By Patrick Everson
FOX Sports Gambling Writer
NFL betting drives the bus on the American sports wagering roadway. So in my debut piece as a FOX Sports contributor, believe me, I’m not gonna miss that bus. But first, a little background.
I’m no sharp bettor, so I’m not going to pass myself off as some kind of expert. However, much like what actor Liam Neeson says in the movie Taken, what I do have is a very particular set of skills — or more accurately, a very particular set of sources. Namely, a host of oddsmakers positioned in sportsbook risk rooms across the country, and sharp bettors on our side of the counter.
Leaning into those sources and into my work over the past 15 years as a sports betting industry insider, here are 10 intriguing NFL betting nuggets for the 2022-23 season.
Saints’ double trouble
But an unexpected team is making noise in multiple 2022 NFL betting markets.
“Our biggest liability to win the NFC is the Saints. Our biggest liability for Coach of the Year is the Saints’ Dennis Allen,” WynnBet trader Andy Morrissey said. “We’ll be keeping an eye out on the Saints all year.”
New Orleans opened +2500 in WynnBet’s odds to win the NFC. The Saints have since cut that number in half, sitting as the +1200 co-sixth choice.
Meanwhile, Allen took over as Saints coach following Sean Payton’s successful 16-year run. Allen is the +1800 co-eighth choice in NFL Coach of the Year odds, tightening from an opener of +2500.
Broncos a bust?
The Denver Broncos substantially upgraded at quarterback with the offseason acquisition of Russell Wilson in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. There’s plenty of NFL betting buzz about the move, and a lot of optimism in the Mile High City.
But one sharp bettor said others would be well-advised to pull back the reins on Broncos markets.
“Denver has a solid roster. The offensive line will allow the running game to flourish,” he said. “The problem is that they are the third-best team in the AFC West, behind the Chiefs and the Chargers. And Russell Wilson the past couple of years was average at best. He doesn’t use his legs and can only throw the deep ball.
“Wilson is not what he once was.”
A horse worth riding
On the flip side, the same professional bettor is pretty high on the Indianapolis Colts. He’s not Super Bowl-high, mind you — though I’m personally gonna take a pop on Indy at +2500. But he’s all over the Colts’ odds to win the AFC South.
“I took them at +140, +130, +120,” he said, noting the Colts are now in the -140 range at most books and favored to win the division. “Indianapolis is loaded on the offensive line, which is probably the best in the game. The Colts have a superior running game, and Matt Ryan will thrive in play-action. The coaching is solid, and the defense is near the top. Indy should dominate a brutally bad division.”
Go for it
For my money — which is usually #ChilisMoney, by the way — I think coaches should go for it on fourth down more often. Never mind whether it’s the first quarter or the final two minutes. WynnBet’s Morrissey believes more coaches are starting to have that mindset, and oddsmakers might have to adjust because of it.
“I will be watching the early season overs,” Morrissey said, noting aggressive play-calling could lead to more scoring. “It’s a copycat league, and there has been a lot of talk about fourth-down decision-making over the last few years. I think that more and more teams are figuring out what good offense is, with play-action pass and pre-snap motion, as well as throwing the ball down the field to playmakers and being aggressive on fourth down.”
Morrissey also foresees another area that could prove fruitful for over bettors – at least until defenders adjust. Recently, the NFL instructed officials to emphasize illegal-contact penalties early in the 2022 regular season.
“With a new emphasis on illegal contact, I will be interested to see if games early in the season go well over the total,” he said. “If so, we as bookmakers will have to make adjustments.”
Cowboys have ‘no excuses’ with Prescott, Parsons & dominant defense | UNDISPUTED
Dak Prescott and Micah Parsons will look to lead the Dallas Cowboys to back-to-back NFC East crowns for the first time since 1996. Even after losing future Hall of Fame left tackle Tyron Smith to an injury that will keep him sidelined until December, Fort Worth Star-Telgram columnist Clarence Hill wrote the Cowboys have no excuses with Dak and a dominant defense heading into 2022. Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless talk Dallas Cowboys.
