CSI-NFL: Uncovering ‘Weak’ 1 early lines

May 22, 2007 1:44 AM

With the NFL now a 12-month sport in terms of interest, here’s a taste of Week 1 with lines and totals courtesy of the Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook.

To wiseguys like us always looking for an edge, be it early or late, going over the numbers some three months ahead of time is fascinating if for no other reason than just to see what changes occurred.

Even better would be to compare the preseason and actual lines with those Week 1 matchups from the previous season. Those results, obviously, are documented and give us something to go on when trying to see if any particular game opening week 2007 is worth early action.

Note that there is a duplicate matchup. Arizona and San Francisco are again facing each other in the first game. This time the venue is Frisco and the host Niners are favored by 3. Last year, the 49ers were a +8 road underdog last summer and by kickoff dropped down slightly to +7½. The Cards won by 7, but did not cover.

Right now three games are pick’ems — Falcons/Vikings, Rams/Panthers and Chiefs/Texans. The challenge is to find a game from last year that seemed to have a line from Mars and project it correctly moments before gametime on Earth.

One that leaps out from 2006 was Miami at Pittsburgh, booked as a shocking EVEN. After all, these were the Super Bowl champion Steelers at home against the Fish, who haven’t saved Pittsburgh since Marv Albert, Kareem and Dr. J starred in that forgettable 1979 sports flick sadly buried in my brain.

The bizarre spread had to do with the status of Big Ben Roethlisberger and his exploits on the motorcycle. Ben wound up OK to play and the Steelers won easily 28-17. There was no early line so no advantage gained.

Not so in the San Diego-Oakland mismatch that got the Chargers off and running in the AFC West and helped sink the Raiders. The Raiders were a 3-point home dog, normally a great play. But not those Raiders! San Diego breezed 27-0 for an easy spread cover.

There are a few constants. New England was the highest line on Week 1 board last year and right near the top again this season as a 6-point road favorite at the New York Jets. No. 1 reason: Acquiring WR Randy Moss. But that’s a bushel of points to be laying at the Meadowlands, where the great Mangini has made life rough for his "genius" teacher Belichick.

Looking at this year’s Week 1 lines right now, the Raiders at just -3 at home would seem a very cheap price to pay against the perennial road losers Detroit.

Also, Seattle at -6½ could be overpriced against the new-old look Bucs. Jon Gruden went old school by securing QB Jeff Garcia, who resurrected his career by taking Philadelphia to the NFC playoffs.

It may seem silly to some, even bringing up Week 1 NFL right in the middle of the Stanley Cup, NBA playoffs and major league baseball. Well, not as far as the betting public is concerned. In Las Vegas, the NFL rules 365 days a year.

So let it be written, so let it be done.