The NFL released its 2021 regular-season schedule on Wednesday. While it has always been a big deal, it’s amazing how much mainstream media coverage it received from a gambling perspective, with writers and broadcasters talking about the Week 1 lines and making picks.
It was just a few short years ago when I was just about the only journalist to make opening-week picks against the spread four months before the season. With the expansion of legalized sports betting in this country and the continuing explosion of sports wagering as a whole, everyone seems to be giving their opinions on what to bet.
This is good for the industry overall, so I welcome it. However, I couldn’t help but notice that so many of these prognosticators were missing the point of betting this far out. Granted, they would mention that value can be found before the lines move (which is true), but then they would handicap the games with what rookies they felt would make an impact and how the teams match up, etc.
Now, obviously the goal is to have the winning side when the games are played, but most people don’t address the most important points of whether to make your bets now or later: Are you getting the best number now to make it worthwhile to tie up part of your bankroll for nearly four months? You should be handicapping the line (and the betting markets) more than handicapping the actual teams. Besides, if you’re just handicapping the teams, you can rest assured that’s all been factored into the line anyway.
Last year, I went 4-0 ATS with my early Week 1 picks here at VSiN.com with the Jaguars + 8.5 at the Colts (Jaguars pulled the outright upset, 27-20), Seahawks -1 at the Falcons (Seahawks won 38-25), Packers + 3.5 at Vikings (Packers won outright, 43-34) and Titans + 3 at Broncos (Titans won outright, 16-14).
However, I was more proud of the fact that bettors who joined me in these early bets got the best of the number in three cases with the Seahawks closing pick-’em at the Falcons being the lone expectation (and we didn’t lose much value from -1 to PK). Jaguars closed + 7 at Colts, Packers closed + 1 at the Vikings and Titans actually closed -3 at the Broncos. That last game illustrates the other reason to bet these early when you have an edge as sharp bettors with Titans + were able to hit a middle with Broncos + 3!
So, without further ado, let’s break down every Week 1 matchup and look for this year’s early betting value: