NFL Matchup Predictions

Betting TNF: Cowboys -6½ at New Orleans; where will the Saints’ points come from?

Thursday, 02 December 2021 18:09 EST

Who would’ve guessed that Jameis Winston was the savior for the New Orleans Saints? Nevertheless, here we are: The NFC South-winning team of 2021 has taken a 5-2 SU/4-3 ATS start until Winston was declared done for the season after the week 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and plummeted to 5-6 SU/ATS.

On Thursday Night Football this week, the Saints host the Dallas Cowboys, again one of the league’s more unpredictable teams game to game, who have drawn a still rather high handicap. Currently, the line reads

Dallas Cowboys -6½ at New Orleans Saints, over/under 46 points.

Making matters worse for the Saints is that Alvin Kamara will not start, but both Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb return for the Cowboys. Head coach Mike McCarthy is also out due to Covid-19 rules, but both generally and specifically such a temporary loss doesn’t seem very devastating. Hell, the Arizona Cardinals turned in arguably their most impressive performance with Kliff Kingsbury and a couple other coaches, a 37-14 shellacking of Cleveland.

Worst of all for New Orleans, Dallas can play to all their strengths and weaknesses. The Saints bring a top-5 rushing defense and an average pass defense statistically; whereas this could be concerning for a Cowboys team leaning on Ezekiel Elliott, Zeek has slowly become a nearly disused part of Dallas offense: In the past six games, Elliott has gone for 12½ carries and 44.66 yards per game – but he’s been good for just under 5 catches and 29 receiving ypg.

And while the defense has had a couple of 30-burgers served up in the past four games, it’s statistically a top-10 unit and surely not fearing anything from essentially a second-string offense (including at both tackle spots, where starters are likely out for this game). On the other hand, the Saints have managed to score 20 or more points three times on the aforementioned 4-game losing streak with about as little weaponry as they’re going with in week 13: This is clearly the sportsbooks’ impetus for putting up lines with equal to a score of Cowboys, 27-20 or 26-20.

But you know … NFLbets isn’t buying it. We just can’t see from where the Saints points will come, particularly after putting up just 9 at home against Buffalo last week. Take the Dallas Cowboys -6½ at New Orleans and take the under on an O/U of 46 points.

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

Betting MNF Seahawks -1 at Washington: Can anybody score points here…?

Monday, 29 November 2021 16:47 EST

NFLbets just keeps staring at the line for this week’s Monday Night Football:

Seattle Seahawks -1 at Washington Football Team, over/under 47 points

At the beginning of the season, this point spread may not have seemed out of place, either: Back then, most of us (present company included) had been bamboozled by the Washington FT after a 2020 in which the D looked loaded for the immediate future. Seattle meanwhile surfed the hype of the preseason belief that the NFC West could have four playoff-worthy teams plus their eight playoff runs over the past nine years.

As things broke down, the Team was likely buoyed to their mighty 7-9 mark in ’20 due to an easy schedule, while the incredible dissolving defense and Russell Wilson’s first major injury have doomed the Seahawks in game after game.

Since 2010 and the beginning of the Pete Carroll Era in Seattle, the Seahawks are an impressive 11-3 SU/9-5 ATS on MNF. However, they’re also on a disturbing 4-3 SU/ATS run going back to ’17.

There’s also this: At 3-9 SU, the Seahawks are on pace for a 5-12 record. That would be their worst mark since 2008, also known as the last year Mike Holmgren each coached in the NFL. The defense has been particularly awful by most statistical measures, and they’re currently dead-last in total yards allowed, passing yards allowed and interceptions generated.

As for Russell Wilson, well, the dude’s middle finger on his throwing hand got screwed – no, literally: Dude had several screws in his hand and most probably came back too early. In the two games since his return, the Seahawks have been outscored by a combined 40-13 score, with the offense scoring exactly one rushing touchdown in the two games.

After dumping four straight, Washington is now on a 2-0 SU/ATS run, with these games representing the first two ATS wins as an underdog for the Football Team in 2021. In a line with a 1-point spread, though, we might as well consider the WFT’s 4-6 SU record instead, while noting that they’re 1-4 SU against teams who currently sport a winning record and are 2-3 SU at home. (Geez, that week 10 win against the Buccaneers looks more and more anomalous…)

As a bettor, should one have confidence in either of these sides? Probably not.

So how about the under? 47 seems quite low and, combined with the point spread, is figuring on a 24-23 game – but that’s probably well too high. Both defenses are well below average to terrible, but somewhat paradoxically neither tends to give up points in bunches: In seven straight games, the Seahawks have held offenses to 26 points or fewer (and incredibly are ranked 7th in points allowed); the FT has surrendered 24 or fewer in four straight.

But then the outlier trend appeared, and it is screaming to be faded:

The under in Seahawks games is 8-1-1 this season; further, seven times the combined point total in Seahawks games was 47 or less and all were after week 3.

