Best Bets of the week

NFL playoffs betting: Try not to consider history and cover Kansas City (maybe)

Saturday, 19 January 2019 15:06 EST

New England Patriots +3 at Kansas City Chiefs, over/under 56 points

The most difficult part about betting the AFC Championship Game is separating the real numbers and trends from the reputations and histories – not to mention the endless noise about the Teflon excellence of the NFL’s version of Anakin and Luke Skywalker.

And there’s good reason for obfuscation caused by history: The Patriots – and Andy Reid – have great gobs of the stuff, spread throughout the NFL record books of the 21st century. Stuff like the Belichick/Brady Patriots are a crazy 27-10 SU (22-16 ATS) in all playoff games including Super Bowls, but they’re just 3-4 SU/ATS in away playoff games (on the other hand, all four such losses came at Denver and/or Peyton Manning’s teams).

Despite all the young talent on the Chiefs, Kansas City too has playoff history. Well, Reid does, anyway, and it doesn’t look great. With the win last week – which a cynic could ascribe to the coach’s 21-4 SU record when coming out of a bye at any point in the season or post-season – Reid’s teams are now 12-13 SU in the playoffs and are on a 2-7 SU/ATS “run”.  

So how about the weather? Considering that both teams play ball in the cold and that forecasts all week have stated that no precipitation of any sort is expected, we’re calling this one neutral. The football itself gets hard and heavy when the temperature is in the 20s, you say? Mahomes has shown that he could probably chuck a cinderblock 50 yards downfield (and complete the pass!), while Brady won’t be lofting long bombs regardless and he’ll be certain to have those pigskins deflated to the exactly appropriate pressure.

(That’d make a great proposition bet: Over/under 12.75 ppi on the pressure of Tom Brady’s balls. Wait, that came out wrong…)

As excruciating as dogma like “You’re gonna bet against the Patriots?!?!?!?” is, two decades or so of history cannot be ignored altogether. Fine. We’ll submit this for consideration, then: On a talent level in the passing game, these Patriots are the weakest since 2006, the season prior to the Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth signings – no coincidence there. And one may argue the impressiveness of the Patriots running game recently, but the truth is that the ’06 team had Corey Dillion, arguably the greatest Pats RB ever, and he was simply stuffed in two playoff games despite a gaudy four goal-line TDs socred.

Andy Reid’s game-clock management “skills” are well documented enough elsewhere so that NFLbets needn’t go into the minutiae here, but if we’re talking history here, the Chiefs have a huge advantage in that future Hall of Famer Travis Kelce will be able to dominate an improved but still ho-hum Patriots secondary.

Round and round goes the logic, but everything comes back to the Patriots having some advantage or another in the abstract, whereas the hard realities favor the Chiefs. After all, consider the apparent contradiction of talking heads and fandom insisting Belichick ‘n’ Brady can’t lose, yet the line of Patriots +3 has remained stable since Sunday night; this tells NFLbets that the sharps’ money is balancing out hyped-up NFL bettors willing to bet on continuation of the Evil Empire just because we can’t imagine the other possibility.

NFLbets is therefore going to play this one a little differently. First off, we’re advising to <strong>take the over on an over/under of 56 points</strong>. That’s right: We’re not swayed by impressive defensive performances of last week, low temperatures or even windy conditions. All the best skill players are lining up against the Patriots, while the Chiefs are the most penalized and among the most porous defenses in the NFL. Points will be scored.

We’re also playing conservative and advising to <strong>take the Chiefs ML at -165</strong>, but keep the online sportsbook site open. If the Patriots get the ball first – especially if they’ve won the toss and elect to receive – click away and <strong>take the Patriots +3</strong> immediately before the odds decrease.

You know that horrible cliché, “Whichever team has the ball last is going to win this game?” It’s an insipid, meaningless observation; think about it: no matter what teams are playing or at what point in the game you declare this nonsense, you have an exactly 50% chance of being correct. Well, Belichick at some point before last week decided that the far more reasonable assertion is that “Whichever team gets the ball *first* is going to win this game.” Particularly when outgunned, first possession allows a thinking side with a veteran über-QB the potential to set the pace for the entire game and at best kill half a quarter of playing time.

Do the Dark Lord and Jedi Master have one more sequel in ’em…? This could be tense.

NFLbets Best Bets record in 2018-19: 39-32-2.

NFL Playoffs Betting: This may be crazy, but NFLbets loves Rams +3½ in NFC Championship

Thursday, 17 January 2019 15:19 EST

So thanks a lot, NFL. Go ahead and leave us with the four teams we thought would be in the conference championship games all along. Thanks to the Chiefs, Patriots, Rams and Saints as well for having terrific, point-scoring offenses which defy statistical analysis and great opposition coaching alike And thanks most of all to the bookmakers, for setting both the AFC and NFC Conference games with the Oddsmaker’s Tie, i.e. a 3-point spread favoring the home team.

Make it easy, why don’tcha.

While the fans are certainly in for some fun (or, in case of blowout, simply fascinating) games this weekend, NFLbets and NFL bettors are certainly sweating a bit over wagering on these things. But let’s see if NFLbets can’t scope out a couple of bets worth making – gods know we could use some, with our shaky performance thus far in the playoffs…

We begin with

Los Angeles Rams +3½ at New Orleans Saints, over/under 56½ points

NFLbets starts the thinking with the premise that the coaching edge will more or less cancel out. Look, few folks are in a position to estimate the relative football intelligence of a Sean Payton versus a Sean McVay, and we ain’t among them.

Beyond this, three key matchups should determine this game.

