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NFL Week 1 Odds: Can Underdogs Outscore Favorites?

Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons are installed as four-point underdogs in Philly for Week 1. The Falcons though have the highest win total at nine of any Week 1 underdog and could be primed for an upset. Photo by Keith Allison (flickr) [CC License]
  • BetOnline has released odds on if Week 1 NFL underdogs can outscore the favorites
  • Statistically how did Week 1 look in 2017?
  • Where is there potential for the biggest blowouts and upsets this year?

With much still to be decided in the preseason with NFL team rosters, Week 1 betting lines could still have some room to be exploited. Think the bookies have the wrong team favored in Week 1? Do you see potential for a few upsets? BetOnline has released odds on who will score more points in Week 1—the dogs or the faves.

Underdogs to Outscore Favorites Week 1

Result BetOnline Odds
True +700
False -2000

Crunching the Numbers

When first hearing of this prop, the instinct has to be the “False.” After all, we aren’t talking about covering spreads. We are basically talking about will more favorites win straight up than underdogs. Consider this, NFL underdogs have won less than 33% of the time over the last five full regular seasons. Of course, if a majority of dogs can keep their games close and a few pull off larger size upsets they definitely stand a chance.

How did underdogs fare during Week 1 last season? With the Tampa Bay/Miami game postponed there were only 15 games. With Washington/Arizona currently lined as pick ’em, this year’s prop may also only have 15 games factored in.

Patrick Mahomes
The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the LA Chargers twice last year and new Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes will be looking to lead them to an upset win over the Chargers in Week 1. Photo by Jeffrey Beall [CC License]

Last year in Week 1 favorites came out on top with a 10-5 record and they outscored underdogs by a 326-280 margin. So favorites would’ve cashed this prop by 46 points. But consider that the LA Rams completely destroyed Indy 46-9 at home. Even a modest victory instead of a blowout could’ve seriously narrowed the gap.

Flip the coin and look at the underdog victories and those five wins were also by a decent margin. No win was by less then ten points and combined they won by an average of 15.8 points. So even on the low end of wins (five) the dogs were able to be within striking distance. Adding a couple more wins is definitely attainable considering in Weeks 2-4 last year dogs had five wins again in Week 2, and then seven in each of the next two weeks.

Underdogs vs Favorites Total Points

2018’s Week 1 favorites are coincidentally some of 2017’s highest scoring teams as well.

Current Week 1 favorites combined for more 2017 total points than their opponents by a 5,775-4,708 margin.

If you undertook the task of adding the total points scored from 2017 for each of the 2018 Week 1 dogs and favorites there is one very clear winner. Current Week 1 favorites combined for more 2017 total points than their opponents by a 5,775-4,708 margin. In fact, only three Week 1 matchups feature games with teams where the underdog had more points last year. They are: Cincinnati (290) vs Indy (263), Kansas City (415) vs LA Chargers (355) and Seattle (366) vs Denver (289).

Week 1 NFL Game Spreads

Game Home Team Spread
Atlanta @ Philadelphia -4
Tampa Bay @ New Orleans -9.5
Pittsburgh @ Cleveland +5.5
Houston @ New England -6.5
San Francisco @ Minnesota -5.5
Buffalo @ Baltimore -6
Tennessee @ Miami +2
Cincinnati @ Indianapolis -3

Week 1 NFL Game Spreads

Game Home Team Spread via BetOnline
Jacksonville @ New York Giants +3.5
Kansas City @ LA Chargers -3
Dallas @ Carolina -2.5
Seattle @ Denver -2.5
Washington @ Arizona Pick
Chicago @ Green Bay -8
New York Jets @ Detroit -7
LA Rams @ Oakland +3

Key Week 1 Matchups

Potential Blowouts

Take out the Rams’ big win and the remaining nine wins by favorites in 2017 won by an average of 9.78 points. Only three favs in 2018 are lined as touchdown favorites or more, so bookies seem to be expecting some close games. If a route is to occur, your top candidates would be New Orleans (-9.5), Green Bay (-8) and Detroit (-7).

Last year New Orleans beat Tampa Bay 30-10 at home and lost 31-24 on the road. Week 1 will see them at home facing a Bucs’ team with Ryan Fitzpatrick likely under centre on account of Jameis Winston’s three-game suspension.

Green Bay will have Aaron Rodgers back, hungry to start strong after a major injury last year. The Packers beat the Bears 35-14 at home and went 2-0 head-to-head in 2017.

The next largest fav features Matthew Stafford and the Lions hosting the Jets and any one of Josh McCown, Sam Darnold, or Teddy Bridgewater at QB.

Week 1 Potential Upsets

Six games feature spreads of a field goal or less which are basically even matchups. A split or even a winning record for the dogs in these games is quite possible. With Washington/Arizona a pick, if any money moves that line slightly either way, you’ll have another short dog.

I struggle to see Buffalo upsetting Baltimore or Cleveland upsetting Pittsburgh. However, Cleveland should be improved, are at home, and only lost to the Steelers by three and four points in their games last year.

Though Cleveland lost both games to Pittsburgh in 2017, they only lost by a combined seven points.

So let’s finally look at some potential swing games which could decide this prop bet (dogs in bold). Atlanta at Philly, Houston at New England, San Francisco at Minnesota, and Jacksonville at New York Giants.

I can make a case for each of these pups to win outright starting with the G-Men. Home dogs are always enticing and they welcome back OBJ after missing most of last season injured and also feature the potential generational-talent rookie Saquon Barkley at running back. Jacksonville was also only 4-4 on the road last year.

In the remaining three, the 49ers have yet to lose a game with Jimmy G starting at QB and the Falcons are currently projected to have the most wins (nine) of any dog on the Week 1 card. Lastly, the Texans have the QB (Deshaun Watson) and a star-studded defense capable of pulling an upset on the road in Foxborough. Houston only lost by three at this venue last year and Brady will still be getting used to a less than stellar group of receiving options (see earlier graphic).

Prediction

It’s rarely a good move to lay odds as low as -2000 and I wouldn’t recommended it here either. Take a small stake, bet +700 and cheer for some doggies in Week 1.

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Ryan has always enjoyed playing, watching, writing about, and betting on sports. He brings his industry knowledge and expertise to SportsBettingDime as our resident soccer guru, though his repertoire is by no means limited there.