For any of his faults, QB Taylor Heinicke has thrown just 9 interceptions in his 9 starts this season. He’s been sacked a whopping 22 times as well – luckily for him, Seattle has no push. And on the other side, who knows? Maybe Wilson can find the feeling in that finger and the flip it to the bookmakers for only handicapping his team a single point. Slightly unfathomable, but NFLbets has to believe that bookmakers are usually pretty good at their jobs and these team-related trends even out. Take the under on an O/U of 47 points.

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

Thursday Night Football betting: Predicting red-hot Patriots -7 at Atlanta

Thursday, 18 November 2021 15:29 EST

NFL betting in 2021 has gotten seriously infuriating at times – particularly if you’re betting home favorites who are also moving up in the #PowerRankings of your choice. Basically, every team which has become the flavor-of-the-month media darling in a given week gets crushed the next, taking down all those poor suckers who were high on the hype. Examples? Sure:

•  the Los Angeles Chargers got lots of early hype by starting 4-1 SU/ATS and turning in an exciting 47-point performance in a 5-point win over the then-esteemed Cleveland Browns. Not only did the fan-free Chargers bow to the Ravens, 34-6, they soon tumbled in the standings on a 1-3 SU/ATS fall.

•  the Buffalo Bills. The second-favorite for the AFC championship in the preseason, the Bills lost to the Steelers on opening day and then whipped off a 4-0 SU/ATS streak. And then, Tennessee happened: As 6-point favorites at the Titans, the Bills lost outright, 34-31, as part of their current 2-2 SU/ATS run.

•  the Baltimore Ravens. Like the Bills, the Ravens lost on opening day at Las Vegas; Baltimore chased the L with a 5-0 SU (3-2 ATS) run that got Lamar Jackson lots of flighty buzz for MVP – the truth is that Jackson’s been otherworldly this season – and a handicap of -6½ against the Bengals in week 7. So of course the Bengals torturously smoked the Ravens in Baltimore.

•  the Cincinnati Bengals. After taking out the aforementioned Ravens in week 7, the Bengals were at no. 1 *in the AFC* and so went into New York as an 1-point favorite against the lowly Jets. Naturally, Cincinnati lost outright, and two days later were suddenly fourth *in the AFC North.*

•  the Dallas Cowboys headed into week 8 at a surprising 6-1 SU/7-0 ATS. Whereas bettors probably should have been tempered by a little regression to the mean on those numbers, the great bulk of money on Denver +10 at Dallas was coming in on the home team.

•  the Arizona Cardinals. Kyler Murray had helped make Arizona the Super Bowl favorites for the proverbial first time in forever after getting his team off to a 7-0 SU/6-1 ATS start. Hosting Green Bay in week 8 as a 6½-point favorite, the Cardinals just couldn’t cover a 3-point gap in the fourth quarter and lost. Not an embarrassing loss, but that would come two weeks later when, as a 10½-point favorite versus Carolina – you guessed it – lost outright.

•  the Los Angeles Rams were at 7-1 SU/4-3-1 ATS even before adding Von Miller and Odell Beckham to the mix. Naturally, they’ve since gone 0-2 SU/ATS and wrecked who knows how many straight-up bets, parlays and teasers.

•  Finally, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers started 6-1 SU (though due inflated point spreads were just 3-4 ATS) and Bucs fans began to inquire about Super Bowl tickets. Since then, they’ve gone 9-point loss at New Orleans, bye, 10-point loss at Washington.

 But here’s the thing. The hottest team right now, the side that should be trending up in every power poll, is the New England Patriots. (Unless you’re buying the Cowboys, which NFLbets isn’t quiiiiiiiiite yet.) This week, those Patriots face a Thursday Night Football line of

New England Patriots -7 at Atlanta Falcons, over/under 47 points

First off, that 7 certainly isn’t making things easy. Even without the Patriots’ outrageous 45-7 blowout of the Browns aside, New England is averaging 29.75 points per game whereas the Falcons are bottom-5 at just 19.8 ppg. But on short weeks, can we depend on either side to score their typical?

Pragmatically speaking, we must factor in the absence of Cordarrelle Patterson, who’s somehow no. 1 on the Falcons in total yards. This leaves essentially Mike Davis and Kyle Pitts as the already shaky Matt Ryan’s weapons; add in Bill Belchick’s literally legendary knack for taking away the opponent’s  best piece and, well, subtract one of the two.

Speaking of Belichick, note that the Dark Emperor’s Patriots have gone 11-3 SU and 7-5-2 ATS in Thursday night games since 2000. It should be noted that Belichick’s boys have gone 0-2 SU/ATS on TNF with quarterbacks not named Tom Brady, but at least for the nonce Mac Jones looks a lot closer to ol’ TB12 than to Matt Cassell and certainly 2020 Cam Newton.

The Patriots surprisingly have the depth to cover a couple of areas on the offense currently plagued by minor injuries and high use on Suandy: Running back and tight end. Raymondre Stevenson’s breakout game of last week was utterly representative of Belichick’s RB-by-committee approach that he’s employed since taking over – hell, he more or less invented the concept for 21st century use. No 2 RB Brandon Bolden is out this week, but no. 1 guy Damien Harris is out of concussion protocol.

