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Best bet, NFL week 15: Vikings -3 in Los Angeles home game; WTF?

Thursday, 12 December 2019 08:19 EST

Just as with last week’s Tennessee Titans-Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders line, NFLbets just doesn’t get

Minnesota Vikings -3 at “Los Angeles” Chargers

So what gives? Is it the East-to-West-Coast thing? The numbers may say that historically the Pacific Time-based home team is an excellent pick, but firstly that advantage always increases with lateness of game in question and secondly Eastern Time teams appear to finally be lessening the advantage. In 18 games played in the Pacific time zone with a 4pm ET, the home team is 6-10-2 ATS while the favorites are – you guessed it – 8-8-2 ATS.

This line can’t be reflective of any homefield advantage on the Chargers’ part, can it? Since moving into the Carson City soccer stadium, they’re a mind-bogglingly bad 3-10-1. Though NFLbets is continually looking for regression to equilibrium, the only thing that can stop NFL bettors from piling it on against the Chargers in L.A. is a hangover.

Is this an indication that the sportsbooks still holding onto the delusion that the Chargers are still working with a well-armed All Pro QB in Phillip Rivers? The sole real quality win this team has enjoyed this season came in week 9 as Green Bay put in their worst effort this season. And Rivers’s stats, like career lows in TD-to-interception ratio and net yards per attempt, just confirm what the eye-test shows.

Is it that would-be bettors were blinded by last week’s 45-point performance into thinking that the Chargers somehow have a viable offense? Hell, that 45 made just the third game this season these guys managed more than 26 points – the other two instances were in week 1 and at Miami in week 4. Recall, too, that last week’s opposition was the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are demoralized to levels last seen when Blake Bortles was quarterbacking.

Despite all the numbers and trends, though, the most inexplicable of all about this Vikings -3 is simply, likesay, football. The Vikings are a solid playoff team, earmarked for postseason play since the midway point. And since week 5, Minnesota is 7-2 SU (5-4 ATS) with the only losses at Kansas City and at Seattle; geez, if Kirk Cousins’s receivers had verbally kicked their QB’s butt a little sooner in the season, the Vikings might be leading the NFC North right now…

The truth is that Minnesota has just one team in the NFL to worry about before the playoffs, the team who can truly call L.A. home: The Rams. Take the Minnesota Vikings -3 at Los Angeles.

NFLbets’ Best Bets last week: 1-0.
NFLbets’ Best Bets this season: 16-13.

–written by Os Davis

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Picks of the Week, NFL week 15: Betting on regression, against Jason Garrett

Wednesday, 11 December 2019 17:07 EST

Well, week 14 in the NFL was certainly a gift for the NFL bettor: Altogether, NFLbets went 3-1 with the sole loser the Browns, who could only cover 8 rather than 8½. (As we said after the victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers which culminated in the Myles Garrett flipout, the 2019 Cleveland Browns can’t even win correctly.)

This week, though, whoo – what a lot of difficulty staring us back in the face! We’re certainly not about to go bet-free in week 15, of course, so we’ll lean on good ol’ dependable regression to the mean for answers. Here’s a handful of our conclusions, which we like to call the NFLbets Picks of the Week.

Denver Broncos +9 at Kansas City Chiefs

After a run of seriously, likesay, underwhelming performers at quarterback for the Broncos, NFLbets can’t blame fans for being high on Drew Lock, but geez, let’s not get wasted here. After all, does anyone care to admit the days when Gardner Minshew was considered the second coming of Tom Brady?

Meanwhile, has anyone noticed that this Kansas City defense has been getting consistently better throughout 2019? The running D may be bottom-10 overall, lowlighted by the five games in which the opposition ran for 180 yards or more, but that same defense has also produced nine turnovers in the past four games, good for a +5 TO differential.

And, with opposing teams often going to the pass early against the Chiefs, the KC passing defense has dragged the Chiefs from a ranking of no. 30 to no. 13 in Football Outsiders’ DVOA efficiency metric going into week 15.

We’re thinking that Andy Reid & Co. now probably have juuuuust enough tape on Lock so that this week the Broncos offense will be well stifled. And we haven’t even started talking about Patrick Mahomes, who even at the apparent 80% or so he’s running at should give a middling Denver secondary all they can handle.

O, and the Broncos are a league best 9-4 Against The Spread (ATS). Now, Denver may have exceeded expectations thus far, but … wait, has Denver exceeded expectations thus far? Nah. Take the Kansas City Chiefs -9 vs Denver.

Buffalo Bills +1½ at Pittsburgh Steelers

NFLbets admits to having turned the corner somewhat on the Bills, what with last week’s impressive showing of tenacity against the Super Bowl favorite Baltimore Ravens. After viewing the defense’s ability to handle Lamar Jackson about as well as 11 mere mortals could, we’re ready to buy them as legitimate playoff contenders. Except that, well, they lost (SU and ATS). And the simple reason for that is offense. As in “lack of.”

Again, folks tripping out about a rookie QB – in this case, Josh Allen – is hardly unusual, but let’s have a little perspective. Allen’s strength is his ability to avoid the turnover, throwing just one pick in the past eight games, but he’s nearly as adverse to taking chances. In those eight nearly pick-free games, Allen has been sacked 20 times, with half coming in the past two games as his offensive line slowly disintegrates. His top passing performance got him 266 yards at Cleveland – on 41 attempts.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s been playing smoke-and-mirrors at QB as Mike Tomlin is doing some of the niftiest coaching he’s done in a looooooooooooooong time. The Steelers’ ball-hawking defense is tops in TOs generated, no. 2 in interceptions and top-5 in passing *and* rushing yards per attempt. There’s a reason why the over/under in this game is 37, after all.

