NFL Matchup Predictions


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.


L.A. Rams at Chicago Bears: Y’know, even in 2018, defense still matters. A lot.

Sunday, 09 December 2018 09:13 EST

Come on, now, just because the rulebook is ever tilted in favor of the quarterback and his point-scoring offense, do we all need to lose our collective minds? Contrary to what ESPN’s talking heads pushing the party line that defense “has been legislated out of the game,” we’ve seen some tremendous individual and team performances throughout the season. While the casual fan goes nuts over Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes, those paying attention are gawping at the play of Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack.

If you are, like NFLbets, a bigger fan of the defensive game, you’re going to love betting on this week’s Sunday Night Football matchup…

Los Angeles Rams -3 at Chicago Bears, over/under 51 points

NFLbets don’t know about you, but the Los Angeles Rams’ 30-16 thumping of the Detroit Lions last week symbolized more than an ordinary beatdown of a mediocre team, but rather the resurrection of the high-quality defense the team played in 2017. Was the return of Aqib Talib all it took to ascend the Rams D from general badassery to the cusp of legendary? It sure appeared so last Sunday.

Talib garnered zeroes across the stat sheet, but with the side of the field opposite Marcus Peters finally covered again, a hapless Matt Stafford and the Lions offense converted a measly 2 of 12 third down attempts. Nightmares of should-be-NFL MVP Aaron Donald will dog Stafford as the extra tenths of seconds are all Donald needs to destroy his side of the offensive line. Donald is freakin’ Superman out there, and his Justice League is filled out by the likes of John Johnson (38 tackles in the past four games) and Dante Fowler, who’s gotten past the stupid penalties and looks like one of the league’s best acquisitions of 2018.

On the other side of the field are the Chicago Bears, who you may remember brings their own hardcore defense led by another top-5 NFL player and top-5 acquisition in Khalil Mack. Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric has the Bears D at no. 1 against the run or pass, and they’ve literally been top-3 in the both stats since opening week. They’re top-5 in most straight up statistics, including no. 1 overall in turnovers generated and interceptions. In their eight SU wins in 2018, the opposition has been held to 22 or fewer points. The point: Chicago likely has the only defense that can win games in the 2018 NFL, e.g. the Thanksgiving Day game against the Detroit Lions.

And now for the weather: Temperatures in the low 20s are expected in Chicago this evening, but no precipitation is expected. Rams QB Jared Goff is 2-2 SU (and 0-4 ATS!) in games played below 40° F and looked pretty terrible against Detroit; Todd Gurley is 3-2 SU/1-4 ATS, and the Rams scored an average of 17.2 points per game in those five.

So why is how to bet this game a question at all? Take the under on an O/U of 51 points, which is way too high, and enjoy a classic defensive battle.

NFLbets’ Best Bets record in 2018: 20-16-1.


The 106th Grey Cup on (American) Thanksgiving Sunday: Last call for CFL betting in 2018!

Friday, 23 November 2018 09:52 EST

Betting on Grey Cup 2018Despite NFLbets’ so-so record and low earnings on Canadian football betting this year, we’re going to miss the CFL over the next six months badly. Regardless of how much fun the NFL in 2018 is, as the sports world’s talking heads so gushingly exhort to us, the CFL is always a breath of fresh air away from the stolid and conservative American game. This Thanksgiving weekend, NFLbets is thankful for another great season of CFL football – and that we came out ahead.

In any case, this weekend isn’t about looking back but rather looking forward to the 106th Grey Cup, a rematch of the 104th: It’s the Calgary Stampeders versus the Ottawa Redblacks, essentially the top two franchises, organizations/teams in the league in the 2010s.

Betting on the Grey Cup features not nearly as many proposition bet offerings as during the Super Bowl, but plenty of interesting proposition bets exist. NFLbets is factoring in these variables in picking wagers for this one. Keys to the game, as they say, are the following in our estimation.

• In two meetings this season, the Stampeders swept the Redblacks by a combined score of 51-7. In those games, Ottawa QB Trevor Harris was held to 4.5 yards per pass attempt while Calgary crushed the turnover battle by a margin of 10-3. True enough, these games were waaaaaaaaay back in June and July, weeks 3 and 5, but Harris did have all his primary “skill players” in the offense, including the Redblacks’ three blue chip WRs Diontae Spencer, Greg Ellingson and Brad Sinopoli.

• Last week’s West Division final saw the return of a Calgary defense whose first half represented a record setting pace but stumbled through November in allowing 26 points in a row to BC Lions, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg in games down the stretch. The Bombers who’d run up 29 on the Stamps in October were nowhere in evidence last week, as the Calgary D didn’t allow a single play to advance over 27 yards, much less into the end zone.

