The NFL season kicks off on Thursday evening with the much-discussed New England Patriots hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers. The return of actual football games will provide a welcome distraction from the non-stop coverage of Deflategate and Spygate, although the former has had tremendous impact on the betting line.
BetOnline, a square sportsbook which has been known to release lines earlier than any other offshore oddsmaker, opened the Patriots as 6-point favorites back on April 22. When the Wells Report was released on May 11 and it was announced that Brady would be suspended for four games, the game was taken off the board across the sports betting marketplace.
Four days later, Pinnacle re-opened the Patriots as 2.5-point favorites with backup Jimmy Garroppolo expected to start. In early June that line ticked up to New England -3 and by August 31 the line had moved to New England -3.5.
Much of this was based on speculation that Brady’s suspension would be overturned and, on September 3rd, Judge Richard Berman nullified Brady’s four game suspension meaning that the star quarterback would be eligible to play in New England’s Week 1 matchup against Pittsburgh.
With this announcement, the Patriots re-opened as 7-point favorites across the sports betting market place and have received 66% of spread bets at our contributing sportsbooks. Despite this unbalanced betting, the Patriots are still listed at -7 at the time of publication.
Although there have been no bet signals triggered and the lack of line movement makes identifying sharp money exceedingly difficult, there are some betting system matches for Thursday’s season opener.
Since 2005, favorites have gone 268-238 ATS (53.0%) in prime time games. When that team is favored by at least 3.5-points, that record improves to 181-146 ATS (55.4%). When the closing total is 46 or higher, the record improves to 73-42 ATS (63.5%). This falls in line with past research which indicates that favorites are undervalued in high-scoring games and underdogs are undervalued in low-scoring games.
Bettors may also be interested to know that since the start of the 2005 season, Tom Brady has posted a 115-82 ATS record with +29.37 units won. That ranks Brady as the most profitable starting quarterback in our database. In contrast, Ben Roethlisberger has been slightly above average with an 88-82 ATS record and +5.21 units won.
Worried about a Super Bowl hangover for the Patriots? Here’s why you shouldn’t be:
Since 2000, defending Super Bowl champs are 12-3 SU and 10-4-1 ATS in Week 1. Super Bowl losers just 6-9 SU and only 3-12 ATS in Week 1.
— Jason Logan (@CoversJLo) September 9, 2015
From a health standpoint, there are a number of key players who will be inactive for this game. The Steelers will be without RB Le’Veon Bell (Suspension), WR Martavis Bryant (Suspension), C Maurkice Pouncey (Ankle) and T Mike Adams (Back). The Patriots will be without WR Brandon LaFell (Foot) while C Bryan Stork is currently listed as doubtful. Bettors can view the latest updates by visiting our free NFL injury page.
Despite this high number of inactive offensive players, 69% of public bettors are taking the over in this matchup. The total was listed at 48.5 when Brady’s status was in question, but re-opened at 51 following the nullification of his suspension. With such one-sided action on the over, the total has increased from 51 to 52. This is somewhat interesting because 51 has been the 7th most common point total, and can be classified as a key number.
The screenshot below displays the line history for the total at Pinnacle.
These numbers are subject to change before kickoff, so bettors should be sure to visit our free NFL odds page for the latest lines, injuries, public betting trends and more.
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David Solar is the Content Manager for Sports Insights and can be reached directly at David@sportsinsights.com.