In the final analysis, then, NFLbets is advising to take the Pittsburgh Steelers +1½ vs Buffalo in what is essentially a “pick ‘em” anyway. Recall once again how Buffalo’s schedule was ranked second-easiest going into the season – now it’s coming back to haunt them and drag down that 8-4-1 ATS record, tied with the San Francisco 49ers for the NFL’s second best.

Los Angeles Rams -2 at Dallas Cowboys

We’ll admit the rational basis for this pick isn’t easy, but there’s one solid justification for backing Jared Goff in week 14: The opposition and its always-underachieving, perpetually failing head coach. Despite the no. 1 offense in yardage and a defense at least above average in virtually all areas except turnovers, the Cowboys are somehow 6-7 SU (7-6 ATS). Worse yet, they’re an insane 4-0 SU/ATS against the teams of the NFC East, which includes two classic bottom-feeders and the 2019 NFL’s biggest disappointment.

Even if we can’t put all the failure for the 2019 Dallas Cowboys’ performance on Jason Garrett, NFLbets would be more than willing to put on extra for this team’s lack of confidence in the play calling. If one member of this team turns on ESPN for five minutes, he’s certain to hear Jerry Jones insinuating that coach is on the way out, that Garrett is killing the team’s chances, that the ’Boys are an HC away from greatness…

On the other side of the field is Sean McVay, a dude no longer drawing comparisons to Bill Belichick but still clearly possessing the ability to draw up a swell game plan, as in the week 14 TCB of the Seattle Seahawks in L.A. McVay doesn’t even need to flick on the ESPN to know that the Rams pretty much have to win out for a chance of catching the Minnesota Vikings for that no. 6 seed in the NFC.

We’re figuring on McVay constructing a very deliberate and meticulous plan because his team has been 100% dependent upon getting an early lead in games. In games with the Rams leading at halftime in 2019, they’re 7-0 SU; when down a half, they’re “good” for an 0-4 SU mark. The message here: Jared Goff is fine until he must go off-book. Then, well, you see the goose egg.

In terms of talent, the Cowboys are on par or better than the great majority of teams in the league – including the Rams. But if you’re telling NFLbets that this one could come down to coaching and decision-making, well, we’ll cover whoever’s playing the Cowboys any time. Take the Los Angeles Rams -2 at Dallas.

NFLbets’ Picks of the Week last week: 2-1.
NFLbets’ Picks of the Week this season: 37-24.

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Best bet, NFL week 14: Forget the marquee games, part 2

Wednesday, 04 December 2019 13:04 EST

Most of the lines for NFL week 14 are logical enough so as not to evidence any major outliers. Except…

Miami Dolphins +5½ at New York Jets

Seriously, this one is even more confounding than that “Tennessee -3 at Oakland” line. And in even more of a game featuring teams headed in opposite directions, how are the upward-trending Dolphins getting almost a touchdown against the frankly terrible New York Jets?

Look, NFLbets believed in the new-look Jets at season’s beginning, despite head coach Adam Gase’s preseason bitching about getting “stuck” with LeVeon Bell. (Of course, because why wouldn’t you want a potential top-5 RB starting for you?) Since then, however, Gase has seemingly attempted to stymie his own team’s success by not only refusing to fully exploit Bell’s skills but essentially every member of the offense.

Like the Las Vegas Raiders, the Jets managed to fool pundits and fans with a deceptive 3-game SU/ATS winning streak of consecutive 34-point games. But even leaving aside the pretty weak competition (vs New York Giants, at Washington, vs Vegas) of those three games, the truth is the Jets have managed a weak 17.0 points per game. Removing the three wins representing literally half of the team’s total points scored in 12 games, drops them to a week 11.3 ppg.

On the other side, after starting with what appeared to be a historically bad 0-5 SU/ATS start, the Dolphins shed themselves of some high-level talent, let Ryan “The Brain” Fitzpatrick run a pragmatic offense designed for a mostly young patchwork team and design some interesting plays and game plan. The Miami front office may be willing to tank to enhance those draft picks just a wee bit further, but this team is playing with admirable heart: A nice 6-1 ATS rebound has them at 6-6 ATS overall and, though you can’t (yet) bet on it, the Dolphins have a well brighter future. Even in the short term.

Take the Miami Dolphins +5½ at the Jets.

NFLbets’ Best Bets last week: 3-0.
NFLbets’ Best Bets this season: 15-13.

–written by Os Davis

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Picks of NFL week 14: Forget the marquee games, bet these instead

Wednesday, 04 December 2019 12:53 EST

NFLbets has spent so much time culling the impossible-to-call games from the week 14 NFL slate – we’re talking Dallas Cowboys -3 at Chicago Bears; Baltimore Ravens -6.5 at Buffalo Bills; Kansas City Chiefs +3 at New England; and Seattle Seahawks -1 at Los Angeles Rams here – that this column will likely be brief. So let’s plummet right to the barrel’s bottom, beginning with…

Washington +13 at Green Bay Packers

You guessed it: We’re saying take Washington +13 at Green Bay. If you believe in trap games, you don’t need more convincing: the last three games of this season are all against the NFC North, Minnesota can still steal the division and Green bay could still miss the playoffs altogether.

And as the Packers have stumbled to a 2-2 SU/ATS record in the last four weeks, NFL bettors have got to start considering whether this team is still a viable bet against the spread. At 8-4 ATS, Green Bay is bettered only by the becoming-believable Buffalo Bills at 8-3-1; this feels like the Packers are living on borrowed time.

Now, NFLbets realizes that Washington is hardly inspiring confidence among fandom this season at 3-9 SU, but they’re respectable at 5-7 ATS. Plus, hey, they’re on a 2-0 SU/ATS run! We realize to bet on Washington in this game requires a serious leap of faith, but let NFLbets present the scenario in which Washington keeps the score within two TDs.

