Three tips on how to bet Week 1 NFL games: Throw the preseason out the window

Photo of Andrew Ortenberg

Andrew Ortenberg

NFL· 2 weeks ago

Show Bio

I'm an editor here at Pickswise who was raised in a household full of sports fanatics. Since I unfortunately never had LeBron James' jumping ability I wasn't able to make it to the NBA, and chose writing about sports as the next best thing. An avid sports bettor myself, I'm excited to get to write about the industry as it gets set to take off across the country. Buckle up.

In almost exactly one week, the 2021 NFL regular season will get underway. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will kick off Week 1, and their Super Bowl title defense, by hosting the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday. Week 1 is a magical time of year, when every team’s hopes and dreams are still alive and well.

It can also be tough to navigate from a betting perspective. You’ve got to work hard to find an edge in NFL games at any time, but Week 1, in particular, can be tricky. There’s a lot that’s impossible to know before teams have played any meaningful snaps. With that in mind, today we’ll be talking about my favorite strategies for betting Week 1 NFL games. There’s still time to get in our futures bets, which you can find in our ‘NFL news’ section, but right now we’re talking these initial regular-season games.

1. Don’t overreact to the preseason

It can be hard not to allow the preseason to cloud your judgment. It’s what is freshest in everybody’s brains, and we just spent three weeks watching it. But you pretty much have to throw it out the window when handicapping Week 1. If you want to bet the Jets in Week 1 over the Panthers, bet them because you believe you have an edge based on factors that aren’t being accounted for by the point spread. Don’t bet them because Zach Wilson put up some great numbers during the preseason.

It’s not at all uncommon for a team to go undefeated in the preseason, and then turn out to be one of the worst teams in the league. My favorite example is the 2017 Browns. Cleveland went 4-0 in exhibition action, leading plenty of fans to get excited and speculate they might surprise some people that year. They proceeded to go 0-16 in the regular season. Don’t let recency bias bite you.

2. Variance is higher in Week 1

If there is any time to bank on a big upset, it’s in Week 1. It’s the first real action for everybody, and variance is a lot higher as a result. If you’re looking to take a big money line underdog, now might be your chance. Every year big upsets happen in Week 1 that turn out to be huge flukes and outliers. Just take a look at last year.

The Colts shockingly lost outright to the Jaguars as favorites of more than a touchdown. Indianapolis ended up going 11-4 the rest of the way, while Jacksonville lost 15 straight games after that. A similar result will likely happen again this time around. Find a big underdog that you know will come out highly motivated to prove everybody wrong in the first game of the season, and sprinkle a few bucks on their money line.

3. Coaching is everything

One of the most unique parts about Week 1 is how long the run-up to the games is. On a normal Sunday, each team has had about a week to prepare for one another. In Week 1, each team has had all offseason to get ready for one opponent. That dynamic favors coaches who do well with extra prep time, specifically offensive minds who can scheme up creative opening scripts.

Everyone is aware of how dominant Andy Reid usually is coming off a bye week, when he’s had an extra week to draw stuff up. It’s a similar situation here, the best offensive minds will have a big advantage, because they’ll have been cooking stuff up over the past few months that nobody has seen on film yet. If there’s a spot you already like featuring a coach like Reid, Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan etc., this is a factor that might make that bet even more appealing.

Pickswise is the home of free Expert NFL picks and NFL odds. Be sure to check out all of our season previews and NFL futures bets leading up to the 2021 NFL season.

Virginia Bonuses

See All
DraftKings

$200

Bet $1 On Any NFL Football Game & Get $200 In Free Bets Instantly!

Register for a new DraftKings Sportsbook account

Bet $1 on any Pro Football game

Instantly get $200 in free bets

BetMGM

$200

Bet $10, Get $200 If Your Team Scores A Touchdown!

Register for a new BetMGM account & deposit $20+

Bet $10 on your team to win Money Line

Win $200 in free bets if your team scores a touchdown

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

FanDuel Sportsbook

$150

Bet $5, Win $150 if the Chiefs or Ravens win!

Make a new account with FanDuel Sportsbook

Bet $5 on either the Chiefs or Ravens to win their Week 2 matchup

If your team wins, you win $150 cash!

New players only. Max bet $5. Must be 21+ to play. Full terms available at FanDuel Sportsbook.

PointsBet

$200

Bet $20, Get $200 If Your Team Scores A Touchdown!

Register for a new PointsBet account & deposit $20+

Bet $20 on your team to win Money Line (NFL or NCAAF)

Win $200 in free bets if your team scores a touchdown

Caesars Sportsbook

$5,000

Get a $5,000 Risk Free Bet + a free NFL Jersey!

Register for a new Caesars Sportsbook account & make a deposit

Place your first bet up to $5,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $5,000 + a free NFL Jersey

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

BetRivers

$250

Get a $250 Deposit Bonus!

Sign up for a new BetRivers account using promo code PICKSWISE

Make a deposit & get it doubled up to $250 total

To get a $100 bonus, deposit $100

Must be 21+. Play in IA Only. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-BETS OFF

BetMGM

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Risk Free Bet!

Register for a new BetMGM & deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

FanDuel Sportsbook

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Risk Free Bet!

Register for a new FanDuel Sportsbook account & deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

DraftKings

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Deposit Bonus!

Register for a new DraftKings Sportsbook account & deposit

DraftKings will match 20% of your deposit up to $1,000 total

To get a $100 bonus, deposit $500

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

Monkey Knife Fight

$100

Claim 100% Instant Deposit Match up to $100!

Register for a Monkey Knife Fight account & deposit using promo code PICKSWISE100

Monkey Knife Fight will match your first deposit up to $100

Deposit $100 and you'll get $100 bonus + a free $5 game

18+. Terms and conditions apply. You must live in one of the states where real money DFS is legal.

TVG

$300

Get a $300 Risk-Free Bet with TVG Racebook!

Register for a new TVG account and make a deposit

Place your first single horse win-type bet up to $300

If your horse doesn't win you'll get a refund up to $300

21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.

BetAmerica Racing

$200

$200 Sign Up Bonus!

Fast, reliable and fast payouts - you'll have your money in 72 hours, if not sooner!

Proud history of providing safe, secure, and fun betting to American patrons

BetAmerica is owned by the iconic Churchill Downs Incorporated, home of 150 years of wagering history and the world-famous Kentucky Derby

Players who sign up using ‘BET200’ code will get a $200 sign up bonus. Offer valid for 7 days after registering on BetAmerica Racing product only. 21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.

TwinSpires

$200

Get a $200 Sign Up Bonus with TwinSpires Racebook!

Register for a new Twinspires account using offer code BET200

Make a deposit and start wagering on horse racing

Earn $100 in bonus cash for every $400 wagered!

21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.