• Thanks to this defense, serious ball control by the offense has allowed the Stampeders to cover their most serious weakness going into this game: Namely, the shredded receiving corps. In his nearly totally unexpected return to the field after an injury three weeks ago, Eric Rogers showcased both his own skill set and the secret to success of the Calgary passing game. While the CFL headlines were splashed with exclamations describing Rogers’s three TDs – and justifiably so; heck, he outscored Winnipeg single-handedly (so to speak) – but the key stat was really his six total catches for just 61 yards. The Stamps’ longest play from scrimmage went just 29 yards and the offense took just 48 snaps, yet had the ball for nearly 32½ minutes of possession time. This team plays slo-o-o-o-o-w when needs must, like when prospective NFL QB Bo Levi Mitchell has maybe three viable WRs.

• Outside of Ottawa, the RedBlacks are 5-4 SU and 6-3 ATS in 2018.

• RedBlacks DB John Rose will play, as his appeal regarding a league-mandated suspension for this game due to his shoving of a referee in the East Divisional final is pending. Rose was the Redblacks’ second-high in tackles in the 2016 Grey Cup game, but NFLbets wonders if he won’t feel the pressure to be on his absolutely best behavior…

• Finally, the all-important weather report. As of Friday, temperatures for kickoff are expected to be in the 20s Fahrenheit, with a mere 10% of precipitation. The Stamps will certainly be pleased to hear of the latter, as a couple of weather-induced freak plays cost them the 105th Grey Cup against the Toronto Argonauts.

Throwing it all into the NFLbets mega-calculator, i.e. editor/lead writer Os Davis’s cerebellum, we’re liking the following bets and props.

Calgary Stampeders -4½ vs Ottawa Redblacks, over/under 53½ points

These two lines would put the final score at Calgary, 29-24 or 29-25, which feels just about dead on. (Guess the oddsmakers are pros, eh?) The Stampeders were proven quite vulnerable in the season’s second half, but in every loss this year, the opposition scored at least 27. NFLbets isn’t at all sure where four to five true scoring opportunities will come from for Ottawa, particularly if the Stamps control the clock, playing an old-school field-position battle as last week (and the first seven games of the regular season, to be honest). We’ll take the Calgary Stampeders -4½ vs Ottawa in the Grey Cup; we’re calling this our Best Bet for the Grey Cup. Additionally, we’ll cover the under on an O/U of 53½.

As is our usual wont, NFLbets will base the remainder of our wagers at least in part on this result, with perhaps a bit of hedging. All in baby! (Almost.)

Margin of victory

The more sensible, i.e. top halves, of the odds in the “Grey Cup: Margin of Victory” proposition bet look something like the following.

Calgary Stampeders win by 1-6 points: 3/1
Stampeders, 7-12: 17/4
Stampeders, 13-18: 6/1
Stampeders, 19-24: 9/1

Ottawa Redblacks win by 1-6 points: 4/1
Redblacks, 7-12: 15/2
Redblacks, 13-18: 14/1
Redblacks, 19-24: 22/1

A tricky one here, as NFLbets’ two most believable scenarios, Stamps by 1-6 or by 7-12, both bring some great value. Since we’ve already got money on Calgary -4½, we’ll recommend that bettors take the Stampeders to win by 7-12 points at 4/1. NFLbets will also be hedging a few Moneys (NFLbets’ preferred form of currency) on the Redblacks by 1-6 points at 4/1 so as not to go home empty-handed with an Ottawa upset.

Race to 10 points

Some of the (relative) troubles the Stampeders had in the second half of the 2018 season are reflected in the first-half scoring: Though in the last three games, the Stamps “won” first halves by a combined 51-12, that socre drops to just 147-134. And it’s certainly no coincidence that as Calgary got off to a 7-0 start, they outscored opponents in the first half six of those seven times.

In all 2018 games, the Stampeders would have won the “Race to 10 Points” prop 12 times in 21 games; however, just once did an East Division team beat Calgary to 10 points: the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in week 1.

As for the Redblacks, as NFLbets has noted virtually all season, they’ve certainly been among the most maddening for football bettors in 2018 – though the Tiger-Cats are right up there, too. They’re currently on a four-game win streak, but with three Ws coming against Hamilton. Far too mercurial for most bettors, the Redblacks won a game this year with nothing but field goals and lost a game in which they scored 41. Too mercurial to predict on this one, so we’ll consider them reactive to the Stamps’ game plan.