Meanwhile, Jonnu Smith is a question mark and certainly won’t play the full game but (almost) no matter: Hunter Henry has four TD catches in the past five games – and if you’re getting at least four TDs in five games out of the TE spot, you’re good.

All things considered then, about the sole argument keeping bettors away from Patriots -7 is that tendency for these top teams to perform very poorly once acknowledged. These Patriots, however, have been exceptional this entire century. Why not for one more game against a mediocre Atlanta team? Take the New England Patriots -7 at Atlanta.

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

Betting MNF: Script flipped on NY Giants +10½ at Kansas City Chiefs

Monday, 01 November 2021 14:32 EST

Consider our perceptions of this game today versus how we’d’ve imagined it at season’s beginning. Going into week 1, we’d be forecasting the defending back-to-back AFC champions/current Super Bowl favorite at the sportsbooks hosting an NFL 32nd-“best” contender employing almost certainly the league’s worst offensive coordinator.

Today, as we close off week 8, instead we’ve got a home team who at maximum can be reasonably compared to the 1986 Miami Dolphins as they sit placing last in a division tougher than suspected versus, well, still an NFL 32nd-“best” contender employing almost certainly the league’s worst offensive coordinator.

Okay, that first bit is harsh: In fairness, the Giants have played far less execrably and/or have demonstrated coaching more competent than, likesay, the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions – though they’re definitely bottom-5. So get ready for some sub-marginal football and potentially tricky-ass betting with Monday Night Football’s

New York Giants +10½ at Kansas City Chiefs, over/under 52 points

Typically at this point, NFLbets would start running through the stats for Andy Reid-coached teams on Monday night (22-12 SU/23-10-1 ATS, including 8-2 SU/8-1-1 ATS with the Chiefs), the poor run that Kansas City’s been on ATS (they’re 4-14 in the last 18, despite a 12-6 SU record) or the Giants’ simply pathetic mark outside the NFC East (since Daniel Jones became starter, they’re 6-8 SU/9-5 ATS against division mates, 6.19 SU/10-15 ATS against everybody else) but wagering on games involving the 2021 Kansas City Chiefs for the nonce requires the prescient bettor to involve otherly logic.

Take, for example, the point spread 10½ points is way too high, regardless of how pitiable the Giants continue to be: K.C. hasn’t given more than 10 points since week 16 of regular-season 2020  against Atlanta and hasn’t covered such a spread since eight weeks prior to that against the New York Jets. In typical fashion, the Chiefs went 2-4 ATS when favored by 10 or more while going 5-1 SU, failing to cover against the likes of the Panthers*, Raiders* (twice), Broncos* and Falcons*.

(* denotes team had winning percentage of .500 or worse)

This trend makes Giants +10½ a heckuva lot more appealing to NFLbets, and evidence of the sportsbooks’ continued overrating of the Chiefs as they have since Patrick Mahomes came to prominence remains. Thus far into 2021, Kansas City is 2-5 ATS, with all four ATS losses against playoff contenders (Browns, Ravens, Bills, Chargers, Titans) and ATS wins against those who are not (Eagles, Washington FT).

Additionally – and NFLbets won’t mince words here – these Chiefs just aren’t very good right now. Bill Simmons put forth quite the salient theory on his latest podcast and, since an approximately 0.00001% chance of his ever reading these words exists, NFLbets will steal it, or at least liberally paraphrase it, here.

Visualize Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins. Marino gets drafted by the Fins in the legendary ’83 draft class and proves to be a stud immediately. Miami had already built a Super Bowl contender (remember David Woodley going 4-for-14 in XVII…?) under Don Shula’s guidance and Marino first leads them into the playoffs, then to the Super Bowl, then to the AFC Conference Championship. Along the way, he racks up some ridiculous individual statistics while joyfully throwing TDs to “Super” Duper and Mark Clayton.

And then? Well, beginning in 1986, the Dolphins proceeded to make the postseason just once in six seasons. A few tears after that, Shula retired from coaching and was followed by Jimmy Johnson who did likewise. Finally, Mr. Isotoner Gloves Pitchman became known as The Greatest NFL Quarterback Never To Win The Title.

The comparison isn’t exactly exact, but these career arcs could be running in parallel.

Speculation and historical perspective aside, the truth is that the defense is absolutely shreddable by most offenses, allowing 27 points or more in 6 of 7 games and statistically bottom-5 nearly completely across the board. The ostensibly reconstructed OL is back to the lowest levels of 2020 as well, with Mahomes having taken 14 sacks already, whereas in twice as many games in ’19, the Chiefs allowed just 17 sacks. At the current rate, Mahomes’s ignominious career high of 22 sacks taken in ’20 seems doomed.

All right, then. Confidence in the Chiefs (especially -10½) is low. What are the Giants bringing, then? As noted above, the Giants are 12-27 SU in the Daniel Jones Era and, incredibly enough, 14 of the 27 losses have been by more than 10 points. Much of this recently NFLbets would like to blame on Jason Garrett’s incredibly low-watt offense: In the 23 games he’s been OC, Garrett’s Giants have broken 20 points just 9 times and are averaging 18.2 per game.

