Opening Line Report - Week 1
September 6, 2017
By Marcus DiNitto
When the 2017 NFL season kicks off Thursday night, Las Vegas sports books will be in the Chiefs’ corner. That’s because bookmakers will be facing heavy liability on teasers and money-lines tied to the Patriots.
New England opened -7 at most Vegas bet shops back in April, and predictably, early bettors laid the points, driving the line as high as -9 in early June. That number drew sharp action at CG Technology, but when the book adjusted down to 8.5, wiseguys were no longer interested.
“That leads you to believe that 8, 8.5 is the right number,” said Jason Simbal, CG Tech’s vice president of risk said this week.
So if 8 or 8.5 is the “right number,” why are most shops dealing 9 a day before the game?
The answer: To make teaser tickets more difficult for the masses to cash. At Patriots -9, a two-team, 6-point teaser fails to get the line below the key number ‘3’.
“I would go 9.5 if I could, but they’d buy it to 10, so I can’t do that,” said Westgate SuperBook manager Ed Salmons.
Teasers have been a bane for sports books the last few NFL seasons.
In addition to Chiefs-Patriots, Salmons anticipates three other games – all with spreads between 7 and 9 – as big public teaser plays this week.
“The evils we have with the NFL is it’s going to be all teasers with New England, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Atlanta,” Salmons said. “Those four games will be teased, money-line parlayed, and essentially if one of those dogs doesn’t win outright, we’re going to have a difficult Sunday. I can guarantee you there’s going to be a million teasers and money-line parlays to those four.”
The total of Thursday night’s game is 48.5, down from an opener of 50.
Here’s a look at the rest of the Week 1 card. Point spreads and totals are the Las Vegas consensus as of Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET, and opening numbers are from the Westgate on April 20.
Sunday, Sept. 7
Jets at Bills (-9, 39.5)
Opening lines: Bills -6.5, 42
This spread crept up to Bills -9.5 on some Vegas boards, as some NFL observers are expecting a historically-bad season for the Jets. The Westgate lists the Jets at 200-to-1 odds to win the AFC East – the next longest shot to win their respective division is the Browns at 25-1. The Jets are 1,000-1 to win the Super Bowl, have a bottom-of-the-barrel win total of 3.5 and figure to be underdogs in all 16 games.
Falcons (-7 even, 49.5) at Bears
Opening lines: Atlanta -5.5, 50.5
While the public will be on Atlanta every which way – laying the points, money-line parlays and teasers – sharps are playing Chicago +7 at the SuperBook, according to Salmons.
Jaguars at Texans (-5.5, 40)
Opening lines: Texans -4.5, 42
Jacksonville, it seems, has been a week-in-week-out wiseguy play the last two seasons, although there was no indication from the books we spoke to that that holds true this week. While the Jags have been a middling against-the-spread team, they do tend to cash as road underdogs – they covered in four of their last six opportunities in the role last season, as well as in four of their last five when getting points in Houston.
Eagles (-1, 48.5) at Redskins
Opening lines: Redskins -2.5, 48
CG drew sharp action on its opening number of Philly +3 and continued to see sharp underdog money at +2.5 and +2. Salmons has seen the same pattern at the SuperBook. “Any plus they took, now Philadelphia’s the favorite,” Salmons said.
As of this Wednesday writing, most shops have Philly the 1-point chalk, but MGM Resorts is dealing Washington -1.
Cardinals (-2, 48) at Lions
Opening lines: Detroit -2.5, 49.5
The betting on this game resembles that for the game discussed just above – that is, the home team opened as a 2.5- to 3-point favorite before wiseguy money on the short dog flipped the line. Simbal said CG took two sharp bets on Arizona at the opening price of +3 and continued to write sharp action on the Cards at +2.5 and +2. As of the time we spoke with Simbal on Tuesday, the Lions had drawn exactly one bet as an underdog at CG.
