Despite the excitement of the NBA and NHL playoffs as well as the Kentucky Derby, we were actually most thrilled here in the Tuley’s Takes home office by the start of the major-college football season over the Labor Day weekend, as we weren’t sure it would happen.
Of course, it also helped that I went 4-1 ATS with my picks on the VSiN CFB Consensus page. Dogs were barking early in the FBS, and I bet BYU at pick-’em after it opened as a short dog vs. Navy. Unfortunately, my lone loss was the only game I picked in this column as Middle Tennessee State was run over by Army 42-0 as a 3.5-point dog. It happens.
With the colleges, we’ll just stick to my picks on the VSiN CFB Consensus and Best Bets pages because this week our focus is on pro football.
For readers who were with us during the shutdown, I gave out four NFL Week 1 best bets when the schedule came out in April: Jaguars + 8.5 vs. Colts, Seahawks -1 at Falcons, Packers + 3.5 at Vikings and Titans + 3 at Broncos. Anyone should feel great if they bet those back then, as we have the best of the number and great hedging and middling possibilities. However, for this week’s exercise, we’ll focus on the current lines for our Week 1 bets and contest plays.
For newbies, I go over the full NFL card and give my take on each game. I have a well-established reputation as a dog-or-pass bettor, so my best bets will be dogs, but I’ve had lots of readers who aren’t as allergic to chalk as I am and see a pass on the underdog as an endorsement to bet the favorite. In addition, while I don’t recommend a bet on every game, I’ll offer my lean for each matchup because I know a lot of us are playing in contests in which we have to pick every game on the board — and I’ve always been a huge proponent of contest play to supplement our straight bets. Odds are the consensus lines from Las Vegas books as of Tuesday afternoon unless noted.
Tuley’s Takes on NFL Week 1
Texans at Chiefs (-9.5): We missed out on the + 10.5 when it was widely available in the spring, but I think the market has moved this in the right direction for Thursday night’s opener. Granted, the Texans famously blew a 24-0 lead to the Chiefs in the divisional playoffs, but remember that the Texans were good enough to have a 24-0 lead. I have to think the Texans can stay within a touchdown. Obviously, no lead is safe against Patrick Mahomes and his crew, so hopefully the Texans play the whole 60 minutes this time. Best Bet: Texans + 9.5 (pool play: Texans ATS in all my rare contests that include Thursday games, but Chiefs still 75-25 in SU contests).
Dolphins at Patriots (-6.5): Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Cam Newton. Who woulda thunk it? The Dolphins are improving and did upset the Pats with Tom Brady in Week 17, but that is still not enough for me to take the Dolphins. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Patriots about 70-30 in SU contests and only 55-45 in ATS contests).
Browns at Ravens (-8.5): The whole world is on the Ravens and seemingly back to fading the Browns. But it was just 12 months ago that the Browns were getting all the hype and were favored to win the AFC North. The Browns remind me of the 49ers, who were hyped in 2018 only to have a disappointing season and then lived up to their potential in 2019, going all the way to the Super Bowl. There isn’t that much difference between these teams, certainly not more than a TD. Best Bet: Browns + 8.5, plus add a little on moneyline at + 250 or better (pool play: Browns in nearly all ATS contests and even taking them 50-50 in SU pools).
Jets at Bills (-6.5): It’s tempting to take the Jets, but the Bills emerged as a really solid team last year with the maturation of QB Josh Allen and a strong defense. So I just can’t pull the trigger on the Jets, even though they should be improved. I’m sure I’ll be making the case for them in coming weeks as live underdogs. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Bills 80-20 in SU pools but only 55-45 in ATS contests).
Raiders (-3) at Panthers: This line opened with Oakland (make that Las Vegas!) about a 1- to 1.5-point road favorite. With the move to 3, it’s tempting to take the Panthers, but I generally don’t like to make a bet just to ensure a push if it lands on the number. I’ll jump in only if I can get + 3.5 later in the week. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Raiders around 67-33 in SU pools and 50-50 ATS, but would take either Raiders -2.5 or Panthers + 3.5 in contests that offer those lines).
Seahawks (-2) at Falcons: As noted, I bet this at Seahawks -1 in April. I fully expected it to get steamed to -3, so I could buy back the Falcons + 3 and have a chance at a middle, and I would win both bets if it lands on a two-point margin or a side where I win one bet and push the other if it lands on one or three. At this point, I would let it ride as I think the Seahawks are the right side. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Seahawks about 60-40 in all SU and ATS contests).
Eagles (-6) at Washington: This is the part of the card when I start to worry that I’m passing on too many home underdogs, but I can’t pull the trigger on this Washington team. The Eagles are far superior, and I just feel this isn’t enough points for me. It’s not like Washington had much of a home-field advantage even with fans in the stands. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Eagles in all SU pools and even around 60-40 in ATS contests).
Bears at Lions (-3): I heard the guys on “The Lombardi Line” the other day laughing when coach Matt Nagy named Mitchell Trubisky as the Bears’ starting QB, and the oddsmakers showed their disrespect by moving the Lions to -3. But that move puts me on the Bears, as they have the better overall team even with Trubisky starting. Best Bet: Bears + 3, plus add a little on the moneyline at + 135 (pool play: Bears around 80-20 in all ATS contests, even at + 2.5, and actually 67-33 in SU contests).