The conclusion: If you believe that the Stamps’ first-half defense of the season’s first half has returned (based on, admittedly a small sample size of three games including two against the league’s 6th and 9th best teams), like NFLbets, you’ll take the Stampeders to score 10 points first at 8/13; not fantastic odds, but it says here that low payout beats no payout.

Highest scoring half

Your choices in the “Grey Cup 2018: Highest Scoring Half” proposition bet:

First half: 8/11
Second half: 21/20
A “tie”: 25/1

The smart money suggests the first half is the best bet here, but NFLbets already has Moneys on one under-even odds bet. Bookmakers are probably figuring that, with both sides having recently played in the Grey Cup (with rosters still fairly representative of their respective Cup-playing teams), the feeling-out process that usually colors the opening 15 minutes of a championship football game will be non-existent.

The odd thing about these odds is that recently, games with either side have seen lots more points scored in the second half. Going back to week 19, second halves of Ottawa games “win” by an average “score” of 31-24; for Calgary games, it’s a big 41-21 differential. In the two meetings between the clubs early in the season, each half “won” one game.

We’re going with the odds and against the common wisdom of conservative game plans. The Stampeders may be playing their offensive schemes tight and close to the chest, but NFLbets reckons for both sides, it’ll be the defenses coming out swinging in the first half. We’re advising to take the second half as the higher scoring at 21/20 or so.

And as we bid adieu to the 2018 CFL season, we wish all bettors good luck in this final game. Damn are we goign to miss this league ... #IsItJuneYet?

NFLbets’ CFL best bets record to date: 10-9.
CFL recommendations record to date: 14-11.
Overall record: 24-20.


Betting Thursday Night Football: Underestimate Cam Newton’s Panthers at your own peril

Thursday, 08 November 2018 16:23 EST

From the Be Careful What You Wish For Department, NFL fans are presented with a genuine beauty of a Thursday Night Football game, as the Carolina Panthers play at the Pittsburgh Steelers. Should be good viewing, but the betting isn’t exactly simple.

Carolina Panthers +3 at Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL bets Pittsburgh Steelers logoA default search for any immediate regression to the mean for these two teams reveals little: Carolina and Pittsburgh are both 5-3 ATS this season. The Steelers are 2-2 ATS at home; the Panthers are a serious outlier at home at 4-0-0 ATS (and NFLbets’ll certainly be looking at the opposition in the next Carolina home game), but are hardly unusual at 1-3 ATS (2-2 SU) on the road.

So let’s talk some offense and defense. In a year of offense, Carolina has nevertheless put together a pretty decent defense, particularly against the run: The Panthers are top 10 in most rushing categories defensively as well as no. 4 overall in interceptions.

Such stats may be irrelevant on this given Sunday, however, as Ben Roethlisberger will throw the ball a lot regardless of opposition. James Conner may capture the mainstream media's imagination, Roethlisberger is second in the NFL in pass attempts this season and fourth in completions. And Steelers are 3-1-1 SU (3-2 ATS) in games when Ben *does* throw an interception.

Pittsburgh also brings a top-10 rushing defense statistically to face Christian McCaffrey, Cam Newton and the league's top ground attack. However, this D's impressive-looking numbers are likely heavily due to the Steelers' passing game on offense. In terms of efficiency, they're a mid-pack 14th in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric -- and below-average against the innovative Newton and oft unstoppable McCaffrey won't really cut it.

NFL bets Carolina Panthers logoAs for the potentially gnarly Pennsylvania weather, the forecast for Pittsburgh calls for lows around 36° with an 80% chance of rain, snow and/or some variant on precipitation thereof.

But in cold weather, Cam & Co. aren't nearly as bad as the average South-based team: In games played in temperatures of 45° or lower at kickoff, the Panthers are 7-3 SU/6-4 ATS going back to 2014 and are currently on a 5-1 SU/4-2 ATS run. Seemingly perpetually underrated by the sportsbook, the Panthers have won SU their last four games as an away underdog in cold weather games.

One final consideration: Are you more likely to believe in a 6-3 -- and therefore on pace for a 11-5 or 10-5-1 final regular-season record -- Panthers or Steelers team? We’re saying it’s the Panthers, and to do so, they’ll have to win this one with a tough schedule remaining. Cover the Carolina Panthers ML at +160 or so, and hedge with a bet on the Panthers +3 at Pittsburgh.

We’ll even predict next week’s storylines: Steelers welcome back Le’Veon Bell after Conner stuffed by Panthers and Is Cam Newton the NFL MVP…?


