Raiders, Jets drawing early win total bets

Ben Fawkes

It was a rough 2016 NFL campaign for sportsbooks. The model of the gambling world being the great leveler and the "against the spread" or "ATS" records bringing the good and bad teams alike back to the middle never came to fruition.

In fact, just the opposite occurred.

The New England Patriots owned the best record in the league at 14-2 and, per Rob Nelson of ESPN Stats & Info, their 13-3 ATS mark (followed by a 3-0 ATS run in the playoffs) also was the best in the league -- a full two games better than any other team (the New Orleans Saints were 11-5 ATS). Despite their garnering huge spreads as underdogs, the books had a similar issue with the 1-15 Cleveland Browns, who finished tied for the league's second-worst ATS record at 5-11. These two teams paved the way for the public's success; the best team covered week after week while the worst consistently failed to hit its number.

The road to redemption has already begun with the release of the 2017 win totals, but as Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook manager Jeff Sherman explains, the public isn't yet backing its favorite teams.

"We have seen no large bets on typical public teams like the Packers, Steelers and Patriots, which is surprising and we don't expect that to continue," he said. "Those teams have huge fan bases and we always see support for them."

So little action has come in on these three that not a single vig, or price you pay to take a line, of theirs has moved at all from its opening position.

So which NFL teams is the public betting so far this offseason?

Oakland Raiders

Opening line: 9.5 wins (over -110)
Current line: 9.5 wins (over -140)

The Westgate has had more action on the Raiders in terms of both total tickets and dollars wagered than any other team.

"We have taken large bets from the public on the Raiders over 9.5 which we were expecting ... We feel solid about the numbers we put up," explains Sherman.

Perception is reality when you're a line originator, and because it wasn't willing to open them at an even 10 wins the Westgate knew the public would rush to bet the over. A $5,000 bet on the Silver and Black is the largest placed thus far.

So what's the reason for the love?

Could it be that over the past month residents and weekenders alike have stepped to the Vegas counters to back their newly acquired team to show their support? Sure.

More likely, though, is that the river of public money flows downstream based on whatever happened last, be it week to week during the season or based on last year's results in the offseason.

The Raiders were a solid contender until quarterback Derek Carr's brutal broken leg in Week 16 that ended his season. This action points to the public thinking that they'll sit atop the AFC West once more come January.

New York Jets

Opening line: 5 wins (under -110)
Current line: 5 wins (under -150)

The Westgate hasn't moved any team's line off its designated opening number, so the shift from -110 to -150 on the under 5 wins constitutes the biggest movement.

An exodus of veteran starters including WRs Brandon Marshall, C Nick Mangold and CB Darrelle Revis has led to the perception that this is a team beyond the limits of what can be considered a mere transition; this is a complete dismantling with the sole purpose of preparing for well beyond 2017.

That was before the release of LB David Harris and WR Eric Decker this past week, too.

With a roster in shambles and the likes of QBs Josh McCown, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg competing for the starting role, the under is becoming more and more tempting.

If any line was going to move before training camp, this seems to be the one. Sherman explained that he "could see it continue to some form of 4.5 down the road."

My pick: Browns under 4.5 wins

Opening line: 4.5 wins (under -110)
Current line: 4.5 wins (under -130)

Even with the vig sliding toward the under, I still think there's still value here. In each season since 2005 there have been at least four teams that have finished 4-12 or worse, and yet just as in years past, no team is handicapped at less than 4.5 wins.

Why has the number stayed at 4.5? These season-long under bets are hard to stomach both financially, from tying your money up for months at a time, and in terms of stress, from sweating the remaining schedule whenever said team does manage to win.

But that's why these low unders often have value -- multiple teams are going to be bad and few are willing to play the long game in trying to figure out which teams will fill that role.

Although the Browns traded up to select three players in the first round of this year's draft, I don't see any class making that immediate of an impact on a team that's only one year removed from a 1-15 record and allowing the third-most points against (452) while scoring the second fewest (264).

Signing quality starters C JC Tretter and G Kevin Zeitler should help to improve Cleveland, but I'm betting not enough to get to 5-11.