2021 NFL Week 1: A Profitable Angle on Two Week 1 Road Dogs
Updated: Sep 8, 2021
History suggests the new York Jets, with rookie Zach Wilson at quarterback, are worth considering versus the number Sunday. We also like second-year QB, Jalen Hurts, to lead the Eagles to their first ATS win of the new season, for some of the same reasons we like New York. Accordingly, we are taking a flyer on both road dogs in week 1.
First, we highlight environment as a support for the Jets and Eagles plus the points.
In non-Thursday affairs featuring no more than moderately high betting totals, backing road dogs that are taking less than a touchdown and that won no more than six games last year has proven solidly profitable...
This system has delivered a statistically significant 15% long-term return on investment, and only three seasons back to 2004-05 with a cover rate below 50%.
It's success owes to the betting public's recency bias, we suspect, as well as the general tendency toward overconfidence in home favorites (regular season NFL home favorites are 48.4% ATS since 2004 -- statistically significantly (at the 95% confidence level) lower than the 50% level one would expect assuming lines are efficient. The cover rate for all favorites over this term did not prove statistically significantly different then zero).
New York Jets +5.5 @ Carolina Panthers
Separately, ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) makes Carolina 3.2 points better than the New York Football Jets on a neutral field for week 1. The Panthers true home field advantage back to the 2003-04 season is 1.1 points. As such, we make this line closer to +4.5 than the current +5.5, suggesting value with the Jets and the points.
New York has the backing of only 29% of ATS wagers on this contest, as of the time of this writing, and an even worse 28% of spread dollar action. As a result, the line shot higher off it's opening level of +4, threatening the key 7-handle at it's peak. However, Jets money eventually showed up, forcing the spread to retreat from it's most extreme levels.
Philadelphia Eagles +3.5 @ Atlanta Falcons
FPI gives the Falcons a 1.7 point neutral field edge over Eagles in week 1, and we figure a 2.1 point true home field advantage is appropriate for Atlanta (since 2004, the Falcons' average margin was 2.5 at home and -1.7 away). As such, the Eagles +3.5 strikes us as reasonable, particularly given that history tends to favor moderate road pooches off bad seasons.
From a different angle, Atlanta's veteran QB, Matt Ryan, is probably still elite. The 14th year thrower out of Boston College ranked 10th by Football Outsider's Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement smart statistic last season. But likely to hamper Ryan's efforts to deliver the ball on target, Atlanta's offensive line has weakened in recent years. The Falcons ranked 22nd by sacks allowed per game last year and 27th the year before.
Further, top-notch Center, Alex Mack, left Atlanta for San Francisco this past off-season, resulting in the Falcons slipping (slightly) in PFF.com's offensive line rankings, relative to the team's position at the end of last year.
On the other side of the ball, Philadelphia's defense was second best last year at pressuring opposing quarterbacks. If the Eagles front four can manage to keep Ryan under duress, Atlanta's offense could be held in check.
Betting flows for Eagles @ Falcons week 1 action are pretty even. 53% of spread bets' are down on Philly, but Atlanta is supported by 52% of dollars wagered. As a result, the line has more-or-less held at Eagles +3.5. We'll bite at north of the most important spread level in the NFL.