It’s never too early to start planning for the first week of the NFL season. Sometimes getting off to a winning start can lead to nice early-season momentum. Some may not believe in NFL betting momentum, but I do.
Do keep in mind that handicapping the first week of the season is obviously the toughest because we know the least about the teams — it’s even worse in college because there’s much more player turnover. But obviously teams NFL teams have player turnover too — it’s usually wise to bet on teams that bring back most of their starters and especially their quarterbacks. Stay away from rookie quarterbacks making their first NFL start. I’m looking at you, Los Angeles Rams and Jared Goff. He’s probably the only rookie QB who will start Week 1.
Taking a Look at the Handicapping The First Week Of NFL Betting Action
Sportsbooks had all offseason to examine NFL teams’ betting trends and they will set the lines based largely on what the teams did in 2015. But because the books also aren’t sure of what teams are yet, you will almost never see a double-digit line in Week 1. The largest spread right now is Seattle at -7.5 against visiting Miami.
At least there are no new major rules this year; last season, we had the point-after try moved back to where it was a 33-yard kick. It didn’t really have a huge impact on games. Some thought there might be more 2-point conversion tries but that was negligible. There is one minor rule change for this season: the ball will be placed on the 25 instead of 20 after touchbacks on kickoffs. You might actually see fewer touchbacks now. Former NFL kicker Jay Feely believes that kickers will now hang the ball up in the air more and force a return, rather than give a team the ball at the 25. Some NFL coaches have said they will do just that. So keep that in mind.
Another reason why Week 1 handicapping is tough: teams have new head coaches or coordinators. There are seven NFL teams with new head coaches this season and it’s hard to know what schemes they will run or if the coaches are aggressive in terms of play-calling or going for 2-point conversions or conservative. A handful of other teams have new offensive or defensive coordinators.
Below are the new head coaches.
Eagles have dished out $280M in guaranteed money since January 1. pic.twitter.com/puUrWBj8G2
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) June 15, 2016
Doug Pederson, Eagles: He was coaching in high school just eight years ago and served as offensive coordinator under Andy Reid for the past three seasons in Kansas City. Rather blah hiring.
Mike Mularkey, Titans: He took over the team on an interim basis last season when Ken Whisenhunt was fired. For some reason, the Titans kept Mularkey even though they were just 2-6 under him. But at least the players know him and his schemes.
Adam Gase, Dolphins: He’s a first-time head coach and the youngest in the NFL. Yes, he did good work in Denver with Peyton Manning and in Chicago with Jay Cutler, but can he run a team?
Dirk Koetter, Bucs: Koetter was Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator last season so that side of the ball should be just fine. The team was so impressed with the job Koetter did with quarterback Jameis Winston that it fired head coach Lovie Smith to give the job to Koetter.
Hue Jackson, Browns: I mean, Jackson is considered a fine offensive mind and led the Raiders to an 8-8 record in his one season as head coach, but these are the Browns.
Ben McAdoo, Giants: McAdoo was New York’s offensive coordinator last year and replaces Tom Coughlin. So the Giants should be the same on that side of the ball.
Chip Kelly, 49ers: Kelly was a fairly successful coach in Philadelphia, just a bad general manager.
We’ve seen Kelly coach before so it’s probably OK to bet against the 49ers because they are lousy. Ditto the Browns and Titans. But it might be smart to see the strategies of the other new head coaches first.