Eagles line keeps dropping but are Falcons the play?
September 05, 2018 3:11 AM
by Micah Roberts
The first college football weekend was sort of a preseason primer for Las Vegas sportsbooks with bookmakers getting back to working a fevered pace of setting and moving numbers while the ticket writers experienced a large customer wagering base for the first time since March Madness.
Now it’s time for the big event, the headliner, the NFL. It’s Week 1 and something bettors have been eagerly waiting for since the Eagles’ 41-33 Super Bowl win against the Patriots back in February.
It all starts Thursday night with the kickoff game where the Eagles are 1.5-point favorites over the visiting Falcons with a total set at 45. Both numbers have been dropping in recent days at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook due to respected money already talking +4 and +3.5 with them. Another reason for the drop is because Eagles QB Nick Foles looked so bad in preseason, but was announced the starter because Carson Wentz still isn’t healthy enough to start after a Week 14 ACL injury against the Rams.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson has been vocal about how displeased he’s been with the offense each week as they went 1-3 in the preseason. Foles didn’t throw a TD pass and had a rating of 48.7. Two other Eagles QB’s posted more yards during the preseason with Nate Sudfeld leading the way with 524 yards to Foles’ measly 171 yards.
Yeah, it looks bad, and it’s understandable why bettors see some value with the Falcons. On Friday, bettors were looking at +3 after once being Eagles -5.5 in May. Those numbers are long gone. The number has taken a dive with expectations Wentz wouldn’t be ready, and it dipped even further because of Foles’ poor preseason.
But before we go writing off Foles and the Eagles, we should first revisit what was happening last season immediately after Wentz got hurt. There was a massive downgrade to the Eagles’ rating after failing to cover all three regular season games he started despite winning two and bringing them to a win when Wentz got hurt at Los Angeles. The Eagles had the NFC’s highest rating before Wentz got hurt, but following a 6-0 loss to Dallas in the finale where Foles made some terrible throws, oddsmakers dropped the Eagles rating almost 7 points.
It was an overreaction and I wrote about it weekly here in GamingToday beginning with a Divisional Playoff game where the Falcons came in as 3-point road favorites. The Eagles won 15-10 and it was because of some amazing quarterbacking by Foles (23-20, 248 yds, no turnovers). Then the craziness continued with Foles getting no respect and the Eagles receiving no rating upgrade when the Vikings came in as 3-point road favorites, a team that got a lucky Hail Mary at home the previous week. The Eagles won, 38-7, with Foles dominating (352 yds, 3 TDs, no picks).
The sportsbooks were essentially saying both the Falcons and Vikings were 6 points better than the Eagles on a neutral field. Bettors started believing in the Eagles at that point and so did the oddsmakers and the Patriots’ Super Bowl line dropped from -5 to -4.5 after having a look-ahead line of -7. Then Foles played his best game ever in a 41-33 win, throwing for 373 yards and 3 TDs while also catching a TD pass.
So here we are doing the same thing again, doubting the Eagles in their home opener after winning their first Super Bowl. Eagles -1.5 is saying the Falcons are 1 to 1.5-points better than the Eagles on a neutral field and I don’t find that to be true, even with Foles looking awful in preseason. I know a lot of people who are high on the Falcons to be playing the Super Bowl on their home field in Atlanta, but I’m not ready to go there yet.
I was happy with laying -3 with the Eagles at home Thursday night, and I’m certainly happy to double up on the play at -1.5. How about a score such as Eagles 24-16, which would make Under 46 a decent play as well.
Books squeak Saturday win: Just about every Las Vegas sportsbook was getting hammered by the public and the chalky favorites covering large numbers on the first college football Saturday of the season, but after a few Hail Mary’s the day was eventually saved on the field Touchdown Jesus overlooks.
“Notre Dame was a big a game for us,” said MGM Resorts sportsbook hub manager Jeff Stoneback. “It would have been a disaster if Michigan had won. The spread ran from Michigan +1 to as high as Michigan -3, and at the time we were already buried from a couple of big casino players doing well in the early games.”
Notre Dame came out far more pumped and ready than Michigan in the 24-17 win, their first meeting after a three-year break from the rivalry.
William Hill’s top oddsmaker Nick Bogdanovich said his chain of books was in a similar situation and were “a small winner with Notre Dame and Maryland being the best and Alabama being the worst.”
Maryland beat Texas, 34-29, as 13.5-point underdogs, one of six underdogs to win outright. The Terps win paid +425 on the money line. Alabama (-24.5) beat Louisville, 51-14. The biggest underdog payout on the day was Cincinnati getting +500 at UCLA in their surprising 26-17 win.
Station Casinos sportsbook director Jason McCormick said: “Chalk favorites in Oklahoma (-21), Alabama, Ohio State (-40), Boston College (-18) and West Virginia (-10) were heavily bet and cashed with parlay tickets.” He said the day still ended up being a winner for the house because of Notre Dame and Appalachian State (+24) covering in a 45-38 overtime loss at Penn State.
Ohio State was winning 70-31 against Oregon State last in the fourth quarter, which would have produced odd middle opportunities – but not many took the Beavers – from a spread that went from Buckeyes -38 to -40, but they scored again to make it 77-31 so every Buckeye ticket cashed.
A big help for most books came late in the night when Arizona lost at home, 28-23, to BYU. Because of new Wildcats coach Kevin Sumlin and his Heisman Trophy candidate, QB Kahlil Tate, coupled with BYU coming off a horrendous 4-9 season, Arizona was an attractive bet laying -11.5. The BYU money-line paid +360 with not many takers.