• The Saints pass rush vs the Rams OL (and Jared Goff). If the Saints can rush the too-frequently checking-down Goff like they did Nick Foles last week, Rams backers get the proverbial long day on the field. But after 17 games of the same five guys playing on nearly every single offensive snap in 2018, the L.A. OL is playing peak football at the right time, i.e. right now: In the past two games, they’ve allowed zero sacks and the offensive has committed zero turnovers in the past two games.

Keeping the Saints at bay and/or getting the ball out of Goff’s hands really quickly will be imperative for the Rams. After all, despite all the protection his line gave him last week, the L.A. QB was just 15 or 28 for 186 yards.

• Todd Gurley and (yes) C.J. Anderson vs the Saints run defense. Here’s a way for Goff to get rid of the ball: Lots of running plays! Against the Dallas Cowboys, the ratio of run to pass was 48:28, which is where NFLbets is guessing that McVay wants those numbers in New Orleans in order to control the clock and exploit the (big!) absence of DT Sheldon Rankins.

Folks who don’t believe that McVey’ll call for Anderson to get 20-25 touches again hasn’t been paying attention – this dude with a fullback’s sensibility and halfback’s speed has been breaking down defenses, freeing Gurley up and re-enlivening the play-action. In short, the no. 2 the Rams have so sorely needed since drafting Gurley.

And that New Orleans turf surface can only help…

• Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr. vs Marcus “Gumbo” Peters and Aqib Talib. Thomas has been playing at otherworldly levels, and how can the Rams stifle this weapon? Peters has been, likesay, extremely underwhelming at best without Talib in the lineup:

          -- In all 17 Rams games: 240.5 yards per game passing
          -- In 10 games with Talib: 230.5 ypg
          -- In 7 games without Talib: 266.7 ypg
          -- In the past 6 games, i.e. since the bye: 209.9 ypg.

Note, too, that Talib’s statistics include the game against the Kansas City Chiefs in which Patrick Mahomes et al ran up 448 on Talib and Peters. Thomas may be tough to stop – even for Talib – but, just as with the offensive line and the running game, the Rams have been waiting a long time to get this aspect of their game to this level of play.

Additionally, Los Angeles may not even need Talib and Peters to play perfect ball (and Rams fans can attest to the fact that Peters has played far from perfect ball in 2018-19). Double teams have proven to be the only method of stopping Aaron Donald this season, and the Saints currently have two offensive linemen (Ryan Ramcyzk, Max Unger) listed as “questionable” on Thursday afternoon plus Andrus Peat, who will be playing with a broken hand.

NFC Championship Game: NFLbets’ Best Bets

NFLbets actually had no idea that the Rams had such a strong case to win this football game before beginning this piece. We won’t prescribe a Rams money line (ML) bet at +150, but we will be covering this. For official Best Bets for the NFC Championship Game, we’ll saying take the Los Angeles Rams +3½ at the New Orleans Saints.

We’re also betting (literally) on a run-heavy, ball-control game here. A 30-27 or 30-26 final score would imply at very least nine scores and more likely 11 or 12, which feels like way too much. Take the under on an O/U of 56½ points.

NFLbets Best Bets record in 2018-19: 39-32-2.

NFL playoffs betting: You’ve always known it was the New Orleans Saints

Sunday, 13 January 2019 09:57 EST

See, this ain’t wild card weekend no more. After going 4-0 SU(!) last week, the much-touted Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys went down SU/ATS despite rather generous point spreads. After all, many have taken for granted the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams’ appearances in at least their prospective conference championship games.

In this divisional round, chalk is talking once again. Updating a stat from yesterday, the home team – in all cases the favorite – is on a 12-3 SU (11-4 ATS) run in conference championship games. Put it down to the weather, the continued travel (we’ll see how the Chargers look today after having gone Los Angeles to Denver to L.A. to Baltimore to L.A. to Boston) or the inherent advantages of a bye week, this is one trend NFLbets believes won’t regress yet and certainly not for

Philadelphia Eagles +8 at New Orleans Saints, over/under 52 points

Before NFLbets starts anything, we’re throwing away the concept of “Foles Magic.” Concepts which cannot be quantified have little purpose in the serious NFL bettor’s analytic tools. And even believers have got to admit that the dude have the tiniest amount of fairy dust last weekend: Sure, Foles and the Eagles offense looked solid on the game-winning fourth quarter drive, but the game wouldn’t have been on the line at all if the Jolly Blonde Reaper hadn’t been handed a TD drive by a defense who’d briefly morphed into the Jacksonville Jaguars’. (Twelve men on the field? Who gets called for that in the playoffs?)

So let’s talk the numbers, in which we may find truth.

The Saints haven't exactly been dominant lately, going a mere 1-4 ATS (3-2 SU) since Thanksgiving. NFLbets isn't going to take this too seriously, as the win over the Falcons on the holiday put New Orleans at 10-1 and essentially had all but clinched the NFC South title. The mark also includes the week 17 loss against the Panthers in which second-stringers played.

Instead let’s remember that, after the win over Atlanta, the Saints had gone 9-2 ATS and 5-1 ATS at home. Not only this, this first half of New Orleans’s season was actually more difficult and included a 3-0 SU/ATS mark against playoff teams. One of those wins was the 48-7 pasting of these same Eagles (sorry, with mere mortal Carson Wentz at QB) in week 11.

As for the Saints offense vs the Eagles defense, well, this may be a mismatch. Drew Brees has once again driven New Orleans into the top 10 in most offensive statistical categories, and this offense’s efficiency can defy measure or description for stretches. Brees brings his ridiculous 74.4% completion rate against an Eagles defense ranked 30th in completions and passing yardage.

