A sure sign that your new-and-improved prediction algorithm is probably pretty good is when you disagree with most of its Week 1 selections.
Week 1 is often a horror show for handicappers, trying to assess the impact of free agency and trades and trying to figure out if the preseason has meant anything at all.
So picking which five games we should put in the Westgate Super Contest for Week 1 is a bit of guess work. Half the games look like traps, cleverly set by oddsmakers. The other half look like coin tosses.
Regardless, the OddsShark Super Computer promises to do better in its second try at the unofficial world championship of NFL handicapping, hosted each year by the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas. And we have a star-studded lineup of new and returning Team OddsShark members, all striving to win our contest-within-a-contest.
So with great hesitation and while deferring to the wisdom of all the new data and weightings we put into the computer software this summer, here is our first 5-0 week, picking three underdogs after dogs went 11-5 ATS in Week 1 of 2014.
Niners +2.5 at home to Minnesota (Monday Night)
Everyone is picking the Vikings. Logic says the Vikings. Talent on the field says the Vikings. Almost two-thirds of the betting public is on the Vikings. So when the computer says the 49ers will win 21-20 and extend their awesome MNF record, one of two things is happening: the computer hasn’t factored in all the trades and losses and retirements in San Fran, or it has found something to go against public opinion.
Texans -1 at home to Kansas City
The computer says 23-20 and there’s something about a Houston defense with Jadeveon Clowney and JJ Watt on the edges and Vince Wilfork plugging up the middle that spells trouble for KC’s offense. While entrusting Brian Hoyer to lead Houston to victory is a bit risky, they have won outright 11 straight times as a September favorite, so we side with the computer to cover a single point.
Cincinnati -3 at Oakland
This feels like a trap as well, but we’re talking about the Raiders here – how deep of a trap can that be? Oakland has lost 13 of 14 as a Week 1 underdog, and while they are improving it is hard to see them holding off a determined Bengals team that played tough defense in the preseason in rolling to a 3-1 mark. The computer says 24-20 Bengals.
Lions +2.5 at San Diego
Detroit is a trendy pick in Week 1, which always makes us nervous. But historically the Lions cover the spread as a Week 1 dog and the Chargers historically choke as a Week 1 favorite. Put those two together, add in San Diego’s 0-5 ATS run at home and mix well with a 9-3 ATS run by the Lions in season openers and we have enough supporting documentation to back the computer’s 23-21 call. It’s a Detroit loss, but they cover the number.
Bears +7 at home to Green Bay
Many pick the Packers to win the Super Bowl so laying seven points against a terrible Bears team seems like another bit of clever bait by the oddsmakers. But with the computer picking a sensible 28-22 Green Bay win, can the Bears hang around here in a home opener in a divisional game? Green Bay has lost outright three straight Week 1s and the Bears have never lost ATS since 1980 when catching points in a Week 1 home game.