The D.C. defense has naturally hemorrhaged rushing yardage and TDs, as opposing offenses are almost never playing catchup; Washington has faced the 8th-least pass attempts thus far into 2019. What’s wild about that last statistic is that, despite the paucity of passing offense seen, the Washington D is nevertheless in no. 3 overall in interceptions. If Quinton Dunbar and/or Fabian Moreau perform at Player Of The Game levels, Washington at least covers the spread.

Cincinnati Bengals +8½ at Cleveland Browns

Remember at the beginning of the season when the Browns were a top-3 to -5 favorite at sportsbooks in the “To Win AFC Championship” and “To Win Super Bowl LIV” props? NFLbets does and thus does the Browns’ current records of 4-7-1 ATS and 2-3-1 ATS at home even wackier.

And besides, the Bengals are coming off that first win, right? Momentum!

Meh, NFLbets isn’t so convinced. Aside from the possibility that the New York Jets may right now be the worst team in the NFL – they’re certainly worse than any 3- or 4-win team and did lose to the 1-win Bengals – the Browns may actually be finally playing to their potential.

Head coach Freddie Kitchens, who was clearly promoted too high too quickly, is finally calling plays for all the copious offensive weapons Cleveland boasts. Last week’s SU loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers snapped a 3-game SU/ATS winning streak, and some luck and/or coaching might’ve flipped the result ATS on three occasions.

NFLbets cannot guarantee that Kitchens will effectively call for what should be a ridiculous backfield of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, but this would certainly be the game to do so: While the Bengals have predictably faced the most rushing attempts of any NFL team, they’re bottom-5 in average yards per carry. Kitchens must know his season’s on the brink, doesn’t he? Take the Cleveland Browns -8½ vs Cincinnati.

Tennessee Titans -3 at Oakland Raiders

This line makes very little sense to NFLbets, and we’re going to chalk it up to the overrating of the East Coast-going-West factor because this is a classic example of two teams going in opposite directions. The Tians are on a 5-1 SU (4-1-1 ATS) run since installing Ryan Tannehill as starting QB, with wins against a Super Bowl contender, two division mates and the pinball-machine Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tannehill’s Titans have been outdoing their Marcus Mariota-led version by a score of 29.7-15.5 per game.

The Raiders have been wildly inconsistent all season – except for two predictable thumpings at the Chiefs’ hands – but a 3-game winning streak put Chucky’s guys at 6-4 SU and into the AFC playoff conversation. And then two ugly losses turned Oakland’s playoff aspirations from “when” to “if” right quick.

In fact, the squeaking past Cincinnati in week 11 likely represents the peak for the 2019 Oakland Raiders. NFLbets isn’t saying the Raiders can’t run up a win or two more but considering the team’s best game against a bona fide playoff contender was a 31-24 loss to the Houston Texans in week 8, we’re not ready to take them against the white-hot Titans. Take the Tennessee Titans -3 at Oakland.

NFLbets’ Picks of the Week last week: 2-2.
NFLbets’ Picks of the Week this season: 35-23.

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NFL week 13 ATS results: Even the losers…

Wednesday, 04 December 2019 12:46 EST

You know what's great about NFL betting? (Well, one thing that's great about NFL betting.) That, as Tom Petty once crooned, even the losers get lucky sometimes. Judging NFL teams' performance Against The Spread (ATS) can be far more illustrative of their seasons.

For example, the Chicago Bears' Cinderella story of last season -- until the doink-doink, that is -- was reflected in the team's league-best 12-5 win-loss record ATS. To this point in the 2019 NFL season, the leader on the ATS standings board is the Buffalo Bills at 8-3-1; going into week 14, the Bills appear poised to be the lone truly surprising playoff team.

Rounding out the top 7 are the Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams at 8-4 ATS, along with the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals each at 7-4-1 ATS. With the exception of the Rams, this half-dozen has also exceeded expectations to a measurable degree, i.e. wins against the spread.

(Incidentally, a further oddity within the 2019 Rams season is the team's insane 6-1 ATS in games outside of Los Angeles.)

Looking at the NFL through bettors’ eyes can even make the execrable NFC East look good -- well ... better, anyway. These four teams are a pathetic 10-26 SU (a .278 winning percentage) combined against the league's 28 other teams. Against the spread, though, they're 15-21 (.417)!

Okay, we tried.

NFLbets’ roundup of week 13 results with scores adjusted for point spreads runs below; scores marked in bold indicate those games in which the SU and ATS result differed.

• Chicago Bears 24 at Detroit Lions 22
• Buffalo Bills 26 at Dallas Cowboys 8½
• New Orleans Saints 26 at Atlanta Falcons 25. Hope you killed it on Thanksgiving like NFLbets did, despite the anomaly of all three away teams winning ATS.

• Houston Texans 28, New England Patriots 18½.
• Pittsburgh Steelers 20, Cleveland Browns 12. Those of you already looking at playoff props take note: Pittsburgh is now looking at a four-game stretch which includes three games away, where they’re 2-3 SU (1-4 ATS). Meanwhile, the Patriots, as though desperately needing a break from the league, have three of four at home to close out the season.

• Tennessee Titans 30 at Indianapolis Colts 17. One more time: Don’t bet these AFC South games – unless you’re taking the under in a Jaguars game.

• Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25 at Jacksonville Jaguars 11. Like we said. Also, has anyone informed the Jacksonville front office and/or medical staff that the Jaguars have, likesay, zero chance at making a run at this thing and thus have no need to rush back Nick “Miracle Worker” Foles in 2019? Come on now…

• Cincinnati Bengals 22, New York Jets 3½. The Jets put together three consecutive 34-point games against bad or fading teams (the Giants, Washington, Oakland/Las Vegas) before managing a whopping 6 at home against the heretofore winless Bengals. Time to get off that bandwagon, NFL bettors.

