LAS VEGAS – Stand in the long betting lines at a Vegas sports book on a Sunday morning, and the person in front of you is making an awful lot of bets.
Some visitors to Gambling Mecca are compelled to bet almost every game. And indeed, the temptation is heavy in the sports book, with the array of television screens showing them all. I admit to usually betting too many of them. It truly does multiply the excitement but it’s strategy that leads to money drain.
Selectivity is key. The betting line, despite what we all like to think, is very close to what it should be most of the time.
To make money out here – that is, to hit at least 53% — you need an edge, a distortion you can exploit like Warren Buffett picking up a bargain on Wall Street.
You’re more likely to find a distorted line in the first week of the season than the last week. Right now much of the public is unaware that the St. Louis Rams, though once again without their erstwhile franchise quarterback Sam Bradford, are much improved from the 7-9 also-rans of last year. They’ve improved more than the 5-10-1 Minnesota Vikings, who play them Sunday afternoon.
And yet, even with the home field advantage, which is presumed here to be worth 3 points, the Rams are just a 4-point favorite over the Vikes.
And The Line does not seem to be factoring a distraction: admission by Minnesota’s best player, Adrian Peterson, that he’d rather be in Dallas. Not likely to build togetherness where he is now.
Likewise, many fans are unaware that Bill Belichick has built his strongest team since the 16-0 streak of 2007.
The trade of Logan Mankins was a misunderstood brilliant dumping of a player at the top of the salary scale who, though still good, is no longer at the top of his game at 32.
In return the Patriots get a 2015 fourth-round draft pick (which is how they keep replenishing) and Tim Wright, a quick, rangy receiver (6-4, 220). They have a solid young player in John Kline to replace Mankins. As for Wright, listed as a tight end, he will line up in a variety of places to create matchup nightmares: too fast to be covered by a linebacker, too tall for a safety or nickel back in the end zone.
Rob Gronkowski, who’s missed almost all of training camp, is not at top speed now, but in a few weeks, if he stays healthy he could be.
The Patriots would have their most effective two-tight end formation since Aaron Hernandez was staying away from bars he couldn’t get out of.
The Patriots have some issues with their offensive line, but it’s a bulwark compared to Miami’s, which is missing its one proven player, Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey.
New England is only a 4 ½-point favorite at Miami, whose offense is not likely to gain any traction with the mismatches up front and in the backfields.
In another mismatched pairing, New Orleans is but a 3-point favorite at Atlanta. Anyone who’s been watching Hard Knocks can see the Falcons of coach Richard Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan are not ready to face Sean Payton and Drew Brees. Smith and Ryan have the halting air of non-leadership, and it’s easy to see how they went 4-12 together.
Another distorted line is San Diego +3 at Arizona.
The Cardinals are overrated, with many analysts failing to see that in the offseason they gutted themselves, losing most of their inner defense: linebackers Carlos Dansby and Daryl Washington and run-stuffing tackle Darnell Dockett.
So there are a few distortions – more of these are listed below — that can give you an opening-week edge. But let’s try not to get greedy. You can’t beat the house if you try too often.
Click here for Alan Truex’s week one NFL pciks