Combined with the pointspread, the bookmakers are expecting a final score in the area of 31-21. NFLbets can easily believe 31 coming from the Chiefs, who’ve already scored this many in four games and really should have against the Chargers as well. But with no Saquon Barkley or Kenny Golladay in the game, where do the points come from? We’re zagging here and saying Take the Kansas City Chiefs -10½ vs the Giants and take the under on an O/U of 52 points.

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

Week 7 NFL Betting: Everything feels like a sucker bet

Saturday, 23 October 2021 20:05 EST

NFLbets probably shouldn’t complain about what appears to be a proliferation of sucker bets amidst the point spreads and over/unders in week 7 NFL betting. After all, one of the NFLbets Primary Rules of Betting™ is the old cliché reserviced: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. And sure enough, every time NFLbets thinks easy wagers are everywhere in a given week, that’s exactly when we’re whiffing on picks and blowing three previous weeks’ worth of wins.

So with some not-necessarily-judicious application of reverse logic (“Always do the opposite” is not among NFL Bets Primary Rules of Betting, but, hey, we’re on a cold streak), we’ve found at least three bets to make – not guaranteeing victory here, mind you…

Best bet: Philadelphia Eagles +3 at Las Vegas Raiders

Definitely the WTF line of week 7 here. Last weekend, the Raiders played liberated ball, airing grievances as freely as Derek Carr aired the ball out (18-of-27 for 341 yards and two TDs against zero interceptions) at once-feared Mile High. All the Raiders did was take care of business against the Broncos, well outscoring their last two games of the Gruden Era combined.

Racist coach or no, Las Vegas has nevertheless brought one of the league’s top offenses this season, including top ranking in turnovers surrendered and a no. 3 ranking in passing yards. This is particularly bad news for Philadelphia against whom teams have generally been moving the ball at will: The Eagles are dead last in rushing attempts allowed, 29th in pass attempts allowed and 31st in time of possession.

On top of this is the trade sending Zach Ertz to Arziona. Sure, Ertz is merely a TE who’d gotten just over 5 targets a game this season and Dallas Goedert is ready to take over the TE1 spot for the Eagles – but the Philly front office may have metaphorically chosen the wrong week to stop sniffing glue, as Goedert will miss the Raiders game “thanks” to Covid protocols. Some may be confident enough that the reasonably good Jalen Hurts playing behind a pretty terrible OL can overcome this one more minus, but NFLbets is not among them. Take the Las Vegas Raiders -3 vs Philadelphia.

Risky bet of the week: Detroit Lions -16 at Los Angeles Rams

NFLbets has had this one marked down for the betting since the release of the 2021 NFL schedule and after watching this point spread rise from Rams -14 to -16 (and likely -16½ or -17 by game time), we’ve got to admit regret on not betting this one months ago.

Because here’s the thing: Jared Goff is a bad quarterback. Whether or not it’s fair to declare the former no. 1 has always been terrible, but Goff’s devolution from the Kyle Boller Line – i.e. just competent enough to get a good team into the Super Bowl – at very least is apparent. And no one still working in the NFL knows this better than Sean McVay.

NFLbets has little reason to believe that McVay is a vindictive, vengeful sort but as evidenced by a fair amount of success, appears to be quite the clever head coach. And McVay has been admirably diplomatic in the months post-Goff trade regarding his, likesay, disappointing former starting QB. McVay stretched that diplomacy to breaking point in mid-April when, geeked by the early look at new Rams QB Matt Stafford, he told the Rich Eisen Show that with Stafford…

“You’re able to execute your play-actions, your movements, and those things, but when you get into third down and those known passing [situations] … the two-minute drills at the end of the half, end of the game… The way that [Stafford]’s able to move and manipulate the pocket … to recognize and understand coverage and make all five eligibles come alive, the way that he can create off-schedule in the pocket, out of the pocket, and just the overall competitiveness and command…”

So here’s McVay, bringing probably the NFL’s best defense against a taped-together OL protecting a quarterback *who can’t read defenses properly.* Whether or not McVay smells blood, here’s to thinking that Donald & Co. will feed. The best thing for the Lions to do in this game will be the yank Goff after the first two turnovers – but it may already be too late. Talk about the Lions’ resilience and heartbreaking losses all you want, but this one could get very ugly very quickly. Take the Los Angeles Rams -16 vs Detroit.  

Longshot: Cincinnati Bengals +6½ at Baltimore Ravens

Before this one starts, NFLbets will say “This is why they’re called ‘upsets’”…

After absolutely manhandling the Chargers last week, the Ravens for the first time looked like the AFC’s cream of the crop in 2021. Fair enough, but Baltimore still runs one seriously one-dimensional offense; mind you, this is possibly the most impressive one-dimensional offense ever with the miraculous Lamar Jackson at the helm.

The Ravens currently stand at 5-1 SU (3-3 ATS), with the sole loss coming in the increasingly fluky-looking opening week loss to Vegas. They’ve held opponents to 17 points or fewer in three of the previous four games and are playing their third consecutive in Baltimore. About the only reason to go against the Ravens in this one is to, well, bet on the upwardly mobile Bengals.

