At this point in the preseason most serious NFL bettors have read all the magazines and followed all the stories on injuries and suspensions. There is probably nothing I can add in that respect that would shed additional light on the coming season.
However, one aspect I can inform you on is where the sharp money is going. At the South Point we have Super Bowl futures, division championship odds, season win totals and the first week of the NFL regular season on the board. From the betting action we can glean how the wiseguys see the coming season.
I might have missed the boat on the Arizona Cardinals this year. I really felt they would be down with an aging quarterback-wide receiver combination and defense that was unlikely to match its performance last season. Hence, I opened their season win total at 7.5 flat.
It didn’t take long for limit bets to come in on the Cards. Not from squares either. They saw Carson Palmer having another solid season, as he did two years ago, rather than his injury plagued 2016. Larry Fitzgerald didn’t lose a step last season and handicappers are betting that no serious drop off will come this year. Northern Iowa’s David Johnson has come into his own as one of the top running backs in the league. The Cards also had a top defense when the offense helped them. Personally I worry about Palmer, but sharp money is definitely on the Cardinals so far.
Even before the Joe Flacco injury, the wiseguys had come in against the Baltimore Ravens. The season win total dropped from 9.5 under -125 to 8.5 over -115.
Now that Flacco has a hurt back, which can linger a long time, most books have the season wins and first week line off the board. The Ravens had been perennial contenders for years, but since their Super Bowl winning season a few years ago, they have slipped into mediocrity. Part of that might be the huge contract Flacco forced the team into that prevented them from having the depth they once had, but regardless the team is not as strong as it once was.
As of now Ryan Mallett is the back up quarterback, but don’t expect big things from the journeyman. Even with Flacco, the season looks bleak according to handicappers. Without him, they look like a solid bet against team.
The Dallas Cowboys always enjoy a huge amount of public support. Even with the public’s dollars, the season win total dropped from 9.5 over -120 to 9.5 under -135. Some of that late under money came after Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension, but wiseguys were shorting the Cowboys for the past few weeks.
The Cowboys had hit a low of 5/2 on the Super Bowl futures but I have now raised them to 8/1. Again, part of that is Elliott’s suspension but the primary reason is the inflow of Cowboys money dried up while lots of other teams were picking up action.
In the season opener against the Giants, I purposely opened the line low. Some sportsbooks had the Cowboys as high as a 6.5-point favorite. I opened 5.5. Before the Elliott suspension books were mostly at Cowboys -4.5. Now the Cowboys are a 3.5 or 4-point favorite. Wiseguy money has spoken loudly against the Cowboys.
The Denver Broncos still sport the backbone of that Super Bowl winning defense, but neither quarterback Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch has been able to command the quarterback position even as well as Peyton Manning did in his final season. The word among many sharp football people is general manager John Elway blew it by drafting Lynch in the first round two years ago. The jury is still out on Lynch, but nothing yet has indicated he is worth such a high selection.
Even if the defense plays up to their potential, it is hard to see them as one of the AFC favorites. Their season win total dropped from 8.5 over -120 to 8 under -125.
For years I have been joking that if you don’t think the Jacksonville Jaguars will be one of the league’s most improved teams, they will come and take away your wiseguy card. Well, here we go again. The South Point opened the Jaguars season wins 5.5 over -120 but now are posting 6.5 over -150.
Okay, label me extremely skeptical on this one, as I have been on the Jaguars play for years. I don’t know what the wiseguys constantly see in this outfit, but obviously they’ll be right one year, and maybe this is it.
They’ll be betting the Jags every week, too, just like they have for years. Of course they’ll cover once in a while, but they still have to prove themselves to me before I start touting them. I’m very comfortable with the sportsbook’s position. I honestly don’t know what these guys are thinking.
I made a huge mistake this year opening the New England Patriots season win total at 11 over -120. That was really stupid on my part. We are now up to 12.5 over -120. If you didn’t know, that’s a huge move.
It’s no surprise that the defending Super Bowl champs will be good again this year. Of course, it isn’t easy to repeat a championship, but the last team to do so was the Pats.
