Last Updated Sep 10, 2021, 8:00 PM

NFL Week 1 Money Moves

So what can I do to get you to buy a ticket on the Lions to cover in their Week 1 opener at home against the 49ers? Would a beer do? Comped sandwich from the deli? Comped streak at the steak house? Free slot play?

That’s almost what is going on in Las Vegas that has propelled the Lions to be the sportsbook's riskiest team in Week 1. Every other ticket written has bet number 469 called out in parlays, teasers, or straight bets. The 49ers are a very popular bet making the sportsbook directors shake in their boots about the prospects of again needing one of the worst teams in the NFL to cover.

The Las Vegas SuperBook was the first to post Week 1 numbers and offered the 49ers at -7 on May 12, which lasted about eight hours until the move to -7.5 happened. On Thursday, they bypassed -8 and went straight to -8.5 in a baller bookmaking move. Most of Las Vegas still has the 49ers -8.

What’s the wait? The books all know no one is coming in to bet the Lions at +8.5. And we all know that’s not going to change by kickoff unless you give some sharp money +10. Sharps will take that, but Joe Public still doesn’t want it because the Lions have a stench leftover from last season when they lost their final four games of a 5-11 season.

How about some more sell tactics?

Jared Goff is the new QB and only Tom Brady has more wins as a starter than him since 2017. Matt Campbell is the new coach and they drafted a guard to protect the QB in the first round. This isn’t the same Lions team, come on. You're getting +8.5 at home. Attractive, right?

The bettor makes a face like he smelled some old fish and says what most are thinking. “I saw Jared Goff face the 49ers defense twice last season and they frustrated him and beat the Rams both games, and the 49ers defense is healthy this season.”

The bettor is not wrong, but sometimes the betting gods play the equalizer to give the orphans nobody wants a boost. Station Casinos and the Atlantis Reno both have Lions as their biggest Sunday risk. Parlays are going to be a big problem if the 49ers cover. Station Casinos sportsbook VP Jason McCormick says 90% of their parlays written to the game have the 49ers on it.

Now, this is the kind of storyline that always intrigues me and is part of the reason I write this piece during the season. Sharp bets should be respected because they win more than they lose. When I make a bet and hear sharp money is on the other side, my confidence in winning drops significantly.

The same thing happens when I see public parlay money is on the same side as me. I worked in a sportsbook for two decades, we lost to sharp money and won by beating the Public parlays. I just saw Illinois sportsbooks win for July was $36 million and half of the win came from parlays.

The weight of the public is a burden because the public loses more than they win so I like to point those teams out here and let you decide. It’s not necessarily that their picks stink, it’s the greed of trying to hit a three-game parlay for 6-to-1 odds that gets them. “I’ll take the Chiefs, Bills, and Bucs for $20, please.”

Station Casinos had a great day on Thursday because the general public lost, laying 9-points on the Buccaneers, who came back to win 31-29. The Bucs have now won nine straight games and will be a popular bet next week.

McCormick says his Station books' most public sides for Week 1 are the 49ers, Broncos (-3 at Giants), and Rams (-7.5 vs. Bears).

Up north at the Atlantis Reno, book director Marc Nelson said “I’m gonna need the Lions for my lungs.” He also said his next biggest public sides are the Chiefs and Bills.

Betting against the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes has proved to be a bad move the last three seasons collectively. But sharp money is doing it this week. They’ve moved the Browns from +6.5 at the SuperBook down to +5.5. The Chiefs are now -5 at Circa Sports.

McCormick says sharp money has bet the Browns, Jets (+4 at Carolina), and Saints (+3.5 vs. Packers at Jacksonville).

SuperBook VP Jay Kornegay says the Steelers (+6.5 at Buffalo), Colts (+3 vs. Seahawks), and Jets have been their top sharp plays while his public plays have been on the Bills, Seahawks, 49ers, and Rams (-7.5 vs. Bears).

You can see that sharps and the public are often on opposite sides.

Kornegay says that despite getting big bets on the Steelers that the Bills are their biggest risk on Sunday or at least until the Rams game kicks off.

“That Rams game will be a biggie,” Kornegay said. “We’ll only win money on it if the Bears win outright.”

Ouch, that is some serious risk already and it will only get worse from here. If a lot of these popular favorites cover on Sunday, the Rams risk will be magnified much higher because of all live parlays heading into that game for a payout as the last leg of a parlay.

Imagine being a bookmaker knowing Andy Dalton is the Bears starting QB but not wanting to get away from the market where everyone is -7.5. You might as well be -8.5 now because you’ll certainly be -9 by kickoff when all that risk flows in from the first 13 games. A little advice: if you like the Rams, bet them now, and it's worth it to buy a half-point down to -7. If you like the Bears, bet them as late as possible when the book needs to bait your Bears money at the last chance.

Nelson said his Atlantis book took sharp action on the Jets, Bengals (+3 vs Vikings), and Patriots -3 vs. Dolphins).

Best of luck to all whatever bet strategy chosen for week 1.

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