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The NFL regular season kicks off Thursday night as the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers take on the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field.
Since Super Bowl XLVI is this year, here are 46 things you should know before betting the NFL this season:
TRENDS OF NOTE
1. The Lions went from the worst ATS team in 2009 (4-10-2) to the best in 2010 (12-4). In Week 1, the Lions opened as 3-point underdogs against the Bucs but are currently just one-point dogs.
2. The Chargers are listed at 12-to-1 to win the Super Bowl. No AFC West team has won the Super Bowl since the 1998 Broncos. At least one team from every other division has won the Super Bowl since.
3. The Panthers were the worst team for bettors last season, going 4-12 ATS. According to point spreads released by Cantor Gaming in June, the Panthers won’t be a favorite in any game this season, although they are listed as a pick ‘em in a home game against the Titans.
4. The Cowboys and Patriots hit the most overs of any NFL team in 2010, as both teams went over in 13 of 16 games overall. The Jaguars were another strong over team, but not because of their offense. The over hit in 12 of 16 Jaguars games in large part due to a defense that allowed an average of 26.2 points per game.
5. The Redskins, Rams and Packers hit the most unders in 2010, as all three teams went under in 10 of 16 games.
6. The under has hit in NBC’s season-opening Thursday Night game in each of the past four seasons. The total in the 2011 season-opener between the Packers and Saints is listed at 47.5.
7. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are the favorites to win the MVP in futures betting at 5-to-1 odds. Nine of the last 11 MVPs have been quarterbacks.
8. Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew are the running backs with the best odds (15-to-1) to win the MVP. The last running back to win the award was LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006.
9. Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson are both listed as 30-to-1 longshots to win the MVP. A wide receiver has never won the award.
Peyton Manning.QUARTERBACK CHAOS
10. Colts. After making 208 consecutive starts, Peyton Manning is doubtful for the season-opener at Houston, and rumors are swirling that his neck injury could keep him out for much longer than that.
11. Panthers. Carolina made Cam Newton the No. 1 overall selection of the 2011 draft and have announced he’ll be the starter in the season-opener against the Arizona Cardinals. But the rookie struggled in the preseason, completing just 24 of 57 passes (42 percent).
12. Bengals. Carson Palmer decided during the offseason he’d rather retire than play for Cincinnati, leaving second-round selection Andy Dalton as the opening-week starter at Cleveland. Dalton threw one touchdown and three interceptions in four preseason games.
13. Jaguars. Jacksonville cut starting quarterback David Garrard just days before the season-opener, leaving journeyman Luke McCown as the starter. McCown has a 74.8 career QB rating.
STARTING FRESH — TEAMS WITH FIRST-TIME COACHES
14. Cowboys. Jason Garrett, Dallas’ former offensive coordinator, went 5-3 in an interim role last year before being given the job in January.
15. Panthers. Ron Rivera, a linebacker on the famous 1985 Bears’ defense, was the architect of San Diego’s No. 1-ranked defense last year.
16. Browns. Pat Shurmur, who mentored Sam Bradford while at St. Louis and is considered by many to be an offensive guru, is expected to bring more of a run-and-gun approach to Cleveland.
17. Vikings. Leslie Frazier, another member of the 1985 Bears’ championship defense, went 3-3 in an interim role last year after Brad Childress was fired by Minnesota in November.
18. Raiders. Hue Jackson, who’s been an offensive coordinator in Washington, Atlanta and Oakland, is the organization’s sixth head coach since 2002.
19. 49ers. Jim Harbaugh, a former first-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears in 1987, posted three seasons of 11 or more wins in seven combined years at the University of San Diego and Stanford.
20. Titans. Mike Munchak, Tennessee’s former offensive line coach, has been with the organization as either a player or coach since 1982.
DIVISION BY DIVISION
21. Since the NFL expanded to eight, four-team divisions in 2002, there have been at least four new division champions in every season. Last year, the Eagles, Bears, Falcons, Seahawks, Steelers and Chiefs all knocked off the 2009 champions.
22. With seven division titles since 2002, the Patriots and Colts are tied for the most in the NFL, followed closely by the Eagles, Seahawks, Steelers and Chargers, who all have five apiece.
