2020 NFL Week 1: Eyeing Several NFL Sunday Pooches
Updated: Aug 5, 2021
Road dogs off bad years: Miami Dolphins +7 -125, Cleveland Browns +8 -125 & Arizona Cardinals +7.5 -140
Our primary NFL handicapping approach, a power rankings framework, sees value on several underdogs Sunday. Of note, we have entirely eliminated our estimate for home field advantage for most week 1 contests, as fans will not be in attendance, save in limited numbers in Kansas City and Jacksonville.
Our modified system identifies the following teams as ATS plays worthy of consideration on the first NFL Sunday of the 2020 season. We also indicate below our estimated line:
Miami Dolphins +6 at New England Patriots
Cleveland Browns +6 at Baltimore Ravens
Arizona Cardinals +6 at San Francisco 49ers
Each of the indicated plays can be had at or better than the key 7 figure. Note on the following chart from Business Insider, that, aside from 3, 7 was the most commonly recurring scoring margin in professional football between 2003 and 2012 (this observation holds true still, though 6 has taken on increased significance in recent years, given rule changes that make PATs less of a sure thing). Thus, bettors generally do themselves a favor by getting on the right side of important handles like 3 and 7.
In addition to finding favor from our power rankings system, the Fins, Browns and Cards are bound by another set of factors that support the effort to secure the cover Sunday. Namely, each of these teams won fewer than seven games last season, and will take points in this year's opener. Per BoydsBets, NFL road dogs off poor prior season showings have been great week 1 ATS bets since 2000.
We hypothesize that the opportunity evident with unaccomplished road dogs in week 1 owes to bookmakers shading lines to capitalize on casual bettors' bias in favor of better teams. The common result is closing lines that overvalue favorites.
Further, each of the dogs featured in this piece will open their season against their division. Since 2002, teams taking points from their division on the first Sunday of the season are 47-31-1 ATS (60% cover rate, for a 15% ROI assuming a standard vig of -110).
Finally, as additional support for the Cardinals' cover in particular, we note that teams that lost the last Superbowl have had a terrible time versus the number in the first week of the following season. Since 2000, last year's runner-up is an abysmal 3-16-1 ATS in the first out after the Big Game.