By Steve Rieder
Editor's Note: This article is a one-time free preview of our 2021 NFL In-Season Package, which features best bets, player props, DFS strategy, power ratings, projected line movements, lookahead lines and much, much more. To view our weekly premium content schedule for our NFL In-Season Package, click here.
After a 7 month wait, we finally were able to celebrate Thursday night with some meaningful football. The season opener encapsulated everything you could want in a football game. Cue: Russell Crowe’s, “Are you not entertained”. As the fog finally begins to lift from a cruel world without football, we look past this weekend’s slate to Week 2 for potential betting opportunities. Welcome to the Betting Predator’s Lookahead Line Forecast.
Every week several domestic and off-shore books post lookahead lines for the following week’s games. Essentially, Week 2 lines are being offered before this week’s games even kick off. Lookahead lines offer tremendous opportunities because of the uncertainty that goes along with it. With no in-season data available or syndicate action to sharpen the lines, these Week 2 plays can be a great investment for sharp bettors who do their homework.
As the week progresses, the NFL betting marketplace becomes more efficient. Sharps and syndicates alike find the value in the sides and totals and correct the misprices. By the weekend, almost all of the value has dried up for the NFL Sunday slate becoming the most efficient marketplace in the world. The public will still bet their favorite teams, the heavy favorites, and their 10-team parlays without realizing how -EV their plays are. At this point, sharps and recreational betters alike would find more success turning their attention to next week’s look ahead lines.
Syndicates typically don’t spend as much time or energy with the lookahead lines, not because they don’t see the value, but because of the low limits. Much like the prop and derivative marketplace, lookahead lines are ripe for the sharp bettor to take advantage of. As a rule of thumb: the lower the limit, the better the value. As an example, I bet KC -1 in Week 2 (h/t to Dan Rivera for putting me on it) on FanDuel. I was only able to get down a fraction of my standard side. Kudos to FanDuel for actually posting lookahead lines. Selfishly, I just wish they had more confidence in their numbers and increased the limits.
Lookahead lines typically don’t adjust as quickly as the current week’s lines. If a team gets steamed for Week 1, it is prudent to immediately look to see if there is value on the Week 2 lines. For instance, this week Washington has seen support in the last few days, so much so that they went from a +1 underdog to a -1.5 favorite. A 2.5 line move this late in the week is fairly significant, albeit, going through 0 has less value than most numbers. Not only did their -3 against NYG remain unchanged for hours after the move, it only moved half a point. Is Washington a sharp darling? Is this the market fading the chargers? Is the Football Team simply a matchup problem for the Chargers which is where the value comes from? Why hasn’t the Week 2 line moved more? We will get to those answers below.
Much like the Sunday night openers, betting lookahead lines are the most valuable at post. Some books may post on different days and at different times, but getting to know the schedule of your book can be extremely advantageous.
New York Giants @ Washington Football Team (-3)
WAS went from a dog to favorite in Week 1 and there is some early support in the lookahead, moving off the opener of 3. NYG has seen their Week 1 line move against them. Both of these factors may lead one to believe we should be laying the hook, especially since our power ratings show 2 points of value. However, both Week 1 may be more indicative of each team's opponent. The market move shows an expectation of regression from LAC this year as their win total line has plummeted and no team has a larger win total increase than DEN. It’s clear who the sharps are backing. Let’s not take anything away from WAS who have taken their own future money as they move into pole position as NFC East favorite. NYG, on the other hand, are kind of a mixed bag. They saw an early surge in their win total before finding buyback at under 7.5.
So where does that leave us? Divisional matchups tend to keep the score close. Both teams are readily familiar with each other and both 2nd year coaches have certainly spent time scouting the teams they will face twice this regular season. The power rating numbers lead to a lean to WAS, but laying the points is simply not something I’m interested in without seeing either team play. I have tickets on WAS moneyline and in an advantage teaser, but I may be slightly higher on WAS than the market. I’d rather roll the dice and have to lay 4 for the chance at -3. I’ll sit back and try to get more information to make a more informed decision after the games.
Denver Broncos @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Respected money has come in Week 1 on the Broncos pushing the line from -1 to -3. If they do in fact cover in New York against the Giants, there will certainly be a reaction in the Week 2 marketplace. On the flip side, if the Jags win in Houston, will the perception be of their great accomplishment or dismissed due to the Texans being the worst team in the NFL? Denver simply has more to gain in Week 1 than the Jags do. This lookahead line also supposes that the Jaguars and Giants are equivalent teams. However, my power ratings have the Giants 2 points better on a neutral than Jacksonville.
Denver has turned to Teddy Bridgewater because they like his consistency. With a solid floor and expectation from their QB, they will rely on their defense, specifically their pass rush. Trevor Lawrence has looked less than impressive in preseason and, with a dearth of talent around him, he has to be thinking to himself “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Clemson anymore”. With Chubb and Miller off the edges, the Jags have little to combat their prowess. I fully expect Lawrence to be running for his life in this one. Because we get under the most key number, we have to move on this one.
BET: DENVER -2.5 (-120) @ DraftKings
Los Angeles Rams -3 @ Indianapolis Colts
This is one of the biggest line moves from the openers as the Colts have gone from a 1.5 home favorite to a 3 point dog. The Colts have seen similar pessimism as they also flipped from favorite to dog in Week 1. The biggest concern is the health of the Colts. They have had a myriad of injuries that have plagued them throughout the preseason, which is why the marketplace has moved so much. There has also been some serious and understandable concern about Carson Wentz’s health and ability.
Moving on to Week 2, there hasn’t been much movement on the Rams. They are extremely thin, but have tremendous talent. However, like a house of cards, a couple of injuries could derail their season. Taking everything into consideration, there may actually be value supporting the Colts. Many of their injured Colts players may actually play tomorrow. Those that don’t have additional time to get healthy for next week. If the Colts look healthy tomorrow, we may never see +3 again. Although my current power ratings have Rams -3 as well, there could be a significant upgrade to the Colts number if they live up to their offseason expectation. If they don’t and Wentz looks abominable, we will be glad we passed the game. Unless we can get +3.5, I’ll let things play out and likely pass the game.
LEAN: COLTS +3