Even after their championship season, they attacked the off-season like they were a 4-12 team. They saw a few relative weaknesses and addressed them. No wonder they are the best team in football and arguably the best run franchise in all of American sports.
Did I just write that? I’ll drink some poison right after I finish this article. The truth is a bitter pill.
Speaking of bad numbers, I opened the Jets season wins at 5.5 over. The South Point is now down to 4 under -140.
Holy cow! Can they be that bad? Well, everyone in Las Vegas seems to think so. They might be right. There isn’t much there to prevent them from being the worst team in football.
I loved Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg in the early part of his Penn State career, but the truth is he didn’t develop as well as I thought he would. It’s mostly an accuracy issue, but unfortunately for him and the Jets, that’s the main part of the game for NFL quarterbacks.
Nonetheless, the running game isn’t terrible and neither is the defense. That might have been a decent formula for winning games in the Vince Lombardi era, but you have to be able to throw the ball in today’s NFL.
Defense and a running game can help cover some numbers, however. So be careful laying too much wood against the Jets, no matter how bad they are. Remember, if you bet against them you aren’t exactly catching anyone by surprise. They have the lowest expectation of any team right now.
Conversely, the Raiders have one of the highest expectations of any team. They have been building that franchise now for a couple years. Al Davis had left Reggie McKenzie with complete pile of crap, but RM has done a terrific job in getting the franchise back beyond respectability and into Super Bowl contention.
There is valid, logical reasoning behind the optimism surrounding the team. They went from 5 wins in 2015 to 12 wins a season ago. For those that believe in linear correlations, a division title and deep playoff run are next up.
Be careful, Raider fans and bettors. Things don’t often work that way in the NFL. Two steps forward and one step backwards is the norm. Lord knows that model has been broken a few times, but really, only a very few. And everyone is bullish on this team. Your chances of getting a bargain are nil.
The Raiders won 6 games by 3 points or fewer. That good fortune cannot be counted on again. They were also +16 in turnover ratio. Not likely to repeat. Those number usually come back to the pack.
The public money has poured in on the Raiders. Their Super Bow odds opened at the South Point at 18/1, but they have been bet down to 6/1. If the season were to kick off right now, we would be on the hook for well into six figures exposure.
I don’t usually book two-way prices on futures until we get much closer to the end of the season, and I haven’t yet on the Raiders. But the season win totals are another story.
While the public has again expressed their opinions by creating an avalanche of over money, the wiseguys have essentially neutralized their position. I opened the Raiders 9.5 over -120. The public pushed it up to 10 flat, but then the wiseguys went to work. The sharp money has strictly been on the Raiders under. I’m now down to 9.5 under -120, and on that particular position I need the Raiders over the 9.5 win total.
Of course with my exposure on the Super Bowl, I would be glad to pay the Raiders under betters as long as they were eliminated from the playoffs.
Even in the Raiders opening game, they are a slight, one point road favorite. The comment I’ve heard from most Raider fans is, “Is that all?”
Well, guess what? They happen to be playing a team the wiseguys are in love with this season, the Tennessee Titans.
I’ve had the Titans on my watch list since last season. The headlines belong to Marcus Mariota, now in his third year and developing quite nicely. They also have DeMarco Murray, coming off a career year and running behind one of the league’s best offensive lines. The Titans added talent at wide receiver, which should help spur Mariota’s improvement even further.
The Titans season win total has dropped a bit, going from 9.5 under -120 to 9 under -125, but it has been the sharper money that has kept it as high as it is. The wiseguys have pounded the Titans to win the AFC South, taking the opener of 11/5 down to 8/5.
While the Raider bettors have been licking their chops to lay the road chalk in game one, the wiseguys have been biding their time, but the word I’ve gotten is they plan on playing the Titans.
Of course, even if they do play the Titans, that is no guaranteed winner. After all, it’s one game. But it does tell you what some of the sharper guys in town are thinking.
Well folks, I hope my insights point you toward some winners this season. But be ready to alter your thoughts as the facts present themselves. Don’t get married to any one school of thought. Be nimble. It’s a long season. At its end, some of these ideas will look not so brilliant, while others will look genius. Try to stay on the genius side.
And make some money along the way.