Week 1 was a wonderful reminder that one day of ugly football is better than an entire summer of boring baseball…
In today’s Betting Life Newsletter presented by Unabated:
- Week 1: The good, the bad, and the ugly.
- Early Lines: The Chiefs! — but this time it’s different.
- Power Ratings: Who moved up? Who moved down?
- Monday Night Football: Who ya got?
- It’s 9/11. Take it away, Matthew Freedman…
Week 1. It happened.
For me, as a sports bettor, it wasn’t great. I was 2-2 against the spread — but 0-4 combined on totals, moneylines, and teasers.
I did well in my picks contest.
But overall, it was a week of missed opportunities and missteps.
And hopefully, it was a week of lessons learned.
Here are some notes I took yesterday while sitting in class at the school of hard knocks — some thoughts on big-picture Week 1 trends and what they might mean for us in Week 2 and beyond.
Note: I’m writing this before Sunday Night Football ends, so the data won’t include the results of the Giants-Cowboys game.
📉 Unders Dominate
Out of the past 20 seasons, last year was the most profitable for NFL unders, which were 158-125-1 (6.9% ROI, per Action Network). I think that makes sense, given that many defenses across the league shifted to a two-high scheme intended to limit big plays.
It looks like that trend of underwhelming football might continue into 2023, especially given all the injuries and poor QB play we’ve seen.
In Week 1, the under was 10-4 (36.8% ROI). On average, games fell short of their closing totals by -2.71 points.
Eventually, the sportsbooks will adjust. But last year the under was 11-5 in Week 1… and 11-5 again in Week 2.
The under could be the sharp side this week.
🐶 Underdogs Bark
Over the past two decades, a trend has emerged that might have some meaning. From 2003 to 2017, the spread market was unbelievably balanced.
- Underdogs: 1,860-1,859-111 ATS
- Favorites: 1,859-1,860-111 ATS
But in the following five full seasons, underdogs markedly outperformed.
- Underdogs: 696-586-28 ATS (4.7% ROI)
- Favorites: 586-696-28 ATS (-10.8% ROI)
And underdogs once again were barking in Week 1, going 9-5 ATS (22.6% ROI).
Is there a reasonable explanation for what dogs have done since 2018?
I think so.
In the summer of 2018, the Supreme Court gloriously struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which resulted in the widespread proliferation of sports betting across the country and the entrance into the market of many inexperienced bettors.
These are the kind of bettors who might be strongly biased toward favorites and who might enable the sportsbooks to shade their lines in that direction.
This is just a theory, and I might be wrong. Regardless, underdogs have been profitable for each of the past five years -- and 2023 might make it six.
✌️ Week 2: When the Bark Becomes a Bite
Among many bettors, Week 2 is generally referred to as “overreaction week.”
With that in mind, would you like to guess which week of the regular season (minus the weird Week 18) has been the most profitable for underdogs over the past five years?
You already know the answer: Week 2, with a record of 47-32-1 ATS (15.0% ROI).
In every year since 2018, Week 2 dogs as a cohort — a litter, if you will — have been profitable.
I’m not saying that we should blindly bet underdogs this week. But I am saying that, when we hear people talk about how terrible lots of Week 2 underdogs played last week, we should remember that they’re basing their analysis on just one data point and that historically it has been sharp to invest in such unloved underdogs.
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While we still have Monday Night Football to look forward to, Week 2 lines are already live, so Matt LaMarca highlights a couple of early betting opportunities he likes.
Week 2 is one of my favorite weeks of the year.
People have a tendency to overreact, meaning that what happened in Week 1 carries outsized importance in the public’s mind. In some cases, we’ll see big movement in the betting market based on just one week of results.
That creates plenty of opportunities to look for value in the betting market.
I’m not saying that you should completely ignore everything you saw in Week 1. After all, it’s the most significant piece of information that we’ve received so far. That said, it’s just one game.
Teams have bad games all the time, so we shouldn’t throw out everything we thought we knew about each team heading into the season.
Let’s look at some of the biggest market adjustments heading into Week 2.
The Chiefs are the defending Super Bowl champs, and they’ve made it to the AFC Championship each year with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback.
In fact, they’ve hosted five straight AFC Championship games. They’re one of the favorites to hoist the Lombardi Trophy once again in 2023, but they stumbled out of the gates with a loss to the Lions in Week 1.
Of course, there is a big caveat with that result.
Travis Kelce was unable to play vs. the Lions, and he’s easily the team’s top pass-catcher. Without Kelce, the rest of the receiving corps struggled mightily vs. the Lions, with Kadarius Toney literally handing them seven points:
Fortunately, Kelce should be able to return to the lineup in Week 2. He was questionable heading into Thursday night, so with 10 days of rest, he’s a good bet to suit up vs. the Jaguars.
Despite that fact, the Chiefs have actually dipped below the key number of three on BetMGM. They’re currently listed at -2.5 at Jacksonville, and they’re in a phenomenal spot to bounce back.
The Chiefs may not be elite at covering big spreads, but they’re great at winning football games. When laying three points or fewer, they’re a ridiculous 19-6-1 ATS (including playoffs) with Mahomes at QB.
As long as Kelce is back in action, I’m all over the Chiefs against a Jags squad that struggled vs. the Colts.
🦁 Lions Up to -5.5
While the Chiefs have been downgraded following their Week 1 performance, the Lions have gotten a boost.
They were initially favored by just 2.5 points vs. the Seahawks on the look-ahead line, but they’re all the way up to 5.5-point favorites on BetMGM.
I already mentioned why their result vs. the Chiefs wasn’t quite as impressive as it may seem, but the Lions weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders. They managed just 368 yards of total offense, which was below their season average from last year.
The Chiefs were without their best defender Chris Jones in addition to Kelce, so it was a bit surprising that the Lions struggled to move the ball at times.
Still, a win over the Chiefs in Kansas City is going to do a lot in the eyes of the public.
Additionally, the Seahawks were embarrassed at home by the Rams, losing by 17 points — despite taking the field as five-point favorites.
The combination of the Seahawks’ loss and the Lions’ win has resulted in three points of value compared to the lookahead line, including two key numbers in 3.0 and 4.0.
Ultimately, it’s going to be tough to pass that up.
📖 My playbook has a silver lining: Here’s the No. 1 reason I bet unders on player props!
🍎 No, I do not want to imagine that, not even a little bit! John Lennon would not have written a song about this football team.
🤠 History says the Cowboys will come crashing back to Earth. Potentially as early as Week 2?
📈 For every winner, there’s a loser: Power rating: stock up, stock down.
😅 Yeah, Week 1 offenses can be sloppy…but yesterday was something else.
💰 If you’re Jonesing for some FREE Jets-Bills picks, we’ve got you covered. Check out our Monday Night Football Game Hub!
🐬 This QB has made an early-season MVP push in back-to-back years. Will it hold up this season?
🏈 He bought a one-way ticket to his QB’s doghouse. Looks like we’re betting his Week 2 unders.
⚡️ “Next Saturday night, we’re sending you back to the future!” Regardless of the time or place, the Chargers will do what they do.