How To Bet NFL Week 1 Odds: Historical Trends Suggest Underdogs like the Steelers, Giants, Bears Offer Value
Joe Sargent/Getty Images. Pictured: Steelers RB Najee Harris
You should never blindly bet trends, but it can be helpful to know some of the most profitable ones for NFL Week 1 in order to provide a framework with which to find value.
I leveraged our Action Labs data to highlight three historically profitable trends and potential matches for opening week of the 2022 NFL season.
NFL Week 1 Betting Trends
Road Underdog That Didn’t Make the Previous Postseason
The public tends to overrate the better team (i.e. favorites) and home-field advantage, no matter what time of year it is. And early in the season, the public also tends to overrate what happened the year prior. There’s also some recency bias built in that favors teams that made the playoffs last season.
Add it all up, and you get inflated lines for road underdogs that failed to make the playoffs.
Three Week 1 games fit this trend:
- Steelers (+6.5) at Bengals
- Jaguars (+4) at Commanders
- Giants (+6.5) at Titans
Underdogs That Won 4-6 Games Last Season
Even though football is a game of skill, there is a lot of luck involved, which means a lot of regression to the mean.
It’s hard to stay good or stay bad, especially if you don’t fall on either extreme. The public tends to underestimate teams that were bad but not completely awful the year before, and nowhere is that seen more than when comparing the Week 1 against-the-spread (ATS) records of 4-6 win teams compared to the rest of the league.
- 1-3 wins: 12-19 (39%) ATS
- 4-6 wins: 65-33-2 (66%) ATS
- 7-plus wins: 63-73-4 (46%) ATS
Five teams fit this trend in Week 1:
- Jets (+4.5) vs. Ravens
- Bears (+6.5) vs. 49ers
- Texans(+7.5) vs. Colts
- Panthers (+3.5) vs. Browns
- Giants (+6.5) at Titans
(And yes, I know the trend uses data from 16-game seasons and 2021 win totals are from a 17-game season. But when you adjust 4, 5 and 6 wins in a 16-game season for a 17-game one, you get 4.3, 5.3 and 6.4, which still round to the same amount of wins.)
Under When Both Teams Failed To Make Previous Postseason
While the public tends to underestimate teams in Week 1 that struggled the year prior, much of that underestimation comes on the defensive side of the ball.
Offensive production is more stable from year to year, while defensive performance is more prone to regression to the mean. One reason why has to do with injuries: An offense will generally remain intact unless the quarterback gets injured, while a defense is more susceptible to injuries at a variety of positions, in addition to cluster injuries to one position, such as cornerback.
Add it all up, and we have value on Week 1 unders between two teams that both failed to make the prior postseason.
Seven games fit this trend in Week 1:
- Ravens at Jets (45)
- Eagles at Lions (46.5)
- Jaguars at Commanders (44.5)
- Saints at Falcons (42)
- Colts at Texans (44.5)
- Browns at Panthers (42.5)
- Broncos at Seahawks (41)
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