The first full week of NFL games are officially in the books, and already we’ve seen a plethora of intriguing storylines begin to develop. From Robert Griffin’s early success to the 49ers’ domination of the Packers to Peyton Manning’s triumphant return to the gridiron, the NFL is shaping up for another compelling season. In this unpredictable league, we almost saw an anemic Browns offense knock off a potential Super Bowl contender in the Eagles. We also witnessed the emergence of Julio Jones as the league’s newest elite receiver and saw David Akers drill a 63-yard field goal — all without the aid of Denver’s mile high air.
Last week in this space we examined the most interesting line movements for opening weekend, but the early action this week is even more fascinating.
Minnesota Vikings (1-0) at Indianapolis Colts (0-1) – 1:00 PM EST on Sunday
Two young quarterbacks will be facing off this weekend when Christian Ponder and the Vikings travel east to take on Andrew Luck and the Colts. In his first NFL start, Luck completed 23 of 45 passes for 309 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions — numbers eerily similar to Peyton Manning’s rookie debut. Although the team was blown out by the Bears by a score of 41-21, Luck showed glimpses of why talent evaluators called the Stanford product the best QB prospect since John Elway.
In their opening game, the Vikings were able to knock off the Jaguars (hardly an impressive feat) in overtime. What was impressive was the return of running back Adrian Peterson. Purple Jesus suffered a torn ACL and MCL in a week 16 matchup with the Redskins and was expected to miss a large chunk of the 2012 season. Somehow this freakish athletic specimen returned without missing a snap, rushing for 84 yards and 2 touchdowns on 17 carries in the opener.
Pinnacle was one of the first sportsbooks to post a line for this game, and opened with the Vikings as a 3.5-point road favorite. On the flip side, CRIS opened this game as a pick ‘em. What’s interesting is that after the early betting action, the lines have closed within a half point of each other. CRIS is currently listing Minnesota as a 1.5-point favorite and Pinnacle has posted a line of -1. Additionally, the Vikings were receiving 52% of spread wagers at the time of publication, meaning that it was not public money moving this line.
New Orleans Saints (0-1) at Carolina Panthers (0-1) – 1:00 PM EST on Sunday
After a tumultuous off-season in which Bounty Gate dominated the headlines, the Saints were unable to silence critics in their opening game. Although the public was in love with New Orleans (76% of spread bets took N.O at -9.5), the team fell behind early and not only failed to cover the spread, but actually lost straight up to the Redskins, 40-32. During the off-season many fans were quick to dismiss the season long suspension of Sean Payton, but it appears that the coaches absence could be more significant than many anticipated.
Whether the team will rebound without their head coach is up for debate, but oddsmakers’ opinions on the Saints are not. New Orleans opened as a 5-point favorite at Pinnacle, and the sportsbook continually changed the juice until the Saints were at -5 (+113) just a minute and a half after the line was released. The movement continued with the line plummeting to -3 just five minutes later, and a smart money move triggered on the Panthers nearly three hours later which saw the line drop to 2.5. At the time of publication, the line was all the way down to -1 (-130) despite 86% of spread bets taking the Saints. The betting line history below — taken from our new live odds page — displays the line movement on this game at Pinnacle.
Baltimore Ravens (1-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) – 1:00 PM EST on Sunday
Both of these teams entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations and, although both took home a win in their season debut, the manner in which they won was vastly different. Despite tallying 246 more yards than the Browns and holding rookie QB Brandon Weeden to just 12 of 35 passing – including four interceptions – the Eagles barely scraped by with a 17-16 road victory.
For the Ravens, Monday night’s win was a statement performance. After impressive outings from the Texans, Patriots and Broncos, Baltimore needed to show they were a force to be reckoned with in the AFC. Mission accomplished. Joe Flacco took the first step in establishing himself as one of the league’s premier signal callers, completing 21 of 29 passes with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions, while spreading the ball to eight different receivers. Nobody has ever doubted the Ravens defense, but if Flacco can take the next step in his evolution, this team could be playing in February.
Right now, the lines are all over the place for this game. Currently, the line at the Greek (Olympic) is Philadelphia -3.5 (+125) while the line at Pinnacle is -1 (-120). This once again demonstrates the importance of shopping the best line as you can bet a line on either side of a key number (3).
Which games do you find most interesting this weekend? Are there any lines that you found shocking? Make sure to leave your questions and comments in the section below.