Last season, rookie QB Mac Jones helped New England go 10-7 and earn an AFC wild-card playoff berth. But McDaniels won’t be in Jones’ ear this year. The aforementioned sharp bettor believes McDaniels’ absence doesn’t bode well for Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
“New England is in huge trouble this year. Losing Josh McDaniels is enormous for a young QB,” he said. “Mac Jones does nothing well at the NFL level — weak arm, athletically challenged, and he has a zero-weapon offense. The defense is not what it once was, either. Pick on them all year.”
Fly, Eagles, Fly
If the 2022 NFL betting action at Caesars Sports is any indication, customers are convinced that the Philadelphia Eagles are due for a good year. Last season, the Eagles went a mediocre 9-8, though that somehow was enough to earn an NFC wild-card bid.
This year, the expectations are higher for QB Jalen Hurts & Co. For example, the Eagles opened +4000 on the Super Bowl oddsboard, and they’re now down to +2500. That includes one Nevada bettor getting on board late, yet still wagering $5,000 at +2500, for a potential (though unlikely) win of $125,000.
But Eagles interest goes far beyond that.
The Dallas Cowboys opened as -150 favorites and the Eagles +330 to win the NFC East. It’s now almost a dead heat, with the Cowboys +130 and Eagles +150. In fact, at Caesars books, Philly has taken more NFC East cash than the Cowboys, Giants and Commanders combined.
In the market of Yes/No To Make the Playoffs, betting Yes on Philadelphia is an extremely popular play. No was originally a -130 favorite; now Yes is -160. In fact, the Eagles are taking the second-most money to make the playoffs, trailing 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 are on the over at Caesars books, banking on a season of double-digit wins.
Rabid for the Raiders
The interesting dynamic about the ever-expanding legalization of sports betting in the U.S. is that regional bias is creeping in more and more, particularly in the NFL. Regional bias wasn’t really a problem in Las Vegas for decades — until Sin City got an NFL team.
Sure, when the Raiders were in Oakland or Los Angeles, there was always some drummed-up interest from California visitors. But now that they’re the Las Vegas Raiders and are entering their third season in Glitter Gulch, that interest is on steroids.
“For us, it’s just all about the Raiders. We are just buried alive on the Raiders,” BetMGM Nevada’s Scott Shelton said, noting heavy action from locals and Vegas visitors. “Tickets and money are all on them, to win the Super Bowl or to win the AFC. It’s a constant influx of money.”
However, that’s just at BetMGM Nevada. BetMGM HQ in New Jersey handles the odds movement nationwide for the company, and that tells an interesting story. The Raiders opened +5000 to win the Super Bowl and shortened to +3500, but they’ve since slipped back to +4000, miles behind the favorites.
While the Raiders are a big liability in the Vegas market, a few teams represent worse outcomes for BetMGM nationally, most notably the Bills, Broncos and Chargers.
Fade or follow
NFL season win totals are always a popular bet, and Shelton pointed out a few noteworthy trends.
“Surprise fades are very public teams, the Buccaneers and the Cowboys, from both sharp and public bets,” Shelton said of action at BetMGM’s Vegas books.
The Buccaneers’ win total hasn’t moved off 11.5, but the price shifted from a -110 pick ‘em 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 flip side, bettors love the Minnesota Vikings and Miami Dolphins. Minnesota opened at 8.5 (-110) and got all the way to over -170 before BetMGM moved to 9.5 (-110). Miami hasn’t moved off 8.5, but its price rose from -110 pick ‘em to over -145.
Can’t Bear it
With a new coach in Matt Eberflus, and with QB Justin Fields having a year under his belt, the Chicago Bears probably expect improvement. Bettors seem to think otherwise, including in odds to win the NFC North. That has BetMGM Nevada rooting for Chicago to surprise people.
“Normally, the Bears are a very public team. But this year, they’re a good outcome to win the NFC North,” Shelton said.
Chicago opened +800 in the division odds market and is now bringing up the rear at +1100, drawing very little attention. The Packers are the -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’s based in Las Vegas, where he enjoys golfing in 110-degree heat. Follow him on Twitter: @PatrickE_Vegas.