Stuckey’s Updated 2020 NFL Teaser Betting Guide and Favorite Week 1 Teaser
Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Matt Ryan
It still doesn’t fell like the NFL season has arrived, but I’ll take one of the few pleasant surprises of 2020. With the NFL back, that means teaser time also returns. There are certain circumstances where teasers provide an edge to bettors.
Before I share the rankings of my five favorite teaser options and favorite teaser for Week 1, let’s revisit my teaser rules for those unfamiliar or for those that just need a quick refresher.
Rule 1: Cross At Least Two Key Numbers
I personally consider 3, 4, 6, 7, 10 and 14 key teaser numbers. Those are the five most common margins of victory in the NFL. However, 3 and 7 are Kings, as games end on those two numbers at a significantly higher clip than the rest.
From a purely mathematical standpoint, you can give yourself an edge without taking anything else into account by simply crossing 3 and 7 with both parts of a teaser at -110. You may hear some bettors refer to doing this as the good ol’ Wong teaser (in reference to gambling author Stanford Wong).
In order to break even on a 6-point teaser at -110, you need teams that have a greater than 72.4% chance of covering after being teased. If we look back in our Bet Labs database, all NFL regular season spreads since 2003 covered only 69% of the time if teased six points. Nice, but not nice enough over that sample set of over 8,000 teams.
The story changes if we filter for all teases that would’ve captured both the 3 and 7.
NFL regular season underdogs between +1.5 and +2.5 covered a 6-point teaser 74.8% of the time (311-105). And favorites between -7.5 and -8.5 also covered at exactly a 75% clip (177-59). That gives us a total of 488-164 or 74.8%, which clears the 72.4% hurdle rate.
Those results are for all teams in those specific spread ranges. If you consider a few other factors (which I’ll get to later), you can potentially improve that percentage. Again, this analysis only applies to teasing NFL sides.
Rule 2: Don’t Ever Cross Zero
Don’t even consider teasing teams like the Cowboys and Lions from -3 to +3 in Week 1.
I see this way too often. You’re simply giving up too much edge by crossing over a dead range that will only include a maximum of one key number.
This is even crazier in the playoffs since games can’t end in a tie. You’re essentially paying for points that don’t matter. Just don’t do it!
Rule 3: Don’t Tease Totals
NFL totals simply don’t fall on certain numbers or within a specific range enough to justify the math. There are key numbers to be aware of when betting over/unders (example: 43 after the extra point rule change), but they don’t hit frequently enough for a tease to make any mathematical sense.
The one possible exception: teasing a side and total in the same game that you believe are correlated (usually underdog/under and/or favorite/over). But that’s a conversation for another day.
Rule 4: Price Matters
Make sure you shop around!
Don’t pay -120 for a 6-point teaser (which would significantly increase your long term hurdle rate) when there are still books out there that offer -110. (Although, they’re becoming tougher to find, especially in the legal markets.) DraftKings and bet365 are two legal U.S. books that offer -120.
Everything I’ve said is predicated on the fact that you have access to a reasonable teaser price. The break-even point for a 6-point teaser at -130 odds suddenly jumps from 72.4% to 75.2%.
Price focus shouldn’t just be the case for teasers, but for all types of betting. You need to hit 52.4% just to break even at average odds of -110, but that threshold jumps to 54.6% at -120.
Make sure you familiarize yourself with your book’s teaser rules and payouts, as they can vary significantly.
I recommend only using 6-point teasers, as each additional half-point teased away from the original spread becomes marginally less valuable to the bettor. I’d only ever consider a 7-point teaser if you’re teasing a 9.5-point favorite down to 2.5 in order to cross the almighty 3 and 7. The same logic applies for 6.5-point teasers for 9-point favorites.
Also, some books have a “ties win” option, which means you can pay a little extra to win if one part of your teaser pushes. So, why tease a team 6.5 points from +1 to +7.5 for -120 when you can tease that same team 6 points to +7 and paying -115 (instead of -110) for ties win? Make sure you know which options your book has and bet accordingly.
Five or 10-cent differences might not seem like much to a recreational bettor, but they add up. Every cent and half-point matters if you want to take this seriously.
Here are five other factors (some minor) that I at least think about before finalizing an NFL teaser:
- Lower-scoring games: Naturally, teasing an underdog with a low total is inherently more valuable than doing so when the total is high over the long run.
- “Backdoorability”: How will the opposing defense play late and/or how much do you trust your quarterback to drive down the field late in the game for a “meaningless” touchdown?
- Coaching: Do you have a competent coach who will understand kicking down 10 with under two minutes to go is smarter than trying to score a touchdown in the final seconds?
- Special teams: Do you have a special teams edge overall and, more importantly, a kicker you trust? This becomes even more important with the recent extra-point rule changes.
- Parlay payout: If you’re teasing two favorites down to around a PK, check the payout for a moneyline parlay. It could pay out more for essentially the same bet.
My Week 1 Top Teaser Options
Here are my top five Week 1 six-point teaser pieces that cross both the three and seven. Here are my rankings for those four:
- Baltimore Ravens -2 from -8
- Atlanta Falcons +8.5 from +2.5
- Denver Broncos +8 from +2
- Green Bay Packers +8.5 from +2.5
- Indianapolis Colts -2 from -8
I’m a fan of Cleveland’s offseason hires and think they’ll pay off in the long run, but the Browns may struggle in this spot. I’m looking to fade teams early in the season that are dealing with a great deal of change after such an unprecedented summer without preseason games and shortened preparation overall.
The Browns fit that bill with a new staff, new schemes and plenty of roster turnover. The recent injuries in camp, especially on defense, also raise a number of red flags.
Meanwhile, the Ravens have plenty of continuity and an offense built to exploit Cleveland’s major weaknesses at linebacker. Baltimore also bolstered its defensive front seven with a number of additions that will specifically help them better defend Cleveland’s stretch runs.
I make the Falcons +0.2, so think the line is a tad inflated and I obviously like getting over 8. Seattle’s secondary is vastly improved on paper but it may need time to gel. Also, just follow the predictable Seattle script, which basically entails getting behind early before letting Russ cook a late comeback to win by one possession.
Including the postseason, the Seahawks finished 12-6 last season. Eleven of their wins came by one possession.
If Seattle does hold a two-possession lead late, I will also have an offense very capable of sneaking in the backdoor for me.
The recent Von Miller news really hurts Denver but I think the market has over-reacted, pushing the Titans out to two-point favorites. I still make the Broncos a slight favorite here, so getting over a touchdown looks enticing, especially in a game with a low over/under.
Green Bay fits the criteria and I also fancy the under, which means getting six extra points becomes even more valuable. The math also says Indianapolis fits the mold and you can’t go do worse things than needing to only win by a field goal against this rebuilt Jacksonville roster. The Colts might be able to just hand it off every down and leave Duval County with a victory.
The next best thing to teasing a team through both 3 and 7 is teasing an underdog up from +3 or favorite down from -7. We have a few of those instances this weekend, including the Rams, Bengals, Panthers, Bears and 49ers. If I had to choose one from that list, I’d go with the Rams.
My Favorite Week 1 Teaser
Ravens -2 & Falcons +8