NFL Week 1 Picks, Predictions: 5 Underdog Trends That Cash Over 60%
Joe Sargent/Getty Images. Pictured: Mitch Trubisky.
- We're looking at double-digit teams as home underdogs in Week 1 of the NFL.
- Chris Raybon has found five trends that identify value on some of those 'dogs this week.
- Check out the teams that fit his favorite trends below.
If you’re a bettor who wants to get your NFL season started off the right way, there’s a good chance you should consider wagering on more underdogs. Week 1 dogs were 12-4 last year and have been at a more profitable side dating all the way back to 2005 (140-125-6).
I dug into our ActionLabs database to find five of the most profitable spots to back Week 1 underdogs. All five trends have cashed at least 60% of the time and are graded as an A, which means the sample size is adequate enough to apply forward.
Week 1 ‘Dogs That Won 4-6 Games Last Season
Want to find line value in Week 1? Start with teams that were bad — just not Hue Jackson-Browns-level bad.
While betting on teams that finished the prior season in the 0-3 win range has been a losing proposition (12-19 ATS since 2005), betting on teams in the 4-6 win range has yielded all kinds of profits, cashing at a 66.3% clip (65-33-2) over a sample size of 100 games.
Not only would you have made a 28.4% return on investment (ROI) by blindly betting on 4-6 win teams in Week 1, but you wouldn’t have even had many sweats, as these teams beat the spread by an average of 3.78 points per game, which is massive over that large of a sample size.
Sometimes teams that fall into the 4-6 win bucket are expected to get worse (think the 2022 Texans), while sometimes these teams are expected to improve (think the 2022 Giants). What ends up happening is the market tends to overestimate just how bad the ones expected to get worse will be, while at the same time taking a conservative, wait-and-see approach with the teams expected to improve.
Speaking of the Texans and Giants, they are among the four dogs fit this trend for Week 1 of 2022:
- Texans +8.5 vs. Colts
- Bears +6.5 vs. 49ers
- Jets +7 vs. Ravens
- Giants +5.5 at Titans
Note: I’m aware that the NFL’s move to a 17-game season could impact this, but six wins in a 16-game season still equates to 6.38 wins extrapolated to a 17-game season, which would still round to six, not seven. For those curious, filtering out the six-win teams still produced an ATS record of 41-24 (63.1%).
Week 1 Divisional ‘Dogs
Week 1 is all about the uncertainty of the unknown, but this effect is minimized in Divisional games. Returning coaches will have game-planned against a divisional opponent twice the year prior. And even if one or both of the teams has a new coaching staff, it’s impossible to overturn an entire roster in one offseason, so many of the players will have faced off multiple times in the previous season and will be more dialed in to opposing tendencies than in a typical matchup. This tends to lead to tighter games, which, of course, benefits the underdog.
Divisional dogs tend to be profitable all season long, but never are they more profitable than in Week 1. Since 2005, they’ve gone 58-36-2 ATS (61.7%), beating the spread by an average of 1.96 points per game.
Six games fit this trend for 2022:
- Texans +8.vs. Colts
- Steelers +6.5 at Bengals
- Patriots +3 at Dolphins
- Falcons +5.5 at Saints
- Vikings +1.5 vs. Packers
- Raiders +3.5 at Chargers
Week 1 Road ‘Dogs That Failed To Make the Previous Postseason
The influx of both casual and brand-new bettors tends to be at an all-time high in Week 1. These bettors are more likely to follow heuristics like, “it’s tough to go on the road and win,” and “teams that didn’t make the playoffs stink.” Add in the fact that books tend to overweight the amount of home-field advantage that they are factoring in, and you get yet another profitable Week 1 underdog trend.
Week 1 road dogs that failed to make the playoffs have rewarded those who dared to back them with a smooth 73-46-4 (61.3%) ATS record, beating the spread by over a field goal per game (3.44 points).
Three games fit this trend for 2022:
- Giants +5.5 at Titans
- Jaguars +3 at Commanders
- Browns +2 at Panthers
Week 1 ‘Dogs Getting Less Than 50% of Money
Favorites tend to attract the majority of betting action, which leads to the books having to adjust their lines in the favorite’s direction as they take in more money. Since underdogs are already more profitable than usual in Week 1, it stands to reason that they will be profitable in any case that the books have taken the majority of money on the favorite. That turns out to be exactly the case, as Week 1 dogs that closed with less than 50% of the handle went 39-24-1 (61.9%), beating the spread by a whopping 4.0 points, on average.
This is exactly how the books want it: Less money on the side that wins. If you plan on following this trend, make sure to wait until close to kickoff to place your wagers, as money can shift at the last moment as sharps wait for an underdog’s line to reach max inflation, and also sometimes due to late-breaking news regarding actives and inactives.
As I mentioned, the majority of games tend to attract a larger handle on the favorite, so it should be no surprise that 10 games currently fit this trend for Week 1 of 2022:
- Browns +2 at Panthers (5% of money)
- Falcons +5.5 vs. Saints (13%)
- Seahawks +6 vs. Broncos (14%)
- Rams +2.5 vs. Bills (15%)
- Jets +7 vs. Ravens (21%)
- Patriots +3 at Dolphins (25%)
- Cardinals +4 vs. Chiefs (26%)
- Steelers +6.5 at Bengals (37%)
- Cowboys +1.5 vs. Buccaneers (38%)
- Vikings +1.5 vs. Packers (39%)
Week 1 ‘Dogs By More Than 6 Points
If you model the NFL — or even if you don’t but have a general understanding of how regression to the mean works — you’ll know that Week 1 spreads should be smaller than usual, as we’re at the point where we have the least current-season data, and thus the maximum amount of regression to the mean factored in. So when you see a large spread, it should set your antennas off, as it’s likely a case of the market having unwarranted overconfidence in favorites involved in what are perceived to be lopsided matchups.
The magic number here tends to be 6.5, as Week 1 dogs by 6.5 or more have gone 43-27 (61.4%) since 2005. This intuitively makes sense, as a line of 6.5 means the favorite has to win by at least a TD. Betting that one team is a TD or more better than another team without any current-season data tends to be a losing proposition over the long term.
Four games match this trend for 2022:
- Texans +8 vs. Colts
- Bears +7 vs. 49ers
- Jets +7 vs. Ravens
- Steelers +6.5 at Bengals
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