The arrival of the NFL regular season provides a sudden rush of enthusiasm among handicappers. Jumping into Week 1 lines can be perilous, since we have yet to witness a "real" game and NFL teams can go up and down in the blink of an eye.
A balance must be struck for bettors between the desire for action and being patient in making wagers until the true abilities of teams becomes clear. An obvious question is whether the prior year statistics reveal how Week 1 games play out.
We looked at Week 1 games from 1992 to 2000 using common stats for the teams, including regular season and playoffs. The thinking is that what happens in the playoffs has a big impact on how teams are perceived.
ANALYSIS: Mostly, playing teams based on a better previous season stat has been a bad idea. However, the sharp observer notices that the results were so bad, there is perhaps value in going the opposite way and betting the team with the worse previous season numbers.
The results based around the "Net Points" (pts scored minus pts allowed) suggest that the lines may be getting set based too much on reputation and do not allow enough movement for improvement of lesser teams or decline of stronger ones.
If we were trying to create a method for playing Week 1, we’d suggest using the net points to make a line with an additional three points for home field advantage factored in. Requiring a team to have both the worse overall stat and be opposite to the "value based play" you would have an excellent 55-33 record over the sample.
This last element is basically isolating games where the line has been moved towards the worse team such that it looks like an over-compensation when actually it hasn’t moved enough.
Retesting this approach on Week 1 games from 2001 to 2003 shows that playing the worse net points team produced a 20-15 record. Playing the worse net points team that was also going against the seeming value was a profitable 15-12.