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Early NFL Parlay and Best Bets: Week 1

by September 5, 2021
Aaron Rodgers

Welcome to the first edition of this year’s early parlay series! Last year, my early parlay bets netted those who tailed a +3.53u profit, but I’m optimistic that we can do better this season.

The underlying thesis of this article series is that it’s best to bet early. You should do so because sportsbooks will adjust their lines after sharp bettors place their initial wagers. Once they’ve done so, you’re not just playing against the house — you’re also playing against some of the smartest minds in the game. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s what professional gambler (and Jeopardy! champion) James Holzhauer has to say on the matter:

“When you bet right after the opening number is posted, you essentially gamble that you’re smarter than the handful of sportsbook employees who set the line. When you bet 10 minutes before the game starts, you hope in vain that you know something all the world’s sharp bettors don’t.” You can read the rest of his comments here in The Athletic.

Ultimately, I recommend that you read this article as a guide to two things: first, a smart parlay for the weekend’s action; second, a list of smart straight bets to target individually. Aside from the parlay, I’ll label my favorite picks each week and advise you on the proper unit size for each play.

Let’s dive in, shall we? Also, please note that Week 1 creates a weird exception to the rule of betting early. That’s because these lines have been open for most of the summer; fortunately, you can still find some edge because of recent roster transactions and injuries.

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Parlay YTD: 0-0-0 (+0u)
Straight Bets YTD: 0-0-0 (+0u)

Leg #1. Packers -4 | -110 at BetMGM

Straight Bet Size: 1u

Without Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints should be much larger underdogs against the Green Bay Packers. According to FootballOutsiders, The Packers boasted the NFL’s most efficient offense in 2020. They were 5.2 percentage points more efficient than the next-best Chiefs and a whopping 18.4 percentage points better than the Saints. The Packers even knocked off the Drew Brees-led Saints by a touchdown in Week 3 of last year, and they did so without Davante Adams!

So why do the books only have Green Bay as four-point favorites? I see three possible arguments here. The first (and strongest) is that the Saints have a good defense. They ranked second in defensive efficiency last season and were 18.5 percentage points better on that side of the ball than the Packers. However, the Saints lost multiple key defensive pieces in defensive tackles Sheldon Rankins and Malcolm Brown, along with defensive end Trey Hendrickson and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Hendrickson led the team in tackles for loss (12) and sacks (13.5), and both Rankins and Brown played key depth roles in the trenches. Jenkins was a rock-solid perimeter corner, too, and his departure leaves them vulnerable in the secondary.

I’m not impressed with the players New Orleans added to fill those gaps. They acquired two defensive ends to replace Hendrickson, 2017 second-round pick Tanoh Kpassagnon and 2021 first-round pick Payton Turner. They both have great potential, but neither are proven assets. At cornerback, they’ll trust veteran Ken Crawley and Marshon Lattimore to shut down opposing wideouts. That could be an issue ⁠— Lattimore struggled in his third season, posting a PFF grade of just 54.1, and Crawley’s strong PFF grade of 84.2 came after a pair of sub-60 seasons.

Second, the books could be low on the Packers because of the Aaron Rodgers debacle in the offseason. It seemed like the star quarterback was on his way out of Green Bay at one point, but he returned to the team and is in line to start Week 1. Perhaps the market just hasn’t moved enough in response? I’m not sure, but this could help explain why the line sits where it does. Lastly, this was supposed to be a home game for the Saints, but the NFL has since moved it to Jacksonville. Again, it just feels like the market hasn’t responded well enough to this news, either.

I doubt that the Saints will come back if they fall behind early. Rodgers has repeatedly shown us that the same isn’t true for his Packers, so I believe this play offers a ton of value.

Leg #2. Kansas City Chiefs ML | -250 at BetMGM

Straight Bet Size: N/A

As mentioned above, the Chiefs ranked second in offensive efficiency last year. They somehow managed to get even better in the offseason. After a Super Bowl loss characterized by abysmal offensive line play, the Chiefs added tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and guard Joe Thuney. They lost wide receiver Sammy Watkins, but some improvement from Byron Pringle and Mecole Hardman should offset his departure.

The Browns also got better in the offseason, but it’s important to recognize that they overperformed their efficiency ratings last season. They ranked ninth in offensive efficiency, but they ranked 25th defensive efficiency, torpedoing them to 18th overall in total defensive-adjusted value over average (DVOA). For some perspective, the 11-5 Cleveland Browns finished behind the 4-12 Atlanta Falcons in the metric.

The Chiefs held off the Browns in last year’s playoffs, and I think they’ll get it done again in Week 1.

Leg #3. San Francisco 49ers ML | -350 at BetMGM

Straight Bet Size: N/A

There isn’t enough value here to bet the moneyline alone, but the line serves as a nice sweetener for our Week 1 parlay. The 49ers struggled with injuries last season, but they still managed to beat Jared Goff’s Los Angeles Rams twice on their way to a 6-10 record. Goff completed 55% of his passes for just 396 total yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions against San Francisco. Woof.

Since then, Goff has left L.A. for Detroit, where he has a much worse supporting cast. Tyrell Williams and Amon-Ra St. Brown don’t compare to Robert Woods or Cooper Kupp. T.J. Hockenson is better than Tyler Higbee but probably not good enough to propel the Lions ahead of the Niners. Oh, and San Francisco didn’t even have star defensive end Nick Bosa when they swept Goff.

Total Odds: +243 at BetMGM

Parlay Bet Size: 1u

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Isaiah Sirois is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Isaiah, check out his archive and follow him @is_sirois.

NFL, Picks