After coming out slightly low-watt (if clutch) in weeks 1-3, the Bengals offense has awoken to go for  395.0 yards per game over the second three, up from 292.3 over the first three. And thus far, the Bengals boast a top-10 rushing defense – of course, they’ve yet to face up against a force like Jackson, either. Also of note: The under has hit in 5 of 6 Cincinnati games due to the stingier-than-expected Bengals D.

But if one factors in the sole meeting Joe Burrow’s offense against Baltimore – a 27-3 drubbing in 2020 – there’s little reason to expect the unexpected – except, have you seen JaMarr Chase lately? Plus, like NFL said (wrote?): That’s why they call them “upsets.” Take the Cincinnati Bengals +6½ at Baltimore, and maybe even take the Bengals money line (ML) at +230 as well…

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

In a possible copout, this is how NFLbets is betting Denver Broncos -2 at Cleveland

Thursday, 21 October 2021 16:28 EST

Well, this week’s Thursday Night Football matchup demonstrates the flexibility of dozens of team storylines – the “narrative” if you like – in the NFL. For week 7, TNF pits a home team which was among the preseason Super Bowl favorites and boasted a roster loaded with superstar talent against a visiting side now into a sixth season of mediocrity and on a “run” of 15-28 SU/20-23 ATS in away games.

Naturally, the visitors are favored by 2:

Denver Broncos -2 at Cleveland Browns, over/under 41½ points

After a bruising pair of games at the Los Angeles Chargers and against the Arizona Cardinals, the Browns racked up an impressive-looking injury list in time for this short-week game against the Broncos.

Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are out, instantly eliminating the most potent 1-2 halfback combination in decades with them. Odell Beckham Jr. likely won't play. Staring offensive linemen Jake Conklin and J.C. Trotter are out, so so much for that no. 1 line this week as well.

Then there’s Baker Mayfield, left mostly armless by the J.J. Watt and the destructive Cardinals pass rush last weekend. This team is hardly defined by their quarterback – indeed, these Browns are unique in that their QB isn’t bad but is maybe the 14th or 15th best starter – but this week the starter is Case Keenum, who’s on 1-7 SU/ATS streak as a starter and has racked up 13 pass attempts in the past two seasons with Cleveland.

The rhetorical question is obvious: How can you bet on Case Keenum?

The retort, however, is just as easy: What are the Broncos bringing? Since Nick Fangio took over as head coach in 2018, the Denver offense has averaged just 19.2 points per game and regardless of quarterback, Fangio’s Broncos have scored 20 points or fewer in 22 or 38 games. After taking out the three-headed beatdog of Giants, Jets and Jaguars, the Broncos offense is even lower-scoring at 16.66 ppg and a once top-5 defense has become utterly mundane.

On the other side, the Browns may be wrecked on offense but is mostly still fully loaded on D (JaDaveon Clowney may be out, but what else is new?). Cleveland’s backers will certainly hope the Browns’ previous two games are down to the potency of the Cardinals and Chargers offenses.

You can see where NFLbets is heading with this: Whether or not Von Miller makes good on his boast to “have a great game” and “to kill” the Browns’ LT for the game, possibly Jedrick Wills but likely utility backup Jedrick Wills – very little should be expected from Keenum, whose teams have topped 24 points just twice in his past 23 starts, and a crippled offense. And while any outcome is certainly imaginable in terms of point spread and money line (ML) bets, even a ’spread-based final score of 21-19 or 22-20 feels well too high. Take the under on an O/U of 41½ points.

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

The maddening but glorious indecision of NFL eliminator pools

Saturday, 16 October 2021 19:54 EST

The NFL eliminator pool (or, “Survivor Contest,” as MyBookie has it) is both exceptionally easy to understand and deceptively difficult to win – even beyond overcoming the sheer numbers of players competing, typically in tens of thousands. For the uninitiated, here are the simple rules:

  • Pick one team to win straight-up, i.e. no point spreads involved;
  • each team may be used just once per entry;
  • one losing pick eliminates the entry from the game (or, optimistically like MyBookie, a winning pick allows the entry to survive for one more week); and
  • the last player/s remaining, i.e. they who can compile the longest run of winning picks, win/s the entire prize pool.

Those who have never played an eliminator/survivor contest are no doubt reacting in similar fashion to most upon initial contact with the game: That’s easy! Anyone can whip off five or six wins, even if opening week is a complete crapshoot, right?

Put it this way: In NFLbets’ own My Bookie Survivor Contest pool started with just fewer than 70,000 entries. Exactly 2,334 remain after week 5, for a 96.7% elimination/3.3% survival rate – a sliver better than a weekly 50% attrition rate, which would result in 96.875% eliminations.  

Put another way, half of all players allowed to choose from among 28 to 32 teams cannot choose one winner week to week.

Survivor contests are not easy, but really interesting.

Take this week’s ticket, for example. NFLbets has thus far played the following.