Sure bet: Kansas City Chiefs -8½ and well more at Cleveland Browns

Thursday, 01 November 2018 08:48 EST

NFLbets didn’t even need the firings of Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson and/or offensive coordinator Todd Haley to have decided about halfway through last week’s 33-18 throttling given them by the Pittsburgh Steelers that the Kansas City chiefs were set to turn this one into a blowout. Imagine our surprise when, after the dismissals of the not-so-dynamic duo and the ascension of Gregg “That’s Not the Way I Wanted It Done” Williams to top dog spot, the point spread on this game got to -8½.

Wow.

Kansas City chiefs a great betSo for just the second time in 2018 (the first was a preseason proposition bet based on Todd Guley’s touchdown total which looks like money in the bank at this point), NFLbets is proclaiming a “Sure Bet” in week 9: Take the Kansas City Chiefs -8½ at Cleveland. In fact, we be doing quite a bit more in hopes of attaining a better payout in quite an advantageous situation.

First, a couple of stats just in case you need numbers to back up what you already suspect. In stints as head coach, assistant head coach and/or defensive coordinator with Tennessee, Buffalo, Washington, Jacksonville, New Orleans and the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams, Gregg Williams has led his teams to a 5-7 SU record and 5-6-1 ATS against Andy Reid-coached team in Philadelphia and Kansas City. Of note about that ATS mark, however: four wins and the came when Williams was with Washington between 2004 and ’07.

This time, though, Williams doesn’t have the 2005 Washington team – his head coach in 2018, Gregg Williams, is a far cry from Joe Gibbs. He doesn’t have Drew Brees as did his 2010 New Orleans Saints – he’s got a quarterback who’s on his second offensive coordinator before his seventh NFL start.

And speaking of offensive coordinator, your man in Cleveland is now one Freddie Kitchens, who has been coaching in NFCAA and NFL football since 1999 … strictly as a position coach. Kitchens was promoted from within from the running backs coach spot. In 18+ seasons as a coach, he was a QBs coach for four: In 2013 through ’16 with the Arizona Cardinals, which included the ’15 team, a top-3 offense statistically.

betting against the Cleveland BrownsBut is that enough behind the likes of Gregg Williams, who’s spent most of this season up to last week apparently looking for opportunities to subvert Haley in hopes of climbing over him to get the doomed Hue’s job? We dare say that Kitchens, like ol’ Head Coach Bountygate and the rest of us, has never seen anything like this Kansas City offense before.

Even against the still-underwhelming Chiefs defense (they’re dead last against the run by Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, for example), the Baker Mayfield-led Browns offense can’t be liking their chances. This team has scored just under 17 points per game in the past four games. The Chiefs have yet to score under 27 all season.

In terms of trending, despite taking the ATS loss last week against Denver, Kanasas City still tops the ATS standings board at 6-1-1, making them the NFL’s outlier thus far. One would expect Reid’s guys to trend downward, figuring the Chiefs to lose at least four or five more games ATS in 2018. However – you guessed it – the Browns with Huey at the wheel (yikes) have performed well above expectations; Cleveland’s 2-5-1 SU record belies a more reasonable 4-4 ATS mark. Most telling of al for the NFL bettor is the 3-1 ATS at home this team has managed to stumble through into week 9.

The line seems way too good to be true, and maybe it is – but NFLbets will wait for the later clarity of hindsight. We’re bumping this line up to Chiefs -13½ or -14 to increase the payout. Sorry, Browns fans, but the misery looks to continue, at least for one more week.


Carolina Panthers +3 vs the Baltimore Ravens? Damn straight that’s NFLbets’ Pick of the Week!

Saturday, 27 October 2018 13:36 EST

NFLbets knows we should stay away from Baltimore Ravens games (statistics to back this up below), but this week’s line on the Ravens at Carolina game is simply irresistible. In fact, this is such an inexplicable point spread that we’re going to have to simply place bets so as to srop grinding mental wheels over exactly why this line looks like this:

Baltimore Ravens -3 at Carolina Panthers, over/under 44 points

Baltimore Ravens alternate logo for NFL betsEven more ineffably, this line was -2 on Monday and by the Saturday before kickoff, the enterprising NFL bettor can even find Ravens -3 at some sportsbooks. Why, folks, why? Why is a prospective playoff team entering this game a home underdog against a side that’s a whopping 1-2 SU/ATS against quality opponents in 2018? (The answer is probably the same as that to the more-than-reasonable question of last week, “How was this team giving 2½ points to the Saints?”, but damned if we know it.)