• Green Bay Packers 27½ at New York Giants 13. Likewise, did anyone put good money down on the Giants in this one? Next time, just send it to Os Davis c/o this website, mmmkay?

• Los Angeles Rams 31½ at Arizona Cardinals 7. Insanely enough, as the Seahawks took the lead in the NFC West, they also helped keep the Rams in the race for the final playoff spot. What should make NFL bettors verrrrrrrrry hesitant to bet on the Rams the rest of the way – aside from Jared Goff, of course – is that 6-1 ATS record away from L.A.; two of the four games remaining are away, and NFLbets is expecting them to lose both ATS.

• San Francisco 49ers 17 at Baltimore Ravens 14. Here’s another great thing about NFL betting: Hilarity often ensues in the closing seconds of nearly any game with a score within a couple TDs’ worth of scoring differential.

If you bet on the 49ers +3½ or more, you spent over 59 minutes pulling for San Francisco … until Justin Tucker lined up for a FG to break the 17-17 tie. At that point, your allegiance suddenly shifted to the Ravens so that the game ends on a Ravens SU win but ATS loss.

Meanwhile, if you had the Ravens -3½ or more, your former backing of the Ravens was just as quickly blown away when Tucker trotted out. At 17-17, the only way your bet had a chance of hitting was for Tucker to botch the field goal attempt, have the game go into overtime and the Ravens win by a touchdown.

• Kansas City Chiefs 28½, Oakland Raiders 9. Don’t give up on the Raiders sneaking into the AFC playoffs just yet: They’re 6-1 SU against sub-.500 teams, and three of the last four (vs Jacksonville, at Chargers, at Denver) are also against losing teams. Hold up the crossout pen for just one more week – Chucky & Co. are at Tennessee for week 14.

• Miami Dolphins 37, Philadelphia Eagles 20½. Same goes for the Eagles: a 7-9 record is all that’s necessary to win. Thus, the division could be decided – no matter who wins – in the week 16 Dallas at Philadelphia and week 17 Washington at Dallas games.

• Washington 29 at Carolina Panthers 9½. That’s right, sports fans: Washington could still win this freakin’ thing with a 4-0 run. Considering they get the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys in the final four weeks … geez, this NFC East is absolutely brutal.

• Denver Broncos 23, San Diego Chargers 15½
• Seattle Seahawks 34, Minnesota Vikings 30. The teams with the biggest imagined home field advantages are ones for NFL bettors to watch coming down the stretch. The Broncos who, crazily enough, have posted the second-worst home record ATS over the past 15 years, are a big 5-1 ATS at home in 2019. Seattle, on the other hand, entered this season with the second-best home record, yet earned their first home win in this game. At this point in the year, NFLbets is definitely expecting these numbers to regress to the mean…

–written by Os Davis

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Best bets – or at least compelling longshots – for NFL week 13

Friday, 29 November 2019 14:00 EST

Probably Thanksgiving, which this year featured another quality episode of the Jason Garrett reality sitcom plus the Benny Hill-esque sequence of three consecutive successful onside kicks by the Atlanta Falcons that’s got NFLbets tempted into covering some longshots in week 13’s three marquee games. So let’s get the insanity started with…

New England Patriots -3½ at Houston Texans

Patriots backers have reasonable cause for optimism here: During the tyrannical reign of the Dark Lord In Bill Belichick’s time as New England head coach, the Patriots are 8-1 SU (6-3 ATS) against Texans teams of all stripes. In this era, the Pats are also 3-1 SU (2-2 ATS) at Houston, with the last meeting a 27-20 win over DeShaun Watson’s guys in week 1 of 2018.

But you know how NFLbets generally feels about history stretching back too far, i.e. such stats are fun to play with but mostly belong in halls of fame or museums. So we’ll learn back on our old favorite, regression to the mean.

The truth is that, going into the weekend, the Patriots are a nice 7-4 ATS, bettered only by the Buffalo Bills (8-4 ATS after the win at Dallas), New Orleans Saints (8-4 ATS after the win at Atlanta) and Arizona Cardinals (7-3-1 ATS). The Texans are a pedestrian 5-6 ATS, including a poor 1-4 ATS mark at home. These numbers all suggest to NFLbets that the pendulum is swinging away from New England and into the favor of Houston.

Now let’s talk that historically statistically incredible Patriots defense. Sure, numbers like “four passing TDs allowed in 11 games” are freakin’ bloody impressive, but just look at the schedule: The Pats have face one team – one! – currently at better than .500, and the was the playoff-bound Baltimore Ravens in week 9. In fact, the week 9 game represented the only week in which the Pats faced a top-10 offense and have enjoyed seven meetings with a bottom-12 offense. (OK, statistically the Cowboys are still a top-10 offense, but that 12-9 game in Foxborough may have represented the beginning of the statistical end for a side that might not even win the NFC East after all…)

Combine these numbers with the extremely poor performances the New England OL line has been turning in (they resemble the traditional Texans line more than anything) and the loooooooooooong list of injuries that Belichick is looking at, and we’ll back the healthier, more-driven Texans this week. Take the Houston Texans +3½ vs New England.

Minnesota Vikings +3 at Seattle Seahawks

This one is relatively simple. Firstly, NFLbets strongly believes that these Seahawks could well be playing in this season’s NFC Championship Game – even if it requires beating the San Francisco 49ers three times in a single season. Russell Wilson may actually be more valuable to his team than is Lamar Jackson to the Ravens, though his stat line isn’t nearly as gaudy.

Exactly why the Carroll-Wilson combo isn’t hyped on the level of Belichick-Brady or at least Payton-Brees is beyond us – these Seahawks have pulled one W after another out their proverbial butts this season with half the talent (of the Saints, at least). Seattle has eight wins of 8 points or fewer, four wins of 3 points or fewer, and two OT victories.