  • Denver Broncos (W at New York Giants)
  • Washington FT (eked out W vs Giants)
  • Arizona Cardinals (W at Jacksonville Jaguars)
  • Kansas City Chiefs (W at Philadelphia Eagles)
  • New England Patriots (eked out W at Houston Texans)

NFLbets is pretty happy with these picks: The Broncos, Football Team and Patriots are look distinctly 8-9 or worse. Going with the Cardinals may not necessarily have been the best pick – strategy dictates holding some of better teams as long as possible – but the Chiefs have been crazily unpredictable this season, so NFLbets is relieved to have a KC W to our credit already.

Note that NFLbets’ picks have heretofore depended on the strategy that has become mainstream in the past couple of years, namely it’s not so important to best *for* a team but *against* the opposing side – after all, you can only bet on a single team once per season, but you can bet against a single team for 14 of 18 weeks (accounting for a bye week and second intradivision games).

The five teams NFLbets has picked this season may only be a cumulative 14-11 (and 9-11 not including Arizona) – but our opponents are now 5-21.

Picking a winner in week 6

We’re looking at three possibilities to back on our ticket for week 6, the most intriguing of which would require us to go against most major unwritten strategy for this game:

  • Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants
  • Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
  • Arizona Cardinals at Cleveland Browns

MyBookie helpfully provides a metric indicating how many entries have backed each team in the given week. This week, NFL bets is informed, 29% are backing the Rams, 37% are backing the Colts and, well, not even 1% of current entries are backing the Browns, so why are we so very very tempted?

The Rams at the Giants is a solid pick, particularly if you’re willing to discount the whole West Coast-team-playing-in-the-early-slot-ET as mostly irrelevant in 2021 (NFLbets sure does) and factor in the absence of franchise RB Saquon Barkley. Next week, however, the Rams get Jared Goff and the Detroit Lions, imminently defeatable in any given week; on top of the immediate mismatch, NFLbets believes Sean McVay (and quite possibly the Rams defense, who carried Goff’s offense to a Super Bowl) will be wanting to spank the Lions. NFLbets knows we should do what Belichick says and “take these one week at a time,” but dude.

At first glance – and if you’re still playing in this thing, you’re taking well more than a single glance – Indianapolis at home against Houston is the best play on the board this week: This pick eliminates another inconsistent team seemingly destined to go 8-9 or so in the Colts, who are playing against a rookie QB and a probably ultimately inferior team. On the other hand, said rookie Davis Mills looked sharp against a Patriots defense which NFLbets dares say is better than the Colts’. Besides, we’ve been conditioned by betting poorly too many times on these AFC South intradivisional games…

Then there’s the Cardinals-Browns game. Cleveland is a 3½-point favorite at the sportsbooks, and NFLbets thinks few NFL bettors would be shocked to see the Cardinals finally drop a game after a 5-0 start – in fact, more surprising would be what sure looks like an all-star team in Cleveland getting off to 3-3 for 2021. NFLbets wants to back the Browns here for the same reason we want no part of the Colts, namely that the former is better than a .500 team and so wins these potential quasi-upsets.

The problems with picking the Browns (aside from hey, you’re picking the Browns, that is) are sufficient to warrant caution. In the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers, Arizona’s already beaten a couple of defenses comparably good or better than Cleveland’s. And if one is confident enough in a pick, the player can put off picking that playoff contender until later in the season, as NFLbets should probably be doing with the Browns, our preseason pick to win the AFC in 2021.

But we’re just not confident enough in the likes of Seattle Seahawks at Pittsburgh or Buffalo Bills at Tennessee or Cincinnati Bengals at Detroit or anything else, really. So NFLbets is backing Cleveland Browns vs Arizona Cardinals in this week’s eliminator pool.

Though we’ve still got 14 hours until that Miami Dolphins vs Jacksonville Jaguars game in London…

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

NFL betting, week 4: One Best Bet, five other excellent bets

Saturday, 02 October 2021 19:12 EST

NFLbets has no reason to be cocky this far into the season, although we can’t help thinking a lot of great picks are available in NFL betting this week. We promise we’re not chasing losses (NFLbets is still done for the year, full disclosure, yada yada) but rather because there’s just too much out there. So for week 4, we’re giving out one best bet and four picks – all the better to fill out one of those “Pick Five Poin. Let’s make this a profitable one, eh…?

Best bet: Cleveland Browns -1 at Minnesota Vikings

As the opening line as high as Cleveland -2½ continues to erode, NFLbets is more and more baffled. Does the action believe that betting against a home underdog is a yes-or-no proposition, as in “If you take the Browns -2, you must think the Vikings are a subpar team”?

Those backing the Browns are hardly anti-Vikings, however. Despite going 1-2 SU (and 2-1 ATS), Minnesota clearly has enough offense to be competitive in the NFC. Call the Cardinals game a fluke loss, and you’re talking about the Vikes competing with Green Bay for the NFC North title. The truth is that they’re averaging an impressive 29.0 points per game, Dalvin Cook’s fumble in the week 1 loss is the offense’s only turnover, and Kirk Cousins is throwing with 73.9% accuracy to go with his 8 TD passes.

Fine. It’s just that … these Cleveland Browns are really, really good: by any measure a top-5 team. Sure, the Chiefs ate away at the Browns’ second-half lead in week 1, and Cleveland couldn’t cover 13½ against Houston in week 2. Since that ATS loss, though, they’ve added Odell Beckham to make one of six viable pass catchers (counting Jarvis Landry) for Baker Mayfield to choose from.

