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Week 1 of the NFL presents a difficult task to those bettors tracking line movement. Most of these spreads and totals have been up since the middle of the summer, and have had months of money influencing the numbers.
Jay Rood, sportsbook manager at the MGM Mirage, took a break from his busy weekend schedule to talk about some of the biggest line moves for the opening week of NFL action.
Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears – Open: Pick, Current: Chicago +3
Many markets had this game as a pick’em when NFL Week 1 lines went up this summer. Rood opened this matchup at 2.5 in favor of the Falcons but jumped to a field goal when sharp money landed on the road team.
“We had one big maximum-limit bet come in from a sharp about two weeks ago,” he says. “But overall, we’re getting good two-way action on this one.”
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans – Open: Pick, Move: Houston -3, Current: -9
This AFC South showdown opened at a pick’em at many books, but as news of Peyton Manning’s neck complications spread, the line grew to a field goal. Once Manning was ruled out earlier this week, books took the game off the board and reopened around 8.5. The spread climbed to -9 with nearly 90 percent of the action on the Texans. Also making major moves was the total, which fell from 47.5 to 43 points after Manning was ruled out.
“You take the field general off the field, and you can’t expect the Colts to score a lot of points,” says Rood.
Another QB switch in the AFC South has bettors fading the Jaguars in Week 1. Jacksonville fell from a near field-goal favorite to -1 when David Garrard was cut and backup Josh McCown was announced as the starter against the Titans. The total has also come down, falling from 41 to 37 points.
“This is the most least-bet game on the board,” says Rood.
The battle for Ohio has a lot of people wondering if the Browns are good enough to be favored by 6.5 points – or if the Bengals can really be that bad. Rood is confident in the Browns, and hasn’t had a problem adding points to their spread in Week 1.
“We’ve had decent two way action since going to 6.5,” he says. “It was almost all Browns money to begin with, but I don’t think (the spread) will get to a touchdown. I expect some buyback on the Bengals before game time Sunday.”
This opening number was set before Arizona landed QB Kevin Kolb, but most oddsmakers were smart enough to know the former Eagles backup was headed to the desert. Since Kolb’s arrival, bettors have laid the Cardinals hand over fist, with about 70 percent of the action on Arizona, forcing the significant line move.
Rood says books will be watching this game closely. A ton of parlay action is tied to the Cardinals at -3, -5 and -6.5, fading Carolina and rookie QB Cam Newton.
“I hope Cam's got his shoes tied on tight,” says Rood, giving credit the Arizona defense.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Jets - Open: New York -4, Current: -6
The first Sunday Night Football tilt of the season has had its line move significantly since post. Rood says it’s all Jets money so far, moving the line from -4 to -4.5, then jumping right to -5.5. He could even see this spread closing at a touchdown, despite an expected flood of public money on the Cowboys before kickoff.
“The sharps are squarely on the team which has performed the most consistent,” says Rood, referring to New York’s three straight trips to the AFC title game. “This one could be ugly if all the favorites come in during the afternoon games.”
When asked if Sunday’s emotion Sept. 11 tribute at MetLife Stadium will have an impact on the game, Rood said, “Once they blow the whistle, it’s football.”