Consider that going back to 2014, Ravens are 14-22 SU in away games; if they’d spotted all opponents 3, as they are this week, that mark drops to 12-23-1 SU. With a winning percentage right at 33.3%, the first of NFLbets’ best bets for Sunday is to take the Carolina Panthers ML at +120 or so.

Why not take the Panthers plus the points as well? Again, NFLbets is baffled by this line, with the sole rational explanation based simply in regression to the mean: the Panthers are 2-0 ATS at home thus far into the 2018 season. But that’s it. What do the bookmakers know that we don’t…?

Sure, Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense looked decent against the New Orleans Saints in last week’s losing effort, but have we been blinded to the fact that the Saints D has the capacity to look like a shabby bottom-5 unit on any given Sunday? New Orleans brought next to no pass rush against a mediocre offensive line and thus sacked Flacco zero times. This week, not only will the Panthers play more aggressively than the Saints (how could they not?), the Panthers OL is minus starters LG Alex Lewis and RT James Hurst.

Indeed, typically the Baltimore offense has had to play near perfectly to even have a shot at a win: In games when the Ravens accumulated just *two* or more turnovers, they’re 12-20 SU since 2014 regardless of TO differential. The Carolina defense has produced 10 turnovers per game in ’18 for a 1.66 average.

Speaking (writing?) of defense, the Ravens D has been one serious Jekyll-and-Hyde unit this season. Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric has Baltimore at no. 3 in the NFL in defensive efficiency, but paradoxically lists the Ravens at no. 26 in the FO variance metric measuring consistency of performance week to week – this is a nice stat that neatly mathematically quantifies how a defense can, likesay, hold the Buffalo Bills or Tennessee Titans to single digits but allow the Cincinnati Bengals to run up 34.

This defense did perform fairly well against stud RB Alvin Kamara last week, limiting him to 3.7 yards per carry, but still allowed over 100 yards rushing for the fourth time in six games. Kamara and the Saints represent the first opponent with a true running game (no, we’re not including the LeVeon Bell-less Pittsburgh Steelers, who managed a pitiful 19 yards in week 4), but the combination of Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey is certain to present unique challenges to a side which hasn’t faced Newton since 2014 and has never played McCaffrey.

NFL betting Carolina Panthers logoIn terms of running, Newton’s production is down from past fireworks-inducing seasons but remains respectable at 42.8 yards per game and an impressive 4.9 yards per carry, only bolstered by his nifty 21-yard scurry last week. McCaffrey, meanwhile, has been putting together some fantastic stats with a smidge under 20 touches per game, 4.8 yards per carry, 7.2 yards per reception, 111.1 total yards per game. Oddly, McCaffrey can claim just one TD in 2018, thus far but we wouldn’t be surprised if he finally broke through to the end zone on a nice run this week.

Also of note: Ravens starting CB Marlon Humphrey will not play in this ball game, an advantage neutralized by the absence of Torrey Smith, who’s also out. In this situation, Devin Funchess will be getting the downfield opportunities, but we’re looking for the Panthers to grind it out on the ground in this one.

Again, we simply cannot find any reason not to take the Carolina Panthers +3 vs Baltimore; we’ll now officially call this the NFLbets Pick of the Week for week 8. The over/under of 44 points is a bit too low to cover, but the must-choose choice would be on the under. The sportsbooks are projecting a final score of 24-20 or 24-21 and this certainly seems reasonable as a max score in a showdown of top-10 defenses.


Los Angeles Rams -7 vs Minnesota Vikings: Easy money? The math says different

Wednesday, 26 September 2018 21:18 EST

To the everyday fan – not to mention the overreacting hype machine of mainstream sports media churning out those “narratives” – betting on week 4’s Thursday Night Football game should be easy, right?

You've got the Los Angeles Rams, as good as advertised and looking all the world like an 0-16 team, at home. Coming to the West Coast are the Minnesota Vikings, chasing a gut-wrenching huge-ass loss to the 31st-"best" team in football and entering this game an underachieving 1-1-1 SU early. This is an easy one, reckons John Q. Sportsbar!

Except when the seasoned gambler looks this game a little more closely, he/she finds … this Thursday Night Football game should be easy.

Aside from their generally unstoppable awesomeness, the Rams also have the following going for them in terms of betting the spread…

• A 3-0 SU record comprised of nothing but double-digit wins, along with a 3-0 ATS record in 2018.

• A home game in L.A., where they’re on a 5-1 SU/ATS run in meaningful games dating back to last season, where “meaningful games” does not include last year’s week 17 game for which basically all Rams starters sat.