On the other side of the ball, the Browns defense has somehow not lived up to public expectcations, despite going top-10 in most statistical categories other than turnovers generated – and this despite getting 33 points rung up on ’em by the Chiefs. So what if Cousins & Co. don’t turn the ball over? These Browns ranked just 18th in turnovers in 2020 and still intimidated offenses.

So who even needs turnovers? Since 2020 when Kevin Stefanski became head coach for Cleveland, the Browns are just 10-11 ATS – but 14-7 SU, which a point spread of -1 essentially is. And factor in Stefanski’s prior experience with the Vikings, i.e. holding the position of offensive coordinator in 2019, and everything adds up to a Cleveland Browns win. So take the Cleveland Browns -1 at Minnesota.

Additionally, we’d also advise covering on…

• Dallas Cowboys -4 vs Carolina Panthers
Sure, the 2021 Panthers are good, perhaps even strong playoff contenders if fantasy football darling Christian McCaffrey can stay on the field. But just as with Cleveland at Minnesota, the favorites are just better right now. It’s another TD-sized win for the Cowboys on the way to breaking the Hard Knocks curse.

• Green Bay Packers -6 vs Pittsburgh Steelers
From the Sentiment Has No Business In Betting Department: While all but the diehardest of Roethlisberger apologists have admitted that the Steelers QB is done, the general public still appears to believe that the Mike Tomlin will work enough magic to keep the Steelers in this game against the Packers in Green Bay. But NFLbets believes that the losing by a touchdown could well represent a magical return on Tomlin’s part…

• Kansas City Chiefs -6½ at Philadelphia Eagles
NFLbets can’t decide how much of this line is an overreaction á la “O my godz, Kansas City is 1-2 SU (0-3 ATS) and in last place in the AFC West!” and how much is continued overrating of Philadelphia, who for a week had folks fooled into thinking maybe they were the above-.500 team in the NFC East. No matter: The former suggests the trends turn to a Chiefs win SU/ATS, the latter a way to exploit faulty belief.

• Baltimore Ravens -1 at Denver Broncos, under 44 points
So the Broncos are an early surprise of the 2021 season at 3-0 SU/ATS – until you consider the schedule of Giants, Jets and Jaguars, three teams against which the Broncos are now 4-1 SU/ATS since 2018; they’re a pretty bad 11-19 SU/17-13 ATS versus all others. This latter statistic might be swaying if not for the scanty 1 on offer. The Ravens have the advantage in talent in a battle of defenses first, but it probably won’t be pretty.

Further, since 2019, the under is 20-15 in all Broncos games, 20-18 in all Ravens games and 11-9 when the Ravens are playing away. NFLbets says they can’t make this line low enough…

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

Week 1 betting: Dallas Cowboys -7½ at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tuesday, 07 September 2021 17:37 EST

NFL Opening Day 2021 bettingSo if you’re reading this, you’re probably not heeding NFLbets’ most strident warning about betting week 1, namely You Do Not Bet on Week 1 NFL Games. Too little knowledge plus too much leeway for upsets equals enough unknown variables to make betting week 1 akin to straight-up gambling.

But hey, the truth is that NFLbets can’t take this reasonable advice either. Who can stay away from wagering on real football after months of bending the mind on these preseason proposition bets? And thanks to the schedule-makers and sportsbooks, the 2021 NFL season will open with a real potential money drain, i.e.

Dallas Cowboys -7½ at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Up until a week ago, Cowboys -6½ was still available at some sportsbooks, but the Cowboys are looking at some potential holes on the offensive line. OG Zach Martin is out for the opener due to Covid protocols as is his backup Brandon Knight. OT Ty Nsekhe has been limited in practice this week.

Additionally, history says that Dallas is looking at quite the challenge in facing a defending Super Bowl champion on Opening Day Thursday. Since the now-tradition began in 2006,

  • favorites are 13-5 SU/10-4-4 ATS;
  • home teams are 15-3 SU and 11-3-4 ATS; and
  • the defending Super Bowl champion is a whopping 13-1 SU/9-2-3 ATS.

Furthermore, only twice has the home team lost both SU and ATS on NFL Opening Day: The New England Patriots against Kansas City in 2017 and the Chicago Bears against Green Bay in ’19.

So even before we get to the specifics of this year’s Opening Day game, things look dark for the Cowboys. Assuming that the Buccaneers are a reasonable facsimile of the team that closed the 2020 season on 8-0 SU (6-2 ATS) and 9-2 (8-3 ATS) runs – an as has been well hyped already, the 2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the first ever Super Bowl champion to return all 22 starters – Dallas is in some trouble.

Not only is Ezekiel Elliott vital to the Cowboys’ offensive plans and not only will the run blocking be at least wounded if not crippled, but the Bucs were the no. 1 defense against the run in 2020, not to mention top-10 in total offense, first downs allowed, turnovers generated, tackles for loss … essentially all numbers measuring the potential suffering of an underprepared offense.

