NFL Week 1 Betting Preview & Picks
Back in May of this year, the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law that effectively banned commercial sports betting. With it slowly becoming legal state-to-state, we at 4for4 Fantasy Football thought there was no better time than now to jump into the sports betting forum.
And hey, we’re off to a great start.
On Thursday, I released my first pick of the 2018 NFL season, which was the under 44.5 in the Eagles-Falcons game. Anyone who watched the offenses of those teams flounder last night knows that we hit on that selection. Hopefully, we can carry that momentum into this weekend when the NFL continues with Week 1.
For those of you that don’t know me, this my seventh season with 4for4. During that time, I’ve enjoyed working with long-time buddy John Paulsen on The Most Accurate Podcast, which has grown listenership every year. I also provide weekly scouting fantasy profiles for the Falcons, Saints and Rams.
New for this season, I’m thrilled that I will be doing weekly point spread and over/under predictions for 4for4, as I’ve been enthralled with sports betting for as long as I can remember. It’s a world that I have seen grown rapidly over the years and is on the verge of becoming mainstream. In fact, most pre-game shows that I see nowadays have some element of sports betting in their coverage.
I won’t bore you with too much background, but I host the midday show for 101 ESPN in St. Louis, where I was also a co-host for pre and post-game coverage on the Rams Radio Network before the team moved back to L.A. This year I started to incorporate more betting content into our weekly shows and started a column “From the Betting Window,” where I make predictions for baseball and college football. My predictions for the NFL, however, will be exclusive to 4for4 readers.
On top of weekly predictions for games, I will also write Betting 101 features to help readers that are interested in sports betting become better handicappers over time.
That said, I will provide one tip right now: Take the long-view. The goal is to be successful over an entire season. There will be losing plays and losing streaks, but we want to win over the long haul.
Thank you in advance for reading and welcome to 4for4’s sports betting coverage!
Onto our picks for Week 1…
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
- Point Spread: Steelers -4.5
- O/U: 43.5
- Time: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
The Steelers opened as 6.5-point road favorites but the line has steadily dropped. With LeVeon Bell (holdout) unlikely to report to the team by Sunday, the spread has dropped two full points to 4.5. As for the total, it hit the board at 47 but was also bet all the way down to 43.5.
On top of missing Bell, the Steelers will be without tight end Vance McDonald (ankle) so James Conner will start at running back and Jesse James could see an increased role in the passing game. For the Browns, cornerback E.J. Gaines (knee) and defensive tackle Trevon Coley (ankle) will be game-time decisions.
The road team is 3-1-1 against the spread in the last five meetings between these two teams. The Steelers are also 1-6 against the number in their last seven games overall, while the Browns failed to cover in 21 of their last 28 home games.
The Browns have a new offensive coordinator, a new quarterback, and several new faces at the skill positions on offense. While they’re a more talented team than they were a year ago, it’ll take some time for this offense to gel. I’m banking this pick on Todd Haley and Tyrod Taylor not being on the same page right out of the gates.
For the Steelers, Bell and McDonald are both out for Sunday and keep in mind Pittsburgh put up just 21 points in a 21-18 win last year against the Browns in Week 1. Bell was largely ineffective in that game and now he’s not even available. It’s unlikely the Steelers will be firing on all cylinders for Sunday.
Finally, one of the most underrated aspects of betting the total in football is the weather. Cleveland is expected to see winds of over 10 miles per hour, which will impact the passing games of both squads. This should be one of the lower-scoring games in Week 1.
9/9 UPDATE: The weather has forced oddsmakers to adjust the total, moving the number all the way down to 40.5. Hopefully, you got the number on Friday when it was still 43 because losing nearly a field goal on a total is significant. That said, I would still feel comfortable taking the under at 40.5. If it drops anymore, however, I would leave it and move on. This is a perfect example of why betting the number at the right time is crucial.
Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens
- Point Spread: Ravens -7.5
- O/U: 40.5
- Time: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
The Ravens opened as 3.5-point home favorites for this matchup but that line is long gone. Baltimore is now -7.5 at most sportsbooks and the line could climb with bettors favoring the Ravens. The total, meanwhile, dropped from 42.5 down to 40.5.
No surprise, the Ravens are receiving 75% of the betting tickets for this matchup. They’re also receiving 88% of the money, so it would appear as though public bettors and sharps are willing to lay over a touchdown on Baltimore.
The Bills are healthy and will have LeSean McCoy, who will play after not being placed on the commissioner’s exempt list. The Ravens, however, will be without rookie tight end Hayden Hurst (foot) and cornerback Jimmy Smith, who will serve the first game of his four-game suspension.
The Bills are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games played in Baltimore. The home team is also 6-1 against the number in the last seven games played between these two teams.
You won’t have much success aligning yourself with public bettors. Vegas oddsmakers keep the lights on taking the money of bettors that believe a certain team is a lock. That said, the Bills are in store for a miserable season. Their offense has the makings of being horrendous. Opponents are going to key on McCoy and make life miserable for Nathan Peterman, who is somehow starting an NFL game again after throwing five interceptions in a contest last year. Someone explain to me how Buffalo moves the ball, especially with that offensive line. I’m laying the points with the Ravens.
Pick: Ravens -7.5 (I would buy the hook down to 7 while you can)
Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers
- Point Spread: Chargers -3.5
- O/U: 48
- Time: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
The Chargers opened as a home favorite of a field goal but the line has moved to 3.5 at most sportsbooks. As for the total, it opened at 47.5 and has climbed to 48.
The Chargers could be without Pro Bowler Joey Bosa (foot) and will be without defensive backs Casey Hayward (hamstring) and Trevor Williams (ankle), as well as receiver Tyrell Williams (foot). As for the Chiefs, they will not have safety Eric Berry (heel).
Philip Rivers tends to struggle against Bob Sutton’s defense, as he’s thrown 13 interceptions to just six touchdowns. That said, the Chiefs played horrible defense down the stretch last season and is a unit in transition after parting with several veteran players during the offseason. No Berry, no Bosa and no Hayward should lead to plenty of points on both sides. As we know from his days at Texas Tech, Patrick Mahomes is the ultimate gun-slinger, capable of throwing multiple touchdown passes and multiple interceptions in the same game. I don’t see how this game stays under the total.
This won’t count against my overall season record, just wanted to do something fun at the end of each article!
2018 Season Record
- Week 1: 1-0
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images.