Green Bay Packers Against The Spread: Week 1

Hello all. I am Tanner Nestle, Green Bay Packers super fan, new Packers Talk contributor, and amateur handicapper extraordinaire. Last year I was just above 48% on picks against the spread on ESPN’s Pig Skin Pick ‘Em, which doesn’t sound that impressive, but it was good for the 73rd percentile among all users. If I’m allowed to brag, that’s pretty good. Beating almost three quarters of the public is where you want to be.

I plan to post weekly to PackersTalk.com (the site you’re on now!) about the Packers and how they stack up against the spread, also known as ATS. We want the Packers to win every single week on the field, but going undefeated against the spread is even more difficult.

The thing to remember about the spread in NFL games is the numbers are not projections, so it’s not as simple as outperforming expectations. Point spreads are made based off the public perceptions of teams, which is why beating the public is great. They often resemble a similar score to what we would expect the difference to be between two teams, but that’s precisely the goal of the oddsmakers and it’s a sign they are doing their jobs well. As good teams play well and cover the spread, the betting public will continue to pick them, which means the oddsmakers will adjust and weigh the spreads more against that good team. This is because the goal for oddsmakers is to get as close to the same amount of money on both sides of a bet so they don’t go broke when one side wins. The reason they still make a profit because there is never such thing as a fair bet when a middle man is involved like a casino or betting website. You can see this when both sides of a spread are -110, or some variation. That means you need to wager $110 to win $100. The casino/website keeps the extra $10 as profit.

Anyway, now that I’ve gotten that general backup knowledge out of the way, which I can go more in depth on later, we can talk about the Packers and their upcoming game against the Minnesota Vikings. The Packers are anywhere from 2.5-3.5 point underdogs this week, depending where you look. That is likely due to the Packers being the road team, which is usually a boost in three points to the home team. Taking out the home-field advantage, the Packers and Vikings are being perceived as essentially equal. I think that’s fair, all bias aside. But without any fans in the stands yelling an Icelandic soccer chant at Aaron Rodgers and co. that might be something to disregard.

If you believe the Packers will win the game, then taking them to cover the spread is obviously an acceptable wager. Coming into the season, most Packer fans, myself included, think the Packers will win this game. I’m a bit surprised to see the spread where it’s at because I would have thought the public would agree. The Packers have the clear edge at quarterback (sorry Vikings internet trolls) and they aren’t replacing their offensive playcaller – Kevin Stefanski out, Gary Kubiak in – and a major offensive contributor – Stefan Diggs out, rookie Justin Jefferson in – like Minnesota.

Minnesota just traded for Yannick Ngakoue who is going to make a strong pass rush even stronger, and a good defense even better. The defensive side of the ball is the only place I can see Minnesota having any sort of advantage in this game. At least in the public’s eye. But the Packers have a strong defense as well and have a sneakily elite pass defense with the combination of the rush and secondary. In a passing league, that’s what you want.

There’s no telling where the Vikings will go with the offense this year. Under Stefanski last year the Vikings were a run-heavy team, but that was attributed to Mike Zimmer wanting to run more. I assume the Vikings will do a lot of this same this year and will make a point to run a lot against the Packers given it’s their weakness on defense.

Now for the all-important question: Will the Minnesota rushing attack be enough? I don’t think so. And to follow up, will the Packers be able to protect Aaron Rodgers from what is undoubtedly a top tier pass rush? I think they can do just enough. The Packers are a better team, have a more creative offensive mind and continuity on both sides of the ball. With limited offseason work new coordinators implementing new systems will be at a disadvantage. And the Vikings are also relying on new players to offer major contributions on both sides of the ball. I have the Packers winning, and therefore covering the spread, to go 1-0 on the field and 1-0 ATS.

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Tanner Nestle is born and raised in Wisconsin, and he takes nothing more seriously than his fandom of the Green Bay Packers! You can follow him on twitter at @NestleIsTheName.

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