A smart bettor knows to monitor line movements as the week goes along. Often when the bet is made is nearly as important as whom the bet is on. Week 1 offers about as much movement as one could expect since many of the lines were posted back in April. Here are Week 1’s biggest spread moves and the likely reasons for said moves.
Atlanta (+1.5) at Philadelphia
Opening: Atlanta (+5.5) at Philadelphia
The defending Super Bowl champion Eagles enter the season opener with some key injuries. Most notably, Carson Wentz is still recovering from the torn ACL he suffered in Week 14 of last season. Nick Foles will start, which shouldn’t be a tremendous problem since he led them to the Super Bowl. The public may have turned against Foles, though, after he turned it over three times against the Browns in Week 3 of the preseason.
Alshon Jeffery will also sit as he recovers from offseason rotator cuff surgery. On the defensive line, Michael Bennett was a late addition to the injury report and Tim Jernigan is on the Non-Football Injury list. As the spread movement shows, the Falcons are much healthier.
Buffalo (+7) at Baltimore
Opening: Buffalo (+3) at Baltimore
The best explanation is the perception that these two teams have gone in opposite directions. The Ravens went 5-0 in the preseason and have barely any injuries to speak of. The Bills are going with Nathan Peterman at quarterback, which doesn’t inspire much confidence considering how poorly he played as a rookie. The Ravens led the league in takeaways last year and it’s reasonable to expect them to get their fair share against a Bills team that lost a ton of talent on the offensive line.
Los Angeles Rams (-4) at Oakland
Opening: Los Angeles Rams (EVEN) at Oakland
The Raiders shipping Khalil Mack to Chicago certainly had an effect on the line. Moreover, there’s a growing perception that Jon Gruden is no longer capable of running a team.
That perception matters, especially against a legit Super Bowl contender. The Rams are tied with the Eagles as the second-biggest Super Bowl favorite at +850. It won’t be a surprise if the Rams are an even bigger favorite on game day.
Pittsburgh (-4) at Cleveland
Opening: Pittsburgh (-6.5) at Cleveland
Obviously, Le’Veon Bell not reporting is a factor. James Conner seems to have improved, but he doesn’t compare to arguably the best running back in the league. Ezekiel Elliott’s 2017 absence showed how much an elite running back’s absence can affect a team. That surely played a part. Expect this line to change one way or the other if Bell reports or is ruled out.
Further, the Browns are moving in the right direction. That’s easy to do when the right direction is “away from 0-16,” but they’re much more talented after a busy offseason. It’s also possible that they’re getting a Hard Knocks boost. The show tends to forge some emotional attachments that could have an effect on casual bettors.
Finally, the Steelers have earned a reputation for struggling on the road. They only beat the winless Browns by three in a season-opening game at Cleveland in 2017. That said, the Steelers are 31-4 against the Browns since 2001. They’ve won in their last eight trips to Cleveland and 2017’s three-point margin of victory was their smallest over that span.
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