Colts (-8) at Jaguars: As stated earlier, I bet the Jaguars + 8.5 when the lines came out and then I bet back the Colts -7 before it reversed again, so I’m already set with shooting for a middle or side. But as we sit here now, I still think the Jaguars are the play. I’ve long backed new Indy QB Philip Rivers as a dog and faded him as a favorite and don’t see why that should be different with a new team. Besides, Gardner Minshew showed the ability to improvise before the rest of the league figured him out, but that should be a good trait in these early games with limited training camps. Best Bet: Jaguars + 8 (pool play: Jaguars around 67-33 in ATS contests but Colts around 67-33 in SU pools).
Packers at Vikings (-3): Again, I have the Packers + 3.5 and will likely buy back about 25% of my wager back on the Vikings -2.5. But I still think the Packers are playable at + 3, which is available at half the books out there. These teams are pretty even, and I believe the Vikings should be only about -2, especially with no fans to give them a home-field advantage. Best Bet: Packers + 3 but pass at + 2.5 (pool play: Packers around 60-40 in SU pools but closer to 70-30 in ATS contests with 100% if a contest has + 3.5 but closer to 50-50 at + 2.5).
Chargers (-3.5) at Bengals: The Bengals are tempting as home dogs of more than a field goal as we wait to see how Joe Burrow adapts to the pro game, but this is starting to look like the dreaded popular underdog that we usually try to avoid. I love dogs but prefer it when I’m contrarian to the public. By the time the weekend rolls around, I might not be able to resist, but ... Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Bengals around 55-45 in ATS contests but Chargers 60-40 in SU contests).
Cardinals at 49ers (-7): I’m high on the Cardinals this year, so I have to like them getting a touchdown vs. the defending conference champs. I believe Kyler Murray’s athleticism and improvisational skills could be the difference here and minimize the edge for the San Francisco defense. Best Bet: Cardinals + 7 (pool play: Cardinals 75-25 in ATS contests, though slightly lower at + 6.5 and all in on + 7.5, but 49ers still around 60-40 in SU pools).
Buccaneers at Saints (-3.5): This is being hyped as the game of the week and occupies the Sunday afternoon national TV spot as Tom Brady debuts for Tampa Bay at Drew Brees and the Saints in the first matchup between the Nos. 1 and 2 passing leaders of all time. This will have most fans’ attention, but it doesn’t mean we have to bet on it. The Bucs are intriguing with Brady, RB Leonard Fournette and TE Rob Gronkowski added to an already superb receiving corps. But the Saints are still the better overall team, and I don’t believe I’m getting enough points to back Brady. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Saints 75-25 in SU pools and slightly more than 50-50 in ATS contests).
Cowboys (-3) at Rams: The Sunday nighter opened with the Cowboys favored by less than a field goal. It’s getting more tempting to bet the Rams, but I still believe the Cowboys are the right side unless it gets to 3.5, though I’m not holding my breath. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Cowboys 80-20 in SU pools and around 60-40 in ATS contests, even higher if offered -2.5).
Steelers (-6) at Giants: This is another time I really want to make a case for the home underdog on Monday night, but the problem is I’m very high on the Steelers, especially with how well they competed last year after losing Ben Roethlisberger. I’ll probably be on the Giants several times this year, just not in the opener. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Steelers in all SU pools and at least 67-33 in ATS contests as well).
Titans (pick-’em) at Broncos: This Monday night line has moved the most. I bet the Titans at + 3 and now it’s at PK with Circa Sports in Vegas and offshore giant Pinnacle at Titans -1 as of Tuesday afternoon. I obviously think the money is on the right side, as the Titans are my top Super Bowl future-book play and I’ll probably let this bet ride. But would I still bet the Titans at the current price? Yes, but like BYU on Monday night, I would take them at PK but pass if fully bet to favoritism. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Titans in all SU and ATS contests. I often will go all in on the last game of the week since I want to have my strongest opinion going for me in case I connect the dots on a single contest entry).
Tuley’s Takes on NBA, NHL
Even with pro football taking over, we’re not ignoring the NBA and NHL playoffs.
I was all over the Celtics earlier in their NBA second-round series against the Raptors when they were underdogs but will pass on them as three-point favorites Wednesday night as they go for the series clincher. I will, however, bet the Nuggets again. They lost Monday night to fall behind the Clippers 2-1 in the series, but they covered as 8.5-point dogs and are getting + 8 again. As for the Rockets, I’ll back them Thursday if coming off a loss to the Lakers but pass if they won Tuesday.
In the NHL, I’m glad I passed on the Islanders vs. the Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Monday, but I certainly didn’t expect the 8-2 blowout. I’m hoping we can chalk it up to a letdown after the Isles’ seven-game battle with the Flyers, as I’m taking them + 145 in Wednesday’s Game 2. As for the Western Conference, I’ll continue to let my Stanley Cup futures ride on the Golden Knights.