We refer to the NFL betting market for a reason – every team has a price, and that price changes on a week-to-week basis. That’s translated into moneylines and point spreads. Like shopping for a house or a car, you have to decide what price you’re willing to pay when you’re betting on a football team.
Early in the NFL season, significant swings in team valuation are more likely. This can be due to injuries or an extreme result – a great/terrible game. We throw around terms like overrated or underrated, but we can struggle to put a number to those evaluations. That’s what we try to do here in order to understand where there might be a good deal in the coming weeks.
How ratings work
We look at the betting market’s assessment of each team based on the closing lines from the previous week’s games and then we estimate what each club is capable of going forward. The “rating” column is an educated guess at the oddsmakers’ rating to create a point spread. The number itself represents the percentage chance that a team beats an average opponent on a neutral field.
The range column is my evaluation of each team’s potential after seeing them play this past week. Obviously, clubs don’t perform at the same level every week – the players are human, after all. They play within a range. It’s our job as handicappers to predict how they’ll perform based on things like the situation, on-field matchups, and roster/injury issues. The earlier it is in the season, the wider a team’s range may be.
Notable Week 2 results
Any rating change reflects what happened in Week 1 and any developments before Week 2’s games. For example, it could be a small downgrade off of a loss like the 49ers (at Chicago) or the Broncos (at Seattle). Both teams won Sunday, so they could bounce back up a ratings point or two.
It also could be as drastic as the Cowboys getting downgraded after the injury to Dak Prescott. Combined with a bad prime-time performance, that sent Dallas’ rating to the bottom of the league. If you have any concept of betting as a marketplace, you could see a buy-low opportunity there. That’s where money is made in betting on the NFL. As we thought they might, the Cowboys beat the Bengals, so next week’s closing line on Monday Night Football against the Giants will reflect a bump back up for Dallas. Your opinion of how much the Cowboys should be moved up determines whether to bet them or fade them in New York. At first glance, it appears the market puts the Cooper Rush edition of the Cowboys at something closer to 40.
The Pittsburgh Steelers had a similar situation but on the defensive side of the ball. With T.J. Watt out, they were a home underdog to a Patriots team that no one is all that excited about. A three-point loss indicates their bottom-of-the-range rating might be pretty solid without Watt.
The Falcons and Texans were competitive for a second straight week, and the Jets and Jaguars won outright – albeit in drastically different fashions. Add the Cowboys to that group and the bottom of the NFL may be improving.
As for the top of the league, the Chiefs and Buccaneers weren’t the definitively superior teams in their Week 2 matchups, while the Bills handled their business yet again. Perhaps the gap at the very top will expand? Or maybe there’s value on the Dolphins this week as the Bills go on the road and the point spread creeps up for a possible sell-high spot.
The Eagles had a similarly impressive showing Monday night and their rating will get a significant bump since they didn’t enter this season as highly touted as Buffalo.
On a less impressive note, the Bengals and Colts haven’t won a game, and the market won’t take kindly to that. Is it just a matter of two bad outings? Knowing they can’t afford to go winless through three games in the AFC, are these teams this week’s buy-low opportunity?
Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there’s a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.