Each week throughout the NFL season, we’ll take a look at the three biggest public plays on the board and speculate what the public sees and why they are betting a particular side.
Note: All point spreads are courtesy of YouWager.
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PATRIOTS @ TITANS, 1 P.M. ET
Open: New England -6.5
Current: New England -5
Public Betting %: 85% on New England
What they see: Not much of a surprise that bettors are all over the Patriots as road favorites in Week 1, but take note of the reverse line movement, which indicates the bigger money likes the Titans. Tennessee is far from a “sexy” team, and bettors are probably loving the titanic mismatch at quarterback with Tom Brady versus Jake Locker.
Analysis: The Patriots have won eight straight season-openers, but they’re only 4-3-1 against the spread in those games. Should the following stat from Todd Fuhrman be concerning?
The Titans allowed opposing quarterbacks to post an 85.1 QB rating in 2011, and that was lowlighted by notching only 28 sacks and 13 interceptions all season. Those numbers improved this preseason, but is there legitimate reason to think the defense will be that much better? CB Cortland Finnegan is gone, and they’ll be relying on outside linebackers Akeem Ayers and Will Witherspoon to match up with New England’s tight-end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
If the Patriots win, they’ll likely also cover, but we’re staying away at this number.
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DOLPHINS @ TEXANS, 1 P.M. ET
Open: Houston -6
Current: Houston -13
Public Betting %: 85% on Houston
What they see: This is the biggest line move on the Week 1 card, as bettors are gobbling up the Texans, who looked like legit Super Bowl contenders in 2011 before their season took some detours with injuries. Dolphins rookie Ryan Tannehill will be making his first career start … on the road … against one of the best pass-rushing defenses in the league.
Analysis: It’ll be a struggle for Miami to score, but this is a big number to cover against a Dolphins defense that showed some promise last season and returns 10 of 11 starters. Cameron Wake can take over a game at times from the defensive end position, and he’ll have to have a big outing to keep his team close.
Arian Foster has a hurt knee and sounds like he’ll be a game-time decision, so keep an eye on that situation before placing your bets. Ben Tate is a capable backup, but he’s clearly not the same type of threat.
If you got this while it was still under 10, you’re probably feeling pretty good. By now, though, it’s nervewracking to take such a big favorite in the NFL, especially in Week 1 with a lot of uncertainty.
Houston won this matchup 23-13 as 3-point road favorites in Week 2 last season.
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SEAHAWKS @ CARDINALS, 4:25 P.M. ET
Open: Arizona -2.5
Current: Seattle -2.5
Public Betting %: 77% on Seattle
What they see: Two teams that went in completely opposite directions while partaking in quarterback competitions in the preseason. The Seahawks had an entertaining duel between free-agent acquisition Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson, the third-round rookie who eventually forced coach Pete Carroll’s hand by playing so well. Meanwhile, the Cardinals held their noses through a “Who sucks more?” competition between John Skelton and Kevin Kolb, both of whom look more like backups than starters at this point.
Analysis: This is the only game on the Week 1 card where the favorite has flipped, and you always want to be weary of betting the new underdog when that happens. When it’s less than 2.5 points either way, the team that wins will also likely cover, making this the most insignificant 5-point line move (if that’s possible) in football. (It moved five points but didn’t cross through the key numbers of 3 or 7.)
We still like Seattle at the new number, but not necessarily because of Wilson. Sure, in all likelihood he’ll have the edge over Skelton, but it’s the Seahawks’ defense that should be the difference-maker here.
Seattle ranked ninth in total defense and seventh in scoring defense in 2011, and then they went out and acquired a handful of defensive players in the draft, including two (end Bruce Irvin and linebacker Bobby Wagner) who will either start or see significant time on Sunday.