Saturday, May 13, 2023 | 2 a.m.
NFL point spreads are up, and they’re not merely for decoration.
Sports books across Las Vegas, and the rest of the country, began posting odds as soon as the schedule for the upcoming NFL season was announced Thursday night. A handful of games moved multiple points from the opening number within the first couple of hours, showing some bettors weren’t shy about putting down money four months in advance.
The price in the first “Monday Night Football” game of the year, for instance, posted as high as Buffalo -3 before shooting in the New York Jets’ direction and now sitting as low as a pick’em. I don’t have a play on that game — a lean to the Bills’ side, though — but I will place a couple others to kick off this edition of Weekend Wagers.
It’s something I never would have considered in the past, but the buzz NFL betting is getting already is undeniable and part of the purpose of this column is to cover gambling on the most popular events.
Buccaneers at Vikings would be lower down the list of Week 1 games to watch, but it’s where I’ll start. Give me the Buccaneers +7 at the Vikings, risking $220 to win $200 at Circa Sports.
Expecting both teams to take major steps back this year after playoff berths a season ago, I made Minnesota a 4.5-point favorite. Numerically, therefore, Tampa Bay +7 represents my biggest Week 1 edge currently on the board.
From a 10 a.m. kickoff to a 1:30 p.m. kickoff, the Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers was another game that caught my eye. I’ll take the Chargers -2.5 vs. the Dolphins for $330 to win $300.
I pegged Los Angeles as a 3.5-point favorite, technically making the edge on this game smaller than Tampa Bay at Minnesota, but I’m more confident in this side and willing to gamble with a slightly bigger bet. Even if the Chargers don’t have much of a homefield advantage at SoFi Stadium, teams traveling East to West traditionally underperform their expectation.
Miami is a side I’m looking to fade anyway as it seems to be getting undue amounts of hype for a team that just barely snuck into the playoffs last year. Yes, the Dolphins dealt with injuries, but the Chargers had even more severe setbacks minus the quarterback position with both their defense and offensive line ravaged at different points of the season.
They still managed one more victory than the Dolphins.
That’s enough for bets further down the line for now, as the Weekend Wagers pending futures section at the bottom of the page is now full. I’ll turn the focus back towards the current with the five plays below in an effort to break a recent slump and get out of the red for the year.
Read on for this week’s Weekend Wagers. Odds are the best currently available in Las Vegas at publication time with the sports book noted. Plays outside of the column will be linked and tracked in the record at the bottom of the page.
Golf (1-3, -$10): Dustin Johnson to win LIV Tulsa at +450 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)
$100 to win $450
The two-time major winner hasn’t been at his best over the last several months, but throughout his career, he’s always had an ability to turn it on and reach a level higher than virtually anyone else in the world. It looks like he might have found that level on the back nine at Cedar Ridge Country Club during Friday’s opening round. Johnson birdied six holes, including five straight from 13 to 18, to claim a share of second-place on the leaderboard at 7-under par behind leader Branden Grace at 9-under. Sitting in a position like this in a PGA Tour event as recently as a year and a half or two years ago, Johnson would have been something like +250. Now he’s in a weaker field and pushing 5-to-1. It doesn’t make any sense. There’s a lot of worthy players lurking — including Joaquin Niemann and Cameron Smith at 6-under — in addition to the lead Grace has built but Johnson should be the current favorite.
UFC (8-7, $598): Cody Stamman -144 vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade at UFC on ABC
$288 to win $200
Silva de Andrade is a popular underdog pick on today’s card in Charlotte, so much so that it’s depressing the price of Stamman enough to warrant a bet. Both are tough, dangerous bantamweights — though this fight is taking place at a catchweight of 140 pounds — but Stamman has a few clear advantages. Chief among them is a strong wrestling base, which he should be able to use to dictate the fight. He’s also four years younger than Silva de Andrade, and the fewer miles should help him be more durable. This is a discount price on a fighter who should be a bigger favorite.
