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Best last-minute NFL bets ahead of Week 1

Oct 25, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) celebrates his first down run late in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Late week betting action requires involvement in markets where lines aren’t stale. This probably isn’t realistic for Week 1, as game lines are posted four months in advance, but for all subsequent weeks, the turnaround time by the books means that sports bettors have fresh options leading into kickoff.

Beating these markets takes a different approach than those focused solely on the game lines. We can take cues from bookmakers pricing the entire portfolio of offerings on a particular matchup. They arrive at a most likely path the game will travel and then use market dynamics to sharpen the number. In some way, game lines feed derivatives, player props and most other offerings under that matchup umbrella.

We can start by seeing if there are any game lines we disagree with and utilize a couple of different approaches if so.

Mispriced scenarios should have even worse mispricing further downstream as errors compound. Or, if the game line is only subtly off, it's smart to find where its errors are the most drastic.

Using these approaches, let's find the best last-minute NFL bets ahead of Week 1.


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ARIZONA CARDINALS @ TENNESSEE TITANS

PFF Greenline projects one less point to be scored than the 52.5-point total. The Tennessee Titans appear playable on the full game spread, but as researched by Robert Greer, full game spreads with a field goal differential offer more value on the first half number. At -2.5, this makes immediate sense, especially when comparing the full game alternate lines.

Tennessee is -3 (+100) with an alternate line offered at -2.5 (-125) — an implied 5.6% breakeven change on the half-point difference. The first-half line is -2.5 (-110), and the alternate first-half line is the exact same as the current full game spread. Based solely on price, Tennessee -2.5 in the first half looks like the best spot to play.

Line shopping is always the best option once a bet is deemed worth wagering. Other bookmakers have the Titans -0.5 (-125) in the first half. Instead of paying for the heavy juice, we can look at a parlay option. With PFF Greenline leaning toward the under on the full game spread, the first half under 27.5 (-160) does appear to be a viable consideration. A same game parlay for the Titans -0.5 in the first half and first half under 27.5 has a return of +232. This is actually higher than the expected payout of a parlay not correlated to each other at those prices, which works out to +192.5.

For comparison, a same game parlay of first half Titans -0.5 and first half Arizona Cardinals team total under 13.5 has a payout of +127. Clearly, the Cardinals going under their team total has a correlation to the spread, but this pricing seems to miss a step, as the Cardinals' under team total also impacts the first-half total. Same game parlays should often be avoided, but sometimes the payout tilts right for an outsized gain.

Pick: Parlay Titans -0.5 First Half and Under 27.5 First half +232

MINNESOTA VIKINGS @ CINCINNATI BENGALS

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