NFL Betting Tip: How to Play Big Week 1 Favorites

NFL Betting Tip: How to Play Big Week 1 Favorites article feature image
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Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz

  • The Seahawks and Eagles are 9.5-point favorites in NFL Week 1, the largest favorites of the season-opening week.
  • Using Bet Labs, we analyze how large favorites have performed in the first game of the season.

The Seahawks and Eagles are tied as the biggest favorites in Week 1 of the 2019 NFL season. According to the consensus odds, Seattle and Philly are favored by 9.5 points against the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins, respectively.

The Seahawks are expected to be playoff participants and Super Bowl contenders after trading for Jadeveon Clowney. The Eagles are one of five teams with a win total of 10 or more games and are +1200 to lift the Lombardi Trophy.

Expectations are considerably lower for the Bengals and Redskins. Each franchise has a win total of six games for the upcoming season and are two of five teams with 200-1 or greater odds to win the Super Bowl.

The clear mismatches have led to the large spreads. Unsurprisingly, the majority of spread dollars are on the Seahawks and Eagles, but is it smart to bet these big favorites in Week 1?

Last year, the Saints (-10) were the largest favorites in Week 1 and lost at home to the Buccaneers. The year prior, the Steelers closed as 10-point favorites (biggest in Week 1), but managed to beat the Browns by only three points.

In 2016, the Seahawks closed as 10.5-point favorites in the first game of the season and squeaked out a 12-10 victory over the Dolphins. In 2015 same story, this time the Patriots (-7.5) let down bettors as the largest opening game favorites by failing to cover against the Steelers.

This isn’t a fluke. The biggest Week 1 favorite has consistently burned bettors. Using data from Bet Labs and the Gold Sheet, we looked at how the largest favorite in the opening weekend has performed.

Since 1993, the biggest Week 1 favorite has gone 12-23 (34.3%) against the spread (ATS). Some years, there were multiple teams that closed with the same high spread.

It is a small sample but speaks to an underlying truth: We don’t know as much as we think in Week 1.

Much of our expectations for the upcoming season are based on what has already happened. We know how players and teams have performed in the past, but that isn’t always indicative of future success.

The biggest favorites aren’t the only teams to struggle.

Since 2003, all favorites have a losing ATS record in the first game of the season. Favorites of seven or more points have gone 18-27 (40.0%) ATS.

In addition to the Seahawks and Eagles, the Chargers, Cowboys and Saints are touchdown favorites in Week 1. These five large favorites are expected to win, but if history is any indication they could struggle to cover.

Big NFL Week 1 Favorites:

  • Philadelphia Eagles -9.5 vs. Washington Redskins (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FOX)
  • Seattle Seahawks -9.5 vs. Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS)
  • Los Angeles Chargers -7 vs. Indianapolis Colts (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS)
  • Dallas Cowboys -7 vs. New York Giants (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX)
  • New Orleans Saints -7 vs. Houston Texans (Monday, 7:10 p.m. ET, ESPN)