MLB (2-4, -$320): Arizona Diamondbacks -150 vs. San Francisco Giants (Wynn)
$300 to win $200
Giants starter Anthony DeSclafani is off to a good start to the year; Diamondbacks starter Zac Gallen is off to a great start to the year. Gallen is the current betting favorite for the National League Cy Young Award, and it’s in no way an overreaction. The Diamondbacks have also been more dependable offensively, scoring a half-run more than the Giants per game. Put those factors together, and this line is too low. I make Arizona a -170 favorite in this spot, creating an edge plenty big enough for a bet.
NBA (6-9, -$1,045): Boston Celtics -7 vs. Philadelphia 76ers in Game 7 (Caesars/William Hill)
$330 to win $300
Sorry to those who might have thought they were going to get through one week of Weekend wagers without any more exposure to the Celtics. I’m just a glutton for punishment and can’t help but going back for more. Boston seemed to figure out some things lineup-wise in its 95-86 Game 6 win to extended the series with Philadelphia, especially going bigger and more defensive with Robert “Timelord” Williams drawing a series-high in minutes. The 76ers have adjusted well throughout the series, but there might not be many moves left to make. At least not any major ones. The Celtics always had a big talent edge in this matchup, and they might have found a better way to utilize it just before it was too late. This number might be slightly lower because of the historic tendency for Game 7s to play slower, but that’s not enough of a reason for this spread to diminish this far. The last game between these teams in Boston closed Celtics -8, and that should be again where this number is heading.
NASCAR (4-3, $290): Denny Hamlin -125 head-to-head vs. Martin Truex Jr. in Goodyear 400 (SuperBook)
$250 to win $200
The Joe Gibbs Racing teammates have won each of the last two races in the NASCAR Cup series, but Hamlin should be set up much better than Truex on Sunday at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina. Hamlin has a much stronger recent history at the track with five top-five finishes since 2020 including a pair of victories. Truex has a win of his own but only a pair of top-five finishes in the span. Course history doesn’t mean everything, but Hamlin has also been faster than Truex at the correlated tracks this season including the most similar setup at Auto Club Speedway in February. Hamlin is right with Kyle Larson as the favorite to win the race weekend, while Truex should be considered more in the midrange.
Weekend betting column year to date: 34-48-1, -$367
Weekend betting column all-time: 513-544-6, $18,102.95
Previous pending future wagers: Vegas Golden Knights at 15-to-1 to win the 2023 Stanley Cup ($200 to win $3,000); Minnesota Timberwolves to win Western Conference at 15-to-1 ($100 to win $1,500); Minnesota Timberwolves to win NBA Finals at 33-to-1 ($75 to win $2,475); Boston Celtics to win the NBA Finals at 7-to-1 ($300 to win $2,100); Texas to win the College Football Playoff at 30-to-1 ($100 to win $3,000); Tanner Mordecai to win the Heisman Trophy at 200-to-1 ($30 to win $6,000); Atlanta Braves at 5-to-1 to win the National League ($300 to win $1,500; Atlanta Braves at 10-to-1 to win the World Series ($300 to win $3,000); Buffalo Bills at 9-to-1 to win Super Bowl 58 ($300 to win $2,700); Manchester City to win English Premier League at +125 ($200 to win $250); New Orleans Breakers to win USFL title at 7-to-1 ($200 to win $1,400); Patrick Cantlay to win PGA Championship at 24-to-1 ($100 to win $2,400); Boston Celtics to win the Eastern Conference at -160 ($480 to win $300); LSU to win the College Football Playoff at 20-to-1 ($150 to win $3,000); Philadelphia Eagles to win Super Bowl 58 at 9-to-1 ($300 to win $2,700); Toronto Maple Leafs adjusted series price vs. Florida Panthers +250 ($100 to win $250); Alex Palou to win Indianapolis 500 at 11-to-1 ($100 to win $1,100); Jayson Tatum to win NBA Finals MVP at +240 ($200 to win $480); Rory McIlroy to win PGA Championship at 12-to-1 ($200 to win $2,400); Nolan Smith to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year at 20-to-1 ($100 to win $2,000); Kansas to win 2024 NCAA Tournament at 14-to-1 ($200 to win $2,800)