As for the Cowboys defense, the bottom-5 unit of 2020 has been rebooted but is anyone ready to suggest that Tom Brady, Antonio Brown, Leonard Fournette et al will be stopped by any but the top defenses this season? And does anyone believe Dallas has improved that much?

A 7½-point spread may generally be a lot to cover in any NFL game but at any other point in the season, the offering would be jumped at what with the Cowboys’ likely patchwork OL. If you must bet on the Opening Day game, take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -7½ vs Dallas.  

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

Kneejerk reactions to week 1 point spreads, lines, odds

Thursday, 22 July 2021 11:05 EST

NFLbets has said (written?) it before, and we’ll say (write?) it again: Betting week 1 games in the NFL is a crapshoot at best, burning money at worst. The truth is that most bettors are going into opening week in a next-to-ignorant state, armed only with memories of the previous season and speculation on the league’s rookies.

Naturally, of course, no NFL bettors worth their salt eschew betting week 1 altogether, and NFLbets has to admit to great temptation from a handful of the week 1 pointspreads, already released by most sportsbooks. So go ahead, bet at will – just be careful out there…

NFL week 1 betting: All 32 teams

Early week 1 pointspreads are as follows.

Dallas Cowboys +6½ at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NFLbets realizes that the league traditionally likes to kick off a new season with the defending champs and with “America’s Team” expected to contend in 2021, Pokes vs Bucs makes a decent enough opener – except that after Hard Knocks and umpteen commercials featuring Tom Brady, this matchup will make for an unusual week 1 Overexposure Bowl…

Pittsburgh Steelers +6½ at Buffalo Bills
The Bills may have gained quite the bandwagon following during their playoff run last season (hey, NFLbets had ’em going to the Super Bowl last year, much to our chagrin) but we’re figuring the crowd is back down to the diehard Bills mafia, meaning this line will shrink – and betting on Buffalo will just look better and better…

New York Jets +4 at Carolina Panthers
If anyone doubted that NFL schedule-makers play to manufactured narratives, check out this, the Sam Darnold Revenge Game, in week 1...

Jacksonville Jaguars -2½ at Houston Texans
That goes double for this game: Urban Meyer’s first game as an NFL head coach pits his Jaguars against a stapled-together roster led by (most likely) the league’s worst starting QB. This opener should also get both teams some good national coverage for a couple teams who will be ignored for the last 17 weeks of the season.

Arizona Cardinals +3 at Tennessee Titans
Calling this one now: By season’s end, these two teams will be counted among the NFL’s most disappointing – by those who haven’t been paying attention to Kyler Murray’s baffling inconsistency and/or the steady degeneration of the Titans offense.

“Los Angeles” Chargers -1 at Washington Redtails
By contrast, Chargers at Washington could well be retroactively recognized as a matchup of a top-3 offense vs top-3 defense.

Philadelphia Eagles +3½ at Atlanta Falcons
NFL-Fostered Narratives, part II: This one’ll be marketed with a focus on the “battle” between two rookies coveted by fantasy football owners: DeVonta Smith and Kyle Pitts.

Seattle Seahawks +2½ at Indianapolis Colts
Seattle may be playing with a time-zone disadvantage, but the Seahawks have gone 5-1 SU to start each of the previous two seasons. NFLbets already likes the possibilities of giving Russell Wilson & Co. the 2½...

Minnesota Vikings -3 at Cincinnati Bengals
NFLbets recalls the disclaimer that investment firms were required to run at the end of commercials: “Past performance is not indicative of future results.” NFLbets bets that by season’s end, we’ll be wondering how the hell the Vikings were giving a touchdown while visitors against a viable playoff contender.

San Francisco 49ers -7½ at Detroit Lions
The Lions’ unintended quest for 0-17 begins here: The fact that the Niners, who went 2-6 against teams with a winning record (and 2-7 against playoff teams) and are running with the same QB in which the head coach has been profoundly disappointed, get more than a touchdown in Detroit speaks volumes.

Cleveland Browns +6 at Kansas City Chiefs
Here’s your fodder for week 1 overreactions. A double-digit Browns loss will scare away backers in droves until about week 9 or so, while a Kansas City loss of any sort will have a majority of fandom mouth-frothing about Cleveland for the Super Bowl.

Miami Dolphins +2½ at New England Patriots
This line indicates that belief in Bill Belichick remains way high, while Tua Tagovailoa believers are minority. It’s also the single least unbettable opening-week game.

Denver Broncos -1 at New York Giants
Forget the point spread in this game, and look at that 42½-point over/under line instead.

Baltimore Ravens -4 at Las Vegas Raiders
NFLbets is already penciling in a big Raiders loss in front of their first proper Sin City home crowd and guessing that the responses to a Ravens blowout will not be overdone. This should be the beginning of the end for Derek Carr as Vegas starting QB.

Chicago Bears +7 at Los Angeles Rams
If we account for the old saw of “offenses get started faster than defenses,” the path to betting this game is clearly all about the over. If Matt Stafford is one-quarter the quarterback that hyped-up head coach Sean McVay believes he is, the Rams might top 45 by themselves against Chicago.

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.