Thursday, August 2, 2012

The week 1 NFLX Hall of Fame game is still a few days away, but let's take a moment to look ahead to week 1 of the regular season.  A handful of games deserve some more attention and present some potential value.  Right now all we can go on is what things look like on paper and early reports from training camps, but it's never too early to be on the lookout for betting opportunities.


Dallas Cowboys vs New York Giants

Right now this line sits at NY -3 or -3.5 depending on where you shop, but I find it hard to believe the hook will still be available come September barring injuries.  Right now I have these teams side-by-side in my power rankings, but I expect the Cowboys to surpass them at some point in the season--if not right away.  Trend-wise, defending Super Bowl champs are 10-2 ATS in week 1 the following season, but the Giants aren't a team that inspires that kind of confidence for me.  I like what Dallas has done in the offseason--especially with their secondary.   Dallas +3.5 has value.

Buffalo Bills vs New York Jets

Can someone explain to me why the Bills are available at +3.5?   I'm sorry, but I fail to see where the Jets have enough of an advantage to warrant the hook.  Show me one category that the Jets have an advantage in.  It's no surprise by now that Buffalo has gotten a lot of offseason love and with good reason.  The early money has agreed.  The line has already moved 2.5 points off the -6 opener.  I'd be shocked if it didn't move to -3.  Even then, I think Buffalo has value.  The Jets are one team I'll be looking to fade this year. 

Jacksonville Jaguars vs Minnesota Vikings

This is another point spread that baffles me. Ok so MJD and Blackmon aren't in camp and they drafted a punter in the 3rd round, but does anyone remember how good their defense was last year?  And they could be even better this season.  There are mixed reports on what Gabbert has looked like in camp, but they acquired Chad Henne for a reason.  For me, this is just as much to do with the lackluster prospects of the Vikings.  Ponder comes with his own set of question marks and red flags and won't have Jerome Simpson or a healthy Adrian Peterson in week 1.  There's also no glaring indication that the O-line or pass defense will be markedly improved either.  Jacksonville +4.5 could be a strong play as long as Jacksonville get their key guys into camp at some point.

Miami Dolphins vs Houston Texans

The Texans opened at -6.5 and it's been promptly (and wisely) bet to -7.  I still see value here assuming everyone can stay healthy.  I haven't been shy about how bad I think this Miami team is going to be and I don't think +7 is enough.  The QB situation is a mess and they don't match up well on paper with a deep and talented Texans team.  The Dolphins main two question marks heading into the preseason is what they can do in the air--on both offense and defense.  Meanwhile, those areas are among Houston's big strengths.  If Miami believes they can replicate the strong rush O/D + special teams formula of the 2010 49ers than they have a rude awakening coming.  A double digit Texans opening win at home seems not only inevitable-but highly likely.

St Louis Rams vs Detroit Lions

I understand the Rams were bad in 2011, but by no means do I think they should be +8.5/+9 underdogs either.  The Lions were team that many expected (or expect) to take a big jump this year, but they didn't have the kind of offseason to inspire that kind of confidence.  Meanwhile, the Rams not only got a lot healthier, but they also added some nice pieces via the draft and free agency.  Their biggest acquisition was landing Jeff Fisher as head coach.  I'm not sitting here saying that the Rams are going to win this game outright, but it wouldn't surprise me if they did.  The big problem areas for Detroit last year were in their secondary and their defensive line wasn't nearly as dominant as people expected.  This could be the perfect opportunity for St Louis to get off to a competitive start to the year.  The Rams should be able to get some pressure on Stafford and their secondary won't be as vulnerable as it was in 2011.  On paper, the true line should be around a touchdown. 

Atlanta Falcons vs Kansas City Chiefs

In my opinion, the wrong team is favored in this matchup.  I'm high on KC this year and optimism will be high on opening weekend in Arrowhead.  The Falcons have solid continuity in the key areas and they made positive changes on the coaching staff, but I'm not about to throw away and ignore their 1-5 record in tough games last year.  I saw them make similar big offseason moves before 2011 and they found out the hard way their O-line wasn't equipped for a down-field attacking offense.  Will that change this year?  It could, but they will have their work cut out for them against a very strong KC defense.  I'd almost be willing to lay 2.5 points on KC in this game, but if the books want to give us +1 then I won't be complaining.  I expect the Chiefs to win this game straight up.

Carolina Panthers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last season I openly bashed the Bucs for being a completely gutless team.  Their stats were so bad I'm not even going to waste your time regurgitating them here.  In 2012, expect that vibe to change.  New head coach Greg Schiano isn't messing around.  Tampa should get some much needed discipline inserted into the lineup and they've also brought in some key guys to be more dynamic on offense.  Right now there is a lot of hype surrounding the Panthers which would explain why they are 3 point favorites on the road, but they have a long way to go before they are a proven commodity on defense and special teams--two very sore spots from 2011.  There is huge uncertainty for both of these teams so keep a close eye on them throughout the preseason.  The Bucs +3 at home could turn out to be excellent value.

Summary

Note:*None of these are official picks, but don't be surprised if some of them are on my week 1 card in the coming weeks.

It's still early August and a lot can change over the next month.  We've already seen a collection of injuries league-wide and we haven't even had a snap of preseason yet.  Monitor how these teams look over the first three weeks in the preseason.  There should be more than enough value once the dust settles, but don't leave it too late because the market isn't going to wait for us to get in on the action either.