Are the $4.40 Eels contenders or pretenders in finals week one?

Opening a massive $4.40 with 12 points start against the champion-elect Storm, the Parramatta Eels are the biggest longshot of week one in this year’s NRL Finals series.

But given the Eels have won seven of their last eight matches – including two wins over third placed Brisbane – and are arguably the hottest side in the NRL, are the Eels deserved outsiders, or are they the value bet of the week?

The punter’s friend

Rattling off a staggering 10 wins over the second half of the season helped the Eels jump into the top four and become the darlings of punters everywhere.

At 16-8 for the season, the Eels returned a massive +6.29 units for every dollar placed on them in head to head betting. This is marginally better than the Storm’s +6.26 units, but it’s on the road and as underdogs where the value really starts to come.

With five wins and five losses this season as outsiders, the Eels have returned +3.48 units. On the road, they are even better value with three wins from six matches and a return of +2.44.

These numbers are boosted by their two wins over the Broncos at odds. No matter the situation, the Eels were simply the team to back in 2017.

But is Melbourne a different story?

We know what you’re thinking. It’s one thing to fly home as favourites week in, week out. But how does that form stack up against the best team in rugby league?

Unfortunately, the only meeting between these sides gives us no indication, as the Storm were without their Origin stars and the Eels started rare away favourites at AAMI Park.

Since June, the Eels have only started as outsiders three times, twice to the Broncos and once to the Cowboys, meaning they’ve performed largely as expected in terms of total wins.

But punters really seem to have the Storm nailed down at home.

Over the last 12 months they have played 15 matches at AAMI Park for 11 wins and a return of a tiny +0.47 units. Interestingly, they have only been underdogs once during that time – their loss to the Eels.

It’s at the line where things get interesting. At home over the same period, the Storm are 6-9. And honestly, their demolition jobs over the last two weeks over Souths and Canberra flatter those statistics. Backing the Storm at home over this time would have lost you -3.6 units, compared to +2.52 for all matches.

The final verdict

So, if the Eels have been completely undervalued by the market all season, are they value this weekend?

Head to head, everything points to the Storm at AAMI Park being close to the best-priced team in the NRL. But at the line, they are seemingly overvalued, with most punters expecting them to light up the scoreboard more than they do.

And with a massive start available for the continually undervalued Eels, the 12 point start certainly shouldn’t be overlooked by punters.

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