Best bets for NFL Week 1

Analysis of the early lines -- and a pick -- for every Week 1 game

Updated: April 24, 2014, 12:56 PM ET
By Dave Tuley | ESPN Insider

Las VegasCarol M. Highsmith/Getty ImagesHow does Vegas see the opening week of the NFL season playing out?

LAS VEGAS -- The NFL released its 2014 schedule at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, and, within the hour, the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino posted the sides and totals for the Week 1 matchups.

At 8:55 p.m. ET, the LVH SuperBook made the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks a 5-point favorite over the Green Bay Packers in the Thursday night, Sept. 4, opener. Technically, the LVH was beaten to the punch by 15 minutes by offshore book BetOnline, as that was the first to open the Seahawks as a 3.5-point favorite, although the Twitterverse responded by saying that number was too low -- and those people were right.

A look at the rest of the Week 1 openers shows that only three road teams are favored -- New England minus-3.5 at Miami, Carolina minus-2.5 at Tampa Bay and San Francisco minus-3.5 at Dallas -- with the biggest favorite being Philadelphia minus-11 over Jacksonville and the smallest being Atlanta minus-2 over New Orleans.

Many people will say that it's foolish to bet these games so far in advance, but there is potential value to be found. It's a great feeling to be holding a ticket when the line has moved several points and you have the option to let it ride as you "have the best of it" or to shoot for a middle. Although the goal, as always, is to eventually have the point-spread winner on the day the game is played, the main consideration is to decide whether these lines are going to move at all (otherwise it's not worth tying up your money for more than four months) and minimize the chances that you're going to take a bad number. I'll do that with a combination of my own power ratings as well as an understanding of where the money is likely to move these lines over the spring and summer (not necessarily which way I think they should move).

Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks minus-5: From my experience of analyzing advance lines from the LVH over the years (and from the same oddsmaking team of Jay Kornegay, Ed Salmons et al from their days at the Imperial Palace), if they're not really sure which way the bettors are going to go with a line, they'll often put it on a "dead number." That looks like the case here with them putting it at 5, right in between the key numbers of 3 and 7. My power ratings -- part of the Vegas Rankings we did right here on ESPN Insider after the Super Bowl -- have the Seahawks as 4.5 points better than the Packers, and adding their home-field advantage makes me think that this could/should be more than a touchdown (and if I thought this line could get to 7.5 or 8, I'd gladly lay the 5 points now and come back on the underdog later); however, the Packers are a very public team, so I'm not so sure the number will go that high.
Tuley's Take: Pass (unless the number really starts to steam higher).

Dave Tuley has covered the Las Vegas race and sports book scene since 1998 and runs his own website, ViewFromVegas.com.