23. The NFC South has never had a back-to-back division winner, and each team has won the division twice in the last eight years. If you feel like taking a chance on a longshot, the Bucs are listed at 6-to-1 and the Panthers are priced at 18-to-1.
24. The Seahawks are the only 2010 division winner to be listed at the longest odds (+700) within their division in 2011.
25. Over the last five years, the division with the most wins is the AFC South with 182 (average of 9.1 wins per team). The division with the fewest wins over the same span? The NFC West with 126, an average of just 6.3 wins per team.
TEAMS SHARPS BET ON
26. Eagles. Sharps bet on the Eagles every way imaginable; in Super Bowl futures, NFC East futures and season win totals. The Eagles’ over/under win total opened at 9.5 at some books and is currently 10.5 almost everywhere.
27. Cardinals. Some sharp bettors anticipated that the Cardinals would sign quarterback Kevin Kolb in free agency and bet their over win total immediately after it was posted. Their season win total jumped from 5.5 — where it opened at Cantor Gaming — to as high as 7 at some books.
TEAMS SHARPS HAVE FADED
28. Bengals. In one of the most egregious season win totals in history, the Bengals opened with an over/under of 7.5 at MGM Mirage. Sharps quickly Cam Newton and Andy Dalton. bet the total down to 6.5, then to 6 and then to 5.5, where it stands presently. Even now, you must lay considerable juice to bet the under.
29. Bears. Despite a surprise season in which they captured the NFC North title, many sharps are against the Bears in 2011, sensing that they are destined for decline. The Bears’ win total opened at 9.5 but is now down to 8.5 at most books.
30. Lions. The Lions opened at 75-to-1 to win the Super Bowl back in July but are currently anywhere between 18-to-1 and 25-to-1 at most sportsbooks
31. Vikings. The Vikings weren’t beloved early on in the betting season, but ever since they signed Donovan McNabb, they’ve become a trendy sleeper pick. The Vikings opened as high as 60-to-1 to win the Super Bowl but are now down to about 35-to-1.
32. Texans. The AFC South could be one of the weakest divisions in football. The Texans opened at about 30-to-1 to win the Super Bowl but are down to 25-to-1.
WHO THE BOOKS NEED
33. “Every book from here to Jupiter will be rooting for the Bengals this season,” -Lucky’s race and sportsbook director Jimmy Vaccaro told Covers.com in mid-August.
““I think we have one ticket on the Bengals – I’m serious. And it was for 20 dollars. The guy only risked 20, not 22.” – Las Vegas Hilton race and sportsbook director Jay Kornegay told Covers.com earlier this week.
34. In each of the last five years there has been at least one team go from worst to first in a division. The Chiefs (2010), Saints (2009), Dolphins (2008), Bucs (2007), Eagles (2006) and Saints (2006).
35. The Panthers had an NFL-worst 2-14 record last year, and this year, they’ll play the league’s toughest strength of schedule. Carolina’s opponents were 142-114 overall in 2010.
36. The Cardinals have the easiest strength of schedule. Opponents were 113-143 last year.
37. The Ravens have the easiest schedule of any 2010 playoff team. Opponents were 117-139 last year.
38. The Patriots haven’t had a losing ATS record since 2002. They went 10-5-1 ATS last year and are 26-19-3 against the spread over the last three seasons.
39. The Texans haven’t had a winning ATS record since 2004. Then again, they haven’t been bank roll burners, either. The Texans have finished no worse than 7-9 ATS during the stretch.
40. Quarterbacks with at least eight starts in their rookie season have covered the spread 57% of the time (75-57-1) since 2006.
41. Last year’s bottom six ATS teams (Carolina, Cleveland, Arizona, Minnesota, Denver and San Francisco) all had winning ATS records the year before.
42. The Panthers will finish with a winning ATS record.
43. There will be an NFL-record seven new division winners in 2011. New England will be the only repeat winner.
44. The Texans will win the AFC South (+125).
45. The Broncos will go over their 5.5 regular season win total.
46. Underdogs will have a winning ATS record in Week 1. Since 1990, Week 1 underdogs that lost 10 or more games the previous year are 77-59 against the spread.