Did you hear the news? Chicago Bears fans want rookie quarterback Justin Fields to start over Andy Dalton! Of course, you know this already because you live on planet Earth and there’s no possible way any football fan with even a dial-up internet connection could miss the tidal wave of enthusiasm emanating from the Windy City in support of the Ohio State product.
What you might have missed, however, are some intriguing betting angles that surfaced in the wake of this weekend’s preseason results. Lucky for you, I stayed up late Sunday night thanks to no social life and an unrivaled enthusiasm for meeting deadlines.
Get over it: While they weren’t as lucrative as Week 1’s incendiary 14-3 mark (includes the Hall of Fame Game), unders went a profitable 9-5-1 in Week 2 entering Monday night’s showdown between the New Orleans Saints and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Many will chalk this up to the low-scoring nature of preseason football, but don’t be surprised if an under wave encompasses Week 1 of the regular season.
Overs stole the show through the first three weeks of the 2020 regular season thanks to a money-in-the-bank 29-19 mark (60.4%) that felt, at times, like the opening sequence from “The Dark Knight” when the Joker departs the bank via school bus with untold millions in black duffle bags. But keep this nugget filed away: Week 1 of the 2020 regular season saw overs finish 9-7 with an average closing total of 45.4 points. This with few or no fans in the stands to disrupt opposing offenses. As of the current moment, Week 1 of the 2021 regular season offers an increased average total of 47.6 with many, many fans expected to be in attendance.
Translation: There may be some value in backing the Week 1 unders.
Market watch: With the exception of injuries (ex: Carson Wentz and Quenton Nelson in Indianapolis), very little has influenced the Week 1 point spreads from their opening numbers to where they sit at present. However, thanks to a 2-0 preseason record in which the Patriots have outscored the competition 57-13 while quarterbacks Cam Newton and Mac Jones have completed a combined 38 of 54 passes (70.3%) for 385 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions, New England has started to move from a 2.5-point favorite over Miami to a 3-point favorite. That might seem like a small adjustment, but it’s a half-point move on the most key number in all of football betting. The big question now is whether the Patriots move through the key number of 3 and land at -3.5 or higher.
Nothing stops this train: Baltimore’s 20-3 win over Carolina on Saturday marked the franchise’s 19th consecutive preseason victory, tying the league’s all-time record set by Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers during the 1959-1962 campaigns. How have the Ravens continually produced such remarkable August success? There are myriad reasons for sure, but note that over the team’s current 19-game winning streak, the Ravens have allowed the paltry average of just 5.2 second-half points per contest.
Live bettors should pay particular attention, because this element of preseason success has carried over into the regular season as well.
2020: 9.9 second-half points allowed, T-6th in NFL
2019: 8.4 second-half points allowed, 2nd in NFL
2018: 7.2 second-half points allowed, 1st in NFL
2017: 8.9 second-half points allowed, 4th in NFL
Baltimore is currently laying 4 points at Las Vegas in Week 1 against a Raiders squad that ranked 29th in second-half points allowed last season (15.2).
Market watch, Part II: San Francisco’s Trey Lance, New York’s Zach Wilson and Chicago’s Fields continued to make significant preseason noise against the Chargers, Packers and Bills, respectively, over the weekend. Just remember, there’s a big difference between the fans who bet $25 a game and the professionals who bet significantly more when getting down on an opportunity where they see value. Despite the headlines generated by three of the game’s premier rookie signal-callers, the 49ers are still laying 7 points at Detroit in Week 1, while the Jets are catching 4 points in Carolina and the Bears are grabbing 7 points in Los Angeles against the Rams.
Translation: These impressive preseason performances have done nothing to alter the point spread.
Time to worry? The Minnesota Vikings completed the 2020 regular season ranked fourth in the NFL in total offense, thanks in part to the emergence of rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson. After spending the offseason loading up on the defensive side of the football, the Vikings have so far found themselves outscored 45-16 through two preseason games while racking up just 462 total yards of offense and converting a pathetic 7 of 26 third-down opportunities. It’s early, but quarterback Kirk Cousins has looked inconsistent at best and head coach Mike Zimmer seems nonplussed, to say the least. Depending on the sportsbook, Minnesota is still laying either 3 or 3.5 at Cincinnati in Week 1 with a total of 48 points. I wouldn’t be shocked if the line stays put, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if some Bengals money hit the market prior to kickoff.