NFL betting Week 1 lessons: Many bettors didn't see the Raiders' upset coming

Reverse line movement is always important to at least track. There was an interesting one in Week 1.

As of Monday afternoon, 72 percent of the money bet on the point spread in "Monday Night Football" was on the Baltimore Ravens. Yet, the line kept moving toward the Las Vegas Raiders.

It went from Ravens -4.5 all the way down to -3 at BetMGM by kickoff. It's significant when an NFL line moves that much, into a key number of 3. And for much of Monday night, the crowd looked pretty good.

The Ravens led 14-0 in the first half. They led by a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Even in overtime, after an absolutely astonishing sequence in which the Raiders thought they scored, had it reversed, couldn't punch it in from the 1-yard line, then got a false start and threw an interception, the Ravens could have scored a touchdown to cover. But they didn't.

It was a good lesson, as all betting losses are. Home-field advantage probably still will matter a little more in 2021, especially in a spot like the Raiders playing their first Las Vegas home game in front of fans. Reverse line movement — often caused by respected bettors taking a certain side — isn't the be-all, end-all, but it can be telling.

Either way, plenty of Ravens bettors weren't as excited about the Monday night game as others.

Zay Jones scored the game-winning touchdown to lift the Raiders over the Ravens. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Zay Jones scored the game-winning touchdown to lift the Raiders over the Ravens. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Here are some lessons from the betting world in NFL Week 1:

Don't underestimate Sean Payton (or ignore Urban Meyer)

Two of my biggest losses on the weekend came from not weighing the coaches enough.

I liked the Green Bay Packers as a favorite, assuming the New Orleans Saints would need to adjust without Drew Brees and Michael Thomas, and that they'd also be affected by being displaced by a hurricane. But Sean Payton is one of the NFL coaches who can figure it out better than anyone else.

The Saints blew out the Packers. Even if you liked the Saints as an underdog, I doubt you saw 38-3 coming. It was an impressive display by the Saints and Payton, who might end up as coach of the year. Great coaches fail to cover too, but I underestimated Payton having his team ready after a trying few weeks.

Then there's the flip side. I loved the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1 all offseason. The Houston Texans have a bunch of issues that we all know about. And I was stubborn on that even when Urban Meyer was screaming all offseason that I was on the wrong side.

Meyer did plenty of bizarre things, making everyone wonder if he was cut out for the NFL. In preseason, the Jaguars played their starters as much, if not more, than any other team. And they looked woefully unprepared. Then Week 1 came and the Jaguars looked woefully unprepared. Go figure. It's not like there wasn't ample evidence that Meyer was not the right coach to back in Week 1. Something to remember going forward.

It's never bad to take underdogs early

Underdogs went 12-4 in Week 1 of the NFL. It doesn't mean underdogs will cover 75 percent of the time in Week 1 every season, but it's the one week in which we're going on nothing but perception, and it can often be wrong. The NFL changes too much from year to year to act like we know what will happen.

We make the mistake year after year of picking the good teams from last year to be good again, when the NFL isn't built that way. Go look up any preseason predictions, and they'll look a lot like last season's standings. There's a reason the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the top two Super Bowl favorites over the offseason at BetMGM.

Everyone is adjusting to the ever-changing NFL in Week 1. Even oddsmakers.

Beware of blindly taking overs

Last year brought an NFL record for points scored in a season. It crushed the previous record, too. Overs were the way to go early last season.

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys decided the run game was outdated and lit up the scoreboard through the air last Thursday night, it seemed like the scoring revolution was continuing this season. But the overs didn't do so great.

Of the 16 games in Week 1, nine went under and seven went over. There were some explosive, high-scoring games, but defense still showed up too. Whatever happened in 2020, a weird season in many ways, might not apply to 2021. Including the scoring explosion.