The first game of the NFL season is finally here, ending a busy preseason for bettors and bookmakers alike. Which teams attract the most activity in the market? Will Sharps Buy Any Dark Horse Contenders?
We caught up with theScore Bet Head Trader Jay Rood to discuss the biggest liabilities and betting favorites for the 2021 season.
49ers, Bills deserve preseason love
As expected, the preseason bettors pounded the two Super Bowl favorites and the reigning conference champion. The Chiefs (+430) and Buccaneers (+600) rank first and second in terms of cash bets despite the relatively low payout.
The team with the third most bets? That would be the 49ers (+1,300) who finished 6-10 a year ago but made it to the Super Bowl in 2019. Those early at the window expect a similar result in 2021, despite questions about whether rookie Trey Lance will replace starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo at some point during the season.
“At the beginning, back to the draft, the public really supported the 49ers really hard trying to get them back,” said Rood. “There’s a certain amount of uncertainty there, but this is a team that the public has been everywhere.”
Another preseason favorites are the Bills (+1000), who won the Super Bowl 33-1 a year ago but are third favorites this season behind the Chiefs and Bucs. It’s not just in the Super Bowl market – Buffalo is also drawing violent action to win the AFC and repeat itself in the AFC East.
“A lot of people look to the bills to solidify the changing of the guard (in the AFC),” said Rood. “You get a lot of play to be the Chiefs’ main rival.”
QB questions on the design of futures markets
While the Super Bowl favorites pulled the most early money, these teams aren’t the ones that bookies are most concerned about.
Rood says his book’s biggest fault is the Broncos (+3300), who placed speculative bets this summer when trade rumors swirled around reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers. Denver had only played 15-1 that summer before settling near the middle of the odds, though a Super Bowl run isn’t out of the question if its talented defense bounces back on its feet.
The Broncos aren’t the only team to be hit by quarterback rumors and moves. Washington (+3700) opened 60-1 but is now theScore Bet’s second largest signing after signing Ryan Fitzpatrick in the off-season. The Colts (+3800) drew heavy action after taking over former Eagles starter Carson Wentz in March. The Panthers (+8000) attracted some speculative bets before eventually trading for former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold.
And of course the Packers Award was a yo-yo this summer while Rodgers pondered his future with the club. Since then, they’ve settled at 14-1, despite not having as many tickets written as predicted for such a public team.
“The Rodgers saga dragged on and I think that defused part of the play we would normally have shown the Packers,” said Rood. “Nobody was ready to defend themselves early on against the Packers led by Jordan Love.”
Stafford an early MVP darling
The MVP market doesn’t usually heat up until a few weeks after the season starts, Rood said, but that hasn’t stopped bettors from targeting former Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (+1700) in his first season with the Rams to take.
Stafford was among bettors’ favorites to win the award after Los Angeles dealt Jared Goff and three draft picks for the former No. 1 pick, also our favorite game to win MVP this season. The rest of the activity revolved mostly around the three betting favorites – Patrick Mahomes (+450), Rodgers (+900), and Josh Allen (+1100) – although last year’s winner didn’t get as much love as you might expect .
“You’d think Rodgers would get more action considering he’s the defending MVP,” said Rood, “but I think there’s a bit of hesitation about what this team is going to be like.”
That was an issue in all futures markets, says Rood. Many big bettors have taken a “wait and see” approach, although anticipating sizable bets in the coming weeks as keen players get a feel for specific teams after a busy summer. Then we will see clear movements in the futures market.
“Last week was probably the busiest week theScore Bet has had in existence,” he said, “so it bodes well for the NFL’s first full week.”
C Jackson Cowart is a sports betting writer for theScore. You can follow him on Twitter (@CJacksonCowart) or email him at [email protected]