Week One NFL Best Bets
Davis Mattek’s Week One NFL Best Bets
After amassing a 36-26-1 record against the spread last season on RotoExperts, I am back to break down more of my favorite NFL sports bets this year on SportsGrid. As always, beating NFL lines is one of the more difficult tasks that a sports bettor can undertake as NFL games are the most bet-on events in the world and the lines are incredibly efficient. If we are able to churn out a profit and have some fun in the process, then we can consider it a battle well fought.
Week One NFL Sports Betting Picks
Baltimore Ravens -7.5 Over Cleveland Browns
One of the things that I like to focus on when betting NFL games is not getting too caught up on minute details when dealing with ethereal talents like Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. Sure, the Ravens lost in a wrenching fashion in the playoffs against the Titans (and actually this Browns team in the regular season in 2020) but at every level, they are a better team than Cleveland. They have a huge edge at head coach, as Harbaugh is one of the few coaches who actively presses 4th down edges with his mobile QB.
Last season, the Ravens were the number one overall team in offensive DVOA by over 4%. They were also the number five overall team in defensive DVOA. Not to be outdone, the Ravens special teams were the ninth overall unit in DVOA. In total DVOA, no other team was in the Ravens neighborhood. While DVOA is, of course, not a perfect way to forecast games, it does drive at the heart of what I am saying: the Ravens laid the wood on their opponents all season and are not a wildly different team.
On the other hand, the Browns were a massive disappointment. They finished 24th in total DVOA while firing Freddie Kitchens. Baker Mayfield averaged a hilariously bad 6.2 adjusted yards per attempt. I like Baker, I think he has a future as a good-to-above-average NFL QB but this is not his spot. Take the Ravens, lay the points, and watch Lamar win.
Indianapolis Colts -7.5 Over Jacksonville Jaguars
This might be one of the few times this year the Jaguars are not double-digit underdogs. A team that completely gave up trying last season, going 6-10 while scoring fewer than 13 points an outrageous seven times actually got worse over the offseason. They traded away the few defensive impact players that they had left, they left Nick Foles leave to Chicago so that their QB room is only Gardner Minshew and Jake Luton. The Jaguars plan was to lose every game this season and the league is going to give them their wish.
On the Colts side of the ball, they are improved at QB with the aging Phil Rivers taking over for Jacoby Brissett. The offensive line remains one of the best units in the game and forecasters feel solid about their defense if the pre-season win total markets are a good indicator of that. Frank Reich is one of the smarter/sharper head coaches in football but mostly this bet is about a good team with winning aspirations taking it to a bad team with none. The Colts were close to a league-average DVOA team last season with a really weird roster that got unquestionably better this offseason.
Arizona Cardinals +6.5 At San Francisco 49ers
If you are going to take sports betting at least semi-seriously, one really helpful thing you should do is develop some stances that aren’t fully priced into markets. A very simple stance would be something like “Heisman-trophy winning QBs that played at least adequately as rookies in the NFL are likely to improve a substantial amount in year two.” That take doesn’t always work of course. Baker Mayfield tripped all over himself last season while Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes blossomed in their second seasons.
Count me in the “Kyler is ready to take it to the next level camp”. The games between Arizona and San Francisco were hyper-competitive last season, with the 49ers only covering in the second game because of a late defensive touchdown. Kyler went toe-to-toe with the best defense in football and held his own. Admittedly, long touchdowns by Kenyan Drake and Andy Isabella helped though the biggest takeaway for this game for me is that Arizona’s offense is better than it was last season (adding DeAndre Hopkins, subtracting KeeSean Johnson/Damiere Byrd) and San Francisco’s offense is worse (subtracting Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel) for at least this first game.
I would of course prefer if we were able to get the “fresh” line of 7 points but this is what I get for writing this article on Friday afternoon. Take the Cardinals, take the points and watch Kyler evolve.