By Patrick Everson
FOX Sports Gambling Writer
NFL bettors drive the bus on the American sports betting road. So in my debut article as a FOX Sports contributor, trust me, I’m not missing that bus. But first, a little background.
I’m not a keen punter so I won’t pass myself off as some sort of expert. Much like what actor Liam Neeson says in the movie, though take, what I have is a very special set of skills – or rather, a very special set of resources. Namely, a host of risk players positioned in the risk rooms of sportsbooks around the country, and sharp bets on our side of the counter.
Drawing on those sources and my work over the past 15 years as an insider on the sports betting industry, here are 10 intriguing NFL betting nuggets for the 2022-23 season.
Saints’ double trouble
Of course, Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a popular NFC team. Ditto for Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers.
But one unexpected team is making noise in multiple NFL 2022 betting markets.
“Our biggest liability to win the NFC is the Saints. Our biggest liability for Coach of the Year is Dennis Allen of the Saints,” said WynnBet trader Andy Morrissey. “We’ll keep an eye on the Saints throughout the year.”
New Orleans opened +2500 on WynnBet’s odds to win the NFC. The Saints have since cut that number in half, landing as the +1200 co-sixth pick.
Meanwhile, Allen took over as Saints coach after Sean Payton’s 16-year run. Allen is the +1,800 co-eighth pick in the NFL Coach of the Year odds, coming off a +2,500 opening.
Broncos a bust?
The Denver Broncos were significantly upgraded at quarterback with the offseason acquisition of Russell Wilson in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. There is a lot of NFL betting buzz about this move and a lot of optimism in the Mile High City.
But one keen punter said others would be well-advised to put the brakes on Broncos trades.
“Denver has a strong roster. The offensive line will allow the running game to thrive,” he said. “The problem is they’re the third-best team in the AFC West behind the Chiefs and Chargers. And Russell Wilson the last two years has been average at best. He doesn’t use his legs and can only throw deep. ball.
“Wilson ain’t what he used to be.”
A horse worth riding
On the other hand, the same professional punter is quite high on the Indianapolis Colts. He’s not high on the Super Bowl, mind you — though I’ll personally bet Indy at +2,500. But he has every chance of the Colts winning the AFC South.
“I got them at +140, +130, +120,” he said, noting the Colts are now -140 at most books and favored to win the division. “Indianapolis is loaded with an offensive line that is arguably the best in the game. The Colts have a superior running game and Matt Ryan will thrive in play-action. The coaching is strong and the defense is near the top. Indy should dominate a brutally bad breakup.”
Go for it
For my money — which is usually #ChilisMoney, by the way — I think coaches need to go on fourth down more often. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first quarter or the last two minutes. WynnBet’s Morrissey believes more trainers are starting to have that mentality and the odds may have to adjust because of it.
“I’ll look at the early season finishes,” Morrissey said, noting that aggressive calls can lead to more goals. “It’s a copycat league, and there’s been a lot of talk about fourth-down decision-making over the last few years. I think more and more teams are realizing what a good offense is, as the game goes on and the pre-Move quickly, as well as throw the the ball on the field to the players and being aggressive in the fourth point”.
Morrissey also foresees another area that could be fruitful for the punters – at least until the defenders adjust. The NFL recently directed officials to emphasize illegal contact penalties at the start of the 2022 regular season.
“With a new emphasis on illegal contact, I’ll be interested to see if the early season games go well over the total,” he said. “If so, we as bookmakers will have to make adjustments.”
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The pains of the patriots
Longtime New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is now the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. And as we all know by now, Brady isn’t walking through that door in Foxboro.
Last season, rookie QB Mac Jones helped New England go 10-7 and earn a spot in the AFC playoffs. But McDaniels won’t be in Jones’ ear this year. The aforementioned punter believes McDaniels’ absence does not bode well for Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
“New England is in big trouble this year. Losing Josh McDaniels is big for a young QB,” he said. “Mac Jones doesn’t do anything well at the NFL level – weak arm, athletically challenged and he has zero weapons on offense. The defense also isn’t what it used to be. Sort them out all year.”
