By Steve Rieder
The difference between sharps and squares is that sharps bet numbers and squares bet teams. Most successful sports handicappers use a quantitative standard for assessing the game. In order to do that, it is imperative to use power ratings, also known as power rankings, to identify the point differential between opposing teams. By comparing two teams’ power ratings and accounting for home field advantage, the bettor can objectively determine what the point spread should be and take advantage of any difference in the actual line. Early in the year, especially heading into week 1, power ratings have to account for team’s retirements, player acquisitions and departures, coaching changes, injuries, etc. without much evidence to create their opinion. How the new pieces fit together in practice are largely told via the beat writers’ Twitter accounts. What makes things even more convoluted is that most practices are closed off to the public and many for the reporters themselves. Listening to a coach’s press conference can often shed some light on how a team or player is doing, but how much of that information can be attributed to the truth versus the proverbial coach’s speak? As the year progresses, power ratings become more reliable because there are more data points to fine-tune a team’s rating. Regardless of the difficulty to create, having power ratings is a must to properly handicap the NFL. Below is our Betting Predators NFL Power Ratings. To create the power rated line, take the difference between each team and factor in home field advantage. It is important to remember that power ratings are fluid and should be the starting point of a handicap when considering a bet.
WEEK 1 POWER RATED LINES
DAL @ TB (-9.5)
SF (-8.5) @ DET
PIT @ BUF (-7)
NYJ @ CAR (-5.5)
SEA (-2) @ IND
ARI @ TEN (-3)
PHI @ ATL (-5.5)
MIN (-3.5) @ CIN
LAC @ WAS (-2)
JAX (-2.5) @ HOU
CLE @ KC (-5.5)
GB (-4) @ NO*
DEN (-1.5) @ NYG
MIA @ NE (-3)
CHI @ LAR (-8.5)
BAL (-6) @ LV
Indianapolis Colts: There was plenty of positivity on the Colts this off-season, but things have quickly unraveled. With their underwhelming starting quarterback working back from an injury and quarantine, along with a suddenly injury plagued offensive line, things have turned pessimistic in Indianapolis. Perhaps the team will get healthy and hit their stride, but it the chances are slim it happens in Week 1.
New York Giants: The Giants have added much needed playmakers on offense this offseason, but Barkley, Golladay, Engram, and Toney have all been nicked up this summer. With the offensive line a turnstile, the Giants defense will have to carry the day to start the year if the Giants don’t want to find themselves in a hole in the NFC East. The Giants power rating should go up as the season progresses when the offensive pieces have time to get healthy and gel.
Cincinnati Bengals: With Burrow trying to get healthy and back up to speed, combined with first round pick Ja’Marr Chase’s curious case of the dropsies, the offensive woes could continue into the regular season. If Burrow shows he is healthy and Chase is back to his LSU form, the Bengals could easily see their number rise, but is impossible to be bullish on them for the opening week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Most Super Bowl teams have player turnover after hoisting the trophy, but the Bucs have brought back nearly every player on the roster. Super Bowl champions have done well to start the season in recent years and we have every reason to suspect the Bucs will hit the ground running in 2021.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers start the season off relatively healthy, which is a major coup for the club that has seen their rash of injuries as the season progresses. With Garoppolo at the helm, they may be a play on team early until the injuries inevitably begin to mount or they make the switch to Trey Lance.
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE NOTES
Denver Broncos: The Broncos have had tremendous success at home in the first two weeks of the year as opposing unconditioned teams struggle to breathe in the altitude. Much to the Broncos dismay, they start the year in New York and Jacksonville squandering their geographic advantage.
Florida Teams: The Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers all find themselves in a good spot at home early in the year due to the Florida heat and humidity. As teams try to get into game shape, they often struggle in the sunshine state. As the season progresses, this trend dissipates with the drop in temperature.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Despite the aforementioned environmental factors, the Bucs haven’t always had the greatest home field advantage. With Tom Brady in Tampa Bay and coming off a Super Bowl victory, the typically subdued Buccaneer faithful may be a bit more raucous this year.
Las Vegas Raiders: The stadium is beautiful and the city is buzzing as the Raiders finally get a full season with fans in Sin City. With all the fervor and bluster, there are serious concerns about the fandom in Las Vegas. With no real local allegiance and with the opportunity for opponents fans to vacation, there may not be much of a home field advantage for the Raiders this year. This situation bears monitoring.
Houston Texans: Travel and familiarity alone may make up 1.5 points for Home Field advantage. I’m not entirely sure the Houston Texans will get much more than that. With an inauspicious start to the year and Watson’s legal trouble thwarting any attempt at Texan success, the club could be drawing dead this year. If the fans show up at all, you have to wonder how fanatical they will be in support of their Texans.