It’s time for another season of picking NFL games against the moneyline, where you pick straight-up with odds rather than against the spread. What follows are the NFL Week 1 moneylines, my picks and some brief comments.
For those not familiar with moneyline wagering, the reason the odds are different for each team is to reflect the house advantage—instead of paying 10 percent on losing bets, as you do when betting ATS, you instead just have to lay out a little more when playing the favorite. The moneylines reflect $100 increments. If you bet $100 on the Colts on Sunday night you get $290 in return (on top of your original hundred). If you want the Broncos though, the (-350) is the amount you need to bet in order to turn a profit of a $100.
Finally, a disclaimer—the team I pick is not necessarily the one I think will win the game, even though that is the point of moneyline betting and in most cases, it does reflect my thinking. But when I did this last year, I dug myself an early hole on a handful of losses with big favorites. It’s tough to come back from losing with a team as (-300) or bigger. So unless I’m really confident, I’m going to play it safe, and that includes passing on games where the moneylines are huge.
Green Bay (+210) Seattle (-255): Green Bay
Comment: This is an example of what I was talking about. I suspect the Seahawks will win, but think this one is going to be close, and while I’m willing to live with an early (-100) hole if the Packers lose, I don’t want to take a (-255) bite before we get into Sunday.
New Orleans (-160) Atlanta (+135): New Orleans
Minnesota (+150) St. Louis (-175): St. Louis
Cleveland (+250) Pittsburgh (-300): Pass
Jacksonville (+430) Philadelphia (-550): Pass
Oakland (+210) NY Jets (-255): Oakland
Cincinnati (+100) Baltimore (-120): Baltimore
Buffalo (+250) Chicago (-305): Chicago
Washington (+130) Houston (-150): Washington
Tennessee (+165) Kansas City (-195): Tennessee
New England (-220) Miami (+185): Miami
Comment: I find the Patriots-Dolphins line surprising. Miami beat New England outright last December in South Beach and covered the spread against the Pats in Miami in 2012. I really do lean Miami to win straight up. By no means do I think this is going to be a changing of the guard year in the AFC East, but this particular matchup at this particular venue works well for the Fish.
Carolina (+110) Tampa Bay (-130): Carolina
San Francisco (-220) Dallas (+185): San Francisco
Comment: The Carolina-Tampa Bay line has to be the most surprising of Week 1. Carolina is getting so little respect that they’re an underdog at Tampa? I guess I should be the last one to talk because I picked Lovie’s Bucs to sneak into the playoffs, while the Panther missed. But there’s a difference between taking a flyer on a risky playoff pick 17 weeks in advance and actually letting that reflected in the betting odds before Tampa Bay has done anything in the field. That’s why my pick in this game contradicts my season-long playoff predictions.
Indianapolis (+290) Denver (-350): Indianapolis
Comment: The same note as the Packer-Seahawk game, but even stronger—didn’t the Colts actually beat the Broncos head-to-head last year? Didn’t Indy win on the road in San Francisco and also beat Seattle? I understand last year’s Colts-Broncos game was at Indianapolis, and all of the above games were early in the season. If this line were Denver (-150) I’d have played the favorite. But not at these prices.
NY Giants (+220) Detroit (-265): NY Giants
San Diego (+145) Arizona (-170): San Diego
Comment: Just playing it safe with the underdogs on a couple games that are probably close either way. This game is a nice early test for the Lions—if they play up to their talent level, they win easy. But how often has Detroit done that in recent years?