By Dan Urda
Experienced NFL handicapper Dan Urda will be bringing you his weekly plays throughout the 2013 NFL season.
Perhaps no feeling in the world compares to the weeks (and now days) leading up to NFL football season. For millions of Americans, this time of year means lazy Sundays filled with great company, beer, and disgusting high-calorie food. For me, it is also a chance to make some money. Look, I know a ton of Americans bet on sports, but most people who do so are just casual bettors who want to make the games more interesting. All of that is well and good, and some average Joes will have weeks when they win big, and that’s great for them. But there is a big difference between those guys, and people who take the craft of handicapping seriously, focusing on the money-making side of betting as opposed to just having action.
Even people who have watched every game for the past 20 years and consider themselves experts on the sport often make common mistakes when it comes to betting. Maybe they don’t shop around for the best line. Maybe they waited too long to place their wager, and the -2.5 line is now -3.5. Or maybe they think they know the sport so well that they bet on 10 games on one Sunday. Casual bettors generally won’t pay any mind to things like that, and in the long run, they lose money they could have won.
I am not an expert by any means, and I am not the best handicapper you’ll ever read (Editor’s note: False, he’s definitely the best. Keep coming back to the site). I have had winning years and I have had losing years, as the NFL is one of the hardest, if not the hardest, sport to profit off of in the long run. But what I do promise you is that every play I give you is one I play myself, and one that is well-researched.
Week 1 in the NFL season is unlike all the rest in that the lines are released over a month before the games are played. That has its benefits (I got KC -3 a few weeks ago and now it’s up to -3.5), and its disadvantages (anybody who took the Bills at +7 a month ago now has a very unfortunate line). However, for the sake of this column’s integrity, I will only post plays with the lines that are widely available now.
So kick back, relax, or just print this column and take it with you to the bathroom. Here are my plays for Week 1 of this coming NFL season, along with a few season-long futures I’ll be throwing some money on as well.
Futures and Props:
Cincinnati Bengals will make the playoffs – $140 to win 100
The only reason the line is this low is because there is name value in the Ravens and the Steelers. But talent-wise, those teams are in for down years. Cincy has a tremendous defense, one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, and very few, if any, glaring weaknesses. Andy Dalton’s mediocrity is the only thing that could hurt them, but he’ll be used like Matt Schaub in that he doesn’t have to win games, he just has to not lose them. I see them at least getting a Wild Card, with a division title very possible.
Oakland Raiders under 5.5 wins – $200 to win $100
Laying 2:1 on a prop like this is completely insane, but I have them at 3-13. Basically I am wagering that this team does not beat Jacksonville, Tennessee, Kansas City at home (no chance on the road), San Diego at home (ditto), the Jets in New York, AND find another win in the schedule. They have no shot at Indy, at Denver, vs Washington, Pittsburgh, Philly (although this scares me), Giants, Houston, Dallas…all respectable teams. The Raiders do get Denver in week 17 when the Broncos could be resting players, but they also won’t want to jeopardize their top two pick. No way in hell this is a 6-10 team. Lay the juice. (Editor’s note: Love this play. Some reports have the Raiders going into Sixers-esque tank mode for Jadeveon Clowney.)
Week 1 Picks
Chiefs -3.5 at Jacksonville
I got it at -3 but I’ll still take it at this line. The Jags are terrible. This is a full-on fade of a bad team, along with the fact that I trust the Chiefs to be so happy having a new coach that they play hard for Andy Reid (I just vomited in my mouth a little.) Yes, the Chiefs were 2-14 last year, but the team was crippled with injuries and had a terrible quarterback. Alex Smith is at least decent, and while he may never be an MVP-type guy, he will help the Chiefs win the games they should win. This one falls under that category.
Chiefs 24, Jaguars 13
Cleveland Browns pk vs Miami
The Browns are not going to be awful this year, and I think they start things off with a home win. This is another situation where the terrible coach is gone and the team just has a certain feel to it that is more exciting than in years past. Miami was not as good as their record last season, and don’t really have anybody on offense who scares you. Browns win this game and finish 8-8.
Browns 28, Dolphins 17
3 team, 10 point teaser: Cards +14.5/Colts +1/Patriots pk
The Pats line has skyrocketed since the Bills announced that their likely QB will be an undrafted rookie who was 4-14 in college. (Editor’s note: I can’t decide whether I’m proud or disappointed that he avoided the overused Tuel Time joke). Most books have them at -10 now. So I’ll do the easy thing and lower that to pk. The Cardinals have a solid defense, and are by no means more than two TDs worse than the Rams, even in St. Louis. The Colts have the Raiders at home. Yeah, I’m pretty confident in these.
That’ll be all for Week 1. I don’t force plays just for action, and there will be weeks when I may not have any at all. But for now, let’s go with these three, even if I lost some value by waiting this long to give them out. Here’s to a good week to begin a great season.
In addition to his work as a handicapper, Dan Urda also writes the occasional movie review for afterthecut.com. You can follow him on twitter @DanUrda.