (-8, 45.5) at Houston Texans
Green Bay Packers (-1.5, 48) at Minnesota Vikings
John Ferguson, who wrote gambling literature under the pen name Stanford Wong, published a book in 2001 called “Sharp Sports Betting.” In the book, the concept of the “Wong Teaser” was popularized and is still used en masse to this day. A teaser is a parlay bet in which you get a better line on the sides (or totals).
The best use of a teaser is in the NFL when you can take the traditional line through the numbers 3 and 7. In this instance, using a 6-point Wong Teaser, you can take the Colts down from -8 to -2 and the Vikings up from + 1.5 to + 7.5.
Historically, games that finish with a difference of 3 and 7 are the most common, while 4, 5 and 6 also show up quite a bit. Most books now charge -120 or -125 (bet $120 to win $100 or bet $125 to win $100) on two-team, 6-point teasers, but they can still be a good bet in the NFL, especially in games that have totals in the 40s.
These two games give us a perfect example of a Wong Teaser in action and will be a very common wager in Week 1. Obviously, the Colts look strong against the Texans, and the Vikings should be able to keep it close (or even win) against a Packers team that looks watered-down on offense. Minnesota has also garnered a lot of attention with new coach Kevin O’Connell, and some like them to win the NFC North.
Pick: Teaser with Colts -2/Vikings + 7.5