Most compelling of all, though, is the incredible fact that the NFL’s second-biggest home field advantage of the last 10 years has led Seattle to an 0-4 ATS mark at home thus far in 2019. This anomaly simply makes no sense and should be eradicated this week. Take the Seattle Seahawks -3 vs Minnesota.

San Francisco 49ers +6 at Baltimore Ravens

That’s right: We’re backing the West Coast going east and the still-evolving Jimmy Garoppolo over the football machine Lamar Jackson: Take the San Francisco 49ers +6 at Baltimore.

We won’t be offended if you don’t side with us on this one: Our sub-.500 mark in these “Best Bets” speaks for itself – but just hear us out.

Unlike, likesay, the Bills and Patriots, the Ravens haven’t necessarily benefitted from an easy schedule. In the past five games, the Ravens have averaged a 24-point win in the past five games at Seattle, vs New England, at Cincinnati, vs Houston and at the L.A. Rams. (Interestingly, this 5-game ATS win streak chased a 5-game ATS losing streak run up in weeks 2-6.) Such wins are likely what’s keeping the line so high against a 10-1 SU club.

On the field, Lamar Jackson has captured the collective imagination of sports media and fandom alike was his electrifying, mutant statistic-generating play – stuff like how Jackson and the Ravens are 31st in pass attempts but *number 1* in passing TDs. Like how four times in 2019 has Jackson run for more yards than the opposition’s “skill players” combined, highlighted by a 152-33 outrunning of Cincinnati in week 6.

Baltimore’s defense meanwhile is a tad overlooked by the hypesters, particularly in this game. This is a top-10 unit in most areas, though the rushing defense stats (tops in attempts against, no. 3 in yardage allowed) can be deceiving because opposing teams so often are forced to go to the pass early in blowouts.

The truth is that the Ravens D has yet to face anything like the trio of Tevin Coleman, Matt Breda and Raheem Mostert. These three have created an old-fashioned rushing attack in 21st-century by-committee fashion, giving the 49ers the NFL’s no. 1 rushing offense – not to mention the no. 2 offense in scoring. And as is well-known, San Francisco is no. 2 in overall defense and defensive DVOA, but what’s going undiscussed is the reality that Jackson et al have faced one defense of note in 2019: the Patriots, whose own numbers are slightly suspect for reasons detailed in the Patriots-Texans writeup above.

The point of all this analysis and/or rambling is that the game appears a lot tighter than the public consciousness and this point spread would have us believe – and should finish with less than a touchdown difference. NFLbets loves the 10-1 “underdog” San Francisco 49ers here…

NFLbets’ Best Bets last week: 2-0.
NFLbets’ Best Bets this season: 12-13.

–written by Os Davis

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NFL Week 12 ATS results: No more leaving bets to chance!

Thursday, 28 November 2019 11:05 EST

Finally, the last incomplete week of NFL football is over: Under the current scheduling system in the league, week 12 is the last one in which proper NFL bettors can blame themselves for not betting “upsets” and/or claiming too many unknowns are in play. Every team has played 11 games now and, though one or even two unexpected teams may rise to end the season on a surprise winning streak, we can fairly well glean where most will finish at regular season’s end.

We can expect to see more balance on the table as the sportsbooks tune the lines and odds even more finely as well. At an even 11 games played, just 12 of the league’s 32 teams are within one game of ½00 either way, as opposed to the 21 or so we should expect after 16 games.

So let’s put that last week of chance to rest with the NFLbets’ roundup of week 12 results with scores adjusted for point spreads runs below; scores marked in bold indicate those games in which the SU and ATS result differed.

• Indianapolis Colts 17 at Houston Texans 16½. NFLbets has warned anyone who will listen or read to stay away from these AFC South interdivisional games, but you wouldn’t listen, would you…?

• Tennessee Titans 37½, Jacksonville Jaguars 20. …all right, this one was actually pretty easy.

• Carolina Panthers 31 at New Orleans Saints 24. Same goes for these interdivisional NFC South games. Wait, what’s that? New Orleans at Atlanta on Thanksgiving? Ah, well, there are exceptions to every rule – especially the rules that you make up yourself.

• Cleveland Browns 30, Miami Dolphins 24. This game featured the 2019 Cleveland Browns that we expected at the beginning of the season: TDs by Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt; over 300 yards passing from Baker Mayfield; four sacks and two picks from a defense playing without Myles “The Swinger” Garrett.

Good for Cleveland – and NFLbets fully expects the Browns to take their next two ATS – at Pittsburgh, vs Cincinnati – as well. But weeks 15 and 16 put Cleveland at Arizona and vs Baltimore, leading us to believe that this preseason vogue pick in the “To Win the 2019 AFC Cahmpioship” prop is destined for an 8-8 finish. Place your bets elsewhere after week 14…

• Washington 19, Detroit Lions 12½. Here NFLbets was, thinking the Lions were set to go on a mini-run of SU wins to end the season, get Matt Patricia an extension and fool everybody into betting on them through September 2020. But, ah, it just ain’t gonna happen.

• Cincinnati Bengals 10, Pittsburgh Steelers 9½
• New York Giants 14 at Chicago Bears 13. Here’s a good bet: You can pretty much take the under in any game involving any of these teams for the rest of the year.

• Dallas Cowboys 9 at New England Patriots 7½. The greatest mystery in the NFL is just how Jason Garrett manages to hold on to his job in Dallas. To say Jerry Jones rewards loyalty has become a parodic understatement.

• Buffalo Bills 16½, Denver Broncos 3. For more on the Bills (as well as the Cowboys and Garrett’s, likesay, inability), click here. Look, NFLbets just wants to see how these guys perform against, you know, a team with a winning record.