Eagles backers may point to Philly’s run defense, which ranks no. 1 in attempts, is top-10 in most rushing stats and gets the no. 9 in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. But geez, the Eagles have proven just as susceptible to stud halfbacks relying on either power or evasiveness as any other team: They gave up 100+ to Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott twice each.

While doing a decent job stuffing Christian McCaffrey and Cam Newton in week 7, Saints RBs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram went for a combined 174 yards and two TDs on the ground alone in the aforementioned win over the Eagles – and certainly not even the most ardent Foles supporter could blame this on Wentz.

The truth is that Sean Payton is certain to vary up the playbook from his Saints’ last meeting with the Eagles, but by how much will he need to? The only teams which have been able to stop New Orleans scoring at will have been the Cowboys (in week 13) and the Panthers (in week 15), both superior defenses to Philadelphia’s.

As uninteresting as it sounds, go chalk to close out the weekend: Take the New Orleans Saints -8 against Philadelphia.

(Come on, we’ve known it was going to be Rams/Saints in the NFC Conference Championship Game for a while now…)

NFLbets Best Bets record in 2018-19: 38-30-2.

NFL playoffs betting: In Colts-Chiefs AFC Divisional, we’re picking the Snow Miser

Saturday, 12 January 2019 10:08 EST

Well, at least this one’s easy:

Indianapolis Colts +5 at Kansas City Chiefs, over/under 56½ points

The clever NFL bettor is already investing in this game and might be throwing in more as the time ticks down to kickoff. Much hand-wringing is happening over Colts-Chiefs, all the contradictions and what-ifs boggling minds everywhere. Seriously?

Off the top of NFLbets’ head, the following are some of the apparent bafflers.

• The Colts are on a 10-1 SU – though just 6-4-1 ATS – run.

• Underdogs have covered the spread in seven consecutive playoff games and are on an overall 13-2 ATS run – but the home team is on a 12-3 SU (11-4 ATS) run in conference championship games.

• Among the aforementioned 11 games were just two against playoff teams – Indy played admirably, crushing the Dallas Cowboys 23-0 in week 15 and dominating the Houston Texans last week.

• And the Colts certainly did seem to dominate last week – but didn’t score or truly even threaten to over the game’s last 35 minutes.

• The Colts have a top 10 defense statistically – but have played the league’s easiest schedule.

• Patrick Mahomes is 21st-Century Football God – but he’s never played in a playoff game.

• Andy Reid is 20-4 SU lifetime when coming off a bye week – but just 11-13 lifetime in the playoffs and on a 1-7 SU/ATS “run.”

Whatever. has the only statistics NFLbets needs to place some wagers on Colts *at* Chiefs:

Weather for Colts-Chiefs game bets

Weather for Colts-Chiefs game betting

Combine this with the obvious choice from Frank Reich, i.e. attempt to keep Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and that ridiculous passing offense off the field for as much of the game as possible, the good bet is clear: Take the under on an O/U of 56½ points.

We’re also liking the possibility of any big game by Marlon Mack, so we’d load up on the appropriate player props. The over/under in the “Total Rush Yards” proposition bet is a very nice 191½ yards. Unfortunately, the over at most sportsbooks is paying under the usual -110, instead at -120 or -125.

Very tempting are the “First Score” and “Last Score” props, on which Mack is getting 8/1 odds; the former especially might be worth a few Moneys…


NFLbets Best Bets record in 2018-19: 36-29-2.

NFL playoffs betting: Gurley, Anderson, bye week enough for emphatic L.A. Rams win

Friday, 11 January 2019 11:37 EST

So Bill Simmons tells us on a recent podcast that in round 2 of the NFL playoffs, every underdog is drawing more than half the wagered cash. Like NFLbets posted yesterday: The oddsmakers are just begging u to take the ’dogs this week, and NFL bettors are responding like Pavlov’s dogs – except that Pavlov’s dogs didn’t get badly burned on wild card weekend.

Though some bettors are superstitious enough to blindly go against a tide of betting, the lack of logic is a real turnoff for NFLbets. We’ll probably be covering two underdogs in these playoffs, but

Dallas Cowboys +7 at Los Angeles Rams, over/under 47½ points

is not one of them. That’s right, NFLbets is saying to take the L.A. Rams -7 vs Dallas and we’ll probably get the push.

Forget the presence of tens of thousands of Cowboys fans in the Coliseum, forget how good Dak Prescott performed last week, forget the Dallas pass rush (not permanently, because we’ll get back to that), even forget the coaching disparity on the sideline of this game. The key to Cowboys-Rams is simple: Despite Dallas boasting the no. 1 defense against the run, they’re an incredible 28th-“best” against play action. The Rams run more play action than any team in the league, and Jared Goff has taken an NFL-leading 70-plus percent of snaps under center.

By week 14 of the regular season, teams could adjust to the Rams’ offensive game plan. Without WR Cooper Kupp at his disposal, the long bomb has disappeared from Goff’s arsenal. In week 14 at Chicago and 15 against Philadelphia, the defenses lined up as though against the Jeff Fisher-coached Rams, i.e. stacking the box with eight defenders. Dinged up and/or deemed useless by Sean McVey, Gurley went for a mere 76 yards on 23 carries in the two games. Against the Eagles, Gurley caught 10 passes for 76 yards (weird that) but took enough punishment so as to be benched for the season’s remainder.

