If it's Saturday, then it's time for Vegas Says, where I take a look at the latest NFL betting odds and determine if I can pull out the good fantasy football information buried in there. First, the standard disclaimer:
Las Vegas oddsmakers generally have the some of the best insight into NFL football you'll find anywhere. They have the latest information on players and injuries and can effectively convert that information into projections about game results. That's exactly what we do as fantasy football owners, except that oddsmakers generally have better access to all-you-can-eat buffets.
In addition, since the odds change as people's contribute their opinion (through their betting decisions) there is an aspect of the wisdom of crowds at play as well.
All odds are from sportsbook.com. The home team is listed first.
Jaguars (-7) vs Titans - This was the biggest spread of the week and the oddsmakers seem to have no problem with David Garrard taking over at quarterback. The Jags scoring offense was one-dimensional last year (2nd in rushing touchdowns, tied for 22nd in receiving touchdowns) and there doesn't seem to be anything changing this year. Given that, it doesn't appear as though the Titans offense or the ability of the Titans defense to stop the run is getting much credit.
Cowboys (-6) vs Giants - This line surprised me as I expected the two teams to be more evenly matched. But the oddsmakers like Dallas a lot which makes me wonder if this is a comment on the Giants defense or the Cowboys defense. Probably both, which means that teams starting Eli Manning, Plaxico Burress or Brandon Jacobs could be in for a rough day.
Chargers (-6) vs Bears -- If the Giants-Cowboys line surprised me, this line shocked me. The Bears ARE the defending NFC champions after all and they return that 2006 team pretty much intact with the notable exception of Thomas Jones. The Chargers are a very good team, but they shouldn't be considered THAT much better than the Bears. This says to me that Vegas is still dwelling on Rex Grossman's performance in the Super Bowl (which is probably unfair) or on Cedric Benson's ability to run the ball (which might not be unfair). Anybody who's planning to start Bears this week should wonder why this line is so high.
Raiders (-2.5) vs Lions - Ladies and Gentlemen, here are YOUR Oakland Raiders! The Raiders are a slight favorite over the Mike Martz-shoot `em up offense of the Lions. How can this be? Don't they know that the Lions feature Calvin Johnson?! Sarcasm aside, this is a bit surprising considering the Raiders just named their starting quarterback about 20 minutes ago...and it was Josh McCown. I think Vegas is giving a lot of credence to Oakland's superb pass defense and is severely downgrading the ability of Bell and Duckett to run the ball. If they're right, then it will affect the entire Lions offense - which means those of you who drafted Jon Kitna, Tatum Bell and Roy Williams might have something to worry about.