Finding underdog value in Week 1

Last year's losers, including Buffalo and Cleveland, offer early-season value

Originally Published: September 3, 2014
By PJ Walsh | Sports Insights

Week 1 ATS picks | Underdog value | NFL PickCenter | Betting guide

The 2014 NFL season is finally here, and I couldn't be more excited about the opportunity to contribute this column to ESPN Insider for the second straight year.

For those of you unfamiliar with the column, the underlying theme is the idea of using contrarian betting strategies to find value in the NFL. Because of survivor pools, fantasy football and the extreme popularity of the NFL in general, the sports betting market is flooded with "public money." For the purposes of this column, we consider public money to be wagers made by recreational bettors as opposed to those made by professionals, or "sharps."

Public bettors often overreact to blowouts, winning streaks and against-the-spread (ATS) streaks, and consistently place wagers based heavily on recent results. Oddsmakers can accurately anticipate one-sided action from public bettors and react by shading lines to force these bettors to take bad numbers when playing the popular side of a game.

This shading creates added value for bettors willing to go against the grain and take the underdogs in these games.

To find contrarian value, the team at SportsInsights.com has built a sports betting database that includes valuable historical information like NFL line data, public betting percentages, team and player stats, streaks, ATS stats, weather information and more. Using our Bet Labs data analysis software, users can apply a combination of 190 filters to find historically profitable trends and quickly develop winning betting systems.

Throughout the offseason, we added a handful of new filters to Bet Labs. With the help of these new filters, I developed an NFL betting system with a 61.5 percent ATS win rate and a plus-20.3 percent ROI (return on investment) that is highlighting five games to bet in Week 1.