Fly, eagle, fly
If the 2022 NFL betting action at Caesars Sports is any indication, customers are confident that the Philadelphia Eagles will have a great year. Last season, the Eagles went an average 9-8, though that was still enough to earn an NFC wild-card bid.
This year, expectations are higher for QB Jalen Hurts & Co. For example, the Eagles opened +4000 on the Super Bowl odds table and now they are down to +2500. This includes a Nevada player getting on the board late but still betting $5,000 at +2500, for a possible (though unlikely) win of $125,000.
But the Eagles’ interest goes beyond that.
The Dallas Cowboys opened as -150 favorites and the Eagles +330 to win the NFC East. Now it’s almost a dead heat, with the Cowboys +130 and the Eagles +150. In fact, on Caesars’ books, Philly has received more NFC East money than the Cowboys, Giants and Commanders combined.
In the Yes/No market to make the playoffs, Philadelphia Yes bets are an extremely popular play. No was initially a -130 favorite; now Yes it is -160. In fact, the Eagles are getting the second most money to make the playoffs, behind only the Saints.
Finally, Philly’s season win total moved from 9 (under -130) to 9.5 (over -140). Nine out of every 10 tickets and dollars end up on Caesars’ books, supporting a season of double-digit profits.
Rabid for the Raiders
The interesting dynamic surrounding the ever-expanding legalization of sports betting in the US is that regional bias is increasingly creeping in, especially in the NFL. Regional bias wasn’t really a problem in Las Vegas for decades — until Sin City got an NFL team.
Of course, when the Raiders were in Oakland or Los Angeles, there was always a keen interest from visiting California. But now that they’re the Las Vegas Raiders and entering their third season in Glitter Gulch, that interest is on steroids.
“For us, it’s all about the Raiders. We’re buried alive in the Raiders,” said BetMGM Nevada’s Scott Shelton, noting the heavy action from Vegas locals and visitors. “The tickets and the money are all on them, to win the Super Bowl or win the AFC. It’s a constant flow of money.”
However, this is only at BetMGM Nevada. New Jersey-headquartered BetMGM handles the nationwide odds movement for the company, and it tells an interesting story. The Raiders opened at +5,000 to win the Super Bowl and were cut to +3,500, but they’ve since slipped back to +4,000, miles behind the favorites.
While the Raiders are a huge liability in the Vegas market, several teams represent worse results for BetMGM nationally, notably the Bills, Broncos and Chargers.
Fade or follow
NFL season win totals are always a popular bet, and Shelton noted some important trends.
“The surprise fades are very public teams, the Buccaneers and Cowboys, from both the sharp and public betting,” Shelton said of the action at BetMGM’s Vegas books.
The Buccaneers’ win total hasn’t dropped from 11.5, but the price moved from a -110 pick to under -150. The Cowboys’ win total opened and remains 8.5, but the price moved from -110 pick ’em to under -155.
On the other hand, bettors love the Minnesota Vikings and the Miami Dolphins. Minnesota opened at 8.5 (-110) and got as low as -170 before BetMGM moved to 9.5 (-110). Miami hasn’t dropped from 8.5, but its price increased from -110 pick’em to over -145.
He can’t stand it
With a new head coach in Matt Eberflus, and QB Justin Fields having a year under his belt, the Chicago Bears certainly expect improvement. Bettors seem to think otherwise, including the odds to win the NFC North. This has caused BetMGM Nevada to root for Chicago to surprise people.
“Normally, the Bears are a very public team. But this year, they’re a good shot to win the NFC North,” Shelton said.
Chicago opened +800 in the division odds market and is now bringing up the rear at +1100, attracting very little attention. The Packers are -155 favorites, followed by the Vikings (+250) and Lions (+850).
Patrick Everson is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and senior reporter for VegasInsider.com. He previously worked for Covers and is a distinguished journalist in the national sports betting space. He is based in Las Vegas, where he enjoys golfing in 110 degree heat. Follow him on Twitter: @PatrickE_Vegas.