NFL Week 1 betting strategy/picks

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NFL Week 1 betting strategy/picks

There are opposing schools of thought when it comes to betting Week 1 of the NFL season. One line of thinking is that it’s extremely difficult to get down on teams that bettors haven’t seen in nine months. Personnel changes, coaching staff overhauls and the potential improvement or regression of players makes it a challenge to appraise a matchup without anything concrete on which to base one’s assessment.

The alternative viewpoint – one held by the majority of pros – is that Week 1 lines are ripe for the picking, because oddsmakers have yet to calibrate and are therefore putting numbers on the board than can be exploited. Sharp bettors have already put together their own power rankings based on all of the various permutations that have taken place in the offseason, so they have an idea of who they like and who they want to fade right from the outset, thus they view Week 1 through the lens of value that’s there to be had.

The reality probably lies somewhere between the two extremes. There are certainly opportunities, but everyone – from casual bettors to oddsmakers to wiseguys themselves – needs to see the teams in action for a period of time before truly calibrating. With that in mind, onto the Week 1 picks.

Packers (+6) at Seahawks

As a general rule of thumb, taking points is usually the safer move than giving points in Week 1, especially with good teams. The Seahawks’ prowess at home (15-1 straight up over the last two years, 12-4 ATS) is well-documented, but this is more of a play on the Packers – and Aaron Rodgers specifically. Simply put, when Rodgers is on the field, the Packers are in the game. Over the last four years in games Rodgers has started and finished, Green Bay lost 14 times, with 12 of those defeats coming by less than a touchdown, and 10 coming by four points or less. That includes, of course, the infamous “Fail Mary” game (a 14-12 Seattle win). Bottom line is when you can catch points with Rodgers, take them.

Patriots at Dolphins – under 47.5

This total appears to be a referendum on the Patriots defense. For the better part of the last decade, New England has scored and allowed points in droves, resulting in totals almost always in the high 40s and 50s. The difference is this isn’t the Patriots defense of recent past. The remaking of the unit actually began before last season, but season-ending injuries to its two most key cogs on the front seven – Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo – significantly┬áset the Patriots back. Both players are back and healthy, Chandler Jones is fresh off a sophomore campaign in which he emerged as an elite hybrid pass rusher, and Bill Belichick used the offseason to completely overhaul the secondary, most notably acquiring Darrelle Revis. When the Patriots lost to Miami in Week 15 last year, it was because they couldn’t contain Mike Wallace, who caught six balls for 105 yards and a touchdown. With Wallace almost certainly headed to Revis Island and a pair of high-caliber defenses doing battle, this matchup should go under for the fifth straight time in the series.

49ers at Cowboys – over 51

These teams have one thing in common. They have both lost multiple key components to their defenses over the past few months. The Cowboys enter 2014 having lost their best pass rusher (Demarcus Ware) to free agency, their best linebacker (Sean Lee) to another injury while trotting out a secondary that lacks depth and is full of question marks. San Francisco has suffered even more setbacks, the exception being their defense was actually good before free agency (Donte Whitner, Carlos Rogers), injuries (NaVorro Bowman) and suspensions (Aldon Smith) started to take their cumulative toll. While the Niners D should be able to right itself down the line, Week 1 is shaping up as a good old fashioned Texas shootout.

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