But Goff, McVay and the Rams got help in a hurry from a surprising source: Two-time castoff C.J. Anderson came in off the street and cruised to 299 yards on 43 carries (a 6.95 ypc average!) and two TDs. Now, NFLbets isn’t about to lose our s*#&#& over a couple games against the Arizona and San Francisco defenses, but those nice in-game reps plus a bye week will have gotten Anderson prepped to bring a two-tiered attack out of the backfield that L.A. has needed all season.

An ideal Rams game plan for the divisional game would unlock an even scarier Todd Gurley should Anderson get going. The Seahawks last week attempted to wear down the Dallas front seven by consisting hitting the middle with halfbacks; the Rams with Anderson and Gurley appear far more prepared physically for that scheme than did the Seattle collective of Chris Carson, Rashard Penny and Mike Davis. With complimentary backs in the game, Goff will be able to get rid of the ball more quickly than Dallas’s hyperquick pass rush is upon him – and that pass rush will break the Rams’ middling-at-best OL.

And from the Rams backer’s perspective, the best aspect of all this is that Coach McVay is a helluva lot smarter than NFLbets, so he’ll certainly trot out one nice game plan (not to mention Todd Gurley with nearly four full weeks’ rest) for that daunted Cowboys defense to deal with. We believe in McVay. Take the Rams.

NFLbets will further double down on this narrative and advise NFL bettors to Take the 2nd Half at +100 in the “Highest Scoring Half” prop. We’re figuring both offenses come out to wear the other down, with the Cowboys working Ezekiel Elliott early in hopes of getting him past that awesome front four and onto the second level where the Rams are well more vulnerable. By the third and fourth quarters, we expect a lot more passing and longer runs.

This one could be really fun for in-game betting, too…

NFLbets Best Bets record in 2018-19: 36-29-2.

NFL playoffs betting: Faltering Chargers, Patriots offenses scream "TAKE THE UNDER!"

Thursday, 10 January 2019 10:41 EST

Damn, do the bookmakers want us to bet the underdogs this weekend – or maybe the oddsmakers are collectively in disbelief at favorites’ inability to cover point spreads. Since the New England Patriots covered 3 points against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, underdogs are a ridiculous 13-2 ATS. Heck, the last time a favorite won ATS was when the Minnesota Vikings covered 3½ points on the last f*#*#*ing play against the New Orleans Saints in last year’s 2017 divisional game.

In fact, since we’re talking

Los Angeles Chargers -4 at New England Patriots, over/under 47½ points

There’s this. Last year, the Patriots went 1-2 ATS, covering only against the Tennessee Titans, who arguably should not have been allowed into the playoffs for aesthetic considerations. A general changing of the guard currently going on in the NFL – i.e. the Broncos, Steelers, Packers and yes, the Patriots are in at least short-term decline, while the Chiefs, Colts, Rams and the like rise – apparently leads to unpredictability. After all, it’s not just Foles (and last year Blake Bortles; ’member Blake Bortles?); these “unforeseen” upsets are happening all over the place.

The latest perpetrator of such ATS wins are the “Los Angeles” Chargers, who, in addition to “upsetting” the Baltimore Ravens in the wild card game, have run up some insane numbers this season. Said numbers, which NFLbets has run before and are now updated, look like so:

• The Chargers are just 4-3 SU (3-4 ATS) in true home games;

• in week 7, they beat the Tennessee Titans in London, but did not cover the spread;

• the Chargers are 8-1 SU/ATS in away games, with the sole loss at the Rams in week 3;

• therefore, in games outside of Los Angeles, the Chargers are an incredible 9-0 SU (8-1 ATS);

• finally, in these 9 games, the Chargers averaged 26.9 points – about ½ point *more* per game than in L.A.-based games.

So yeah, in setting the line at Patriots -4, oddsmakers are begging you to bet on the Chargers, even if it’s below freezing and/or snowing in Massachusetts (as of this writing on Thursday, high temps are expected to be 28°). Secretly, however, Vegas et al are believing at least three of the four favorites are winning ATS this weekend.

Okay, NFLbets’ll call the bookies’ bluff. We believe that the Chargers do in fact cover the 4 points in this game. Why? Because the safest bet in this game is for the score to go under 47½ points.

Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is getting kudos everywhere in football land for last week’s clever game plan, which featured some 58 plays run with seven in the secondary. With safeties playing anywhere and much of the filed blanketed by a zone when four CBs dropped back into coverage, the Chargers D constantly gave Lamar Jackson bad to no looks. Think they’ll try the same or similar this week? Here’s a hint: Bill Belichick ain’t playing Madden 2019 out there.

On the other hand, history has shown that you can’t bring a pass rush against Tom Brady, and this version of his offensive line is certainly solid. In their four wins against playoff teams this season – their only four games against playoff teams, and all prior to week 8 – the Patriots OL allowed just four sacks. And in the past six games (albeit against lesser competition), just five sacks total have been registered on Brady.

The point: Brady doesn’t exactly have a lot of weaponry on this offense, playing as he is with the Patriots’ worst offensive supporting cast since the days of Reche Caldwell, but this has been (ho hum) doing enough to win all season. In fact, NFLbets’d guess that the Pats’ template for this game will be a lot more week 16 (in which three New England RBs and Cordarelle Paterson combined for 256 yards rushing and three TDs as the Pats posted 35+ minutes of ToP) than, likesay, week 14 (when Brady went 27-of-43 for 358 yards and three TDs in a losing effort at Miami).

As for the Chargers offense, well, there’s that thing about Belichick taking away the opposition’s favorite weapon. So on Los Angeles that would be … Philip Rivers, NFL supposes, but has anyone watched Rivers lately? Sure, he can take a hit and get back up, but the dude has thrown for over 300 yards just three times this season (including week 1) and just once in the second half of the year. He’s thrown for 160 yards or fewer in the past three games and in week 14 managed just 203 on 19-of-29 passing against the crippled Cincinnati Bengals.

