There are a few factors you need to keep in mind when betting NFL games ahead of kickoff, and that holds true whether you are betting a few hours, a few days or weeks out.
Injuries are the main concern (and COVID when we get closer to the games) when it comes to lineups and market movement. That being said, betting on a game weeks or months ahead can give you an edge – if all goes according to plan.
If you think that bookmakers have set a line that doesn’t reflect the success you see a particular team having the weeks leading up to and in that specific matchup, you can hop on it before the market moves.
Here are a few games I have my eyes on that bookmakers have set as “pick ’ems” (meaning both sides are listed at -110).
Week 6: Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs
It’s not surprising that this game is a pick ’em, with bookmakers giving the Chiefs the third-best odds to win the Super Bowl at +950 behind the Bucs and Bills. However, I think there’s a chance we see Buffalo laying points before kickoff for a few reasons. For one, Josh Allen and crew have an easier first five weeks than the Chiefs do. People simply bet on teams that are winning more games. At this point in Week 6, I think it’s more likely Buffalo has a better record, with wins against its first five opponents (Rams, Titans, Dolphins, Ravens, and Steelers) than Kansas City will (Cardinals, Chargers, Colts, Bucs, and Raiders). The odds tell you a story and what bookmakers are telling us by making the Bills heavy favorites to win the AFC East (-220), the AFC (+350) and the Super Bowl (+650), is they have the highest ceiling in the NFL. They’re coming back with the main core that brought them success last season and have even added a couple of pieces. Josh Allen is entering his fifth season after a hot 2021 campaign, and they have the best defense in football. Defense wins games especially when you’re facing an offense like Kansas City’s that took weeks to get rolling. Kansas City is now without No. 1 receiver Tyreek Hill. I’d play the Bills now before you must drink any juice.
Week 9: Minnesota Vikings at Washington Commanders
Vikings-Commanders is another pick’em game that should have a very different line by kickoff. Minnesota is coming into the 2022 season with a new head coach in Kevin O’Connell, who joins after two seasons as the Los Angeles Rams’ offensive coordinator. A lot of people blame Kirk Cousins for the Vikings’ late losses but a lot of that infamy should have been pointed in former head coach Mike Zimmer’s direction. Last season, 14 of 17 of Minnesota’s games were decided by one score. They went 6-8 in those games and a lot of the time it was because Zimmer got too conservative with his game plan. I don’t expect the same this season and I do have faith in Cousins. There’s no denying the numbers. He finished last season with a quarterback rating of 103.1, tied for fourth-best in the league with Russell Wilson, behind Dak Prescott, Joe Burrow and Aaron Rodgers. His 66.3% completion percentage in 16 games was the same as Patrick Mahomes. Remember, we’re talking about Cousins versus Washington’s new quarterback Carson Wentz, whose quarterback rating was outside of the top 10 and completion percentage (62.4%) was only a few points higher than quarterbacks like Baker Mayfield, Trevor Lawrence, and Justin Fields (not the best company). Of course a quarterback needs his weapons too – and Cousins has an arsenal featuring Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen in the passing game and Dalvin Cook in the run game. Washington has some new young talent but Terry McLaurin is the clear main weapon on that team and he will have to go through a period of adjustment, receiving from his new quarterback. I also could have simply pointed to the odds: Bookmakers at FanDuel have given Washington odds of -186 (65% implied probability) to miss the playoffs while the Vikings have odds of -110 to make or miss. They have set the Vikings win total at 9.5, while the Commanders are listed at 8.5. Bookmakers have given the Vikings the second-best odds behind the Packers to win the NFC North while the Commanders are longshots in the NFC East at +500. It’s simple, the Vikings have more weapons and more pieces to the puzzle. Grab them now before you have to lay the points with them.
Week 12: Los Angeles Chargers at Arizona Cardinals
I have no shame in my Justin Herbert partiality. I think he is easily one of the best quarterbacks in football and he’s only been in the league for two years. The 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year broke almost every rookie quarterback record and in his second year, pushed the ceiling even higher. He finished second to Tom Brady in passing yards (5,014), third in touchdowns while easily passing the eye test. The best part? He’s looking even more athletic this offseason. There’s no wonder why he has the fourth-best odds to win MVP (+900) on FanDuel, behind only Allen, Mahomes and Brady. We can’t forget he’s backed by a strong defense, offensive line and depth in weapons with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Austin Ekeler. On the other side, Arizona lost two of its best linebackers — Chandler Jones and Jordan Hicks — making it even easier for the Chargers offense. The Cardinals’ offense lost pieces in the offseason, too. They are without receiver Christian Kirk who led the team in targets, catches and receiving yards last season. They also lost running back Chase Edmonds, the second-best back on the team. It also doesn’t hurt to add that Kliff Kingsbury and crew have struggled down the stretch with Murray under center. For Murray’s career, they’re 8-16-2 against the spread after Week 8. Overall, I think expectations should be much higher for the Chargers. By Week 12, they should be a dominant force in the NFL and we will be seeing plenty of respect from both the books and the market. The even money won’t be around for long.