CFL Betting Preview: Is Johnny Manziel Worth a Wager in His First Start?

CFL Betting Preview: Is Johnny Manziel Worth a Wager in His First Start? article feature image

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press. Pictured Montreal Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel

  • Looking to bet the CFL? Johnny Manziel will start for the Montreal Alouettes against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday.
  • Manziel and the Alouettes are seven-point underdogs and are receiving the majority of the action.
  • Is there betting value on Johnny Football? Or should you fade him against his former team?

CFL Betting Odds: Tiger-Cats at Alouettes

  • Spread: Tiger-Cats (-7) at Alouettes
  • Over/Under: 50

Johnny Manziel will make his first start in the Canadian Football League on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET) when the Montreal Alouettes host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Manziel was a backup for the Tiger-Cats before a trade that included two first-round picks sent him to the Alouettes.

Friday’s game will be the most action Manziel has seen since being released by the Cleveland Browns in 2016. The Heisman-winning quarterback last played in the preseason for the Tiger-Cats. In two exhibition games Manziel completed 21 of 31 attempts (67.7%) for 168 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed six times for 29 yards.

Manziel is stepping into a difficult situation. Montreal’s offense has been anemic — averaging 15.3 points per game — and the defense has allowed a league-worst 32 points per game.

Oddsmakers list the Alouettes as 7-point underdogs at home. With Manziel starting, a majority of spread tickets is on Montreal. Is this a smart bet?

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We know the Alouettes are a bad team but can Manziel energize a squad that has lost three straight? With no starts in the CFL and only preseason data to work with, it is hard to say what impact Manziel will have. However, using historical data from Bet Labs, teams in situations similar to the Alouettes’ scenario have been undervalued.

In the CFL, as in most sports, underdogs are undervalued. Oddsmakers shade the lines toward the favorites knowing bettors are more likely to bet the chalk. Teams that fail to cover the spread also tend to be undervalued as recency bias will cause gamblers to fade teams that burned them in the past, which leads to inflated lines. Since 2005, underdogs that failed to cover in their previous game, such as the Alouettes, have gone 289-234-9 (55%) ATS.

The win rate isn’t amazing, but we have a large sample and consistent results — profitable in 12 of 14 seasons. This is by no means a lock, just like Manziel’s comeback attempt, but without additional information, there is some value on the home underdog — especially against the Tiger-Cats who have a losing road record and rank in the bottom half of the league in points for and against.

The Play: Montreal Alouettes +7

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