Belichick will take a run-heavy attack all day. The Patriots defense is pretty damn mediocre against either run or pass (they’re ranked no. 19 and no. 14, respectively, in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric), but also as opportunistic as ever at no. 3 in turnovers created, no. 2 in rushing TDs allowed and no. 7 in scoring allowed overall. Atop this is a general decline in Chargers rushing production: In four of the past six games, they’ve been under 90 yards and the offense has given up 8 turnovers. Purely empirically speaking, Melvin Gordon hasn’t looked good since an injury this season and, excepting a surprise 14-yard gain, he managed just 26 yards on 16 carries against the Ravens last week.

Between the weather, generally more conservative play calling in the postseason and a recent decline in these offenses says firstly that we’re saying take the under on an O/U of 47½ points, and we’re making this the Official NFLbets Pick of the Week this week.

Additionally, this may be wacky of us, but we’re covering both sides on this game, figuring for a real grueling, grind-it-out squeaker. We say take the Chargers +4 at New England, but also take the Patriots ML at -200 – not a great return, but doesn’t a Patriots advancement feel inevitable…?

NFLbets Picks of the Week record in 2018-19: 8-5-1.
NFLbets Best Bets record in 2018-19: 36-29-2.

NFL playoffs betting: We like the Chargers +2½ at Baltimore, but “like” is a relative term

Sunday, 06 January 2019 10:12 EST

Well, that Saturday didn’t exactly go as planned for NFLbets…

Thanks to Sebastian Janikowski’s exit due to injury, Pete Carroll was forced to have his Seahawks attempt the 2-point conversion on their final touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys. This eked out the push for those who covered Seattle +2 and provided too-slight solace to those (ahem) who’d just lost money on an under-43 points prop bet. Worst thing was, this push was the only “win” we got in the primetime game yesterday.

As for the first AFC wild card game, let’s just say we *can* go to sleep on the Houston Texans now.

And we’d be more confident about overcoming a bad start to our 2018-19 NFL playoffs betting if this early game were a tad easier. For your consideration:

Los Angeles Chargers +2½ at Baltimore Ravens, under 42 points

With the winner advancing to face a verrrrrrrrrrry vulnerable-looking New England Patriots team.

NFLbets has been staring at this line all week, hoping that some obvious fact would tip the scale toward one team or the other. Extremely difficult to deal with is one insane stat which takes the 2018 “Los Angeles” Chargers beyond the realm of outlier and into freakish with each subsequent win. Those numbers look like this:

• The Chargers are just 4-3 SU (3-4 ATS) in true home games;

• in week 7, they beat the Tennessee Titans in London, but did not cover the spread;

• the Chargers are 7-1 SU/ATS in away games, with the sole loss at the Rams in week 3;

• therefore, in games outside of Los Angeles, the Chargers are an incredible 8-0 SU (7-1 ATS);

• finally, in these 8 games, the Chargers averaged 27.375 points – exactly 1¼ *more* per game than in L.A.-based games.

NFLbets has no idea why more isn’t being made of this, but it’s doing our head in. The key question here of course is how long can this team ride this wave and thus screw NFL bettors overthinking things? The Chargers have been a vogue pick to win the AFC since the preseason, but to do so could require three more SU/ATS wins on the road, as said road goes first through New England and possibly Kansas City thereafter. Could the Chargers really run up an 11-0 SU (10-1 ATS) record as the listed away team in 2018-19? It’s stunning how believable the Chargers-in-the-Super Bowl scenario is. This fearlessness, we suppose, is the adaptation to never playing before a true home crowd.

On the other side are the Baltimore Ravens whose 6-1 SU AFC North-stealing run to the playoffs was pretty impressive – at first glance. The truth is that the Ravens were graced with one of 2018’s easiest schedules: In just three games against playoff teams, Baltimore went 1-2 SU (2-1 ATS), with the sole win coming against the Chargers at (naturally) Los Angeles in week 16.

The earlier Chargers-Ravens game saw the Baltimore D handle Philip Rivers and his team’s offensive attack nicely – but Dame Fortuna was most assuredly smiling on the Ravens in that one. The Chargers defense (still rounding into shape, by the way) held Baltimore’s offense just as much in check until the third quarter when the visitors racked up 16 points based on one long connection to TE Mark Andrews, a 56-yeard field goal and a 68-yard fumble recovery return. O, and Rivers had essentially his worst game of 2018, with just 181 passing yards, two picks thrown and four sacks taken.

So … basically results as freakish as the Chargers’ season – particularly at “home” – has been.

NFLbets may regret going against the numbers (although the numbers didn’t help us much in yesterday’s Seahawks-Cowboys game) on this one, but we’re saying take the Los Angeles Chargers +2½ at Baltimore.

NFLbets Best Bets record in 2018-19: 42-33-3.

NFL playoffs betting: Damn, this Colts-Texans wild card game is one tough call…

Saturday, 05 January 2019 10:10 EST

NFLbets has been dithering about this one since last weekend, but wagers must be placed today (gotta love Saturday NFL football) so let’s talk a classic case of unstoppable force versus immovable object, namely

Indianapolis Colts +2 at Houston Texans, over/under 48 points

For all the whining so many are doing about NFL football circa 2018, repeating clichés about making tackling illegal or scheme offenses in college killing quality offensive line play in the pros et cetera, a number of teams feature balanced offensive game plans and/or quality defenses that would have been right at home in virtually any era since the 1980s.