• Not only is this a West Coast game, it’s a primetime game. West Coast teams in primetime between 2012 and ’17 won ATS over 70% of the time.

• Favorites on Thursday night are up to 21-10-1 ATS for a .672 winning percentage going back to opening week 2016, way up from the usual .550 mark by favorites on Sundays and Mondays.

And yet, all this suggests that the smart money is on the Minnesota Vikings +7 at Los Angeles. Why? Simple mathematics…

Gregg Easterbrook’s Theorem at the Sportsbook

Gregg Easterbrook, the longtime columnist of the oft-traveled Tuesday Morning Quarterback column, released a very simple formula for predicting SU winners for the weekly office pool. The theorem went like so: Team with better record wins, if records equal, home team wins. This formula allows one to pick the winners without knowing anything about the teams playing at just over a 60% clip.

But check this out: If we just slap in the “ATS” after “better rcord” and “wins” in Easterbrook’s theorem, the reverse ends up true. This year “better record ATS/home team wins ATS” is, through three weeks 24-23-1. “Home team wins ATS”, meanwhile is 28-19-1. Obviously this is a) a small sample size and b) a pretty extreme one at that, but the trends bear out going back through 2016, when “better record/home team wins ATS” is just as barely over .500 at 283-275-18.

Further, considering that home dogs win ATS at about 55%, a sizable percentage of those winners ATS were comprised of home teams in equal-record games to the point where plain ol’ “team with better record ATS wins ATS” works as infrequently as 45% of the time.

As to why this seemingly counterintuitive math works, think about the nature of the point spread. Whereas in a given NFL season, you’ll likely have one team at 14 wins; between 8 and 11 teams of 10 wins or more; between one-third to one-half of the teams with records between 9-7 and 7-9; and one team with two wins or fewer. However, when considering win-loss records ATS, the opposite happens because the goal of the sportsbooks is to apply an evening effect. Only in the extremest of extreme cases does the house win almost all the money; likewise, the players.

Going back to 2014, just one team has finished better than 12-4 (the 2017 New England Patriots, wouldn’tcha know?) and no team has finished worse than 4-12 – to think what Cleveland Browns fans might have done to reach the lofty heights of 4-12 SU at some point in those years…

The tl;dr version and NFLbets' recommendation

The “tl;dr” version: Regression to the mean, the numbers gotta balance out, and this is one hell of an imbalanced matchup statistically. And if you need to justify betting Vikings +7, just remember that L.A.’s stud CBs Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib will be playing hurt at best on a short week. Of course, the question as to whether Kirk Cousins can take advantage of this handicap in the literal face of a ridiculous pass rush remains.

But it’s also a Thursday night game, and NFLbets hates betting TNF games. Plus, these Rams look real good. Like, sportsbook-breaking good. We’d recommend that NFL bettors stary away from this one.


Oakland Raiders (0-2) at Miami Dolphins (2-0): Something's gotta give...

Saturday, 22 September 2018 11:13 EST

In a shocking turn of events, the Miami Dolphins have started their season 2-0 and sit atop the AFC East. Granted they beat the Tennessee Titans and New York Jets, not exactly the NFL’s elite, but a win is a win and as the Dolphins prepare for their week 3 matchup as a 3-point favorite against the Oakland Raiders. This point spread is likely the result of the three-point advantage traditionally given by sportsbooks to the home team, may be due to recent Dolphins success, or could have more to do with the Raiders’ weak 0-2 (SU; 1-1 ATS) start.

Miami offense versus Oakland defense

Miami Dolphins alternate logo bettingThe Raiders messed up big with Khalil Mack, huh? Jon Gruden himself was recently quoted as saying, “it’s hard to find a great one. It’s hard to find a good one,” when asked about the team’s lack of pass rusher. This does not reflect well on the Oakland defense, and it’s deserved, with only 2 team sacks and 17 quarterback pressures to the Raiders’ credit. Outside of pass rushing, the backfield has been unimpressive as well, with only 1 interception and only 10 passes defended.

Ryan Tannehill is back in full force, and he is a man on a mission. He is currently sporting a 104.9 quarterback rating, has a 72.5 total completion percentage, and is averaging close to 200 passing yards per game.

As impressive as his stats are, Tannehill’s receiving corps is even more special. With 4 receivers making tangible impacts on the Dolphins roster, it’s no wonder he has been so good early on in 2018: Danny Amendola, Jakeem Grant and Albert Wilson have each garnered 58 and 68 receiving yards so far this season. While Wilson is the only one of the three with a touchdown, these players spread out defenses and create coverage mismatches that help star WR Kenny Stills in a big way. Stills already has 123 yards, and 2 touchdowns to lead the Dolphins offense.

