The NFL season kicks off Thursday, Sept. 5 with the Green Bay Packers visiting the Chicago Bears on Thursday Night Football. There’s another 13 games Sunday, Sept. 8 and two Monday Night Football games on Sept. 9 with all 32 NFL teams involved in Week 1 action.
By now you probably know that you can bet on the NFL at legal sportsbooks in 11 states. Plus, half a dozen more states have passed sports betting legislation and could open up sportsbooks with NFL betting markets before the season is through.
You are likely also aware that most of these sportsbooks set their own point spreads, totals, and moneyline odds on NFL games. Or, they use large third-party service providers to do it for them.
It’s almost uncanny how good oddsmakers have become at predicting what will happen in almost every NFL game. In other words, the point spreads are remarkably accurate. Of course, that makes it difficult to pick winners against the spread in the NFL. It’s hard to beat the sportsbooks with NFL oddsmaking becoming such an exact science.
However, what you might not know is that these NFL lines often move ahead of a game. And, if there’s no real on-the-field reason why, you might be able to take advantage of it.
Taking advantage of movement in NFL lines
NFL lines move for a variety of reasons. This includes things like key injuries, holdouts, and other news regarding players that might affect the outcome of a game. Reports of bad weather can even force sportsbooks to move a line.
Sportsbooks adjusted the spread dramatically on the Indianapolis Colts–Los Angeles Chargers Week 1 tilt after star Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck suddenly retired in the middle of the preseason. But clearly, they had a justifiable on-field reason to do so.
When a big bet or increased action moves a line instead, it does so somewhat artificially. Sportsbooks are simply seeing too much action on one side and want to attract bettors to the other to limit their exposure.
The line oddsmakers initially set is still valid. It’s still what oddsmakers think will happen. And we know how good they are at predicting such things.
So, you can take advantage of this artificial line movement by taking the extra points or giving give away less when the matchup on the field doesn’t truly warrant it.
Week 1 NFL lines
Below is a look at the current point spread and totals lines for all 16 Week 1 NFL games at two of the top legal sports betting apps in the country. This includes DraftKings Sportsbook in New Jersey and West Virginia. Plus, FanDuel Sportsbook in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and West Virginia.
You should find similar lines and see similar movement, at most legal sportsbooks across the country, online and off. Movement is denoted by the lines for the same games from last week placed in brackets ().
|NFL Week 1||DraftKings Sportsbook||FanDuel Sportsbook|
Pick 'Em (-1)
Big line movement on road favorite Ravens
One of the largest movements in any Week 1 line has seen the Baltimore Ravens go up from 5-point road favorites (5.5 on DraftKings) to 6.5 against the Miami Dolphins.
The only real on-the-field news coming out over the past week is first-year Dolphins head coach Brian Flores naming veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick the Week 1 starter over second-year QB Josh Rosen.
But when you consider both players’ previous records, that’s news that would seem to favor Miami, not Baltimore.
Fitzpatrick has started 141 games in 14 NFL seasons, albeit with seven different teams. Plus, last season he led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to victories in the first two weeks of the season against the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles. Both of these teams made the playoffs. Fitzpatrick threw for over 400 yards against both.
Rosen started 13 games as a rookie for the Arizona Cardinals last year. He threw more interceptions than touchdowns and Arizona finished the season 3-13.
There are those that believe the Dolphins are going wave the white flag this season in hopes of picking a franchise quarterback high in the 2020 draft. But even they would have to admit the movement in this line seems artificial. In other words, it is quite likely more money is being bet on Baltimore and the line has moved to attract more action on the Miami side.
That suggests there’s no real on-the-field reason Miami is getting another point to point and a half here. Five points for a road favorite is a lot to cover anyway. Six and a half points is significantly more. So, unless you think Miami is a total write-off this year, they are a home underdog you might want to consider in Week 1.
Can the Eagles cover a big Week 1 spread?
One of the other biggest movements in the Week 1 lines came in the Eagles and Washington Redskins game. Philadelphia has moved from a -8.5 home favorite to -9.5 (9 on FanDuel).
Outside of a few small roster moves, there hasn’t been much news about either team over the past week.
There is one story claiming Eagles star wide receiver DeSean Jackson will definitely play in the season opener. However, that’s not much of a surprise and would hardly move the line up a point. Instead, it looks like an artificial move caused by more money being bet on Philadelphia.
Philadelphia clearly outclasses Washington on both sides of the ball. However, with no true on-the-field reason Washington is getting another point they may be a road underdog worth considering, particularly this early in the season. Nine and a half points is a lot to expect from any team in Week 1.
Look for other significant live movements as game day approaches and you may be able to take advantage of the adjustments sportsbooks make to limit their exposure, despite what oddsmakers truly believe the outcome of a game will be.