Seriously: The Chicago Bears look like a remix of the Super Bowl Shufflers of 1986, Pete Carroll may have time-traveled to bring back an early 90s side to play alongside 21st-century QB Russell Wilson, and the Los Angeles Rams might be fielding their best all-around team in any era in any city if Jared Goff could remember how to throw more than 15 yards downfield to someone other than Cooper Kupp.

Then there are these two in the first-ever playoff meeting between AFC South teams. The Colts current OL isn’t quite at the levels of Jeff Saturday and his buddies giving Peyton Manning enough time in the pocket to order Papa John’s delivery, but for stretches is simply freakin’ awesome. Andrew Luck, who likewise evokes celebrated names when at his best, was sacked 18 times in ’18, but 10 of these came in the season’s first five games. From the strictly empirical standpoint, in December unless a play was blown, Luck had time enough to order a three-course meal, set the table for four and tip the delivery driver.

Seeking to break this front is a Houston Texans defense that has been criminally ignored by mainstream sports media. After all, this is the “what if” defense – as in “What if J.J. Watt and Jadaveon Clowney were both on the field all year?: -- the pundits and blogosphere have awaited for years. It’s finally here, it’s awesome … and no one’s noticing.

Well, NFLbets has noticed. We’ve noticed that between Watt, Clowney, Whitney Mercilus (definitely the best name in the NFL), Christian Covington (quite possibly the baddest-ass Canadian to play in the NFL) and Bernardrick McKinney, these dudes can control the line and the middle of the field with All-Pro talent everywhere at DE and LB. This is a top-5 defense in turnovers, points allowed and basically every significant running stat.

The talking heads who dig on repeating old saws about “the battle in the trenches” will adore this game, at least when Indy has the ball. (The middling Indianapolis pass rush versus the worst OL in the playoffs? Not so compelling beyond watching Deshaun Watson having to dial his way out of trouble repeatedly.)

So what happens when these two forces meet? In two games, the Texans rang up six sacks on Luck. Other than the Jaguars’ in the Colts’ fluky week 13 shutout loss, Houston’s D has proven to be the sole master of the Colts OL. Back in week 4, the Texans started to turn their season around with a 37-34 overtime win against Indianapolis in which the defense tallied four baggings of Luck. In the wild card game, we can’t really expect the Indianapolis OL to be this porous again.

In week 14, Frank Reich had his charges essentially not even try running against the Texans defense – Marion Mack’s 14 carries in that game appeared to be purely for variance – in favor of softening the Texans’ vulnerable deep coverage in the secondary. The result was T.Y. Hilton destroying Tyrann “The Honey Badger” Mathieu & Co. repeatedly on long routes to the tune of 199 yards on nine catches.

Luck was taken down twice, the only time he took more than one sack in a Colts win in 2018, but nevertheless Indy won this squeaker, 24-21. This broke the Texans’ 9-game win streak which had begun with the week 4 win against the Colts. In the wild card game, we can’t expect a second career day out of Hilton (not to mention another 4-catch, 36-yard performance out of DeAndre Hopkins).

Oh, by the way, these teams are also arguably the hottest in the league right now, with the Texans on an 11-2 run and the Colts riding a 9-1 hot streak. So, yeah.

Questions abound. Are the Colts really good enough to beat the Texans twice in Houston in one season? Can a team which allows 4½ sacks a game really advance in the playoffs? Will 32 minutes of possession time be enough for the Texans this time? Can either team produce a game-changing turnover? You see what we meant by dithering over this one.

Happily, NFLbets already has an out. Back in the preseason, NFLbets covered the Texans at 8/1 to win the AFC Championship and 20/1 to win Super Bowl LIII; we’re therefore going to hedge the hell out of this game. After sinking to Colts +1 mid-week, the point spread for this one is back up to a more palatable Colts +2. Fantastic! We’re advising that NFL bettors take the Indianapolis Colts +2 at Houston and also take the Texans money line (ML) at -125.

Whoever thought an all-AFC South playoff game could be this much fun to bet on?

NFLbets Best Bets record in 2018-19: 41-31-2.

NFL playoffs betting: Dallas Cowboys minus-2? Bwah ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaa!

Friday, 04 January 2019 11:29 EST

NFLbets would like to thank the sharps for balancing this line after an apparent tsunami of money from Dallas fanboys took the already laughable Cowboys +2½ down to Cowboys +1 versus the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC’s first wild card game. As this is written at approximately 9am ET on Thursday, January 4, this is back to

Seattle Seahawks +2 at Dallas Cowboys, over/under 43 points

The Seahawks money line (ML) is holding steady from Tuesday at +110. Fantastic – NFLbets is making this just our second Sure Bet of the 2018 season. (Though admittedly, we really should’ve listed the Seahawks minus whatever points against the Oakland/Las Vegas/London(?) Raiders in the U.K. as a Sure Bet.) Take the Seattle Seahawks ML (+110) at Dallas.

Come on, you’re not really fooled by the possum act Russell Wilson & Co. put on against the Arizona Cardinals in week 17 , are you? By the same token, NFLbets is sure you noticed how the Cowboys first-stringers running their standard game plan had their hands full with a New York Giants team missing Odell Beckham.

In how many ways are the Seahawks just flat-out better than these Cowboys? Let’s break it down this way.

Dallas offense vs Seattle defense
For a few weeks – weeks 10-14, to be precise – the Cowboys seemed to have a viable offense. New acquisition Amari Cooper’s incorporation into he Dallas offense finally gave Dak Prescott a proper weapon to throw to and the ’Pokes ran off a 5-0 SU/ATS which included three wins against playoff teams.

