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Looking Ahead: NFL Futures Bets

   by Al McMordie - 09/01/2005

One of the great things about sports wagering is the growth of creativity over the last decade. Future wagers, prop bets, halftime wagering have all seen an increase, adding to the challenge and enjoyment of the industry. Another example is “Games of the Yearâ€쳌 which crop up before the college and pro football seasons. Oddsmakers all over the world have various numbers posted on key games that will take place in the upcoming season, such as rivalry games like Oklahoma/Texas and NFL showdowns like the Patriots/Panthers meeting in Week 2 -- a rematch of the 2004 Super Bowl. Let’s examine some current numbers on these “Games of the Yearâ€쳌 to see if there are wagering edges now, rather than waiting until the week of the contest. (But bear in mind that my opinions here could change come the week of the game, depending on other factors like health and the results of the teams' previous games.)

Week 2, Patriots (-2½) at Panthers: A Super Bowl rematch from a year and a half ago. New England has a challenging schedule this season, but this is not a spot where they might be tired or burned out. The Pats open the week before at home against the Raiders, a team with no defense, and also a game they should have little trouble with (especially at home where they haven’t lost since December of 2002). That game is also on a Thursday, so for this game they will have more than a week’s rest and preparation. While the Carolina/New England Super Bowl had a close final score and a thrilling finish, the game was far more one-sided. Carolina did nothing offensively for three-plus quarters and if it weren’t for a missed field goal and an interception in the end zone, New England would have won by more than 3 points. Statistically, they pretty much dominated the Panthers most of the game. The Pats have an even better team now, with the addition of RB Corey Dillon (who wasn’t around when they last faced Carolina) and the continued improvement of QB Tom Brady. This is a team that is 34-4 straight up and 27-9-1 against the spread the last two seasons. This is a short number for a New England club that just keeps rolling, has few weaknesses and extra time to prepare.

Week 3, Patriots at Steelers (-1): While I just mentioned the Pats have few weaknesses, Week 3 finds them in a difficult spot. This is their second straight road game and a revenge-spot for the Steelers, who didn’t lose a regular season game at home last season. They did lose in the AFC Championship game to these Pats, so I expect the crowd and the team to be fired-up for this one. The Steelers dominated on this field last October, and ripped the Pats 34-17. And this is the week before the bye for Pittsburgh, so you can expect a great effort from the No. 1 defense in the NFL in 2004.

Week 4, Cowboys (+4) at Raiders: Bill Parcells against Norv Turner. The Raiders are getting a lot of respect from the linesmaker in this one, but they haven’t done anything to improve what has been a miserable defense the last two years. I like what the Cowboys have done in the offseason. They fixed their QB problem, and upgraded the defense through the draft and free agency. In addition to the coaching edge for Dallas, a key here will be the running game. Oakland hasn’t stopped the run the last two years (21st in 2004) and Dallas has a dynamic young RB in Julius Jones. This looks like a close game, especially with up and down QB Kerry Collins still behind center for the Raiders, making Parcells and the Cowboys a bargain.

Week 5, Rams at Colts (-9): The Rams imploded defensively last season under first-year coordinator Larry Marmie finishing 24th in points allowed with the fourth-worst run defense. So how will they stop Edgerrin James, Marvin Harrison, Peyton Manning and the Colts? This Indy offense returns everyone, and they will feast on the St. Louis defense that has been in a steady decline. Oh, and the Rams are 7-19 against the spread their last 26 road games! Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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