Oakland offense versus Miami defense

Las Vegas Raiders logoIf the Raiders have any redeeming qualities, they’re all in the offense. The Derek Carr-led Raiders offense got rolling in week 2. Carr completed 29 of 32 passes and had three receivers above 40 receiving yards, including Amari Cooper’s 116. Marshawn Lynch got rolling in week 2 as well with 65 rushing yards on 18 carries and a TD.

The one issue with the Raiders offense is inconsistency: In week 1, Carr completed only 29 of 40 passes and threw three interceptions. While Jared Cook had 180 receiving yards in week 1, the rest of the team struggled mightily.

The Dolphins defense is almost shockingly good. Kiko Alonso is once again a force at inside linebacker after his comeback season with Miami last season. While not yet recording a sack, Alonso has run up 19 tackles so far in 2018. This ranks him second in the NFL just behind Darius Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts. Along with Alonso, the rest of the Dolphins defense has been extremely effective. Outside of their low sack total (only 3), they have been a dominant force.

Raiders +3 at Miami: The NFLbets pick

NFLbets says take the Oakland Raiders +3 at Miami. While the Raiders struggle in a lot of areas their offense can and will keep games close.


New England Patriots are a “pick ’em” at Jacksonville. OK, we’ll pick ’em! [UPDATED]

Saturday, 15 September 2018 13:36 EST

[UPDATE/Editor's note: Since posting, the line has this game has moved to New England Patriots -1. But we're not changing our pick. We got in earlier enough, but we're still advising to take the New England Patriots -1 at Jacksonville.]

[UPDATE #2: On the morning of gameday, that line is now Patriots -1½ points. We're still saying take the Patriots -1½ at Jacksonville. By the way, does Jalen Ramsey know about this...?]

As far as excitement goes, this may be the game to watch in week 2: A rematch of last year’s AFC title game when the Jacksonville Jaguars nearly dethroned the New England Patriots in a close match. Will this game end with Jacksonville getting their revenge, or will New England prove they still are a Super Bowl contender? Even the oddsmakers don’t know, as the point spread has been reduced to “pick ’em”. The over/under is currently at 44½ points, which in my opinion is much too low.

Jacksonville Jaguars offense vs New England Patriots defense

Jacksonville Jaguars betting logoThe Jaguars have offensive talent and loads of it. Unfortunately, if the captain of your ship is bad at his job, no amount of first mates will right that ship. Yes, I’m talking Blake Bortles, the enigma of the NFL.

Is Bortles a starting NFL QB? No. Will he once again be the starter for Jacksonville this season even though there were a plethora of better options available via trade and free agency? Unsurprisingly, yes.

In week 1, Bortles completed 18 of 33 passes for only 54.5% accuracy. Luckily for the Jaguars and Bortles, their strength lies in their running game. Having one of the best young RBs in Leonard Fournette is huge and he is the key to a Jaguars win Sunday.

Star players are overrated, right? The New England Patriots defense, while stocked with a lot of talented players such as Stephen Gilmore or Dont’a Hightower, does not have any marquee talent. Instead, they have opted for a defense that succeeds based on system and committee. Their defensive stats for week 1 speak for themselves: Three Patriots had 7 or more tackles, and seven players had 5 or more. The key to the Patriots winning is to just keep the ball rolling. If they can keep Bortles pressured, he will throw at least one interception, and probably more like three.

New England Patriots offense vs Jacksonville Jaguars defense

New England Patriots betting logoI don’t understand how the Patriots continue to make decent receivers out of nothing, Brady has a superpower or a cheat code somewhere, as he elevates his teammates’ performances. Phillip Dorsett, who last season had 194 total yards and has so far peaked at 528, is now the Patriots #1 wideout (until Julian Edelman returns). Dorsett kicked that off by catching 7 passes, as many as Rob Gronkowski, and had 66 offensive yards. Gronk came back with a vengeance-netting 123 yards.

At running back, Rex Burkhead and James White once again form a powerful duo. The Patriots offense should hold up well against the Jaguars defense. *Should.*

Myles Jack had himself a game last week, didn’t he? The budding MLB had an astonishing 7 solo tackles and scored himself a pick six. Teamed with Jalen Ramsey, these two are quickly becoming one of the best defensive duos in the NFL. If Jack can continue to dominate in the MLB position and clog the middle, Ramsey will have a much easier time dealing with Dorsett. This could be the key that wins the game for the Jaguars: Stopping the passing game will largely make the Patriots offensive machine extremely ineffective.