Since then, something has happened with the Prescott-Cooper-Jason Garrett triangle; maybe Amari’s not returning Dak’s calls or Garrett’s dog ate the least few remaining pages of his playbook. Whatever the cause, the Cowboys have looked bad first getting shut out by the Indianapolis Colts in week 15 before closing out the season on an 0-3 ATS run.

After snagging 10 passes for 217 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles in week 14, Cooper has had 14 receptions combined in three games. Cooper’s 11 targets in the Giants game included two drops and two balls bounced yards in front of the receiver. Worse yet for Dallas, the Seahawks defense would likely prefer a steady diet of Ezekiel Elliott runs and Prescott doing improv anyway: Seattle’s D has been the proverbial bend-don’t-break in 2018, ranking just 30th in yards per run attempt but 4th in rushing TDs allowed and no. 1 overall in fumbles induced. Advantage: Seahawks.

Seattle offense vs Dallas defense
The Dallas defense is both flying under the radar and badass: They’re no. 9 in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, including a top-five rushing defense. Fair enough, but who has been able to stop Wilson-to-Tyler Lockett in 2018? Exactly no one in 16 games, particularly the Cowboys, who in week 2 “held” Lockett to one TD on 82 total yards of offense plus 92 more on special teams returns.

Beyond Lockett, the Seattle offense isn’t exactly multi-faceted. Undrafted Cinderella story Chris Carson has been as good as the hype promises as 4.7 yards per carry for 1,151 total and 9 TDs, but his (and to some extent Rashaad Penny and Mike Davis’s) workload is due in no small part to a thin WR corps and the especially weak offensive line. At 51 sacks, the formerly more mobile Wilson has been rushed more often than anyone in the NFL except DeShaun Watson. This OL will be the Seahawks’ kryptonite in these playoffs, but not this week. Advantage: Seahawks.

Seattle vs Dallas special teams
Neither special teams unit is particularly, well, special; Football Outsiders have both on the bubble of the NFL’s bottom 10 in special-teams performance. The Seahawks do have Lockett, who as the team’s top non-QB “skill” player will likely see an increase in responsibilities in the postseason, as is Carroll’s typical wont; so call Tyler the X-factor in this game. And who are the Cowboys bringing…? Not much. Advantage: Seahawks.

Seattle coaching vs Dallas coaching
Come on, now – you’ve got the second-best head coach in the league who evolved his team into a Super Bowl contender in what was supposed to be a rebuild year versus a dude who doesn’t play-call for offense or defense and who thrives under the perpetual low bar set by ownership.

Then again, Jason Garrett’s Cowboys are 2-4 SU (3-3 ATS, 2-1 ATS at home) against Pete Carroll’s Seahawks, so maybe … uh, no. The sick truth is that Carroll’s Seahawks are an extremely impressive 9-5 SU (10-4 ATS) in postseason games. Advantage: Seahawks.

Other numbers and trends
All the home teams are naturally favored in the first round of this year’s playoffs, but the opening line of 2½ minus the 3-5 points typical assessed for the home side implies that bookmakers would make this a “pick ‘em” or even Seahawks +1 to +1½ on a neutral field. In fact, we’re not entirely sure why the Seahawks aren’t the straight-up favorites: Home teams went just 22-18 SU (20-19-1 ATS!) in wild card games in the past 10 postseasons.

Time is literally on the Seahawks’ side here as well. One of the great mostly-untold secrets of NFL betting is that since 2001, West Coast teams have enjoyed an advantage of just over 70% ATS in primetime games *regardless of location or day of week*. This has borne out once again in 2018, as Pacific Time-based teams went 7-4-1 ATS (8-4 SU) in these games – however many, including NFLbets, wagered on the Los Angeles Rams -7 vs Minnesota in week 4, thereby resulting in a 7-3-2 (70%!) win rate for West Coasters.

On their part, the Seahawks were 3-1 ATS/SU in prime time, with the sole loss coming in week 2 to the then-utterly unheralded Bears in Chicago.

Finally, the Cowboys are a big 1-2 SU (0-3 ATS) in the playoffs since Garrett’s move up to head coach in 2010. They’re also 2-6 SU/ATS in the 21st century and 3-9 SU/ATS since Super Bowl XXX. And in this case, NFLbets’d argue that historical precedent does matter. Why? In two words: Jerry. Jones. Advantage: Seahawks.

Best bets for Seattle at Dallas wild card game
In addition to the NFLbets Sure Bet noted above (Seattle ML at +110), we’re also hedging slightly with a bet on the Seahawks +2.

We’re also advising that NFL bettors take the under on an O/U of 43 points, figuring that the Cowboys defense will allow fewer points than the those of Carolina, San Francisco, Kansas City and Arizona. (The Seahawks have averaged a neat 30.0 points per in the past eight games.) With the Seahawks and Cowboys both boasting top-8 offenses in time of possession, this won’t be a free-flying aerial experience – and if Seattle shuts down Elliott early while going up, likesay, 13-0 or 13-3 at halftime, Dallas might just go without a TD the entire game.

So how ’bout them Cowboys waitin’ until next year??!?!?!?

NFLbets Best Bets record in 2018: 1-0.

Contrary to our own advice, NFLbets has bets for *week 17* of the NFL season

Sunday, 30 December 2018 11:31 EST

Normally, NFLbets’ advice for betting NFL games in week 17 is simple: Don’t. Traditionally, teams on the bubble for the playoffs and depending on others’ results can scoreboard-watch, determine the risk involved in keeping the starters on the field when they’ll have to go next week in a do-or-die game, and kill any number of wagers by sitting the studs and taking the loss SU.

