J.J. Hardy cracked a solo homer and Wilson Betemit added a two-run double for Baltimore, which won six of seven to start the year last season before losing eight in a row en route to the club's 14th consecutive losing season.
Hoping to continue that tremendous string of starting pitching tonight will be left-hander Brian Matusz, who will be trying to shake off a disappointing 2011. After a tremendous 2010, Matusz struggled badly a year ago, going just 1-9, while pitching to a 10.69 ERA - a single-season high for pitchers with at least 10 starts.
Matusz was particularly bad against the Yanks, who ripped him for 11 runs in only 6 2/3 innings.
(Sportsbook Betting Lines) - Chris Sale makes his anticipated debut as a starter for the White Sox this evening in the opener of a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians. With the offseason exit of Mark Buehrle, Sale enters the rotation after making 79 relief appearances over his first two MLB seasons. He posted 12 saves and a 2.58 earned run average in that span, striking out 111 over 94 1/3 innings.
The White Sox dropped the rubber match of their three-game series versus the Rangers over the weekend, falling 5-0 after being limited to just four hits over six innings by Texas starter Matt Harrison.
"Harrison pitched great. It's one of those nights where you just tip your hat to him," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said.
Derek Lowe allowed two unearned runs over seven innings in his Indians debut, while Carlos Santana hit a pair of home runs. He connected on a two-run shot in the fifth after leading off the second with a solo shot.
There is little doubt that the NFL is where the sportsbooks see the most action and also make the most loot. The NFL possesses betting friendly attributes that are unlike any of the other major sports. First off, there are relatively few teams to keep track of in comparison to college football betting or college basketball. And second, these teams play only once a week which makes staying on top of the results much easier than it is in the daily leagues such as the NBA, NHL, and MLB.
These dynamics, along with the sheer excitement of watching and wagering on football, brings more square action to the table than any of the other sports. Almost every Tom, Dick and Harry in America is an NFL expert in their own mind and that is precisely what the oddsmakers prey upon.
Understanding who bets the games is just as important as understanding which teams are playing the games. The market at times will dictate price, which in the betting world means the oddsmakers cater to the public rather than reality.
Knowing the market inside and out is the basis of our NFL handicapping model. That is, our approach to NFL handicapping is of the contrarian or value seeking variety. We will at times place a higher premium on public sentiment than on the fundamentals. This strategy dictates playing dogs and/or lesser competent teams, or teams the public wants nothing to do with. Or better yet, fading the teams the oddsmakers want you to bet on.
Along these same lines, we carry a similar notion that the first week of the NFL season presents one of the ripest opportunities for the astute gambler. This conflicts with conventional wisdom and/or handicapping lore, as most would say it is better to watch a few games and assess each team before jumping in with both feet. That’s all fine and dandy, but there are some interesting trends to exploit in Week 1 and we’d be remiss to ignore them. Let us quickly explain.
Gone are the days of dynasties, where the same core players stay intact and dominate the league year after year. Free agency and player movements can completely transform teams from one season to the next. In today’s parity-driven NFL, poor teams typically don’t stay poor for all that long and excellent teams must constantly reinvent themselves to stay on top.
The temptation might be to assume prior year results are the best indicator of who is going to cover in Week 1. To Joe Public, playoff teams from the prior season, home teams, favorites, and so one, look even more enticing than usual since there is no current season performance to judge them against. But the question begs: are the oddsmakers setting a trap?
To find the answer, we culled five years worth of Week 1 NFL data. As always, all of our analysis is done from an ATS perspective. The purpose here is to share the most important angles we unearthed and try to explain the logic behind them. So strap on your helmet, throw on your shoulder pads, and follow our lead as we expose some rare holes in the oddsmakers’ line of defense.
Home vs. Away Teams
Over the past five seasons, NFL home teams in Week 1 are just 31-42-7 ATS (42 percent). This of course implies that roadies are a 58 percent winning proposition during this time. The public at large has a tendency to overvalue home teams and this is especially true in Week 1 when there is no current season data to make predictions from. Consequently, the oddsmakers almost surely shade the home teams, by and large making road teams the choice for the value player.
Conclusion: Look long and hard at road teams first when handicapping the opening week.
