The NFL season got underway on Thursday night with the Buffalo Bills showing that the preseason hype was warranted in a one-sided win over the defending champions. While it was nice to get the season started, the real treat comes over the weekend on our first NFL Sunday.
Week 1 is always full of surprises. In a few weeks, we'll look back at some of these Week 1 results and wonder what happened. New Orleans blew out Green Bay last year. The Packers went on to earn a bye and Aaron Rodgers won MVP, while the Saints missed the playoffs. The year before that, the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 and then went on to lose their last 15 games of the season.
With all of that being said, we've been waiting for this for seven months now, so bets will be placed. With Sunday just two days away, what are the most popular bets currently at BetMGM?
Chiefs are the most popular bet
Last season, Kansas City won 12 games and finished atop the AFC West. However, there were parts of that season where we felt like something was wrong with the Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes was struggling against cover-2 defenses. Mahomes and the Chiefs figured things out as the season went along, winning two playoff games against the Steelers and Bills. However, they lost in the AFC championship game as sizable favorites. Over the offseason, Kansas City traded away Tyreek Hill. The rest of the AFC West improved.
The questions surrounding the Chiefs have been louder this offseason, but it doesn't seem like bettors are particularly worried about Week 1. Kansas City is a 6-point favorite against the Arizona Cardinals. This line was just 3.5-points a few days ago, but Kansas City has received more bets and more money backing them than any other team in Week 1.
Arizona opened last season by going 7-0 over the first half of the season. However, they limped into the playoffs and then got demolished by the Los Angeles Rams in the first round. It's hard to have much faith in the Cardinals this year after the collapse we saw last season. DeAndre Hopkins is suspended and Rondale Moore is injured, which doesn't help matters.
The Cardinals have opened each of the last two seasons with outright wins as an underdog. They beat the 49ers in 2020 and the Titans last season. However, bettors aren't expecting that trend to continue. They like the Chiefs to win comfortably.
Fading Joe Flacco and the Jets
The second most popular bet of the weekend involves Joe Flacco and the New York Jets. Flacco has been pressed into starting duties as Zach Wilson recovers from a knee injury. Bettors aren't expecting him to stick it to his old team on Sunday though. The Ravens are 7-point road favorites against the Jets and 85% of the money is backing Baltimore to cover.
Flacco has lost seven straight starts as an NFL quarterback, dating back to October of 2019. In his lone start last year, he threw for 291 yards and two touchdowns in a loss against the Dolphins. There has been some offseason hype surrounding the Jets, but a lot of that was with the expectation of a second-year leap from Zach Wilson.
Baltimore is the betting favorite to win the AFC North this season. Most expect them back in the playoffs this season after injuries did them in last year. Lamar Jackson is betting on himself and playing this season without an extension and bettors expect him to start the season strong.
Russell Wilson to stick it to Seattle?
While bettors don't love Joe Flacco against his old team, they do love Russell Wilson going back to his old home. Wilson's Broncos are 6.5-point road favorites in Seattle against Geno Smith and the Seahawks, and bettors are lining up to back the road team. Currently at BetMGM, 90% of bets and 89% of the money is on the Broncos to cover as favorites.
Wilson spent 10 seasons in Seattle and won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks. However, over the past few seasons, it appeared more and more obvious that a divorce between the two parties was coming. Denver is a team with a talented roster that felt they were a quarterback away from making some serious noise. Now, they have that quarterback.
Baker Mayfield off the leash?
Sticking with the theme of quarterbacks going against their former teams, perhaps the most intriguing one is Baker Mayfield going up against the Cleveland Browns in Week 1.
We've already got plenty of juicy little nuggets from this one, with Mayfield releasing "off the leash" t-shirts in preparation for the game and Myles Garrett admitting he never returned a heartfelt text that Mayfield sent him after the former Browns' quarterback was traded to Carolina.
The Browns opened as 4.5-point favorites in this game over the summer. However, due to the Deshaun Watson suspension and the Mayfield trade, coincidentally to Carolina, the Panthers are now 1.5-point favorites on Sunday. Currently, 76% of bets are backing Baker and the Panthers to stick it to Mayfield's former employer.
Other popular bets
The Falcons are projected to be one of the worst teams in football, so it's no surprise to see bettors fading them in Week 1. Currently, 78% of bets and 85% of the money is on the Saints to cover as 5.5-point favorites. The under is also popular, as 85% of the money is on this game to go under 43 points.
While 70% of bets are on the Colts, 54% of the money is backing the Houston Texans to cover as 7-point underdogs. Frank Reich is 0-4 straight up as head coach of the Colts in Week 1.
Bettors expect a high scoring affair in Detroit, as 79% of the money is backing Lions-Eagles to go over 48.5 points. The total opened at 46.5 points.
On paper, the Buccaneers-Cowboys game looks like a potential shootout, but 73% of the money is on that game to go under 50.5 points. The total is down two points from when it opened at 52.5.