Raiders at Titans (-2, 50.5)
Opening lines: Pick ‘em, 53.5
Salmons called this matchup of AFC hopefuls the “biggest public vs. professional” game on the Week 1 card. “The public loves the Raiders, wiseguys love Tennessee,” he said.
Buccaneers at Dolphins (postponed)
Opening lines: Dolphins -2, 48
This game was moved to later in the season due to Hurricane Irma. Our thoughts and prayers are with South Florida and all those affected.
Ravens at Bengals (-3, 42.5)
Opening lines: Bengals -1, 44
Cincinnati is 10-4 ATS at home vs. Baltimore since Marvin Lewis has been coach.
Steelers (-9, 47) at Browns
Opening lines: Steelers -9.5, 47.5
Here’s another one shaping up as a public vs. pros game, with wiseguys on Cleveland and the public “teasing Pittsburgh to death,” according to Salmons.
Colts at Rams (-3.5, 41.5)
Opening lines: Colts -3.5, 48
Some books left this game on their boards before it was made official that Andrew Luck was out. The ones who did took plenty of money on Rams +3.
Seahawks at Packers (-3, 51)
Opening lines: Packers -2.5 (-120), 50.5
It’s been “dead two-way action” at the Westgate on this NFC heavyweight bout, and while the Wynn is dealing Green Bay -3.5, Salmons doesn’t anticipate the line moving at his shop.
“It’s lined perfectly for two teams that are essentially equal,” Salmons said. “I can’t imagine this game moving off 3 without some kind of injury.”
CG has written slightly more action on the Packers than the Seahawks, but Simbal called it “a really good game for us to book because we’ll probably get (mostly) two-way action.”
Simbal has a hunch his shop will be cheering for a close game.
“I don’t know this yet, but my guess would be if somehow the Packers can win this game by 1 or 2, it would be huge because the Seahawks money-line bets will come at +140, +135, and they’re going to lay the Packers for sure.”
Meanwhile, there’s been some sharp play on ‘under’ at CG on this game.
Panthers (-5.5, 49) at 49ers
Opening lines: Panthers -4, 49
While expectations are low in San Francisco this season, Carolina is a bankroll-busting 0-6-1 ATS the last seven times it’s been asked to lay points on the road.
Giants at Cowboys (-4, 48)
Opening lines: Cowboys -6, 50.5
Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension won’t keep him out this week, buy neither of our bookmakers believe his presence makes that big a difference. Dallas moved from -3.5 to -4 at CG upon the news, exactly the half-point adjustment Simbal anticipated (we spoke a few hours before news broke about Elliott being able to play in Week 1).
“He’s definitely one of the best (running backs in league), but because of the situation – because the offensive line is so good and the rest of the team is so good, and the Giants’ defense is so good – the drop off between him and the next guy might not be as drastic as when (Adrian) Peterson was at the top of his game,” Simbal said.
Added Salmons, “I don’t think it’s a big deal either way.”
While the Westgate wrote wiseguy action on the Giants +5.5 and +6 during the spring and summer, Simbal noted that for a marquee, primetime game featuring two large-market teams, it’s been a lightly-bet contest. The biggest spread bet CG booked as of Tuesday was $1,100.
“The perception of the public for what Elliott’s worth is going to be higher than it actually is, which is why they’ve shied away from betting it,” he said. “Sharp guys aren’t betting it at all because 3.5, 4 is what this number should be.”
Monday, Sept. 11
Saints at Vikings (-3.5, 48)
Opening lines: Vikings -4, 48
While their defense is derided and their road woes well documented, the Saints quietly went 11-5 ATS last season (second only to the Patriots), and they’re on an 8-1-1 ATS run away from home.
Chargers at Broncos (-3.5, 43.5)
Opening lines: Broncos -3.5, 44.5
The Broncos were as high as -5 when Vegas’ first lines were posted in April but were down to -3 this week at the South Point.
Marcus DiNitto is a writer in Charlotte, N.C., who covers sports betting and all kinds of other stuff. Follow him on Twitter @MarcusDiNitto.
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