The NFL may have its fair share of warts. But say this for the nearly 100-year league: It knows how to keep itself relevant year-round.
And legalized sports betting, which the NFL ironically railed against for many years, should lend a significant helping hand moving forward.
As much was evident on April 17 when the release of the league’s official 2019 schedule was piggybacked by another relevant set of numbers — Week 1 NFL lines at New Jersey sportsbooks.
NFL Week 1 Lines 2019
(This article will be updated as more betting options become available)
Release of Week 1 lines becoming rite of spring
Sure, each team’s slate of games for the upcoming season represent information of significant interest for its fans. But for sports bettors, the first point spreads, moneylines and over/unders of a new regular season are akin to the crack of the bat or smell of freshly cut grass baseball purists have waxed poetic about for years.
FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings Sportsbook led the way for New Jersey sportsbooks in releasing those Week 1 lines Wednesday. We previously covered the unveiling of Opening Night lines for the Bears-Packers divisional showdown. That number was interesting in that it projected the 2018 NFC Central champs from the Windy City as only narrow favorites on their home field.
That said, here are four other Week 1 matchups that catch the eye in terms of their line:
Ravens -3.5 at Dolphins (DK and FD)
Baltimore generated an impressive 10-6 record in 2018, while Miami’s 7-9 mark last season might look like stellar in comparison to what this year’s rebuilding squad may generate in their first season under Brian Flores. Then, the Ravens added big names Mark Ingram and Earl Thomas in free agency and will see Lamar Jackson enter training camp as the clear-cut starter after the trade of Joe Flacco to the Broncos.
In turn, the Dolphins have replaced one average signal-caller (Ryan Tannehill) with another (Ryan Fitzpatrick) and were unable to add any notable names thus far this offseason. Thus, a modest 3.5-point advantage on the part of Baltimore may very well be exploitable, considering Miami could certainly be hard-pressed to even sniff the red zone against a Ravens defense that could be even better than its already impressive 2018 version.
Seahawks -7.5 vs. Bengals (DK and FD)
The Seahawks recently commemorated locking down Russell Wilson for another four seasons and seemingly shored up his offensive line with a couple of key free-agent signings in D.J. Fluker and Mike Iupati. But, the fact they’re initially projected to be over a touchdown better than the Bengals may partly be a reflection of Cincinnati’s forgettable finish to 2018.
Yes, the Bengals posted an unsightly 6-10 mark last season. However, keep in mind it was Jeff Driskel under center for Cincy over the last six weeks of the season after Andy Dalton suffered a season-ending thumb injury in Week 12. His early exit was preceded by those of A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, who last saw the field in Week 8 and Week 4, respectively. The Bengals were an impressive 5-2 (71.4 percent) against the number as road underdogs in 2018, and they could be a sneaky play against the ‘Hawks in the opener at the current spread.
Chiefs -4.5 (FD) and -5 (DK) at Jaguars
The Chiefs took the eventual Super Bowl champs to the limit in last January’s AFC Championship Game before succumbing in overtime, and they finished the regular season with a 12-4 mark. They arguably boast the most exciting young player in the league at quarterback, dynamic playmakers at receiver and tight end, and a running back tandem in Damien Williams and Carlos Hyde that could surprise. That makes the fact they’re anything less than a touchdown favorite against the Jaguars worthy of a double-take.
Sure, Jacksonville will be at home and scored Nick Foles in free agency. But, they have plenty of question marks elsewhere on offense, even when it comes to talented but mercurial running back Leonard Fournette. And, there’s the small matter of Foles not quite looking like himself when he’s not wearing Eagles green. Thus, the present disparity in talent between the teams makes this a spot to potentially jump on.
Saints -7.5 vs. Texans (DK and FD)
There was rightfully no shortage of outrage in the Big Easy about one of the most notorious non-calls in NFL postseason history during last January’s NFC Championship showdown against the Rams. New Orleans will presumably enter training camp with a sizable chip on its shoulder. The offseason signings of Jared Cook and Latavius Murray should help keep the high-octane offensive machine humming. Meanwhile, the defense returns its crucial components from last season, many which could be further improved.
However, at first blush, Houston appears to be at least slightly slighted by the oddsmakers. No slouches themselves with an 11-5 record and AFC South crown in 2018, the Texans return all of their major offensive pieces and will sport a highly potent wide receiver trio if Will Fuller and Keke Coutee can stay healthy. Then, on defense, an intimidating front seven will be supported by what should be an improved secondary following the offseason signings of Tashaun Gipson and Bradley Roby at safety and cornerback, respectively. Considering the Saints were just 3-6 (33.0 percent) against the spread as home favorites last season, this number is interesting to say the least.
DK goes one step further with local teams
In an attempt to give its New Jersey and Pennsylvania customers even more betting incentive, DK Sportsbook has done one better than just releasing opening week lines. It’s additionally rolled out spreads for Week 2-16 games involving the Jets, Giants and Eagles. The bravado stops short of setting a line for Week 17, when there’s no telling who’ll take the field for each squad.
A glance at those long-term numbers reveal a number of interesting projections:
- Jets: The addition of Le’Veon Bell and the expected leap forward by Sam Darnold seem to have oddsmakers bullish on New York. The Jets are only narrow underdogs to the Browns (+3), the Cowboys (+1.5) and the Patriots (+4.5) at home. Then, they’re actually 3.5-point Week 12 favorites against the trendy Raiders at MetLife Stadium.
- Giants: The G-Men’s overall 2019 outlook is bleak as it stands now. However, they’re reasonable underdogs to the Vikings (+4) and Cowboys (+3) at home, as well as to the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers (+3.5). Clearly, the mere presence of Saquon Barkley counts for plenty.
- Eagles: Philly is a bit of a wild card to prognosticate at this point in the offseason. Carson Wentz’s health has a lot to do with that. The uncertain impact of offseason additions Jordan Howard and DeSean Jackson also factors in. But, DK oddsmakers are showing some faith in a resurgence. They currently have the Birds pegged as road favorites against the Falcons in Week 2 (-2.5) and against what’s expected to be an improved Bills squad in the tough environment of New Era Stadium in Week 8 (-3.5). Then, the Eagles are more than a touchdown favorite in three other contests against the weaker trio of the Lions, Giants and Redskins.
Lines (heavily) subject to change
Naturally, these early lines are fully subject to a “knowing only what we know now” disclaimer.
The first notable shift in some could come in just about a week’s time, once the first round of the NFL Draft unfolds. The premium additions each team figures to make will shift the outlook for a good number of them to a certain degree. Looking further ahead to training camp and preseason, the inevitable handful of key injuries that will unfortunately occur will further alter expectations for the squads that fall victim to them.