If you watched any opening-week games, you probably saw the road team cover in a low-scoring game.
Two trends stood out in Week 1 of the NFL betting season. Road teams covered at a strangely high rate, and unders were the way to go.
Road teams were 12-4 against the spread in the opening week of the season. And the under hit in 12 of the 16 games too, via BetMGM data analyst John Ewing.
It’s great to know about trends like that. The trick is figuring out if there’s anything sticky about them for future weeks.
Road teams did well to start season
Road teams covering shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Home-field advantage has been shrinking for a few seasons.
Giving three points to the home team was a standard practice years ago, but probably a mistake now. That number should be closer to two points or less, depending on the team. It didn’t matter for many home teams in Week 1, who struggled despite being at home.
The trend started on the Thursday night opener when the Detroit Lions beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 21-20. The Chiefs were 6.5-point favorites most of the summer, that dipped to about Chiefs -4 with Travis Kelce’s injury, and the Lions won straight up.
Teams like the Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants looked terrible in getting blown out at home. Road teams won’t cover at a 75% rate this season, but it’s probably best to not overrate home-field advantage this season.
Scoring was down in Week 1
The early games in Week 1 kicked off and there was no scoring for a long time. Brandon Aiyuk of the San Francisco 49ers scored a touchdown, and that was the only one well into the first quarter of all the games.
That set the tone for the week. There wasn’t much scoring around the league. There were 41.2 points per game scored through Sunday’s games, the second-lowest average in 13 years according to the Boston Globe. Then on Monday night, the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets combined for 38 points. The under of 44.5 was never in much doubt.
Unless you drafted Tyreek Hill or the Dallas Cowboys defense, you probably noticed the scores in your fantasy leagues were down. There were some ugly quarterback lines, including some from established stars like Joe Burrow. Teams not playing starters much in the preseason is often cited as a reason, and perhaps that played into it.
It seems unlikely scoring will remain down. The NFL is set up for offenses to succeed, and Week 1’s lack of scoring seemed fluky.
Many of the things we saw in Week 1 won’t repeat. There will be a big overreaction before Week 2. We’ll see if road teams and unders are two trends that continue for a while.