Favorites are just 31-42-7 ATS (42 percent) in the opening week over the past five NFL seasons (Coincidentally, home teams hold the same ATS record as noted above). This means that underdogs bark at a 58 percent clip. Mid-range favorites performed the worst among our specified price ranges. In particular, favorites priced between –3 1/2 and –6 1/2 are only 8-15 ATS (35 percent) during this time.
The same basic pattern holds true when looking at home favorites (road favorites gravitate towards a 50 percent mean). Home favorites indeed are just 21-32-3 ATS (40 percent) in the first week of NFL action since 1999. Again, mid-range favorites are similarly the poorest performers when we look at home teams. Consider that home teams priced between –3 1/2 and –6 1/2 have stumbled to a 6-13 ATS (32 percent) mark in Week 1 games the past five seasons.
Conclusion: Like home teams, favorites and particularly mid-range favorites are generally overvalued in Week 1.
It might surprise you to learn that playoff teams from the prior year versus non-playoff teams from the prior year are a mere 16-23-3 (41 percent) ATS in NFL Week 1 games over the past five seasons. Home teams which made the playoffs versus teams which did not make the playoffs from the prior season drop to a meager 7-14-1 ATS (33 percent) during this time.
Why are playoff teams, and in particular those at home, such bad bets the past five openers? Just as the case with home teams and with favorites, oddsmakers intentionally overprice playoff teams in the opening week to compensate for the public’s propensity to over bet them.
This theory holds true just looking at straight-up records from the past season as well. That is, home teams with winning records from the prior season vs. road teams with losing records from the prior season are just 8-13 ATS in Week 1 NFL games since 1999.
Conclusion: Playoff teams from the prior year and in particular, home playoff teams, are overvalued in Week 1 NFL games.
Scoring defense and scoring offense
Do good defenses and for that matter good offenses from the prior season fare better against the number the following year in Week 1 games? Well, sort of. Generally speaking, teams with a solid offense or defense from the prior season tend to do well in the opening week so long as they are on the road. As a host, however, the best offenses and best defenses from the prior year tend to be overvalued in Week 1.
Consider that the top five scoring defenses (i.e. points allowed) from the prior season are a nice 8-4 ATS (66 percent) on the road in NFL openers the past five seasons. Meanwhile, the top five scoring defenses from the prior season are just 3-8-2 ATS (27 percent) as a host in Week 1 during the same time period.
There is no discernable advantage or disadvantage for teams with a top five scoring offense (i.e. points scored) in Week 1 games. However, when we look at scoring offenses from the bottom up (isolating the five worst offenses from the prior season), the results are rather interesting. In particular, teams ranked in the bottom five in scoring offense from the prior season are 9-4-1 ATS (69 percent) when on the road in Week 1.
The logic is simply that the public perception is a poor scoring offensive unit from the year prior will have little chance of winning on the road in Week 1. In turn, the oddsmakers compensate for this perception and these poor offensive teams from the year prior carry extra line value on the Week 1 trail.
Conclusion: Teams with top-ranked defenses from the previous season are good bets when playing on the road, but poor bets when playing at home. Also, teams ranked among the bottom five in scoring offense from the prior season are generally a good value in their Week 1 openers, provided they are playing on the road.
An exceedingly straightforward way of measuring scoring offense and scoring defense together as a whole is to look at a team's “margin." Margin is simply scoring offense minus scoring defense, which is a fairly clear-cut measure of how a team does on both sides of the ball. Typically, the higher the margin, the better the team.
In this regard, it might seem counterintuitive that teams carrying the higher margin from the prior season in week one matchups are merely 31-42-7 ATS (42 percent). Furthermore, road teams with the higher margin are 14-20-6 ATS (41 percent), while home teams with the higher margin are 17-22-1 ATS (44 percent). Once again, these results line up with the theory that better teams from the prior year are overvalued come opening day of the following season.
Conclusion: “Better” teams, which often boast a higher margin than their opponent, are overvalued the following season in NFL openers.
Oddsmakers cater NFL betting lines to match public perception and also to bait the public into poor bets. The temptation to use the prior year’s success as a buy sign for how a team will perform against the spread in Week 1 of the following season is an enormous trap.
The fact is, isolating road teams, road dogs, non-playoff teams vs. playoff teams, teams with a losing record or low margin vs. playoff teams or ones with a high margin from the previous year is where the line value resides. Quite simply, taking the road less traveled is your surest path to NFL betting profits.