Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:53 AM

Vegas Money Moves - Week 1 Odds, Public vs. Sharp Analysis

Books open NFL Season with an "L"

“The 2020 NFL season is really happening” is what some skeptical bettors said when the kickoff at Arrowhead Stadium happened last night and while they waited until the last hours on Thursday to make their wagers most of them were rewarded with a win. 

Kansas City's 34-20 win over Houston last Thursday was a popular side-to-total parlay (13-to-5 odds), and the Chiefs were a very popular straight bet (-9) as were both the over and under straight bet wager on the total. The total started at 55 went down to 52.5 and back up where most closed 53.5, and most parlay bettors had the over while many books got middled. 

But the dead-end no way to win loser of the night was any teaser played in the game. It was an all-way win. No matter what side a bettor took on a teaser, it won. Even the side-to-side, total-to-total four-banger. Bettors scooped all the chips on that one while the books had to be saying “let’s examine our teaser pay charts again.”

It wasn’t the ideal start for the books and Station Casinos sportsbook director Jason McCormick said, “Thank goodness for the Stars and D’Backs.”

The homers were out in full force Thursday betting the Los Angeles Dodgers (-235) in MLB again because they’re kind of like the home team in Las Vegas while also being the most attractive because they seem to always win.

And the locals also came strong on the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights (-170) in a Game 3, 3-2, overtime loss to the Stars giving Dallas a 2-1 series edge in the Western Conference Finals.

Still, the day was all about the NFL back in action, but William Hill’s head bookmaker Nick Bogdanovich said Thursday’s surge in action wasn’t necessarily about bettors being skeptical in a time of COVID-19 still lurking.

“We took 50-to-60% of our overall bets on game day with the Texans and Chiefs, but I think it’s just because our customers have so much to bet on and they’re stretching their bankroll more daily than past years when no NBA or NHL was playing at the same time,” Bogdanovich said.

Key Numbers abound in NFL Week 1

The big deal this week for bookmakers besides handling what a proper home field edge should be is dealing with the toughest number.

Seven of Sunday’s 13 games are hovering around “3” at 2.5, 3, or 3.5 with a variation of juice attached with exception to the South Point that uses only flat (-110) numbers.

Four of the other games are at the next most key number “7” at 6.5, 7, or 7.5.  

Bettors split on Bucs-Saints 

The big deal on the storyline front is Tom Brady making his debut for the Tampa Buccaneers at New Orleans where the Saints have dropped from -4 to -3.5 and a total sitting at 48.

“We’re dead even on the game,” Bogdanovich said. 

So while that game will have lots of attention, there’s nothing with the action I can use to our benefit. 

What I do like to hear is the top parlay games at local books like Station Casinos and William Hill because they get more of the common guy’s $20 four-team parlays than strip properties do. It’s in those public plays that have built the Las Vegas sportsbook and those two outfits get the most of it in Nevada. Why not try to be on the side that the books need.

McCormick said Station’s top-three public plays are the Ravens (-7.5 vs. Browns), Bills (-6.5 vs. Jets), and the new hometown favorite Raiders (-3 EV at Carolina). That’s the three-teamer that hurts them the most.

At the same time, to respect what the sharper money bets, he said the top plays have been on the Browns (+7.5 at Baltimore), Jaguars (+8 vs. Colts), and Cardinals (+7 at San Francisco).

Stations - Week 1 Public Leans

  • Baltimore -7.5
  • Buffalo -6.5
  • Raiders -3 (Even)

As you can see, we have a Pro’s vs. Joe’s game right out of the gate in Week 1 with the Ravens and Browns. Both teams ended their 2019 season with a sour taste with the Browns losing three straight and the Ravens magical year ending with a divisional playoff loss as the No. 1 seed against the Titans.

However, the Browns did sneak up on the Ravens last season in week 4 at Baltimore with a 40-25 win with a similar number to this week at -7.5. The Ravens would go on to win 12 straight afterward and cover nine of their last 10 regular-season games.  

Circa Sports director Matt Metcalf says they don’t have enough Joe Public play in their books but they get plenty of sharp play and he cited the Bengals (+3 vs. Chargers), Raiders, and also the Panthers who play the Raiders, as their bigger plays so far. 

Public riding 4 big favorites at WH

William Hill’s Bogdanovich broke down his top public plays by having the biggest disparity in the parlay category -- no straight bets included. Just money-line and point-spread sides only.

He had three sides that were weighted at 90% with the Ravens, Bills, and Colts. The Steelers have 85% of the parlay action for their Monday night game at the NY Giants. The Raiders and Cowboys were at 80%, but Bogdanovich did note that sharp money is on the Rams which is why they dropped down the Cowboys from -3 to -2.5. And the Seahawks (-2.5 at Atlanta) were bet at a 75% rate with parlays.

“We’re going to have to knock one of those (90%) down,” Bogdanovich noted as a key point for them to having success on Sunday.

William Hill - Week 1 Public Leans

  • Baltimore -7.5
  • Buffalo -6.5
  • Indianapolis -8
  • Pittsburgh -6

What I’ve noticed from both sides of the counter the last three decades is that the house usually gets one of those games in as well as the majority of the sides the public is heavy on.

Enjoy your first NFL Sunday of a funky 2020, you’ve more than earned it.

Roberts is a former Las Vegas sports book director that has been covering the sports betting industry for the last 16 years.

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