And that scenario only occurs when teams are actually still competing for a playoff spot or playoff positioning. How often in this century have two to three AFC teams – typically the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and whatever team Peyton Manning was on – been locked in with maybe two weeks left in the season? The Patriots may have a ridiculous division-winning streak going on, but a few other teams have dominated their divisions through most of the 10s: Think Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos.

Seriously, there’s a reason why any civilized fantasy football league is off for this final week of he NFL season – not even gamblers want to play in this potential randomness!

Week 17 in 2018, though, has some money-making potential for NFL bettors. The only teams fixed in their playoff spots are New Orleans and Seattle as the NFC’s no. 1 and 5 seeds, respectively. Three divisions in the AFC (naturally not the AFC East) could still flip, both no. 6 spots are wide open. Folks, the 9-6 SU Tennessee Titans could go so high as the no. 2 seed in the AFC or be eliminated altogether.

Plus, with a 47-35-3 mark, or 57.3% success rate, thus far into 2018, NFLbets is feeling the need to beef up the bankroll a wee bit more heading into the playoffs, as certain awesome bets are already materializing. (Imagine being able to bet against Kirk Cousins, against the Patriots, for the Ravens, for whoever is playing Dallas…)

Chicago Bears +6 at Minnesota Vikings, over/under 40½ points

The way NFLbets figures it, this game can go one of two ways: Either the Bears pass rush goes medieval against the seriously low-watt Vikings offense (they’re currently 17th in overall yardage, 30th in rushing yardage and have produced fewer than 300 yards of total offense in four of the past seven games) or Matt Nagy will take his foot off the pedal and go to second-stringers should the Rams start running up the score in San Francisco.

And the truth is that the Bears’ second team can still stifle the Vikings offense; Cousins & Co. have topped 24 points just once in the second half of the season – against the Miami Dolphins two weeks ago. Further, Minnesota is just 1-5 SU (1-4-1 ATS) against teams still in the running, and the sole SU win came against the Philadelphia Eagles in week 5.

(Perhaps we should all be hoping for the Vikings to eke out this win and take their nasty defeat in Chicago next weekend; beats having Nick Foles f*##@!ing things up at the sportsbook again.)

In any case, the course of action for NFL bettors is clear in this one: Take the under on an O/U of 40½ points.

New York Jets +13½ at New England Patriots, over/under 46½ points

Steve Young and his ESPN compadres can talk up the Patriots all they want, but even in a good year for the team, this is a ridiculously high point spread. Since Bill Belichick took the Patriots job, New England has played the New York Jets nine times in the last two weeks of a season, and at least seven were mostly meaningless vis-à-vis the postseason fate for either side. In just three of these game would the Belichick/Brady Patriots have covered a spread of 13½ points, despite obvious talent and coaching gaps most years.

Why cite precedent in this “rivalry” at all, with the Jets so often in the past two decades an M-E-S-S, mess, mess, mess!? Because the numbers demonstrate two tendencies: For the usually irrelevant Jets to play balls to the wall and for Belichick to sit the starters late in the game. With the Patriots currently short a viable deep threat, a TE who can move properly and essentially an entire defense, why can’t the Jets keep this one to within two touchdowns?

In the past eight games, the Jets may be 1-7 SU (2-5-1 ATS), but they’ve kept the margin of defeat at 14 points or less in six of those games, including toughies like at Chicago, vs New England, at Tennessee and vs Houston. In short, we loved the Bills getting double-digit points against the Patriots last week, and we’re loving the underdog’s chances to cover to close out 2018. Take the New York Jets +13½ at New England.

Indianapolis Colts -4½ at Tennessee Titans, over/under 44 points

This line was off at some online sportsbooks until just about 12 hours before kickoff; NFLbets has little idea why. Despite the possibility of the Titans somehow simultaneously squeak into the playoffs and get the no. 2 seed, the now-primetime meeting of Indianapolis at Tennessee is essentially a lose-and-go-home match.

Can the bookmakers and general public really believe in a substantive difference between Blaine Gabbert and Marcus Mariota right now? The former is 2-0 SU/ATS as a starter, the latter is 7-6 SU/ATS. A line of Titans +4½ was universally released minutes after news that Mariota was “not expected” to play in the SNF game; what might this line have gone off as had Mariota been announced, wonders NFLbets…

Sure, the Titans are on a 4-0 SU (3-1 ATS) run, but those wins came vs the New York Jets, vs Jacksonville, at the New York Giants and vs Washington. In fact, since beating the Cowboys and Patriots back-to-back in weeks 9 and 10, the Titans haven’t beaten a winning team. Tennessee is also a healthy 6-1 SU (5-2 ATS) at home; fair enough.

But come on! This hair-splitting is silly; this line could be set at Titans +10½, and NFLbets would still be likely to cover the Colts. Along with the implied news on Mariota came word from the Indianapolis side that WR T.Y. Hilton and TE Eric Ebron are both likely to play. By the simplest numbers, the Colts are the hottest team in the NFL right now, enjoying an 8-1 SU (though just 5-3-1 ATS) run, though just two wins came against quality teams, i.e. the week 14 wins at Houston and vs Dallas.

As with the Vikings, NFLbets admits to some self-interest here (hopefully not toxic amounts), because we cannot wait to see a line of Indianapolis +9 at New England/Houston in round one of the playoffs. But one look at these teams should convince most observers that one of these teams is a playoff team and the other just isn’t. Take the Indianapolis Colts -4½ at Tennessee.

NFLbets Best Bets record in 2018: 39-30-2.