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Handicapping NFL Week 1

   by Scott Spreitzer - 09/03/2007

The opening weekend of pro football action does more to damage the
bankrolls of the wagering public than any other weekend in any other sport!

It's as if there's a harmonic convergence of everything that beats the
public lining up at one time to drain their pockets. I'm going to run
through the mistakes the public makes on the first NFL Sunday and Monday
in hopes that you will avoid these pitfalls.

*TOO MUCH ACTION: The public loves to bet on pro football, and they
haven't had a big NFL Sunday like this to attack since last December.
The exhibition games are boring, and see less and less action in Vegas
as time goes by. Let's give the public some credit for avoiding the
action bug in August. But all of that pent up energy explodes on the
first Sunday of the season, and they bet games they wouldn't normally
touch with a 10-foot pole.

It's easy to imagine edges in every game because nobody's played yet,
and…because it's been nine months since the public had a losing day in
the NFL. Every game seems like a piece of cake. But this is a tough
league and you have to know how to pick your spots.

*TOO MANY FAVORITES: The public loves betting favorites, and they tend
to invest way too much in borderline teams that they expect to be
playoff contenders this year. The public tends to classify squads as
"playoff teams" or "losers," in their approach to understanding the league.
If one of their "playoff teams" is laying a small number against a "loser," they
jump in with both feet. Once the game is played it's a nailbiter because the strong
team turns out to be nothing special, and the lesser team is good enough to
hang with them. Money down the drain.

Now, I'm not saying that there won't be any favorites who cover their
spreads. There will be a few blowouts like always. It's just that the
public will be expecting one-sided games all over the place. That's
unlikely to happen. History has made it very clear that this is an
underdog league. Make sure you have edges on offense, defense, and an
inexpensive line before taking any plunges on chalk teams.

*TOO MANY OVERS: The public doesn't play totals as much as they do team
sides, but they bet Overs when they play them. It's just much more fun to
root for points being scored than to root for punts, holding penalties,
and missed field goal attempts. This tricks the public into having too
much optimism about offensive potential.

And, since the public has been watching preseason games even if they
weren't betting on them, they all have impressions of the first teamers
driving down the field for TDs in their dress rehearsal games. Defenses
were still vanilla in those games, and most starting units did get a
TD on the board before sitting down. Now, the public imagines an entire
game of offenses driving the field for touchdowns. That will happen in a
few places. Across the full scope of the weekend though, it's going to
be the exception rather than the rule.

You see, NFL defenses don't have much of a dress rehearsal in terms of
their blitzing schematics and how hard they hit ball carriers. They save
that for the games that matter. In fact, last season Oakland, Tampa Bay,
and Green Bay were all shut-out in the opening weekend. A fourth of the
league scored 10 points or less. Only one team scored more than 30
points. Is it smart to bet Overs when so many teams will be struggling
during their first look at intense defenses?

TOO MANY TEASERS: When I play teasers, I only play two-teamers. But I’m
aware that the public loves to play them. For the uninitiated, these are
propositions where you get to move the line a certain amount of points in your
favor on multiple games, but you have to win both parts of the proposition
to cash the ticket.

As far as I'm concerned, anything more than a two-team Teaser is typically a
sucker bet anyway. There's never a good time for three-team or more teasers,
but it's especially true early in the season when the lines are going to be
most disconnected from reality. As a season progresses, the oddsmakers
do a better job of putting up numbers that match the true differences
between teams. Moving a line six or seven points in your favor can be justified
at a time when the lines are accurate. You're getting six "real" points.
Early in the season, the number of question marks across the league
makes it difficult for the oddsmakers to peg all 32 teams correctly.
Moving a line six points may not be getting you any real value at all.
You've got to go at least 2-0 to win, and the "bonus" points may not even be
helping you!

We're all excited that the NFL is back. Make sure you play it smart on
this opening weekend. Avoid the pitfalls that snare the wagering public!

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