The Chicago Bears start the 2013 NFL season at Solider Field, laying three points to the Cincinnati Bengals. But at least one book is willing to cut you a deal on Cincinnati’s football odds.


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Three points at home. It’s your typical NFL betting line, one that’s been posted in at least three games on the Week 1 NFL schedule. That includes Sunday’s matchup (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS) between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Chicago Bears, with the Bears laying the three points. Different sportsbooks have different levels of juice attached to this line, but as we go to press, the fine folks at William Hill have the Bengals getting five full points at the standard –110 vigorish.

Deals like this aren’t built to last. That five points represents the opening line that Will Hill posted way back in May, a line that had yet to be touched one week before kick-off. Other books opened with the Bears at –3.5 or –4. And still others have yet to post their NFL odds for Week 1. This is why the sharp handicappers shop around.

Business as Usual

Image previewAs you may have guessed by the downward pressure, sharps also appear to be lining up on Cincinnati’s side. Our consensus reports show almost 60 percent of bettors picking the Bengals against the spread, rising to 67 percent for Bengals +140 on the money line. You’ll also find 59 percent approval for the ‘Under’ on the total of 41.5 points, down significantly from 44 at the open.

Nothing particularly unusual with any of this. People who bet on the NFL professionally are more than aware that underdogs have value, and that the underdog-Under parlay is always worth a look. But there is the matter of that Week 1 NFL betting trend, the one where non-playoff teams from the year before are 38-22-1 ATS against playoff teams since 2004.

Seed Money

Doesn’t seem quite right that the Bears are the non-playoff team in this equation. These two Rust Belt franchises shared the same record during the 2012 regular season; the Bears were 10-6 SU and 7-9 ATS, while the Bengals were 10-6 SU and 9-6-1 ATS. That was good enough for an AFC Wild Card for Cincinnati, but Chicago lost the NFC’s No. 6 seed to the Minnesota Vikings, who had the better divisional record in the NFC North.

Statheads will tell you that the 2012 Bears had the better season. They posted a higher point differential than the Bengals, plus-98 to plus-71. The efficiency numbers at Football Outsiders have Chicago ranked No. 6 overall with the best defense in the NFL, while Cincinnati was No. 12 overall and not particularly gifted at any one aspect of the game. And looking at Estimated Wins, the Bengals outperformed their level of play by 1.3 victories, while the Bears underperformed by a full win.

Proving Ground

That top-ranked Bears defense should be fine this year without retired LB Brian Urlacher -it’s that No. 26-ranked offense that needs work, and that’s where new head coach Marc Trestman comes in. Trestman enjoyed immense success in the CFL, winning two Grey Cups with the Montreal Alouettes before taking over in the Windy City. His West Coast offense is already drawing positive reviews from Chicago watchers. And the Bears offensive line should be much improved this year with first-round pick Kyle Long at right guard.

The Bengals have a good thing going on, and are definitely in a better situation than they are most years. But they’ve only made marginal improvements on their 2012 roster. That leaves almost no room for betting value against the NFL odds. Therefore, with my first (early) sports pick in the 2013 regular season, I’m taking the Chicago Bears at the best price I can find right now. I expect these lines to start heading in the other direction later in the week as the public comes in.

NFL Pick: Take Chicago -3 on the spread at 5Dimes

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