• San Francisco 49ers 34, Green Bay Packers 8
• Seattle Seahawks 17 at Philadelphia Eagles 8. NFLbets wasn’t surprised one whit by either of these results, but reckons that the next Seahawks-49ers should be one serious bitch to bet – and a potential NFC divisional game? Forget it. Hope it doesn’t happen.

• Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31½ at Atlanta Falcons 22. Can we all agree that a 2-0 SU/ATS run by the Falcons is no big deal? At 4-6-1, hey’re still bottom-10 ATS, and NFLbets figures they’ll be bottom-5 by the end of 2019…

• New York Jets 34, Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders 0• Baltimore Ravens 42½ at Los Angeles Rams 6. We’re sorry. We’re so so sorry...

–written by Os Davis

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Picks of the week: Thanksgiving NFL games feature lots of turkeys

Wednesday, 27 November 2019 15:15 EST

It’s one of the most hallowed traditions in America, right up there with the Super Bowl: Thanksgiving Day football – and specifically betting on Thanksgiving football. Sadly, however, this year’s selection is a tad disappointing from both the fan’s and bettors’ perspectives. NFLbets will nevertheless take a stab at this underwhelming trio because hey, who’s not going to bet the Thanksgiving Day games?

Chicago Bears -2 at Detroit Lions, over/under 38 points

A couple of weeks ago, the over felt like a gimme: After all, Matt Stafford has for over a decade scored points no matter who’s on the roster; overs on Lions games were 7-2 through the first nine games. But then Marvelous Matthew gave way to broken back bones and Jeff Triskel who is, in short, a serious comedown from Stafford; meanwhile, the Bears have averaged 16.7 points per game since their week 6 bye.

Betting on under 38 points isn’t as foolhardy as may seem. Since 2015, 72 games have kicked off with an over/under of 38 points or less, and the over is only 38-34. (Interesting side note: Despite the apparent overemphasis on scoring points, through Thanksgiving, 18 games in 2019 have already carried such a low point spread; at the current rate, ’19 will see the most 38-point over/unders in nearly 15 years.) This is certainly not an original supposition on NFLbets’ part, either: This line has dumped from 40 points to 38 since opening.

So take the under on an O/U of 38 points; this way, you’ll avoiding choosing a winner and profit from what could be a real snoozer.

Buffalo Bills +6½ at Dallas Cowboys, over/under 44½ points

In order to wager on this one, the NFL bettor is left to decide which of these two teams is the bigger fraud. And if you think that’s too harsh, just ask yourself why an 8-3 team is getting a full touchdown in a dome against a 6-5 team who marginally has a head coach.

It breaks down like so. In their three losses, the Bills are 1-1-1 ATS in losing to teams with a combined 20-13 mark. Meanwhile, they’re 8-0 SU (6-2 ATS) against teams that are 27-72 altogether. That 8-3 isn’t so impressive upon a closer look, eh…?

The Cowboys schedule hasn’t been nearly as easy as the Bills’, but in similar fashion to Buffalo, They’re terrible against winning teams: Dallas is just 1-4 SU/ATS against those above .500, with the sole W coming against the Philadelphia Eagles, who could very well finish the season 8-8 or worse.

So either one of these teams is a fraud or you’re flipping a coin to pick this game. NFLbets prefers the former supposition, and we’re guessing the fraud is Buffalo. Statistically, the Bills D is top-10 in quite a few categories, but again, that competition fills in a lot of blanks. In their last six games, Buffalo has surrendered 300 or more yards of offense four times, and has been statistically outperformed on offense thrice.

Jason Garrett seemingly still hasn’t grokked that he holds one of the NFL’s best ground weapons in Ezekiel Elliott, but Zeke might pile up a lot of yards accidentally: For example, Philadelphia Eagles RBs Jordan Howard and Mike Sanders combined for 170 yards on just 26 attempts against Buffalo in week 8. On top of this, Jason Witten and Amari Cooper contributed a total of 5 yards on 6 targets and a single reception put together against a truly proper defense. Here’s to thinking they should do a little better in this one – with “should” being the operative word there.

But then there’s Garrett. Think all the moaning about Garrett’s weak coaching is limited to the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area? Well, you may be right because this team’s misfortunes typically tend to send a cool blast of schadenfreude across the other 31 NFL markets, but the stats don’t lie. And those stats say that, since hired as head coach of the Cowboys in 2010, is a pitiable 6-15 SU (and just 4-17 ATS) in all games played on fewer than seven days off. Talent or no, these Cowboys are always in trouble on a short week.

So we’re gonna split the difference here and say take the Buffalo Bills +6½ at Dallas along with taking the Cowboys ML at -290.

New Orleans Saints -7 at Atlanta Falcons, over/under 50 points

Frankly, NFLbets is surprised this point spread is so low, given that Buffalo is getting 6½ at Dallas; much of the betting public agrees with us, too since this line has gained a point since opening. We suppose the sportsbooks are putting much stock in the Falcons shocking upset of these Saints two weeks ago. But that loss plus the preceding week’s bye is sandwiched by four 30-plus point wins. Meanwhile, the Falcons have scored 30 or more twice this season – in losses to the Arizona Cardinals and Houston Texans.

Since Devonta Freeman is out for Atlanta, Matt Ryan will likely take it to the air early and often, as opposed to the week 10 game plan which featured 36 pass plays against 34 runs. The Saints boast a top-5 rush defense and a middling pass defense, so Sean Payton would certainly prefer the opposite, but Ryan is beating anyone with his arm any more: His TD numbers are down, his interception numbers are up and he’s currently posting the lowest QBR of his career (59.8).

The Saints are a better team and NFLbets sees here an opportunity for those who get burned in week 10 to recoup some losses. We’re saying take the New Orleans Saints -7 at Atlanta.

NFLbets’ Picks of the Week last week: 3-3.
NFLbets’ Picks of the Week this season: 33-21.

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Best Bets for week 12: What’s not to love about the NFC West?

