A few days before the NFL lifted its 2022-23 season curtain, veteran Las Vegas oddsmaker Johnny Avello perused all of the underdogs and favorites, hot underdogs, point spreads, and totals, and he sounded grateful to have pro football back.
With all of the college football games that now get lined and posted, Avello was relieved to be dealing within the confines of the NFL’s 32 teams.
“It’s just soooo many games,” he says. “My god, I’ve never booked as many collegiate games before. It almost wears you out. At least, with the pros, we’re back to some sanity, in number of games — Thursday, Sunday morning and afternoon, Sunday night and Monday night.
“All laid out, each and every week.”
Pick a Promo: Find a great sportsbook bonus for NFL season
Rejuvenated from a fine holiday in Saratoga, where he recorded four of five winning days at the racetrack, the New York native couldn’t hide his NFL joy.
He spotlighted a marquee tilt in the Las Vegas Raiders vs. the Los Angeles Chargers, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., and noted it wasn’t the only divisional clash deserving of bold headlines.
Green Bay in Minnesota also promises electricity.
“The NFC North division winner is most likely one of those two teams,” says Avello, the head of the DraftKings sportsbook. “And, most likely, it’ll be the Packers.”
New England-Miami on the divisional board, and Denver-Seattle, Kansas City-Arizona, and Tampa Bay-Dallas have also moved needles.
“It’s a mixed slate,” says Avello. “But it is Week a, so I don’t think it’s gonna matter. The people will be all over it, anyway.”
NFL Week 1 Betting Lines and Early Movement on Oddsboard
Point spreads and totals listed below are from DraftKings as of Friday morning. Live lines can be found in the oddsboard above. It’s always recommended to have various sportsbook accounts to find the best odds for your wagers.
Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets
Betting line: Ravens -7, Total 44.5
Three months ago, this opened Ravens -3 but has moved four points in the wake of Jets quarterback Zach Wilson’s knee injury. He had arthroscopic surgery in mid-August, and coach Robert Saleh doesn’t expect Wilson to return at least until Week 4.
Former Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco gets the nod here for the Jets.
“It was a big mover,” says Avello, “and that was because of the quarterback situation for the Jets.”
The Ravens have covered 10 of their past 12 against the Jets.
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
Betting line: Dolphins -3.5, Total 46.5
Miami Beach has been no picnic for the Patriots, who have dropped seven of their past nine to the Dolphins in their aquarium, five consecutive (’98-02), and six in a row, from 1989 to ’94.
Rare New England victories here have been blowouts, 43-0 and 35-14, but with a certain quarterback with TB initials. Their past seven defeats have been by a 28-20 average.
“Miami has just given ’em problems, when Miami was not a good team and the Patriots were,” says Avello. “It’s just the way it’s gone for them.
“We’ve seen mostly Dolphins money. This opened 2.5, they crushed the 3 and now we’re at 3.5. I don’t think it’s going much higher than that. It might even come back down to 3.”
Bet NFL at DraftKings: $250 in free bets + $1,000 deposit bonus
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
Bengals -6.5, Total 44
Avello dismissed this game, saying it lacked appeal, but I interrupted him. Wait, this is Steel City, I said, the Terrible Towel.
“Well, they’ll have to rely on the defensive line, the ol’ Steel Curtain defense, for this team to have a successful season.”
Mitch Trubisky doesn’t make defenses nervous? Avello said, Uh, no, this is no Big Ben (Roethlisberger).
“He’s had his chances,” Avello says of the former Bears signal-caller. “When you start moving around, it’s not a good sign. It’s a sign a team either needs a quarterback badly, lost one, or one got injured. Or they need a backup badly.
“I don’t think this guy would actually be a starter on too many NFL teams. Cincinnati was in the Super Bowl, but it lost a lot of close games; was involved in a lot of close games.”
Last season, Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow led NFL quarterbacks averaging 8.6 yards per pass attempt. Burrow possessed a QB Rating of 105.9, behind only Aaron Rodgers (110.9) of Green Bay.
Avello believes this might hit 7.
“That would probably be a ‘take’ for some sharps. It might [get there]. It’s just been a slight movement, having been up all this time, going from 6 to 6.5. It’s a divisional game, so they’re usually highly contested. Chances are it probably won’t go to 7.”
San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears
Niners -7, Total 40
Avello points to steady Niners money that has eked this up from 6.5. They’re trying out new quarterback Trey Lance and retained both receiver Deebo Samuel and reserve QB Jimmy Garoppolo in the offseason.
“The Bears don’t look good, on paper, to start the season,” says Avello. “We’ll see what happens … if they do get some momentum. For San Francisco, we’ll see how this whole thing pans out with the whole team intact.”
Since 2015, Bears games have finished Under at a 57.4-percent clip, third in the league to tilts involving Denver (61.7%) and Pittsburgh (60.2%). Seven of San Francisco’s past eight have finished Under, as have six of the Bears’ previous eight at home.
The total on this game has been adjusted down to 40.
