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Welcome to my Week 1 NFL Notebook, a combination of notes, information, vents and opinions.
Let's begin with the Pittsburgh-Baltimore matchup, perhaps the fiercest of any rivalry in pro football. Teaser players may want to note that in the three-year Ravens coaching era of John Harbaugh no game in this rivalry has been decided by more than nine points with six of the last eight being decided by four or less.
The season, of course, begins Thursday with Green Bay hosting New Orleans. The oddsmakers opened this total too low at 46. The line has climbed to 47 and could get up and above 48 by kickoff with anticipated public money being on the over.
Still, the house may get the last laugh. The Saints aren't going to be passing nearly as much this season. They want to be more balanced and will be after trading up in the first round to get running back Mark Ingram out of Alabama. Also, neither team figures to be starting in good field position with kickoffs coming from the 35-yard line rather than the 30.
One of the biggest line moves has been on Cleveland. The Browns opened minus three hosting Cincinnati. The line has now reached 6 1/2. The Browns should be improved after consecutive 5-11 seasons under head coach Eric Mangini.
Speaking of Mangini, he'll be an analyst this season for ESPN. That's terrible. Mangini was a media nightmare when he was coaching. He not only never said anything worthwhile but was downright deceptive. He was one of the most boring interviews even by coach-speak standards. ESPN couldn't find anybody more worthy? Heck, bring back Dennis Miller to football. At least he's funny and honest.
Of course the steam on the Bengals-Browns game isn't because of Cleveland's perceived improvement. It's strictly fade material on the Bengals. The MGM may have set the worst regular-season over/under NFL total ever when they opened the Bengals' win total at 7 1/2. The Bengals' win total now is as low as five. This has to be the first time there has been a 2 1/2-game move on an NFL regular season win total.
Congratulations to those Vegas sharps who staked out an early position on the Colts-Texans game by getting down on Houston at less than a field goal. As one of them explained to me, "I thought I had nothing to lose because if Peyton Manning were to play, the Texans still could win. And if Manning were to miss the game, I would by far be getting the best of the line."
That certainly is true. Manning is expected to be sidelined and the Texans currently are nine-point favorites because of that.
Another Vegas sharp is trying to sell me on playing under in the Cowboys-Jets game if the number is less than 41. One of his main selling points is the expected defensive chess match between twin brothers Rex Ryan of the Jets and Rob Ryan, the new defensive coordinator for Dallas.
I pointed out that the two Ryans went at each other last year when Rob was defensive coordinator of the Browns. The Jets won 26-20 and the total went over the posted line of 37. Plus, it could take Rob Ryan time to straighten out Dallas' defense since he's changing systems, has weak safeties and had far less time to work out the kinks and implement things because of the lockout.
Detroit is getting a lot of love. The Lions certainly could be explosive if Matthew Stafford can ever stay healthy. The Lions open on the road against Tampa Bay where they snapped their 27-game road losing streak last year. The Buccaneers' respectable secondary could be vulnerable to Stafford if cornerback Aqib Talib can't play due to a hamstring strain that kept him out of preseason. It's an injury to monitor.
I was at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas this past weekend involved in several high-stakes fantasy football drafts sponsored by the National Fantasy Football Championship. Most of the owners competing were sharp, but there were several clueless ones who in poker terms would be called "Dead Money." These were the ones taking New Orleans kicker Garrett Hartley, who could be out as long as 10 weeks with a hip injury, Jacksonville backup running back Rashard Jennings, who also is injured and out for the season and taking fad picks like Ben Tate and Daniel Thomas way too high. One owner even took wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald with the No. 2 overall pick.
Glad to see more places putting out NFL regular season player propositions. The Caesars Palace properties are taking action on passing yards, rushing yards and receiving yards.
My choice for total passing yards is Matt Ryan at 12/1 (Bet $100 to win $1,200). The Falcons are going to be passing a lot more this season making Ryan, not Michael Turner, their offensive cornerstone. Ryan not only has Roddy White to throw to, but also Julio Jones, underrated Harry Douglas (my fantasy sleeper pick) and future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez.
I like Chris Johnson at 8/1 for most rushing yards. Johnson and Adrian Peterson, who is 4/1, are the two best running backs in the NFL especially with Arian Foster slowed by a hamstring injury. A decent middle-shot is Ray Rice at 15/1. The Ravens picked up maybe the best blocking fullback in the league, Vonta Leach, and should give Rice a heavy dose of carries.
As for No. 1 in receiving yards, I'll take a shot with San Diego's Vincent Jackson at 12/1.
In closing, just want to say it's great to be back with VegasInsider.com after being exclusive to another company for the past two years. I'm proud of my relationship with VI, which goes back to when the company began in the mid-nineties and am proud of my having turned a profit for my football customers in 17 of the last 18 years, including last year when I went 10-1 on my highest-rated plays.
Best of luck to everyone and looking forward to another winning season.