Wednesday, 20 November 2019 20:08 EST

All right, NFLbets has got the Los Angeles Rams covered already among our picks of the week and we’d certainly bet the Arizona Cardinals against the bye if we could. Each team in the NFC West (with the exception of the defending NFC champion Rams) has well trumped even the highest realistic preseason expectations, and all (with the exception of the Seattle Seahawks) have proven at least fairly lucrative for NFL bettors.

The NFC West’s four teams are a combined 19-10 ATS (.655) against all non-NFC West teams; the breakdown looks like so:

Arizona Cardinals, 6-2
L.A. Rams, 6-2
San Francisco 49ers, 4-2
Seattle Seahawks, 3-4

And that 3-4 – not to mention Seattle’s 5-5 overall ATS record – is indicative of how bizarre betting the Seahawks at the sportsbook has been this season. The NFL’s second-best home team ATS is a stunning 0-4 ATS in Seattle in 2019. Crazy!

The point here is that NFLbets is loving the NFC West right now, and we’re ready to throw down more moneys on the Seahwaks and 49ers – probably the top two teams in the NFC.

Green Bay Packers +3 at San Francisco 49ers

Speaking (writing?) about exceeding expectations, how about those 8-2 Packers? Good stuff, NFLbets’d say … before checking for chinks in the armor.

The Green Bay defense has gotten many accolades – particularly when carrying a shaky offense in the first few games of the season – but are statistically pretty average and currently rank 18th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. On the offensive side, the Packers rank top 10 both by convention measure and DVOA despite fair-to-middling numbers in most categories. How does this happen?

Turnovers – or rather lack thereof. Aaron Rodgers and his Packers simply don’t give up the ball willingly. Green Bay’s offense has surrendered a miniscule seven TOs and have only done so in three games – and haven’t turned it over once since week 6 against Detroit. Four straight games without a TO is quite a prolonged streak which seems ready to break.

So … can the 49ers break the Pack’s stinginess? Quite possibly: This defense is just nasty out there, with turnovers notched in nine of 10 games and three games of four TOs – including against the Seahwaks, likely the best offense they’ve met to this point.

For that matter, Rodgers & Co. are staring down the barrel of a D they haven’t seen in a while. The Niners are top-5 statistically in points, yards, passing yards, TDs, net yards per pass attempt and first downs surrendered. They’re also top-3 in tackles for a loss (should be handy against a nearly non-existent Green Bay running game) and, critically, turnover percentage rate.

The result of this insanity plus the marvelous Jimmy G? The *average outcome* of a 2019 San Francisco 49ers game thus far is a 30-16 win.

All in all, we’d hate to be in Aaron Rodgers’s shoes on this Sunday night. Take the San Francisco 49ers -3 vs Green Bay.

Seattle Seahawks +1 at Philadelphia Eagles

This one’s a bit of a baffler. If we take for granted that Las Vegas gives 2½ to 3½ points for homefield advantage, are the sportsbooks really claiming that the Seahawks are not at least a field goal better than the perpetually discombobulated Eagles?

Is it a West Coast-East Coast thing? Forget it. Since Russell Wilson took over at QB in 2012, the Carroll ‘n’ Wilson Seahawks are an impressive 17-6 SU in games in the Eastern time zone; for the record, they’re 15-7-1 ATS, but at Seahawks +1, this is essentially a “pick ‘em” anyway. And this particular edition of Seattle has thrown away homefield advantage anywhere in the country, anyway, at a whopping 4-1 ATS on the road – not to mention 5-0 SU.

NFLbets doesn’t think we need to go too heavy into the numbers on this one. Again, we’ll take the superior team, and take advantage of this bizarre underdog status. Take the Seattle Seahwaks ML of -105 at Philadelphia.

NFLbets’ Best Bets last week: 1-1.
NFLbets’ Best Bets this season: 10-13.

–written by Os Davis

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NFL betting, week 12 picks: Who’s a good home underdog…? Who’s a good boy???!!

Wednesday, 20 November 2019 20:01 EST

Click the link for our NFL Weekly Odds chart and check it out: How about those four home underdogs?

In actuality, NFLbets would not be at all surprised if you didn’t find anything anomalous. Home underdogs have nearly become the new normal: Through week 11, some 55 home teams have been underdogs at kickoff. Fair enough, the Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets account for 14 of those lines, but even removed the lowly trio, we’re talking an average of just about four home ’dogs per week.

And guess what? As in most areas, the sportsbooks know what they’re doing: Home underdogs are 27-28 ATS against just 18-36-1 SU. Well in a .500 winning percentage, NFLbets sees opportunity; we love universal balance more than Thanos. We tend to base our assumptions in a core principle of game theory, namely that a zero-sum result – in this case a .500 win-loss mark – is always trended toward.

So for our week 12 picks, we’re concentrating on those four home ’dogs and looking for them to go 2-2 ATS. We’ll present the NFLbets Picks Of The Week from most defensible to least, starting with…

Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders -3 at New York Jets, over/under 46½ points

This line has been steadily increasing since some sportsbooks ineffably opened this one at Raiders -1½. – and again NFLbets must side with he public. We’re not sure what inspired this wackiness, but we’ll definitely take advantage.

The biggest disadvantage the Raiders face is that old bugaboo, the West Coast-to-Est Coast trip. The thinking goes that teams who travel from the Pacific time zone to play a game in the Eastern are at a disadvantage greater than that typically afforded simply by home field. Football Outsiders supported prior to the 2016 NFL season: In considering games featuring a team based in Pacific or Mountain time zones playing in an Eastern or Central time zone-based city with a 1pm kickoff time, the Outsiders found that “The home team won 64.4% of these games; far in excess of the 57.2% win rate for home teams in general.”

