One more sleep. The NFL season is finally upon us. Many have spent the past few weeks preparing for the upcoming season and have just recently started diving into the betting market. However, BetMGM first released its betting lines for Week 1 of the NFL season all the way back in April. These lines have been molded by transactions, injuries, hype, sharp money and a collection of other factors, and the result is what we see now.
How has the betting market changed over the fast few months? Only three games currently have the same spread as when the market opened, and two of those games saw the line moved earlier in the summer before moving back. Let's take a look at the bigger line moves that we saw this NFL offseason.
Bills actually opened as underdogs
As you're getting ready to start your NFL betting season, you're probably starting with the season opener on Thursday night in Los Angeles. Currently, the Rams are 2.5-point home underdogs against the Buffalo Bills. However, when this line opened, the Rams were actually 1-point favorites.
There's plenty of hype surrounding the Bills. They are the Super Bowl favorites. They have the highest win total in the league. Josh Allen is the preseason betting favorite to win MVP. It's no surprise that bettors have sided with Buffalo in the season opener. At BetMGM, 74% of bets and 90% of the money is backing the Bills to cover as 2.5-point favorites.
There are some questions surrounding the Rams. The biggest question is the health of Matthew Stafford's elbow. The Rams say there's no limitations, but there's also concern it could impact him all season long. On top of the health of their quarterback, this team is missing some key pieces from last year's Super Bowl winning team. Von Miller, Odell Beckham Jr, Robert Woods, Andrew Whitworth, Austin Corbett, Sebastian Joseph-Day and Darious Williams are gone. They've been replaced by Allen Robinson, Joseph Noteboom, Brian Allen, Bobby Wagner and Troy Hill.
The Rams should still be very good. They have the fourth-best Super Bowl odds. However, bettors and the market just like the Bills more, and it has been reflected in the line movement throughout the summer.
The Baker Mayfield impact
A year ago at this time, many felt the Cleveland Browns finally had a franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield. However, Mayfield attempted to gut through injuries last season and had a putrid year. The Browns acquired Deshaun Watson in March, signaling the end of the Mayfield era in Cleveland. Now as we get ready for Week 1, Mayfield is a member of the Carolina Panthers and preparing to face his old team in Week 1. Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson is suspended and the Browns are going to start Jacoby Brissett in his place.
When the market opened, the Browns were 4.5-point favorites. Baked into that line was the chance Watson would avoid suspension, or Mayfield might stick around and suit up for Cleveland. However, with everything shaking out how it has, the Browns are now 1.5-point underdogs in Carolina.
Mayfield is an upgrade for the Panthers over Sam Darnold, while Brissett is a below average starting quarterback in the league. There's also no denying that the majority of the football world outside of Cleveland is rooting for Baker Mayfield on Sunday. At BetMGM, 87% of bets and 91% of the money is backing the Panthers to cover the 1.5-point spread.
The six-point line movement is the largest we've seen in any Week 1 game this offseason. It looks like bettors are expecting Baker to stick it to his old team. No matter how it goes, it's must watch.
Late Chiefs Love?
The Kansas City Chiefs opened as 3-point road favorites against the Arizona Cardinals. Rather quickly, that line moved to 3.5 points. However, it was stuck there almost all summer until just this week.
Over the past few days, the line has ballooned up to 6 points. Overall, 76% of bets and 89% of the money is on Kansas City. The Chiefs have been a popular bet throughout the offseason, so the sudden and massive line movement is rather surprising.
The Cardinals were the best team in the league through the first half of last season. However, things fell apart in the second half of the season. Kyler Murray missed some time, as did DeAndre Hopkins. They laid a complete egg in the playoffs against the Rams. Arizona is one of the harder teams to read entering the season, but it feels like bettors are deciding to fade them to start the season.
Kansas City isn't without questions themselves. They traded Tyreek Hill to Miami in the offseason. It'll be interesting to see what this offense looks like now that Patrick Mahomes no longer has his most explosive weapon. Bettors think the Chiefs will do just fine and beat the Cardinals comfortably on the road.
What other lines have moved?
New Orleans is now a 5.5-point favorite against the Falcons after opening at -4. At BetMGM, 81% of bets are on the Saints.
The line movement in the Dolphins-Patriots game has been interesting. The Dolphins opened as 3-point favorites. However, for most of the offseason, the line was Miami -2.5 as early support favored New England. Now as we approach kickoff, the line has moved the other way and the Dolphins are 3.5-point favorites.
San Francisco opened as a 6.5-point favorite against Chicago on the road. That line is now up to 7.
The Eagles are 4-point road favorites in Detroit currently. The market opened with Philadelphia as a 3.5-point favorite. At BetMGM, 76% of the money is backing the Lions to cover as an underdog.
There's been movement through a key number in the Jacksonville-Washington game. The Commanders opened as 3.5-point favorites, but now Washington is just a 2.5-point favorite.
Denver opened as just a 3.5-point road favorite against Seattle in Russell Wilson's return. However, the Seahawks are planning to start Geno Smith and the betting market isn't a fan of that. The Broncos are currently 6.5-point favorites.