We're somehow already nearing the midway point of the NFL season. Every team has played at least six games with most teams playing seven. It's been a relatively calm season compared to most in terms of on-field results.
As the season progresses, we have more information and data available. Obviously, this is a plus for fans and bettors, but it's also a plus for sportsbooks. The lines are now extremely tight and finding an edge can be a daunting task.
The best opportunity to make money in the NFL is often through the lesser secondary markets. Betting first-half bets and quarter bets might provide more of an opportunity to find an edge. Additionally, there's money to be made by exploiting the prop market with wagers such as "result of first drive" or "first team to score."
Which teams have been performing well at the beginning of games and how can we use that information to take advantage of the market?
Best performing first-half teams
The Buffalo Bills have been the league's best team in the first half of games. Their average margin of victory in first halves this season has been 11.2 points. They are 5-1 against the first-half spread. The Bills are outscoring their opponents by a score of 38-3 in the first quarter. They have scored first in five of six games, and they've scored on five of their six opening drives. Their defense has been just as impressive, allowing just one opening-drive score and no touchdowns. Buffalo is scoring 18.5 points and allowing just 7.3 points on average in first halves; both marks are second best in the league.
The Arizona Cardinals are undefeated to begin the season, so it's no surprise to see them performing well in first halves. The Cardinals are outscoring their opponents by an average score of 18.4-10.6 in the opening half. A lot is made of the Cardinals' offense, but their defense has only allowed one opening drive touchdown. Speaking of the Cardinals' offense, Kyler Murray and Co.'s average of 18.4 points is the third-best mark in the league. Arizona is 5-2 against the first-half line this season.
The Cleveland Browns might be a slight disappointment to some to begin the year, and their injury situation is problematic. However, they've done a very good job in the first half, covering the first-half spread five times in their first seven games. The Browns are averaging 14.4 points scored per first half and have an average margin of victory of 4.4 heading into halftime.
Worst performing first-half teams
The New York Jets aren't very good, but the problem becomes even bigger in the first half of games. They have yet to score a first-quarter touchdown and have not recorded points on any of their opening drives. Through six games, they’ve been outscored 44-0 in the first quarter and 106-20 in the first half. They have just two first-half touchdowns on the season. They are scoring just 3.3 points per first half, which is less than half of the second-worst mark in the league. They’re also allowing 17.7 points per first half, the league's second-worst mark. The Jets have not scored first in a game yet this season. New York is 1-5 against the first-half spread.
Philadelphia has a 1-6 record against the spread in first halves. The Eagles have been fine in the first quarter of games, but things really get away from them in the second quarter. They’ve been outscored 59-14 in the second quarter of games this season. They are losing the first half by seven points on average. Philadelphia has done well with scripted plays, scoring on over half of its opening drives, but it can’t seem to adjust.
We all know about the Chiefs' struggle against the spread, and their performance against first-half spreads isn’t much better. The Chiefs are 2-5 against the spread in the first half. They’ve been outscored by 7.4 points on average. Their defense is allowing 18.6 points on average in the first half, the worst mark in the league. Kansas City has scored first in just three of seven games, which is hard to believe with an offense this electric.
Dallas is averaging 8.7 points scored in the first quarter of their games, and Tampa Bay is averaging 8.4. No other team is averaging more than 7 points scored in the first quarter.
Detroit, Denver, New Orleans, Washington, Atlanta, Las Vegas, the Giants and the Jets are all averaging less than 3 points scored in the opening quarter of games.
Buffalo, the Giants, Cincinnati, Carolina, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and the Rams are all allowing less than 3 points on average in the first quarter.
Despite a pedestrian 3-4 against-the-spread record in the first half, Miami has scored first in six of its seven games. In games started by Tua Tagovailoa, it has touchdowns on three of four opening drives.
Buffalo has scored first in five of its first six games. Tampa and Carolina have scored first in five of seven. These teams are scoring first at the highest rate.
The Jets have yet to score first this season. Washington has scored first just once in seven games. Green Bay, New Orleans and Jacksonville have each only kicked off the scoring twice in their games.
Minnesota has scored on five of six opening drives this season with three touchdowns. The only teams scoring touchdowns on at least half of their opening drives are Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Buffalo.
Houston, Carolina, the Giants, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Dallas and Pittsburgh have all only allowed one opening drive score against them all season. No team has allowed zero.
Highest-scoring first-half teams
These teams are scoring the most points per first half:
Tampa Bay 19.3
Lowest-scoring first-half teams
These teams are scoring the least points per first half:
NY Jets 3.3
NY Giants 6.9
Best first-half defenses
These teams are allowing the fewest points in the first half:
New Orleans 8.3
New England 9.3
Worst first-half defenses
These teams are allowing the most points in the first half:
Kansas City 18.6
NY Jets 17.7
Best first-half margin of victory
These teams are outscoring their opponents in the first half:
Tampa Bay 9.7
Worst first-half margin of victory
These teams are getting outscored by their opponents in the first half:
NY Jets -14.3
Kansas City -7.4
NY Giants -5.4
Teams with highest-scoring first halves
These teams play in games with high-scoring first halves:
Kansas City 29.7
Tampa Bay 28.9
Teams with lowest-scoring first halves
These teams play in games with low-scoring first halves: