Are Bettors Overreacting to Marcus Mariota’s Hot Start?

Last weekend in his first career NFL game, Marcus Mariota did the unthinkable — he posted a perfect QB rating. The second overall pick completed 13 of 16 passes for 209 yards, 4 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Do you want to know the last quarterback to post a perfect QB rating? That would be human punching bag Geno Smith.

Before the season, many fans and analysts were optimistic about his prospects, but he was overshadowed by many others in his draft class. The Oregon star had the fifth best Rookie of the Year Odds (+1000) trailing Jameis Winston (+550), Amari Cooper (+650), Melvin Gordon (+700) and Todd Gurley (+900). After last week’s impressive performance, Mariota became the clear cut Rookie of the Year favorite at both European-based Bet365 (+450) and Paddy Power (+500).

Clearly oddsmakers are reacting to the inevitable influx of public money that will come down on Mariota after his strong debut, but are fans and bettors overreacting? The Titans opened as 4-point underdogs this Sunday against the Browns, and have received 88% of early spread bets. This completely one-sided public betting has pushed Tennessee from +4 to -1 at CRIS.

The screenshot below displays the how the Titans line and public betting trends have moved since opening on Sunday evening.

Titans LG

Over the summer, CG Technology (formerly Cantor) posted lines for every single NFL game this season and listed Cleveland as a 4.5-point favorite against Tennessee. Granted they were assuming that Josh McCown would be starting as opposed to Johnny Manziel, but that drop off is very minor and isn’t worth anything close to the 5.5-point difference between the current lines and preseason openers. Our past research shows that even Ben Roethlisberger isn’t worth that much.

Instead of remembering that the Titans won only two games last season, bettors seem happy to overreact to one good game by Mariota. It should also be noted that most of his passing yards came after the catch against a suspect Bucs defense. The Browns secondary features four Pro Bowlers including Joe Haden (2013-14), Tramon Williams (2010), Tashaun Gipson (2014) and Donte Whitner (2012-14). With so much talent on Cleveland’s defense, bettors should not be this confident in a rookie quarterback.

Since 2003, teams coming off a loss of at least 20-points have gone 332-280 ATS (54.2%), while teams coming off a win of at least 21-points have gone just 254-289 ATS (46.8%). The Browns and Titans fit these criterion respectively, which further indicates value on Cleveland.

Finally, the Browns currently fit our 80/20 betting rule which has been a staple of our betting against the public philosophy. Marcus Mariota may be a great player one day, but for now it would appear that bettors are vastly reacting to a one game sample.

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David Solar is the Content Manager for Sports Insights and can be reached directly at David@sportsinsights.com.

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David Solar

David Solar has been the Content Manager at Sports Insights for over four years. He specializes in sports betting analytics and has created several popular data-driven betting systems. He can be reached directly at david@sportsinsights.com or on twitter at @TheDavidSolar.

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