Haney's Handle: Disagreeing with opening NFL lines

Apr 18, 2012 |
Suddenly, without warning, surprising even myself, I have become a backer of betting favorites in the National Football League.

That goes for the first week of NFL regular-season games, anyway, if the first set of Week 1 point spreads to be released is any indication.

Upon the hotly anticipated release of the 2012-13 NFL schedule Tuesday, I got busy formulating my own lines for the first week of games, which take place Wednesday, Sept. 5 through Monday, Sept. 10.

My lines, of course, are for the sake of comparison only. I don't take bets. But at least one offshore bookmaking operation, which does take bets, released its NFL Week 1 lines Tuesday. Several Las Vegas sportsbooks are expected to follow shortly.

In comparing my numbers against the offshore book's, I found my analysis tended to place more value on the betting favorite in most of the games on which we disagreed.

For this discussion I'm discounting the season opener pitting the Dallas Cowboys against the New York Giants. That matchup had been announced previously, and a few sportsbooks had even posted a line on it, with the Giants a 3.5-point favorite against visiting Dallas.

I'm also discounting the New Orleans Saints-Washington Redskins game. The turmoil surrounding New Orleans, primarily driven by the aftermath of the bounty scandal, and its possible repercussions make it tough to get a handle on the team. I opted not to make a line on the game at this time.

Of the 14 remaining Week 1 games, my personal numbers were exactly the same as, or within one-half point of, the offshore book's in five instances.

Of the nine other games -- the ones on which we had a difference of opinion -- my number "favored" the betting favorite in seven of them. In other words, I felt the point spread should have been higher. In only two instances did I support the underdog.

Here's a recap, with the offshore opener in parentheses:

Buffalo Bills at New York Jets (-5): The opening line offshore was 6 before being bet down Tuesday evening. My line, the Jets -7, disagreed with the move. I'm not saying the Jets won't have another meltdown or that their locker room won't dissolve into chaos at some point. But I do expect them to be in good form for the home opener. I'm also taking a wait-and-see approach regarding the Bills' revamped defense, which might require some time to hit its stride.

Indianapolis Colts at Chicago Bears (-8.5): This was the only other game that had a nearly immediate line move Tuesday, up from 7.5. I agreed with the move, having made the line 9.5. Chicago has the easiest home schedule in the league, and should cruise here. The Colts are full of holes and could have a rookie, Andrew Luck, starting at quarterback.

San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers (-5):
I made Green Bay a 6.5-point favorite, expecting some regression to the mean for San Francisco after a 13-3 season.

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals (-1): An Occam's Razor analysis tells me the Cards, a slightly better team playing at home, should be a 3-point favorite.

Carolina Panthers (-1.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
We agree the Panthers should be favored, but I made the line 3 points. Carolina trounced Tampa Bay twice last season, 38-19 as a 1-point favorite and 48-16 as a 9-point favorite.

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-6): My number was 7. I'm bullish on Baltimore, one of the elite teams in the conference, at home on Monday Night Football.

New England Patriots (-5) at Tennessee Titans:
I would not be surprised if the Pats closed as a 6-point favorite, which is what I made the game.

Atlanta Falcons (-1) at Kansas City Chiefs:
"The wrong team is favored!" That's my favorite football-prognosticator cliché, with the possible exception of "This game will fly over the total!" I do have the other team favored, but not by much. I made Kansas City a 1-point favorite.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos (-1.5): I made this game a pick 'em and will likely end up playing Pittsburgh as part of a two-team, 6-point teaser if Denver remains a small favorite.

I essentially agreed with the number on the Eagles (-6) at the Browns; Chargers (-2) at the Raiders; Jaguars-Vikings (-3.5); Dolphins-Texans (-6); and Rams-Lions (-7.5).

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, I'll revisit my predictions and see how they fared against the oddsmakers' early projections and, more importantly, against the results of the first week's games.

Connect with Jeff Haney on Twitter: @yoryboy.

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