How to Bet Week #1 of the 2020 NFL Season (Betting Totals)

1. Introduction

The pandemic has forced the NFL to shorten training camps, and also to cancel all preseason games. That will have a HUGE effect on how Week #1 plays out; take advantage of it! In this article, I will suggest a very simple, and yet potentially very lucrative betting strategy for the opening weekend in the NFL.

2. Effect on Offense and Defense

Moving the ball effectively on offense and scoring points requires good timing. The quarterback and his receivers must be in sync, otherwise the play is a complete failure. When running the ball, the blockers must know how to react to what defenses are throwing at them. It really helps when the offensive linemen have had plenty of time to play together, and know instinctively how their teammates are going to react in each situation.

On defense, timing is not nearly as important. For example, if you are a cornerback and you are playing man-to-man, all you need to do is shadow the receiver in front of you. Period. If you are a linebacker and you are asked to blitz, then you hit the hole and rush the passer.

Coordinating with your teammates it not nearly as important on defense, in my humble opinion. I’m not saying that timing is useless on defense, only that it’s less important than it is for the offense.

3. Suggested Betting Strategy for Week #1

For these reasons, I expect offenses to struggle a lot more than usual in Week #1 of the 2020 NFL season. In other words, I anticipate low-scoring games.

As a consequence, my simple betting tip for Week #1 in the NFL is to bet the under on all 16 games. It doesn’t get any easier than this.

4. Already Taken Into Account?

You may argue “Perhaps oddsmakers have already taken this information into account, and the lines on totals are lower in 2020 than in past years?” That’s an interesting point, which is worth digging a little deeper.

Let’s dive into the actual numbers. The average total from this year’s 16 games in Week #1 turns out to be 46.4. Here are the same numbers, but this time calculated in each of the previous five seasons in Week #1:

  • 2019: 45.9
  • 2018: 44.7
  • 2017: 45.7
  • 2016: 45.1
  • 2015: 45.4

As you can see, this year’s totals in Week #1 are the highest we’ve seen in recent years.

This is a GOLDEN opportunity for all of us. You won’t see such short training camps and high totals very often in your life.

5. More or Less Scoring in Week #1 Historically?

I looked at data from the past 10 years to verify if, historically, the first week of the season led to more/less scoring than the following weeks.

5.1 First Analysis

Suppose you had decided to bet "There will be LESS points scored, on a per game basis, in Week #1 versus Week #2. Also, Week #1 versus Week #3. And Week #1 versus Week #4. And Week #1 versus Week #5."

Your record, through the past 10 years, would have been 11-9.

5.2 Second Analysis

This time, suppose you had decided to bet "There will be LESS points scored, on a per game basis, in Week #1 versus Weeks #2-5 combined together."

Your record, through the past 10 years, would have been 7-3.

5.3 Final Call

Based on these numbers, one clearly cannot claim that Week #1 usually leads to MORE scoring than the next few weeks.

That being said, can we claim that Week #1 leads to LESS scoring than the following weeks? I would argue that it does, but the figures are not super convincing either.

Still, my main argument pertains to the fact that the effect will be enhanced due to the shorter preparation time for the start of the 2020 regular season.

6. Comparison to the NHL

I used the exact same betting strategy when the NHL resumed in early August. The reasoning in hockey was the same: you do need good timing in order to make good passes and accurate shots that beat goalies.

I was expecting low-scoring games when the playoffs began after a long period of time without any real action. If you look at all 12 games where both teams were playing their very first match since the pandemic took place, the under hit 9 times, while the over won on just 3 occasions. In other words, betting the under on those first games would have yielded an astounding 9-3 record.

7. Conclusion

I’m not claiming we’ll get the same 75% win rate by betting the under on all 16 games in Week #1 of the NFL. However, I’m very confident to rack up some winnings. To me, that appears to be an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

If you don't like the idea of betting all 16 unders, that's okay. My tip would be to analyze each game and pick the unders you like the best, while avoiding playing any over this week.


I’ll be back with more Week #1 betting angles and more free picks later on. Stay tuned.

You can also check out my YouTube channel.

Good luck with your plays!

Professor MJ

(Sports Betting Expert / University Professor / PhD in statistics)