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Tuley's Takes on early NFL lines

By Dave Tuley  ( senior reporter) 

May 18, 2020 08:06 PM

As we wrote in our “Tuley’s Takes on NFL Week 1” after the schedule was released Thursday night, the Westgate SuperBook posted its annual openers per usual.

Its oddsmakers then threw us a curveball by also posting the full Week 2 schedule a half-hour later. In retrospect, that made sense, as speculation has arisen that the Week 1 schedule might be postponed until after Week 17 if the league is unable to start on time. In that case, Week 2 would become the new opening week.

The Westgate has also posted its “Games of the Year,” consisting of all prime-time games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights plus other marquee games. PointsBet, which operates in New Jersey and Iowa, went a step further by posting nearly all the Week 2-17 lines. PointsBet was taking over in the market for Nevada-based CG Technology books, in the process of being bought out by William Hill.

I wish I had been more proactive in betting the Week 2 lines as several jumped off the page at me. But it appears several early bettors had the same idea and snatched up those plays, so those numbers are now gone: Bengals + 8.5 at Browns (now down to 8 at Westgate and PointsBet), Falcons + 7.5 at Cowboys (down to 7) and especially Vikings + 3.5 at Colts (now 3 at Westgate and already down to 2.5 at PointsBet).

But I’m not too bummed about missing out on some of those potentially juicy numbers because even more uncertainty surrounds Week 2. As ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported last week, the NFL put a lot of flexibility into the regular-season schedule. That included the fact that all Week 2 opponents have common bye weeks. That means that if the season is pushed back and the league goes with a shortened schedule with no byes, the Week 2 slate could be broken up to fill later bye weeks.

So those lines could be drastically different later in the season, which makes it more of a guessing game for handicappers — though equally so for oddsmakers. While we warn readers and fellow bettors about that — obviously, weigh your own risk/reward assessment of the advance lines along with the downside of tying up part of your bankroll for several months — I’ll still give my best “Takes” on the rest of the NFL schedule. As a reminder, while it’s important to pick winners, the more important thing is to find games on which you can lock in a better price now than you’ll be able to get on game day — or at least not be stuck on the wrong side of a key number. We’ll use lines available as of May 12.



Packers -6.5 vs. Lions (Westgate and PointsBet): While early bettors sucked a lot of value out of Week 2 lines, they left this one for us. Whether this is the opener or the second week as scheduled, I can’t see the public letting the Packers go off as less than TD home favorites vs. the Lions.

Cardinals -6.5 vs. Redskins (Westgate and PointsBet): This line opened Cards -7 and was bet down to 6.5 at both shops. However, I’m high on the Cardinals and think 7 was the right number, and we could now set up a middle or a side. VSiN colleague Jeff Fogle did his NFL Market Ratings and had the Cardinals ranked nine points higher than the Redskins on a neutral field, which is in line with my own power ratings, so I’m confident we could see this line reverse and go back over a TD even if not giving Arizona extra points for home field.

Yes, both my Week 2 plays are favorites, since all the best underdog plays were snapped up, with the potential of setting up middles or sides. While I think everyone knows that “hitting a middle” is when you bet opposite on the same game and win both bets, such as -6.5 and + 7.5 and the game landing on 7, “hitting a side” is when you bet opposite on the same game and one bet wins and one pushes, such as that same scenario with a win on -6.5 and a push on + 7.



Bills -2.5 vs. Rams (PointsBet): The Rams have a brutal early schedule. They’re three-point home underdogs vs. the Cowboys and then four-point road dogs at the Eagles. The Bills have a better chance to enter this game 2-0, as they’re six-point home favorites vs. the Jets and three-point road faves at the Dolphins. If they’re 2-0 and the Rams are 0-2, I could see this line moving over a field goal. Even if the Rams split or start 2-0, I can’t see this line going much lower. If it somehow went to pick-’em, I’d let my -2.5 bet ride on the home chalk.

Broncos + 3 vs. Buccaneers (PointsBet): Here’s a market bet that is hopefully still available Wednesday. PointsBet had the Broncos as three-point home dogs late Tuesday afternoon, while Westgate had this game at pick-’em.

Chiefs + 3 at Ravens (Westgate): PointsBet has this line at Ravens -1, so I think the + 3 on the defending champs is a bargain. Besides, unless the Chiefs stumble out of the gate, I don’t see the Ravens being favored by a full field goal by late September.



Patriots + 8 at Chiefs (PointsBet): If you believe the Chiefs will roll over everyone, you’ll want to ignore this recommendation. But if you believe Bill Belichick will keep the Patriots competitive, this + 8 is appealing to lock in now.



Steelers + 0.5 vs. Eagles (PointsBet): Here’s another market play we hope is still available for those with access to PointsBet lines by the time “PSW” comes out. The Westgate has this intrastate rivalry game at Steelers -3, but PointsBet bettors can get Pittsburgh as a short home dog.



Falcons + 3.5 at Vikings (Westgate and PointsBet): I’m not as down on the Falcons as a lot of people and think they have some winnable games that could put them at 3-2 heading into this matchup. Meanwhile, the Vikings have several coin-flip games and could have about the same record, so I don’t think this line will be more than three by game day.



Steelers + 8 at Ravens (PointsBet): This rivalry has usually been lined with the home team favored by three, and I don’t see this much difference between the teams no matter what the Ravens accomplished last season. This line has already been bet down to Ravens -6, so there’s a juicy middle opportunity for those with access to both lines.



Falcons pick-’em at Panthers (Westgate): As mentioned, I see the Falcons as being more competitive than many people think and expect they’ll be road favorites by the time this Thursday night game comes along. PointsBet already has this at Falcons -3.5, so don’t bet it there.



Ravens -3 at Colts (Westgate): I’ve been down on the Ravens in a few of these. But this line has gone as low as I think it can go (it’s -5 at PointsBet) unless Philip Rivers is exceeding expectations in Indianapolis. 



Titans + 9.5 at Ravens (PointsBet): I know a lot of people will be backing the Ravens on the revenge angle for the Titans’ 28-12 playoff upset, but I can’t see the Ravens turning the tables by this much. More importantly, I don’t think oddsmakers will set the line this high by game day and am very surprised it’s this high now. Note that Westgate doesn’t have this Sunday afternoon game included in its GOYs.



Steelers + 3.5 vs. Ravens (PointsBet): Similar to the earlier meeting, I don’t see the Steelers being such big underdogs in this Thanksgiving night rematch. It’s already down to 2.5 at Westgate.



Eagles + 3.5 at Cowboys (Westgate): I’m not so sure the Cowboys will be the better team or even favored by the time this Week 16 game is played, let alone laying more than a field goal. PointsBet has it at only Cowboys -1.5.


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