Pretty compelling stuff, but allow NFLbets to slow FO’s roll a bit, for precisely after the Outsiders’ stats were published, the West Coast teams have completely turned the tables: Since 2016, the NFL’s West Coast teams (specifically the 49ers, Chargers, Raiders, Rams and Seahawks), have gone an excellent 31-25 SU and 31-24-1 ATS – and of the five, only San Francisco has a sub-.500 winning percentage in these games.

Also working against the Raiders’ favor? Penalties, a condition exacerbated by the West-to-East move. According to the same FO piece of 2016, the Western teams take an average of 10.3% more penalties – and Oakland/Las Vegas is currently second-worst overall in taking penalties, with 88 run up thus far. To which a prospective Raiders backer might say, “So what?” After all, the Jets are the league’s fifth-worst in the category with 83 whistles going against them thus far into ’19.

In the final analysis, we’re betting the football – and the better team. Take the Las Vegas Raiders -3 at the New York Jets, and take the under on an O/U of 46½ points in what could well be a sloppy, penalty-marred game.

Detroit Lions -3½ at Washington, over/under 42 points

The Lions may not exactly be impressing anybody in terms of the playoff race at 3-6-1 SU and Matthew Stafford, a QB who has salvaged whole seasons at a time for the franchise, out. Matt “The Pencil” Patricia’s guys aren’t much better ATS at just 4-7. They’ve been the favorite just twice this season – versus the Arizona Cardinals in week 1 and vs the New York Giants – and lost ATS both times.

So hardly a powerhouse … but Washington? Let’s consider the question: Is this the only team deliberating tanking? Seriously, Cincinnati appears to be trying to win games and Miami has shrugged off the “possibly worst all-time” label – but Washington has proven challenging only to writers running out of synonyms for “bad.”

How about this? Washington has scored two TDs in the past four games – and both of those came against the Jets, who had run up a 34-3 lead before taking feet off the pedal. That’s right: The 2019 New York Jets had a four-TD lead at Washington.

At dead last in key offensive categories, likesay, scoring, first downs and passing yards alone, NFLbets is thinking that a Lions offense that averages 24.4 points per game mostly against better defenses than Washington’s should be able to score, regardless of starters at the “skill positions.” Take the Detroit Lions -3½ at Washington, and take the under on an O/U of 42 points.

Pittsburgh Steelers -6½ at Cincinnati Bengals

For NFLebts, three key questions about this game come to mind:

• Are the 2019 Cincinnati Bengals really an 0-16 team?

• Does Mason Rudolph at QB really inspire the bettors’ confidence?

• Can an already weak OL really stand the loss of Maurkice Pouncey as well?

(The answers: Nah, not really, probably not.)

NFLbets has nothing tangible to prove that these Bengals can win a game SU before season’s send, but subjectively Os Davis can say that he covered the 2008 Detroit Lions as a beat writer and these guys are no ’08 Lions. The Bengals are a relatively impressive 4-6 ATS, including a 4-2 ATS mark on the road. Cincinnati certainly stymied many NFL bettors in each of their ATS wins, covering at four prospective playoffs teams: Buffalo, Seattle, Baltimore and Oakland.

Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, the Steelers are seeing their lowest passing numbers since 1998 and Kordell Stewart. With Ben “The Human Tackling Dummy” Roethlisberger out, the offensive line has been seriously exposed, allowing 15 sacks against just 18 total offense TDs – and 10 of those scores came in the red zone, where the Steelers have a below-42% success rate.

Add in to this the absence of center Maurkice Pouncey for three games after getting busted for kicking a prone Myles Garrett in the head. (Do you suppose he argued that at least Garrett got to keep his helmet on…?) Imagine Rudolph not even getting enough time for indecision thanks to a wobbly snap. Ironically, Garrett may have cost the Steelers a SU win here and even have ruined their chances for the playoffs.

The Steelers defense may be fantastic, but NFLbets is expecting literally nothing from the Steelers passing game or the underwhelming running game. Take the Cincinnati Bengals +6½ vs Pittsburgh.

Baltimore Ravens -3½ at Los Angeles Rams, over/under 46½ points

NFLbets can guess what you’re thinking. You’re probably thinking that Lamar Jackson is unstoppable, that the Ravens are packing the league’s most electrifying QB with a traditionally stout defense. And we know that it’s not exactly #InGoffWeTrust in La La Land. But hey, let’s talk West Coast advantage – particularly in prime-time games.

Since 2016, the aforementioned five West Coast teams are a big 21-10 SU (18-10-3 ATS) in all prime-time games at home regardless of opponent. Against EST teams, the PST five are 5-5 SU/ATS in nighttime games.

Further, in all home games since 2016, West Coast teams are 75-63 SU (winning percentage of .543), but the exaggerated importance NFL bettors (and thus the sportsbooks) give these sides is readily apparent in the 54-78-6 ATS (.413) mark posted in those same games. Further, West Coast home teams hosting EST opponents are 33-26 (.559) SU, but a lowly 22-35-2 (.390) ATS.

So where does that leave NFLbets? If the Rams were favored, this’d be a no-brainer and we’d advise to simply take the Rams ML and the Ravens plus the points, but for this one…

All right, we’re going to lean toward the middle ground. At 8-2 SU and all bot locked into the AFC no. 2 seed, the Ravens are riding a four-game ATS win streak, while the Rams are 7-3 ATS, but just 2-2 in L.A. It’s extremely difficult to bet against Jackson and Baltimore right now, but here’s to thinking Sean McVeigh coaches smart enough to keep things close as the Rams essentially need to win out for a shot at the playoffs. Take the Los Angeles Rams +3½ vs Baltimore – you might even wait for this line to get pushed to Rams +4, as certainly happen before kickoff Sunday night.

NFLbets’ Picks of the Week last week: 0-2.
NFLbets’ Picks of the Week this season: 30-18.

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