New England Patriots at Jacksonville: The pick

In a “pick ‘em” scenario like this, anything goes. The numbers tell me to bet on the Patriots because Bortles will most likely falter against a well-run Patriots defense. On the flip side, however, if Ramsey and Jack, along with the rest of their defense, can force Brady not to pass the football, it will give Jacksonville a huge advantage.

Make the safe bet and take the New England Patriots in a “pick ’em” at Jacksonville; they are the more well-rounded team and betting on a very good defense to hold the Patriots is never a good strategy – just ask the Falcons. [Not to mention all those NFL bettors who covered Atlanta Falcons +3 in that game! –Ed.]

As far as the over/under goes, we’re advising to take the over on an O/U of 44½ points.


Cleveland Browns at New Orleans Saints: Is NFLbets really going back to that well…?

Friday, 14 September 2018 09:23 EST

With an interesting week 1 of the 2018 NFL season now in the books, let’s look at some matchups in week 2. The Cleveland Browns now have a second opportunity to get that elusive win after a heartbreak finish week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Meanwhile, the New Orleans Saints also look to get one in the win column after an embarrassing loss to the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The point spread unsurprisingly has the Browns as 9-point underdogs. As far as the under/over, it’s currently sitting at 49.5 points.

Cleveland Browns offense vs New Orleans Saints defense

Betting on the Cleveland Browns doggieIn one of the biggest shockers so far of this young season, the Saints defense (a strong suit in 2017) imploded on them, giving up a whopping 48 points. Luckily for the Saints, the Browns’ offensive unit was not great, either. Largely due in part to Tyrod Taylor’s rough outing wherein he completed only 37.5% of his passes. For comparison, Drew Brees completed 82.2% of his passes

One main way that the Saints can properly stop Cleveland is from the defensive line. If Taylor once again struggles to pass and is forced to run, he’ll be very vulnerable. If Taylor is forced to run, it will be up to the Saints defensive line to haul him in – though in week 1, the Saints defense was an absolute turnstile. Pro Bowl DE Cameron Jordan was near invisible after posting an impressive 13 sacks and 48 solo tackles in 2017, managing 3 solo tackles and 3 assists.

The Browns offensive machine did not do well in week 1. This may sound counterintuitive, considering the score against Pittsburgh, but the numbers don’t lie. To go along with Taylor’s bad passing numbers the receivers suffered as well. Luckily for them, the Steelers had Jarvis Landry’s 106 yards because the next best receiver had 38…

Yes, while Landry had 7 receptions, Josh Gordon, Antonio Callaway and Rashard Higgins had a combined 2. To put it bluntly, if Cleveland can right their passing game they have a good shot at winning. [Hey, here’s a great idea. Why don’t they try out that first-round draft pick that dudes like Tony Romo and Drew Brees dig so much…? –Ed.]

New Orleans Saints offense vs Cleveland Browns defense

New Orleans Saints retro logoThis is a toss-up. Both Cleveland’s defense and New Orleans’s offense were firing on all cylinders in tehir week 1 games. This battle is going to largely dictate who emerges on top in this matchup. Cleveland’s defense led the way for them on week 1 with an impressive 6 turnovers generated from fumbles and interceptions. New Orleans on the other hand put up 40 points in a losing effort against Tampa Bay.

Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas were very impressive in week 1. Kamara earned 112 receiving yards to go along with his 29 rushing yards, he also led the team in touchdowns with 3. Thomas was very impressive in racking up 180 receiving yards and a touchdown. Brees continues to defy age, as he was a model of efficiency in completing 37 of 45 passes and three TDs. If the Saints offense stays this hot, they have a good chance to win.

As for Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward … holy crap, they both had themselves a game in week 1. Ward especially impressed as a rookie going up against Antonio Brown, with not 1 but 2 interceptions. He only really got beat by Brown clean on one touchdown pass. Garrett was a monster; while only having 6 tackles on the day, 2 were sacks, and one led to a fumble recovery by the Browns. The injury to Emmanuel Ogbah will hurt them, but they are still going to be tough for the Saints to crack.

Cleveland Browns at New Orleans Saints: The bets

This game is all going to come down to how well the Browns can limit the Saints’ high-powered offense. Taking the Cleveland Browns +9 at New Orleans and hoping for a close game seems like the safe bet, especially with Cleveland on a 4-1 run ATS against the Saints. In terms of the over/under, we’re hedging on that Browns offense. Even if Taylor and his offense don’t go off the rails and can’t convert points, not much is going on the scoreboard in this game. Take the under on an O/U of 49½ points.