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NFL Week 1 Betting Notes

James Murphy
by in NFL on
  • Sportsbooks in Nevada and elsewhere reported a winning opening Sunday in the National Football League.
  • Pointspread favorites went 5-5-1 in Week 1 NFL action.
  • Overs went 8-4 in the opening week of play.

The opening week of NFL action is in the books and aside from empty stands in most stadiums it was pretty much business as usual. It was also ‘business as usual’ for sportsbooks which all reported brisk action on the biggest wagering sport in North America. Here are some Week 1 NFL betting observations:


One of the best results of the week for sportsbooks came in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 27-20 upset win over the Indianapolis Colts. The Jags won outright as +7 underdogs with the overwhelming majority of the betting public backing the Colts on the moneyline and against the spread. According to the essential VSIN a number of sportsbooks reported having over 90% of their moneyline bets on Indianapolis with several books–PointsBet, William Hill and DraftKings–having at least 75% of their pointspread bets on the Colts. The Don Best screen showed 68% of the pointspread tickets on Indianapolis.

The regional impact of the game was huge. VSIN talked to Austin Herdina, sportsbook director at the Indiana Grand Casino in Shelbyville, IN. Want to guess who the Indiana locals were backing? Let’s find out:

It was an even better result at the sportsbook at the Indiana Grand Casino, just outside of Indianapolis, where 98.7% of the spread money was on the hometown Colts. “Jacksonville winning was a good result for us,” Austin Herdina, sportsbook director at the Indiana Grand told me Sunday, somewhat underselling it. “We haven’t paid out many moneyline parlays or teaser tickets tonight, which isn’t a surprise knowing how many guests were holding Colts tickets.”

Out in Nevada, the Colts were the most popular pick in the Circa Sports $1.39 million Survivor contest. As a result, it wiped out nearly a third of the 1,390 person field as 425 players used them. Only one contestant picked the Jaguars. Don’t sleep on Circa Sports–Derek Stevens’ company is already a favorite of many ‘sharp’ players in Nevada and they were quick to realize the potential in the booming Colorado market. Longtime ‘View from Vegas‘ sports betting observer Dave Tuley reports at VSIN about a very impressive accomplishment–Circa Sports big contest (the Circa Sports Million II) trounced the number of entries in the venerable Westgate SuperContest:

Circa Sports Million II closed at 2 p.m. PT Saturday with an incredible 3,148 entries (especially under the circumstance) at $1,000 apiece after drawing 1,875 entries last year, while the $1,500 buy-in SuperContest closed at 3 p.m. PT with 1,172 entries, down from last year’s record of 3,328. For the uninitiated, both contests require contestants to make five NFL picks a week against the spread. Circa Sports Million II’s total is actually the second-highest entry total ever for a high-end Vegas football handicapping contest, topping the SuperContest’s 3,123 in 2018.

Actually, the inaugural $1,000 buy-in Circa Survivor (where you pick one team a week to win straight-up and can’t use the same team twice) also outdrew the SuperContest this year with 1,390 entries and will have a winner-take-all prize of $1.39 million for the entrant that lasts the longest.

The Las Vegas Review Journal gave a good summary of the Colts’ QB debacle and the struggles of Philip Rivers with a quote from the Westgate’s Jay Kornegay:

Jacksonville (+7) might not be tanking for Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence after all. Gardner Minshew was 19-for-20 with three TDs to lead the Jaguars to a 27-20 win over the Colts in Philip Rivers’ Indianapolis debut. Rivers threw for 363 yards but only one TD and two interceptions to kill countless teasers and money-line parlays.

“The Colts were kind of a sharp preseason pick. They have (coach) Frank Reich, a very solid defense and Rivers coming over and getting some protection he didn’t get in (Los Angeles) the last couple of years,” Kornegay said. “It’s only one game, but it sure is a shaky start for the Colts.”

I’ve been big on Jacoby Brissett ever since he was named starter. He was unfairly maligned for the Colts’ 2019 performance when the reality was that the injury situation was such that Peyton Manning in his prime wouldn’t have helped. Got to love the mainstream sports media–after spending last season trying to convince readers that Brissett wasn’t a legit starting quarterback they’re now trying to stir up a QB controversy by arguing that he’s ‘the best QB on the Colts’ roster’. He is, but a little consistency would be nice.


The Washington Football Team was the beneficiary as the Philadelphia Eagles blew a 17-0 lead in a 27-17 loss that delighted legions of…uh…’Football Team’ fans everywhere. The LVRJ reports that an additional 77 Circa Survivor players got the boot after backing the Eagles here.

The Eagles’ upset loss was good news for sportsbooks nationwide. As you’d imagine, this was particulary true for East Coast books such as The Borgata in Atlantic City. Tom Gable, Borgata sportsbook director, told VSIN that 80% of spread bets were in Philadelphia and that the loss killed a lot of parlay liability. At the Rush Street Interactive books in Pennsylvania 37% of the entire daytime NFL Sunday handle was on the Eagles.

Back out in the Silver State, VSIN talked to the Westgate’s John Murray who ran down his book’s performance on the opening Sunday of the NFL season:

“We won a lot on the Colts and the Washington Football Team,” John Murray, sportsbook director at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, said over the phone. 

On the other side of the ledger, several books reported losing biggest on Baltimore (-7.5) routing Cleveland 38-6, Las Vegas (-3) beating Carolina 34-30, the Buffalo Bills (-6.5) winning 27-17 over the New York Jets and the New England Patriots (-7) beating the Miami Dolphins 24-14.

“We lost on Baltimore, but Buffalo and the Raiders were the two worst since the public was heavy on the Raiders and the game went over,” Murray said.


The Patriots are the biggest ‘public’ darling in the NFL and their 21-11 win as -7 chalk represented the biggest loss for sportsbooks in Week 1. According to the LVRJ, a bettor at The Mirage cost BetMGM a tidy sum by winning a $525,000 straight bet on New England -7. One of William Hill’s Nevada books also took a $275K straight bet on the Pats. Bookmakers also reported taking a loss on Buffalo’s 27-17 win over the New York Jets. The Don Best screen showed 74% of wagers on the Bills and the liability was even greater at books in the Northeast.

Sportsbooks were generally happy with the level of wagering though the Westgate’s John Murray told VSIN that handle was off a bit from last year:

“We had a winning day, but our handle was down year-over-year a bit, and there there are two reasons for that. The first is less foot traffic than on a normal NFL Sunday, and the second is the lack of parlay money coming over from Saturday because the college football card was so bad this week.”

Depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic continues to play out the foot traffic could see some improvement throughout the season. The college football schedule will continue to be weak, however, with so many conferences having cancelled or postponed their season.

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