Also read: Strategies and tips for betting the NFL
Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions
Betting Line: Eagles -4, Total 48.5
This total has been bumped up from a 46 opener, “so they’re looking for points there from both sides,” says Avello. Fans might be wise, too, to the past five Eagles-Lions games having finished Over.
Avello has heard all the offseason support for the Eagles, and chatter from some who believe the Lions might make a run for that second spot in the NFC North. He believes Detroit being featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks show might have influenced people.
“That’s going to help them a little bit with exposure,” says Avello, “people getting a little better feel for them, what they need to do to win. A lot of dialogue going on there.”
A savvy pro bettor tells me to avoid such crowd moves after such artificial promotion.
Avello reports “sharp” and “sophisticated” bettors have weighed in on the Eagles to go over their regular-season win total, 9 at many shops, and to win their division and make the playoffs.
Will this loser be exposed as a fraud?
“No, not really,” says Avello. “Teams only played three exhibition games. What I noticed is that offenses were okay, but defenses had to catch up a little bit. Don’t write teams off for the first or second weeks; maybe by the fourth week. Not the first week, for sure.”
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
Colts -7, Total 45.5
This debuted at 7.5 and has been whittled down.
“That would typically say we got a lot of Houston money, but that isn’t the case in this one,” says Avello. “We’ll see an abundance of Colts money and probably a lot of parlay money on the Colts, too.”
That move toward Houston is an indication that’s where the sharp money is.
Indy tailback Jonathan Taylor led the league last season with 1,811 rushing yards.
The Colts have covered their past five games in Houston, and all five finished Under.
Kansas City Chiefs at Arizona Cardinals
Chiefs -6, Total 54
This move from KC -3 reflects, according to Avello, the suspension of Cards receiver DeAndre Hopkins. He’ll miss six games due to a violation of the league’s performance-enhancing-drugs policy.
“So this got pushed up a bit. It’s been sitting there at 6 for a while. The Chiefs are one of those teams like Tampa Bay; they’ll just get played every single week.”
The total has been boosted a point, from 53, too. “Doesn’t surprise me one bit,” says Avello. “They are looking for a little bit of a shootout there.”
Along with Hopkins, No. 3 on the team in reception yardage and No. 1 with eight receiving TDs, Christian Kirk (982 yards, 5 TDs) is gone, to Jacksonville. If a hamstring keeps Rondale Moore down, Arizona will be without three of its top five catchers from 2021.
Receiver AJ Green and tight end Zach Ertz (who has been nursing a calf issue) would have to shoulder that aerial load.
Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers
Chargers -3.5, Total 52.5
Avello arrived here on the rotation and said, “That’s a good one!”
The Chargers opened -4, and Raiders interest has nudged that a tad. Adding Davante Adams at receiver, from Green Bay, makes an intriguing connection with Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr; they were fantastic together at Fresno State.
“A fine receiver,” says Avello of Adams. “We’ll see how that works for them. It’s a rivalry. These teams play twice a year. I consider this whole division probably the best in the NFL. There will be some great games each week, with all these [AFC West] teams matching up.”
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Packers -1.5, Total 47
The Vikings have won four of the past six games against Green Bay inside US Bank, by a 25-18 average score. Before that, they had dropped five of six to the Packers in Minneapolis.
In his career against Minnesota, ex-Packers hurler Brett Favre was 17-14, with 54 TD passes and 33 interceptions. Three-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers is 16-10-1 against the Vikes, with 56 TDs and only 7 picks.
This total has been shaved from 49. Says Avello, “Bettors are thinking that this one may be more on the defensive end.” That would go against a recent trend, though, that has seen four of the past five between these two finish Over.
Avello acknowledged that Rodgers has not had the best of luck in Minnesota.
“But one thing I’ll tell you about Minnesota, Minnesota hasn’t had the best of luck in Minnesota, either.”
Avello might soon be deserving of his own Vegas lounge show.
NFL Week 1 picks: Vikings fit Wong Teaser
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys
Bucs -2.5, Total 50.5
Quarterback Tom Brady and the Bucs opened as 3-point favorites three months ago, but some Cowboys money has cut that back. Six of the past seven between these two, in Dallas, have finished Under.
“I’m positive this will be our biggest handle of the day, for a couple of reasons,” says Avello. “First of all, it’s Tampa Bay and Dallas. Lots of personalities on both sides of the ball. Plus, it’s an isolated game. That always helps the handle, when you have only one choice.”
Brady will only pad his 84,520 career passing yards, tops all-time in the NFL. Matt Ryan (8th, 59,735), Aaron Rodgers (10th, 55,360) and Matthew Stafford (12th, 49,995) are the actives chasing Tom Terrific.
Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks
Broncos -6.5, Total 45
Three months ago, this opened Seattle -4. Flip quarterback Russell Wilson to the other side and witness his impact on a line.
“A big swing, having Russell Wilson and then not having him,” says Avello. “That’s about a team losing a guy and one gaining a guy. Worth 5.5 points [plus or minus] to each side? Pretty much what it comes down to.”
This total opened at 41, so bettors are bullish on a few more points being tallied.
Bet the players: Best props for all 32 teams